In a well-attended and lively town hall meeting, Truth or Consequences city commissioners and staff heard from residents that code enforcement, street repair, and golf course maintenance were among citizens’ top concerns.
The meeting, held in the the Civic Center auditorium on Monday April 2nd, was organized by the city in advance of the commission retreat and budget planning sessions.
Approximately twenty people chose to address the commission, each registering their dissatisfaction with city services.
Complaints about visible physical conditions (potholes, garbage, derelict structures, weeds) dominated the topics mentioned.
The idea of a temporary municipal gas tax to fund street repair came up, and City Manager Juan Fuentes explained that it is not currently legal for a city to have its own gas tax, but that that may change after the 2019 state legislative session.
Several residents expressed concerns about the municipal golf course. One person pointed out it doesn’t necessarily need to be profitable (neither are the city’s ball fields, pool, or parks), but it must be properly funded, managed, maintained and promoted.
Marketing and tourism came up repeatedly, with residents cataloging the region’s attractive assets and expressing their hopes that the city would do more to attract new visitors and new residents.
On this point, Commissioner Sandra Whitehead suggested that the job of organizing interest-based events is a role for nonprofits and business, not the city.
Mayor Steve Green mentioned that the city does have an on-call marketing company and is in the process of posting a new job opening for a “boots on the ground” marketing professional. He also said that efforts are underway to attract an off-road event to the old race track around Memorial Day, and that more news is expected at the next regular meeting of the city commission.
One resident asked about the roundabouts the Department of Transportation is planning to build on north Date Street, and Representative Rebecca Dow (R – Truth or Consequences) urged the commissioners to advocate for the local businesses in the vicinity who may be impacted by the state’s planned upgrades. Manager Fuentes clarified that the roundabouts are not a city project, but rather a state/federal effort to improve safety on the I-25 business loop that they are responsible for managing.
Mayor Steve Green floated the idea of a temporary municipal property tax hike to help fix the roads, and explained that with the state’s budget so tied to the price of a barrel of oil, every request for funds these days is met with a “what’s your skin in the game?” response.
Manager Fuentes said that while it may seem sometimes as if nothing is being done to improve infrastructure, there are in fact large projects underway, to the tune of some $20,000,000 in investment in water and sewer upgrades. On the topic of derelict structures and other code violations, he explained that there is an important due process requirement, and an appeals process, and so these things can take some time, but some of the specific topics brought up were in fact being dealt with.
One resident’s observation was not a complaint about any particular issue, but that there was a relationship problem between commissioners and the public. She said, “Our family is dysfunctional. Disagreement is fine, but people do have good ideas. But there’s a dark force here. We need more conversations.”
Both Mayor Green and Manager Fuentes stressed that they were available to meet one-on-one with any resident who wanted to express their valid concerns or ask questions.