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Airport Authority report due to be presented

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Recommendations about a possible airport authority to manage the Roswell Air Center are scheduled to be presented to city councilors Thursday. (Daily Record File Photo)

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A report that includes citizens’ input about what would be entailed in the possible formation of an airport authority to manage the Roswell Air Center is scheduled to be presented at a public meeting Thursday afternoon.

The Airport Authority Steering Committee report has been placed on the agenda for the Roswell City Council Legal Committee meeting at 4 p.m. Thursday.

The meeting will occur at the Roswell Convention Center, 912 N. Main St. Due to continued COVID-19 restrictions, the public is asked to participate online. The city plans to stream the video live on its website, www.roswell-nm.gov., and also lists options on its meeting agenda about how people can participate through an online and phone software application.

According to the July 9 Roswell City Council resolution that established the citizens’ steering group, the “City Manager shall provide a report of the discussions (of the steering committee), develop a suggested framework to include draft city code establishing an authority and governing procedures of the Authority, and present any conclusions and recommendations” to the Legal Committee.

City Manager Joe Neeb chose not to release the report in response to a request, saying last week that the draft was still being worked on.

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The committee has involved Neeb, former and current Chaves County managers Stanton Riggs and Bill Williams, as well as citizens chosen by them. Neeb did not identify the committee members.

He announced the Legal Committee meeting to Roswell City Councilors on Feb. 11 and said that Chaves County Board of Commissioners also have been invited to the meeting, which Williams also mentioned at the Feb. 18 Board of Commissioners meeting.

The creation of an independent governing authority to own and manage the Roswell Air Center assets has been suggested a few times over the years, including by consultants who developed economic feasibility studies in 1998 and 2017 outlining their ideas about how the Air Center could become a more powerful economic and job creation engine. Both studies recommended an independent governing authority, which numerous other former military bases in other states have formed.

In 2017, the Roswell International Air Center Task Force was formed, having a name reflecting the former moniker of the airfield and its related properties. Its members worked to draft and introduce a bill into the New Mexico Legislature allowing former military airports in New Mexico to create special economic districts with appointed officials from the region. The districts would own, manage and market the airports as hubs of commerce. They also would have the ability to issue bonds or borrow money. After the bill was vetoed in 2018, a revised version was signed into law by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in February 2019.

The city then prepared a “separation” report that outlined the numerous financial, legal, operational and regulatory issues that would be involved in transferring the city-owned, city-financed and city-run airport to another entity.

Although city elected officials had signed resolutions approving the RIAC Task Force and its legislative efforts, after the city analysis was completed in June 2019, several city councilors were wondering if an authority was a good idea or even feasible. Councilor Jacob Roebuck made a presentation about how the Air Center could be managed by a separate advisory group under the authority of the city manager.

The Steering Committee was formed to ensure that the interests of business, economic development and regional groups were represented in decisions.

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