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First public forum of 2019 focuses on public safety

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City Manager Joe Neeb reviews the public forum schedule at the Public Safety Forum on Thursday night. Emergency Medical Services Chief Eric Mann is also pictured. (Alison Penn Photo)

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Issues raised at last year’s forums, efforts to address them, also discussed

The city of Roswell hosted its first public forum of the year, focusing on public safety, and also shared information about the city’s efforts related to issues raised at last year’s public forums.

Approximately 50 people gathered in the recently finished Roswell Convention & Civic Center (RCCC) at 912 N. Main St. on Thursday evening for the forum. City officials gave presentations and afterward citizens were able to ask questions. Within the topic of public safety, presentations focused on the city’s strategies on community-building, regulation and enforcement.

Representatives from the city’s police and fire departments, along with dispatch, code enforcement, Neighborhood Watch and emergency services were present with booths and informational materials, which provided an opportunity for residents to interact with them directly.

City councilors Jeanine Corn Best, Barry Foster, Judy Stubbs and Angela Moore were present for the meeting, as was Municipal Judge Eric Brackeen.

Joe Neeb, who has been the city manager for almost two years, said the forums were an effort to establish an open line of communication between the city and residents. Some of the officials who presented encouraged citizens to communicate with the city by calling with issues and providing addresses for places with potential code violations; and offered information on how to report crimes anonymously and use the city’s FixIt form.

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Neeb said last year the city hosted 10 public forum meetings, two per ward, with an open forum to hear from citizens. Neeb said the city reviewed what was heard last year and would present what has been done to meet concerns.

He said the top five neighborhood issues (out of 61 issues) throughout all wards involved: speeding; trash, alleys and recycling; sidewalks, streets and trails; parking; and code enforcement issues.

For the upcoming year, Neeb announced that the city will have four more topic-driven forums and five ward-specific forums scheduled from 6 to 8 p.m. The Ward 1 public forum is scheduled for March 21 at the RCCC. The next topic-based forum will be about city operations and infrastructure on April 18, also at the RCCC.

“Everything that the city does is health and safety related,” Neeb said. “It doesn’t matter what it is. If it is a park system, it’s for the quality of life and the health of that … And so — everything we do has something to do with the safety of our neighbors and building our home.”

Neeb divided public safety into categories of communication, diversion, enforcement and incarceration; he said the city would prefer to address public safety issues during the communication phase rather than through the law enforcement or incarceration process.

Another part of keeping Roswell safe: Neeb said city councilors are reviewing measures that may assist with public safety. The proposed nuisance property ordinance and property maintenance and rental registration are among the ones that will be discussed at a special Roswell City Council workshop on March 19 from 6 to 8 p.m.

“The way we maintain our city is conducive to how the perception of the city is,” Neeb said of public safety related to street repair, infrastructure, rental, public spaces and parks.

Neeb said the hiring for four more grappler trucks was an effort to change the perception of the city’s alleys. After citizens requested a pick-up schedule, Steve Miko (city director of sanitation, recycling and landfill) said a map with a specific week for grappler collection should be available on the city’s website early next month.

Representing the Roswell Fire Department (RFD), Chief Devin Graham said the RFD is developing a plan to have in-house ambulance service, which has been a goal for a long time and was brought up at a public forum last year. Graham said in his nearly 20 years, the city has had three different contracted private ambulance services, and that this ambulance service and the RFD respond to calls in both the city and the county. He said the project is an “ambitious vision” and “an expensive initiative” that has been discussed with city staff and elected officials.

New technology — such as 11 new cardiac monitors, upgrading monitors that are over 10 years old, and capable of transmitting information on a patient to the hospital before the fire department arrives — will also be added to the fire department’s toolbox. Graham said RFD will be pursuing funding to acquire AutoPulse Resuscitation Systems — automated hands-free CPR devices.

In the last year, Graham said the RFD had 9,244 calls for service and 7,916 of those were for emergency medical services (EMS).

Bill Morris, community development director, said particular issues brought up at past meetings in the code enforcement realm were illegal dumping, abandoned vehicles, dead trees, the Clean and Safe program, and community service workers. Bill Bartlett, director of code enforcement, said his department responded to 7,400 code enforcement-related calls last year.

Police Chief Phil Smith said the Roswell Police Department had 80,000 calls over the last year, for the city’s approximately 50,000 residents. In comparison, Smith said Albuquerque has 450,000 to 470,000 people and their number of calls was 450,000.

Smith said the RPD will be pursuing a national police accreditation called Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc.

During the meeting’s question-and-answer portion, citizens asked about a number of issues, including grappler trucks, junk and trash in yards, trailer parking, future development of Cahoon Park Pool, a recently passed resolution making Chaves County a Second Amendment Sanctuary, and staffing at the cemetery.

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