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The Artesia City Council voted unanimously last week to return the lost wages of all employees still working for the city who were affected by the 10-percent salary cut enacted by the council on Aug. 1, 2016.

The across-the-board cut to city employees’ pay was a response to severe budget shortfalls resulting from the downturn in the oil and gas industry. The wage decrease lasted just shy of 10 months, with the council restoring full pay May 23, 2017.

In the interim, the city accepted a grant from a local foundation in September 2016 that restored full pay to certified police officers, firefighters and EMTs, along with two librarians.

Budget and Finance Committee chairman Bill Rogers recommended Tuesday that, beginning with the July 20 pay cycle and continuing over the next six months, all employees who were working for the city as of July 1, and who had remained in their positions through that 10-month period, would be “made whole again.”

“Each of the councilors appreciates every one of our employees who went through that time,” said Mayor Raye Miller. “This is a small way of actually saying thank you to them. We can’t make up for the stress that that caused, but we certainly are appreciative of the fact they’re still with us.”

In what will surely be considered venti news by Artesians still celebrating the recent addition of Wendy’s to the community’s restaurant lineup, city clerk Aubrey Hobson also announced the upcoming sale of property to another popular chain: Starbucks.

Hobson said Tuesday the lot on the southeast corner of 10th and Main streets would be sold by the city to Starbucks at its July 10 meeting. No information is yet available as to when Starbucks plans to begin construction.

During the infrastructure portion of the meeting, director Byron Landfair informed the council that the Infrastructure Committee had recently approved the phasing schedule for the upcoming Hermosa Drive construction project from 13th Street to 26th Street.

Landfair said the city would soon begin conducting outreach efforts, such as distributing flyers to residents in the area, and would hold its first major public meeting on the subject during the third week of July. No official date has yet been set, but that information will be published in the Daily Press as soon as it becomes available.

“I really want to just encourage the public to come to these meetings and get informed,” said Councilor Kent Bratcher. “Our track record hasn’t been real good as far as getting attendance at these meetings to answer questions, so I would really like for people to turn out.”

Fire Chief Kevin Hope spoke on the city’s recent approval of restrictions on the sale and use of certain types of aerial fireworks and firecrackers.

Hope said that while the city received a significant amount of moisture June 16, it still wasn’t enough to lift the restrictions. Based on upcoming weather data, the chief stated he did not believe Artesia would see enough precipitation to warrant removing the ban.

The council also approved the sale of an approximately 37.1-acre piece of property in the Artesia Industrial Park to Chase Energy Services, LLC, in the amount of $850,000 for use as an industrial property.

In response to the decision to reimburse city employees’ lost wages, Rogers recommended a portion of the monies from the sale be transferred to the general fund to cover those costs.

The Budget and Finance Committee recommended $350,000 be diverted from the Industrial Park Fund to the general fund, with the remaining $500,000 staying in the Industrial Park Fund.

“Our budget in the city is not in good shape,” said Miller, “and this is a way to actually cover the expense that we approved previously, because we are struggling with our city budget for ’18-’19.”

Community Development director Jim McGuire informed the council the Planning & Zoning Committee had met again to review the city’s proposed sign ordinance.

McGuire also provided an update on meetings between the city, the Artesia Public Schools, and the Artesia Aquatic Center Foundation, which touched on operating procedures and whether the operation and maintenance of the facility would be the responsibility of the city or contracted out. He said analysis of the costs associated with such a contract would be available by the end of August.

Hobson received the council’s approval to move forward with contacting property owners regarding utility liens over $100. Hobson said after the letters are sent and owners given time to step forward and pay the outstanding fees, the remaining names would be published in the Daily Press; lastly, the city would file liens on the properties.

The council also granted approval for the setting of a date for their annual retreat. The council will hold a short meeting on its regularly-scheduled evening of July 24 in order to conduct a trio of public hearings, then will convene in the open retreat meeting at 8 a.m. Friday, July 27, at the Public Safety Complex.

In personnel business, the council approved the hiring of Steve Chavez, firefighter/EMT-I, $3,804 per month; Amador Amaya, firefighter/EMT-B, $2,809 per month; and Darcy Carlisle, firefighter/EMT-I, $3,329 per month.

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

• a Memorandum of Understanding with the Eddy County DWI Program for DWI offender tracking services.

• a sublease between Warren Development, LLC, and Halliburton Energy Services Inc. for Tract Z of the Amended Replat III, Artesia Industrial Park, Phase III, less the western 40 feet of the tract at 203 Fletcher Road.

• a First Amendment to the Industrial Park Lease Agreement for HollyFrontier Asphalt Company, LLC, at 2705 N. Freeman Ave., Lot 2A of the Navajo Refining Replat and Lots 3 and 4 of the Replat Industrial Park of Artesia, Phase III.

• ratification of Miller’s approval to set a public hearing for July 24 on the question of whether the Alcohol and Gaming Division of the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department should approve the transfer of ownership of two state liquor licenses for Allsup’s, 1910 W. Main St. and 800 S. First St.

• the setting of a public hearing for July 24 for consideration of an ordinance for the annexation and designation of Zoning Districts: Tract 2 of the L Bar L Ranch Boundary Survey Plat, 225.28 acres, located between 13th Street and U.S. 285, south of Mill Road; proposed zoning designates: “R-2” General Residential District, “C” Commercial District, and “M-1” Light Industrial District. Owner, Caza Capital; Agent, Thompson Engineering Consultants Inc.

• one solid waste employee to attend landfill operator training in Carlsbad.

• one police employee to attend Supervising the Toxic Officer training in Rio Rancho.

• two police employees to attend Emotional Survival for Female Enforcers training in Amarillo, Texas.

• one police employee to attend Leadership for Women in Law Enforcement training in Artesia.

• one police employee to attend Highway Vehicle Stops and Drug Trafficker Advanced training in Lovington.

• one police employee to attend ARIDE training in Albuquerque.

• one police employee to attend Glock Armorer training in Lubbock, Texas.

• one police employee to attend HB93 Train the Trainer courses in Santa Fe.

• one finance and administration employee to attend the New Mexico Municipal League policy meeting in Albuquerque.

• one police employee to attend SFST Instructor refresher courses in Hobbs.

• a resolution releasing the Housing Authority of the City of Artesia from the Liability for Payment in Lieu of Taxes for the period from July 1, 2018, to June 30, 2019.