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City, county plan joint Air Center funding effort

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Taking a different approach from prior years, the city of Roswell and Chaves County have decided to work together to ask for $10 million in state funding in 2022 for the Roswell Air Center.

Chaves County Board of Commissioners Chairman Will Cavin and City Councilor Jason Perry, who also serves as mayor pro tem, have been talking about the funding requests that both entities intend to make of the Governor’s Office during the New Mexico Legislature session in early 2022.

Perry said that county and city managers, the mayor and other elected officials agree that they want to show a united front to state officials about their intent to improve the Air Center and work together on the effort.

“I have been in conversation with the Governor’s Office concerning this next session and the potential of this Air Center becoming what we truly know it to be,” Perry said. “The Governor’s Office recognizes the gem that we have in this Air Center and the potential of bringing in not only new jobs but also building stronger what we already have here,” Perry said.

The county listed a $5 million request for additional infrastructure development as No. 10 on its Infrastructure Capital Improvement Plan for 2023-2027, while the city listed a $5 million request for hangars, buildings, ramps and other projects as the No. 1 request on its ICIP list. The lists are required to be submitted to the state each year ahead of legislative sessions to provide information on projects for which public entities intend to seek funding. Funding allocated in 2022 most likely would be for the 2023 fiscal year starting July 1, 2022.

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Perry said that county and city officials think each request has “strong merits.”

Cavin, speaking at a Thursday meeting of the Chaves County Board of Commissioners, said that additional funding at the Air Center will spur long-term job and economic growth.

“That is the diamond in the rough for southeastern New Mexico and even into West Texas,” he said. “If we can get things and get money put into it, we aren’t going to be worried about 50,000 (population). We are going to be looking at 100,000.”

The county already received a $5 million state capital outlay award in February 2020. About $3 million of that has been pledged for site work for the new Ascent Aviation Services hangar. Another $2 million is helping to pay for water line upgrades on the southeastern side of the airfield. Neither the city or county request for $5 million in 2021 was funded.

The 2020 award did cause some consternation from city elected officials, including a couple of city councilors and Mayor Dennis Kintigh. They said in public meetings that they didn’t like that the county had asked for and received funding for city-owned property without first talking it over with city officials. Kintigh also has said that he thinks building new hangars should be a higher funding priority than infrastructure.

Perry said the joint resolution is an indication that the governing bodies of both the county and city are ready to “move forward” together.

A special public meeting will be held Tuesday at 5 p.m. at Roswell Fire Station #4 at the Air Center to discuss a joint resolution. They also are planning to discuss holding a public hearing at a later date to get citizen input on redistricting efforts.

Perry said that the intention is that both governing bodies will convene to take action on a resolution. He also said that he hopes the public will participate.

“I don’t know who will and who won’t, but I am hoping that we will have people present who can speak to the importance of this,” Perry said. “I believe we will.”

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.