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Aztec's City Election Forum - All candidates summary

 


Answer/s from Rosalyn Fry, Candidate for City Commission, [email protected] 505-334-2510

Q: THE HUB HAS BEEN A WIDELY DEBATED SUBJECT. THE CITY HAS MADE THE DECISION TO PURCHASE THE BUILDING ($100,000).WHAT IS YOUR OPINION ON THE HUB? DO WE INVEST FURTHER RESOURCES IN MAINTAINING A SMALL BUSINESS INCUBATOR? OR, DO WE CUT OUR LOSSES AND LEASE/RENT OR SELL THE PROPERTY.

A: In order to educate myself, I recently visited 2 local business incubation programs, R Durango and the Enterprise Center at San Juan College. I’ve done further research to understand what opportunities our own HUB could be in our effort to support local business and to diversify our economy. Representatives of both incubation centers were helpful and willing to assist Aztec to make our facility a success. We should consider getting the HUB certified by the State and this could enable us to tap into funds and grants to alleviate some of the cost we will incur in providing support to local businesses. We should use the advice of successful incubation centers and not reinvent the wheel. Hiring a competent and knowledgeable manager of the HUB can get us on the road to successfully supporting existing businesses as well as marketing to potential entrepreneurs. We must do it right to succeed. We MUST be conscientious with the funds to implement this program. There are additional resources at San Juan College that we should access to assist new business in Aztec. We of course have the option of selling/leasing the property if an incubation facility does not work for Aztec. In the meantime each of us must support our community by shopping local, dining local, doing business locally with those who provide services of all types to Aztec residents. It truly will take a supportive community to succeed in this challenging economic environment in the region.

Q: What is the most important job of an Aztec Commissioner?

A: I must consider two roles as equally important as a Commissioner. The selection of the City Manager and oversight of that position is critical to the well being of the city. Working with the City Manager and providing insight into what the citizens of Aztec want and need for the community is vital. I feel also that keeping in touch with the community, talking with those living and working in the city, must also be an important job of a Commissioner. To do so I intend to make myself available, scheduling time to meet with citizens and being involved in functions that will allow me to be an informed voice for my community.

Q: If water rationing were to be proposed, what use would you cut off first?

A: As much as I love my lawn I believe rationing water for grass must come first. Perhaps limiting days for outside watering as well as time of day that watering is done should happen as soon as water rationing is advised. Fines for water waste are appropriate in times of drought. I believe it would be helpful for a reminder of personal water conservation to be provided through our utility bills. It could help to remind all of us to not waste water and be conservative with home water use. I’ve also wondered if the water department has considered methods to decrease evaporation on our water storage reservoirs. I’ve read about methods that can greatly reduce evaporation and perhaps we should consider this for our storage of precious water.

Q: WHAT ARE YOUR IDEAS FOR AZTEC’S ECONOMIC DIVERSIFICATION?

A: Economic diversification is an issue for our entire region. It will be important to participate with representatives from the Four Corners area to discuss changes that can be of benefit to not only Aztec but the region. Meetings and conferences have been taking place and there has been Aztec representation. Continuing conversations must happen to solve this important issue. The final plans for the MRA will be ready in April. Those ideas outlined in the final report will be reviewed and considered for implementation. I am ready to attend meetings and conferences and talk to those with expertise on economic development and brainstorm concerning the economy of our area. We should do additional marketing for tourism to increase the number of visitors who stay and spend money in the region. I encourage every Aztec citizen to visit our Visitors Center and know the resources available to those who come to our beautiful Four Corners. We live in an incredibly geographically and culturally diverse area. Take advantage of the opportunities in and near Aztec. We should also have discussions about additional recreational activities and festivals that can draw visitors to our area.

Q: Within Aztec’s Commission-Manager Government, explain your understanding of the role of an Aztec City CommissionER.

A: The City Commission is the governing body of the city. All powers of the municipality are vested in the Commission as prescribed in New Mexico state law. The Commission is responsible for ordinances that secure the welfare of the city. The Commission performs all acts required for the general welfare of the city. The Commission must appoint a City Manager as well as hold that person responsible for the proper and efficient administration of the municipal government. They also are responsible to create all offices and boards necessary to carry out the work of the municipality.

These are not my words but only part of the review of the requirements of the position for which I have applied. I’m prepared to study further these most important duties of a City Commissioner and to fully engage in the high level of responsibilities of this role. An important role of the Commissioners is to be good stewards of taxpayer money that funds the city. I am committed to being that good steward and to be transparent in all financial decisions necessary to properly govern the city. I feel strongly the duty to be a voice of the people of Aztec and to engage in discussions with citizens to better carry out the outlined responsibilities of my position as Commissioner.

Q: In your view, is it government’s job to attract customers and grow business/es?

A: It needs to be a mutual effort to attract businesses and customers to Aztec. This will be a positive benefit to both the city government and the businesses that serve the community. Private enterprise should accept the bulk of responsibility for marketing and selling their products and services. Government can only play a supportive role in the process. One such role is support on city websites and support for increasing tourism. Another aid to local business is signage to let travelers know what is available in our city and the location of businesses of interest. In this current economic shift in our area, businesses need the support of local government. Decisions made by the Commission and department directors surely affect the business community and that must be taken into consideration as projects are planned and carried out. The North Main extension, the Arterial Route, the Main Street Redevelopment plans are all projects affecting business and commerce in Aztec. Zoning decisions and ordinances must be made with consideration for our business community. Business growth and success is a benefit to the government by providing increased revenues to support necessary city services.

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Answer/s from Joel Barton, Candidate for City Commission, [email protected] 505-330-3788

Q: What are your ideas for Aztecs economic diversification? 

A: First, it is most important to keep up good relations with the current businesses that already exist and contribute to our local economy including small businesses (like farms and ranches) that access and contribute to our community. Next, while energy and tourism seem to be the two main factors that attract people to our area I think we need to look towards the development of small businesses that attract visitors to our community. Business incubators like the HUB or some kind of incentives for start-up businesses can be good for diversification. If I am elected I will seek out resources including the economic advisory board to ensure positive economic outcomes.

Q: With the closure of Four Corners Generating Station imminent, property taxes are predicted to increase dramatically. If elected what would you do to manage the burden on area residents?

A: If I am elected I would not seek to burden the citizens with any tax hikes or new taxes; speaking from personal experience it has become more difficult to maintain a standard of living over the years as prices have gone up and businesses that provide employment are being shut down or moved out of the area.

Q: According to the Farmington Utility System, Aztec consumers pay a 47.6% higher rate for electricity than Farmington customers. As an Aztec Commissioner how would you address this situation? 

A: To be honest I would have to look into this question a little more, but if I were to speculate or give my opinion I believe some of that cost may be a result of the solar project the city invested in. If this is the case then over time electricity costs should go down because Aztec will be generating more of its own electricity. As I understand it the city currently buys its energy from other sources. Again this is just a thought; I would have to research the subject further.

Q: The HUB has been a widely debated subject. The city has made the decision to purchase the building ($100,000+) What is your opinion on the HUB? Do we invest further resources in maintaining a Small Business incubator? Or, do we cut our losses and lease/rent or sell the property?

A: I like the idea of a small business incubator like the HUB; it encourages some economic diversification that question #2 is addressing. I would favor investing resources if they have already been allocated or set up in the planning; otherwise, as tough as it would be, we may have to cut our losses and look for alternative options for helping people start up new businesses (like offering incentives to help start-ups).

Q: If elected what in your view is the most important civic issue on the agenda? 

A: First thing that needs to happen is the hiring of a new permanent city manager since he/she will mainly oversee almost all the major departments of the city and work closely with the commission to communicate on the day to day operations and needs for these departments as well as the needs for the city.

Q: Are you in Favor or Opposed to the Sunday liquor sales? Why?

A: I am in favor for Sunday sales of alcohol; we currently have only a few businesses in town who have the licenses to sell alcohol (mainly beer and wine) and people can buy these items as well as spirits on Sundays at a few convenient stores or the grocery store.

Q What is your plan to return Reservoir 1 to service? 

A: Not being a commissioner (yet) I am not quite sure where the city public works is at with this particular project and if it has approval to move forward; from what I can tell it looks like it is in the stages of picking a contractor. If this is the case I would like to know the status in order to move forward, if there is something holding it up, or at least let the people know how long it may take.

Q: Within Aztec’s Commission-Manager Government, explain your understanding of the role of an Aztec City Commissioner?

A: While the city manager’s role is to act as the city’s top executive overseeing the day to day operations and other departments of the city (including the hiring/firing of city employees and other personnel issues), he/she has a duty to execute or carry out the policies set forth by the commission. As an elected official, the role of an Aztec City Commissioner is to serve as a representative of the citizens and taxpayers of the community in a manner that also serves the best interests of the city. Being part of the governing entity for the community, a commissioner serves as a policy maker with an understanding that the city should operate in an efficient and effective manner; additionally, commissioners must give consent or approval for certain matters that come before them (i.e. budget proposals, recommendations that may come from the city manager, capital improvement projects, etc.…).

Q: What is the most important job of an Aztec City Commissioner?

A: I believe the most important job of an Aztec City Commissioner is to represent the best interests of the city-including its employees and its residents for optimal living. Thus, it is the duty of a commissioner to govern in an efficient and effective manner when establishing policies and giving consent or approval to items that come before them.

Q: If water rationing were to be proposed what use would you cut off first?

A: I would first ask for volunteer rationing of domestic water use (i.e. watering lawn and gardens or running swamp coolers at certain times of the day, possibly rotating days, using shorter cycle settings on washers, etc...). Next if something had to be done by way of a resolution or ordinance, I would still look at cutting domestic water use for personal things (i.e. lawns, gardens, washing off driveways, etc...) and propose things like watering lawns and gardens on certain rotating days during specific times of the day. Hopefully, we would not have to go to anything too extreme beyond this.

Q: Describe the process of your understanding of hiring a new city manager?

A: First I think the Aztec City Commission would have to decide if we wanted to look at possible candidates from within one of the city departments internally or look for a candidate outside of the city structure. If we are looking for candidates from both or just outside candidates I think the commission would be wise to use a recruitment firm to screen qualified applicants. Once the firm has narrowed down the applicants to a few recommended choices, the city commission would have to determine the best option or reject all recommendations and continue the search until an optimal candidate is found.

Q: What do you see as top three priorities for long term planning?

A: Three priorities for long term planning are making sure we progress economically, that capital improvement projects will be completed on time and on (under) budget, and that the city continues to build strong community relationships with the Aztec Municipal School District. Because the city has already vested interests for economic growth with the MRA plan forthcoming, I think it would be wise to consider the final results for future economic planning. As well, we should consider all viable options for future economic growth. A second priority for long term planning would have to be making sure public works programs are moving forward in a timely manner. Fixing outdated infrastructure is a continuous need in any municipality, but it should not cost more due to untimely delays and other problems that may arise. Effective planning should minimize the latter. Finally, although the school district is its own government entity, I believe there is room to continue to build a strong partnership with the city when it comes to community safety and possible economic growth. In light of recent events on a national scale, the subject of school safety has become a growing concern. Because the schools exist within the city, any decisions made about school safety not only impacts the schools but it impacts the entire community. There needs to be some kind continuous dialogue and understanding of best practices between the members of the community and schools when it comes to safety. From an economic point of view we should continue to seek out relationships that could possibly foster economic growth. The school district is sitting on vacant lands that had original plans for development but continue to sit vacant (i.e. the vacant lot where the old courthouse stood, parts of the Tiger East Complex). As a city we should possibly be partnering with the schools to see how development can happen.

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Answer/s from Victor Snover, Candidate for City Commission, [email protected], 304-550-7099

Q: Are you in Favor or Opposed to the Sunday liquor sales?

A: On the topic of Sunday alcohol sales in Aztec, I am wholeheartedly in favor of being able to meet friends, family, and colleagues for a social drink at our local pubs and restaurants on a Sunday. I believe it’s time for Aztec to join the rest of the region and allow folks to make up their own mind as to if they want to partake on Sunday’s or not. My opinion is that government should play a limited role in certain aspects of our daily lives and especially in down economic times, any opportunity to improve economic activity should be favorably considered. Just from a personal standpoint, wouldn’t it be cool if we could meet at the pub and have a beer while watching a football game or a race, etc? I think that might be something we could all support.

Q: What is your plan to return Reservoir 1 back into service?

A: After visiting with members of city staff, I learned of the challenges that our city employees are working to overcome as they make progress on this issue. The bottom line is: the city is currently working the problem and due to the sheer size of the reservoir, it’s important to operate safely to protect personnel and equipment, which requires waiting for the thick layer of silt (approximately 7-8 feet deep) to adequately dry out so the cleaning out of the reservoir can commence. Core samples have been taken and tested to ensure that its safe for water and in the future a liner is planned for the bottom of the reservoir to eliminate any potential leeching of unwanted materials from the soil into the stored water. The accompanying tower is also in need of repair and that project is also currently under consideration for repair/replacement. With the specter of potential summer drought on the horizon, there is also talk of cleaning out the reservoir and using it as a storage this year in the event that its needed to fend off water shortages this summer. I pledge to work with city staff/employees to get this important piece of city infrastructure back up and running as soon as possible and practical and to prioritize its service for the citizens of Aztec.

Q: Regarding the closure of Four Corners Generating Station (slated for 2022)

A: I spoke with the San Juan County Assessor’s office to see what impact that would have on Aztec residents. I learned that the brunt of the impact will be felt by the residents that fall into the Central Consolidated School District (Kirtland, NM). For our residents to be affected, the San Juan County Commission would have to vote to increase mill rates for the entire county. As of now, that has not been proposed, but in the event that it does get proposed and/or gets voted upon, I will advocate for a phased in increase over a period of time to help lessen the impact of such an increase. Additionally, I will support and work toward finding renewable energy partners that could potentially take over some of those lost jobs and also help to lessen the hardship placed upon all of us in the county, and specifically, here at home in Aztec.

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Answer/s from Mark E. Lewis, Candidate for City Commission, [email protected], (505) 330-6394

Q: What are your ideas for Aztecs economic diversification?

A: I believe the city should encourage diversification by working with existing economic development agencies in San Juan County. We already have a diverse mix of small businesses and light manufacturing in Aztec, and this should be highlighted and additional small businesses should be encouraged.This should also include tourism and businesses aimed at making the most of our great outdoor activities. Small business growth and tourism would help to diversify the city’s economy.

Q: With the closure of Four Corners Generating Station imminent, property taxes are predicted to increase dramatically. If elected what would you do to manage the burden on area residents?

A: While property taxes may indeed rise, the city’s influence on them is rather minimal. The lion’s share of property taxes goes to the schools and the county. The city does get a percentage of them, but in the past year, the amount was less than $700,000. The largest share of revenue comes from gross receipts tax. How much gross receipts tax the city can impose is limited by state law.

Q: According to the Farmington Utility System, Aztec consumers pay a 47.6% higher rate for electricity than Farmington customers. As an Aztec Commissioner how would you address this situation?

A: I would dispute the assertion Farmington residents pay nearly 50 percent less than Aztec residents for their electricity since the new agreement was reached with the electric supplier. A part of the problem with the electric utility is that it has been historically used to support the water and sewer departments as well. As was announced in 2017, the city will have to being incrementally increasing the water and sewer rates to eventually make them self sufficient. Once all of the utilities are breaking even, it might be possible to look at rate reductions for the electric utility.

Q: The HUB has been a widely debated subject. The city has made the decision to purchase the building ($100,000+) What is your opinion on the HUB? Do we invest further resources in maintaining a Small Business incubator? Or, do we cut our losses and lease/rent or sell the property?

A: I believe if managed well, the HUB could help entrepreneurs get a foot hold and then expand the city’s economy. To do this, a few changes would be needed, including additional staffing on a full-time basis.

Some of the money seet aside to purchase the building came from an economic development fund. At the present time, I would keep the HUB and endeavor to make it work.

If it fails to work out, the city can then sell or otherwise make use of the property.

Q: If elected what in your view is the most important civic issue on the agenda?

A: If pressing health and welfare projects are what is meant by civic issue, I would say addressing water needs of Aztec residents and drainage and flooding issues would top my list.

Preparing for drought should be a regular part of city business now, and I am uncertain the preparations now in place, including the water pipeline to Bloomfield, are both functional and adequate.

Flooding is an issue facing many areas of Aztec. Lovers Lane/Blanco have flooded in recent years, and there have been problems in Kokopelli Park and other areas. Existing flood control structures are not all well maintained and additional engineering is needed in several areas.

This is, of course, expensive and something which should be looked at as a long-term goal.

Q: Are you in Favor or Opposed to the Sunday liquor sales? Why?

A: Yes, I am very much in favor of Sunday liquor sales, or, rather sales by the glass.

I can purchase a bottle of wine at stores in Aztec to take home, but I cannot go to a restaurant and order a glass of wine with dinner.

This makes no sense.

Moreover, if people are serious about economic development, having restaurants, pubs and microbreweries to provide entertainment is an essential to attract tourists and residents.

Q: What is your plan to return Reservoir 1 to service?

A: My understanding is Reservoir 1 was drained to allow for dredging and removing accumulated silt.

When I visited the reservoir, there was no sign this work is progressing, and while some silt was evident in the bottom, it is unclear whether the amount of silt justifies the need to remove the silt at this time.

I would urge the acting city manager and relevant employees to first determine the depth of the silt and either expedite the cleaning of the reservoir or if not crucial to its operation at this time, to begin refilling it.

Despite recent moisture, we have not escaped drought conditions which will undoubtedly worsen as warmer weather ensues.

City residents may face water shortages this year and leaving reservoir 1 out of service will only worsen the situation.

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Answer/s from Sheri Rogers, Candidate for City Commission, [email protected] 505-635-5249

Q. Within Aztec’s Commission-Manager Government, explain your understanding of the role of an Aztec City Commissioner.

A. An in-depth analysis of the Commission-Manager form of government is available on the New Mexico Municipal League (NMML) website, http://www.nmml.org, but here are some of the highlights. Aztec’s form of government is fairly unique in the state of New Mexico with most municipalities being the Mayor/Council form of government and only a few others being the Commission/Manager or Charter form of government. The Commission/Manager form is different in that the mayor, as well as mayor pro tem, is not elected but rather selected by the serving commissioners every two years when there is an election. The mayor serves as the legal and ceremonial head of the commission and votes on all issues. The mayor pro tem serves that role in the absence of the mayor and also votes on all issues. With the Mayor/Council form of government, the mayor (or mayor pro tem if acting in the capacity of mayor) only votes in the event of a tie. The five commissioners in Aztec are the governing body and therefore controls all finances and property, passes ordinances and resolutions, sets salaries, establishes and abolishes jobs, sets its own rules and procedures. Another difference between a council and a commission is that a commission does not have any say in the hiring and firing of employees. That is handled solely by the city manager and he is appointed/hired by the commission.

Q. Explain your understanding of the Process of hiring a new city manager.

A. There are a variety of ways to hire a new city manager, but from recent events I have learned that the most logical way to me is to hire a consultant/agency with experience in finding talent for the position. They would already have a lot of the leg work done as far as qualifications, backgrounds, etc. There are also many ways in which that consultant/agency can assist depending on the requirements and needs of the city. The consultant is able to provide candidates from a pool of existing names nationwide and also publish statewide and locally to pull in any qualified “local” candidates. Those candidates are based on criteria provided to the consultant by the city. They can be interim, interim with potential for long term or for permanent long term. My personal choice would be an interim with the potential for long term just to make sure it’s a good fit in reality. Sometimes on paper it looks good but when measuring performance in person it’s not the same. This would allow staff, commission, the community and the candidate to work together for a while to ensure it’s a favorable relationship for all. The services provided can also include the wages to be paid by the consultant/agency until such time a decision is made to hire that person or not. This would save the city some time and effort in case it isn’t a favorable candidate. That may involve a fee larger than what is allowed without going out for quotes or to bid. The safest way is to go out for quotes in the event it ends up being over the $60,000 limit allowed by New Mexico state statute. I think everyone wants a candidate that intends to invest personally in our awesome little community and treats staff and the community like valued assets. Qualities like those of our previous city manager, Josh Ray.

 

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