A man waits outside the MVD office, Tuesday afternoon after residents were instructed by Roswell’s fire marshal to wait their turn due to the building reaching its maximum capacity. (Trevier Gonzalez Photo)
Some residents found themselves frustrated at Roswell’s license branch for a different reason Tuesday morning.
Due to the maximum occupant load in the building, set by the New Mexico Motor Vehicle Division and enforced by Roswell’s fire marshal, many like local Jack Ferguson were in a sticky situation.
“There was a bunch of people standing there outside the front door,” Ferguson told the Daily Record Tuesday afternoon. “There was a sign taped to the door. Now, I don’t remember what the sign said, but they weren’t letting anybody in.”
Ferguson said there had been people waiting for a while, with some leaving and coming back. He decided to call his city council members, as well as New Mexico state Rep. Candy Spence Ezzell.
Ezzell said Ferguson was the first person to notify her about the incident. She then spoke to MVD deputy director of field ops, Jerry Valdez.
“Mr. Valdez told me that there are two MVD offices in the state that they have problems with, due to the fire inspector, and one of those offices is Roswell,” said Ezzell, R-Roswell. “He told me what the problem was, and I, in turn, brought it to the mayor’s attention. I also talked to several council members and notified them of the problem and they, too, were quite shocked that these people were having to wait outside.”
Ezzell said Roswell’s MVD is one of the biggest license branch buildings in the state, complete with four exits and over 60 chairs.
“(Jerry) does not understand why they are limiting the number of patrons that may be able to go inside — especially in this outrageous heat that we’ve been having, and I agree with that,” Ezzell said.
Ferguson got a call back from Ezzell. She said the problem wasn’t with the state, but the city.
“The city fire marshal had people pretty much locked out,” Ferguson said. “There were people of all ages standing out there. Nobody was gonna pass out that I could see, but the thing is that no person can stand there, and it can very well happen, and then who’s going to be responsible for that?”
The Roswell Police Department said the decision was due to the MVD.
“The fire marshal and the city did not create the reason for the complaint,” said RPD spokesperson Todd Wildermuth. “The occupancy load was given to MVD, they post a sign there, it’s their own discretion, it’s their building. As far as fire code goes, which is all our fire marshal deals with, he gave them what that is. MVD, the state, decided to keep that number lower. That’s why they were not allowing some people to enter until other people have left the building.”
Ezzell said she found the situation “quite troubling.” She said it draws a resemblance to how the Eastern New Mexico State Fair has been handled by the city’s fire marshal, Matt Miller.
“In the past six weeks, two months, they had a builders’ meeting here in Roswell,” Ezzell said. “A lot of those builders in Roswell were complaining because they have to submit this, and everybody has to sign off on it, they will start construction and then Mr. Miller — the complaints I heard from the builder, that Mr. Miller would come in and red-tag stuff, even though the plans had been approved.”
Miller could not be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon.
“And it’s ultimately caused money to the builders and to the homeowners, or whoever may be constructing a business whenever Mr. Miller previously had signed off on everything — there’s a problem,” Ezzell said.
Multimedia-Crime reporter Trevier Gonzalez can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.