The city of Roswell and Ergon Asphalt & Emulsions Inc. are still considering a purchase agreement involving about 13 acres of land at the Roswell Air Center.
After a closed session of the Roswell City Council Thursday, city councilors decided to postpone a vote on the land purchase agreement, 6-2. But the group also agreed, 6-2, to move forward with a public hearing about the property sale during a scheduled Oct. 8 council meeting.
City Manager Joe Neeb said that he thinks the land sale terms discussed should be well-received, but that he wants more time for the parties to consider the issues.
“In our discussions, I discovered there may be a couple of additional terms to add to this purchase agreement,” Neeb said. “So rather than bringing this agreement forward at this point in time, I would rather bring it back at the next meeting if we can get to an agreement.”
The details of the deal were discussed in a closed session, rather than a public portion of the meeting. The purchase agreement would be made public before the hearing.
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Drew Brooks, a vice president with Ergon, said he could not comment on the sale agreement itself at this time.
Councilors George Peterson and Juan Oropesa voted against both measures. Councilors Angela Moore and Savino Sanchez were absent.
Ergon Asphalt & Emulsion is a family-owned business based in Mississippi that has more than 60 locations in the United States and Mexico. It is part of a larger global enterprise, Ergon Inc., that operates in seven different market sectors, including construction, petroleum and chemicals.
Ergon Asphalt has owned the road emulsions producer and seller at 45 E. Martin St. since 2016, when it purchased the building and equipment from Western Emulsions. It leases the land at the Air Center now, for about $1,030 a month on a lease that runs until 2028. The company has been talking with city officials about buying the land for about three years, according to Mayor Dennis Kintigh.
Ergon employs about seven people now and could add one or two more workers if its expansion plans proceed. Those include building a $2 million storage tank at the site.
After the land purchase negotiations were first made public in April at a city of Roswell Airport Advisory Council meeting, a member of the group recommended a second appraisal to take into account the value of the rail spur.
Neeb said the city now has two appraisals that are “close but not equal in value.” He added that statute will require written justification to explain additional benefits of a sale if the purchase price is less than the appraised price.
During those earlier meetings, Brooks and another Ergon executive said that they had offered $340,000 for the land and would agree to pay the city for annual upkeep of the rail spur that runs on the property, up to a maximum of $20,000.
The company also wants to close a portion of Railroad Avenue near its site so that it can move and switch cars on the railroad spur without concerns for traffic or pedestrians. But the company has offered to build another road to give people access to Earl Cummings Loop, and it said it would plant trees for aesthetics and to provide a buffer between the site and nearby homes.
Neeb had indicated his support for the deal in previous meetings because it would bring the property back onto tax rolls, and Air Center staff previously said that the Federal Aviation Administration had given tentative approval of the pending agreement.
Even if the city councilors approve the sale, state law also allows people to vote on the sale through a referendum, should some people object.
“If you were to approve this ordinance in the next 30 days, then there will be a 45-day period that the public could refer this to a special election,” Neeb said. “And then, if a petition is filed, it requires a majority of votes cast to approve the sale.”
Peterson was the only councilor to speak about the sale in the public portion of the Thursday meeting. He said he was in favor of replatting some of the parcels in the area, but he expressed several other concerns.
He said the road closure would mean that people living at the Air Center near the Ergon site would lose direct access to Hobson Road. He also thinks that the emulsions operations pollute the air. In addition, he said the city would be taking short-term gain over the long-term potential of the land.
“We will make some money up front, sure, but, in the long run, this property will be gone,” he said. “Selling this property doesn’t make sense. We are trying to hold on to everything at the Air Center.”
Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622- 7710, ext. 351, or at email@example.com.