Serving the High Plains

Officials raise concerns about proposal on grant changes

Count the Eastern Plains Council of Governments as one of numerous entities against a proposed change on Community Development Block Grant rules.

Executive Director Sandy Chancey advised members of EPCOG's executive committee during a Monday morning meeting that she and Economic and Community Develop-ment Planner Raymond Mondragon plan to be at a Tuesday morning meeting in Santa Fe to speak in opposition to a suggested change that would introduce the Housing and Urban Development's Section 108 Loan Guarantee Program and tie the funding to Community Development Block Grant dollars.

The loan guarantee program is financing allotted for development or rehabilitation of property for the benefit of low- to moderate-income people.

Under the proposal, the program would allow CDBG grantees to borrow federally-guaranteed funds for those purposes, including one-time lending of such money to private businesses. The total amount that could be loaned is five times the state's Small Cities CDBC annual allocation. According to a memorandum from the Albuquerque-based Mid-Region Council of Governments, as much as $42 million could be loaned in the 2013 fiscal year.

Chancey said such a change could have disastrous consequences, as a loan that goes into default would be paid through future CDBG allotments.

"We can't afford even one loan to default in that program," Chancey said. "I would like another too in the toolbox. This one has tremendous risk, and I'm not comfortable with it."

Mondragon said that ahead of the meeting in Santa Fe, numerous entities —including the New Mexico Municipal League — have passed resolutions in opposition to the rule change.

In other business at the meeting:

  • The committee approved changes to the personnel policy, and were asked to make a choice on employment terms.

Chancey said the policy included both a section on qualifications for dismissal and a section that states EPCOG employees are at-will employees. Having both sections would create a conflict, as at-will employees can be removed for any reason, or no stated reason at all.

By statute, Chancey is an at-will employee, but said she would leave the matter up to the board. The board decided to keep the section on at-will employees, noting that the policy also included a section on filing a grievance.

  • Chancey said that draft copies of EPCOG's 2006, 2007 and 2008 audits are now available and the same will soon be completed for the 2009 and 2010 audits. Also, an auditor will visit the following week to start the 2011 audit process.

"I live for the day when you no longer have an audit item on every single agenda for every single meeting," Chancey said.

  • The committee unanimously approved a recommendation to sell a 2005 Toyota truck EPCOG owns. The truck, which is in good shape with 93,500 miles, is the council's third vehicle.

"It's basically a vehicle we don't need," Chancey said.

The recommendation still requires approval from the full EPCOG board. The truck was originally purchased for $15,000, and Chancey said the Kelley Blue Book value is approximately $14,000.

  • Alvin Maestas, a Santa Rosa city councilor and Guadalupe County commissioner, said the county and city has appreciated the support from EPCOG during its current and sudden fiscal crisis.

The state suddenly withheld $160,000 in gross receipts tax distribution last month, but was informed that an unidentified taxpayer was awarded a $1.2 million GRT refund and would not contribute monthly revenues going forward.

The city government has scheduled a 6 p.m. meeting Tuesday at Santa Rosa City Hall to make necessary spending cuts.

"We're (likely) going to have to cut nine or 10 people," Maestas said. "It's going to be tough."

  • Chancey said she is still looking into interest from the Arch-Hurley Conservation District to join the council.

Chancey said EPCOG has never had a conservation district on board before, and is looking at other councils to figure out how to treat them in regards to dues and board representation.

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