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City officials consider sale of some Air Center land

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Lisa Dunlap Photo The company that owns this local asphalt and emulsions maker has offered to pay the city of Roswell $340,000 for the land it now leases.

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

A Mississippi-based company with an operation at the Roswell Air Center has made an offer to purchase the land it now leases as part of its plan to grow the local business.

The offer raised some questions by a few members of a city advisory commission and a Roswell City Council committee, but it has the support of City Manager Joe Neeb who said he would like to have the property back on the tax rolls.

Ergon Asphalt and Emulsions Inc., part of the family-owned, multinational Ergon Co., has offered to pay the city $340,000 for a 13.39-acre tract it now leases at the Roswell Air Center.

Because the company has an existing lease with the city that runs until 2028 for about $1,030 a month, the sale would give the city $225,000 more than it otherwise would have received, said Ergon Asphalt Senior Vice Presidents Larry Erickson and Drew Brooks at two city meetings Thursday.

Ergon Asphalt also is agreeing to reimburse the city for maintenance costs each year for the rail spur that runs through the property, up to a maximum of $20,000.

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The deal would have to be approved by the Roswell City Council and the Federal Aviation Administration. The offer has been disclosed previously to council members during closed sessions and, according to city staff, the FAA has indicated its preliminary approval of the sale.

Mark Bleth, deputy director of the Air Center, said that city staff have been working with Ergon for about six months.

“We believe that it is a fair deal for all parties involved, for the community, for the Air Center, as well as for Ergon,” Bleth said.

Erickson said the company purchased the plant and buildings at 45 E. Martin St. from Western Emulsions in 2016 and now employs about seven people. Western Emulsions built the site in 2008 and 2009.

Ergon Asphalt makes road emulsions that are used for pavement maintenance and road surface treatments, such as chip seals, slurry seals and microsurfacing, as well as coats for new pavements.

Roswell is one of about 60 Ergon Asphalt terminals in the United States and Mexico, with the company recently acquiring another company that will give it six more locations in Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon.

Erickson said that part of the growth plan is to demolish a portion of Railroad Avenue near its operations so that it can switch and move railroad cars without concerns about traffic or pedestrians. Right now, the city has been using barricades to close that portion of Railroad Avenue on a temporary basis.

With a portion of Railroad Avenue closed, Ergon Asphalt plans to pay to build a new road that will allow other companies in the area to have ingress and egress access to Earl Cummings Loop.

Ergon Asphalt also plans to add a $2 million storage tank on the property so that the operations can grow, with maybe the addition of one to two new jobs. Erickson also said the company has agreed to plant about 125 trees on the north and west sides of the property to provide a buffer between the industrial property and nearby homes.

Erickson said the company intends to use Roswell-area contractors for the road construction and the landscaping projects.

The company is paying the appraised amount determined by West Texas Appraisal of Abilene, Texas, Bleth said. Professional appraiser Bud Kunkel, a member of the city of Roswell Airport Advisory Commission, questioned exactly how the property was valued, including how the rail spur is valued.

He said that elected officials need to see the complete appraisal to evaluate the purchase offer properly.

“They need to access that as well so they can determine both land value and rail spur value,” he said.

Commission member Riley Armstrong also expressed some concerns about whether the city might “lose control” of the area if it were sold to a private company.

City Councilor George Peterson, a member of the Legal Committee, said he opposed the sale of city property and also expressed concern about allowing Ergon to demolish the railroad crossing because of its impacts on nearby residents.

City Councilor Jason Perry asked several questions, including what the property tax impact would be. Bleth said the county probably would receive about $3,400 a year in additional property taxes if a private company owned the land, with property values and property taxes slated to increase if improvements are made.

Neither the Airport Advisory Commission or the Legal Committee took any action during their meetings. The Legal Committee expects to consider an ordinance about the sale during a future meeting.

If the ordinance advances to the City Council and that group approves the sale, the deal would not be final until after Ergon Asphalt has completed its 30-day due diligence review and after a state-required 45-day public comment period.

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