Roswell residents resoundingly defeated a bond issue for up to $35 million for a new public safety complex, voting more than 4 to 1 against it in the 2020 municipal election that concluded Tuesday.
According to unofficial results from the City Clerk’s Office, 4,455 people voted against the bond measure and 1,080 voted for it. That was an 80.5% to 19.5% margin.
Tuesday’s results include absentee ballots, early voting and returns from all six voting locations open on election day. But the counts will not be official until canvassing, which is due to occur on March 10 at 2 p.m. by the Chaves County Board of Commissioners.
“Obviously I am disappointed, but the voters have spoken,” said Mayor Dennis Kintigh, who had been one of the more vocal proponents for the bond. “It is loud and clear, so I look forward to hearing from those who were opposed to this project what the solution is to dealing with our public safety infrastructure needs.”
The general obligation bonds would have been repaid over about 18 years by increased property taxes of about $118 a year for property with a full value of $100,000. The money borrowed would have been used to purchase land for and build and equip a new facility in east Roswell to house the police station, a fire station, fire administration, dispatch, an emergency operations center, the municipal court and possibly other public safety functions.
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Those who favored the bond, which included four current city councilors as well as the Roswell police chief and Roswell fire chief, said that the new facility was needed to create a safe working environment for first responders, to provide needed upgrades for technology and equipment, to replace aging and ill-suited facilities, to improve functions among various units by consolidating staff into one building, and to locate a fire station east of the railroad tracks to ensure timely responses to fires and emergencies.
The reasons people opposed the bond varied. Some people said that they did not think the city should take on that much more debt. Others said that they did not want to approve a bond without knowing the definite location for the site and before the city had secured the land or developed designs for the new complex. Others said that the true cost to the city would be even more than $35 million because the buildings vacated for the new facility would still need repairs, either to sell the properties or use them for other purposes.
Robert Corn, a Chaves County commissioner who lives in the city limits and spoke against the bond at a Feb. 25 Leadership Roswell forum, primarily for financial reasons, said that he was surprised by the large margin of the “no” vote.
“The voters, all they need is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth and then they make the right decision,” he said. “I am glad that the voters heard the message and made up their mind about what they needed to do.”
City Councilor Jeanine Corn Best, one of the members of the “Friends of First Responders” group that campaigned in favor of the bond, said Tuesday night before the election day results were in that she believed voters would reject the bond based on comments she had heard and received via social media. She said she thought it might be possible that the city could try another bond issue within a couple of years.
But Kintigh doesn’t agree with that. “I don’t see that anytime soon,” he said.
He said he thought that the bond issue failed because voters did not understand why the complex was needed.
“I think we failed to explain properly the need, and that is unfortunate,” Kintigh said.
He added that the City Council will need to decide next steps regarding public safety building needs.
“It is the council’s responsibility to address the infrastructure needs of the city, so we will be doing committee assignments after everyone is sworn in,” he said. “So I would be looking toward the Infrastructure Committee to identify a path to dealing with these very serious needs for our public safety facilities.”
To keep up with coverage of this and other 2020 elections of local and regional interest, go to rdrnews.com/category/news/elections/.
Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or email@example.com.