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City seeks more bidding for former federal site

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The city wants to try a second time to find bidders for this industrial property on East Second Street that once belonged to the federal government. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

A federal facility given to the city of Roswell decades ago didn’t find a buyer when the city first sought bidders in the fall, so city employees are asking for authorization to make a second effort.

The Roswell Test Facility about 4 miles east of the city at 3801 E. Second St. used to be a saline water treatment plant operated by the Office of Saline Water, a division of the U.S. Department of Interior, and includes a little more than 12 acres of land and several buildings.

The Office of Saline Water disbanded in 1974 and merged with the Office of Water Resources Research. In 1984, the federal government closed the facility, transferring ownership to the city.

As Mayor Dennis Kintigh has said, it “fell into the city’s lap.” He compares it some ways to the Walker Air Base property, which was transferred to the city but came with no federal funding for maintenance or redevelopment.

The city first received authorization from the City Council on Oct. 10 to issue a Request for Proposals for the facility. But the city did not receive what it considered to be a viable offer, so it wants the City Council to approve a second RFP during its Feb. 13 meeting. If a successful bidder is found and the city and state approve the sale, the property would be transferred in the summer.

City staff told a City Council committee recently that they are taking comments from the first RFP process to make some changes to the new RFP. 

The facility has been appraised at $150,000, but the appraiser noted that only two of its five buildings are used because the others need repairs. It is currently leased as a product testing site by the international water heater manufacturer A.O. Smith. The current lease would be voided upon a sale, according to city documents.

Community Development Manager Bill Morris said in October that a successful sale also would generate more taxes for Chaves County. The city doesn’t pay property taxes.

“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,” Morris said. “Second, (there is) a general intent to sell off properties and place them on the tax (rolls) when possible.”

The matter isn’t expected to get a lot of debate, as it has been placed on the consent agenda. That means that if the City Council votes to accept the agenda as it is now, the Roswell Test Facility RFP and the 12 other consent agenda items would pass as well.

Other items on the consent agenda include a request by the Roswell Public Library to spend $80,000 to $85,000 of general obligation bond funding already received to pay for a van and equipment to establish a mobile library and a request by Pecos Trails Transit to buy two buses. The bus company would pay 20% of the cost, which would be about $245,050, while the New Mexico Department of Transportation would pay the rest.  

Items that are scheduled to be considered individually Thursday include two matters that are the subject of public hearings, one about a proposed beer and wine license for Eli’s Bistro & Bakery at 3109 N. Main St. and the other to decide whether to increase the municipal court judge salary by $10,000 annually to $70,000 a year for 2020 to 2024.

There is also a new business item to consider approving a bike rental program that the Recreation Department would operate at Cielo Grande Recreation Area using youth and adult bikes and equipment donated by the Spring River Corridor Foundation. The program would run on a trial basis for six months from May until October.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.