Home News COVID-19 Situation Museum, zoo topics of interest at forum

Museum, zoo topics of interest at forum

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Roswell City Manager Joe Neeb, seen here during a meeting last year of the Roswell City Council, on Thursday fielded questions from residents during a virtual public forum conducted online. (Daily Record File Photo)

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

The city’s enrichment services and their proposed goals for cost return was a topic with much interest during the city’s first virtual forum Thursday evening.

Conducted through online meeting software GoToMeeting, the forums replace the monthly in-person presentations and question-and-answer sessions the city has conducted the last two years.

The virtual attendance varied throughout the more than an hour-long meeting but ranged from 27 people up to 31.

City Manager Joe Neeb led the meeting with a slide presentation on Thursday’s topic “All Civic: How it all works together.”

Future topics and dates are Citizen Advisory Boards, Commissions and Committees on July 16, an open forum for Wards 3, 4 and 5 on Aug. 20, the Air Center and economic development on Sept. 17 and an open forum for Wards 1 and 2 on Oct. 15. Start time for each is 5:30 p.m.

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Neeb based his presentation on the top questions submitted by residents prior to the webcast.

A link to view a recording of the forum will be available on the city manager’s page of the city of Roswell website.

Questions included the topics of city employee furloughs, cuts to police and fire department budgets, water line replacement, roads, code enforcement, litter and recycling.

Several questions in both the presentation and a question-and-answer period afterward concerned the city’s enrichment services — particularly the Roswell Museum and Art Center and the Spring River Zoo — and the proposal for them to generate 70% of their own revenue included in the draft of the fiscal year 2021 city budget.

Submitted questions asked if the city will be selling the zoo or golf course and what is the city’s contingency plan if those services cannot reach the 70% goal.

Neeb said he believes the services will succeed.

“I’m not looking for a participation ribbon for any of our services,” Neeb said. “I want to set that goal high enough that we work very hard, because it is not as much as reaching the goal as the journey to take the goal.

“I’m more inclined to stay the course until it can be proven that cost recovery is not achievable, because there is a strong belief that it can be achieved,” he said.

Setting the cost recovery goal too low would also be detrimental to those services’ capital needs, Neeb said.

“Keep in mind our cost recovery conversations have been only on the operational side of the budget. There is also the capital improvement side for each of our services,” he said.

Seven of the city’s services — the museum, zoo, golf course, library, recreation department, transit and cemetery — have a total of $139 million in building, maintenance and improvement needs, Neeb said.

“When you look at each one of these services for their annual operations, they almost need to double what they’re spending on the capital side,” he said.

“While we’re debating and discussing what the cost recovery for operations are, we have a bigger picture on the backside and a bigger need for each one of these services to bring them about where we need to get them,” he said.

The city will not let those services fail, however, Neeb said.

“I’m going to tell you right now the projected outcome is succeed and it will never be fail,” Neeb said in answer to one question.

The public also has a role in that success, though, he said.

“The city will do what it can to help each one of these services. But what’s going to save these services is the community that utilizes and believes in that service,” he said.

Neeb said he will be joining his wife as a member of the Museum and Art Center and he urged others to do the same.

“A lot of the people who believe the museum should operate a certain way aren’t even members either. A lot of the city councilors are not members of that service. If you believe in that service, you should be members,” he said.

Neeb provided answers to other questions submitted to the forum:

• Regarding why the city is furloughing essential workers, Neeb said the city chose that over involuntary layoffs. The city proposed a furlough of one pay period for every city employee, with the 10 days spread out over the next year. However, due to the response of voluntary early retirement and severance packages offered by the city, the city has been able to eliminate the July furlough day, Neeb said.

• On city infrastructure including aging water lines and poor roads in the city’s south side, Neeb said the city’s 2021 budget proposes $12 million for water line improvements and $7 million for streets. The street improvement budget is far from the $16 million a study last year suggested is needed to bring streets up to standard, however. “The intent is to do better with the money we have rather than request a lot more money,” Neeb said.

• On a question of trash pickup returning to normal hours, Neeb said city trash trucks had at one time started routes at 4 a.m. However, the city received complaints about the bright lights and backup alarms from the trucks. The lower visibility in the dark also contributed to accidents, for which the city was paying $500,000 for insurance. City trucks now start routes at 6 a.m., he said.

• The city is changing its recycling program to offer franchise agreements for curbside pickup, similar to what it offers for commercial trash pickup. Neeb said the city is working with J&A Recycling, 2215 S. Union Ave., and is open to offering franchise agreements to other companies. To give time for other companies to come forward while still allowing residents to recycle, the city has postponed removing the large green roll-off bins until the end of July, Neeb 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 reporter04@rdrnews.com.

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