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City council approves disaster declaration

An aerial photo of the Two Rivers Reservoir shows on the monitor as Roswell City Councilor Juan Oropesa listens to Roswell-Chaves County Emergency Management Director Karen Sanders talk Thursday about the Memorial Day weekend storms that led to flooding in south Roswell. The Roswell City Council approved a disaster declaration at its meeting Thursday night. (Juno Ogle Photo)

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The Roswell City Council at its regular meeting Thursday night unanimously approved a resolution declaring a state of disaster in the city after a 100-year flood, a move that will help secure state and perhaps federal funding. One city councilor also shared her experience of her home being flooded after the storms during the Memorial Day weekend.

The declaration came a day after Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham declared a state of emergency for Chaves and Lincoln counties. City of Roswell-Chaves County Emergency Management Director Karen Sanders said the state will be preparing an application for a federal declaration.

The state funding will help restore public infrastructure and operations at a 75% reimbursement of eligible costs, Sanders said. If President Biden should approve a federal declaration, then the federal government will provide 75% assistance and the state will contribute 12.5% for a combined 87.5% reimbursement.

Chaves County submitted its declaration to the state earlier last week, and while it included Roswell, Dexter, Hagerman and Lake Arthur, a separate declaration from the city means Roswell can access any funds on its own, Sanders said.

“You’ll be separate applicants when we’re seeking funding. Otherwise you fall under the county being your fiscal agent,” Sanders said.

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Ward 5 Councilor Angela Moore said she has lived on the base for 33 years and described her house being flooded when water flowed from west of Roswell down Hobson Road. She said the area flooded once before, but not to the extent where she could not leave her house as it did this time.

“I’m sitting in my living room in my chair and the water’s coming up on my ankles,” she said.

In between storms that weekend, she said, she called on a service to remove the water from her home, then more rain would come and so did the floods. As people would drive around the area, their vehicles would push more water into her house, she said. An inch of mud remains in her living room, she said. Even her car interior got flooded.

But Moore said she is thankful that her situation is not worse.

“I know a friend who lost her whole house, both cars, her boat on that side closer where all the water was,” she said.

Others are also in worse situations, with no coverage for the damage from insurance, she said.

Moore said a solution is needed to prevent water from flowing down Hobson Road in the future.

“I didn’t know there was nowhere for it go but in our houses,” she said. “We are in a pickle where we are right now.”

In her presentation to the council, Sanders reviewed the severe weather that began May 28 and continued in the region through May 31, Memorial Day.

A flash flood on May 30 in Lincoln County caused one fatality, Sanders said. Those storms continued into Chaves County that evening, closing Highway 285 and State Road 2, with law enforcement performing a water rescue near Dexter.

“The National Weather Service had reported 2 to 4 inches of rain falling in a two- to three-hour period, which led to flash flooding across southern parts of Roswell, Midway, Dexter and Hagerman,” Sanders said.

Another 2 inches of rain fell the morning of May 31.

“Late Monday afternoon it was brought to our attention that water levels in south Roswell were increasing,” she said.

Sanders conducted an air reconnaissance of the area west of Roswell the day after the rains, discovering the source of the flooding, a breached levee 1.25 miles west of the Roswell Air Center.

Kintigh gave credit to Sanders for discovering the levee breach.

“No one knew where that water was coming from until Miss Sanders took a helicopter ride on Tuesday,” he said. The helicopter had been arranged by staff at the air center.

City, county and state officials toured the Twin Rivers Dam and other areas where heavy rains fell later that week.

The water finally stopped flowing into Roswell Thursday morning, more than a week after the rains, Kintigh said.

The council also unanimously approved a request for proposals to create a pool of contractors for tree removal, disposal and trimming. Kevin Maevers, community development director, said the Memorial Day storms are a good example of why the contractor pool is needed.

The contractors would be called on in emergency situations, he said in response to a question from Councilor Juan Oropesa.

Director of Special Services Jim Burress said under normal circumstances, the Parks and Streets departments respond to calls of trees or limbs in the roads.

“It is a true statement that the Parks Department and Streets help out when the trees go into the road. But considering the weather recently (the trees) all hit the ground at one time. We do need some help. We just want to get to the point where we can call in some contractors to help us,” Burress said.

In other business Thursday, the council unanimously approved resolutions designating polling locations for the 2022 municipal elections and authorizing the sale of surplus city property.

The council also unanimously approved the advertising and scheduling of public hearings for proposed ordinances on residential and commercial energy conservation codes and the election code.

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

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