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Council OKs budget after rejecting changes

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Amendments regarding tennis courts, new shade structure voted down

The Roswell City Council approved the final version of the fiscal year 2022 budget in a special meeting Thursday evening, but not before more than an hour of discussion on two amendments to fund improvements at recreational facilities.

Councilor Jacob Roebuck introduced the amendments, each in the amount of $100,000. He proposed the funds would come from available cash balances in the Recreation Department fund.

The first amendment was to resurface the city tennis courts in Cahoon Park and the second for a shade structure at the outdoor pool of the Recreation and Aquatic Center.

Both amendments failed — one by a tie-breaking vote by the mayor — after debate over what more than one councilor called “eleventh-hour” additions and the city’s processes for budget amendments and projects. The council then unanimously approved the final budget as originally presented, more than an hour and a half after the meeting started.

State law requires municipal budgets to be approved and submitted to the New Mexico Department of Finance and Administration by July 31.

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The prolonged debates over the amendments prompted Mayor Dennis Kintigh at one point to remind councilors of the purpose of the special meeting.

“Failure to deliver a final budget to DMA in the time required would expose the city of Roswell to sanctions,” he said.

The tennis court amendment ended in a 5-5 vote, with Councilors Roebuck, Barry Foster, Daniel Lopez, Savino Sanchez and Margaret Kennard voting in favor. Councilors Jason Perry, Jeanine Best, Juan Oropesa, Judy Stubbs and Angela Moore voted against. Kintigh broke the tie with a no vote.

The pool shade amendment failed by a 4-6 vote, with Roebuck, Foster, Lopez and Kennard voting in favor and Perry, Best, Oropesa, Stubbs, Sanchez and Moore voting against.

Throughout discussion of both amendments, councilors who voted against them said they would rather see the projects go through the council’s committee system.

“I really have a problem supporting a project that hasn’t gone through the proper process. I really value staff’s vetting and recommendations on projects utilizing their expertise and their knowledge. I don’t see that this has been going through that process,” Stubbs, who attended virtually, said.

Oropesa, who has been critical of the effectiveness of the council’s committee system in the last year, said approving the amendments would mean the projects would “leapfrog” other projects already included in the budget.

“If we are not willing to follow the process that we have in place then why in the world do we even have the process?” he said.

Best said the proposals need to go through the General Services Committee rather than be introduced now. She said without that she could see “a fiasco brewing” regarding the projects.

“I’m almost at a point to say no,” she said early in the debate over the tennis courts, “because this is the 11th hour in the last jump of the last thing and we haven’t had time to digest. We haven’t had time to get a fixed number on this resurfacing. I’m just very uncomfortable that we don’t have this for General Services. This is just like, throw a dart at the wall and hope it sticks,” she said.

“I feel like this project is going to end up like the netting at the softball, it’s just going to continue to go on and on and on,” she said, referring to safety netting at the Charlie McVay Memorial Softball Complex. The netting was installed more than six years after the construction of the complex despite councilors bringing it up over the years.

She and Stubbs both noted that budget amendments can be considered at any time during the fiscal year.

“The really nice thing about our budget is the money is there and the money can be committed at any point in time,” City Manager Neeb said.

Foster argued against the idea that Roebuck making the amendments was going outside the city’s process.

“That’s what I’m tired of hearing, that this isn’t part of our process. This is part of our process and this is how we get some things done,” he said.

“Amendments are part of the process, that is true,” Oropesa said in response to Foster’s comments. “But we also have a process of vetting stuff before it gets to this level.”

In defense of his amendment for the tennis courts, Roebuck said it is something the public has been asking for.

“Why now, why this way? We’ve been having this discussion about these tennis courts for a long time and it’s been a failure of this council to make sure this issue comes to a vote,” he said.

“This is as good a time as any in my opinion to insert it into the budget. It is not the fault of the citizens that city council cannot get their act together and get a proper plan for our parks,” he said.

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

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