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Open forum facilitates conversation

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Alison Penn Photo Larry Knight shares his insights from living in the south historic district with City Manager Joe Neeb at the open forum on Monday night, while community member Donald Daugherty and Mike Matthews, Special Services Administrator, listen during the open public forum.

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

On Monday evening, City Manager Joe Neeb and city staff hosted an open public forum at Missouri Avenue Elementary School at 700 W. Deming St. Around 20 community members and city staff were in attendance.

On the city website, the purpose of the forum was to hear ideas about how “the city and its citizens can address any concerns and create initiatives.”

This forum took place in Ward 4, which begins at Main Street and West Second Street and ends at the western boundary at Wyoming Avenue. The Hondo Rivers creates a diagonal border between Ward 1 and Ward 4 southwest of Second Street, close to the location of Missouri Elementary. Principally, Ward 4 ends at West Brasher Road and continues north to West Poe Street and intersects at Main Street and West McGaffey Street.

Neeb said there two Ward level meetings will happen in each ward throughout the year to get the voices of the community heard and this was the first meeting of 2018.

By asking for a raise of hands, Neeb allowed the public to set the agenda and the following items were discussed: code enforcement, having the city have emergency medical services run by the fire department, houses in the historic district, sidewalks, development and reuse of city properties, the airport and homelessness.

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Larry Knight, Tom Jennings and Donald Daugherty share their insights regarding the historic district and their interactions with the city. Knight asked about code enforcement for derelict comes in the historic district and Jennings shared two addresses in question, which were 202 S. Pennslyvania Avenue and 105 N. Missouri Avenue.

“We need to redirect,” Neeb said. “We need to refocus on a lot of different things here because I believe if we can bring the neighborhood back together and get housing back out there — I think we can change the neighborhood rather than 20, 30, 40 more police officers on the road or the street to try and stop some the stuff and craziness that happens to some of this population. We will do what is necessary to protect the city, but I there are better ways to rebuild the neighborhoods and that is what we are going to talking about on the city council really soon.”

For the city codes, city residents can find them online and can turn to the city or the Roswell Public Library for assistance. Library Director Enid Costley was also present at the forum and handed out a survey regarding operational hours for the library.

Neeb responded to each item and shared input from the citywide survey. Of the approximate 48,000 people in the city, only 642 people submitted to the survey. Fire department service ranked as one of the highest satisfactory services of the city with road maintenance and crime prevention being some of the lowest scored items according to the survey.

Some of the community members said they were less than happy with their city councilor or the city’s responsiveness to issues. Making a disclaimer that he was not making excuses, Neeb complimented the city staff of 600 employees and said it a ratio of roughly 1 city employee to every 100 city residents. Neeb agreed the staff does need to be responsive to the community.

In response to community members Knight, Daugherty, and Jennings, Neeb said the city was looking into an online work order system, which would allow residents to request work on properties. Neeb said the city operations have been changing to meet modern standards such as having city specific emails instead of individual Gmail accounts, which Director of Administrative Services Elizabeth Gilbert confirmed was implemented 3 years ago.

The city council meeting is Thursday at 6 p.m. in the Bassett Auditorium of the Roswell Museum and Art Center where the public can sign up to speak for three minutes.

“The more you get together the strong you can become,” Neeb said. “That’s why we live in a society as well. We take all of our assets in the city — whether it be on the business side or the residential side — and utilize it for the benefit of the city. That’s the key to all of this.”

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