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House passes budget with hangar funding; NM Senate now to consider budget bill

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City officials, Dean Baldwin leaders and U.S Rep. Steve Pearce (R-Hobbs), at left, talk in one of the bays of the Dean Baldwin hangar during a January press conference about a federal grant for roof repairs. Mayor Dennis Kintigh is facing camera. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

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The state budget bill has passed the New Mexico House, and, so far, money for the Roswell International Air Center is part of the deal.

House Bill 2, which state representatives passed Wednesday by a vote of 65 to 3, has been assigned to the Senate Finance Committee.

It includes at least $900,000 for “hangar expansion” as part of a funding package that now stands at more than $6 billion, according to a House Appropriation and Finance Committee substitute bill.

Rep. Greg Nibert (R-Roswell) said that he has been told that the general funds allocation for RIAC hangars could be as high as $1.9 million.

The primary purpose of the funding, he said, is to pay for repairs and improvements to Hangar 1083, the one leased by the city to Dean Baldwin Painting, a major employer in the city with about 135 full-time workers.

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“This will allow them to finish repairs there and to upgrade the electrical system and the fire suppression system,” he said. “The funds also could be used for repairs to other hangars at the air center.”

For a few years, the city has sought to obtain funding to replace the leaking roof and make other needed upgrades, a project estimated at about $4.6 million.

Often described by city officials and business development leaders as the city’s “premier” hangar, Kintigh said recently that the hangar had been neglected for years.

The city had made repairs to the roof in the past, but those did not hold. As a result, water from rains and snows would fall into the bays where Dean Baldwin was painting aircraft, sometimes requiring the rescheduling or temporary halting of work, according to company officials. The company’s clients include major commercial airlines, the U.S. military, cargo and freight carriers, and privately owned planes.

In 2017, the city decided to replace the roof completely and began work in July. Funding to date has come from a city allocation of $1.25 million, a $2.5 million loan from the state and a $800,000 federal grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Work on the roof continues at this point, said City Planning Manager Bill Morris, with upgrades to the fire sprinkler system to occur next. Previously city officials said the project should be finished in 2018.

Nibert also said that he and other Chaves County legislators, which include Reps. Candy Spence Ezzell and Bob Wooley, and Sen. Cliff Pirtle, all Republicans, expect to funnel some of the capital outlay funds allocated to them to the RIAC improvements.

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.