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Council to decide on airport advisory commission

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Councilor Barry Foster applies thoughtful consideration along with City Attorney Aaron Hollman, Councilors Savino Sanchez and Judy Stubbs at Legal Committee on Monday afternoon. (Alison Penn Photo)

The City of Roswell Legal Committee on Monday voted to send to the full city council a resolution to establish an airport advisory board.

The committee discussed the purpose of an airport advisory board, which is to make recommendations to the Roswell City Council and affiliated committees.

City Councilor Barry Foster made the motion to send the resolution to the council to consider at the May 10 meeting. Councilor Judy Stubbs seconded and the motion passed 2 to 1. Councilor Savino Sanchez cast the opposing vote and Councilor George Peterson was not present.

Sanchez asked if the commission would hurt the airport, and City Manager Joe Neeb said it would not. Neeb said he considers this commission to be something between the old committee and an authority similar to Albuquerque International Sunport’s advisory board. Sanchez said Albuquerque’s airport did not have much to show considering the city’s size.

An Independent Regional Air Authority was vetoed by Gov. Susana Martinez on March 7. Martinez shared her objections, saying that giving power to a “quasi-governmental entity” was a poor way to increase development since there are other tools to bring desired results to the airport — and the process of determining membership lacked accountability to the public.

Neeb said the authority conversation may resume next year — and one of the strengths of the authority was to include business-minded people to help move the airport forward on a more business-oriented track, which was discussed with the Roswell Chaves County Economic Development Corporation. Saying he did not want to wait a year to work on the airport, Neeb said he wanted to see a new approach.

“As the authority walked through it changed over time,” Neeb said. “It took away the eminent domain ability of that body and that was going to be left with the elected body as well as to all of you. I think one of the things that we thought about with this was the advisory committee here would be made up of some of the business people — just like the authority would have been as well too. That’s the piece that we were missing. It was not to set up a commission or a committee using just the elected bodies and just to marry the elected body with some business people in order to keep those conversations going.”

Stubbs, committee chair, said the commission would abide by terms of office, initial appointments, and compensation according to the city’s ordinance regarding memberships of boards and commissions. Stubbs said Mayor Dennis Kintigh said the commission should have five members, with at least one residing outside the city limits.

Stubbs said members would serve staggered terms on even and odd years. Members cannot have property of interest in the airport and would receive no compensation from serving on the board. Neeb said potential air authority members could not have a vested interest in the airport — but would not prohibit the city from hearing from those who do. She said the commission would advise the city council and city manager, who would be an ex officio member, on the development and improvement of Roswell International Air Center.

Stubbs said as with all commissions and boards, the mayor will appoint members and the council will confirm them. Sanchez said he was not in favor of this process because he wanted more people involved in the airport conversation beyond the mayor’s appointees. Though councilors do not have prior say formally, City Attorney Aaron Holloman said councilors can confer with the mayor before he appoints.

“First of all they have no authority,” Stubbs said. “That’s probably the big difference we need to consider here. They have no powers other than to do research and recommendation.”

Foster said, “The reason we are having an airport advisory committee — when the whole thing was said and done — we were trying to do the actual air authority was to get politics out of the business of it. Well, now we’re getting it down to a point where one person makes the recommendations and it’s a political figure so we’re not getting rid of the politics. We are keeping it to where it is just one person that makes that decision. So how is that going to be different than what we already have?”

Foster said he remembered that former mayor Del Jurney would not recommend someone for the board for personal reasons. Foster said the intention of the air authority was to stabilize the airport and allowing a political figure such as the mayor to change the members would not fulfill the role of the air authority.

“The air authority would have had multiple municipalties — political divisions of the state basically,” Scott Stark, air center director, said. “So every governing body from those subdivisions would appoint the number of members they were allowed to appoint. You guys would have had the final say to accept to give the airport over to the authority when that happened, but once the authority was done they would be on their own under their own rules — that’s what I remember of the legislation, they would be on on their own to appoint the authority members.”

Foster said the plan to make a commission occurred after the air authority was vetoed and added that the commission would not be able to take the same actions as the air authority. Foster and Stubbs both chaired the airport committee in the past.

Stark said his tenants said to him that they missed talking about the airport when the committee was part of the city, which was a reason for developing a commission.

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