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State agency plans $6.5 million headquarters; Game and Fish Department has the option to lease property for $50

This rendering gives an idea of what the proposed administrative offices for the Game and Fish Department would look like. The department intends to build its southeast New Mexico headquarters on 16 acres of city land across the street from Cielo Grande Recreation Area. (Submitted Graphic)

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

Get ready for some bows and arrows and a little education.

The area in blue is the proposed location of the new Game and Fish headquarters. It is located on West College Boulevard across the street from the Cielo Grande Recreation Area. (Submitted Graphic)

The New Mexico Game and Fish Department intends to build a $6.5 million administrative and educational services complex in northwest Roswell and has received approval to lease the land for $50 for five decades.

The Roswell City Council voted Dec. 14 for the lease arrangements with the state agency allowing it to construct its southeastern New Mexico headquarters on 16 acres fronting West College Boulevard.

The site will have a building for offices, meetings, events and educational offerings. It also would be used for equipment storage, hunter and conservation education, off-highway vehicle training and a public archery range, according to Lance Cherry, chief of the information and education division of the department.

The approved agreement calls for the agency to have an option for 120 days to evaluate the property to ensure that it meets the needs of the planned development.

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If the Game and Fish Department decides to exercise the option, it can lease the property for $1 a year for 50 years.

The land is across the street from the Cielo Grande Recreation Area, just to the west of the Noon Optimist baseball and softball fields.

Cherry indicated that Game and Fish anticipates completing the construction project by December 2018.

“The building is modeled after a similar department facility under construction in Albuquerque, with a strong focus on conservation education and interaction with the public,” Cherry said in an email. “The department worked closely with the Roswell City Planning Department to find and develop the property as part of the city’s development plan.”

City Attorney Aaron Holloman said that Roswell will receive several benefits by leasing the land to the department, which he said preferred a long-term lease to a land swap.

“The benefits it provides to Roswell is, one, they are providing a service that the city needs in terms of providing that education and enhancement to the city,” Holloman told city councilors. “No. 2 is that it happens to be in a place that it supports the plans that the Council has said it wants for this area.”

Holloman and City Planning Manager Bill Morris explained that the Cielo Grande area and the land across the street that used to be the municipal airport is becoming a center for sports, youth activities and recreational venues. The city’s new aquatic and recreation center is under construction at the northwest corner of West College Boulevard and North Montana Avenue.

Councilor Jason Perry said he had some initial questions about the low rent, but believes the city will gain from the arrangement.

“I, too, when I looked at it, had some reservations about the $1. But there is nothing in Santa Fe that requires Game and Fish to be in Roswell,” he said. “They could move their office to Ruidoso.”

The Game and Fish Department now has offices and equipment sites on West Second Street. City officials have said that they think the state agency will consolidate their offices to the northwest location when completed, but Cherry did not respond to a question about that.

Perry and city staff engaged in some discussion about whether companies working on the construction project could be encouraged to use local companies and workers.

City planning and engineer staff responded that the city can make it known which companies existed in the area, but that the contractor chosen by the state agency through a public Request for Proposal process will have the only authority over those decisions.

According to the Game and Fish website, the department has its main offices in Santa Fe but also has a northeast office in Raton, a northwest office in Albuquerque, a southwest office in Las Cruces and the southeast office in Roswell.

The agency indicates that its mission is to preserve and protect wildlife and fish and to educate the public on the safe use of off-highway vehicles. According to its annual report, it had 309 full-time employees in fiscal year 2017 and state-appropriated funds of $40.4 million in addition to some other revenues from federal and state sources.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 310, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.