Home News Local News Concerns over rules slow down City Council meeting

Concerns over rules slow down City Council meeting

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In a six-hour meeting, the Roswell City Council discussed and passed 14 items, many of them unanimously, including almost $2 million in spending, a new ambulance provider and, with a tie-breaking vote from the mayor, an amended lease with the New Mexico Department of Health.

The meeting got off to a contentious start as councilors and the mayor discussed for 45 minutes approving the agenda with items removed from the consent agenda, an amendment to place half of the items back on the consent agenda and the rules of order to do so.

The consent agenda is used to approve in one action those items that are thought of as routine or non-controversial. Thursday’s consent agenda contained 12 items that had previously been before the various standing committees and the minutes from meetings in November and December.

In her motion to approve the agenda, Councilor Judy Stubbs included removing 10 of the items from the consent agenda and placing them on the regular agenda for discussion and vote. The motion was seconded by Councilor George Peterson.

However, several councilors said they would vote against the agenda as presented, saying that while they believed some of the items should have further discussion, they objected to a “blanket” removal of the items.

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After about 15 minutes of discussion, Councilor Jason Perry offered what he called a compromise, making an amendment to place half of the items back on the consent agenda. The amendment, after much discussion, failed to pass.

The council then approved 6-4 the agenda as originally presented by Stubbs with the 10 consent agenda items placed on the regular agenda.

Voting in favor were Peterson, Stubbs, Angela Moore, Juan Oropesa, Savino Sanchez and Jacob Roebuck. Voting against the agenda were Jeanine Best, Margaret Kennard, Barry Foster and Perry.

During the discussions, councilors noted Oropesa has in recent months expressed concerns with the council’s committee system and the consent agenda.

“The benefit of pulling items off the consent agenda is not for my benefit. The benefit is for the community. I believe if we’re going to be transparent, they should be able to hear the discussion on every single item,” Oropesa said.

“I’m not sure what is it this council is hiding,” he said.

Roebuck, Moore and Foster said they agreed with some of the items being pulled from the consent agenda, but pointed out the committee meetings where all the consent agenda items had been discussed are available to the public to watch any time on YouTube.

Several councilors also questioned why some of the items were originally put on the consent agenda since they dealt with large expenses or issues that would affect many people.

Kennard took responsibility for some of those items, noting she is a freshman councilor. As vice-chair of the Infrastructure Committee, she ran the Jan. 4 meeting in the absence of Chairman Roebuck.

At that meeting, a request for proposal for general construction services, a contract for reconstructing the bridge at South Lea Avenue and West Deming Street, and a contract for the master plan for Cielo Grande Recreation Area were all approved for the consent agenda.

Kennard expressed frustration at the idea the council was trying to hide anything, however.

“I feel it’s pretty slanderous to say that councilors have something to hide. Everything that we do is transparent,” she said.

“This is really frustrating for me because I feel like we spent a whole Saturday here trying to address these issues and obviously nothing came of that,” she said of a December City Council workshop on the rules of order.

“I’m just trying to go with the flow the best that I can and do what I can and do the job and I feel like we are still stuck,” she said.

Several councilors also noted Oropesa has followed through on a vow at the November meeting not to attend committee meetings. Kennard, noting the council reached the first new business item at 8:43 p.m., suggested the council consider penalties to members who do not participate in committee meetings.

“There are those of us who attend committee meetings to ask and learn and hash things out in order to present the best product to the council in public,” she said.

The council approved several of Thursday’s agenda items by unanimous votes. Those included:

• Ordinance 20-16 requesting a lower interest rate on a $5.5 million loan from the New Mexico Environment Department Clean Water Revolving Loan Fun for the design and construction of a dewatering facility at the Waste Water Treatment Plant. The ordinance was originally on the regular agenda as part of a scheduled public hearing.

• An intergovernmental agreement with National Purchasing Partners. It was originally on the consent agenda.

• A request for proposals for general construction contractors for various citywide projects. It was originally on the consent agenda.

• Awarding a contract for the Lea-Deming bridge to Abraham’s Construction of Albuquerque for $1.1 million. It was originally on the consent agenda.

• A contract for two new 10-passenger buses for the Transit Department for $221,459. The state will reimburse the city 80% and has offered to also reimburse an additional $38,500 from extra funds. It was originally on the consent agenda. The vote was 9-0, as Sanchez had stepped out of the room for a few minutes.

• A contract for a new backhoe for the cemetery from Wagner Caterpillar, Albuquerque, for $121,841. It was originally on the consent agenda.

• Dissolving the six remaining furlough days for city employees. It was originally on the consent agenda.

• Waiving November and December storage fees for airplanes stored by American Airlines at the Roswell Air Center. It was originally on the consent agenda.

• Approval of Rich Olson, Scott Douglass and Pauline Ponce to the city’s Labor Management Relations Board.

Several items were passed with a split vote:

• Awarding a professional services agreement to Bohannon Huston Inc., Albuquerque, for a survey and master plan of Cielo Grande Recreation Complex for $526,795 by a 7-3 vote. It was originally on the consent agenda. Voting in favor were Roebuck, Kennard, Perry, Stubbs, Best, Sanchez and Foster. Peterson, Oropesa and Moore voted against.

• Awarding a proposal for emergency ambulance service to American Medical Response Ambulance Service, Las Cruces, by a vote of 8-2. Voting in favor were Roebuck, Kennard, Perry, Stubbs, Best, Sanchez, Moore and Foster. Voting against were Oropesa and Peterson. The service is funded from the Fire Department budget. A company representative said the company plans to hire employees from the current provider, Superior Ambulance Service. It was originally on the consent agenda.

• Approved a $1.2 million loan through the New Mexico Finance Authority to cover the cost of a new compactor for the landfill by a vote of 9-1, with Oropesa the no vote. The purchase was approved by the council in December from available cash funds from the Solid Waste Department for the landfill enterprise fund. The loan will reimburse the solid waste enterprise fund. The 10-year loan will have an interest rate of 1.065% with an annual debt service of $185,000 and total interest of $76,247.

• A lease for a building at the Roswell Air Center for the New Mexico Department of Health. The terms of the lease presented to the council were five years with three five-year options to renew and $225,408 for the first year’s rent. Foster made an amendment to change the terms to two years with three one-year options to renew, saying the city has subsidized the health department with low rent for the 20 years it has been in the building and the space would be better used by a business related to the aeronautical industry. A vote on the amendment was tied, with Kintigh voting in favor. The vote for the amended lease was also tied, with Kintigh again voting in favor. Both times the votes were split with Best, Kennard, Foster, Sanchez and Roebuck voting yes, Peterson, Stubbs, Moore, Oropesa and Perry voting no.

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