City lawyers looking at language of grant

By Tony Parra

The Portales Health Council was able to receive a $30,000 grant to be able to implement a program to help with health issues in Portales.
But there’s a catch.
City attorneys are looking into the logistics of the agreement for the award to avoid being hit by possible penalties and sanctions in the future for the city of Portales, according to Stephen Doerr, city attorney.
“We (city) could be accused of gross negligence (with) the way it is written,” Doerr said in the meeting. “The state could tell you the provisions and if you don’t meet the provisions they could place sanctions on you. They can also set the penalties.”
Doerr said one example of this is a goal that 10 percent of Roosevelt County residents will be able to demonstrate having a better understanding of issues related to diabetes, symptoms and diagnostic measures used to identify diabetes. If the state determines that only 9 percent was accomplished despite the health council’s best effort, then they could place sanctions and no limit to amount of the penalty fee, Doerr said.
Randy Knudson, city attorney, said he had never seen language on a contract like the language on the agreement from the state health department. He said the state has “teeth” in the agreement. For example, article 27 (which discusses penalties) states that the procurement code imposes both criminal and civil penalties for violation of its provisions.
Milz Bickely of the Roosevelt County Health Planning Council said he wasn’t sure how much money the health council was going to receive from the state. He said he has never heard of a time in which the state sued a health council.
Bickely said the council received a $5,000 grant from the state department last year. Bickely said in order to receive funding one of the requirements from the state department was that the money go through a fiscal agent.
“This year there was an attempt from the governor and the secretary of health to have health councils in all of the counties,” Bickely said. “They wanted to have a more evenly distributed funding that’s the reason the funding was greater this year.”
Bickely said department of health officials estimate $75,000 is needed to run a county health council. He said most of the money from last year’s grant was for trips to Santa Fe for training. He said the $30,000 will help people who have the skills to assist in the hunt for money to help the council expand.
“Things can be done to combat diabetes if we do a step-by-step approach,” Bickely said. “We’re trying to work to measure services. It takes money to develop information and surveys.”
Portales city manager, Debi Lee, said city officials will act in a role of dispersing the money to appropriate areas of health, in a PNT Article in mid-May. Under the agreement of being a fiscal agent, the city is receiving 10 percent ($3,000) of the awarded contract.
Bickely said the contract has been agreed to contingent on a negotiation with state officials for clarification in the contract in regards to sanctions and penalties.
“We don’t want to put the city in a bad situation,” Bickely said. “We don’t want to put the city in legal jeopardy. We haven’t made a commitment. I don’t expect there to be problems, but if we don’t get the money, the health council will continue. It would be great to have the money and create a fully-funded planning council.”
Doerr said either he or Knudson will contact state officials to negotiate the contract and clarify the language in the following weeks.