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Kintigh gives views on a range of issues

Roswell Mayor Dennis Kintigh speaks with a councilor during the July 12 city council meeting. Some have called the meeting unusually divisive. (Daily Record File Photo)

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Roswell Mayor Dennis Kintigh visited the Roswell Daily Record office last week for a conversation with RDR staff, part of a series of interviews focused on 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: The is the second part of the question-and-answer session. Part 1 of the Q&A was published in the Sunday, July 22 edition.

RDR: Some local businesses recently expressed concerns about the city’s RFP (request for proposals) process related to the city’s fleet maintenance contract. In the aftermath of that, has there been any discussion about approaching that process differently or has there been any further contact with those businesspeople?

Editor’s note: In early June, a group of local businesspeople questioned the city’s evaluation committee for recommending that the city council award a contract for the city’s fleet maintenance to an out-of-state company. Ultimately, the council voted to reject bids submitted in response to the fleet maintenance RFP, and advertise a new RFP after staff and the legal committee are given time to review and rewrite the document.

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Kintigh: I have not been involved in that, and candidly, we’re getting a little bit sensitive about RFP and the governing body because there’s a real need to keep a bright line dividing the governing body from the staff who do the proposals. We’ve had some discussions about this in the past. I would have to check with the city manager to see if there’s been any significant changes. We rejected that, if I’m not mistaken, and I think we’re going back out — but I would have to check on the website to see when. I’m hoping we get to a smoother RFP process because we’re trying to do things in a fair, open, aboveboard process. And that’s … we’ve got to make sure we do it right.

RDR: One of their biggest concerns was that all the local people were rejected. And they’re saying the city wants our money to stay here — why won’t they choose someone who’s local?

Kintigh: I get that, and in fact, whoever would have had to have staff here — it would have been local people turning the wrenches. Now, if you have a corporate entity that has offices elsewhere, is that a detriment or an advantage? Depends. Sometimes national organizations can bring a level of innovation and sophistication and efficiencies that don’t always exist, but on the other hand, their corporates are elsewhere. That’s a balance we’ve got to look at, and I know that that’s something the city manager treats very seriously.

RDR: In the wake of the Supreme Court’s recent decision on internet sales tax, do you think cities like Roswell and the state can make that work for them?

Editor’s note: In June, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling allowing states to require online retailers to collect sales tax even in areas where they don’t have a physical presence. Earlier this year, prior to the Supreme Court’s recent ruling, Kintigh sent a letter to the New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department related to an older court decision that states couldn’t impose sales tax on internet transactions if the business in question didn’t have a brick and mortar presence there. His letter was prompted by Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods, which gave the massive online retailer such a brick and mortar presence in New Mexico.

Kintigh: Well, I honestly believe that this new decision was not really relevant to New Mexico in that Amazon already had a brick and mortar presence.

That was my assertion in the letter … because they had acquired Whole Foods, which was the standard under the previous decision, so now that requirement has been taken away. The verbal comments I’ve gotten, nothing in writing still from tax and rev, is that there’s not a mechanism for collecting in those communities where there’s not a Whole Foods. I think that’s a little bit bogus, let’s put it that way. I really hope the Legislature comes up with a systematic way of dealing with this.

My thoughts on it, and you can take this for what it’s worth, there’s two things I would like to suggest. One is, in view of the pushback about so many different rates in different communities, that we set a standard rate for internet sales as to how much would go to a city, how much would go to a county entity, and we base it upon the ZIP code … of the credit card of the purchaser. The other thing is, and realizing this is a political issue, is the state GRT (gross receipts tax) rate is 5.125 percent. I believe that since we’re broadening the tax base with this, that it would be appropriate to reduce that. Let’s cut it back to 5 percent or 4.75. I don’t have a magic number.

I’ve discussed that with some individuals and I have browsed rates, but there’s a tremendous amount of economic activity on the internet retail sales. … Now, not everything’s going to go into the internet but it’s a huge part of this, and to be fair, I think we can rationally reduce the overall GRT rate because we’ve broadened the scope of the tax. So, I’m looking at a reduction in rate, but apply it evenly across the board.

RDR: Has there been any movement on the city’s view of the proposed Holtec site?

Editor’s note: Holtec International has requested a license to store spent nuclear waste on an interim basis in Lea County, about halfway between Carlsbad and Hobbs.

Kintigh: I’ve been approached by a couple people wanting to come and talk to us. Candidly, this has been a busy time. The budget, the Airport Advisory Commission, everybody’s kind of … heads are kind of spinning. It’s summertime, people are traveling. I would like to step back, take a deep breath, and let’s look at this. Let’s get presentations, clarification, in maybe another month or two, preferably two. Like I said, there’s just a lot been going on. …

I don’t believe Roswell’s concerns would be in any way, shape or form, unique. In other words, the issues that Roswell would have would be the same ones that Clovis has, that Lake Arthur has, that Amarillo has, any of those. We’re not a definable destination. We’re someplace that the rail line would go through, and so there isn’t going to be a Roswell solution, in my estimation. There needs to be a transportation system solution to any concerns, but that’s not a new thing. This is not original thought on my part. I’m sure these people have all talked about this, discussed this. So, that’s where I’m at. Let’s have a discussion a little bit later.

RDR: Has the city had any discussions with those other cities?

Kintigh: I have not. Like I said, I’ve been approached by a couple of individuals associated with the firm … and I’m like, yeah, we need to have a conversation but this is not a good day. This is not a good week. This is not a good month.

RDR: Where does the budget process stand right now? What are the next steps there?

Kintigh: Right now, we’re looking at a final budget released to the council by noon on Friday (July 20). That’s the latest schedule, a special finance meeting on Tuesday the 24th, and then move the special city council meeting, which had been for the 24th, to Thursday the 26th. And then at which point, we should have everything. We should have had time to look at it all and go through it and everything. So, that’s the schedule as of 1 p.m. today, Tuesday (July 17).

RDR: What else would you like to talk about? What have we not asked about that would be important to get out there to readers?

Kintigh: The railroad crossing on Country Club finally got fixed. And, I can claim zero credit for that because that’s all done and controlled by the railroad. But, I’m glad to see it. Tremendously glad. That whole section of Briar Ridge, the Country Club, all those folks out there, that was a horrible crossing.

RDR: One quick question on behalf of a reader who asked: did we get a discount on the fireworks show this year because of last year’s show being described by some as subpar?

Kintigh: This year was not done by that company. This year was done by the fire department.

I don’t know what the final resolution with the complaints about last year were. They made an offer of a free show, but we didn’t take them up on that. There was some talk about doing it at New Year’s, some other things. I don’t know if that’s still on the table. I’d have to ask, and I don’t have an answer.

And the way it was (this year), and I hope people understand, it was a wind delay because the city manager and I were talking about it before it started. We were looking at the weather, we were looking on our phones at the radar, and it was like, what, a 20-minute or 25-minute delay? Because the concern was that it would blow the fireworks over the viewers, and you couldn’t do that. You had to wait for the wind to shift.

RDR: Did you have a feeling about the nature of the most recent city council meeting? Some people have called it unusually divisive. Did that upset you at all?

Kintigh: No. We have different perspectives on this council. That’s not a bad thing. It really isn’t. And so, people are concerned about it. There’s certain things I believe we should do, and I’ve tried to be clear and upfront about what they are, and there’s some who disagree with me. That’s okay. Let’s have the discussion, let’s have a vote. My effort in the council meeting is to run it smoothly and fairly. In other words, I’m the presiding officer and it’s been a very rare instance where I will inject myself in any way into a discussion. It’s awkward, it’s difficult, it really doesn’t work. So, I’ve got to step back and — well, some people will not be happy with some things I’ve done, and express that. I try to move on. You’ve seen this, there’s been other times where councilors have been very direct in their criticisms of me. I remember my motto: Remember what I used to do for a living. I’ve been called worse things.

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