City Council approves sales tax increases; Plans for recreation center and aquatic facility are funded
Above: Roswell resident Donald Daugherty speaks to the City Council Thursday night regarding plans for a new aquatic facility and recreation center. Daugherty encouraged city leaders not to build a new outdoor pool at Cielo Grande Recreation Area, but instead to reopen Cahoon Park Pool. The City Council approved sales tax increases Thursday night to fund the $20 million new aquatic facility and recreation center at Cielo Grande Recreation Area. (Bethany Freudenthal Photo)
Below: A group of proponents of reopening Cahoon Park Pool speak with each other in the hallway of the Roswell Museum and Art Center Thursday night after the City Council approved moving forward with plans for a new outdoor pool and recreation center at Cielo Grande Recreation Area. (Bethany Freudenthal Photo)
The City Council voted Thursday night to increase sales taxes to fund a $20 million recreation center and aquatic facility at Cielo Grande Recreation Area, despite appeals from some to forgo a new outdoor pool and instead reopen Cahoon Park Pool.
The direction the City Council would take before a large audience of about 70 people survived a 6-4 procedural vote that would have delayed a decision on whether the city should build an eight-lane or six-lane indoor pool at Cielo Grande Recreation Area.
“We’ve been at this forever,” said City Councilor Art Sandoval. “Why can’t we have this here for our kids? I [auth] think we absolutely need to move forward with this.”
Some city councilors wanted more detailed information on the costs, projected revenues and other financial details of the proposed aquatic center that will include an indoor pool, an outdoor large open swim area with a large tube slide, and outdoor toddler section with shaded structures.
The aquatic facility, now on track to open in the fall of September, is to be built in conjunction with a $9 million single-story recreation center, replacing the closed Yucca Recreation Center, that will include a multi-purpose room, a group fitness room and two full-size gyms that can be subdivided by into four smaller basketball courts.
City Councilor Juan Oropesa urged his colleagues to forgo building an outdoor pool at Cielo Grande Recreation Area and instead reopen Cahoon pool, which the City Council decommissioned in April. Oropesa said renovating Cahoon pool would be less financially risky than building an aquatic facility at Cielo Grande Recreation Area that is projected to cost $9.1 million, up from $7.7 million for a six-lane indoor lap pool.
“If the economy goes down and we can’t afford the debt, what then?” Oropesa asked.
“Well, that is the risk,” replied Elizabeth Stark-Rankins, the city’s director of administrative services.
Oropesa said he would prefer a general obligation bond, paid by property taxes, to fund the new recreational complex, as opposed to increases gross receipts taxes.
Oropesa also encouraged city officials to seek funding assistance from Chaves County, New Mexico Military Institute, Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell and the Roswell Independent School District to partner in the $20 million project.
“The city itself cannot do it,” Oropesa said. “The city itself does not have enough money to commit to the projects that we’re talking about.”
City Councilor Tabitha Denny, who made the unsuccessful motion to table a decision on the size of the new indoor pool, said reopening Cahoon pool, built in 1938, was an idea that has been examined and rejected.
“I still don’t think that opening Cahoon is the best thing to do,” she said.
Denny’s motion to table a decision on the new indoor pool was supported by city councilors, Jason Perry, Savino Sanchez and Oropesa, but opposed by councilors Jeanine Corn Best, Caleb Grant, Barry Foster, Steve Henderson, Natasha Mackey and Sandoval.
City Engineer Louis Najar said city officials needed direction to proceed.
“All we want to do is get out of the starting blocks, and start our thing” Najar said.
In a subsequent vote, the City Council voted 7-3 in favor of a particular aquatic option, to include the eight-lane indoor pool of 25-yard long lanes, with seating for about 200 people, and the outdoor pool and its amenities.
Best, Grant, Foster, Henderson, Mackey, Sanchez and Sandoval voted for the conceptual design, while Denny, Oropesa and Perry voted against it.
Four proponents of reopening Cahoon pool said the city should wait before spending millions of dollars on a different outdoor pool.
“I believe Cahoon pool can be saved,” said Richard J. Garcia. “Listen to the public, listen to what we can offer. I believe in moving forward, but at the same time, we’ve got to be realistic.”
“I don’t see the need for an outdoor pool,” said Gary Hartwick. “I think that money can be put into a really nice indoor pool.”
Later on Thursday’s agenda, the City Council approved three separate increases in gross receipts taxes to fund the $20 million recreation center and aquatic facility.
No one spoke in favor or in opposition to the three tax increase proposals, which will take effect in July and raise gross receipts taxes in the city from 7.5 percent to 7.75 percent, or 25 cents for every $100 of goods and services purchased that are subject to gross receipt taxes. The three tax increases will each retire after 20 years.
In all three votes, Best, Grant, Denny, Foster, Mackey, Perry, Sanchez and Sandoval voted for the tax increases, while Henderson and Oropesa voted against them.
Senior Writer Jeff Tucker may be contacted at 575-622-7710, ext. 303, or at email@example.com.