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Council sends air center resolution to legislators

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Roswell Industrial Air Center Task Force members Bud Kunkel, left, and Tim Jennings stand for questions about the regional air authority before the full city council on Thursday night. (Alison Penn Photo)

The Roswell City Council on Thursday approved a resolution in support of giving the city the ability to create an airport authority. The resolution will next go before state legislators.

Councilor Judy Stubbs made the motion and Councilor Jacob Roebuck seconded. Councilors Savino Sanchez, Roebuck, Stubbs, Steve Henderson, Caleb Grant, Barry Foster, George Peterson, Angela Moore and Juan Oropesa voted to approve of the resolution allowing the council to potentially establish an airport authority or a regional air center special economic district. Jeanine Corn Best was absent.

City Attorney Aaron Holloman shared some history of the creation of the Economic Development Corporation task force and feasibility studies the idea of an airport authority was generated from. Holloman said the council’s consideration of the special legislation is the first step to consider creating the option of an airport authority. A previous attempt was vetoed by Gov. Susana Martinez following the last legislative session.

Bud Kunkel and Tim Jennings, represented the Roswell Industrial Air Center Task Force, along with members Michael Gottlieb, Kyle Armstrong, and Steve Henderson were present.

“This really has the opportunity, in my opinion, (where) we can be in a right place and the right time for once in our lives and I think it will be a great help to us,” Jennings said.

Jennings said he spoke with governor-elect Michelle Lujan Grisham and said she appears to be “very, very supportive” about the proposed airport authority.

Kunkel and Jennings thanked the council for confidence in the task force and thanked the mayor for his involvement in the air center and encouraging federal funding. They said they hoped work with the council would continue to bring “private investment and jobs to Roswell,” and the proposed resolution would be seen at the state-level during the upcoming 60-day legislative session, which begins Dec. 17.

At last month’s Legal Committee meeting, Mayor Dennis Kintigh shared concerns about passing incomplete legislation for the regional air center and was also adamant that the air center needed a revenue stream to support it. On Thursday night, Kintigh maintained his role as the presiding officer of the meeting and did not have any input when the item was presented.

Sanchez questioned whether or not Roswell has the workforce to support a regional air center special economic district. Kunkle reminded the councilor about the partnership and the “excellent meeting” between Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell, Roswell Independent School District and local business owners to prepare students with relevant skills and career choices, with the intention of retaining them in Roswell’s workforce. Sanchez said those efforts to promote the workforce, from business leaders and educators, are “needed in Roswell.”

Sanchez also inquired about what would happen to the city’s airport advisory commission if the airport authority is implemented. Kunkel said it was likely that the task force would go away and the city council would decide whether or not to implement the airport authority.

Kintigh added that if the authority was to be established, the council would have the opportunity to decide on keeping the advisory commission or not.

Grant said he definitely supported the airport authority, thanked the task force and asked when the bill will be drafted for the council to view it. Kunkel said there have been several drafts of the bill and he reminded the council that the language could be changed by the legislature.

Henderson expressed his thanks to the task force for their “tenacity” on the proposed resolution. Henderson said there are many unanswered questions, but the city and related entities can take the matter “one bite at a time” to be successful.

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