Home News COVID-19 Situation Councilor suggests city close some quality of life venues

Councilor suggests city close some quality of life venues

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Roswell City Councilor Jeanine Best suggested at Thursday night’s City Council meeting the city might have to make some hard decisions in an economy hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, including temporarily closing quality of life venues and charging fees for others.

Best read from a prepared statement following City Manager Joe Neeb’s report on the city’s COVID-19 response. In his report, he said the city is facing a 25% cut to its 2021 budget — almost $33 million — and has begun offering employees financial packages for early retirement and voluntary severance.

“I think we need to go in this direction to reorganize everything,” Best said before reading her statement in which she said the city is at a critical point.

“It’s going to take years of rebuilding,” she said of the economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.

“Our services are going to look very different. The parks may not be as manicured as we are used to seeing. The city can no longer fully support our quality of life venues like it has in the past,” Best said.

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She gave as examples the Roswell Museum and Art Center, Spring River Zoo, Roswell Public Library and Nancy Lopez Golf Course at Spring River.

The museum and art center, she said, operates at a $1.1 million loss for its programs, not including the building and repairs.

The zoo, which receives nearly 1,900 visitors a month, operates at a $600,000 to $800,000 loss for a fiscal year, Best said.

The library’s programs cost the city $1 million a year, she said.

Best said the golf course is “hemorrhaging” money at close to $400,000 per year.

General fund information provided by Neeb from the city’s 2019-20 budget supports Best’s figures.

Best suggested some venues, such as the Roswell Museum and Art Center, be closed and re-evaluated.

“For a town of 48,000 population, there is only 416 active, current members” of the Museum and Art Center, she said.

“My suggestion for this critical time is to close the doors to stop the hemorrhaging and re-evaluate the situation,” she said.

The zoo — which is currently closed due to the pandemic — should begin charging an entry fee and also charge a fee for fishing in the pond, she said. The pond is undergoing cleaning and has been drained, but is planned to reopen later in the year.

“There is no fee to enter the library, there aren’t fees to check out books, there are library cards that are handed out free,” Best said. “I would suggest there should be a membership fee once a year for holding a card and a fee for actives.”

Roswell Public Library Director Enid Costley declined to comment on Best’s suggestion, but did say many of the library’s programs are paid through donations and the library’s foundation.

For the Nancy Lopez Golf Course, Best suggested canceling the contract the city has with the pro shop.

Carlton Blewett, manager of the golf course, had no comment when reached Friday afternoon.

Best also put responsibility on the public to keep those venues operating.

“The citizens of Roswell, if they want these venues and they want that quality of life, they’ve gotta help us. They just have to help us,” she said.

City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or reporter04@rdrnews.com.

To keep up with local coverage of the coronavirus, go to rdrnews.com/category/news/covid-19-situation/.