Commissioners discuss pending state legislation Detention center update heard

by Carol Bridge
RATON — Colfax County Commissioners met on February 27 and heard of the high cost to the county in treating criminal detainees who may have mental health issues.
Commission chairman Bill Sauble gave an update on bills in process at the state.  One bill in particular that addresses the need for counties to address mental health problems of people being arrested or held in detention is waiting to be signed by Governor Susana Martinez.  This will affect what services and funding for those services that the county will be responsible for.  The deadline for this bill is March 7.
County attorney Terrence Kamm addressed this issue informing the board that he had recently met with a group of people to discuss this issue of prisoners who may be in need of mental health assistance.  The meeting included Rodney Gross of Tri-County Mental Health, Rose Bernal of the detention center, Judge Emilio Chávez and Kamm.  He said some progress was made and the county must resolve these issues.
Colfax County is currently sending people who seem to be presenting with mental health issues to a detention center in Santa Fe (which deals with the forensic aspects and not treatment) and comes with a high cost to Colfax County.
He said that many of these people are being charged with relatively petty misdemeanors and further study is needed as to the best way to proceed.  He stated that this issue is related to the issues that RAIN (Regional Agency Intervention Network) is also addressing.
In other business:
County manager Mary Lou Kern and Rose Bernal, Vigil-Maldonado Detention Center Administrator, gave updates on the detention center.  Kern reported construction is progressing and problems are being resolved.  Bernal updated the board on staffing additions and training that is happening.  She reported there are currently 41 inmates but that two weeks ago the facility was inundated with 63 inmates and they were forced to transport some to other secure facilities.
  The 2017 audit, prepared by RPC, CPAs & Consultants, LLC was presented and approved by the board.  The indigent medical care report was given by Mary Alice Gutierrez representing Miners Colfax Medical Center, with the county being responsible for $9,770 for current charges and $4,163 for past due accounts.  The past due amount was a result of confusion about responsibility for the charges, depending upon who the arresting agency was.  Fernandez sought assurance in future this would be more closely monitored.
Solid waste fees was discussed with no change to charges to customers which will be $70 per month for commercial and $210 a year for residential users.  Late payments will be charged 1.5% interest per month.  Fernandez said some users were confused about boundaries and that some people may be getting charged for both city and county disposal services and Kern clarified the policy.  People who only live in the county part of the year feel that charges all year are unfair.  .
Kern informed the board progress was being made in the effort to combine the city and district courts offices.  She has been in contact with Senator Tom Udall’s office about grant monies to assist with this cost saving move.
Robert Thompson gave a report for the road and bridge department and warned the board the department had suffered several costly breakdowns that would be showing up in next month’s accounts. Thompson reported that some equipment was nearing the end of the six year warranty and warned of the possibility of increased repair cost for his department.
There was no action taken after a brief executive session.
Chairman Sauble, commissioner Roy Fernandez, county manager Kern, and county attorney Kamm were present at the regular meeting, with Landon Newton unable to attend.
The next meeting will be March 13 at the Colfax County building at 9 am.