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Mayor takes questions on new airport commission

Mayor Dennis Kintigh

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

Roswell Mayor Dennis Kintigh visited the Roswell Daily Record office last week for a conversation with RDR staff, part of a regular series of question-and-answer sessions covering issues impacting the city and its residents.

RDR editor John Dilmore and reporters Alison Penn, Lisa Dunlap and Tim Howsare asked Kintigh questions provided by the RDR staff and others.

Editor’s note: Excerpts from this Q&A appeared in a story on the Airport Advisory Commission that appeared in the RDR last week. An interview for the that story was conducted in conjunction with the Q&A.

RDR: There’s been discussion of a new public safety complex. What is the status of that?

Kintigh: We’ve talked about a public safety complex in general terms. I’ve talked about this a number of times. It’s very early in the sense that, what do we want to do? What would it look like? Where would it go? How would we pay for it? It’s like, just a concept that I think we need to have a discussion with. …

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I know for many years, there’s been issues with that police building. When I was interim chief back in 2010 we had roof problems, we had HVAC problems, we had drainage problems in that back area where the sally port is. I don’t know if they still have the sandbags or not, but they used to have to sandbag that when it rained heavy.

We’ll see. I mean, one of the key questions is: How big a priority is that? And so, there’s lots of questions. I’d just like us to have the discussion.

RDR: At the last city council meeting, a new Airport Advisory Commission (to provide advice and information to city councilors concerning the Roswell International Air Center). There were concerns raised by some on the council about there being no women or minorities on the board. How do you respond to that?

Kintigh: I heard no criticisms or concerns about credentials or competency. All I heard was questions about complexion.

RDR: It’s come up in previous city council meetings, this idea of it not being balanced or equal. How do you respond to that?

Kintigh: This is simply a forum for gathering information and providing suggestions. The decision-making and the power exists in the hands of the city council. I challenge you to find a more diverse city council anywhere in New Mexico. So, isn’t that where you need to have different perspectives, where the power exists?

RDR: There seems to be a power struggle right now … Certain councilors that are saying, ‘The mayor is doing this and the mayor is doing that.’

Kintigh: The mayor’s elected by the entire city and there’s an expectation by the city that the mayor is, in some way, responsible to everyone to help provide the vision. As we all know, my powers are very small. I have no ability to give any direction to staff. I have no ability to have any involvement in personnel matters. I don’t even get a vote unless there’s a tie. The only power that the mayor in this city has is to appoint people to committees and to be the presiding officer at the meetings. In all seriousness, this is what’s called a weak mayor form of government. Now, the question would be also — who do the voters hold accountable?

RDR: When the new commission was being put together, what was the process like in terms of choosing members (to be approved by) the council?

Kintigh: I asked people for some ideas and inputs. I talked to the airport director and the city manager. We had passed a commission in the June council meeting a month before … and I was … perhaps should have been more explicit, but I had hoped that people would understand, if you have a suggestion, bring it to me. The key questions would be, how do you avoid real conflict of interest? And there were some names I will not share of people that I thought would have been very good candidates, but I became concerned that they wouldn’t fit because of that conflict issue. So stepping back, that’s one of the most difficult challenges to this, and I talked about that at the council meeting — the challenge of finding individuals who can provide some serious insight yet do not have any vested interest.

I know Mr. Burress (Jim Burress, director of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department) raised some eyebrows because he’s a city employee. I would argue he has the strongest credentials of anybody on that commission — three decades in corporate professional aviation and years of running one of our most important tenants. He understands much more than I know. The former president or chair of the chamber of commerce. This is an individual who brings some serious credentials, and I discussed that extensively with the city manager and I made sure the city manager had no objections in any way, shape or form to that.

I didn’t ask for an immediate response. I said to him, “I’m thinking about Mr. Burress. Why don’t you chew on it and let me know what you think.” And if he had said, “No,” then I would not have put him forward.

RDR: When would you think the first meeting might happen?

Kintigh: We’re looking at a tentative date of Aug. 2. We’ve got a draft agenda that we’re floating to the members and to the city manager and to the airport director and to the city clerk. This is kind of awkward because we don’t have a chair. … We want to get out there, but once again it’s the issue of, please tell me if there’s objections to this. This would be tentatively in the morning on Thursday and the objective here is to minimize the impact to the staff, but I’d also send an email to the commission members asking their input on dates and times. I’d send an email to staff as well, so we’re tentatively looking at the morning of Aug. 2.

That doesn’t mean it’s going to be the first Thursday (monthly). That’s going to be one of the discussion points. As a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure it’s not going to be the first Thursday, but I’m not sure I want to do it the second Thursday. That’s when the council meeting is.

RDR: What do you think are some of the first issues this commission might pick up?

Kintigh: First, it’s going to be educational. We’re going to put stuff on the table about: What is the airport? What does it look like? What’s going on out there? What’s happening? And the beauty of this, to me — this is an open meeting. With the Open Meetings Act, there are going to be recordings. I anticipate the RDR will have a representative there, which would be great.

Because it’s going to be, what do we have? What are the things going on? We’re going to have this discussion. I’m going to make sure that the council knows, so if they want to come, and if councilors want to pitch in, I’m hoping they will. So, the idea is to just have an information-sharing at the very beginning … and that’s not going to be very quick. Scott Stark and I talked about this and one of the other things we’ve talked about — and once again, this is a decision the commission is going to make — would be: How about if we have the tenants come in? Maybe one or two at a time depending on how much time there is, and talk about what they do, what their businesses are, what their concerns are, what would they like to see. …

I don’t see any real serious issue/decision-making for a while. This is going to be a learning curve discussion for a few sessions, maybe for quite a few sessions. I’m looking forward to it.

RDR: There are two people (on the commission) who could be considered very heavily tied to city government decisions, primarily interested in making sure the city fares well in whatever happens … (Is there a concern people wouldn’t want to talk to a city employee, because they don’t want to somehow hurt the lease negotiation down the road)?

Kintigh: I really don’t see that. I mean, Mr. Burress is the parks director and that’s not really directly, or in any way indirectly, involved with leases. As for myself, I would argue the mayor who is elected by the people as a whole would be the one who has the best interest of the city. In other words, I’m not representing a ward or a portion, I’m representing everybody. I’m accountable to everybody, plus I have the background. So, let’s have the discussion.

Now, when it comes to leases, here’s the interesting thing: I don’t have a vote unless there’s a tie, and we all know that — and there are not really that many. As a matter of fact, if you look at the airport leases in the past, I can’t think of anyone that hasn’t gone through consent. … So, let’s have the open discussion. If people are not comfortable speaking with an individual representing and accountable to all the people of the city of Roswell, I would wonder why they wouldn’t be comfortable with that.

RDR: Do you, like some people, hope this commission goes away because an authority replaces it?

(Editor’s note: An Air Center Task Force was formed in 2017 to work for enabling legislation to establish an independent regional authority to manage and market the airport. The initiative passed both chambers of the New Mexico Legislature but was vetoed by Gov. Susana Martinez.)

Kintigh: I have some questions about the authority that have never been answered. So, I don’t know if the commission goes away or not. There is a two-year term on this thing, and of course, the council at any time can abolish it with a simple majority vote. But, I’ve got some questions that, candidly, have never been answered.

RDR: And you’ve taken them to task force members and the EDC (Roswell-Chaves County Economic Development Corporation) and the legislators.

Kintigh: Yeah, I have, and they all go, “Hmm, interesting.”

Would the authority be able to financially survive on its own?

Let me share one little tidbit with you. This is not … There’s nothing secret, this is open and above board. The funding for the Dean Baldwin reconstruction, the roof reconstruction, was a major effort. … That project around $4.5 million dollars. There’s been some price creep in certain areas. So, we cobbled that together with some money from the airport. We got some city general fund capital transferred out to the airport, and then we took out a $2.5 million dollar loan with the New Mexico Finance Authority. One of the interesting little tidbits is, the loan with the Finance Authority — which is serviced with revenue from the airport … the Finance Authority would not grant us a loan unless we guaranteed it with the city GRT (gross receipts tax). So, if a state entity is not convinced that the airport on its own can finance a $2.5 million dollar loan, that’s what we used to call a clue in my old business.

How do you financially survive? But, here’s the last thing I want: The last thing I want is that airport to be worse off. It’s too important. It is too critical. It is an unusual, very special opportunity, possibly unique, for the state of New Mexico — not just Roswell —  to diversify, expand our economy. We talked about that.

Those in political life have talked about diversifying the state economy since, good grief, decades. This is a real opportunity for that, so let’s be careful where we tread — because like I said, the last thing we want to do is force this entity to try and survive on its own.

RDR: Why did you give yourself a one-year term (on the commission) as opposed to two?

Kintigh: I recognized there were some people who had concerns, and my objective is to demonstrate to all concerned that I would be a valued member of the commission in that time. We’ll see. I think there will be some who cannot be convinced at all, and I think some already are convinced. The question is, who’s in the middle? Can we make that case? But, I don’t mind being accountable. It has never intimidated me or caused any heartache.

RDR: What is the current status of the Veteran’s Day parade? We talked about that a little bit before. Have you heard anything?

Kintigh: I have heard no one approaching the city about wanting to be the organizers of it. Now, I’m not necessarily going to be the first one to hear, but I’m pretty sure I would have heard something reasonably soon, but I have yet to hear of anyone stepping forward to organize the Veteran’s Day parade.

RDR: What did you think of the most recent UFO Festival? What was its impact and how would you judge it at this stage?

Kintigh: I liked what I saw. I spent a little time over at the Visitor’s Center helping to register people in my “Men in Black” outfit, and it was toasty. I don’t mind telling you.

So, I did that Friday afternoon, and then … I had some film crew from L.A. came in Saturday morning. I talked with them for a while, then Saturday afternoon I did some more at the Visitor’s Center, then I walked around and saw what was going on.

I liked what I saw. I thought some good things were going. When I was registering people, I encouraged them to check out our museums. I encouraged them to go to the planetarium, hopefully that happened.

You have to be careful. When you just have a small view of an event that is pretty large, it’s difficult to make accurate evaluations. So, I’m looking forward to hearing from all the other entities that were involved. Generally, I heard positive. We had people from all over and I would ask, ‘Oh, what brings you to …”

“I couldn’t get every one of them because it got kind of hectic there.”

Editor’s note: For more from the Q&A, see Tuesday’s edition.


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