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The city’s sign-ordinance saga will continue for at least another two weeks following postponement of its approval at Tuesday’s meeting of the Artesia City Council. And the City of Champions will also have to wait a little longer for both its Frappuccinos and a traffic light at First Street and Hermosa Drive.

The first of six scheduled public hearings on Tuesday’s agenda was for consideration and approval of the sale of city property at 10th and Main streets to Starbucks. The sale had twice been postponed from the council’s July 10 and 24 meetings, and this time around, it was dismissed.

Mayor Raye Miller indicated Starbucks no longer desired that particular location. He stated the corporation was seeking a site “without any issues,” and the 10th and Main spot “might have an issue.”

Three of the public hearings dealt with amendments to the City Code, including Chapter 9-1, “General Zoning Provisions;” Chapter 9-2, “Rules and Definitions;” and Chapter 9-11, “Signs.”

Community Development director Jim McGuire informed the council the amendments to Chapters 9-1 and 9-2 had been passed from the Planning Committee to Planning & Zoning, which unanimously recommended approval. No significant changes to either had been made since the items were last discussed by the council, and those to ordinances were approved 6-0, with Councilors Kent Bratcher and Jeff Youtsey absent.

McGuire said Planning & Zoning had also recommended approval of the Signs ordinance, and that following lengthy discussions with the local business community, that ordinance had been made “a lot more liberal than what we had before.”

Artesia Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Hayley Klein, however, informed the council there were still concerns amongst business owners.

“I think, in general, we received two types of comments,” she said. “One was just the general ‘Why more regulation; businesses need less regulation.’ And I guess Part B of that would be could you not regulate the billboards separately and address the other signs later.

“In terms of specifics, I think the one sticking point that I picked up from several people is the (requirement of) a licensed contractor and engineer for any type of sign. I don’t know if there’s any way to loosen that a little bit for certain types of signs. A licensed contractor creates more expense and challenge for the business owners, especially the small business owners.”

Councilor Bill Rogers reiterated his belief that the ordinance is too prohibitive.

“My concern is, if we were in a community that had business districts where you wanted that entire district to look alike, I guess I could understand it,” Rogers said. “But we have one Main Street and one main thoroughfare north-south that has businesses along that, and I think if you limit the originality of those signs from those businesses, I think it is considerably too overreaching and complex.”

McGuire told the council he had stated multiple times over the course of the process that sign approval by a licensed contractor was part of the city’s already-existing Building Code.

“We had a billboard that fell on the MainStreet building,” McGuire said. “The building official said, ‘No, you do not put that back up until we see an engineer’s stamp and make sure that there’s not going to be a problem.’

“There is a section, 9-11-2D, that says an engineer’s approval is needed when determined necessary by the building inspector, so not all signs are going to require that. But whether we put it in the sign code or not, when they get a building permit, they have to have that information for our building official.”

Ultimately, McGuire reminded the council the decision is entirely up to them.

“This is your town,” he said. “You can have no regulations if that’s your desire. Or you can have some regulations. Or you can have a bunch of regulations.”

Councilor Luis Florez motioned to postpone any potential vote and send the matter back to the Planning Committee in order to further address the concerns posed by Klein.

The fifth hearing was for consideration and approval of an ordinance for the Bush and Bowman Public Right-of-Way Dedication Plat, dedication of right-of-way to the public being 50 feet wide and approximately 1,326 feet in length, and Bush Avenue being 50 feet wide and approximately 844 feet in length. Owner of the plat is Yates Farms, LLC, and the agent is Harcrow Surveying, LLC.

“For some reason, those portions of Bush and Bowman have not been dedicated public rights-of-way,” McGuire told the council. “We’re doing platting for the Artesia Aquatic Center Foundation for the pool site, so the actual area where the roads need to be dedicated are still properties owned by Yates Farms.

“They’re the ones dedicating those two streets for public use at this time.”

McGuire said Tuesday’s action wouldn’t incorporate all of Bowman Drive as a public right-of-way, and that would likely come later with future developments.

“But we are getting just north of Bush all the way down to JJ Clarke, and from the west end of Bush to the end of the 10-acre parcel where the aquatic center is being built,” he said.

The ordinance was approved, along with a second platting ordinance for the Kennemur Land Division – Final Plat – County, located within the three-mile platting jurisdiction of the City of Artesia. The division will be of Tract 1 of the Menefee Land Division No. 2 into Lots 1-3, being 1.258, 1.876 and 1.90 acres in size, located in the 900 block of West Thoroughbred Road. Owners are Ray and Kaylee Kennemur; agent is Harcrow Surveying, LLC.

Police Chief Kirk Roberts provided the council with a report on discussions held in the most recent meeting of the Police and Fire Committee.

Roberts said two primary topics had been discussed, the first concerning the ordinance regarding pay rates and schedules for exempt employees’ working events. The chief said the originally ordinance was approved in 2002 and last revised in 2003; some positions listed no longer exist within the police and fire departments, and the committee agreed the ordinance was due for another revision.

Included in that was a recommendation that commanders be allowed to work special events funded by state grants or organizations outside the city at the time-and-a-half pay scale currently afforded to other employees.

“Right now, a commander makes $15 an hour when they work those versus the time-and-a-half that other employees make,” said Roberts. “The recommendation will be that we pay them time-and-a-half of their rate that’s already calculated in the pay scales when they work those, as long as it’s not city monies funding the project.”

Roberts also stated the police department was seeking to allow an employee residing in Roswell to use their city vehicle for travel to and from Artesia.

“Originally, there were 14 or 15 taking vehicles back and forth; right now, there’s seven,” Roberts said. “This individual lives in Roswell because they moved to Roswell for employment of the spouse. We would like an allowance for this individual to be able to join the other seven.”

The requests will be added to a future council agenda for discussion.

Infrastructure director Byron Landfair told the council that while his department had expected the New Mexico Department of Transportation to go out for bid on the construction of a traffic light at U.S. 285 and Hermosa, the state says it has run into an “issue” with the railroad and will not begin the bid process until May 2019, with expected construction in the summer of 2019.

“However, if history’s a teacher on the light itself, once the contractor gets that contract in his hands, those lights are about a six- to eight-month project,” Landfair said.

He stated his best guess was that the city would see a light at the intersection around the end of next year.

In final business, city clerk Aubrey Hobson reminded the council a meeting has been scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 11, for utility lien appeals.

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

• the approval of 2018-19 outside-request Public Service Announcements for:
1. Artesia Advocacy Group/Chaves County CASA ($25,000)
2. Artesia Paws & Claws ($9,981)
3. Artesia Clean & Beautiful ($43,769)
4. Artesia MainStreet ($42,750)
5. Artesia Community Drug and Crime Coalition ($43,769)
6. Artesia Department of Development ($35,000)
7. My Neighborhood ($32,065)

• the reappointment of Felipe Garcia to the Recreation Commission Advisory Board (term to expire August 2021).

• the appointment of Greg Tutak to the Recreation Commission Advisory Board (term to expire August 2021).

• the hiring of Christopher Archuleta, wastewater assistant, at a pay rate of $2,363 per month.

• the hiring of Heather Navarrette, professional standards and training coordinator for the Artesia Police Department, at a pay rate of $2,088 per month.

• the resignation of David Watson, fire lieutenant/paramedic, effective Sept. 7.

• the retirement of James Styck, humane officer, effective Jan. 1, 2019.

• the resignation of Ryan Hagedorn, police officer, effective Aug. 22.

• the resignation of Bernadette Castaneda, Commission on Aging assistant supervisor, effective Sept. 11.

• the advertisement and filling of the positions of fire lieutenant, humane officer, police officer, and Commission on Aging assistant supervisor.

• the ratification of Miller’s approval to set a public hearing for Sept. 11 for consideration and approval of an ordinance for the final plat of the Artesia Aquatic Center Subdivision, the division of Tract B into two tracts of land with an access easement to Bush Avenue; owner, Yates Farms; agent, Harcrow Surveying.

• the setting of a public hearing for Sept. 25 for a bond ordinance.

• two planning employees to attend the New Mexico Municipal League – New Mexico League of Zoning Officials workshop in Red River.

• executive employees to attend the NMML Annual Conference in Roswell.

• one police employee to attend ICS 300 training in Ruidoso.

• one police employee to attend Adjunct Instruction – First and Fifth Amendments – Rights of Government Employees training at Eastern New Mexico University in Portales.

• two fire employees to attend the Medical Direction Committee meeting and Pre-Hospital Management of Cardiovascular Disease Conference in Albuquerque.

• one fire employee to attend Industrial Fire School (Navajo) in College Station, Texas.

• one fire employee to attend the New Mexico Fire Service Conference in Ruidoso.