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Kintigh gives view on airport issues, special events

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Roswell Mayor Dennis Kintigh (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 and Alex Ross asked Kintigh questions provided by the RDR staff and the public.

Part of the interview appeared in the Oct. 14 edition and can be seen by clicking here. What follows is the second part of the interview.

RDR: Do you believe the city might be able to manage the Roswell International Air Center better than an independent airport authority — why or why not?

(Editor’s note: The Roswell City Council earlier this year voted to create its own Airport Advisory Commission to guide activities and future development of the Roswell Independent Air Center. New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez had earlier vetoed legislation that would have created an independent airport authority.)

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Kintigh: Well, we’ve managed the airport for 50 years. Some people will claim that if we have an authority it’ll operate better, but the problem is, where’s the money going to come from? By that I mean, one of the little tidbits is that every water bill down at the old Walker Air Force (Base) in the residential area, industrial area, commercial area, all those water revenues go to the Airport Enterprise Fund, even though all the work — the maintenance, the repair, the replacement — is done by the city water department and the billing is done by the city finance department.

The city water department central control is located on the airport. The water department leases that space from the airport, so there’s somewhere in the neighborhood of like $540,000 that flows from the water department into the operations of the airport.

Now, that’s a significant chunk.

The other thing is the enterprise funds — airport, water, sewer, landfill, sanitation — benefit from the services offered by the core of the city. I mean, the legal department, HR, purchasing, finance, etc. There is some revenue that gets pulled from those enterprise funds into the general fund, but the city manager’s analysis based upon previous city managers’ analysis is that we have not adequately been reimbursing the general fund.

So, where I am going with this? The city is subsidizing the airport, and if there’s an authority, where’s going to be the money to make up for this lost support? I have yet to get an answer from the advocates for the authority. This question has not been dealt with.

Now, if they want to craft an authority bill in which there’s a revenue stream, whether it’s a … levy on property owners or some kind of revenue stream from the state, great. But unless there’s money coming in, it’s not going to make it by itself — and I am very concerned that a standalone authority without the financials for the city will crash and burn.

RDR: Any updates on the Clean and Safe program that you would like to share at this time?

(Editor’s note: The program offers property owners free disposal of materials to encourage removal of dilapidated buildings.)

Kintigh: Well, we now have seven contractors that are on kind of a bid list, and we’re still trying to eliminate these derelict structures that pose a hazard to the community and the neighborhoods. We just keep plugging away. It’s kind of a continuing process.

RDR: Is there a mechanism for citizens to report these sorts of problems?

Kintigh: They can call Code Enforcement.

Alison: The GRT (Gross Receipts Tax) has spiked in the last three months. What do you think is responsible for this increase and do you think it’ll last?

Kintigh: That is an excellent question, and here’s the challenge. I have on my laptop something like 13 years worth of monthly GRT numbers. I can show you the average for the last three years, average for the last five. I can show you three- and five-year averages going back. I can show you the standard deviation. I can show you the variance.

I cannot tell you what next month’s GRT will be. We have actually been double — except for I think three months in the last 13 months — we have had double-digit increases in GRT over the month the year before.

In other words, it’s like comparing June of 2018 to June of 2017, and also we’re looking at this. So, this growth has started for quite a while. Now, what has caused that? Some people tend to forget that there were some tax changes for the state done after the 2016 (Legislative) session, or 2017. I forget when it was, but there was some state tax code changes.

Of course, we had some federal tax code changes. Oil and gas has come back.

I’m not entirely sure you could identify any one factor, but here’s what we do for the city … we’ve adopted a policy that we will budget with a revenue projection based upon the three-year average of revenue, which is what we’ve done.

Now, the interesting thing is this: The three-year average and the budget amount that we have for this fiscal year is actually less than what we received, in reality, for last fiscal year, so I think we’re being appropriately conservative.

RDR: Where do things stand on the special events policy?

Kintigh: … We’re working hard to try and come up with a manageable policy on events, and by that I mean, it is not a trivial matter to close streets, it is not a trivial matter to bring out additional police officers or paramedics to be on-call and available; sanitation, bringing out crews to pick up trash. All of that happens outside the normal course.

That’s additional burdens on the general fund — and so how do you keep that manageable? Some events qualify for lodgers’ tax. Lodgers’ tax revenue comes from motel stays. It’s a percentage, I believe 5 percent, and besides being used for promotional purposes, lodgers’ tax is very much controlled by state statute. Besides using it for promotional purposes, which is the primary intent, it can be used for certain things related to operations of events.

But, it’s not a limitless pot of money, either. Some of these major events — Hike It and Spike It, UFO, Cinco de Mayo-Rise Above Roswell — those are the three we’ve kind of identified as signature events, require more. And so, how do you budget it? …

How do we get our handle on these expenses? We wouldn’t be able to do these things, but we also need to be able to keep the burden on the general fund reasonable. That’s the trick. I don’t think we’re entirely there, but I think staff and the council are working very hard to try and get there and do it in a way that’s balanced, that’s understood by the community.

We don’t want to be surprising anybody or confusing people. …

RDR: Is there a plan in place for aging elm trees and mulberry trees, especially the historic district?

Kintigh: We have talked about it and we do not have a a formal plan to replace those trees — and I say talked about it because we have actually removed some of those. But you’re right, that’s a serious concern. They are getting near the end of life, and besides removing, we need to have a systematic replacement.

The downtown area is beautiful. The trees are awesome but they don’t live forever, so how do we come up with a systematic plan? We don’t have (anyone) functioning as a forester. We some individuals, or least one individual, on city staff who is a forester, but that’s not the role they’re in right now. They’re doing something else.

So, can we tweak that? Yeah, that’s on the to-do list.

RDR: Any updates on the cemetery? There have been some issues with the upkeep and staffing.

Kintigh: … One of the challenges is that the upkeep of cemeteries is not a, shall we say, level workload. In other words, there are times of the year, depending upon weather and whatnot, that grass grows a lot faster, you need to hit it. Certain members of staff who do this, well, staff members who mow will also work burials, dig graves, fill them in, do other things that support it (the cemetery).

It operates seven days a week. So what we’ve been looking at, and the city manager has been working on, is flexibility where we bring in folks from other parts of the city staff to help out …

One of the other issues was that if there was a burial going on, no mowing at all, even if the staff was available, because it would create noise and that would be disruptive.

However, depending on where the burial is, you could theoretically be working far enough away that that’s not (problematic). That’s a concept that’s being worked on.

The trick is we need to stay ahead of the game, not fall behind.

RDR: Goddard and Roswell are one and two in 5A right now, both having really good seasons — generally do you see an impact when the local sports teams are doing well?

Kintigh: You gotta love high school football. I mean, this is New Mexico — that’s the only good football in the whole state. You can quote me on that. …

Come to southeast New Mexico, watch good football. This is kind of more like West Texas, we treat this a lot more seriously. Friday Night Lights, the whole nine yards. We moved here in ‘92. I have to tell you this story … I think it was that fall, my middle daughter was a sophomore and was in the band and it was the last game of the season, Roswell and Goddard played. It was a situation where Roswell would get into the playoffs if they beat Goddard by a certain point spread. If they didn’t, Goddard went into the playoffs.

I think in those days we were grouped with Clovis, and Clovis was already going, so it was, who’s going to be other team?

So we get there, I’m thinking early, half an hour … We got probably the last few seats at the top of the Wool Bowl, so we’re sitting there, squeezed in, and I’m looking around — the Wool Bowl is packed. And while we’re there waiting for the game to start, there’s a small plane overhead. I think, well, this is interesting. I look up, and out of this small plane jumps a parachutist. No joke. Controllable chute, lands mid-field with the game ball.

And I’m like, we’re not in Kansas anymore. This is incredible. …

There’s a long history of serious sports here.

RDR: What was your takeaway from from the New Mexico Municipal League conference being held here?

Kintigh: It helps to showcase Roswell. Now, the convention center wasn’t finished yet, but I’m telling you, I got compliments … The events that we had in the evenings, they had an evening dinner there in the convention center, we had another one down at the airport, people were just amazed. Our team did a great job. Juanita Jennings, public affairs, I don’t know when she slept — and I’m not kidding, I don’t know …

And it was a challenge to get it working around an in-process construction site, but it came off well. Five hundred, I think, out-of-town visitors. That helps.

RDR: What have we not talked about that you would like to bring up, mention to folks?

Kintigh: The fair (Eastern New Mexico State Fair).

It seems to have gone very well. Fairs are an interesting phenomenon. It’s hard to explain it to people. Now, I was with a Republican party contingent there, so we have these political figures who come and they’re running for state-wide office, and you know how this works. They’re out there, they have no clue what they’re getting into. This is a long parade. So, a couple blocks? No. Miles, this goes. So, it runs for a half an hour? No. This goes for hours. The whole town shuts down — and they look at you like you’re speaking a foreign language. Yes, city hall closes. Schools are shut down. This is an incredible phenomenon and it … goes back to that (question of) how do you brand Roswell? Larry Hobson, president of the fair board, likes to point out this is the longest-running fair parade west of the Mississippi except for the Rose Bowl Parade. Incredible.

Ninety-six years, we’re older than the state fair. So, you go to that thing, and I think it’s one of the beauties … We took our grandkids one afternoon, and you take them to the animals, let them see and let them experience that.

People tend to go the carnival and whatnot and the other stuff. That’s okay — don’t get me wrong, we went there too — but you need to understand what this is really about.