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City Council approves rental hikes at convention center

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Several nonprofit and other community organizations expressed concerns and strong opposition to proposed rental fee increases at the Roswell Convention & Civic Center during a city council meeting Thursday night.

City Councilor Natasha Mackey offered an amendment to the resolution that would reduce the proposed increases, however, Mackey’s amendment failed and the proposed increases were approved as presented by a 6-3 vote.

Councilors voted for were Jeanine Corn Best, Art Sandoval, Steven Henderson, Caleb Grant, Jason Perry, and Savino Sanchez.

Councilors voted against were Barry Foster, Juan Oropesa, and Natasha Mackey.

Applications to reserve to use the convention center are opened Tuesday for reservations for September through December.

Public comments

Trina Padilla, representing Holiday Magic Art and Craft Show committee, said for 38 years Holiday Magic has been a major fundraiser for the youth of Roswell.

“Just since 1999 we have donated $134,000 to various youth organizations,” Padilla said. “Through the years, we have benefited Roswell Police D.A.R.E program, Roswell Athletic League, Roswell Police Department Explorer program, Youth Challenge program, local high school graduation activities, First Tee of Southeastern New Mexico based in Roswell, and the Assurance Home with whom we have partnered with in recent years.”

Padilla supplied handouts for the councilors with data detailing contributions to youth associations and said how the event benefited the local economy.

Another member Holiday Magic’s committee, Deborah Lucas presented after Padilla. Lucas stated her involvement with Holiday Magic since 1994 and was treasurer since 1999.

“In calculating the cost of the new fees, we will not be able to donate proceeds as we have in the past,” Padilla said. “So what are asking for tonight is the council considers a discounted fee for nonprofit entities which will make it possible for us raise money for the youth of our community.”

Lucas also said the time allotted from the proposed resolution was not sufficient for taking down approximately 90 booths.

“In order to be able to continue to make these contributions, we would have to raise booth and entry fees in order to cover the increased costs,” Lucas said. “This would significantly discourage booth vendors entries to the show and affect the number of attendees at the show, in turn, would limit the amount of contributions that we make to these organizations.”

Ending her statement, Lucas asked the council to consider a discounted fee for nonprofits, which would consider the needs of events beneficial to the Roswell community.

Robert Sherman, president of Kiwanis Club, said Roswell has 35 members serving the youth of Roswell.

“Our concern is the rental and use fees of the Roswell Convention & Civic Center, especially for 501(c)(3) organizations,” Sherman said. “We concur with the need to increase your fee, but we do not agree with current the levels for 501(c)3 organization.”

He said host two annual events and the popular annual pancake festival cost around $4,000 with an intake $14,000, with $10,000 to contribute to youth organizations.

With the new fees, he said the event cost Kiwanis total instead of $500 charged in the past.

“The current rental charges will make it extremely difficult,” he continued, “for us to make the funds we need continue our current level of support to the youth of Roswell.”

Sherman’s three minutes expired and Andrea Moore came to the front of the queue to speak on behalf of her family and corporation.

“We are the third largest employer in Roswell and Chaves County,” Moore said. “We donate heavily to all of the organizations within the city and the county – north of a quarter of a million dollars a year to other charities. We feel that it is unfair a for-profit business that we are going to be charged, could have the potential of being charged or have been charged more than nonprofit businesses or organizations. In the new fee schedule, everybody is equal. We have to compete with nonprofits for the same space as everybody else and give much as we possibly can.”

Bonnie Bizter spoke next and referenced a time where she and the city council went to Santa Fe to look into increasing into gross receipt taxes to expand the convention center.

Bizter asked if the finances came from the GRT and Kintigh replied saying the expansion is coming from the bed fee on motel room occupancy.

Addressing the increase in fees, Bizter said this action would dangerously lower the income of the convention center.

“If we can use it, our profits go down,” Bitzer said. “Our services go down along with all the other nonprofits, then somebody has to pick up that slack. If the nonprofits can’t do it, then it is up to the city to pick things up and that will cost the city money.

“On the side of the nonprofits,” Bizter said, ” – it would be a bad move to increase the fees extremely as they are stated.”

Mackey’s amendment

The list of community speakers was ended with Bitzer and City Councilor Natasha Mackey had the floor.

“I definitely am excited about our upcoming expansion, renovation project,” Mackey said. “We are pushing forward and everything is looking great. One of the things the concerns me with the new fee schedule is that we do not want to become antagonist against the community members that have so blessed us and blessed our youth and supported our community. One of my main concerns is the nonprofit organizations.

Noting the city of Roswell is a business and its estimated $22,000 revenue and $400,000, Mackey said any business would not want to lose money that way and that city council has been working diligently to decrease the gap between the two.

“For the shock value for nonprofit organizations—I believe that we should do it in an incremental manner,” Mackey said. “Instead of an all in one a lump sum so to speak. We face the same situation when we increased those water rates from the citizens, of course, there was a lot of pushback because the council had done a poor job of making those incremental over the years and so we find ourselves in that same situation.”

Mackey presented her amendment after noticing the variability in percent increases, which prompted her to calculate the average percentage increases to an approximate 362% increase. On Mackey’s amendment, all of the items were increased by 300% except the security deposit stayed the same.This amendment created a new flat fee schedule for all organizations and businesses.

Mackey said this increase could be an incremental step until the city decides how the convention will be managed, either by the city or an outside management company. An outside company proposed could be disregarded fee schedule.The councilors looked over Mackey’s written copy of her amendment and by the mayor’s suggestion, Mackey made a motion to adopt the amendments, Councilor Juan Oropesa seconded.

Addressing her fellow councilors, Mackey said, “I would appreciate your support. I believe this a great compromise to garner the support of our community leaders and of course continue to work with them hand in hand as we unify ourselves as a community, continue to support our youth, and support all of the nonprofits in the city.”

Council’s consideration 

Councilor Caleb Grant had the floor and he asked, addressing City Attorney Aaron Holloman, if amending the fee schedule was legal due to the anti-donation clause.

Holloman said to consider whether or not the anti-donation clause would prohibit two different kinds of rates and told Grant the question regarding the anti-donation clause, it is asked if the city will receive any benefit for what the city is expending.

“We need something right now,” Grant said. “I’m not saying this is the perfect situation and it might not need be addressed until the facility is open for 12 months and two years something along those lines.”

Oropesa said he noticed the increases where large and perhaps they needed to be looked at in an incremental process to support the nonprofit and other businesses for the city.

Councilors Jeanine Corn Best, Barry Foster, and Perry added more to the dialogue sharing their various viewpoints.

Mackey went through her proposed amendment line by line with Kintigh.

Some confusion ensued and led to Oropesa asking for a call of the question, Foster seconded, and the call to question passed.

After deliberation another vote was called to Mackey’s amendment. The motion failed and the proposed fee schedule was back on the table to vote.

The final vote left the proposed fee schedule as is, which can be viewed on the Roswell Convention & Civic Center’s website.

Kinigh ended the meeting acknowledging all of the options discussed and included Oropesa’s suggestion for a workshop to change fees at a later date.

City reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at reporter04@rdrnews.com.