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Committee approves Fisk building contract; Sale of historic structure gets a green light but without tenant assistance

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Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

The contract to sell the downtown Fisk Building has been approved by a city committee — but without any relocation assistance for either of the two existing tenants.

The Roswell City Council is scheduled to consider the contract that would transfer ownership to Mason Holdings LLC at its Sept. 14 meeting, where a hearing to allow the public to make comments is also scheduled to occur.
Should city officials OK the sale, a 45-day challenge period will then be in effect for state authorities or the public to raise questions or objections.
Roswell police officer Joe Mason and his wife, Amanda Mason, a short-sale specialist for a law firm, made the only offer for the 114-year-old building at Fourth and Main streets after the city issued a request for bids.
They originally had contacted the city in January about buying the property, which ultimately led the city to issue a request for proposals seeking potential buyers. The Masons plan to renovate the ground floor for a Southern-style ice cream and sweets shop they want to open.
The building needs extensive repairs, according to prior appraisals by the city and an expert brought in by the Masons. Those repairs are expected to cost at least $206,000.
“We are excited,” Amanda Mason said after the Thursday morning meeting of the Roswell City Council Finance Committee, where the contract was unanimously approved by the four committee members.
Mason said that the contract was changed after previous committee and City Council meetings. Now the deal calls for a straight $30,000 payment to the city. Originally, the Masons would have paid $21,500 to the city and $8,500 in relocation assistance to one of the tenants, the Hispano Chamber of Commerce.

In prior meetings, a few city councilors questioned that arrangement. A couple wondered if it was fair to help one tenant and not the other, the Chaves County DWI Prevention Program. Some also said that the arrangement could run afoul of the New Mexico Constitution, which bars government entities from making gifts of cash, property or credit to non-government organizations.
The new contract did raise some questions from councilors, especially Steve Henderson. But he ended his remarks simply by suggesting that future sale contracts address the concerns. Those included asking for earnest money from buyers prior to the close of the sale and making the provisions that permit buyers to withdraw from the contract more stringent.
City of Roswell Planning Manager Bill Morris said he will work with the DWI Prevention Program and the Hispano Chamber to assist them in finding new locations.
“Money is one thing, but the other is, where they will go,” Morris said about the Hispano Chamber. “They want to be on Main Street. There isn’t a lot of space available there, but there are some options and we are considering those.”
While Mason Holdings has indicated that it will give tenants some time to relocate, the couple cannot begin any of the renovations, which are required by the contract terms, until tenants move out, Morris said.
Diane Taylor of the DWI Prevention Program said Chaves County, which provides some of the funding for her program, is also helping to find a new location.
“The county is also interested in helping to locate the program and keep it visible and viable because it serves a great need,” she said.
Taylor added that she hopes the new venture finds success.
“I wish the prospective buyers well,” she said. “It is always good to see Roswell build and move forward, and this program also will continue to build and move forward.”
Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 310, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.