The MVD was described as over capacitated Tuesday and left many people waiting outside in the heat. (Submitted Photo)
Above: The occupant load sign inside Roswell’s MVD was set to 45 on Tuesday and is enforced by the order of Roswell Fire Department.
Below: The occupant sign hanging inside the MVD changed from 45 to 100 by Wednesday. (Trevier Gonzalez Photos)
The heat is no longer on. Matt Miller, Roswell’s fire marshal, expanded the occupant limit Wednesday at the Roswell Motor Vehicle Division office from 45 to 100.
Ben Cloutier, New Mexico Taxation & Revenue Department director of communication, said the MVD has continued to follow all applicable laws governing building occupancy.
“Until today, the fire marshal’s occupancy limit at the Roswell MVD was 45 people,” Cloutier said Wednesday. “For months, the MVD has asked the fire marshal to expand the occupancy limit.”
Todd Wildermuth, public information officer for the Roswell Fire Department, said the limit of 45 people was put in place by a previous Roswell fire marshal.
“Since the recent situation came up, the Fire Department’s current fire marshal inspected and measured the building to ensure MVD had the correct information according to fire code,” Wildermuth said. “The code allows for a maximum of 100 people in the building at a time.”
Wildermuth said while the MVD can still decide to lower the occupancy number, the matter is settled for the Fire Department and Fire Marshal’s office.
Mayor Dennis Kintigh said he received three phone calls and an email regarding the issue within a four-hour period Tuesday. He said he has not previously received these kind of reports regarding the MVD.
“I’ve been told that this has been a long-running process over there,” Kintigh said. “My understanding is that this has been a MVD policy that makes what they believe to be the correct limitations. They restrict the inflow of people by locking the doors and only allowing as many in as are exiting.”
Kintigh said he went by the MVD office at 200 Wilshire Boulevard around 1 p.m., Tuesday. A sign taped to the front door to the office read in all capital letters: “Building is over capacity we will be opening the doors shortley.”
“That building has been there for a long time,” Kintigh said. “I don’t know when it originally opened, but I can tell you this: The current fire marshal was not the fire marshal when the building was opened.”
Kintigh said the role of fire marshal is an odd position.
“It has two roles,” he said. “One is investigating arsons and fires — things from a criminal justice perspective. The second role is, code-enforcement, building standards for safety — kind of like your building inspectors.”
It’s important for the public to understand the duties of fire marshal, Kintigh said.
“We need to make sure that people understand that the fire marshals don’t make up what the number is — they don’t get to decide,” he said. “Their responsibility is to make sure structures and businesses comply with the codes. Now was there an error here, as far as the capacity? That’s what it appears. Why did that happen? Don’t know. It appears that it was done a long time ago, and that this should have been corrected a long time ago.”
With more improved communication, Kintigh said the city can continue to move forward.
“Fire marshals are a lot like referees,” he said. “That’s not being facetious, it truly is. They’re gonna make the calls that will make some people very unhappy and others very happy. We need to make sure that there’s a clear understanding on what are the expectations — that’s where the referee becomes less contentious — is if all the players know what the rules are.
“So in a sense, this little incident is a good thing. Because now, we’re going to have resolution, and we won’t have this happening in the future because the capacity was incorrectly listed, so yeah, we’re involved. Anything to do with the fire marshall — the city of Roswell — the city’s involved.”
Multimedia-Crime reporter Trevier Gonzalez can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.