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City Commission working on multiple issues

In World
June 08, 2024

This Tuesday, June 11, at the regular 6:30 p.m. Alamogordo City Commission, local residents could be a step or two closer to a new swimming pool.

The current pool, according to Alamogordo City Manager Rick Holden, “is nearing the end of its life, and getting to the point we need to replace it.”

The idea for the next one is an indoor natatorium, to be built next to the existing one at the Alamogordo Family Recreation Center at 1100 Oregon Ave.

Commissioners will vote Tuesday whether to put the project on a referendum so that local voters can decide this November if they want the $12.5 million project to move forward. The commission will also decide whether to approve current design plans for such a natatorium.

Airport turbulence?

The commission’s May 28 meeting was attended by a concerned group of Alamogordo’s aviation community.

They were spurred by a commission agenda item to discuss changing language in city ordinances regarding lease rates on land at the municipal airport used for hangars. The resolution sought to correct confusing and conflicting text that made it unclear whether raising the rates was under the purview of the city manager, the airport manager or the commission.

Airport manager Troy Orr pointed said what has happened historically in practice was not necessarily consistent with the language.

However, the agenda packet included a document that, to those paying hangar leases, seemed more than discussion.

The document showed a plan that would increase the hangar leases tenfold, from 15 cents per square foot per year to $1.50. In other words, for someone with a 4,000-square-foot hangar footprint, the annual lease would rise from $600 to $6,000.

There are currently 38 active leases at the airport, held by 31 individuals. And it was clear a majority of those were in attendance at the meeting, none of them pleased.

Prior to the public comment period, Orr and Assistant City Manager Stephanie Hernandez explained the issue, and clarified the included rate sheet was only theoretical and showed what would be a maximum possible increase, not a recommended or even proposed increase.

That did not comfort those in attendance who spoke publicly, some of whom reminded the commission, as Rick Currier did, that the rate sheet “does not say maximum.”

Another speaker, John Harris, suggested something echoed by later speakers, “Why don’t we try to tie the hangar increase to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) that’s used for just about everything?”

John Talbot, a former city commissioner who said he spent nine years as Alamogordo’s airport manager, said, “I very strongly oppose this whole idea. Even major airports don’t make money.”

City officials said the airport has about $250,000 a year in expenses, while averaging the past three years, excluding one-time grants, about $163,000 in revenue.

Talbot reminded the commission that some critical services originate from the airport, including MediVac flights and firefighting slurry planes.

After about an hour of discussion, the commission voted 7-2, with Stephen Burnett and Josh Rardin voting no, in favor of clarifying the language.

Discussion and possible decisions on the actual rates will come at a future commission meeting, possibly as early as June 25.

Are we having fun yet?

The May 28 commission meeting also included discussion on the Rocket City Family Fun Center.

The city-owned facility, which featured bowling, laser tag, a restaurant and bar, has been closed since Nov. 30, 2023, when its private operator announced it was no longer open.

The fun center opened in 2019, the building funded by a $5.25 million bond passed by local voters.

Holden addressed the commission and said litigation involving the facility appeared to be nearing an end, and “we need to be moving to some resolve about that building we own out there.” The building is at 3751 Mesa Village Drive, near the Aviator movie theater and the Forest Service building.

While no action can be taken yet, Holden encouraged commissioners to be thinking of options, and he suggested three:

  • Sell the building outright

  • Lease it to a private operator, which would require formal requests for proposal (RFPs)

  • Having the city operate the facility

Holden said the building has been appraised at $5.5 million. The amount of bonds owed is $5.25 million. So, Holden said, if the building were to sell for its full appraisal price, it would cover the bonds.

No action can be taken yet, but based on the commission’s discussion at the meeting, no one was enthusiastic about the city taking over the facility’s operation.

After the meeting, Holden said, “We believe it’s really a private-sector function.”

This article originally appeared on Carlsbad Current-Argus: City Commission working on multiple issues

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