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Kintigh discusses smart meters, streets; Mayor: Additional staff have been assigned to water billing department

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Mayor Dennis Kintigh visited the Roswell Daily Record Tuesday afternoon to answer questions posed by the newspaper’s staff. Community members can submit questions via editor John Dilmore’s email address, editor@rdrnews.com. (Alison Penn Photo)

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Roswell Mayor Dennis Kintigh visited the offices of the Daily Record last week for a conversation about issues impacting the city and its residents.

Kintigh was recently elected to a second term as mayor, at a time when he, members of the city council and other local leaders face a number of decisions on matters with potentially long-term consequences for Roswell.

RDR editor John Dilmore and city/RISD reporter Alison Penn asked Kintigh questions provided by the RDR staff and others.

Dilmore: We’ve heard from some residents, and I’m sure you have as well, who’ve been confused by the amount they’ve been billed since the smart meters have been installed. What mechanism is in place for addressing those folks’ concerns?

Kintigh: Some additional staff have been assigned to this and the water billing department. And what you’re seeing is a very old billing system being merged with a very new one, and no two ways about it, it didn’t work. We are working our way through and trying to get that all fixed. We are hopeful that by the time all of the smart meters are installed, that this will be smoothed out. But, it did not work as we had hoped and staff is working their way through to try and get everything resolved. Anyone who has any concerns or questions, don’t hesitate to call or visit the water department at city hall.

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Dilmore: Where does construction on the rec center currently stand?

Kintigh: We’ve got the walls up and … or, some of the walls, let me rephrase that. The walls are actually poured concrete, which is an interesting technique. Not new, but just, I find fascinating. So, once they’re poured in a mold, they have to cure. And that takes, I think, up to four weeks. And once they’re cured, then they can stand them up. So, my understanding is this batch of walls have been stood up. The next batch, or next set, is being poured. Those will be stood up, and then you’ll see the normal progression of roof and then the interior work. The aquatic portion is started now, I believe. If not, very soon, and the aquatic will not take as long …

Dilmore: What about the convention center, another big project.

Kintigh: Yes. As you can see, the steel is up. We hit a glitch on the convention center. As they were doing that footing foundation work, they discovered an oil tank.

Dilmore: Interesting. Underground?

Kintigh: Underground. An old oil tank that is the kind that would be used if you were draining oil out of a vehicle. We have no idea how old it is. It had never been registered. Now, some folks have wondered how they built the original convention center and that not being noticed, but that’s another question for another day. Here’s what happened: We stopped … or, the contractors stopped. They contacted New Mexico Environment Department and the environment department came down, and my understanding is they inspected it, determined it was a violation because it was an unregistered tank. We were fined a significant amount. However, it was waived because we self-reported, but it delayed the project. Now, we are still on schedule to be done. I think the advantage we’ve had is we have had good weather for work and we haven’t had any adverse, but we’re still on target for the end of July.

Dilmore: How do you anticipate your second term being different from your first term?

Kintigh: I think we’ve come a long, long way the last four years. We have some tremendous changes in the whole city management perspective, and I think we’re going to be able to accomplish much more. We’re taking some serious looks at how we do budgeting. Mr. Neeb wants to pursue priority-based budgeting … . We’re looking at doing a better job in compensating our city employees, and that’s the pay and compensation plan. I’m very impressed with the 20-step concept. We still have to work out some details, but I think we’ve come a long way there. That brings us stability in personnel. And then, we need to look at our infrastructure. One of the more interesting and exciting prospects is the pavement assessment that we’re going to be doing, and then working on the 364 miles of streets and roads, I guess, we have in this town. And candidly, we have some really bad ones, and so the question is: Where do we put our resources first, second, third, fourth? How do we address this? And that needs to be done in a structured, methodical manner.

Penn: Can you think of any of the worst streets off the top of your head?

Kintigh: I can think of a lot of the worst streets. I think one of the ones that really needs attention is Washington, particularly between Country Club and 19th. The reason is while the work has been done on Un-tana, that has taken up a lot of traffic, and had some issues before that happened. I think that needs to be worked on. Now, what the level of work, how you treat that pavement is something engineers will figure out. But I think just looking at it, it’s taking a heavy load because of its additional traffic. Nothing can be done on that however, until Un-tana — Union, Montana — is done. We got to wait for that.

Penn: The last month there have been some child abuse awareness events. How is the city focusing on that, or working with that issue?

Kintigh: Well, child abuse, I would put child abuse and spousal abuse … domestic violence is basically what we’re talking about, and this is something we as a society and a culture have got to come to grips with. The first part is you got to admit there is a problem out there, and then how do you address it. By addressing it, what you’ve got to do is let the right people know that something has happened. With children in CYFD (New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department), domestic violence, it’s the police department, you know, those kinds of things, we need to get people to come forward. I will say to this, one of the big challenges in domestic violence issues is victims of domestic violence recanting … . The problem is, all too often, perpetrators, predators, don’t change until they’re forced to. And so, whether it’s child abuse, domestic violence, we’ve got to … The sooner you intervene, the more likely to minimize the harm and damage.

Dilmore: Does the city have a position on the proposed nuclear storage facility between Hobbs and Carlsbad? Is that something that’s been discussed at the city level at all?

Kintigh: Not really. We haven’t really talked much about that, or if any.

Penn: Has there been any progress with the crosswalk on the intersection of Country Club and North Main? Because the last time I talked to Louis (Najar, city engineer) and the bank, they said there was an easement issue.

Kintigh: I have not heard anything lately. … That’s the accurate answer to your question. I don’t know, I’d have to look into that.

Dilmore: Does the city have an ordinance regulating the volume created by exhaust on vehicles? We’ve had a couple of people mention to us the distraction this creates for other drivers.

Kintigh: I don’t believe we do. I don’t know of any. I’m not sure how you measure that. Here’s the thing about ordinances: They’ve got to be clear, unambiguous, and something that you can accurately and objectively measure. If you cannot do that, you’re just making trouble for yourself in an effort to try good intentions. Don’t get me wrong, but if you don’t have clarity and measurability in your ordinances, it does no good.

Penn: The city has built the handicap ramps on West McGaffey. Are there any plans to build sidewalks?

Kintigh: No, no, no. It’s funny because the city manager and I have lunch on Tuesdays and we talked about this one for about the umpteenth time. Here’s our challenge: The way the current ordinance is written, the property owner is responsible for the sidewalks. However, sidewalks in the front of a structure along the street are a public thoroughfare. In other words, you cannot restrict who travels down that sidewalk in front of your house. So, is it a public thoroughfare like the street and the alley? If it is, we don’t expect you to take care of the street and the alley in front of your house. We have a vast number of streets in this town that have no sidewalks at all. Just this morning, I saw an individual in a motorized wheelchair going up Virginia, northbound on Virginia, in the street because the sidewalk was totally inadequate. We need to make a decision as a community. Either we’re going to truly enforce this concept of property owners are responsible for sidewalks, or we’re going to shift responsibility to the city and treat them like public thoroughfares. Now, the second course requires a financial commitment by the city. Where does that come from? How do we do that? We need to have that discussion. The other part of it is this: If it’s the responsibility of the property owners, many of these poor sidewalks, if not absent sidewalks, are in neighborhoods where the residents are in the least likely position to afford the financial commitment. We’re going to have to make some choices, and my personal choice is the public thoroughfare. We need to suck it up and deal with it.

Dilmore: Are there any plans to extend the minimum revenue guarantee for the American Airlines Phoenix flights?

Kintigh: Yes. We’re looking at … We’re in some negotiations of a $400,000, one-year MRG (minimum revenue guarantee). The original MRG, which started in 2016, was a $2 million guarantee for two years. It was loaded this way: It was $1.2 million the first year, up to $800,000 the second year, and then we’re talking now $400,000. And how this has worked is, the numbers are calculated each month. If a certain revenue is not obtained by American in that month, then it’s a shortfall. You take three months at a time and you … total them. And what happens is, if there’s a shortfall for the whole quarter, then that’s what the group of communities pays. Now, we also have some grant money, et cetera. So, the ideal situation is that you have, say, a month of June where you have a surplus, and the month of July you’re short, and the month of August you’re a surplus. Now, we’re limited on how much we had to pay in a year. In other words, the first year was $1.2 million, the second year is $800,000, now we’re saying $400,000. We’re stair-stepping this down.

We’ve not had any serious negotiations with American in the last few weeks that I’m aware of, I’ll have to double-check this. But it’s interesting is, the last MRG expired March 31. Now, American does not seem to be in a big rush to get the new one in place. They continue to provide the service. And it’s not a load factor function, it’s about the dollars, how much is spent on a flight. That’s one reason why I was excited about the larger planes with the first-class section. Those individuals pay a premium.

Now, the downside of it is this: Say you fly from Roswell to Phoenix and then you go on to Hawaii. You buy the ticket and you fly, et cetera. The portion of the flight between Roswell and Phoenix is pro-rated. In other words, the total cost … say you spend a thousand dollars to go to Hawaii, but the portion of the flight between here and Phoenix is only $150. That’s all that it’s credited towards the revenue. So, it gets a little complicated. …

I will be candid, I’m a huge advocate for this. I worked with a lot of people to make this happen. I think it’s critical to us from an economic development perspective to have accessibility both to the west and to the east. We are an island, in reality. An island not by water, but by empty spaces. And to be part of the overall global community, which is what you need to be in this day and age economically, we need to have that air service both to the east and to the west.

Dilmore: Is the plan for all the current partners to continue?

Kintigh: We’re hopeful. We don’t know if they will or not. We’ve had some discussions and I’ve heard candidly that some are a little bit concerned about continuing. One of the advantages that Roswell has in this whole thing is there was a change to the Lodgers Tax, a state law before we began. And so the minimum revenue guarantee, or at least Roswell’s portion of it, is not paid by a general fund. It comes out of the Lodgers Tax, which means visitors, tourists, businesspeople who come here to visit actually are the ones paying for that. So, I think it works to our advantage.

For more from the RDR’s recent discussion with Mayor Kintigh, see the Tuesday edition of the newspaper. Readers with questions they would like to see asked during future Q&A sessions can email them to editor@rdrnews.com.