The purchase of the Fisk Building by a local couple has moved one step forward after members of a city committee approved the bid of $30,000, although some concerns were raised about the structure of the offer.
“I think I would be willing to give $30,000 to the Easter bunny if he would take this building,” said City Councilor Jason Perry at a Thursday meeting of the Roswell City Council Finance Committee.
The 114-year-old building, owned by the city of Roswell since 2013, needs substantial repairs to meet International Building Codes, according to both city staff, an appraiser and the bidders, Mason Holding LLC.
Mason Holdings includes legal assistant Amanda Mason and her husband, Roswell Police Officer Joe Mason. The Masons submitted with their bid a certified cost estimate for repairs of $206,000, which exceeds the $165,000 appraised value of the building, according to city documents.
“I’m happy to hear we are moving forward with the approval of my bid and will be eager to hear how it plays out with the City Council,” Amanda Mason said in an email following the meeting.
The Masons have indicated their intention to open a Southern-style ice cream and sweets shop in the historic, two-story structure, located at the corner of Fourth and North Main streets and with the official address of 327 N. Main St.
Having received the approval of the Roswell City Council Finance Committee, the bid now will be considered for a public hearing before the entire City Council.
Although Perry and Committee Chair Caleb Grant both joked about how happy they would be to sell the building, Perry and City Councilor Steve Henderson questioned the way in which the offer is structured.
The Masons have proposed to pay $21,500 to the city at the time of the closing, with the other $8,500 put in escrow to pay to one of the tenants, the Hispano Chamber of Commerce. The chamber would receive $2,500 in relocation assistance and up to $1,000 a month for six months after they have moved out to help pay rent at a new location, according to city documents.
Henderson and Perry questioned whether it was appropriate to structure a city sale that included a portion of the money going to the chamber. They said they thought such a practice could run counter to the New Mexico constitution’s anti-donation clause, which prohibits government entities from giving money, property or credit to non-government entities or to individuals. City Planning Manager Bill Morris said that the offer had been reviewed by others and approved.
Councilor Steve Henderson expressed his concerns.
“I am a little nervous about it,” he said, indicating that he had talked to city staff and asked questions of state officials, but was seeking further guidance.
“I guess I raise the same question that (Jason Perry) had,” he said. “I am not quite sure that we can sell something and a portion of that sale price go to benefit a third party. … “Hopefully I can clear this up in my mind before the City Council meeting,” he added.
Henderson and Perry voted for the sale proposal and the related ordinance, saying that they wanted to get it on the City Council docket for further consideration.
On Aug. 10, the City Council will consider whether to hold a public hearing about the sale. If the City Council votes to hold a public hearing, it would be scheduled for Sept. 14 following public advertisement of the hearing.
The sale still must be approved by the state and is not expected to close until the end of October if approved by city officials.
Senior writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 310, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.