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City to consider raising salaries for mayor, councilors, judge

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The Artesia City Council has scheduled two public hearings next month as it considers a pair of ordinances that would raise the salaries of the mayor, mayor pro tem, city councilors and municipal judge.

The hearings, set for the council’s Dec. 12 meeting, will present the amendments to the City Code for a possible vote. Currently, compensation for the positions is as follows:

• Mayor: $9,600 per year

• Mayor pro tem: $8,400 per year

• City councilors: $7,200 per year

• Municipal judge: $44,000 per year

The ordinances under consideration list new annual compensation figures as follows:

• Mayor: $25,000 per year

• Mayor pro tem: $15,000 per year

• City councilors: $12,500 per year

• Municipal judge: $65,000 per year

In requesting the public hearings, City Clerk Summer Valverde said the current salaries have not been changed since 2005.

“The mayor and council have looked into bringing this forward,” said Valverde. “We don’t have a city manager and the mayor is pretty much like a city manager, so I did push for it as well. It does take a considerable amount of time. At this time the mayor gets $800 a month and city council gets $600 per month.”

“There’s a process we have to go through in order to do this,” said District 1 Councilor Raul Rodriguez. “This is long overdue. The mayor’s seat is not the best seat and it’s not something everyone wants to have. If the public wants to attend the public hearing – they’ll be able to give their opinion.”

“The statute calls for [the councilors] to make that decision,” said City Attorney Cas Tabor. “I’ll tell you something. That’s not much money for the time you all spend.”

Mayor Jon Henry noted that the proposed increases would not be in effect until the councilors are re-elected.

The council approved a $5,000 retention stipend for all city employees, excluding certified first responders who receive grant money from the PY Foundation. The stipend will be paid on the Friday before Thanksgiving. 

“We’ve talked about it and we don’t know what we can do in future years depending on revenue,” said Rodriguez. “This is just to let city employees know we thank them for what they do. Next year we may come up with a different number on that retention. It’s not a mandate that we have to do that. We felt like we wanted to reward our employees for their hard work.”

Elsewhere Tuesday, the council celebrated a host of good news, including the donation of 120 acres of land adjacent to the south side of Jaycee Park to the city by the Nest Egg Energy Corporation.

The City of Artesia was recently chosen from many applicants for a pilot program of the Southeastern New Mexico Economic Development District (SNMEDD). The city also currently has access to a grant writer through the SNMEDD and will be applying for new grants.

Capital outlay hearings were held recently and the New Mexico senators and representative in attendance were receptive of Artesia’s presentation.

Infrastructure Director Byron Landfair reported a new permit was granted to “The Wells,” the new apartment complex on the north side of Richey Avenue, stating they are close to completion on four of the apartment buildings and the club house. He also reported the development of storage sheds south of North Park and a new restaurant being constructed at the corner of Cleveland Avenue and First Street.

“Artesia should be proud; we have great things happening here,” said Henry.

Some not-so-positive news was later shared by Landfair. Last Friday, a connection under the bridge by Fenn’s Country Market sprang a leak. 

“It’s in a peculiar spot,” said Landfair. “It will be $250,000 to $300,000 to put the connection back into the water system, so we’re trying to determine if the system can be as functional without using that connection.”

Landfair also reported on the water main leak near the intersection of Eighth Street and Richardson Avenue. 

“So far, it is not holding the seal,” said Landfair. “We now have to wait for them to construct clamps to match the clamps from the ’40s and ’50s that are used in this area.”

To date, Landfair and his staff have not been able to secure a contractor to fix the leak on the large tank on Eighth Street. They will continue to seek a contractor and are monitoring the leak which so far is not getting any worse.

Police Chief Kirk Roberts reported three shootings in the month of October, two of which were officer-involved shootings. 

October also saw an uptick in instances of graffiti and auto burglaries with nine and eight, respectively. There were five accidents with injuries, three residential burglaries, two breaking and enterings, two stolen vehicles, and one burglary of a structure.

The Artesia Animal Shelter took in 75 dogs and 25 cats, with 20 dogs adopted, eight rescued, 22 reclaimed and 19 euthanized. Ten cats were adopted and 21 rescued.

The fire and EMS department reported October as their second busiest month in 2023. The department had 14 city and eight county fire calls, plus 174 city and 32 county EMS calls.

During the lengthy public hearing portion of the meeting, Gary Ryback, owner of the recently condemned property at 1304 S. Sandia St., shared a timeline and activities to manage the fire-damaged property and asked the council to rescind their decision. However, the council did not rescind Resolution 1839, finding that the property is damaged and dilapidated to the extent that is a menace to the public comfort, health, peace and safety.

In other business, the council approved:

• the setting of a public hearing for Dec. 12 for consideration of an ordinance amending the Lodgers’ Tax ordinance.

• a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with City of Champions for the construction of bathrooms on the west side of Jaycee Park.

• Budget Adjustment Resolution 1843l; Rodriguez noted the budget was enhanced by $2.6 million in grants Artesia has received.

• amended Artesia Senior Center Advisory Council by-laws.

• new requirements for food brought in for activities at the Senior Center.

In final business, Henry reported a request for a letter of support from the City of Artesia to the City of Roswell. Roswell is among the top three locations in consideration for the relocation of the Reno Air Races beginning in 2025. The Reno Air Races has more than 70,000 people in attendance and generates $100 million in gross receipts taxes.

“We will be attending some events with Roswell in support,” said Henry. “This is a substantial event with air races and air shows and lots of qualifying events. We want everyone to see how excited the region is to host this event.”

Henry also reported he and the councilors are hosting a Minute with the Mayor from 8:30-9:30 a.m. on council meeting Tuesdays — the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month — at Kith + Kin Roasting Co.

Henry also pleaded with the residents of Artesia to lower their speed. 

“Speed is an issue here,” said the mayor. “Everybody needs to slow down. It’s ridiculous. There’s lots of options out there to deal with speeders. We are not going to do speed bumps. Rumble strips is an option that everyone is exploring. We are focused on trying to make our neighborhoods safe. Please slow down.”

As part of its consent agenda, the council granted permission for:

• the hiring of Rafael Reyes, Wastewater Assistant, at a pay rate of $2,920 per month; and Sheryl Ortega, Facilities Maintenance Custodian, $2,600 per month

• the promotions of Jayde Burnell to Recreation Supervisor, $4,144 per month; and James Contreras to Police Corporal, $4,905.33 per month.

• the resignations of Andres Arebalos, firefighter, effective Nov. 4; and Toby Bratcher, firefighter/paramedic, effective Oct. 24.

• two police employees to attend Use of Force Instructor training in Hobbs.

• one police employee to attend the New Mexico Safe School Summit in Albuquerque.

• one police employee to attend Basic Superior Liability training online.

• one fire employee to attend Fire Officer 11 training in Carlsbad.

• two finance employees to attend the GFOA Winter Conference in Albuquerque.

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