The Roswell City Council will conduct a special meeting Thursday to consider declaring a state of emergency, which will allow the city to apply for state and federal funds covering expenses related to COVID-19.
The meeting will be at 5:30 p.m. Thursday in Meeting Room A of the Roswell Convention & Civic Center, 912 N. Main St. The meeting will be open to the public and will also be live-streamed on the city’s website, roswell-nm.gov.
In a closed session, the council and other city officials will also discuss related personnel matters, but Mayor Dennis Kintigh said the city’s goal is to avoid layoffs.
The council will consider approving Resolution 20-18 declaring Roswell to be an emergency area “for requesting aid, assistance, relief programs and funding that may be available from the state of New Mexico or any other available funding resources.”
Kintigh told the Roswell Daily Record on Monday morning the city is already tracking expenses related to COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus.
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“It’s a little bit up in the air right now. I’ve been in some conference calls where we got, how do I say, different messages,” Kintigh said of the types of expenses the city might be able to receive funds for.
For example, he said, city street crews set up cones and traffic signs for the New Mexico Department of Health’s drive-through COVID-19 testing at the Wool Bowl on Thursday.
“That manpower and that expenditure of resources would be a qualifying expense, we believe. We’re pretty sure that’s the case,” he said.
The resolution also “allows for the purpose of exercising necessary emergency powers.” Kintigh said the city has already exercised some of those powers in closing city parks and limiting public access to city facilities, but he does not anticipate extreme measures such as ordering businesses to close completely.
“I’m not a huge fan of additional powers for government. I think we need to make people aware, and if people behave appropriately, then we’re good,” he said.
“We’d have to have some really major breakdowns. Right now we’re being very deliberate. We’re being very careful in what we’re doing,” he said.
While the city has closed or limited public access to some facilities to the public, city officials and employees are available by appointment or to conduct service over the phone when possible.
Kintigh said the council and City Manager Joe Neeb will discuss related personnel issues in the closed session. That will likely include reassigning some workers where offices have been closed to the public to different areas.
Karen Sanders, Roswell/Chaves County emergency manager, is one official who might benefit from those moves, Kintigh said.
“We’re working her to death. She needs some help. So that’s going to be one of the things the city manager is looking at,” he said.
Employees’ skill sets and background will be evaluated to determine who would be moved to that office temporarily, as well as where other employees could be relocated, such as if the emergency operations center needed to be occupied 24 hours a day, he said.
“We’re looking at how do we keep our people gainfully employed, and by that, I mean productively employed, they’re helping the community at this time, and that’s going to be part of our discussions,” Kintigh said.
To keep up with local coverage of the coronavirus, go to rdrnews.com/category/news/covid-19-situation/.
City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or firstname.lastname@example.org.