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Ensuring that the city’s planned new landfill cell doesn’t fill up any faster than expected and whether or not borrowing the money to build it took up much of the Roswell City Council meeting on Thursday evening.
Council took nearly an hour of a four-hour meeting to discuss and vote on three items related to building a new landfill cell, each passing an 8-1 vote. Councilor Juan Oropesa voted against each measure. Councilor Jeanine Best was absent from the meeting.
Although each point is distinct, the council discussed it at one point.
The first point, Resolution 21-16, authorizes the city to submit a request for financial assistance of $ 4.5 million to the New Mexico Finance Authority for the construction of the cell and the purchase of a new compactor for discharge.
Construction of the landfill is estimated at $ 3.3 million. The compactor, already in use, was $ 1.2 million. The council had previously approved the use of Solid Waste Department funds for the purchase, but had to repay the fund with a loan.
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The second point provides for a public hearing and a vote on a draft order authorizing a loan agreement with the project’s financial authority.
The third element approved a professional services agreement of $ 162,316 for the tendering and construction management of the cell with the engineering firm of Albuquerque Souder, Miller and Associates.
The city is looking to speed up construction of a new cell, designated 5A, before the current cell fills up. A topographic study carried out by the engineering firm in early February estimated that cell 4 was filling up faster than expected and would reach capacity in July.
Abraham Chaparro, director of solid waste and facilities, said a hailstorm in 2017 increased the amount of waste going into the landfill the following year, with residents replacing damaged roofs. A school demolition also increased the tonnage.
Councilor Jacob Roebuck asked city staff how the city had not previously realized that these increases would reduce the life of Cell 4.
“It’s a little embarrassing for the leadership in the city, it’s embarrassing for this council, it’s embarrassing for Joe (Neeb, city manager) and his staff that we’ve been missing out in some way. another this very critical thing, ”said Roebuck.
Roebuck said he believed the staff had come up with a good plan for cell 5A to work before the current cell filled up, but if something went wrong and the project was delayed it could mean the city would have to incur a great deal of expense to ship its waste to another city.
Neeb said the dump has been a talking point since he started as city manager four years ago.
“There have been a lot of different mitigating circumstances,” he said, pointing to a change in direction at the dump. The pandemic has also slowed down some of the city’s processes, he said.
“I wish I could point my finger at one thing and say, ‘This is what it was.’ I think there were a lot of different factors that went into all of this, ”Neeb said.
“All I can say now is we’re at this point now, we know exactly what’s going on and we know how to move forward,” he said.
Chaparro, in his presentation, talked about some of the methods used by the Solid Waste Department to achieve this.
The landfill now uses a large canvas to cover the open cell most days, rather than covering it with a 6-inch layer of soil every day, he said. The new compactor compresses waste at a higher rate than the previous one. Annual topographic surveys will monitor the space used.
“We’re going to watch it very closely, how it develops, what is life like, what can we do better so that we don’t have to encounter a situation like this again,” he said.
Oropesa expressed concerns about taking on new debt to pay for the construction of the cell.
“I’m afraid I’m going too fast to borrow money,” he said. “Haven’t we talked to our lawmakers to see if we could get some capital spending?”
Neeb said building the cell was on the city’s list of projects selected in September for its infrastructure improvement plan, but was not among the city’s top five projects.
“When we released this information, we didn’t know how close we were to the end of Unit 4’s life expectancy,” Neeb said.
The director of administrative services, Juan Fuentes, said that the legislative process for financing fixed assets would not benefit the city in this case, as obtaining the funds is not guaranteed and the allocated funds are only available July or August.
Oropesa asked if the solid waste department had sufficient funds to cover the construction and purchase of the compactor.
Fuentes said that because the city segregated the solid waste funds from fiscal year 2021, the landfill fund did not have time to build up a reserve.
Previously, the funds for water, sewage, solid waste collection and landfill were mixed, but the city separated them so that each could cover their own operating, personnel and capital costs.
“The landfill fund itself does not have the final cash balance for this project,” Fuentes said.
“The solid waste collection fund has some of the resources. Using all of these funds would essentially take the funds for this operation and the business to a very low level, ”he said.
Fuentes said city staff recommended getting a loan so that available funds can be used in emergency situations, such as purchasing new trucks or other equipment.
Roebuck said he agreed with the staff recommendation but, as he did at the finance committee meeting, warned against getting a loan that lasted longer than the expected 10-year lifespan of the landfill cell.
Current interest rates are low and a 10-year loan could have an interest rate of 1.2% to 1.3%, said Erik Harrigan, managing director of RBC Capital Markets in Albuquerque, during a presentation.
Funding both the compactor and the landfill over a 10-year period would result in annual debt service of $ 150,000 for the compactor and $ 400,000 for the landfill, Harrigan said.
Harrigan also presented both 20-year and 10-year construction-only financing options. He said an analysis of the landfill’s income and expenditure from 2017 to 2019 indicates that the city could pay for one of the scenarios he presented.
In other business from Thursday’s meeting, the board took the following action:
• Approved new CFO Janie Davis as a signatory on the city’s bank accounts by an 8-1 vote. Councilor George Peterson was the dissenting vote.
• Approved resolutions 9-0 amending the budget for fiscal year 2021, creating a water utility asset management plan and authorizing the sale of surplus assets.
• Voted 9-0 to hold a public hearing on a draft ordinance that would amend the city code regarding the scheduling of city council meetings.
• Voted to endorse Mayor Dennis Kintigh’s recommendations to fill vacancies for various groups. Councilor Jeanine Best, Jan Melton and Dora Gonzales approved 9-0 by the Chaves County JOY Center Board of Directors. Councilors Best and Margaret Kennard were appointed 8-0 to the Extraterritorial Zoning Authority, and Kennard abstained from voting. The board also voted 9-0 to nominate Matthew Bristol, Larry Connolly and Mona Kirk to the ETZ Commission.
• Council voted 8-1 to approve a five-year grazing lease to Steve Oldfield for the 3,355-acre Kerr Ranch south of Roswell at $ 8,694 per year. Peterson voted against the deal, saying he would like to see the city use the property for recreation or ecotourism.
• Voted 9-0 to approve two Planning and Zoning Commission cases. We leave an alley in the 700 block of South Kentucky Avenue, allowing the owner to consolidate two lots. The second approved a 20-lot single-family residential subdivision at North Union Avenue and Country Club Road.
City / RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205 or [email protected]