New golf digs, union pay agreements and the official appointment of a top cop held the attention of the Albuquerque City Council at its nearly five-hour long June 18 regular meeting. The Council does not meet during the month of July because of summer vacations.
Albuquerque Fire Chief Paul Dow said the wildfire danger rating is very high and fireworks and open burn restrictions are in place. This includes no open fires, no smoking and no fireworks in the Rio Grande Bosque or in any city open space. Chief Dow said he is not inclined to completely close the Rio Grande Bosque. He said the department needs the extra ears and eyes in the Bosque to help identify suspicious activities and camp fires.
Illegal fireworks are ones that spark, ignite, explode or flame over 10 feet high or larger than a 6-foot circle or is louder than a cap gun. The county put open burn restrictions in place back in April and banned illegal fireworks last week. Dow said the easiest way to determine whether the firework you are about to light is legal or illegal is to read the label. If it says WARNING, then it is an illegal firework. If it says CAUTION, then it is legal. Also people calling to identify ordinance violators endangering the community should call the city’s 311 line not the 911 emergency line.
It was not a slam dunk but Topgolf LLC scored a $2.6 million economic development incentive to build on the former Beach Waterpark spot at Montaño and I-25. Councilor Don Harris dealt the lone nay vote to the sweet deal. The project will get $400,000 from the city’s general coffers and an incremental tax reimbursement of up to $1.8 million to help out the devloper with land, building or infrastructure costs. The Council also coughed up $326,000 to improve the roads leading to the site. There are some clawback protections to assure the company complies with the terms, which include maintaining 132 full-time jobs.
Big Shots Golf, a local business building a similar golf entertainment venue at the former Golf Academy at Balloon Fiesta Park, made some waves, along with the owner of a popular trampoline park, by telling the Council that they are true local businesses, and they should get some bucks as well. Public comment was not all for said appropriations, with many questioning the recent gross receipts tax hike, too.
It is not a sure thing that Mayor Tim Keller will sign this funding measure as he recently vetoed the Council’s resolution to move forward with the deal. Keller has said he is in favor of Topgolf coming to town but argues that this incentive package is not a good deal for the taxpayers; it does not create higher paying jobs, nor does it have stringent enough protections to recover the tax dollars, if the company does not perform as expected. Since the measure passed 8-1, a veto could be looking for an override and, consequently, more negotions.
After a nationwide search for a new Police Chief, the job went to a familiar face from within. Interim Police Chief Michael Geier will keep the top cop badge. In a unanimous move, Councilors affirmed Mayor Tim Keller’s choice. Geier, 65, had 20 years under his vest with the Chicago Police Department and another 20 years with Albuquerque Police Department, before taking the reins of the Rio Rancho department. He then came back to Burque PD in 2017 as interim chief. A 5-member search team headed by James Lewis reviewed about 28 applications before recommending Geier. The local police union agrees Geier is the right choice.
Geier said he is committed to taking an aggressive stance on crime, and working diligently to comply with the DOJ agreement, among other goals he has for the department. One public speaker said she was speaking on behalf of the 9,000 statewide members of Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense, and they overwhelmingly support Geier. She said he has worked closely with this group to address gun violence. No doubt the Council was unanimous because everyone else is as well.
A couple of collective bargaining agreements were also unanimously approved. One is with the International Association of Fire Fighters, Local 244 (IAFF), and includes giving rank and file members a minimum three percent raise for the next two years.
The other is a collective bargaining agreement with Albuquerque Police Officers Association, which among other things provides for an average of 10 percent raises in FY19, and 4.5 percent in FY20. Union representatives speaking for both groups said they were happy with the contracts.
After volunteers were asked to stand and be recognized, Councilor Trudy Jones questioned the qualifications of a couple of the volunteers. Both candidates were on hand, and competently answered Jones’ questions, showing they were more than qualified. This group of folks includes: Alan F. Weitzel and Beverly R. Bendicksen, appointed to the Albuquerque Museum Board of Trustees; Dr. Bruce J. Perlman, PhD and Dr. Wendy Wintermute, PhD who will be on the Indicators Progress Commission; Irene Entila was inducted into the Greater Albuquerque Bicycling Advsory Committee; May V. Hindera will be a member of the Para Transit Advisory; Matthew Butkus and Diane Mourning Brown are now members of the Affordable Housing Committee; Tanesia R. Hale-Jones was apppointed to the Biological Park Board and Israel Chavez is now a member the Transit Advisory Board. The Council re-appointed Carole C. Sullivan to the Urban Enhancement Trust Fund and Denise P. Pepin to the Old Town Portal Market Advisory Board.