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Mayor Raye Miller listens as city clerk Aubrey Hobson details how the U.S. Air Force’s intended airspace expansion would affect Artesia Tuesday at City Hall. (Brienne Green – Daily Press)

The Artesia City Council heard a report on the effect the U.S. Air Force’s intended expansion of its military operating airspace into Southeast New Mexico could have on Artesia at Tuesday’s regularly-scheduled meeting.

The USAF announced in 2017 it was considering the expansion of two military operation areas in New Mexico. One of those expansions, centered around providing Holloman Air Force Base in Alamogordo with additional airspace in which to train F-16 fighter pilots, would affect the Roswell, Artesia and Carlsbad area.

Residents in all three communities have expressed concern over the potential for disrupted commercial and private flights, difficulties operating air ambulance services, and other issues such as increased noise pollution.

“Roswell and Carlsbad have sent many letters and had a lot of correspondence with (the USAF),” said city clerk Aubrey Hobson, “telling them they oppose this. Roswell seems to be more affected from the commercial flights they have coming in there.”

Hobson said he and Artesia airport manager Lance Goodrich met with a USAF representative last week.

“If they do what they say, it’s not going to affect us that much,” Hobson said.

Hobson told the council the representative stated emergency medical transport would have priority, needing only to make contact by radio and any Air Force planes would vacate the area immediately. Other planes flying into or out of the Artesia airport would only see delays of around five minutes, the representative said, the time it would take for airport officials to contact the USAF about removing their planes from the airspace to accommodate the traffic.

“That being said, we know if the government takes over something, sometimes they don’t follow what they say they’re going to do,” said Hobson.

Hobson’s recommendation to the council was to direct staff to begin making contact with the USAF in efforts to set up a meeting in Artesia.

“Let them know we have a voice in this also,” Hobson said. “I’m not sure they realize how important this airport is and how many flights come in and out of it, so we’d like to at least have them come talk to us.”

In other business Tuesday, the council postponed once again a public hearing for the consideration of an ordinance amending Chapters 1, 2 and 11 of the Artesia City Code. The changes to Chapter 11 have been the sticking point for Community Development director Jim McGuire and the council, as they contain extensive revisions of the city’s regulations regarding signage.

“There’s some entire pieces in here that I have problems with,” Councilor Jeff Youtsey said. “I think it’s too restrictive.”

McGuire told the council a manual from the sign industry had been consulted during the process and that city staff were “more liberal than even the sign industry” with what is allowable.

“Part of our concern as a staff is we have too many signs in disrepair, too many signs that are just a frame with no sign in it, and it’s looking junky,” McGuire said. “So we’re trying to address those type of issues. Any time we pass an ordinance like this, all those that have signs up now get to keep those signs, including the electronic message signs.

“But it’s what you want as a city.”

The council ultimately elected to continue the public hearing at its March 27 meting after Community Development personnel has had more time to communicate with local businesses through the Chamber of Commerce.

The proposed changes to the portions of the city code regarding signage were detailed in Tuesday’s edition of the Daily Press.

Above, District 2 Councilor George Mullen, left, and District 1 Councilor Raul Rodriguez are sworn in Monday by city clerk Aubrey Hobson in Council Chambers at City Hall. Below, District 3 Councilor Kent Bratcher takes the oath. (Maegan Lemon – Daily Press)

(Maegan Lemon – Daily Press)

The council approved a separate ordinance amending the Existing Building Code and Property Maintenance Code portions of the municipal code.

“This is just saying you adopt all conditions, provisions, limitations and terms of the latest edition of the code adopted by the state instead of having to come back to you and change every one that’s adopted,” said McGuire.

In the personnel portion of the meeting, the council approved the hiring of Simranjit Khurana as a police officer at a pay rate of $3,332 per month and Karl Becker as a police corporal at a rate of $4,641.

Permission to advertise and fill the positions of purchasing agent/assistant city clerk/records supervisor and detention officer was also granted.

Tuesday’s meeting marked the first for Artesia’s new mayor, Raye Miller, and District 2 councilor George Mullen.

“It’s great to be up here,” said Mullen. “I’m kind of nervous, but I’ll get over that. I look forward to learning from each of you councilors, and I look forward to the community letting us know what the community needs. It should be a great four years.”

“In many ways, I feel thankful the election results turned out the way they did for the fact we have seven experienced councilors to help the two newbies actually improve,” said Miller. “The other thing I can tell you is that we have a great team of staff and supervisors below staff, and that makes the city great.

“I’m excited about the opportunities to learn more.”

As part of its consent agenda Tuesday, the council:

• approved a Memorandum of Agreement with the Artesia Chamber of Commerce for the 2018 Washington D.C. Economic Development Trip.

• approved the reassignment of a lease for Lot 2 of Bock 3 of the Industrial Park, 2404 N. Parkland St., from LSEP, LLC, to Martha Patterson.

• approved a Helipad Landing Agreement and Living Quarters Agreement with Trans Aero, LTD.

• accepted the resignation of Joanne Jones, purchasing agent/assistant city clerk-treasurer/records supervisor, effective March 23.

• accepted the resignation of Wesley Green, detention officer, effective March 6.

• approved Miller’s attendance at the NMML/NMSIF Mandatory Mayor Safety Training in Albuquerque.

• approved three streets/parks employees’ attendance at the HollyFrontier Chip Seal Workshop in Ruidoso.

• approved two fire employees’ attendance at the New Mexico Firefighters Training Academy – Leadership in Supervision Training in Silver City.

• approved one facilities maintenance employee’s attendance at the Associated Contractors of N.M. training in Albuquerque.

• approved two recreation employees’ attendance at the NMRPA State Conference and Board Meeting in Santa Fe.

• approved elected officials’ attendance at the NMML 2018 Newly Elected Officials Institute in either Albuquerque or Las Cruces.

• approved executive, legislative and departments heads’ attendance at the NMML District 5 meeting in Hobbs.

• approved one wastewater employee’s attendance at the NMRWA Annual Conference in Albuquerque.

• approved one police employee’s attendance of online Foundations of Forensic Photography training.

• approved one fire employee’s attendance of the NMFTA Fire Officer I training in Los Alamos.

• approved one police employee’s attendance of online Death Investigation training.

• approved one police employee’s attendance of the Media Relations and Public Information Officer training in Albuquerque.

• approved one police employee’s attendance of the Law Enforcement Coordinators’ Symposium in Albuquerque.

• granted a request from First Untied Methodist Church for the use of Woodbine Cemetery from 6:15-7 a.m. Sunday, April 1, for the Easter Sunrise Service.