Following a closed-door executive Tues., May 13, Sierra County Commissioners re-opened the meeting to the public and in a unanimous vote approved a motion to terminate the contract with County Manager Mark Huntzinger, effective immediately. Commissioners then ac-knowledged County Human Resources Director Janette A. Monsibaiz would be handling the County Manager’s responsibilities, as efforts are initiated to fill the now vacant post.
Mired in Lack of Details
During the commission’s regular session, board members heard a brief report from newly appointed Flood Commissioner Jim Goton. In response to a query from Commission Chairman Walter Armijo, Goton confirmed he had officially accepted the resignation of former Flood Director Barry Ragsdale submitted during the previous week’s special meeting. He later affirmed action had already been taken to advertise for candidates to fill the flood director vacancy. Goton told commissioners his immediate plan to address flood damage repairs throughout the county were focused on the “orderly dispersal of flood funding in the most cost efficient manner, with available information.” He then qualified this statement by stressing, “We have no information, and the GPS numbers do not work.” Goton explained he was unable to correlate areas slated for repairs with coordinates established on the approved Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) worksheets. He noted at least three separate project sites were designated by identical coordinates and told commissioners his efforts to clarify this issue with FEMA officials was thus far without results. Goton went on to relay how much of the on-going repair work was beneficial. While stating he felt the present contractors were doing their best to address their respective project assignments, Goton said his inspection of worksites found a number of efforts were being focused on areas that differed from those designated in the FEMA worksheets. The flood commissioner reemphasized he was unable to properly direct repair efforts without accurate information and relayed how his discussion with a FEMA official in Louisiana served only to direct him to a Google Earth KMZ file which he had yet to be able to access as of the morning’s session.
County Manager Huntzinger explained how the aforementioned files were created with Google Earth, but were not accessible through the Google website. He indicated efforts would be made to aid Goton in accessing the appropriate files. Commission Vice Chair Frances Luna expressed dismay at Goton’s inability to obtain accurate details from FEMA authorities. She noted how former Flood Director Ragsdale had maintained regular communications with FEMA officials and questioned why these contacts and information conduits were not relayed to Goton. The Goton said he queried Ragsdale about this information, but received no response. Luna then questioned why the coordinates could not be located through old school methods; utilizing current maps and emphasized she felt the flood commissioner should be making a more concerned effort to acquire necessary information from FEMA authorities. In a brief statement from one of the contractors presently working on Flood Commission projects, commissioners learned the FEMA worksheets provided only with most basic directions regarding how contractors were to address designated areas of concern. Goton indicated this reinforced how a lack of detailed information was inhibiting the ability to effectively deploy contractor resources told commissioners and said while contracted firms were offering diligent efforts; they were doing so without any direct supervision in the field. Commissioner Bobby Allen questioned the latter statement to which Goton relayed how the responsibility of contractor oversight rested with the flood director’s position and was not included in the flood commissioner’s job description. Goton said he was scheduled to meet with Army Corps of Engineer authorities Wed., May 14 and suggested this session might provide information that would allow him to more effectively coordinate repair efforts. While commissioners considered no formal action regarding the flood commissioner’s report, Luna confirmed administrative assistance would be given to Goton pertaining to the acquisition of more detailed information from FEMA authorities and suggested the board should include regular monthly reports from the flood commissioner on future agendas. Chairman Armijo acknowledged the current tax levy presently provided the county with approximately $300,000 to fund Flood Commission activities. After noting Sierra County was one of only three New Mexico counties with an established flood commission, he suggested alternatives were available and indicated the annual funding could be more directly applied toward addressing flood repairs and…