The city of Roswell plans to sell some property that the federal government gave it years ago, an industrial site on U.S. 380 about four miles east of the city limits.
“It is an interesting story about how the heck did we end up with this?” said Mayor Dennis Kintigh.
The Roswell Test Facility, not far from the Pecos River, with an address of 3801 E. Second St., was once a saline water testing plant run by the Office of Saline Water of the U.S. Department of the Interior.
Now it is leased as a product testing site by an international water heater and boiler manufacturer, which pays $8,699 a year in rent, according to city documents.
Kintigh said he became interested in the history of how the city came to own the large facility after the city considered replacing a water line to the property. He asked the Department of the Interior if it would be interested in assisting in the cost of replacement, and the government entity chose not to join in such a project, he said.
Support Local Journalism
Subscribe to the Roswell Daily Record today.
Support Local Journalism
From his research, he discovered that the Interior Department had built the facility in about 1962 or 1963 and operated it under the Office of Saline Water, established by the federal Saline Water Conversion Act of 1952. That office was involved in finding economical ways to convert saline water into potable water.
In 1972, the federal office asked for the construction of the water line by the city, Kintigh said, but he indicated that no city records exist about who paid for the project.
The Office of Saline Water was disbanded in about 1974, with its staff and operations merged into the Office of Water Resources Research.
Then the federal government closed the test facility in 1984, Kintigh said, and transferred the property to the city.
“There was no payment to the city for it. It was in many ways analogous to what happened with Walker (Air Force Base). It fell into the city’s lap,” Kintigh said, “and it has not been used as a saline water test facility since.”
He said because the city doesn’t have a good rationale for retaining ownership of the property, the decision was made to seek buyers.
Community Development Manager Bill Morris added that the city had two ideas in mind in putting the plant and the 12 acres of land on the market.
“First, there are upcoming maintenance issues that will need to be addressed, some of which are a bit costly, versus the amount of rent generated by the current agreement,” he said. “Second, (there is) a general intent to sell off properties and place them on the tax (rolls) when possible.”
As a government owned property, Chaves County does not currently collect taxes on the property.
The Roswell City Council approved the release of a Request for Proposals to search for bidders during its Oct. 10 meeting.
A July 2019 appraisal of the property placed the market value at $150,000, but noted that only two of the five buildings are being used now, because the other buildings need repairs. The facility also includes some large storage tanks, fencing, sidewalks and parking areas.
The property is now leased by the manufacturer A.O. Smith, which operates internationally and has its headquarters in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Neither Kintigh nor Morris could comment before the receipt of bids on whether the company would be interested in purchasing the property. An online request for comment made to the company was not answered by press time.
Bids are due by Nov. 26. A completed sale is now expected by about March, if a bidder comes forward and city and state officials approve the contract.
Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or at email@example.com.