City plans to hire firm to run UFO Festival

Councilors at committee meeting recommend firm search, several other items

The city of Roswell plans to hire a professional event management firm to run the next UFO Festival.

Hiring a professional firm to manage future UFO Festivals should enhance the event and help the city’s economic development, says City Tourism Manager Stephanie Mervine.

Tourism Manager Stephanie Mervine and Public Affairs Director Juanita Jennings talked about their ideas during the Thursday meeting of the Roswell City Council Legal Committee.

Committee members also considered several other topics, including proposed changes to the city code, the awarding of a contract for work on Roswell Air Center taxiways, and the search for bidders for local ambulance services.

MainStreet Roswell and the city agreed recently that the MainStreet nonprofit will not organize the UFO Festival in future years, so it could concentrate on other means of supporting downtown businesses. It had coordinated the event for six years under an agreement with the city, but this year’s event was canceled due to the pandemic.

The city has decided to send out a request for proposals (RFP) for a professional event management firm to handle the event. The UFO Festival is considered one of the city’s “signature” attractions, known worldwide by UFO enthusiasts. It brings hundreds of tourists for a weekend of activity and generates national and international media attention, as well as millions in income for the city and its businesses.

Mervine said that a professional firm with established industry relationships is expected to boost the festival, the profile of the city and to increase revenues.

“That is the intent, to elevate the festival and have more of an impact on lodgers’ tax, quite frankly,” Mervine said.

She and city councilors also noted that the event has a benefit to Roswell beyond the one weekend by creating a recognized “brand.”

Mervine and Jennings are suggesting using the $40,000 the city had been providing MainStreet as payment for organizing the event to pay for a one-year contract with a professional firm, with the option to renew the contract on a yearly basis thereafter.

Mervine and Jennings also said that they also want to negotiate profit-sharing agreements with the firm, giving the city a portion of ticket sales or vendor sales.

They also said that they expect that any firm hired would work with Roswell businesses and organizations to develop a festival that benefits and suits the area.

The Legal Committee voted 4-0 to recommend that the City Council vote on the request for proposals and its scope of services. The group is scheduled to hold its next regular meeting Sept. 10.

The committee also voted for the City Council to consider six other items, three of which would first require holding a public hearing before any actions became final.

The three matters that require public hearings involve proposed changes to the Roswell City Code. Some changes pertain to Chapter 16, which has to do with nuisances such as noise, weeds and tall grass, obstructions in public areas, parked vehicles, and dangerous containers and refrigerators. Chapter 16 also gives authority, under certain circumstances, to remove, impound or dispose of obstructions or dangers.

Other changes to city code have to do with Chapter 8, which prohibits sleeping or living in public areas, including arroyos, creek beds and floodways; putting tents in public areas or even on private property without city permission; or living in recreational vehicles or mobile campers outside of approved districts and uses. That chapter is also intended to “hold up in court,” according to city officials, and would allow the disposal of shelter materials or personal belongings after certain notifications and procedures.

Another recommended change of city code would be to Chapter 23 and involve minor changes to the convention center fee allowed by state statute. City Attorney Parker Patterson said that the state law that pertains to hotels, inns and other temporary lodging establishments changed soon after it was enacted, but that the city code never was revised. To be consistent with state law, the city would adopt its wording about the length of stays subject to or exempt from the fees.

The other three items forwarded to the City Council involve a new lease for space in Building 91 at the Roswell Air Center, the awarding of a $3.26 million contract to Constructors Inc. for work on two taxiways at the air center and a request for proposals seeking bidders to provide local ambulance service, as the current contract with Superior Ambulance has expired.