LOCAL NEWS

Scoping Meeting on Comprehensive Plan Tabled

By Kathleen Sloan

HERALD Reporter

Truth or Consequences City Commissioners held a workshop and then special meeting on Thursday, April 19, to handle two things. First, to hammer out the Request for Proposals for hauling solid waste from the city’s as-yet built solid waste collection center. Second, to define the scope of the comprehensive plan update. The scope will define an RFP to hire an engineering/planning consultant.

The meeting was not well attended by the public, perhaps because there was no provision on the agenda for public comment. It is not unusual for the city to hold workshops with no public comment.

At one point during the workshop, Rick Williams, a Williamsburg resident who owns property in the city, asked if public comment were allowed.

Mayor Pro-tem Sandra Whitehead allowed it after looking for agreement from City Attorney Jay Rubin. Rubin was not definitive, but he did not prevent public comment.

Since public comment was not on the agenda, it is unclear if an Open Meetings Act violation occurred, which requires proper notice to the public of the agenda and adherence to agenda items.

The city is a member of the South Central Council of Governments and its planner, Tony MacRobert, is submitting grant applications to fund the project, probably through HUD, and drafting the RFP for the city’s comprehensive plan.

The last comprehensive plan was adopted in August 2004. According to state and many federal funding guidelines, a comprehensive plan update every five years is a prerequisite. It is a roadmap that demonstrates planning and the people’s buy-in for infrastructure and development projects, thus worthy of public funds. It is supposed to reflect the local residents’ and businesses’ wishes.

MacRobert said he had pared down the 10-page scope of work. It deleted sub-committees. The Vision Work Group, Plan Element Work Groups and Adopting Bodies were eliminated in MacRobert’s draft.

The two committees left are the Comprehensive Plan Committee and Community Representatives. The latter will meet twice, according to MacRobert’s scope, and be chosen by the former committee.

The Comprehensive Plan Committee includes all city commissioners, all department heads and the city manager.

According to MacRobert’s scope, “The Community Development director will monitor and coordinate the consultation meeting logistics.” That city staff position is new, soon to be filled, oversees the airport, building inspector, and serves at the pleasure of the city manager.

MacRobert said that in 2004, the 20-person committee had proved too big and inefficient, referring to the Community Representatives. He said he had contacted one of the members, who stated not enough follow up had been done.

But no discussion of the scope or his pared-down draft occurred.

MacRobert said that, although three months was estimated, “You’re really looking at six months” to complete a comprehensive plan update. He said the going rate for an update is $25,000 to $30,000. The city will have to probably match about $2,500 to $3,000 in cash, said MacRobert.

MacRobert stressed it should be a “living document,” with regular updates and “a plan for implementation” written into the document.

Three brief comments were made by city commissioners.

Commissioner Jeff Richter asked if the city had up-to-date GIS and base-mapping documents.

“Land use is a prime component,” said Richter. “Base mapping is expensive. If it was done in 94 or 96, it’s going to cost more than $25,000.”

The scope of work in MacRobert’s document says the city is responsible for providing the consultant (winning planning engineer of RFP) such mapping. No definitive answer was given.

Commissioner Freddie Torres requested that MainStreet Truth or Consequences be consulted, and that their recently awarded $70,000 grant for a downtown master plan be used as a match, instead of the city coming up with the match money.

MacRobert approved of the idea.

Commissioner Steve Green said that, as a member of the MainStreet Truth or Consequences board, “I will reach out to them,” nailing down their time schedule and likely RFP publication.

Public comment from three residents was heard.

Audon Trujillo questioned the wisdom of having the whole city commission as planning members.

“Will they commit?” Trujillo asked.

He noted that although MacRobert is calling this an “update,” the document he circulated does not state this. Trujillo, at the last city meeting, asked that this document be put on the city’s website. Trujillo said the document also does not make clear what is to be updated.

Sophia Peron asked that the 2004 committee be consulted for update feedback, and that the city “resolve to do an update every five years.” She said the RFP for the planning engineer/consultant include “proper audio and visual presentations, so people can make informed decisions.”

Kim Audette said the 2004 Comprehensive Plan process included “too many layers,” such as a steering committee, which did not present the public input accurately and therefore the “findings for land use” were inaccurate. Therefore the land use decisions “were without reason,” she concluded, suggesting more direct access and recording of public input this time.

City Manager Juan Fuentes suggested the city commission table action on the scope of the comprehensive plan and their unanimous vote to do so followed, with no discussion.

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