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House speaker supports airfield legislation

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Lisa Dunlap Photo Roswell officials, including former City Councilor Jason Perry, in foreground on left, and Dean Baldwin Painting employees talk after a January announcement of a federal grant to help pay for repairs to the city-owned hangar leased by the company.

When it comes to legislative deals this session, some of Roswell’s power brokers have the local airfield on their minds.

State legislators representing the area and local government and business leaders are negotiating for hangar improvements at the Roswell International Air Center as well as for legislation to authorize the creation of an independent regional air authority to govern and manage the airfield.

And they have the support of at least one of the state’s top legislators, House Speaker Brian Egolf (D-Santa Fe).

“We are looking at providing capital outlay funding for the hangar project, so we are working to get it into the list of what is referred to as the statewide projects in the capital outlay bill, which will be introduced in the next couple of weeks,” he said. “Or, if that doesn’t work, I have visited with several members of the Chaves County delegation about them using member capital outlay to get the project done.”

Egolf said that he is “very optimistic that one way or another the million dollars that is needed will be made available to meet hangar improvement priorities at the airfield.”

During a November capital outlay meeting in Roswell, the legislators representing the region, all Republicans, including Rep. Bob Wooley, Rep. Candy Spence Ezzell and Rep. Greg Nibert from Roswell, Sen. Stuart Ingle of Portales and Rep. James Townsend of Artesia, heard from city and Roswell-Chaves County Economic Development District representatives about the importance of finishing the roof replacement for the city-owned 1083 hangar rented by Dean Baldwin Painting, a $4 million project that has received about $3 million in funding to date.

Many other hangar and building repairs at the airfield are needed to attract new businesses or employers, City Planning Manager Bill Morris told legislators at that time, so should the Dean Baldwin project be completed by the time funding is available, the money would go to other airfield building projects.

Egolf’s optimism is in contrast to what the area legislators were saying in November, albeit that was before state financial analyst were predicting $200 million to $300 million in a budget surplus due to a rebounding oil and gas market.

Then legislators said that requests of more than $175,000 probably would not be funded by their individual capital outlay allocations.

Egolf also said that he intends to support the effort to enact legislation to create a regional air authority that would be able to manage and govern the 4,500-acre air field and its facilities, now owned and operated by the city. The authority also is seen by some as being able to issue bonds to pay for infrastructures and improvements. That effort is spearheaded by a nine-member RIAC Task Force, which is coordinated by the Roswell-Chaves County Economic Development Corp.

Legislation to establish an air authority is being drafted and reviewed now, according to members of the task force and the economic development group.

Egolf said his annual job creation tour visits in Roswell have impressed upon him the value of such an entity.

“We have had two stops there in Roswell,” he said, “and, both times, it is real clear that the airport authority is a top priority for the city, so I want to do everything I can to make that happen.

“It is also really clear that funding for the airport is critical because it represents a tremendous opportunity for the whole east side of the state and Roswell in particular, so I want to absolutely be supportive of the project.”

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 310, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

By Lisa Dunlap
Roswell Daily Record