Mayor Dennis Kintigh met with the Roswell Daily Record June 14 for the mayor’s regular forum with the newspaper. The following are the staff’s questions and the mayor’s responses.
Can you tell us what you know about the occupancy situation at the Roswell Motor Vehicle Division?
“It’s my understanding this has been an MVD policy that when they exceed what they believe to be the correct limitations, they restrict the inflow of people by locking the doors and only allowing as many people in as are exiting. I’ve been told that this has been a long-running process over there. However, what I’ve also been told is that the number they were basing their control on was incorrect, in fact their capacity was significantly higher, that’s what I’ve been told. I’m waiting on confirmation on that.”
Do you think the way New Mexico’s fairgrounds barn occupancy permit issue was handled in May is a similar issue?
“My understanding was there was a lack of communication as to the true size of this structure, and that once it was found out the true size of this there was a, ‘No, wait a minute, this is going to need fire suppression.’ Fire suppression is a huge problem in the sense of its costs. It’s a well-intended safety feature that’s intended to protect people, but let’s not kid ourselves — they’re not cheap. That becomes a real drag on economic development.
“If you want to repurpose a structure — and we’d like to see more of that in Roswell — but I wish that we had some kind of tax incentives for businesses, that would allow them to defray or mitigate the costs of repurposing buildings, because you have to do a couple of things. You have to take out asbestos, you have to put in fire suppression under certain uses. Those are things that make the place safer for people. That’s an improvement, for the health and wellbeing of the community. I would maintain those are legitimate business expenses that should be subject to a tax credit.”
On the note of code enforcement, what is the latest on Vincent Romero and his living situation?
“I know that the city manager has tried to reach out to the advocacy group to do something to help with him. My understanding that the condition of the structure is without electricity, it is not secure as far as enclosed properly, it is still heavily damaged from the fire. That’s not an appropriate place for someone to live. That needs to be restored, repaired or replaced.
“We have building codes to ensure that the structures that people are living in are not detrimental to their wellbeing. I can’t see us allowing this to continue because it’s not healthy for Mr. Romero. Something needs to happen here. I realize he doesn’t have a lot of money. I wish we would have entities step up to the plate and help him with this.”
On the condemnation of this, Romero won his appeal. What’s that about?
“Mr. Romero made his appeal. His appeal was that he shouldn’t be condemned. The city said, ‘No, it should be because of this evidence.’ The problem is, the photographic evidence that was being presented initially, or was attempted to be presented, Mr. Romero objected to because he never gave permission for those photographs to be taken on his property. That’s a 4th Amendment issue. I’m sorry, I understand the 4th Amendment well and know you cannot consider evidence that was obtained in violation of the 4th Amendment. It is the exclusionary rule that’s been around for 120 years. So, we had to take it off the plate. Mr. Romero raised the objection that the statute listed referred to structures and buildings. He said this is a vehicle. The city’s response was inadequate. So, I’m in a very narrow position here, this became a tie vote. I can’t speak for how the others voted, I can only speak for how I did. I have to look at this, when I put on the quasi-judicial hat, in the very narrow focus of what is the admissible evidence here, what was the legal arguments presented, and what was the response. I don’t think he should be living in that structure, but, the reality is the case was not made in a way that was clear and convincing. So, I voted to uphold his appeal.
“It does not mean that the inherent issue has gone away. The inherent issue is that this structure, the allegation is that this structure is not suitable for human occupation, and unless it is repaired, replaced, or removed, there’s gonna have to be something done. I can see this coming back. My preference, and I think everybody on the council’s preference, is for some folks to step up and help him. The city cannot. The city is prohibited under the state Constitution anti-donation clause from helping private individuals. But it doesn’t mean volunteers can’t.”
Were you aware that he didn’t have insurance?
“I had heard that night he didn’t. The ultimate question is, whatever happened there, what’s the situation now? How do we move forward? That’s the whole objective of condemnation and tearing down derelict structures, are that these are in such a condition that they pose a threat to the safety and health to the citizens of this community. If they can be repaired, please do so. If you don’t then we will demolish it. We don’t want to demolish it. We want them to look good and be safe for people to live in.”
If Chaves County Republicans cannot hold the line on raising taxes, who can?
“That’s a good question. I don’t know. We’re in an odd situation on revenues right now. Part of it in the GRT world, and you’ve heard me talk about this, is the migration to the internet. Brick and mortar is nationwide. This is not a Roswell issue. The closing of Sears, the closing of Payless.
“How do you provide the revenue stream to provide the services necessary, when your main source comes from a disappearing transaction? I have been an advocate for the concept of GRT on internet sales. I believe it’s appropriate.
“I think the way we accomplish it through the state Legislature, and through the governor’s office, is that someone proposes in the state rate, which is now 5.125 percent, my arbitrary suggestion is to reduce it to 4.75 and then apply it to internet transactions. That would be 4.75 percent and then the city and county’s portions. Where am I going with this? Reduce the rate and expand the scope. I think you can produce the revenue that will be required without trying to continually raise rates on an ever-shrinking area of economic activity.”
Do you think these tax increases could cause a negative effect to the community?
“I heard that Eddy County either has or is looking at similar tax increases, which would result in some, like in the city of Artesia, some significant increases. I don’t know the numbers off the top of my head. I encourage you to look at that. It would be higher than what we have here. Right now, we are looking at July 1, 7.75 percent total for everything, including the increases that we voted, and we did in February.
“That was the point I made to finance, the construction of the rec center and the aquatic center. We have 20-year caps on those increases and they are dedicated towards debt service, not operations. However, we are very concerned what are revenue stream is going to be for the next fiscal year, starting July 1. We’re basically assuming roughly a flat budget. We have some costs increases. We have step increases, we have cost-of-living increases, increased insurance payments. We have 80 percent of the city budget is personnel. So those go up, where do you cut? My concern is we have tremendous infrastructure needs, and how do we deal with those?”
So, if Chaves County Republicans can’t hold the line on increased taxes, who can?
“Well, we have not raised taxes for operations, we the city. We raised it to build new facilities. But as far as operations, we have held the line.”
Any updates about the city taking over Memory Lawn cemetery?
“We were visited, and by we, I mean myself and the city manager had a meeting with some advocates for that. They came to see us, they would still very much like to see us, have the city take it over. What Mr. Nebb and I suggested was for them to come up with a detailed specific business plan, if you will. In other words, what are the expectations for services, we didn’t have a written down proposal, we had a general concept presented to us. I think generally the council was nervous about taking this on without knowing what exactly what we’re getting into. What we proposed to them is that the advocates and those that are most interested, put together a detailed plan. And I threw out an example, this may not be in there, the property will be mowed “X” number of times per year; that the water rights would come, and what the boundaries would be. What would happen to some of the property and what wouldn’t. We talked all in generalities but there was nothing in a written form. I think we needed to have a written plan that would be presented to staff that could be negotiated.
“Then, there are two ways for an item to come back for reconsideration. One is you wait six months, and the second is what we saw at the council meeting on June 8 with the golf course, is if five members of the governing body in written form to the city clerk request that the matter be reconsidered, and at least one of the five must have been on the prevailing side in the previous action. That’s what happened in the golf course RFP. That could happen with Memory Lawn, but I think in reality, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done before we can get to the point where we can get a majority accepted. There’s a lot of concern, what are we getting ourselves into?”
How do you feel about an environmental assessment of the cemetery?
“I want to see all of the details. I am not enthusiastic about taking on additional responsibilities, it is perpetual care, which means if this City Council agrees to take this on, we bind all future councils, forever. It becomes our responsibility. Like South Park, the cemetery.”
Like the rec center or pool too?
“Not necessarily. Theoretically you could close the rec center, close the pool. But we have a contract, if you will, we will provide perpetual care for that cemetery, that it would be mowed, all those kinds of things, kept looking nice, forever — that makes me nervous. Forever means paying every year. There’s a dynamic here, the revenue stream for the cemetery has always been selling burial plots, charging for opening and closing graves, that’s been the revenue stream for the cemetery. That’s another dynamic that’s changing. More and more people are going to cremation. Those remains go into columbariums at different locations, or they’re kept at homes or whatever. In other words, our sells of cemetery plots is declining. That’s supposedly the revenue stream that provides the resources to do the perpetual care.”
There’s talk going around that the city might take on the cemetery and move all of the bodies to South Park, and then that would lower the perpetual care. That would keep it all in one location. Is that right?
“You’re spot on. That is a concept that needs lots of fleshing out before we can even get serious about it. Yes, if this had been just a little niche next door to the city cemetery, where you could kind of just drive across the road, when doing all of the work, it would be a heck of a lot easier to adopt. Basically what we did with the veterans’ cemetery. The veterans’ cemetery became viable because it was adjacent to the city cemetery. It still had costs, don’t get us wrong. The maintenance stuff does impose responsibility, but it’s right there — this is not right there.”
Would you prefer to have just one cemetery?
“Ideally, but I don’t see us moving all those graves. I would call it a bridge too far.”
Anything new about your plans to run for re-election in 2018?
“We’ll have news at the end of the summer, after Labor Day.”
How would you say the city has been helping members of the community?
“We can get philosophical about this for a little bit. There are a lot people in this community that are living in substandard lifestyles. Some of that is brought on by their own poor choices. In some cases, the poor choices have built upon themselves. They start off with one poor choice and it gets worse and worse and worse. So how do you assist those people without being an enabler? That’s one of the challenges in the whole area of charity work.
“We’re trying to work with the Roswell homeless coalition to come up with a facility that can serve as a centralized care area, our current homeless shelters are not really adequate. And there’s some frustrations that some people have with the current individual that’s running the current facility. I’d like to see that happen, not to sound like a bleeding heart liberal, which you know I’m not.
“The ideal thing is, this becomes a place where you can centralize services, you can help those that are in a position to transition back into a traditional living arrangements.
“Some people will never be able to transition back. Many of these people have behavioral health issues. Behavioral health is one of our huge problems in the nation and in this state. And you can quote me extensively on that.
“And part of the challenge is, we as a society, and even health professionals, don’t truly know how to treat behavioral health. That’s my perspective.”
Can you tell us about the upcoming UFO festival?
“I’ll be here Friday morning, but I’ve been invited by a friend to visit him in another community, and it’s an opportunity that my wife and I are having a hard time to resist, so we might be out of town. Sometimes it’s just good to get out of town.”
How was Hike It and Spike It, as far as revenues?
“We won’t know those numbers for a while, cause it just takes so long to filter through the system, but if you were out there, you saw it was just a mob.
“Hike It and Spike It is really the bigger draw than the UFO Festival. There are events that deal with quality of life and we like to see quality events. That’s the one thing about Hike It and Spike It — I think it’s been an incredibly well-run operation. It taps into what I call the sports tourism concept, where people will go places to do things, like a 5K, or triathlon, Bottomless Lakes Triathlon, those kinds of things. Those appeals. The UFO Festival, I’m excited about what I’m hearing about this year. I think MainStreet Roswell, I think the executive director there has done a tremendous job. Kathy Lay, I believe, has done a great job. This is going to more of an experience as opposed to (being) vendor-oriented.”
With stores like Sears closing, what features of Roswell do you think encourage newcomers?
“We’ve made a real serious effort to clean up on derelict structures for the community. That’s something I ran on, and we focused a lot of attention on it. We’ve had some real nasty places removed. We still have a lot to clean up. I’m a huge believer in the broken windows theory of community development.
“It deals with the appearance of a community affecting the behavior of a community. If the community appears chaotic, the people will behave chaotic. So derelict structures degrade the value of neighboring structures, they’re crime magnets. When I was in law enforcement, you went into them looking for people and finding them and finding what they were doing there. That’s a huge part of it. From an economic development perspective, the airport is a special feature of this community. Rural areas traditionally rely upon extraction industry, agricultural and tourism for economic activity. We’re rural. But we have a fourth leg, and that’s aviation.
“The fact that we brought in the air service to Phoenix to me is a big deal. It allows us to be less isolated. Now you can go east, you can go west upon an airplane, 70 passenger, first-class seats, the whole 9 yards. You can literally get on a plane here in Roswell, go through TSA, and get off on the other side of the world — and never have to go through security again. You can check your bag here and pick it up on the other side of the world. That can be done. That helps us develop as a community.”