Published: 2:56 pm, Wed. Sep. 26th, 2018Updated: 2:54 pm
Following a brief debate, the Artesia City Council consented Tuesday to the distribution of $37,500 in Artesia Lodgers’ Tax funds to an independent film project that will be partially conducted in the community.
“Walking with Herb,” a novel by former Artesia and current Las Cruces resident Joe Bullock, has been adapted for the screen by Oscar nominee Mark Medoff and is being directed by another Las Crucan – Ross Marks. While the majority of the film will be shot in Las Cruces, the production will be in Artesia for four days to film at the Artesia Country Club.
The movie stars Edward James Olmos, George Lopez and Mary McDonnell, and tells the story of a banker and golfer struggling to overcome tragedy who is promised a Masters win by God, provided his faith is strong enough.
Hayley Klein, executive director of the Artesia Chamber of Commerce, said the production initially requested $50,000 but the Lodgers’ Tax Board recommended the lesser amount of $37,500.
“They have about 80 crew members, and they’ll be here about four days,” Klein said, indicating that would likely result in around 40 hotel rooms for four nights plus money the crew would spend at local restaurants and other businesses.
Of the five-member board, three approved requesting the council issue the funding, one abstained due to a personal attachment to the film, and one – who was absent for the vote – indicated their vote would have been no.
Several councilors expressed reservations, as well.
Councilor Jeff Youtsey inquired as to whether any local events or organizations would suffer as a result of the funding. Klein stated the board had budgeted for all events that annually request Lodgers’ Tax money before making its decision and that “if revenues continue the way they have been, we should be fine.”
Councilor George Mullen questioned what the funding would be used for, considering the film’s production has already been financed.
“We’ve been told that any additional funding they get for the film just goes into improving the general quality of the film,” said Klein.
Mullen and Councilor Luis Florez also wondered what tangible return on its investment Artesia would receive. Klein said that, apart from the injection of money into the local hotel and food industries during the production crew’s stay, there would be no direct, measurable return – “except that Artesia has another shout-out in the larger world, and we hope people will want to visit because of it.”
“In bigger cities, Lodgers’ Tax funds are spent a lot on convention centers or promoting big events,” said Klein. “It’s harder in smaller communities to find opportunities (to use the funds), because it’s a different animal to recruit visitors to our community as opposed to communities like Taos or Santa Fe that naturally attract visitors.”
Ultimately, with city clerk Aubrey Hobson informing the council the Lodgers’ Tax Fund is receiving close to $500,000 a year, the council voted unanimously to approve the issuance of funds.
In other business Tuesday, the council also approved an ordinance authorizing the issuance of $6.2 million in Gross Receipts Tax revenue bonds as part of a program established in 2013 through which the city has issued bonds in similar amounts every two years for its MainStreet project.
The bonds are rated A+ by Standard & Poor’s and will be sold through public sale.
Speaking as chairman of the Infrastructure Committee, Councilor Terry Hill stated that during a recent committee discussion regarding take-home vehicles, which was prompted by a request from the police department that an employee residing in Roswell be allowed to use her city vehicle for travel between the two communities, the committee determined it would be helpful to establish a city-wide policy regarding take-home vehicles, rather than each department establishing its own policy.
Pertinent staff were directed to begin working on such a policy.
Human Resources director Sandi Farley requested approval for two resolutions, one approving the Position Classification Plan and one the Substance Abuse Policy.
Farley said the Position Classification Plan had not been updated since 2015 and was being revised due to the fact that rather than have sole authority for changing job descriptions or upgrading positions lie with the mayor, Mayor Raye Miller had indicated his preference that such changes be directed to the Personnel Committee, then brought to the council as a whole.
The Substance Abuse Policy, meanwhile, was updated to change the previous policy, which listed specific positions as subject to random drug testing. The council unanimously approved that the policy now make random testing open to all city employees.
During the public safety portion of the meeting, the council approved an intergovernmental agreement with Eddy County for the housing of inmates and a Memorandum of Agreement with the Changing Lives Coalition regarding the Artesia Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee (JJAC).
Police Chief Kirk Roberts informed the council the previous agreement with the county for the housing of inmates was last signed in 2005. Under the new agreement, housing costs were increased to $95 per day for inmate care.
“And that is cheap,” Roberts said. “Six or seven years ago when I was running the Curry County detention facility, it cost us between $130 and $145 a day.”
Under the agreement, the city would pay the county $95 per day to house any inmates incarcerated under its jurisdiction and vice versa. Roberts said the city generally houses more county inmates than the opposite.
Artesia Police Department Cpl. Tony Baca addressed the council regarding JJAC, which receives a state-funded grant for its juvenile correction programs. Baca said that this year, JJAC was awarded $29,444, “which would help with our first-time offenders, be it simple batteries or first-time drug or alcohol offenses, through our mentoring group.”
The city acts as fiscal agent between the state and JJAC, and Baca stated that with the APD unable to devote its full attention to the program, it was contracted out to the Changing Lives Coalition.
“The mentoring groups are going to be run through the Changing Lives Coalition, but the board is still going to monitor what programs are set before we request anything from the city,” Baca said.
In final business, the council approved Miller’s suggestion that the city make its sole capital outlay funding request to the state legislature this year for two ambulances.
“We hate to ask for multiple things and get pieces of things and then us have to come up with the rest of the money to fill out the deal,” said Miller, “not knowing at that point where we will be financially. I think the perception is if we do ambulances, we will get ambulances. So it seems like a logical deal to just make those the priority this year, then next year talk about what other types of things we want to look at in the future.”
The ambulances would have an estimated price tag of around $400,000.
The council also approved a list of city items to be auctioned off to the public during an Oct. 27 surplus sale.
As part of its consent agenda, the council granted permission for:
• the appointment of Rae Aaron to the Artesia Public Library Board of Trustees (term to expire June 2021).
• the voluntary demotion of Anthony Heady, police officer, back to detention officer at a pay rate of $2,434 per month.
• the hiring of Toby Bratcher, firefighter/paramedic, at a pay rate of $3,749 per month; and Jeramy Boyd, Recreation Department maintenance tech/rec worker, $1,988 per month.
• the promotion of Mike Perez, Solid Waste Equipment Operator I, at a pay rate of $2,555 per month.
• the setting of a public hearing for Oct. 23 for consideration and approval of an ordinance granting a franchise to PVT.
• one police employee to attend Calibre Press: Read-Recognize-Respond training in Albuquerque.
• one police employee to attend Street Crimes training in Las Cruces.
• one police employee to attend the Motorola Summit in Salt Lake City, Utah.
• one police employee to attend Recruiting, Hiring and Retention training in Las Vegas, Nev.
• one police employee to attend an Internal Affairs course in McKinney, Texas.
• legislative employees to attend the New Mexico Municipal League MOLI Leadership Institute in Santa Fe.
• one wastewater employee to attend the NMWWA Northeast Section Workshop in Espanola.
• one wastewater employee to attend the NMRWA Southern Fall Conference in Las Cruces.
• a stand-by ambulance for the Artesia High School rodeo, to be held from 9-10 a.m. Oct. 5, 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. Oct. 6, and 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. Oct. 7, as requested by Trampas Spence.
• the use of Main Street from Seventh Street to First Street and Fourth Street between Main Street and Quay Avenue for Trick-or-Treat Main Street, to be held from 4-7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 27, as requested by Artesia MainStreet.
• the use of Baish Veterans’ Park from 10 a.m. – noon Monday, Nov. 12, for a Veterans’ Day Celebration, as requested by Artesia MainStreet.
• the use of Main Street from Bulldog Bowl east, turning south on First Street, from 6-7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 29, for the Light Up Artesia Holiday Parade, as requested by Artesia MainStreet.