Roswell City Manager Joe Neeb said he intends for city leaders to meet soon with county officials to discuss a second $5 million state funding request for the Roswell Air Center.
Chaves County asked state legislators for another $5 million capital outlay award this year for infrastructure improvements for the city-owned Roswell Air Center to help develop it as a business hub that will attract new companies and jobs. During a meeting with some area legislators, however, Interim County Manager Bill Williams said he realized this might not be the year that such a large request would be funded.
But Mayor Dennis Kintigh, Neeb and some city councilors have expressed frustration over the first award, which was approved by the New Mexico Legislature and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in February 2020.
Hours of discussion where some city elected officials discussed frustration and upset went into a Feb. 14 decision to approve a Memorandum of Understanding between the county and city to allow the encumbrance of 5% of the 2020 capital outlay award by Feb. 25. If the $250,000 is not encumbered by that time, the state could request the entire funding award back.
The second request — which was prepared by the county during fall and winter 2020 — prompted a four-page letter dated Dec. 22 from Neeb to county commissioners.
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While Neeb talked about the positive aspects of the county’s willingness to help secure funding for the Air Center, he also expressed concerns about “unsolicited efforts to develop the SE area of the Air Center.”
He wrote that the city has a lot of other more pressing priorities for the Air Center and that the notion of developing “shovel-ready” sites for unknown future businesses is an “expensive way to do economic development.”
He also included estimates about the maintenance costs to the city of laying water and sewer lines and roads if no tenant or business client is interested in immediate development. He said the city would pay about $186,001 a year for every two miles of water and sewer lines and roads.
For the first $5 million, the publicly discussed plan is to use $3 million for site work for a new wide-body hangar to be built on the west side of the airfield and to be owned by Western LLC and occupied by Ascent Aviation Services. The other $2 million has been earmarked at this point to replace World War II-era infrastructure on the east side of the airfield that has “exceeded its life expectancy,” Neeb said.
During a Thursday city of Roswell Airport Advisory Commission meeting, Kintigh continued to make his case that future funding should help cover the estimated $6.2 million to $8 million cost of expanding Hangar 84, now occupied by CAVU Aerospace, so that it can accommodate large aircraft such as 767s. Adding the “doghouse” also will allow companies to bid on jobs for the military, according to city staff.
The city has said it could receive a $2 million federal grant for the expansion and might be able to receive additional funding from CAVU and the state.
“This is a solid, serious, job-creating, infrastructure-enhancing project,” Kintigh said. “It is not a fantasy pipeline going to nowhere. I see money being allocated to do, I don’t know what, when we have real, solid projects here that can help this community. That is frustrating. I fear the people who control the purse strings do not listen or hear the people who are involved in the industry here.”
Chaves County Commissioner Will Cavin, who has attended recent city meetings where frustrations over the first $5 million allocation and the MOU have been aired, has said that he acknowledges the city’s concerns and expects that the city and county will meet to talk about the best way to develop the Air Center for the future.
Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at [email protected]