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Local universities on list for possible project funding

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The John Ross Thomas Hall at the New Mexico Military Institute is scheduled for a $9.5 million renovation to address problems to the older structure, originally built in 1932. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell is in line to get $1.5 million in general obligation bond funding in late 2018 or early 2019, while New Mexico Military Institute could receive $2 million.

Senate Bill 94 pre-filed Friday with the New Mexico Legislature proposes this funding for the 2018 general obligation issue that would fund public capital projects.

Several steps remain before any money could be received. Legislators would have to pass the bill and the governor would need to sign it; then New Mexico voters would have to approve issuing the bonds during November elections. The bonds are repaid by property taxes.

The ENMU-R funding in the bill is earmarked for planning, design and construction of an automotive and welding instructional facility, a project estimated to cost $5 million.

The NMMI funds would go toward a $9.5 million renovation of the John Ross Thomas Hall, originally built in 1932, with major additions and changes over the years. An addition of what became known as the Vertrees, Moore and Vlahopoulos Hall occurred in 1955 and the Hinkle Hall was added in 1988.

The facility now houses the post office, a grill, a barber shop, the bowling alley, a ballroom, some offices and common areas.

According to Institute documents, the building has significant plumbing, electrical and mechanical deficiencies and no longer meets required building and American Disabilities Act codes. The renovated project is intended to meet the silver Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification requirements.

According to university administrators, GO bond project requests are presented to the Higher Education Commission, which then decides which projects and what amount of funding to recommend. The Legislative Finance Committee reviews the HEC list and makes its own recommendations to legislators.

The Senate bill, which includes GO bond funding requests for public libraries, tribal and specialty schools, and senior centers, is sponsored by Carlos R. Cisneros (D-Questa).

ENMU-R President John Madden also told members of the university’s Branch Community College during a Tuesday meeting that he expects the university will receive a modest amount of funding from state capital outlay funds this session, given that the state expects to have a surplus of funds this year.

“This is our ask for capital from our local legislators,” he said. “It is two trucks, two cars and two lawnmowers. Our legislators love this type of ask because it is reasonable. … We are very optimistic that this is going to happen.”

Chaves County public entities, including cities and counties, presented their requests for capital funds to the state legislators who represent the region at September and December meetings.

Capital outlay funding requires only the approval of the Legislature and the governor.

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