SILVER CITY — At a Wednesday afternoon meeting of the Soutwestern County Commission Alliance, members of the public voiced their confusion as to what the Alliance was and what power it had. Grant County Commissioner Gabriel Ramos, who acts as chairman and helped form the Alliance, wanted to clear some of that up.

The group was the brainchild of Ramos and the rest of the Grant County Commissioners in response to difficulties being heard when they addressed issues at the state level.

"The intent was just to form a group that was going to be heard," Ramos said. "They only pay attention to the big counties up in Santa Fe. We're a small county, so we wanted to get together with other small counties to form a larger, more vocal entity."

The Commission Alliance is a group of county commissioners from Catron, Grant, Hidalgo, Luna, Sierra and Socorro counties chosen by their respective commissions to represent them at monthly meetings to discuss regional affairs. When the counties agreed on the alliance, each commission chose a commissioner to represent their county on the board. The chosen representatives signed a Joint Powers Agreement with the state in July.

Since its authorization, the Commission Alliance has held monthly meetings to discuss the group's support or disagreement with a number of issues, like roads, water, landfill fees, and the state of juvenile detention centers.


The Alliance has gotten most of its attention through more controversial decisions on water and roads in the Gila National Wilderness, which have gained the ire of local environmental groups like the Grant County Conservation Coalition and the Sierra Club. One of these was a proposed letter to the Interstate Stream Commission on the agenda for Wednesday's meeting concerning the importance of keeping Gila River water in New Mexico, even in the case of diversion. After public input and a presentation by Allyson Siwik of the Conservation Coalition, the letter was not sent.

"Of course the controversial topics get the attention," Ramos said, "But they are certainly not the only things we're acting on."

One of the big projects on which the Alliance is focusing is the state of juvenile detention centers in the area.

"We usually end up using the juvenile center in Deming, but it only has room for 10 kids," said Ramos. "So, whenever that is full, our kids get spread out to centers all across the state."

Ramos and the other area commissioners on the Alliance are trying to find an appropriate full-size detention center to change into a juvenile detention center.

While the commissioners on the Alliance admittedly do not take every issue on their radar to their individual county commissions, Ramos said they don't need to.

"When there is a Joint Powers Agreement formed by the County, they are giving those individual elected officials the right to represent their county in that alliance," said Ramos.

Much like a U.S. Senator or Representative may sit on committees for certain topics without running a new campaign to do so, the commissioners on the Southwestern County Commission Alliance do so through the power of their initial election. For instance, Ramos also sits on the board for the Southwestern Rural Transportation Department and several others.

The Alliance is also not an actual governing body.

"We cannot make policy," Ramos said. "The only people charged with the ability to make policy are the elected county commission."

Much of the confusion at Wednesday's meeting came from what some public speakers saw as a lack of notice or transparency of the Alliance's meetings. Most of this has come from the somewhat newly-formed Alliance not having a website yet on which to post upcoming notices.

Benjamin Fisher can be reached at (575) 538-5893 ext. 5803.