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Sale of Air Center property to be considered again

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Part of the Ergon Asphalt sales deal would entail closing this portion of Airport Avenue that crosses the rail spur, with Ergon paying for a new road to connect residents and others to Earl Cummings Loop. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

The pending terms for a sale of property at the Roswell Air Center have been released publicly and are due to be considered by elected officials during a Thursday meeting.

City documents submitted to the Roswell City Council Legal Committee show that Ergon Asphalt and Emulsions Inc. has offered to pay $340,000 for about 13.4 acres at 49 E. Martin St.

That’s $90,000 less than the value of the property, according to a second appraisal of the three lots, which took into account the value of the rail spurs that run through the Ergon site.

Ergon Vice President Drew Brooks has stated in a Sept. 9 letter to the city that the company considers the first appraisal of $340,000 to be more accurate. He added that the company has agreed to spend about $210,000 more than the purchase price for a new road and other improvements to the site. Ergon also is offering to boost the amount it will reimburse the city for the maintenance of the rail spurs from $5,000 a year to $20,000 a year.

Brooks wrote that owning the land is necessary to the company’s plan to add a large storage tank and related improvements to the property, which will cost another $2.5 million. Brooks indicated that the storage tank would allow the company to expand its business and perhaps add a couple of more employees to its current local workforce of six.

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Based in Mississippi and operating 60 locations in the United States and Mexico, Ergon Asphalt has been negotiating for about three years to purchase the land. It has leased the property for $1,030 a month from the city since 2016, when it bought the assets and equipment of Western Emulsions Inc., which built the site in 2008 or 2009. Ergon’s lease is due to expire in 2028.

Corporate executives first announced their offer publicly during April city meetings. The negotiations were postponed to allow for a second appraisal after questions were raised by members of the city of Roswell Airport Advisory Commission and the Roswell City Council Legal Committee.

Bud Kunkel, a retired professional appraiser and a member of the Airport Advisory Commission, said that the first appraisal of $340,000 was questionable because it did not include an assessment of the rail spurs’ value to the property. He and others also raised questions about the effect of plans on neighbors and the loss of city control of the property.

“I don’t think that this is good for the taxpayers to lose control of this property and give up a future income stream,” Kunkel said.

He said the appraisals show that the current lease payments for the site are below the worth of the property, and he said a sale could mean that the city would be hampered in any future efforts to develop Air Center property and use the rail spurs. He also said that taxpayers should know before a City Council vote how the city intends to use the $340,000 purchase money.

After the second appraisal was completed, the Roswell City Council discussed the purchase agreement in a closed session during its Sept. 10 meeting. While councilors did not vote on the sale to give City Manager Joe Neeb and Ergon officials the opportunity for further discussions, it did approve holding a public hearing on the matter at the scheduled Oct. 8 City Council meeting.

Any sale would take at least 75 days to become final. Ergon would be allowed time to complete due diligence, and Roswell residents would be allowed by state statute the right, if certain conditions are met, to call a referendum if they disagreed with the city council’s decision.

The Legal Committee is scheduled to meet at 4 p.m. While some city councilors and staff will meet at the Roswell Convention and Civic Center, the public is encouraged to participate by phone or online.

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