Three things you should know about the Portales City Council meeting Tuesday night:
• It got heated when councilors discussed a proposed family entertainment center. A fun center in Portales, what the council was excited about at one time, seems to have become an afterthought now that councilors aren’t sure if the time is right to pursue a feasibility study for a family entertainment center.
City Manager Doug Redmond asked councilors if they wanted another feasibility study done. Councilors said the study that was done a few years ago had incorrect numbers.
Redmond said if councilors decided they wanted a center, they would potentially have to put the cost of the center to citizens through a vote on a bond issue.
Councilor Oscar Robinson thinks citizens are being asked to support too much community development right now, especially through their pocketbooks, and asks the councilors to wait and see what comes of the city’s current projects.
“Right now we’re discussing (the proposed $8 million) Eastern New Mexico University football stadium,” Robinson said.
Robinson feels since the community may be asked to vote on a bond issue for the stadium if Portales schools decides to pay $1 million of the stadium’s cost.
“(The stadium and the fun center) are different, but it’s all asking taxpayers for money, I think that’s (Robinson’s) point,” said Portales Mayor Sharon King.
Councilor Keith Thomas is tired of people saying there is nothing for families to do in Portales and tired of gross receipts being leaked to surrounding communities because he feels the council is not taking the steps forward to provide entertainment for the community.
“What I’ve seen in the last six months of our budgets, our gross receipts are not looking so great,” Thomas said.
Thomas thinks if the issue were put to a vote, citizens would gladly vote in favor for a fun center.
Councilor Leo Lovett thinks the fun center should be left up to private enterprise and doesn’t think it’s right to ask citizens to pay for the construction of a center, especially when water use costs are expected to go up to fund the construction of a new wastewater treatment plant for Portales.
There was back and forth between Thomas and Lovett on the issue.
“We have to take a chance or we’ll never know,” said Thomas about the feasibility study.
“I’m not willing to take a chance with my citizens’ money” Lovett replied.
Ultimately Lovett made a motion to support up to $20,000 for a feasibility study, which would come from leftover building improvement funds, to be matched by the Roosevelt County Commission. Robinson was the only councilor to vote against the motion.
• A proposed spice ordinance doesn’t pack as much heat as councilors originally would have liked it to.
Thomas again sat on the extreme end of an issue, determined to get synthetic drugs out of the Portales community by passing an ordinance that would prohibit the sale, consumption and possession of synthetic drugs.
“I just feel as a parent and a council member, it’s our responsibility to move forward with this,” Thomas said.
His fire comes from a string of illnesses of area youth tied to consuming synthetic marijuana, commonly referred to as spice, in September.
Lovett questioned if the city law would have any bite, especially the portion of the ordinance that says if businesses owner are caught selling synthetic drugs three times, they would lose their licenses.
Lovett said nothing would stop business owners from applying for another license and opening up another store.
According to the city attorney, the highest crime someone can be charged with for breaking a city ordinance is a petty misdemeanor.
The Portales police chief and the Roosevelt County sheriff agreed that if they can charge people with a higher crime, that’s what they would typically aim for, such as obtaining a search warrant from District Court over using the ordinance for enforcement.
But they also feel the ordinance would be another tool for them to work with in exercising the law.
“I’m not so worried about possession. I’m worried about us allowing businesses to sell crap to our kids and us not being able to do anything about it,” Thomas said.
The council has plans to split the two components of the ordinance and will still hold a public hearing Oct. 15 for the ordinance that will be amended to take out the “three strikes” rule for businesses. That rule will be proposed at the council’s next meeting to be added to an existing ordinance about health and safety.
• Community members are fired up.
Lonnie Berry with Portales Citizens Against Synthetic Drugs told the council he has a petition with 481 community signatures supporting the proposed city ordinance to ban synthetic drugs.
He said the two-week old community group includes area church members and educators from Portales schools as well as parents.
He said the group will continue to have people sign the petitions in hopes to rid the community of synthetic drugs.
He added that the Portales Lions Club, which he is a member of, will be offering $250 for scholarships for children to participate in City League Sports and challenges other area organizations to do the same so that children have something healthy to do.
— Compiled by PNT senior writer Christina Calloway