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Public forum addresses illegal dumping, police hiring

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Alison Penn Photo City Councilor Angela Moore examines an illegal dumping site close Alice Reischman Smith Park at G Street and East Wells Street in Ward 5 on Monday night. Moore said her constituents have complained about a few more sites like this.

On Monday night, City Manager Joe Neeb and other city staff hosted the last public forum of the year in Ward 5. The city has two forums per Ward each year and only three more forums are left on this year’s list.

Four citizens came to ask about being charged $1,500 to use the city’s portable stage, which was free in the past, for the 14th Annual Southeastern New Mexico Buddy Walk, a large fundraiser to support individuals with Down syndrome and their families. Neeb said the new fees for the stage are calculated based on an hourly rate for usage of the stage and the eventual replacement cost. Four other citizens came in later.

Neeb said the city has discovered through a cost analysis that it has been contributing $500,000 annually to help local events with in-kind services from the city for police, fire, streets, tents, dori poles, special electronics and more without recouping costs.

“My question has always been for everybody, we need to keep getting people off their couch and out helping us do all of this wonderful stuff — whether it be the Buddy Walk, whether it be the relay for life, whether it be the Veterans Parade, UFO Festival, any of those things — we really want the people to incorporate that,” Neeb said. “It can’t be just going to the city coffers and saying you need to cover this because it is worthwhile, because I’ve never met an un-worthwhile event either.”

The city has now identified five signature events that receive some in-kind service: UFO Festival, Hike It & Spike It, the Rise over Roswell Balloon Rally, Cinco De Mayo, and the Eastern New Mexico State Fair. Neeb explained this to the attendees at the forum.

Teresa McCreary said the event sometimes brings 1,200 people from southeastern New Mexico, and that it benefits Roswell with visitors staying in hotels and patronizing restaurants.

Perry McCreary said the Down Syndrome Foundation of Southeastern New Mexico, in addition to helping with the Buddy Walk, brings training and teaching opportunities, and even helps families, at the hospitals, with resources if someone in their family has Down syndrome. The McCrearys founded the event 14 years ago.

The next buddy walk is Oct. 20 at Spring River Park & Zoo with registration at 8 a.m. and the walk beginning at 9 a.m. More information can be found atdsfsenm.org.

Neeb asked whether or not the event has ever applied for lodgers’ tax funding and the answer was, not at this time. The McCrearys said the event would be interested in applying for lodgers’ tax funding and creating reciprocal community assistance as Neeb suggested. So far, Neeb said, there has not been a group the city could not help.

Steve Miko, director of sanitation, recycling and landfill, addressed citizen questions on recycling in the city. Miko said the city’s current recycling capability is almost at its maximum and Roswell would need to hire more people to expand. Enid Costley, Roswell Public Library director, said Target takes glass recycling. The green roll-off in the Office Max parking lot belongs to the city and does not take glass. Neeb said it comes down to a cost-benefit analysis whether or not more recycling can happen in Roswell.

Ward 5 City Councilor Angela Moore was present and she asked about people dumping on empty lots, because she received complaints about a lot close Alice Reischman Smith Park on G Street and East Wells Street.

Neeb said the issue of illegal dumping applies to the city’s sanitation and code enforcement departments. He also stated that the city is helping property owners place signs on such locations to hinder illegal dumping, and asking residents in the neighborhoods if they can describe who is doing the dumping. He said the city’s first priority is to take care of the dumping and see if there is a way to maintain the area to avoid future attempts. Neeb and Bill Morris, community development director, said citizens should report any sightings of illegal dumping as soon as possible and that there are fines associated with such an act.

Roswell Police Chief Phil Smith said the current police force is very close to an even number of white and Hispanic or Latino officers and he said this diversity “says a lot” about the department. He said that recruiting officers is a nationwide problem because being an officer is not in vogue. However, he said Roswell’s recruiting efforts are “a lot more optimistic.”

“It’s really about a lot of human suffering and that we are caretakers,” Smith said of being in the law enforcement field. “The true job is not Batman and Robin kicking in doors. The true job is to take care of people. If that’s not your ambition, then the calling isn’t for you.”

Mike Mathews, public safety director, said seven more recruits will graduate from the academy in Santa Fe in October and maybe 10 to 12 more will be going in January.

In terms of new initiatives, Smith said RPD will be starting a mentorship program for young officers to work with more experienced, retired officers who are volunteering their expertise. Mathews said the new Good Morning Program, where RPD calls a household where someone may live alone, has been receiving positive feedback.

On the Angels Program, Smith said in the past eight months only three people have taken advantage of seeking help from the RPD when dealing with drug addictions.

City/RISD reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at reporter04@rdrnews.com.