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Special events policy still debated by City Council

Councilor Judy Stubbs listens to Councilor Steve Henderson as he shares his opinion on the special events policy at the Roswell City Council’s Finance Committee meeting last Thursday. Sherri Roe Miller, Brittnye Lamb and Wanda Porter, representatives for the Chaves County Cancer Fund, sit behind Stubbs and Henderson. Amy McVay Davis, executive director of Historical Society for Southeast New Mexico, sits to the far right of Henderson. (Alison Penn Photo)

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The Roswell City Council’s Finance Committee approved a fee waiver request and four lodgers’ tax requests after discussing the city’s special events policy.

As stated in earlier coverage, the Chaves County Cancer Fund (CCCF)’s request for the city to waive $4,196.73 in services for the Walk for Hope was amended by the Finance Committee to waive $2,461.25 instead, after the CCCF decided to take on additional costs last Thursday morning. At the same meeting, City Councilors Caleb Grant, Jacob Roebuck, Judy Stubbs and Steve Henderson reviewed four applications for lodgers’ tax and voted to recommend the requests to the full City Council meeting this Thursday.

The councilors debated about the special events policy during the discussion on the Walk for Hope, but ultimately the Historical Society for Southeastern New Mexico awareness project, Jesse Andrus and Mike Hillman Memorial Rodeo, Roswell Symphony Orchestra and the 2019 UFO Festival requests for lodgers’ tax funding were approved by the committee and will be voted on by the full council on this Thursday.

Juanita Jennings, director of public affairs, reminded the council that the special events policy was passed last November and all requests for fee waivers had to come before the city’s Finance Committee. According to the city’s special events policy, it states the “purpose of this policy is to support events and activities by providing guidelines by which the reviews, approvals are granted and give attention to the use of city resources and infrastructure in support of such activities.”

For the special events, Jennings said the personnel department budget is at $84,000 and said there is the burden of overtime, scheduling and employees being away from their families is associated with special events. In addition to their regular jobs, Jennings said the city’s recreation department will be setting up and tearing down 17 events this month, while redeveloping reaction programming and preparing for the opening of the Roswell Recreation and Aquatic Center.

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Stubbs said the Walk for Hope event is not until May and Grant reminded the committee that opening the aquatic center would occur near the same time.

Monica Garcia, the city’s finance director, said the city has almost $1 million budgeted for contract labor (seasonal/temporary staff) and at this time, 46 percent of this amount has been utilized for this labor, while the city is only three months into the fiscal year. Garcia said the city has paid over $4,000 in overtime in one week of work recently. Regarding waiving fees, Grant said the city needs to control costs for the special events and city labor needs to be charged.

Henderson said if the committee wants to stand with the special events policy, then it needs to be insured the sponsors and organizers will have the resources necessary to run events. Henderson said he was empathetic of the event because he is a cancer survivor and donates money to the Cancer Society.

“Either we’re going to have the policy or we’re not,” Henderson said. “So I stand on the policy.”

Stubbs said she was not on the council when the policy was approved and had some concerns about the policy. Subsequently, Stubbs said she was questioning if it would be advantageous for the city to use its trained, knowledgeable employees and city-owned equipment in order to protect these city assets for the special events.

“Last year it was $300,000 or 400,000 I think we were hitting,” Grant said for the city’s costs for special events. “It’d be cheaper for us if we’re going to take this stance of helping everyone, we should just hire three or four people and let them run around as sports staff. It’d be cheaper on us and more efficient. So as of right now, we do have the policy, but if that’s the angle that some of the council wants to go, I think that would be a much more efficient way.”

Roebuck said the committee was following policy to allow citizens to come to the committee with fee waivers and he said if “the intent was to make it impossible” that policy would make no exception for the requests. He said the special events “conversation was way bigger than the situation” at hand and thanked the CCCF for their service for the community.

“Good policy, bad policy — we’re following policy,” Roebuck said. “I don’t want to belabor this and I’m going to vote for this, but we just have some work to do in this area to figure it out. And, I am very sympathetic with Councilor Grant saying we have a $150 million budget or whatever it is, but it leaks everywhere. You’ve got to watch even the smallest leaks and I appreciate his leadership in looking at all of these things very closely.”

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

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