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Airport commission resolution moves toward City Council vote

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“We sometimes have difficulty getting volunteers to serve on commissions and boards,” says Mayor Dennis Kintigh, standing, who spoke at the Roswell City Council Legal Committee meeting Thursday afternoon. City Manager Joe Neeb is seated at left and Finance Department staff member Chanel Rey is at right. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

Roswell City Council members have before them a proposal to create the Roswell Airport Advisory Commission, the city’s first citizen commission created during the past few years, and the exact way of choosing members for that commission became a matter of debate at a City Council committee meeting Thursday afternoon.

The Legal Committee considered an amendment to an existing resolution passed June 14 that creates the advisory commission. The amendment specifies the number of members, the terms of service and the goal that at least one member will be from outside the city limits.

But what spurred the most discussion at the Legal Committee meeting was whether the entire slate of future nominees must be approved as a whole or whether councilors can vote for individuals.

Mayor Dennis Kintigh, who will recommend nominees for City Council approval, has suggested that the entire bloc of nominees be either approved or rejected, rather than allowing votes on individuals.

He told committee members — Chair Judy Stubbs, Vice Chair Barry Foster and members George Peterson and Savino Sanchez — that he thought his idea made sense to avoid having too few members approved, to reduce the chance of embarrassing a nominee and to make it easier to fill the new commission.

“The idea there is, let’s don’t do this piecemeal because we cannot act unless there is a quorum. And the idea is, let’s approve this whole thing and get this thing done, or don’t,” he said. “I mean, that’s the governing body’s decision, but let’s not just end up with, well, we have two members but we don’t have three.”

He added that, after the first group of members is named, then future nominees could be considered individually.

He also explained that he was struggling to identify five commission members who fit the criteria — knowledgeable about pertinent topics such as aviation, real estate, economic development or finance but also not having significant financial interest in matters at the Roswell International Air Center.

“I will be candid with you. We sometimes have trouble getting volunteers to serve on boards and commissions,” Kintigh said. “So my intent is it to make it less of a burden.”

In making that remark, Kintigh was referring to the portion of the amendment that mandates only five members and terms of only two years. That is in contrast to existing city ordinance, which requires citizen board and commissions to have seven members who serve four-year terms.

To make the change in the number of members and the terms, the City Council is holding a public hearing on an ordinance change prior to considering the resolution. All three matters — the ordinance change, the resolution and the nominees — are expected to be considered at the July 12 City Council meeting.

Commission size and terms did not bother committee members, but the wording of the amendment that indicated that the entire slate should be approved or denied did find objection from Peterson and Stubbs.

Stubbs initially indicated that she would vote against the amended resolution based on that provision, but she later changed her mind and voted for it so that the resolution can move forward.

In the final committee vote on the matter, the resolution passed 3 to 1, with Peterson remaining against it.

“I would like to be able to vote on individuals,” he said. “I think that will be more fair to councilors.”

Kintigh did seek to assure committee members that he will not “spring” nominees on them. He said he intends to provide them with biographical information and possibly resumes for his nominees prior to the City Council meeting.

The commission has been proposed as an advisory group of knowledgeable citizens who will gather information and data about the air center, hold public meetings and make recommendations to the City Council about how best to develop or improve the airport and the Roswell International Air Center.

City Manager Joe Neeb and Air Center Director Scott Stark would be the key staff members serving with the advisory commission, Kintigh said.

In late 2017, an independent regional air center authority had been suggested by the Roswell-Chaves County Economic Development Corp. and supported by the city of Roswell and Chaves County. Legislation to create such an authority passed both the New Mexico House of Representatives and the Senate during the 2018 legislative session, but was vetoed by Gov. Susana Martinez.

Kintigh said the commission will help guide decision-making.

“We need to be able to sound out and have discussions about where the airport goes,” he said. “I think that is critical for a governing board to hear from an advisory group. Now the governing body is going to make its own decisions.”

Kintigh said it is anticipated that the first meeting of the advisory commission will be held by the end of July or in early August, should the City Council approve all the matters related to the commission on July 12.

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