The public will have a chance to weigh in on the proposed sale of the downtown Fisk Building.
The motion to hold a public hearing passed 8-2 during the Thursday night Roswell City Council meeting. The hearing will consider the sole bid received by the city, a $30,000 offer from Mason Holdings LLC.
Four councilors expressed concerns and disagreements about the current structure of the bid, but two of the four voted to hold a hearing anyway.
The hearing is expected to occur during the next City Council meeting, Sept. 14.
Mason Holdings, consisting of short sale specialist Amanda Mason and her husband, Roswell Police Officer Joe Mason, has offered $30,000 for the 114-year-old office building at the corner of Fourth and Main streets. Amanda Manson has said they intend to open a Southern-style ice cream and sweets shop in the downtown location directly south of the Chaves County Courthouse.
The Masons made a formal expression of interest earlier this year for a building that has been valued at about $165,000 but estimated to require $206,000 in repairs to bring the building up to code. The city advertised a request for proposals in early July, and the Mason’s bid was the only one received.
Some city councilors spoke of their support for the sale, but Councilors Steve Henderson, Jeanine Corn Best and Jason Perry also talked about their concerns with the structure of the offer, which proposes to give $21,500 to the city at the time of closing and to pay $8,500 to one of the tenants, the Hispano Chamber of Commerce. The money to the chamber would include $2,500 for rent relocation assistance and $1,000 a month after a move-out to help pay rent at another location.
Some objections were whether the situation was fair to both remaining tenants, as only the Hispano chamber would receive financial assistance. The other concern was whether the arrangement would violate the New Mexico Constitution’s anti-donation clause prohibiting government entities from making gifts of money, property or credit to non-government entities or individuals.
Both Henderson and Perry had voiced their concerns about the anti-donation clause at the Aug. 3 Finance Committee meeting.
“I still have those strong, strong, strong reservations. I would like this fixed even before it goes to advertisement, so I will not be supporting this,” Perry said. “I definitely support this building getting back on the tax rolls in a major way, but, there again, I go back to my reservations concerning the current RFP process because I don’t know what a lot of those particulars are that were discussed to allow me to say, ‘OK, I feel comfortable that this is going to be done at the end of the day,’ so I do not support.”
Perry referred to requirements for renovations among other contractual obligations the buyers and city would have to meet.
Perry was joined by Councilor Art Sandoval in casting a dissenting vote. Sandoval did not make any comments about the matter prior to his vote and did not return messages by press time.
Henderson also spoke of his worries about the money to the chamber, both because of his concerns that it would run counter to the anti-donation clause and due to issues of fairness.
“I got a call from one of the other tenants, saying, ‘If you are going to give money to the Hispano Chamber, why aren’t you going to give it to me?’ Well, that’s a logical question,” he said.
City Manager Joe Neeb said the actual legal agreement for the sale has not been drawn up yet but would address councilors’ concerns. City Attorney Aaron Holloman added that, when it came to the anti-donation concerns, councilors should remember that the city still has a legal obligation as a landlord to the Hispano Chamber.
Henderson indicated he was voting for the public hearing in the hope that concerns will be addressed prior to the meeting.
Best indicated her similar thoughts.
“I agree and echo the same as Mr. Henderson. Why should one tenant get paid off and not the others? … I am having a real issue with that, too,” Best said, “and I agree with Mr. Henderson. I’ll go ahead and vote just so we can bring it on next month, but we do need to figure this out because it is not fair.”
Christie Mann, president of the Hispano Chamber of Commerce, chose not to comment on expressed concerns about the bid structure, but said, “We are sad to have to leave the building because we thought it was in pretty perfect location, right here in downtown, and we had a lot of success here, but we are happy for the city and that the building will be renovated.”
A representative with the other remaining tenant, the Chaves County DWI Prevention Program, was not able to be reached by press time.
Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 310, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.