The Roswell City Council’s Finance Committee recently narrowed down to three possible locations for the soon-to-be-repurposed rocket play structure.
On Dec. 13, the full city council approved a budget amendment to use $115,000 from the lodgers’ tax fund, a municipal tax on hotels and other temporary lodging. The plan to refurbish the rocket into a sign to attract tourists and preserve the rocket would cost $30,000 — and $85,000 would pay for new rocket-themed play equipment at Spring River Park & Zoo, at 1306 E. College Blvd.
Prior to this, City Councilor Jacob Roebuck presented the rocket plan to the Parks and Recreation Commission on Oct. 15, General Services Committee on Oct. 21 — and it was reviewed twice by the Finance Committee, according to the various meetings’ minutes.
On Thursday morning, no formal action was taken, but the councilors chose their top three suggested locations. Bill Morris, community development director, said he will look into the top three for costs associated, and will present his findings back to the Finance Committee next month.
City councilors and members of the Finance Committee Caleb Grant, Judy Stubbs, Steve Henderson and Roebuck were the present. Councilor Jeanine Corn Best was present as a guest at the meeting.
Morris presented nine possible locations and each location’s pro and cons. The locations were: a vacant property on Second Street near the railroad tracks, two locations in Pioneer Plaza, the International UFO Museum & Research Center’s park, the Roswell International Air Center esplanade, Margo Purdy Park, inside Spring River Park, in the directional plaza in the zoo’s master plan, and at the splash pad.
City Manager Joe Neeb suggested the committee pick three locations and the council could go back to the original list if necessary.
“If we’re trying to talk about the consensus, there were a lot of people in this discussion that felt that it remaining at the zoo was important,” Roebuck said before the three were selected. “The rocket remaining on the zoo property was important. There’s a lot of people who expressed that. I don’t think it is important personally — but to give those people an option I feel like that zoo is something that we could be considering.”
The committee’s top three suggestions were the following: the Bert Murphy Splash Pad in Poe Corn Park (in the 200 block of South Garden Avenue), Margo Purdy Park (in the 800 block of North Missouri Avenue) and at Spring River Park & Zoo on the corner of East College Boulevard and North Atkinson Avenue.
For the zoo corner, Morris said it was a “crowded corner already” — but it would be a lower cost to install, and was already on city-owned property.
Morris said the rocket would be visible at the splash pad and could serve as “a beacon for the splash pad,” and he added that more improvements, such as bathrooms and a parking lot, could be included in the plan.
Roebuck said he approved of the two locations on Second Street — but they were “all great options.”
For the one vacant Second Street property, Roebuck said there are some negotiations and discussions with the property owner. Neeb said these discussions go along with potential plans in the Railroad District Metropolitan Development Area Plan, adopted in 2016.
Grant said the Margo Purdy location was the least visible spot and Roebuck also spoke about the lack of traffic. Stubbs said visitors to the Roswell Adult & Recreation Center, located diagonally from Margo Purdy Park, would remember the rocket, rather than the younger residents.
‘Forget the rocket’
In visiting with constituents, Stubbs said she didn’t think there is “attachment, sympathy toward this rocket.” Stubbs said she believed the rocket should be auctioned to someone who would “enjoy” it. She reminded the committee that she voted against taking $30,000 out of lodgers’ tax for the refurbishing, and said the city is still unsure of the full cost of the rocket repurposing.
“I totally agree with Councilor Stubbs,” Larry Connolly said during public participation. “Forget the rocket. Thank you.”
Best suggested moving the rocket into the zoo’s longhorns enclosure for a new scratching post, to save money.
The councilors discussed some unconsidered costs — such as the possibility of lighting the rocket and adding a pad underneath the repurposed rocket structure. Jim Burress, Parks and Recreation director, said electricity, lightning protection and other safety precautions (like a possible fence) should also be researched for any site.
Kevin Dillon, the city’s projects and facilities director, recommended having an engineering analysis on the old rocket slide.
The new rocket play structure to be installed at the Spring River Park & Zoo has yet to be ordered. Burress said the city has to wait until the old rocket slide is removed. Burress said he is continuing conversations with artist Josh Berry for the next steps.
Burress said the new rocket play structure may go up by summer.
City/RISD reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.