Home News Local News City councilors choose five top state funding requests

City councilors choose five top state funding requests

City Councilors Daniel Lopez, left, and Savino Sanchez, who works with his wife, attach stickers to sheets of paper listing 64 capital projects and equipment purchases as part of a special city council meeting Tuesday night to vote on the top five state funding requests to appear on a resolution. City Administrative Director Juan Fuentes talks on the phone with Councilor Jason Perry so that Fuentes could make the selections for Perry, who participated remotely in the meeting. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

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Large Air Center request subject of biggest debate

Roswell officials split a decision on whether $5 million for the Roswell Air Center should be placed on their list of top funding priorities, but, once that debate was settled by a tie-breaking vote by Mayor Dennis Kintigh, city councilors listed their highest five priorities as the airport funding, street improvements, fire department equipment and projects, and cemetery improvements.

City councilors made their decisions about the priorities for the 2023-27 Infrastructure Capital Improvements Plan (ICIP) using a sticky-dot method as one of the ways to indicate their preferred projects among 64 possibilities that had been recommended by city staff and then prioritized by city council committees during meetings in recent weeks.

The ICIP is required to be submitted each year to the state ahead of the New Mexico legislative session, which is scheduled to start on Jan. 18. The city and other publicly funded entities must submit the list to the state for its review by Sept. 17, with area legislators typically holding regional meetings starting in November or December to discuss the projects with local representatives.

Funding awards approved by legislators and the governor typically would be for the fiscal 2023 year, which runs from July 1, 2022, to June 30, 2023.

“In my mind, there is not a bad project on this list,” said City Manager Joe Neeb. “It is up to you to formulate which ones we will designate as the top five.”

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As Neeb explained a few times during the meeting, the top five chosen for the resolution will be explained in more detail to state legislators. But state officials will receive the list of all 64 projects.

“Just in case the Legislature doesn’t agree with us on our top five, they have the ability to talk about the other projects,” Neeb said.

The top five choices chosen for the city resolution were, in order, the $5 million Roswell Air Center funding, with city staff saying their intention would be to use the money for new hangars; $740,000 for improving portions of Washington Avenue; $500,000 for design and planning for an aircraft rescue and firefighting training center at the Roswell Air Center that could be become a revenue-generator as a site to train firefighters statewide; $235,000 for a water well and irrigation system at South Park Cemetery; and $900,000 for 100 self-containing breathing units for the Roswell Fire Department, which could actually require less funding due to a $400,000 grant expected to be received.

Before the vote, city councilors engaged in about an hour of discussion about both projects and process. As a result, some of the 64 items were combined. Barry Foster argued the merits of the aircraft rescue facility, with Neeb and Foster agreeing to ask for only $500,000 this year for design and planning instead of the $2.5 million originally designated. Juan Oropesa reminded his fellow councilors that local voters persistently asked for street improvements during the 2020 city elections. The discussion also resulted in the addition of a new item to the list at the request of Jacob Roebuck. That was a baseball field complex for $12.3 million.

Also during the discussions, Roebuck and Perry advocated for making the Air Center a top priority instead of leaving it at No. 61 on the list. Perry noted that the Chaves County Board of Commissioners had made $5 million for Air Center infrastructure development the No. 10 priority when it approved the county ICIP list on Aug. 19.

But after a motion made by Roebuck and seconded by Foster that made the Air Center funding the No. 1 priority Perry made it clear that he did not intend for that item to be even among the top five, much less No. 1, because of the dollar amount of the request.

“I think that the Air Center — though I am a huge proponent of the $5 million — I would well advise that it is not in the top five, that it is in the top 10. I think we have to be realistic,” Perry said.

He then made a motion for an amendment that put the Air Center funding at No. 7 and pushed LED lighting improvements for the Roswell Convention Center for $150,000 to the top five list.

The vote on the amendment resulted in a tied 5-5 vote, with Judy Stubbs, Savino Sanchez, Margaret Kennard and Jeanine Corn Best joining Perry in voting for it. Kintigh broke the tie by voting against the amendment.

The group then voted 9-1 for the original five priorities, with Perry the lone dissenter.

“I just really hope that we will have 10 councilors and our mayor all working very vigorously with our legislators to ensure that these top priorities are going to be seen though,” Perry said. “I think we have our work cut out for us on this one for sure. From the number of years I have been going up and talking with our legislators, I think it is going to take all of us on this one.”

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

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.