Measure passes 5-4; Roebuck recuses himself from discussion, vote
A new process for proposing events to be held at Spring River Park & Zoo was barely passed by Roswell City Council.
All 10 councilors were present at Thursday night’s five-hour meeting at the Roswell Convention & Civic Center.
On May 27, the Legal Committee recommended approval of the scope of services for a request for proposals (RFP) process for seasonal events held at the zoo.
City Attorney Aaron Holloman explained a competitive RFP process would allow City Councilor Jacob Roebuck to comply with the Governmental Conduct Act and continue to produce the Roswell Christmas Railway (RCR) — a winter holiday experience involving the train and land near the pond on zoo property — since there is a contractual agreement between the city and Roebuck Entertainment.
Last fall, some councilors deliberated about whether there was a conflict of interest for Roebuck, as both a councilor and event producer, in committees and at full council meetings.
“Like I say, I’m hoping that that kind of structure will provide us the ability to kind of showcase that we do have a space, we do believe that it could be used for additional events and that we hope that this could generate some additional interest in providing services and entertainment to our city,” Holloman said, though initially the RFP process was drafted to allow Roebuck to potentially continue the RCR.
In agreement with Holloman, Councilor Judy Stubbs said the RFP could create new events and opportunities at the zoo, which she called a “fantastic facility.”
Originally, the item was placed on the consent agenda, where council can approve multiple items with one vote. The council approved moving the item back to regular items, for discussion. Stubbs made a motion and Councilor Barry Foster seconded to have the council discuss the item on Thursday night. Roebuck abstained from voting for the change.
In addition, Roebuck recused himself and left the room during the discussion and vote for the RFP.
The final vote was 5 to 4. Councilors Foster, George Peterson, Stubbs, Caleb Grant and Steve Henderson voted in favor, while Angela Moore, Juan Oropesa, Jeanine Corn Best and Savino Sanchez voted against the scope of services for the zoo RFP.
Holloman said each proposal received would be evaluated for the experience the event would provide, concept, marketing and event plan, and cost to the city.
Proposed events would be scored. If an idea received 50 percent of possible points, negotiation with the city manager would be possible, if the council approves. Holloman reminded the council that there would be a flexible calendar to deal with multiple events.
If there is a time conflict, Holloman said the city manager would provide preference to the proposer with the highest number of points.
As a caveat, Holloman said the city maintains that the zoo is the city’s property and city-sponsored events don’t have to go through the RFP process. Neeb said Friends of the Zoo events are viewed as city-sponsored events.
Best compared the zoo to the Roswell Convention & Civic Center, which has a fee schedule and rates for being rented, and said the city would be “scaring off” event organizers from renting zoo property.
“I think we’re going about it wrong as a business — especially for one individual,” Best said. “But I’m sorry, I do have an issue with the whole RFP process for the zoo when it’s a business like the golf course or anything else we own as a city …”
Holloman said a contract for more than $1,000 requires a competitive process and within the city’s current policy, renting the zoo would have exceeded $1,000. Best said she understood a way had to be found, so that Roebuck could continue, but said the city should not “tiptoe around the tulips.”
Oropesa was not in favor either and said the RFP was “addressing the Christmas Railway more than anything else.” In response to a question from Oropesa, Neeb suggested the RFP would be open annually for applications before the new year to plan ahead for events January to December of the upcoming year.
Oropesa asked for the RCR to present a report publicly on the event and for the report to include any damages for city equipment.
“Roebuck Entertainment is working up some great new ideas for the Christmas Railway this year,” Roebuck wrote in an emailed statement. “We will submit a proposal to the city via the competitive RFP process established by the City Council — and if we get selected — we are excited to create our best attraction yet.
“Ultimately, whether or not we can use the zoo and train facility will be decided by the Roswell City Council, who has to approve contracts awarded by the RFP process. In my role as city councilor, I have not been involved with creating the RFP, and I plan on recusing myself from any discussion or vote related to the RFP we plan on submitting for.”
City/RISD reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.