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The Artesia City Council discussed the concerns of a local disabled veteran regarding the Water Department’s drive-through payment lane Tuesday, as well as approved the annual ban on personal fireworks and charcoal grills inside Jaycee Park on the Fourth of July.

The council’s Infrastructure Committee was recently approached by resident Michael Maurer, a disabled veteran who is confined to a motorized cart. Maurer was dismayed to learn the city planned to convert the Water Department drive-through to additional parking as part of its ongoing renovation of Texas Avenue between Fifth and Seventh streets.

Maurer had previously contacted the Daily Press about the matter, expressing frustration with the fact he had only learned of the city’s intention by chance. He said the planned elimination of the payment lane had been mentioned to him in passing during a trip to City Hall to address a billing issue.

The Daily Press was subsequently contacted by other residents upset with the plan. They say the city’s alternatives – mailing payment by check, paying online, etc. – do not work for everyone and that the lane is a longtime convenience they see no reason to eliminate.

Maurer took those concerns last week to the committee meeting, and as a result, Infrastructure Committee Chairman and Mayor Pro-Tem Terry Hill told the council Tuesday it was the committee’s recommendation that the lane be kept.

However, Mayor Phillip Burch pointed out a cost will be associated with changing the original plans agreed upon by the project contractor. The mayor also pointed out that no other businesses, with the exception of banks, offer the type of pneumatic tube system utilized in the drive-through lane.

Maurer spoke at the meeting, stating it was not his intent to place the city in a position that would cost them additional money but that he “just hoped that there was a way to keep it open.”

“It has become a matter of convenience for me very much so,” Maurer said. “(His cart) is the only method of transportation I have at this point in my life.”

Maurer had also pointed out to the Infrastructure Committee that entering City Hall to make a payment was an ordeal, as three doors must be passed through to reach the Water Department, none of which have push-button automatic handicap access.

Hill also told the council the committee had spoken with Infrastructure Director Byron Landfair about that, who is beginning the process of looking into the cost associated with installing automatic doors at City Hall.

Several councilors expressed they also utilized the drive-through payment lane. They indicated part of the motivation for eliminating it stemmed from thoughts of the city’s eventual plan – put on hold a few years ago – to construct a new building across the street from its current location.

Councilors said that with that project off the radar for the foreseeable future, they saw little issue with keeping the drive-through lane as is.

Ultimately, the council tasked Landfair with compiling the necessary figures and numbers associated with eliminating the lane’s destruction from the Texas Avenue project for the council’s next meeting June 27, at which time they will review them and possibly make a decision.

“Know that this council thanks you for your service, and we value your opinion in these chambers,” the mayor told Maurer. “We will work to see if we can satisfy the needs of you as well as the rest of the citizens.”

In other business Tuesday, with Councilor Luis Florez absent, the council approved a request from Councilor Raul Rodriguez for the use of Jaycee Park June 20-22 for a HollyFrontier/NMMI Bronco youth football camp. Rodriguez abstained from the vote.

Also approved was a request by several residents and business owners in the 600 block of Chisum Avenue for the vacation of 60 feet of the 100-foot public right of way, as it had come to the residents’ attention their properties partially encroached on the ROW and they wished to bring them into compliance.

City Attorney John Caraway brought before the council a proposed amendment to Ordinance 12-2-2 (A) Penalty Assessment Misdemeanors.

Caraway said currently, if a motorist receives a parking ticket, they are required to appear in court to settle the tab. The amendment, which was approved by the council, will now allow motorists not wishing to contest their ticket to pay by mail or online.

In personnel business, the council approved the hiring of John Stephenson, Wastewater Department assistant, at a pay rate of $2,363 per month; Nieves Chavarria, Water Department technician, $2,363 per month; Paul Klontz, Planning Department Building Inspector II/Electrical Inspector, $3,025 per month; and Jack Van Der Veen, part-time airport attendant, $11.51 per hour.

The city also granted permission to advertise and fill the positions of purchasing agent, Parks Department equipment operator, receptionist and humane officer.

The public safety portion of the meeting included the Fire Chief Kevin Hope’s annual request for a ban on personal fireworks and non-gas grills inside Jaycee Park on the Fourth of July.

The ban, which has been enacted annually since around 2005, is designed to keep residents safe if they choose to celebrate and watch the city fireworks display from inside the park. It was approved.

The council also granted approval for Police Chief Kirk Roberts to accept the donation of a Sydney trailer from the Eddy County DWI Program. The trailer simulates intoxicated driving situations and can be used to educate students as well as individuals assigned to the DWI Program.

The chief also indicated the department’s primary crime concern continues to be auto burglaries associated with unlocked vehicles. Residents are encouraged to lock their vehicles and remove all valuables.

As part of its consent agenda Tuesday, the council approved:

• the removal of Police Chief Donald Raley and addition of Chief Roberts to the State and Federal Forfeiture Accounts at First American Bank.

• the retirement of Mary Josselyn, purchasing agent, effective June 13.

• the resignation of Tammie Durfey, Parks Department equipment operator, effective May 26.

• the resignation of Fatima Salinas, receptionist, effective June 2.

• the resignation of James Herrera, humane officer, effective June 26.

• permission for one wastewater employee to attend the NMWWA Southeast Section 2017 Advanced Water and Wastewater Training in Roswell.

• permission for one fire employee to attend the Fire Service Occupational Cancer Symposium in Phoenix, Ariz.

• permission for one police employee to attend the SFST Instructor Update in Las Cruces.

• permission for one police employee to attend the IAPE and NMPET Conference in Albuquerque.

• permission for two police employees to attend basic criminal investigator training in Artesia.

• permission for one executive employee to attend the NMSIF Veterans’ Safety Workshop in Ruidoso.

• permission for one police employee to attend tactical leadership training in Albuquerque.

• permission for one infrastructure employee to attend the Excel Basics and Beyond the Basics training in Roswell.

• permission for one finance employee to attend procurement training in Las Cruces.

• a request by the Artesia Arts Council for the use of Heritage Walkway from 8-10 p.m. Thursdays, June 8 through July 27, for their annual Summer Movie Series.

• a request by the Artesia Arts Council for the use of Central Park from 7 a.m. – 5 p.m. Oct. 21 for Art in the Park.

• a request by the Artesia Chamber of Commerce for the use of Heritage Walkway and Plaza Aug. 25-27 for the Red Dirt Black Gold Festival.

• a request by the Artesia Chamber of Commerce for the use of Eagle Draw from 6 a.m. – 1 p.m. Aug. 26 for the Red Dirt Black Gold Festival Oilfield Olympics.

• a request by the Artesia Chamber of Commerce for the use of Eagle Draw Nov. 4-5 for the annual Balloons & Tunes Festival.

• a request by the Eddy County Fair Association for a standby ambulance July 28-29 for the fair rode.

• a request by the Artesia Chamber of Commerce and the Eddy County Fair Association for the use of Main Street from Bulldog Boulevard east to Roselawn Avenue from 4-5 p.m. July 24 for the annual fair parade.

• Lodger’s Tax requests for the Artesia Arts Council ($51,000, annual FY18 tourist facility); Artesia MainStreet ($25,000, annual FY18 tourist facility); Artesia Historical Museum ($25,000, annual FY18 tourist facility); Artesia Public Library ($1,000, brochure project); Fourth of July Festivities ($7,500); Balloons & Tunes ($4,750); New Mexico MESA ($7,000); Changing Lives Coalition Star-Spangled Dash (4,500); and Four-on-Four Elite Football ($3,000).