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Mayor shares views on economic development, other issues

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Roswell Mayor Dennis Kintigh (Alison Penn Photo)

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

Roswell Mayor Dennis Kintigh recently visited the Roswell Daily Record office for a conversation with RDR staff, part of a series of interviews focused on issues impacting the city and its residents.

RDR reporters Alison Penn, Lisa Dunlap, sports editor JT Keith and editor John Dilmore asked Kintigh questions from RDR staff and the public.

The interview has been published in three parts due to the number of subjects covered. Earlier installments appeared on Jan. 20 and Jan. 22.

The following are additional excerpts from the interview, edited for length and clarity:

RDR: Is there anything new to talk about on the economic development front — in addition to the Navy training?

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Editor’s note: The U.S. Navy Training Air Wing Four unit recently arrived at the Roswell International Air Center for basic training of about 50 pilots. The group — which also includes about 50 instructors and other personnel — is expected to contribute to the local economy in the form of lodging and other expenditures.

Kintigh: … It’s coming back. They (the Navy training program) missed the last three years. They were here the three years before that. That’s great. That’s good for the city from a lot of perspectives. They’ll be here, I think it’s 45 to 60 days, and they’ll rotate student pilots in.

The interesting this is, they will not have the instructors and the student pilots stay at the same facility. They’re different facilities, so there’s no fraternization.

… Infrastructure is a huge issue. Water systems are a huge issue because we have so much aging equipment … especially the large-diameter water lines, oh my gosh. I mean, this is about 50, 60 years old, and when it breaks, how do you fix it? You have to have specialists …

I think we can go up to eight inches in-house, maybe 10. I think it’s eight, though. You get these 36-inch lines, you’ve got to bring in specialists, and there are not that many.

This is not a challenge unique to Roswell. It’s all over the state, if not the United States. So, you think about that.

Editor’s note: Devon Energy Corp., a Fortune 500 oil and gas producer with operations in the U.S. and Canada, has announced plans to establish an office in Roswell in 2019.

The oil and gas industry, kind of going back to the point about Devon. I would love to see more of those corporate office types here. How do we attract them? The whole idea of quality of life, as far as attracting young professionals, is huge. People, young people — and I shouldn’t say just young people … people want to have a good quality of life.

What does that mean? Well, entertainment, food and beverage, the opportunity to have a good time somewhere safe.

How do you do that? What does that look like? I’ve been a big advocate of trying to develop the downtown area. I think that needs to happen and can happen. I’m very excited with Sippy & Opal’s opening. … I’ve heard that they’ve sold out of ice cream before closing time. … This is a local, Roswell operation like Stellar Coffee and Anne Baker, like Madux Hobbs and the Ragsdales. These folks are awesome.

I mean (we were) over at Pecos Flavors for the Jazz Night. It was wonderful.

So, how do we encourage that, because I think that encourages companies like Devon to locate here, because they’re going to have quality of life for their people. I think it helps healthcare providers to recruit physicians. I think it helps Leprino recruit engineers.

RDR: Is there anything you can tell people about efforts to bring large drone operations here?

Kintigh: We’ve had these conversations off and on for five years, and I’m open to, yeah, let’s come here — training for drone pilots, for drone operators, whatever you want to call them, has been discussed.

RDR: But there’s nothing new on that front?

Kintigh: Nothing that I’ve seen. I’ve heard talk about everything from an indoor operation down at the old bus plant to who knows what out there at the old municipal airport. Part of the challenge is — I think you’ve seen this in the media … over England at Heathrow — you don’t want drones anywhere near a functioning airport, so where would you go?

That’s not an insurmountable problem. It’s kind of like, part of our challenge is getting people’s attention. This is Rowell. It’s one of the reasons why things like the Dunkin’-Baskin Robbins helps.

RDR: The publicity?

Kintigh: Yes, and all kidding aside … the benefit of something like that is, people will see in the New York Times, “Oh, look. Roswell, New Mexico.” They might not know where New Mexico is or that it’s part of the United States. They know what Roswell is. I’ll take that. We have 250,000 people come to that UFO museum. The trick is, how do we get them to stay an extra 48 hours? …

RDR: What is the importance to the city of the population numbers that are found in the next census?

Kintigh: It’s not nearly as important as a lot of people think, but that being said, we’re going to strive to make sure everybody is counted.

That’s a given, and we’ve talked about — how do you optimize engagement?

And where I’m going with this is … some people are saying, well, we need to be talking about it (the census) now. And yet myself and a few others worry that if you go too soon, too hard, it gets stale.

My personal thinking is we should start alerting people this year that the real intense push starts Jan. 1 of 2020 because the actual count is, I believe, April 1. … So, you want to kind of build to a crescendo that spring …

RDR: Some have mentioned the 50,000 (population) threshold, and its importance, pretty consistently. Is that a meaningful threshold?

Kintigh: Depending on who you talk to, there’s some significance in our ability to attract certain retail.

But I will offer to you Dunkin’. This group, this ownership group, I spoke with these gentlemen — they acquired the franchise rights to New Mexico from corporate. This is their fourth store, their first one out of the Albuquerque metro area. They didn’t go to Las Cruces. They came to Roswell. They didn’t go to Carlsbad. They didn’t go to Hobbs. They came to Roswell.

So, I think we have to be careful not to put too much significance on the 50,000. We cannot assume that if we don’t get it, that we’re somehow doomed — and we cannot assume that if we do reach it, that all is wonderful and the streets are paved with gold. The work is going to be there, to continue to market this community regardless. I don’t see this changing, what we do day to day.

Just because you score doesn’t mean you’ve won the game. This is a marathon. …

RDR: Is there anything we haven’t covered that you would like to cover?

Kintigh: … This is going to be an interesting legislative session, and I’ve been saying that lately. One of my ongoing concerns is crime in New Mexico. There’s only so much a mayor and a city council and a city manager and a police chief can do. I have for many years maintained that we have very weak criminal justice statutes here in New Mexico. They make it harder to hold people accountable, people who hurt people.

I actually visited with the district attorney … I went and saw her and the deputy district attorney for this area, and personally thanked them for charging the two individuals in the Saul Sanchez murder from December of 2012. … they have done what should be done and I give the DA a lot of credit. This is going to be a tough case, but she has not shied away from it, and I give her all the credit in the world, and her staff. Of course if you talk to her, she says it’s her staff that did it all, but that’s important.

One of my frustrations is that people who commit crimes while they’re on some condition of release — in other words, they’re out on bond, own recognizance, bail, probation, parole, whatever — if they do something while they’re out like that … commit an additional offense — those are the ones who truly need to be held to a tougher standard. … They have demonstrated an unwillingness to take advantage of the second chance the system has provided them. They have demonstrated an unwillingness to comply with simple orders.

I’m very frustrated when I hear the term “technical violations of probation.” That is garbage. They are intentional violations. That is, not telling your probation officer that you’ve moved, not telling your probation officer you’ve left your job. All you need to do is pick up the phone and call, and people who don’t do that are hiding something.

And yet, “Oh, all they did was fail to come in,” No. It’s frustrating. …

Editor’s note: Keep Roswell Beautiful was recently relaunched after a previous effort had been dormant for some time. Recycling and educating the public about beautification efforts were among topics covered during the group’s first meeting.

RDR: Keep Roswell Beautiful just met … What would you like to tell people about that?

Kintigh: I’m all in favor of us reopening. We had some major meltdowns back in 2014. The key person in the city left abruptly. We were going through all kinds of transitions with staff. We’ve now matured as far as the staff goes in the sense that key people have been in their positions long enough to be fully comfortable … and this is an opportunity for us to move back into an area that is legitimate.

One of the challenges is that you can’t solve all the problems at once, and then you have to prioritize. So, we’ve tackled some stuff. Mr. Neeb (city manager Joe Neeb) has built his team and he’s got people in position.

I think (Juanita) Jennings (the city’s public affairs director) has done a stellar job in so many ways, but there’s others that have also done great work. So, this was the time to start up. …

RDR: Will there be a relationship with Keep Chaves County Beautiful?

Kintigh: I don’t know. That’s an excellent question. I just don’t know.

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