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Commission looks at separating mingled airport funds

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Roswell Mayor Dennis Kintigh, also chair of the city’s Airport Advisory Commission, discusses a possible parcel acquisition at Thursday’s meeting. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

City staff want to proceed with plans to separate city general funds and the old municipal airport funds from the enterprise fund used for the Roswell International Air Center, as members of the Airport Advisory Commission discussed Thursday.

Meeting for the second time, the commission continued some of the discussions begun at its first meeting two weeks before.

Consisting of three local business leaders as well as Mayor Dennis Kintigh and Roswell Parks and Recreation Director Jim Burress, the commission has been created to improve airport-tenant relations and to take steps necessary to boost the airport, aviation activities, private investment and business and job creation at the Roswell International Air Center.

Kintigh explained that the city considers it important to know exactly how much and which funds the air center generates and how much money it spends. He and city staff estimate that separating all the revenue and expense funds related to the air center could take up to two years.

Ideally, he said, all air center expenses and salaries would be supported solely by the revenues generated from leases, landing fees and other air center funds and activities.

“Unfortunately it has gotten real complicated because, we still have, believe it or not, the old airport terminal, the old airport property,” he said. “When we got this, the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) requires that the revenues from the old municipal airport area, if we generate something from like the sale of land, that goes into the airport enterprise fund. It doesn’t go into the city general fund. But if we build a street out there, that comes from the city general fund.”

The city airport used to be located on the northwest side of the city, across West College Boulevard from the Cielo Grande Recreation Area and just west of the Noon Optimist Little League fields. The new airport on the south side of Roswell began operations in 1975.

Kintigh said he and City Manager Joe Neeb think the time has come to work out an arrangement with the FAA to release the city from the requirements regarding the old airport land, given that the city’s general fund has been supporting the new airport for years.

Michael Garcia with Armstrong Consultants Inc., which assists with planning, construction administration and financial analysis for the Roswell International Air Center, said the FAA has a process to request a land release of the old municipal airport property.

The meeting also included an extended discussion about the standard lease used by the city for buildings at the airport. Air Center Director Scott Stark said the lease has undergone only minor changes in the past five years. Commission members Dane Marley, Riley Armstrong and Bud Kunkel, real estate and business leaders, recommended that the city make some changes to attract more tenants.

Suggestions included making the leases more straightforward and simple; developing new leases rather than allowing more than two addenda to existing leases; recognizing that if a building needs extensive repairs and upkeep that the city cannot charge high rents; and changing provisions that would give the city the ability to terminate a lease with only 30 days’ notice.

City Attorney Aaron Holloman said that the termination clause had never been exercised by the city to his knowledge, while Stark noted that some tenants had negotiated for up to 180 days’ notice. But some commission members said businesses might not even consider signing a lease with such a provision in it.

As part of the lease discussion, some members indicated that it is not reasonable to expect tenants to be responsible for major repairs or projects, such as ramp maintenance, roof repairs, electrical rewiring or installing heating and air conditioning systems. Kintigh said he hoped at some point that the city could develop a “chunk of money” to modernize and repair all of the leasable buildings.

The commission also discussed plans to better catalog data about existing facilities and to identify some land parcels that will be available for future development, including documenting exactly what is needed to make them shovel-ready. City staff and commission members said that having such information at staff’s fingertips will be crucial to attracting tenants and developers, who will look elsewhere if they have to wait months for information necessary to analyze the financial aspects of a move here.

Kintigh also updated commission members on a topic discussed at the first meeting, the possible acquisition of a portion of a 12.5-acre parcel at Mathis Street and East Earl Cummings Loop that now belongs to the Jobs Corps and the U.S. Department of Labor.

Kintigh said U.S Rep. Steve Peace (R-Hobbs) has worked with city staff to develop proposed legislation that would transfer the land from the federal government to the city. Kintigh said that the city thinks the parcel, located across from Aersale, would be a good site for a warehouse or storage.

Commission members also planned a Sept. 20 tour of the air center, which most likely will not be open to the public because of restrictions about how many people are allowed at one time on secure parts of the airfield.

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