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City staff provide overview of air center; Range of topics discussed during new commission’s first meeting

“If we can focus, we can figure out how to utilize this asset to our benefit,” said City Manager Joe Neeb, seated in the middle on the far side of the table during Thursday’s initial meeting of the Airport Authority Commission. To his right is member Jim Burress. To Neeb’s left is commission member Bud Kunkel. Mayor Dennis Kintigh, elected chair of the group, is at the head of the table. Dane Marley is seated at top left, and Riley Armstrong, elected vice chair, is next to him. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

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The newly appointed members of the City of Roswell Airport Advisory Commission will begin to consider the standard leases used for tenants, prioritize immediate improvements needed for city-owned building and facilities needs, and come up with some future uses of funding already available for air center projects.

Those were a few of the priorities outlined at the inaugural meeting of the commission Thursday morning. The meeting was attended by all five members: Roswell Mayor Dennis Kintigh, elected chair; Riley Armstrong, a local realtor elected vice chair; City of Roswell Parks and Recreation Director Jim Burress; rancher and local businessman Dane Marley; and Bud Kunkel, a local appraiser and the chair of the board of directors of the Roswell-Chaves County Economic Development Corp.

Most of the meeting involved information about the air center provided by City Manager Joe Neeb, Air Center Director Scott Stark, City Planner Bill Morris and City Project Director Kevin Dillon. At least in the initial stages, the group is focusing primarily on the airfield, the airport, the hangars and the buildings inside the airfield fence, and some nearby city-owned properties.

As Neeb told the group, the challenge will be in grappling with the varied views of the Economic Development Corp., the city, tenants and other interested groups to come up with a vision that can guide decision-making.

“If we can’t focus, we will never be able to move this thing forward,” he said. “We have 50,000 people in here and we have probably 50,001 different opinions about how to operate this air center. The focus is very bad. I think when we focus, we can figure out how to use that asset to our benefit.”

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The group did agree that they want to bring their perspectives as real estate industry professionals and business people to the standard leases used for many hangar and building tenants to try to address some of the common concerns heard from prospective and current tenants. Two issues mentioned include the termination clause and the lease term limits.

Other areas of discussion included the following:

• Neeb provided a “work order list,” or a summary of the top action items recommended by a 2017 economic feasibility study of the air center by outside consultants. While the top six concern the formation of an airport authority or governing group, the other 25 cover various topics, from developing a five-year strategic plan to working with private investors on building new facilities to developing partnerships with universities and K12 education to advance aviation-related workforce preparation.

• Air Center Director Scott Stark talked about continuing efforts to develop the airfield. He told the group that the airport receives about $1 million each year as guaranteed funding from the Federal Aviation Administration for airfield or terminal improvement and this year has the opportunity to apply for additional funding that would be available in 2019 or 2020. He said he and his staff already have some long-term ideas for carving out areas both inside and outside the secure fenced areas of the airfield for private investment by industrial businesses or those needing large hangars. A future meeting is expected to include a presentation by Armstrong Consultants Inc., which manages the revenue projections and analyses for the airport. He added that the city has “outgrown” the airport terminal and is starting to look at how to expand. Stark also announced the hiring of a new airport property manager to oversee leasing of city hangars, buildings and land. (See page 1.)

• City Planner Bill Morris discussed a planned effort to replat and survey some federally owned industrial property of about 20 acres located north of Earl Cummings Loop and east of G Street. The federal government has told the city that it would need a professional survey and replat, estimated to cost about $2,800, to consider turning over the property to the city. The city wants to divide the parcel in two. The northern portion would remain the property of the federal government. The city would own the southern part, now a rarely used baseball field, and would seek new development on that land. Morris also talked about how the city would like over time to create a master plan for the area and to determine official plats and surveys so that interested private investors would find “shovel-ready” sites already prepared with utilities.

• Project Manager Kevin Dillon talked about the upgrade efforts to Hangar 1083, now occupied by Dean Baldwin Painting LLC. The city has provided a new roof to replace the leaking one, but the hangar also requires significant upgrades to the electrical system and the fire suppression system. He said that the city has about $8.03 million in funding from various sources intended for air center improvements, with the Dean Baldwin project expected to use at least $6.2 million. Therefore, the city is expected to have somewhere between $900,000 to $3.2 million, depending on exactly how much money the city will receive and how much it will use of its own money for the Dean Baldwin project, for other air center projects. Dillon said the commission’s input on spending priorities is wanted. Some possible ideas included improving airfield fencing, larger hangars or creating a “tear down pad” further away from other airfield businesses for safer aircraft disassemblies.

• Neeb also briefly talked about the complexities involved in water issues at the air center. While the city has invested in the expansion of its water storage tank at the airfield, that water is meant to supply the entire city. At some point, the city might want to determine exactly how much is used only for aviation or airfield purposes, he said. Billing and revenue allocations are also an issue. “I won’t go into a lot of detail other than that there is money from the air center going to the city and money going from the air center to the city and it crosses about three or four times,” Neeb said. He added that the city also has water rights in the area. Kintigh said that the third-largest revenue source of the air center is the water and sewage fee paid by residents and businesses within the larger air center area that begins south of Hobson Road. Yet the city water department bears the costs for installation, repairs and maintenance.

The next meeting of the commission has been tentatively scheduled for 10 a.m. Aug. 16. at the Roswell International Airport terminal building. After that, meetings are expected to be held the third Thursday of the month at 10 a.m at the airport.

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

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.