Home News COVID-19 Situation City gets social with virtual public forums

City gets social with virtual public forums

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Hoping for more engagement with the public, the city of Roswell took a more social approach in launching its 2021 virtual public forums Thursday night.

In past years, the city has conducted its public forums with in-person events at various locations around the city. The pandemic and restrictions on public gatherings caused the city to change its tactics in 2020, rescheduling the forums to an online venue through virtual meeting software GoToMeeting. Questions were submitted prior to the forum through an online survey or through the software’s chat function.

This year, the city is conducting the forums on its social media platforms — Facebook, Instagram and YouTube — on a talk-show type of set. The forum was livestreamed on Facebook and Instagram and is available to watch on the city’s YouTube channel.

In Thursday’s open-topic forum focused on Ward 5, City Manager Joe Neeb acted as host for Ward 5 City Councilors Angela Moore and Barry Foster. Viewers submitted questions through the livestreams and those were shown to the councilors and Neeb via an off-camera monitor.

A viewing area was also set up at the Roswell Public Library, but Library Director Enid Costley said no one showed up to specifically watch the forum. The library viewing area will be available for each forum for those who do not have internet access to be able to participate.

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The hope in switching virtual platforms was that more people would view the forums, Neeb told the Roswell Daily Record.

“We decided to try our social media platforms to increase engagement in these virtual forums. We are hopeful to have more than six people in attendance and also want to offer our citizens the chance to speak directly with their city councilors and myself,” he said.

Facebook seemed to be the more popular platform, with around 20 viewers throughout the forum according to a viewer counter on the livestream, while Instagram showed just a handful of viewers at any one time.

Foster said he liked the new format.

“I didn’t like listening to myself or watching myself, but I did like the free flow of information, the give-and-take. It was amazing to me,” he said in a phone interview Friday afternoon.

“I see little things where we could improve but I really was pleasantly surprised,” he said.

During the 40-minute forum, the trio fielded questions on topics such as why Carpenter Park was selected for a new splash pad, the issues with the new water billing system, how residents can be more involved with city government, and whether or not an alien theme park is still in the works.

Asked what they would do for the city if money was no object, Foster said his priority would be to improve the city’s infrastructure.

“First thing I would do is rebuild all the roads and get ready for the influx of people since we’re going to hit over 50,000,” he said of the city’s population.

“We’re going to have a lot of other things to do. It’s still the other portion of the infrastructure that we don’t see that we’ve got to also fix. A lot of our sewers are antiquated,” he said.

Moore said she would improve the Roswell Air Center.

“I think if we want business to come in, we need to have a nice place for them to come in. I would love to have a new terminal,” she said.

She would also add a “fun center” on the south side of town, she said, similar to one in Ruidoso with water rides, go-carts and indoor activities.

In other discussions, Neeb and Foster noted that while city and state invest money in economic development, such as the proposed railroad district downtown, attractions and new businesses are more dependent on private investment.

“That’s one of the misconceptions about City Council,” Foster said. He said when he was first elected, he was asked why the council would not let a particular store into the Roswell Mall.

“That’s not the City Council. That’s private enterprise. It’s our job to work and help bring in economic development, but we don’t decide what business is going to come into this town. They decide; they’re the ones spending the money,” he said.

The full forum can be viewed on the city’s Facebook page or YouTube channel.

Future forums and their topics are scheduled as follows:

• March 18: Money Matters: Enterprise Funds.

• April 15: Ward 4.

• May 20: Streets/Road Improvement Project Plan.

• June 17: Ward 3.

• July 15: Public Safety.

• Aug. 19: Ward 2.

• Sept. 16: City Projects/Capital Outlay.

• Oct. 21: Ward 1.

• Nov. 18: Community Development.

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/.