State of Taos County Address
The State of the County address is our way of letting you, our Taos County Board of Commissioners, as well as our constituents, know the positive changes and the challenges faced by the various departments in Taos County Government. It is also our way of letting you know our goals and expectations for our departments moving forward into 2018.
As county manager, it was gratifying to have each of the elected officials and department heads refer to the team as being responsible for the successes of 2017. We can accomplish great things for our constituents if we continue to work as a team. The current elected officials, management and staff helped our taxpayers see many improvements to their way of life in 2017.
Taos County Clerk
Taos County Clerk Anna Martinez and her staff worked diligently in 2017 to update records in the computer system. They updated business license records, removing businesses that are no longer in operation and adding new and existing businesses that did not have licenses to operate. Survey plats have been scanned, preserving the originals. The updates will make it easier for our constituents to access accurate records.
The goals for 2018 are to put records online, making access more convenient for the public. This will also save on labor costs, as our citizens will not have to come into the office to search for records. Another goal is to start e-recording, which would allow banks and title companies to send their documents through a secure site for recording. The office continues to work on scanning marriage licenses, minutes, and other documents, all with great customer service.
Bureau of Elections
In 2017 the Secretary of State’s office upgraded the New Mexico voting systems to a program called SERVIS, which is the State Elections, Registration and Voting Integrity System. Rosa Flores and the Bureau of Elections staff have been working on all the voter files to prepare for the 2018 elections. They look forward to providing Taos County with a true and transparent election this year and in the years to come.
The Probate Court, under Judge Poloma Romo, continues to hold walk-in office hours for the public on Mondays and Wednesdays, and individual meetings by appointment with the
Judge. They strive to be more accessible to the public and are willing to accommodate both Taos County residents and out of town property owners. During 2017, they have expanded their public resources by having printed pamphlets and materials available in the County Clerk's
Office with information regarding the Probate Process and other legal issues dealing with property, estate planning, and probate. They have begun developing a "Probate Court Library" and are currently working on a system to have this library of resources available to the public. They prioritize forging collaborative and productive relationships with other agencies of Taos County to provide the most accurate and helpful information to the public. The Probate Judge attended several trainings on the Probate Process to be able to provide the most up to date information on the law to the public.
The biggest goal for 2018 is to have a web page developed specifically for the Probate Court to be part of the Taos County website, to include information about the Court's services, office hours, jurisdictional limits, and with links to the New Mexico Supreme Court Website for the Probate forms.
Taos County Treasurer Susan Trujillo, with the able assistance of her staff, have upgraded not only the way property owners pay their bills, but also how they access the information. Treasurer Trujillo initiated a Live Web Look Up Project, which allows the public to search taxpayer accounts via the web. Due to the increased General Fund reserves, the Treasurer, along with the Board of Finance, implemented an investment strategy that significantly increased interest returns, while maintaining 100%% collateralization protection of taxpayer’s funds. Delinquent taxpayers have been prioritized by the amount owed and notifications were sent beginning in July rather than January, giving constituents more time to make payment arrangements.
Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe and his dedicated squad of deputies and staff have an extensive list of accomplishments, goals and priorities with the ultimate being the safety and well-being of all citizens and guests of Taos County. A brief snapshot of 2017 includes: in-house training and a regional training hub was established, compliance with the New Mexico Department of Public Safety bi-annual training was met, forums have been held and neighborhood watch is ongoing. Improvements have been made in tracking cases, follow-ups and follow through. Patrol districts are in part established and school programs and patrols are in place. We now have deputies trained for motor patrol to concentrate on traffic complaints and a K9 for drug detection. Positive working relationships have been established with other agencies. Partnerships with Tri-County, Carson National Forest Patrol, BLM, crime stoppers, and our schools have also been enhanced. TCSO has brought many new criminal cases to convictions including two high profile murder cases, and workplace violence recognition and prevention training for the county staff and other governments and organizations. They added an Evidence Tech to the force to help with case preparations which allows deputies more time on patrol and investigations which in turn has generated more arrests and convictions.
In 2018, Sheriff Hogrefe and his team have prioritized enhancement of staffing, continued vehicle replacement and increased training opportunities and budget, a stand-alone computer server for TCSO and their cameras, as well as HIDTA training, funding and resources.
The Taos County DWI Program’s staff, under the coordination of Herbert Valdez, has been very active in compliance and prevention in 2017. Prevention is always a priority. The use of billboards, brochures, fact sheets, a newsletter and handouts have increased the visibility of the program and created awareness. The Certified Prevention Specialist has also focused on education through several innovative programs. Mr. Valdez has been involved in the community-based process through coalition building and community mobilization.
The compliance office staff is currently monitoring active clients in the DWI program, screening and assessing, with some were referred to the district or magistrate courts and other to treatment.
In 2018 the DWI Program will emphasize compliance, monitoring, screening, assessment, coordination, planning and evaluation, as suggested by the Taos County DWI Program Project Manager from the New Mexico Department of Finance and Administration.
In Taos County, we honor and respect our senior constituents. In 2017, Senior Program Director Mike Trujillo and his staff provided 28,291 congregate meals and 45,809 home-delivered meals to seniors. They provided 11,272 rides and 5,251 hours of respite and homemaker hours to homebound seniors throughout Taos County. Their goal for 2018 is to continue to provide the much-needed services to our seniors. They are utilizing state General Obligation Bond funding of more than $1.2 million to construct the new Taos Senior Center and $129,150 to purchase and equip vehicles, including a vehicle for meal delivery around Taos County.
Taos County Fire Department
Taos County Fire Chief Mike Cordova has lead the team improving facilities and training to better protect our many communities. The shell of the San Cristobal station is up, and completion is expected this winter. The Rio Fernando Fire Department Building is a priority, with construction beginning after San Cristobal is complete. The expectation is for completion by the end of the summer. Volunteers attended state classes on HAZ-MAT, fire fighter first aid and CPR, as well as driver operator class and liquid natural gas fire training. The budget has been stable. Taos County Fire took delivery of two new fire trucks this last year. One unit was delivered to Tres Piedras Fire Department and one to La Lama Fire Department. Both units are an asset to Taos County Fire due to limited water supplies. The units add 5,000 gallons of water to help suppress fires.
The goals for 2018 include the hiring of a county fire marshal to work on fire inspections in conjunction with planning and zoning, plus finalizing the acquisition of land for the Costilla station. In addition, they are aiming for at least 70% of the volunteers attaining Firefighter I status.
Taos Emergency Communications Center
Taos Emergency Communications Center, directed by Dominic Martinez, along with Laurie Weathers and their team have now been part of Taos County operations for three-years. In that time, they have made vast improvements to this vital link between our constituents and the lifesaving assistance they may need. In fact, due to these improvements, the 2017 audit conducted by the FBI, awarded them an A rating. In 2017 they implemented Emergency Medical Dispatch Program by Powerphone-Total Response. This program encompasses emergency protocols for law, fire and medical services. They have 10 certified dispatchers who are current on their biennium training hours, plus their Certification in Emergency Medical Dispatch, which required an additional 45 days of training. Acquisition and implementation of the program was made possible with the assistance of EMS director Joaquin Gonzales Taos County Fire Chief Mike Cordova. They added a fourth console for additional personnel to professionally handle over 100,000 calls, with 32,678 calls for service.
Their priorities for 2018 are improved radio communications for all emergency responders, plus extreme high-stress dispatch training. Additional priorities are equipment and furniture upgrades. The long-term goal is Next Generation 911 dispatch, additional radio consoles to facilitate a regional dispatch center, real-time dispatch with camera accessibility and strategically placed cameras throughout the county.
Taos County EMS Division 2017
Joaquin Gonzales and the EMS crew have made great strides in 2017. Their volume has increased by about 100 calls each year for the past three years. This year they responded to over 4,000 calls, with about 2,800 transported to Holy Cross hospital. They added five full-time employees for a total of 25. EMS contracted with the UNM Hospital Consortium Team of Physicians for medical direction for all fire, EMS and E-911. They added special skills and certifications including the ability to administer the lifesaving drug TXA for internal hemorrhaging, they are the only northern New Mexico service to have a bariatric ambulance that can transport patients up to 1,000 pounds. They are working with Blue Cross/Blue Shield to provide homes visits for chronically ill patients, with the goal of decreasing non-necessary ambulance transports and ER visits. They donated an ambulance to the Village of Questa to serve the northern part of our county and a rescue unit to the Penasco Volunteer Fire Department for as a specialized unit for rescue equipment and response.
Goals for EMS in 2018 include increased pay, training and grant funding for specialized equipment. They are in the process of completing three grants, one specifically for completion of the MCI Ambu-Bus, which was donated to Taos County Fire/EMS by Taos Municipal Schools for mass casualty response.
Office of Emergency Management
The Office of Emergency Management team of Bobby Lucero and Mark Ortega, received funding for another year from the Emergency Management Performance Grant, which supported the coordinator position. Funding was also received through the Urban Search and Rescue grant for equipment. The team completed training for the Emergency Management Basic Academy through FEMA. They also completed the Emergency Operations Plan, which hadn’t been updated since 2010. OEM took over the burn permit process from the planning department and, along with Taos County Fire, hosted a successful liquid propane gas class in October.
Moving forward into 2018 OEM will complete the Hazard Mitigation Plan and bring stakeholders together to conduct table-top exercises, so we are all working toward the same goals. The search for more grants will continue with the goal of funding equipment to better serve our community in the event of an emergency. They also plan to host more training for all first responders and upper management personnel regarding the Incident Management System.
In his first full-year as warden of the Taos County Detention Center, Nelson Abeyta and his staff have many accomplishments of which to be proud, including a completed revision of the Policies and Procedures, adopted by the Board of Commissioners. Staff Development was conducted for both the Adult Detention Center and Juvenile Detention Center staff in accordance with New Mexico Association of Counties and the Children Youth and Families Department, which means meeting many standards, with supporting documentation. With newly adopted policies in place, NMAC accreditation is the next step.
There has been improvement in the retention rate. The warden and his staff worked closely with the Health Care Assistance Program Case Manager who works strictly with pre-release detainees.
Tours of the facility have been conducted, including an annual tour by members of the Board of Commissioners with few issues reported.
Residential Treatment Center
On June 6, 2017, the board of commissioners heard and approved of a plan to utilize part of the Taos County Juvenile Detention Center as a residential treatment center for county youth with substance abuse and addiction issues. In the ensuing six months, over a year’s work has been done to further that plan.
Andrew Montoya, Nelson Abeyta and Tammy Jaramillo have been leading the way toward making the RTC a reality. A scope of work has been prepared for clinical services, with Taos County providing the facility, meals and security. Non-Violence Works has agreed in principle to provide the clinical services with Correctional Health Partners handling the medical services.
The goal is to begin construction in January, while an ongoing effort is underway to obtain Medicaid certification, which will create revenue to minimize the use of the general fund appropriation by the commission.
Health Care Assistance
Tammy Jaramillo, Health Care Assistance Coordinator, mentioned her staff and Taos County management and employees as being instrumental in the accomplishments of 2017. Taos County Health Care Assistance Program (HCAP) was excited to support the Taos County Detention Center in providing a Health Care Advocate/Case Manager to assist detainees in their healthcare needs and reduce the recidivism rate, HCAP has successfully implemented a Narcan Program to reduce the fatal effects of opioid overdose, which includes a training that allows the detainee to receive a free Narcan kit upon release. HCAP was instrumental in assisting the County Detention in getting a Pharmacy agreement that would allow detainees to receive up to a 30-day supply of medication upon release to eliminate a lapse in treatment.
The Taos County Health Care Assistance Program has continued their contracts with the Community Against Violence, Las Cumbres and the Men’s Homeless Shelter during the 2016/17 fiscal year, as well as adding contracts with HEART of Taos and Inside Out Recovery. These programs were allocated $95,000 in the 2016/17 fiscal year. The allocation increased to $185,000 for the 2017/18 budget year.
The HCAP has also taken over responsibility for the Taos County Health Council from Holy Cross Hospital. They are also involved on several levels with the Taos County Justice Coordinating Council, which brings together representatives for all the court and law enforcement entities in the county.
Goals for 2018 include placement of another case manager and a health care advocate in the detention center.
The Taos County Facilities Management Team reports all facilities are currently functioning at optimum level except for the Arroyo Seco and Amalia Community Centers, which are undergoing renovations and improvements. Much progress has been made at these centers and completion is expected in the near future.
Improvements were made at each facility during the calendar year that will enable Taos County to provide improved services to constituents. The maintenance, building improvements and successfully managed and completed projects will prolong the life of our facilities and increase overall building function and government services.
Solid Waste Operations
Director Edward Martinez and Code Enforcement Officer Lorenzo Gutierrez of the Solid Waste Operations team are both nationally certified recyclers. This is just one of the highlights of a busy 2017. The team also completed the Chamisal transfer station and reuse center, completed methane monitoring at closed landfills and mulched over 30 tons of brush from local Firewise communities, reducing wildfire risk. They collected over 1.2 tons of debris during the Earth Day cleanup. They partnered with Amigos Bravos, the forest service, Rocky Mountain Youth Corps and volunteers to clean up nearly 20 tons of debris from Miranda Canyon, Questa, the Rio Fernando and Pot Creek and continued to work with the forest service and BLM law enforcement to apprehend illegal dumpers by setting surveillance cameras. In addition, community service personnel logged over 738 hours picking up litter, mulching and cleanups.
In 2018 they have set their sights on obtaining funding for scales at the transfer stations and improving services through staff training.
Public Works Director Ramon Pacheco and his crew did an exceptional job this past year in maintaining and improving roads throughout Taos County. The major construction projects undertaken include the completion of Santistevan Road, with gravel and culvert installation, a water drainage system was constructed on Camino del Medio in San Cristobal; 2.2 miles of chip and fog seal on Buena Vista Road in Cerro. The remainder of Los Cordovas and Chamisa Roads were paved. Constituents saw improved travel with 500 feet of pavement on Gallina Canyon Road, a hot mix asphalt overlay on El Salto Road, gravel from end to end on Eototo Road and a hot mix asphalt overlay was added to Witt Road.
The Public Works Department road projects for 2018 include, County Road 110, Rabbit Valley Road; Cuchilla Road, Vallejos, Garcia and El Rito Roads. Also, Espinosa, Maestas, Lower Hondo, Rio Lucero Roads and the upper and lower Llano Road intersection, along with improvements to bridges countywide.
Fleet Maintenance Department
Fleet Director Brian Aragon said it best, “Big things are coming for the Taos County Fleet Department.” The enthusiasm of Brian and his staff have improved the organization and systems that keep the fleet moving. They have instituted a new work order system to streamline tracking ongoing and completed work. This has helped plan daily work-loads, work history and specific work assignments for various county departments. One of the biggest improvements in 2017 was the institution of the daily pre-inspection form, which is currently available to all departments.
This allows drivers to check their vehicles prior to use in order to identify any problems. The addition of a fleet maintenance administrative assistant has improved the tracking system and enabled systemized spreadsheets to keep records of materials and parts ordered, received and used. Shop tools were also purchased that have made outside service less necessary, minimized downtime for vehicles and saved the county money. An oil burner was purchased which has enabled the burning of used motor oil to heat the shop, also saving the county money on heating bills.
In 2018, a focus will be put on getting all departments to utilize the forms created, including the pre-inspection form. The most important goal is the completion of the new facility to better accommodate maintenance personnel and Taos County departments needing vehicle service. The hope is for a more productive, efficient and safe working environment.
Edward Vigil and the Planning Department staff successfully revised the Taos County Economic Development Plan, Comprehensive Plan, LEDA ordinance, Rural Addressing ordinance and Community Wildfire Protection Plan. They created a list of official road names and rural addressing fee schedule for Taos County. They also assisted in the creation of the Taos County Community Conservation Plan and Enchanted Circle Trails Plan, as well as creating and assisting in the creation of several websites. The received a $360,000 grant from The Nature Conservancy for the restoration of the McGaffey fire area, as well as establishing six Firewise Communities, securing approval of the Taos Regional Water Plan by the Interstate Streams Commission and completing phase one of the Non-Federal Land Grant in Pot Creek.
Their goals for 2018 include completion of revisions to the Land Use Regulations, Subdivision Regulations and Sign Ordinance. They also plan to complete the Peñasco Valley Community Wildfire Protection Plan, improve code enforcement; work closely with other departments to establish the Development Review Committee and dispose of antiquated planning records.
Management Information Systems (MIS)
In the ever-changing world of information system management, Herb Medina and his staff are constantly seeking ways to better collect, share and store information for our constituents. 2017 has been a year of refocusing and updating. Together with other departments MIS has been able to address the website shortcomings and are in the process of creating a county website that is easier to navigate and more interactive. The MIS support team is excited to launch the service desk support ticketing software to assist the department with help desk requests. The software will enable us to offer better support to the employees and to give them an easy way to initiate and track their support requests.
The MIS support team continues to monitor both the internal and external needs surrounding Taos County by keeping data safe and secure. Over the next couple of months, the department will be working to review both our hardware infrastructure and our web access.
Renee Weber and her Human Resources staff have focused on the Merit Ordinance, which was recently adopted. This was a monumental task, as other than minor amendments, the personnel policies had not been updated since 2006. The new policy allows for updates as necessary and brings the county into compliance with federal and state law. In addition, a compensation study is currently in motion, comparing ourselves to other similar tax-based counties.
Most department heads have now completed the UNM Supervisory Academy that covers topics such as conflict resolution, time management, ethics, and performance evaluations. The next level of supervisors will begin the coursework this month.
It will soon be possible to provide information quickly and accurately through a cloud-based system. This will enable HR to track or accept applications through our website.
We are now in the third-year of self-funded benefits management. The process has been simplified so all 290 county employees have pre-filled forms, so they can select their benefits for the calendar year.
On the horizon for human resources is a more comprehensive new hire process, as well as continuing supervisor training, annual Equal Employment Opportunity awareness and prevention training and risk management policies.
The Finance Department under the leadership of Lupe Martinez continues its efforts in maintaining our fiduciary responsibility to the citizens of Taos County, centralized purchasing has proven to be successful by allowing the County to maximize its dollar by purchasing various supplies in bulk, consolidating similar departments and streamlining our leasing contracts. The majority of our Finance team have received their credentials as a Certified Procurement Officer(s) by the State of New Mexico.
During the year, our financial audit team resolved its audit findings with the Finance and Treasurer’s staffs working together, management applauds those efforts and will continue to support any changes necessary to ensure fiscal accountability of our county resources.
In conclusion, I would like to thank the amazing team of men and women that work hard every day to serve the taxpayers of Taos County. I also want to thank the hard-working Elected Officials that allow me to serve as the Taos County Manager, and allow me to lead such a great team, and finally, I need to thank the taxpayers of Taos County for providing both the reason and the resources for us to serve.