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Mayor addresses air service, rocket slide

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Roswell Mayor Dennis Kintigh (Daily Record File Photo)

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

RDR editor John Dilmore and City/RISD reporter Alison Penn asked Kintigh questions provided by RDR staff and the public.

The interview is being published in multiple parts due to the number of subjects covered. Part one of the interview was published in the May 12 edition.

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

Editor’s note: Denver International Airport and the Roswell International Air Center recently signed a memorandum of understanding to become sister airports. RIAC Manager/Deputy Director Mark Bleth said at the time of the announcement, “This strategic relationship will bring benefit to the citizens of Roswell through added tourism and potential new air service to Denver.”

RDR: There’s been consideration of Denver being added as a new destination from here. Has there been a study that indicates that’s what people want?

Kintigh: Yeah. The public affairs department has done some survey work, and that seems to be the obvious next destination. However, what has to happen is — like the service to Phoenix, we went out with a request for proposal … for an air service consultant. …

The idea is we pick one, bring that person on board, and that starts the real effort because then you’ve got to do the analysis. There’s an amazing amount of data that’s available out there for air travel …

One of the challenges, though, is … how many people with … 88201, 202, 203 area codes fly from Albuquerque to Denver? Because the perception, on my part, is that people going to Denver will either drive to Albuquerque and fly to Denver, or drive the eight hours (to Denver). You know, it’s which do you do?

So, I don’t see a Denver service being in competition with Dallas or Phoenix (flights from RIAC) because I don’t anticipate many people fly Roswell to Dallas, Dallas to Denver — or Roswell to Phoenix, Phoenix to Denver. There may be some, but I don’t think there’s a lot, so I don’t think a Denver service would adversely impact either.

We do have some business ties, and this is going to be one of the other key things. You know, we all talk about tourist travel or leisure travel. We helped to market that and encourage that, but what pays the real bill is business travel.

Leprino corporate headquarters is in Denver, Colorado.

RDR: Interesting.

Kintigh: My understanding is that Intrepid Potash in Carlsbad, their corporate headquarters is in Denver, and my experience is that there are many oil and gas entities that have operations both in southeast New Mexico and Colorado/Wyoming. So, I think the question that needs to be found … is there enough interconnection business-wise for these two entities to justify service?

We will not get to make the final decision. It’s going to be an air carrier. They’re going to decide yes, we will come — or no, we won’t, but we will come under these conditions. We’ll see. Anything that improves options for us, to me, is a step forward. It’s economic development.

One of our challenges is … we are in an oasis. I used to say we were an island, but now we’re an oasis. We’re a long way from anywhere else, and so how do you overcome that isolation?

You know, air travel is the most effective and I think we can make the case.

RDR: Does the city pitch to carriers that a particular destination has been studied and is a good fit?

Kintigh: Yeah, and that’s what happened with the American Airlines service to Phoenix.

That was actually driven by the merger of US Air and the old American (Airline). If you remember, American Airlines had gone bankrupt. US Air bought them in the bankruptcy and basically assumed the American name because it was better known market-wise than US Air, but it’s really US Air. They changed the branding, if you will, the paint schemes.

By the way, the first one of those was done here in Roswell, at Dean Baldwin (Painting). The story I’ve heard is that they had a prototype idea of what they wanted to have done, and they brought a plane in, they shut down Dean Baldwin, and I heard all kinds of exotic things about guards. I don’t know if that’s true or not. But, they painted up the first one and then the corporate big-wigs came and said yes or no. …

Here’s one of the little realities, though. The actual service here is not provided by American Airlines. It’s actually served by a regional carrier called SkyWest, and they are under contract. They are under contract to American to operate under the American Eagle brand, but the planes and the crews belong to SkyWest.

The good news is, SkyWest also does that out of Denver for United Airlines.

RDR: Are there any other sorts of sister-city agreements or partnerships that have been talked about, which might involve some other sector of the economy and be helpful to Roswell in some way?

Kintigh: I haven’t heard of any. That doesn’t mean it’s not an idea we’d pursue, but I just haven’t come across any.

Editor’s note: New rocket-themed playground equipment was recently installed at Spring River Park and Zoo, replacing an approximately 50-year-old rocket-themed playground structure which had to be closed due to age. There has been consideration of repurposing the old structure, perhaps as a sign.

RDR: Some people are questioning the process of how the Rocket Slide got funded and put out. Would you like to address that?

Kintigh: In Councilor (Jacob) Roebuck, you have a councilor who is assertive. Let me use that that word. He sees a good idea or (what) he believes to be a good idea, and he pushes. Some people are uncomfortable with that. The reality is, this was approved by the governing body. The (city) council voted to do this. Now, other projects were not pushed as hard, so the question is: OK, you pushed hard for something you think is important and you got it done. I didn’t push hard for something — so you shouldn’t be allowed to succeed?

I understand why people were taken aback, but my answer to that is, get in the game. Be advocates. Push hard. I would rather have a council of 10 that are sort of hard-pushing than a council of 10 that are lackadaisical. And I don’t mean to throw rocks. Not everybody has the time, not everybody has a clearly-defined objective, and Roebuck in this situation had a very specific, narrowly-defined objective. The old rocket slide was already closed. It had been closed for safety purposes. This was coming for a long time.

I mean, the previous city manager was telling me in 2015, four years ago, that slide’s going to have to go because it doesn’t meet modern standards.

The new rocket slide? It’s a neat piece of playground equipment, and yeah, it works.

RDR: Do you have a preference for the sign idea, or even auctioning the rocket off to a private party?

Kintigh: I don’t think we do that.

I’m open, on the whole, where we put the old rocket. I don’t have an agenda on this. I think it’s needs to be visible, but where that is and what it looks like I don’t know.

… I can’t get too tied into, in the sense (of) understanding that my role in this is to be facilitator of the discussion, the presiding officer, and I’ve got to be comfortable going wherever the flow goes. There’ll be a few things where I’ll get in the middle of it, but I’ve got to keep those to a minimum and they’ve got to be really significant.

RDR: What did you think about the comments at a recent council meeting about the return on investment the city gets from the chamber of commerce?

Kintigh: Oh, you mean Jeanine (Corn Best)? …

RDR: … How do you measure that return on investment with a group like the chamber of commerce?

Kintigh: That’s the key thing. In fact, that’s been one of the challenges that’s been going on for not just the chamber — the Roswell Chamber, the Hispanic Chamber, Main Street, EDC (Economic Development Corporation), all of these entities that we help to fund. We have contracts with them. You provide us … Well, what service are we getting? What’s the metrics, as the city manager puts it.

Councilor (Judy) Stubbs has worked very diligently — she’s chair of legal — with senior staff and with each of these entities to try and standardize the contracts and to establish, what are the metrics. In other words, what’s the measurable deliveries.

That’s really hard to do. Some of them have been a little bit … raised their eyebrows at some of this, shall we say. It has to be done. We have to know what we’re getting for the taxpayers’ dollars.

It doesn’t mean we have a perfect system right now. Councilor Best has concerns. That’s OK. I like when different councilors decide, “I want to look deeper at X.” I want that.

Now, some people may feel uncomfortable with that, but you’re getting taxpayer money, you have to be able to explain what you’re doing with it.

So, those are the kind of things … you know, I can’t be everywhere all the time. I like it when I know that there’s people taking a hard look at something because I can let them run with it. I like that.

RDR: Do you have any thoughts on the future development of the bike and the pedestrian system?

Kintigh: Yes. We need to work on the surfaces of the existing trails. That asphalt needs to be worked on. In some places, it’s going to have to be replaced. You have to be able to work on that. I would like to see a tie-in between the Spring River Trail and Cielo Grande. We don’t have that interconnection right now. We do have a spur coming off behind the Nazarene church, but it ends at 8th Street. We don’t have a right-of-way. We can get across 8th Street but we run into some private property. That’s been a long-standing issue.

Some private individuals are striving to resolve that. I don’t mean to be coy, but they’re working on it and I’m very appreciative of them, and hopefully at some point we’re going to do some talking. But the idea is, then we can go on up and tie into the whole Cielo Grande.

I have other ideas about areas, but it involves working out with property owners’ access to that property and having trails. Trails, to me, are valuable to a community. Let me explain, and I’m going to seem to be off-track here. Quality of life is critical to attracting young professionals, whether we’re talking engineers at Leprino, physicians at Loveless, a CFO for one of our aviation companies. Agriculture today is high tech. People don’t realize it, but this is no longer the guy behind two mules. Those days are gone. …

Trying to get those professionals here — how do we attract young professionals? It’s a quality of life. What do you want to have? That’s multi-faceted. It has to do with many things, but I think one of the key aspects is a vibrant, healthy community where you can do things like bike and hike and jog. I think it’s good for the community.

The health problems that America faces today are driven to a large extent by sedentary lifestyles. We need to encourage people to get out. Now, not everybody runs marathons. Not everybody does CrossFit. I get that, but you can do a little bit of walking — but you want to do it where it’s safe. That’s key and an enjoyable experience. So, what we could do to do all that … I mean, I’ve got some ideas, but one of the big things is, can we get property owners to buy into it and help us to expand?

I want us to expand.