Three city departments had initial budget discussions regarding revenue projections and operating costs with the city of Roswell’s Finance Committee.
Finance Committee members Caleb Grant, Jacob Roebuck, Judy Stubbs and Steve Henderson were present for the meeting on Wednesday. The committee also recommended acceptance of the city’s financial audit statement from fiscal year 2018 and approval of a housekeeping resolution for adding a new fund for donations. Both items are on the agenda for the full City Council meeting on April 11.
No formal action was taken on the discussions of departments’ revenues and operational costs.
After presentations by Parks and Recreation, Public Affairs and the Spring River Park & Zoo, City Manager Joe Neeb suggested the Sanitation Department and Fleet Maintenance make their presentations at another meeting since Wednesday morning’s meeting had been ongoing for about two and half hours.
Chairman Grant suggested another special meeting be held, and that other departments could present there. Neeb suggested April 17 for a special finance meeting.
For Parks and Recreation, Grant and Roebuck voiced concerns about the presentation since information was missing on the under-construction Roswell Recreation and Aquatic Center’s revenue, on the aquatics side.
The opening for the facility is tentatively set for July. As listed in the report published with the meeting’s agenda, pool revenue was listed as $40,000 for programs, TBD (to be determined) for sports, $160,858 for admissions, TBD for memberships and $40,000 for private rentals.
“I’ve expressed concerns with the recreation department, the customer service side and then this side, and I thought we knew what we were doing on opening it up,” Grant said. “But what are we doing revenue-wise? Are we saying this is the number? Because no one is piping up and saying this is what we are doing.”
In regard to the TBD items, Jim Burress, Parks and Recreation director, said his department does have “a good idea” of what the pool revenue will be, but it will require more examination. Burgess explained fees for the rec center side are set and were approved by the council.
Neeb requested that he and the recreation department review their numbers and present again with more information.
Laurie Dudek, recreation superintendent, explained the number of memberships were unknown, which is why certain items were left as TBD on the report. Dudek said the pool fees were estimations based on numbers from Counsilman-Hunsaker, an aquatics management company. Grant said to not “talk about revenue anymore,” and Neeb urged the recreation staff to present only operational costs.
Dudek said the department will be hiring more staff “to meet demands of the new facility” and these positions include a new recreation manager and front desk coordinator, while transitioning a recreation leader, recreation aides and an office assistant from part-time to full-time.
Burress said recreation employees will be cross-trained to work at the Roswell Adult Center at 807 N. Missouri Ave. and the Roswell Recreation and Aquatics Center on West College Boulevard near Cielo Grande Recreation Area.
Rita Kane-Doerhoefer, the sole public participant at the meeting, asked if the rec center will have access to public restrooms, regardless of membership. Neeb said there is no requirement to provide a public restroom and Grant said there are port-a-potties nearby.
Kenny Valenzuela, manager of the Roswell Convention and Civic Center (RCCC), said fiscal year 2020 is “looking very bright” for events and bookings with about 175-200 days of use planned. Roebuck said the remaining 150 days will be utilized, that he appreciated the detail in the monthly reports and the center is “successful going forward.”
Juanita Jennings, public affairs director, said the city is getting a “higher level of service” and increased revenue to offset the convention center’s operating costs. Jennings listed remodeling a kitchen, which she said hasn’t been replaced or maintained since 1997, and some additional updates such as lighting in the existing exhibit hall and other improvements in the office space and hallway.
“Our goal is to close the gap of the expense on the facility,” Jennings said. “You bring in more revenue so that revenue can then be used for other tourist-related attractions or facilities that are to come in the future. That’s my goal. I think Joe (Neeb) is aware of what I would like to do going forward, but we need to close the gap on how much it’s costing us to operate that facility …”
According to the agenda for the full City Council’s meeting on April 11, Valenzuela and Jennings are scheduled to give a presentation on the “myths and mysteries” of the RCCC.
Jennings presented her four-member department’s projected revenue and operational costs. Jennings also shared a list of public affairs-related capital improvement requests including the following: an expansion and entrance improvements to the Visitors Center, a decorative UFO crashing into the Visitors Center, a virtual reality alien pod, a tourism trolley or bus, an interactive lighted water feature in Pioneer Plaza (on Main Street between West Fourth and Fifth streets) and lastly, a community branding effort working for cohesive signage on buildings.
Allison Gray, tourism and events manager, said the Visitors Center at 426 N. Main St. saw a 15% increase in visitors this month compared to last year and this past February, the increase was 35%.
Roebuck shared support for increasing the number of public affairs staff and investing in the department.
Zoo Superintendent Marge Woods said the zoo has “big plans” and just needs time to implement them. Woods said the zoo is also looking into grants, fundraising and charging for some services that are currently free.
The committee also discussed an upcoming fundraiser called Brew at the Zoo, which is a collaboration between the zoo, Friends of the Zoo and the city. Burress and Woods said if the April 27 event sells out, $17,000 is estimated to be raised.
Roebuck inquired about the zoo attendance numbers and encouraged separating the park from the zoo when Woods mentioned it, along with her proposal for charging admission. Grant wanted to know what the true cost would be to fence off the zoo.
Roebuck also said the zoo should be called the “Roswell Zoo” for branding reasons and to follow a naming standard used by other larger zoos. With the separation of the park and zoo, Neeb explained the name changes being considered would be “Spring River Zoo” or “Roswell Zoo” with new graphic design considerations.
City/RISD reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.