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City leaders talk quality of life projects in forum

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Quality of life projects and their effects on the city’s future were among the topics addressed at the final virtual public forum presented by the city of Roswell.

The forum, which was recorded on Oct. 19, is available to view on the city’s Facebook page. In just under a half hour, City Manager Joe Neeb and Ward 1 City Councilors Jason Perry and Margaret Kennard discussed questions submitted online by residents prior to the forum’s recording.

One question asked when construction would begin on the proposed baseball and softball complex, which led to discussion among the city leaders of funding such projects in Roswell versus communities such as Hobbs and Carlsbad.

The city has a vision of two quad sets of baseball fields at Cielo Grande Recreation Area, with the projected cost at $13 million, Neeb said.

“It will take awhile before this baseball complex starts construction because we have to close a $13 million gap within our funding. We are looking at very creative ways of trying to find some of that funding for that,” he said.

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The state Legislature appropriated $850,000 in capital outlay funds last year, which was combined with money the city received to build an all-inclusive park that will be located in the same area of Cielo Grande.

Perry addressed comparisons between Roswell and other communities.

“Hobbs continues to build, Carlsbad continues to build, why haven’t we built this or gotten closer to getting this done? I think it’s very important to remember that though we have communities around us that are doing certain things, we are doing other things as well that are very different and unique to our area,” he said.

It also must be recognized that Roswell’s gross receipts taxes, which comprise the majority of the city’s revenue, will be different from those communities because of the differences in industries, he said.

“I’m not saying we can’t get this done by any means. But this is going to take awhile. Any dollar that we take to advance toward this is a dollar that you take away from something else,” he said, such as improvements to city streets or public safety.

Neeb and Perry said providing such amenities as parks and sports fields lends to the quality of life in the community and can attract people to Roswell.

But the councilors also said the city needs to evaluate the number of parks it has and weigh that against how to spend its resources and what the benefits are.

“Roswell has a ton of parks. I drive around and I see and wonder sometimes if we had less parks … would that be better to have less but have quality instead of just having a patch of grass with a little playground on it? Would we be better off to invest in parks in strategic areas to where each part of town has got parks to be able to visit?” Perry said.

That is one thing an ad hoc committee of the Roswell City Council is looking at, Kennard said. She is one of the council members on the ad hoc committee.

As an example, she spoke of the city’s newest park on the site that was once Chisum Elementary School on South Virginia Avenue. The city has owned the property since 2007 but designated it as a park in June.

“That is already city property that had to be maintained anyway,” she said.

“But are we going to help that neighborhood and help those children have a better quality of life, potentially helping that neighborhood develop? I know there’s a lot of empty lots in that section of town, and so is that going to help us put new homes in that neighborhood? I hope so,” she said.

New neighborhoods, such as the 800-home subdivision planned at North Sycamore Avenue and Country Club Drive, will be required to have sidewalks and other infrastructure, Neeb said in response to another question.

Developers are required to install water and sewer connections as well as sidewalks and roads, Neeb said. The city’s current planning and zoning standards require sidewalks on both sides of a road.

Perry pointed out the sidewalks must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“I know we have areas of town we are still trying to update to the ADA and it makes it difficult when you’re walking in those areas,” he said.

“It does go along with the safety, the welfare of the community,” he said. “It adds to the ability for people to do things within their neighborhood instead of having to travel to a track or a safer area. It allows them to do what they enjoy doing as a family and to do that around their home,” he said.

The final question of the forum asked what the city is doing to help bring in more businesses. Neeb said the city has taken a two-pronged approach of helping existing businesses and bringing in new businesses.

He mentioned the ROAR program — Roswell Opportunity for Advancement Program — begun by the city council with the Roswell-Chaves County Economic Development Corp., designed to help existing businesses.

In May 2020, the city council approved giving $150,000 in seed money to the revolving loan program.

“A lot of our downtown businesses have a problem with meeting city code. These funds that you helped provide through the EDC will be able to be utilized for fire suppression systems, for ADA accessibility. Those are very expensive conversions of existing infrastructure,” he said.

As an example of bringing new business to town, Neeb talked about the city’s work with Ascent Aviation Services to bring a new hangar to the Roswell Air Center. The hangar will house a maintenance, repair and overhaul operation.

“We are leveraging our financial position to help get that business there. It will generate 350 new jobs over the next five years, at least that is what the company is stating it will be able to do,” Neeb said.

The city faces challenges in bringing businesses to town, however, resulting from housing and workforce shortages.

“Our challenge is trying to find enough people wiling to work in order to fill these businesses,” he said.

Kennard also mentioned the city’s work to create a “one-stop-shop” for starting a business, where divisions of the Community Development Department will all be housed in one location in the Sunwest Centre at Fifth and Main. That is scheduled to open in January.

“Essentially we’re going to treat everyone who comes to us as a customer and we’re going to make sure they’re taken care of in a one-stop type of shop,” Neeb said.

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

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