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Finance committee stands by events policy; Revenue projections and personnel budgeting also discussed

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Councilor Caleb Grant, chair of the finance committee, asks City Manager Joe Neeb (not pictured) a question regarding the city of Roswell’s personnel budgeting for the upcoming fiscal year. City Attorney Aaron Holloman looks over his notes, while Finance Director Monica Garcia and Councilor Steve Henderson await Neeb’s response. Grant said the next meeting will tentatively be held on July 3, to avoid interrupting the Fourth of July holiday. (Alison Penn Photo)

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The city of Roswell’s finance committee last week voted to reject a request to waive fees related to the upcoming Dragonfly Festival.

The committee, meeting at 8 a.m. on Thursday in the crowded large conference room at City Hall, considered an agenda with four non-action items and only one item requiring action — a request from the Friends of Bitter Lake for the annual Dragonfly Festival.

Juanita Jennings, public affairs director, presented the request to waive fees for two city vans and a canopy that would be used by festival organizers. Though that had been done at no cost in the past, Jennings said there is concern about providing the vehicles without staff — because of liability and insurance reasons. She said the fee was estimated at $670 for staff time, including the canopy and set-up.

Councilor Steve Henderson said the city should stay its course with the special events policy and seconded Councilor Judy Stubbs’ motion to reject the request to have the fees waived. The measure carried unanimously.

The annual event is set for Sept. 8 at Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge, where with reservations families and people of all ages can participate in free tours with dragonfly and damselfly experts, watch films and listen to guest speakers, along with other activities. More information can be found at friendsofbitterlake.org.

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Stubbs said the event was fun and had merit, but stated that it is held at a national park and is not a city event, or on city property.

Stubbs also said to her understanding, other organizations and events are finding other ways to find alternative resources where city resources have been used in the past. Jennings confirmed this, saying event representatives will go over fee structures from the special events policy and then decide to use city resources — or find other ways. As an example, Jennings said the UFO Festival found tents at a reduced rate and others organizers are doing similar things.

“I do think that the policy structure for what you guys intended is working, but we are still required to bring waivers to the committee,” Jennings said.

Stubbs said it was gratifying to know the community is assisting with these events and having more involvement.

A lengthy discussion between Councilor Caleb Grant and city staff created a rapport about the city’s preliminary budget, in regards to revenue and personnel needs for fiscal year 2019, which begins July 1. The city’s final budget must be submitted to the New Mexico Department of Finance & Administration by July 31.

The conversation on revenue and personnel will continue at the next meeting, tentatively set at for July 3. City Manager Joe Neeb also explained in the meeting that the city has been shifting jobs and titles to meet needs. The city has approximately 600 full-time employees.

Councilor Steve Henderson said it seemed that the city needed to revisit the entire budget, when certain line items seemed off, and when Grant asked specific questions on budget line items and specific city departments — for which there were no answers at the time.

“All of those line items and that department, I have brought up twice during the preliminary budget process,” Grant said, adding that when using an Excel spreadsheet for the budget, there will be an input error or a projection error. “So we need information and I guess justification on that.”

Regarding staffing at the Roswell Police Department, Neeb said the city has added two police captain positions to shift the sergeant position to a leadership role for young officers. Mayor Dennis Kintigh said the police force is only down seven positions as of the end of May, and Neeb said there are 12 officers going into the academy.

Grant said he hoped if the recruiting efforts continue to next year, and that the force will be able to create more positions.

Neeb said he would work with finance and payroll on personnel. He said at the at the next finance committee meeting they would finalize the revenue and personnel discussion, in order to move to the broad-level capital conversation.

In other reports, Christie Mann, of the Hispano Chamber of Commerce, presented the group’s yearly report at the start of the meeting.

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

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