February 3, 2017

Still no explanation from state on letter about reimbursements

Last week, Santa Clara Village Clerk Sheila Hudman had a scare.

She had submitted reimbursement requests to the New Mexico Environment Department for a grant the village had received last year. But instead of depositing money into the village’s bank account, the agency sent a troubling letter.

In its letter, NMED said it would no longer accept invoices or requests for reimbursement for the grant.

According to a story in the Silver City Daily Press on Monday, that Jan. 24 letter from the state read in part:

As of the date of this correspondence, the NMED will not be accepting invoices or requests for reimbursement regarding your 2017 Recycling and Illegal Dumping (RAID) grant. This order is not specific to your grant, but is applicable to all RAID grants approved for 2017. The order is being made due to recent funding uncertainties related to the 2017 RAID grants. Invoices received after the date of this correspondence will not be paid at this time, and therefore should not be remitted. Invoices already submitted to NMED will be held and not processed until further notice.

Following publication of that news story, NMED did release funds into the village’s bank account.

But no one from the agency has explained to Hudman why it sent the letter in the first place.

“I’m not sure if it was due to legislative items or due to the Trump statement freezing all [EPA] grants,” Hudman told NM Political Report. “We did get paid, but we can’t get a hold of anyone there.”

That week, the Trump administration issued a temporary freeze on new EPA contracts. But that should not have affected an existing grant.

Last year, the village applied for and received a grant through NMED’s Recycling and Illegal Dumping (RAID) program. Those grants fund environmentally-sound reuse and recycling projects. Santa Clara was using the grant to finish installing crumb rubber—made from recycled tires—in its splash park.

Santa Clara’s annual budget is about $685,000. The total reimbursement from NMED was $231,000.

“I went into panic mode,” said Hudman when she heard the state wouldn’t reimburse the village. “I didn’t know: Do I lay everyone off, or would I have to call them all back in a week? But NMED wouldn’t respond.”

Reached by phone on Wednesday, NMED communications director Allison Scott Majure would not answer questions about RAID grants or the letter sent to the Village of Santa Clara.

When asked if her answer for the story was “no comment,” Majure said it was not and said that all questions needed to be sent via email.

NM Political Report sent a total of four email requests for information, before and after Majure’s request. Majure responded to none of those.