Skip to main content
20230115-001 20230115-001
Local
featured
Stapp joins local college as ag program coordinator, faculty

A familiar face in Chaves County has made a move and is now heading up agricultural education at Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell.

Andrea Stapp is the new agricultural instructor and program coordinator for ENMU-Roswell, joining in early January after eight years as the 4-H agent for the Chaves County Cooperative Extension Service, part of the statewide Cooperative Extension network affiliated with New Mexico State University. She also served as interim director of the county office for about a year.

“I'll be instructing the agricultural classes for the associate's degree in agricultural sciences,” she said. The program coordinator portion of the position includes responsibility for developing other offerings, such as new non-degree certificates in such areas as agricultural technology, and conducting outreach with 4-H and FFA students in Pecos Valley.

Stapp holds a master's degree in animal science and reproductive physiology from Oklahoma State University, and she will begin teaching when classes start Jan. 17.

For the spring 2023 semester, three agricultural courses are offered: introduction to dairy science, introduction to plant sciences and introduction to agricultural communications. All are requirements of the associate's degree, Stapp said. Eventually up to five courses will be offered each semester, she said.

“It is here to stay,” Stapp said about the program, “and we encourage students to partake in it.”

She said her goals for the semester and next year are to increase enrollment, spread the word about the program, work with local youth interested in agriculture and assist the community as needed.

The Associate of Science degree at ENMU-Roswell has been created so that students can transfer without loss of credits to the Bachelor of Science degree in animal and dairy science and the Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences with an emphasis in animal science offered by ENMU in Portales. It also is meant to align with bachelor's degree programs at any New Mexico university. Internships are expected to be part of the program, Stapp said, and an advisory council helps the program respond to the needs of area employers and the industry. The ENMU-Roswell courses also are available to area high school students through dual credit programs.

“I'm excited to work with students and the community and bring some opportunity for southeast New Mexico,” Stapp said.

She added that she expects to continue to interact Chaves County Extension Service and its youth programs, as ENMU-Roswell probably will coordinate livestock judging competitions and offer other student programs. Drew Garnett, Chaves County Extension agricultural agent, said the local Extension Service office will continue to work with all of its affiliated 4-H clubs and the community as he and Tamara Schubert, family consumer sciences and 4-H agent, are continuing in their roles. The office is looking for a 4-H youth development agent, while the division director will decide about filling the Chaves County director position on an interim or permanent basis later in the year.

According to an April 2022 Regional Economic Recovery and Resiliency Plan published by the Southeastern New Mexico Economic Development District, agribusiness, food processing and related technology services comprise the third-largest industry sector in the region, representing about 11% of the jobs (about 6,023) and $61.15 million a year in labor income. The largest industry sector for the region by far is the energy sector, both renewable and fossil fuels, with about 60% of jobs. The second-largest sector is defense and security with about 12% of the region's jobs.

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


Local
featured
Footage released of RPD officers shooting man

Body camera footage of a man being shot to death by Roswell Police officers while they were responding to a domestic disturbance call was released Friday.

Nearly two minutes of video of the shooting of 20-year-old Nickolas Acosta was posted on the Roswell Police Department Facebook page Friday. The video consisted of 53 seconds of body camera footage from one of the two officers involved. Surveillance video from the area where the shooting happened was also made public.

Roswell Police are leading an investigation into the shooting along with the Chaves County Sheriff's Office and New Mexico State Police.

The Department in a statement Monday said Acosta was shot at about 5:30 p.m. Jan. 6 by police while responding to a domestic disturbance call in the 1200 block of South Michigan Avenue.

Police said Acosta, who was believed to be involved in the call officers were responding to, pointed a knife at them while ignoring commands by officers to drop the knife and stop coming toward them.

The video was too dark to determine whether Acosta had a knife, but one of the officers is heard saying Acosta has a knife and telling him multiple times to “put the knife down.”

The body camera footage begins with two officers climbing out of their vehicle and walking across the street towards a man — later identified as Acosta — who is standing on a sidewalk in front of a house.

As the officers come closer, one of them demands Acosta show his hands.

“Why,” Acosta asked, as he began slowly walking backwards. As he continues backing away slowly, Acosta is shown to briefly lifts up the side of his shirt, as he tells the officers to back up.

“Stop, I'm not playing with you,” one of the officers said.

“I'm not playing either,” Acosta responds.

The officers instruct Acosta repeatedly to “put the knife down.”

Acosta is then shown taking a step towards the officers, who order him to not come towards them.

“Do not come towards me brother,” one of the officers is heard saying.

Acosta responds by asking the officers “you want to go home knowing you killed a twenty-year-old.”

He then takes one step closer to the officers and stops, and is told to back up. The officer again orders Acosta to stop, before Acosta takes another step forward and multiple shots are fired from the direction of the officer. Some of the shots strike Acosta and who is seen falling to the ground.

On the surveillance video from a house across the street from where Acosta stood, he is seen pacing on a sidewalk in front of the residence just before the two officers arrive.

Sheila Garcia, an attorney representing Acosta's girlfriend, told the Roswell Daily Record Wednesday before the video was released that her client believes the facts of what happened are at odds with the account given by police.

Court records indicate that in the past year Acosta has been charged with offenses three times, with each of those cases dismissed without prejudice, meaning charges could have been refiled at a later date.

In two of those cases he was found not competent to stand trial.

One of those cases was on charges of criminal damage to property and battery for a January 2021 incident in Eddy County. The other was a case dismissed Jan. 5 where Acosta was charged with aggravated assault on a health care worker with a deadly weapon and criminal damage to property.

In April, Acosta was also charged with battery of a household member, but court records state that charge was dismissed in June.

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be contacted at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or breakingnews@rdrnews.com.


Ethics claim against Roswell city councilor dismissed

A Roswell city councilor has agreed to pay a $100 fine and register with the Secretary of State in exchange for the dismissal of an Administrative Complaint filed with the New Mexico State Ethics Commission.

The claim against Councilor Jeanine Corn-Best was based on a full-page ad that ran on April 10, 2022 in the Roswell Daily Record. The Ethics Commission considered the ad — which criticized a local pastor for using hate speech about a political candidate — as having been in violation of the Campaign Reporting Act.

Specifically, the ad encouraged voters not to choose James Mason, a candidate for a Chaves County Magistrate Judge District 2 in the June election, according to the five-page order of settlement and dismissal dated Nov. 17.

The ad pointed to comments made by a pastor at a local church against Mason’s opponent, Nicole Rogers. It described the pastor as having used words of “hate & fear” about Rogers becoming the magistrate judge, such as if she were elected to the seat instead of longtime church member Mason, a “heterosexual Christian man,” that a vote for Rogers would “invite ruin on you and your household.”

“Hate has no home in Roswell,” the ad also pointed out.

Mason won the June 7, 2022 election and is serving as a magistrate judge.

Corn-Best asserted that the ad wasn’t placed because of politics.

“I was calling for civility,” she told the commission. “In no way did I intend to create a political message, rather an awareness to what I had on Facebook.”

Her Facebook page is named “Roswell Freedom Talk.” She is the moderator of the page. At the bottom of the ad it states that the ad had been paid for by that entity, but it didn’t include her name.

The decision stated that neither Corn-Best nor Roswell Freedom Talks fit the description of a political committee. However, the ad’s call for people not to vote for Mason made it a political advertisement because it “advocates for the defeat of a clearly identified candidate.”

Corn-Best acknowledged to the Ethics Commission that she bought the ad and paid more than $1,000 to run it in the newspaper. The minimum dollar amount paid for an ad that would be subject to this type of complaint is $1,000.

The Campaign Reporting Act also would have required her to register with the Secretary of State as someone making independent expenditures and to disclose both the recipient of the expenditures (i.e., the Roswell Daily Record).

She also needed to make known the identity of anyone who contributed more than $200 in response to a solicitation to fund the ad or other independent expenditures, the commission’s settlement order stated.

“I am unable to dismiss the complaint as meritless,” wrote Jessica Randall, the commission’s general counsel.

Because of Corn-Best’s acknowledgment of buying and paying for the ad, the fine for violating the Campaign Reporting Act could have been $2,000. That total would be for two violations that each come with a $1,000 fine.

Instead, Corn-Best was asked to agree to register with the Secretary of State as someone making an independent expenditure, to properly disclose the name of the recipient of the money, and to identify those who made any contributions exceeding $200 as well as pay the reduced fine.

Corn-Best signed the settlement agreement on Nov. 19, 2022. The commission members approved the settlement agreement during their December 2022 meeting.

The complaint was filed by Kevin Moomaw, a political consultant based in Austin, Texas who has worked for Mason as well as on Roswell Mayor Timothy Jennings’ political campaign in 2022.

Both Corn-Best and Rogers are officers in the political organization, New Mexico Federated Republican Women.

Reporter Terri Harber can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 308, or reporter03@rdrnews.com.


Local
featured
Councilors send MIRP back to committee

The Roswell City Council decided Thursday to send the Municipal Infrastructure Reimbursement Program (MIRP) funding resolution back into a committee after concerns were voiced about getting rid of the program entirely.

The vote to refer the MIRP to the Legal Committee was unanimous.

A council workshop held Monday was for City Attorney Hessel Yntema to present some alternatives for the council to consider that would be legally sound. Councilors would be able to adopt solutions that could better focus on such problems as attracting projects that would be affordable for lower-income residents, adding homes to empty sites, or helping attract large-scale developments, for example, Yntema explained.

Such gatherings aren’t for taking action, but for presentations and discussions, so the councilors ended that workshop without some form of consensus.

Operating Roswell’s MIRP as is would be against the state’s Procurement Code and Anti-Donation Clause, Yntema said again on Thursday.

“We’ve talked this thing to death,” said Jim Mitchell, one of the developers of The Oaks, which could add up to 900 new homes in Roswell over five to 10 years on land near the intersection of West Country Club Road and North Sycamore Avenue.

Mitchell and his business partners halted work in November at the site. He told councilors he was concerned the push by some of these elected city officials to eliminate the program without some sort of direction might leave the city without any type of incentive for developers to build homes in Roswell.

While he said his attorney advised him that the MIRP can be fixed, Mitchell’s biggest concern is that the program could just fade away if eliminated by the council without alternatives.

In December, Councilor Jason Perry made a motion to postpone the MIRP resolution and have city staff return with suggestions about how to fix it. It also stated that approval also was a reauthorization of the program, even if they didn’t fund it to the recommended amount of $750,000, he was concerned about how the council should respond.

The MIRP was approved in October 2021 without funding. Perry asked whether the existing rebate program could be modified to work effectively and be compliant.

‘We’ve got folks out here putting in water pipe, putting in roads,” he said. “If this can’t get done, I want to look into options.”

“I’m here to make things move ahead,” said Councilor Edward Heidenbrand. “I don’t see how moving it back to committee is going to work.”

Councilor Juliana Halvorson said she didn’t want to make other developers wait while the MIRP goes back to committee.

Just let it “die here,” she said.

While there are potentially viable ways to make large developments more attractive, Councilor Barry Foster still held out hope the MIRP could be fixed because without it, small builders “are going to be hurt.”

“I hope we don’t kill it and walk away from it,” said Councilor Juan Oropesa. But, he also explained that “I don’t want to put this council in a compromising position.”

Mayor Timothy Jennings said he believes the best path for the city is to create “a new program with a clean name.”

“The most important thing we can do is obey the laws of the state where we exist,” Jennings also said.

“Move it along and get what you need to make it work,” said Councilor Angela Moore.

Cannabis retail businesses OK’d

Two separate applications for cannabis retail businesses, both of which would sell products for medical and recreational uses, were approved by councilors. Each of the applications requires two zone changes, conditional use permits and corresponding conditions of approval.

The operation in the 3500 block of South Main Street is proposed by Great White, LLC to be inside of a structure in the shape of a flying saucer and named Hangar 84. The owner intends to subdivide the land, said Kevin Maevers, the city’s community development director.

Freddy Nasrallah intends to also have another building next to the retail space that will provide a place to process, produce and package their cannabis products exclusively, which will also require obtaining a food preparation license.

Maevers described it as a “semi-vertically integrated” production.

Guy Tipton of NuMex Plastics told councilors that the area where this business would go in is already not especially safe for pedestrians. It lacks crosswalks, traffic lights, street medians and only has sidewalks on the west side of South Main Street. Vehicle traffic moves quickly and “the road itself has no shoulders,” Tipton said. He wants to see updated pedestrian and traffic studies completed in that area.

Louis Najar, city engineer, and Jennings both noted that Tipton’s concerns were valid. Councilor Perry said there is foot traffic in that area, to and from Mountain View Middle School. There's also no plan for a traffic light to be installed at South Main and Jaffa streets.

Najar also pointed out that adding sidewalks usually only begins when development occurs and that it had been at least 25 years since there has been development in that vicinity. There are no plans to do so at this point.

Nasrallah also plans to subdivide the full site, which is composed of more 1,600 acres, and construct residential homes, Maevers said.

The other cannabis retail business approved Thursday is the second local retail site of Pecos Valley Production and will be located in the 700 block of North Main Street, inside what used to be an A&W restaurant. Its first location is in the 300 block of West Country Club Road. There is also a plan to open a dispensary in the 5100 block of South Main Street.

“Whether you are selling cookies, coffee or cannabis,” any new retail business “requires thought and due diligence,” said Leonard Salgado, director of business development and expansion for Pecos.

Pecos serves 4,200 medical marijuana patients and has 17 locations statewide.

Perry asked about the gross receipts tax levels for cannabis businesses in Roswell. Maevers replied that has been flat recently at about $18,000 a month. “Businesses will figure out whether they need more shops,” Perry noted.

In other business, the councilors:

• Approved the sale of the old Business Notions building to the neighboring Miniatures and Curious Collections Museum. Both are in the 300 block of North Richardson Avenue. The museum intends to expand into the adjacent space. The museum will pay $35,000 for the other building and has signed a development agreement.

• Postponed the public hearing to consider the adoption of a Zoning Ordinance amendment pertaining to Special Use Permits and Conditional Use Permits.

• Sent back the proposed ordinance that will revise fees at Spring River Zoo for staff to clarify some of the proposed changes.

• Approved an employment contract for appointed City Treasurer-Finance Officer Janie Davies.

Reporter Terri Harber can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 308, or reporter03@rdrnews.com.


Local
State agency introduces new housing program

A new state program expected to be operating by this spring intends to boost single-family homeownership while also helping communities make use of vacant and abandoned properties.

The Restoring Our Communities program being developed by the New Mexico Mortgage Finance Authority should have $4 million in funding available during the first year, according to Program Development Manager Theresa Laredo-Garcia, who presented information at the Southeastern New Mexico Economic Development District/Council of Governments Board of Directors meeting held Friday on the Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell campus. She said the agency anticipates funding 20 to 25 projects during the pilot period.

“We see this program as a much-needed activity within the state,” Laredo-Garcia said, “because there are so many vacant homes and they do affect the community values and such.”

Laredo-Garcia said ROC is an outgrowth of a federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program introduced following the nationwide mortgage crisis of 2008-09. The MFA board is expected to vote on program provisions by March, with the MFA to issue a Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) after that. In the meantime, people can contact Laredo-Garcia if they want to stay informed about the progress of the program.

Eligible service providers that could apply for funding would include local and tribal governments, nonprofits, housing agencies or authorities, developers, builders or other qualified agencies that work on housing development. They would submit information about a vacant lot and their plans to purchase, develop or rehabilitate properties to see if funding would be available. Projects can involve building on a vacant lot, demolishing a dilapidated home and building a new one, or rehabilitating an existing home. One entity would be able to have up to five open projects at a time. MFA also is working with a vendor to develop a software tool that will allow the service provider to input information about the project to gauge project costs and how much homebuyer assistance might be available.

The other piece of the program is to assist low- to moderate-income households to purchase homes, with the program able to assist people with up to 120% of the median average income in some cases. For Chaves County, the median household income for 2017-2021 was $47,620, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

As Laredo-Garcia explained, the primary purpose of the MFA is to assist first-time homebuyers in obtaining financing, so the agency could provide grants that would not have to be repaid in some instances. She said a $70,000 grant was approved recently for a home rehabilitation project similar to what she thinks would qualify for ROC. The remaining mortgage financing could come from a variety of sources, including lenders identified by the service provider or from other MFA programs. She also said that homes must be purchased by someone intending to live there, not an investor.

Roswell city officials have talked frequently in recent years about efforts to redevelop condemned properties or to encourage development of “infill” properties — smaller vacant lots between developed properties — including in residential neighborhoods. They have discussed incentives for builders, both as a way to encourage homeownership and to increase the viability of neighborhoods.

According to a 2020 MFA report, Chaves County had a 69% homeownership rate. While that rate was higher than the 2020 national average of about 64%, the report indicated that the state has some “complications” regarding homeownership, including that many homes are older or structurally unsound, as well as that many residents struggle to pay their mortgages. The report showed that 12.4% of homes in Chaves County are mobile homes, and only 10.2% were built in or after 2000. It also indicated that 42.6% of renters in the county could afford to buy a home and that about 18% of homeowners are “cost-burdened,” or paying more than 30% of their income for housing.

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


Local
featured
Investigation into Bitter Lake shooting continues

Investigators with the Chaves County Sheriff's Office continue to investigate a shooting that left one man wounded and caused the Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge to be placed on lockdown Friday.

Undersheriff Charles Yslas said Saturday the injuries of the man who showed up to the Wildlife Refuge bleeding from a gunshot wound are not believed to be fatal.

“The individual was taken to the hospital with non life-threatening injuries. It appears that he will make a full recovery,” he said.

Deputies were dispatched to the refuge seven miles northeast of Roswell at 11:40 a.m. Friday following reports of a man found bleeding at the scene. When deputies arrived, the man told them he had been shot.

The Wildlife Refuge visitor center and trails were closed to the public for much of Friday while the crime scene was processed and deputies searched for evidence.

As of Saturday, investigators had still not found a gun believed to have been used.

Yslas indicated investigators may return to the refuge to comb the area again for evidence. He added the victim and another individual briefly taken into custody and later released have been uncooperative.

“The victim isn't being very cooperative with us so we are continuing to investigate it. It is just right now the evidence that we have isn't really matching up with stories,” he said.

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be contacted at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or breakingnews@rdrnews.com.


Back