A Roswell City Council committee took no action on a proposed Spring River Zoo pond upgrade funding and asked that it be brought back to January for consideration.
Councilor Edward Heldenbrand made the suggestion, citing a tight municipal budget, after about half an hour of discussion at Thursday’s finance committee meeting.
“I think we shouldn’t kill it, but let’s postpone it so that we look at our budget in January, mid-year, and see if we can get this back on track to get this facility back in service for the community. “, did he declare. said.
By then, more information on the condition of a non-functioning well intended to supply the pond will be known, zoo director John Wright said.
The youth fishing pond was closed and drained in March 2020 for scheduled cleaning and to rehabilitate slopes and approaches, the first known rehabilitation of the pond in 50 years, according to the city.
Soon after, the state issued the pandemic health order shutting down many businesses and services, and the pond became a way for the city to keep employees on the job, Wright said.
“I didn’t really get any formalized plans that the Parks Department had to figure out what budget, what expectations, what the goals were for this project before the zoo took over responsibility in November 2021,” Wright said.
Previously, the renovation had been under the direction of the Parks Department with cooperation from other departments in the city and Chaves County.
The renovation removed mature trees along the banks and silt from the pond, moved waterfowl to the J. Kenneth Smith Bird Sanctuary, and removed the dock and fountains.
New trees were planted, embankment slopes were reworked, a fountain was moved, and new irrigation and underwater aeration systems were installed, Wright said.
Additionally, a municipal water line was extended to help supply the pond and irrigation system.
“That particular decision increased our water line significantly,” Wright said.
He said the zoo’s water bill hit $30,000 for less than a year. Sometimes, he says, he chose not to fill the pond with city water because of the cost and knowing the pond would lose water anyway or be filled by rain.
In May, the General Service Committee asked Wright to make plans and cost estimates to reopen the pond. He made a presentation last week to this committee, which voted to recommend that he be heard by the finance committee.
Among the higher costs to reopen the pond may be the drilling of a new well estimated at $165,000.
Wright said it’s not yet clear whether this should be done.
“Really what we want to do is find out if the well is not working, if the pump is not working, if it is the well or if it is dry,” he said.
He said he planned to use about $11,500 of the zoo’s grounds maintenance budget for Atkins Engineering to remove the pump and test the well.
Councilor Barry Foster said he would prefer the town had no wells that were not operated by the water utility. The US Environmental Protection Agency could levy fines if personnel who lack the proper licenses are in charge of the well, he said.
“We can install the well, but I still want the water department to be responsible. We don’t need to look at anyone but people who actually have licenses to produce water,” Foster said.
Utilities Director Lorenzo Sanchez said the city’s water operators hold Class 4 licenses, which require several years of experience as well as training credits, according to the EPA.
Councilman Robert Corn said capping the well might be a good option due to state regulations.
“If we don’t use it for a while, the state engineer might come here and take it all. It’s kind of a murky business. They haven’t, but they have the power,” he said.
The board also voted 4-0 to recommend removing $453,141 in fines and uncollectible fees from accounts receivable from the Roswell Public Library. The presentation by Library Director Enid Costley led to a discussion on the possibility of eliminating library fees.
Attempts have been made to collect fines and fees, but many of these date back to when the library was still using card catalogs, Costley said.
“Some of these people are probably deceased and we won’t be able to collect some of these fines and fees,” she said.
Costley explained the library’s process for issuing overdue fines, which includes multiple patron contacts, how the library determines if a replacement fee is necessary for an item that is late or long-damaged, and that patrons are prevented from checking the material if their fines exceed $10.
Heldenbrand asked if fees are really effective and whether or not the library still has to have fines.
“It’s money we’ll never get, so we’re just kidding ourselves, so let’s stop kidding ourselves and face reality,” Heldenbrand said.
“It’s a conversation I’d love to have and plan to have. I want to talk to my council, I want to talk to other people before I present it to city council,” Costley said.
In 2019, the American Library Association passed a resolution to add a statement to its policy manual that library fines create an economic barrier to accessing library materials, and urging libraries to consider removing them. and their boards to strengthen financial support so that libraries are not dependent on fines as revenue.
Heldenbrand said he is aware that libraries in some cities will have an amnesty period, where patrons with overdue materials can return them to the library and no fee will be charged.
Costley said library staff had discussed something similar, a canned food drive where patrons could get a certain fee for a donation, with the canned food distributed to different organizations in the city.
“Some people won’t pay a fine, but they would happily donate to someone in need. But we were told we couldn’t do that” due to the anti-donation clause in the state constitution , she said.
The anti-donation clause prohibits states and local governments from making a donation to a private person, association or corporation.
In other matters, the committee also voted to recommend for full board approval the following items:
• Use up to $203,950 of the city’s American Rescue Plan Act funds to purchase air cleaners for the library.
• A request from the Roswell Symphony Orchestra for $4,725 in tenant tax funds to fund its spring season performances in February and April.
• A resolution showing the city’s commitment to fund Roswell Transit for the federal fiscal year that begins October 1, 2023.
• The two-year Memorandum of Understanding with MainStreet Roswell and New Mexico MainStreet and a resolution in support of the Memorandum of Understanding.