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Understanding GO bonds will help voters decide

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In recent months, the heads of the New Mexico Military Institute and the Eastern New Mexico State University-Roswell, have been speaking to any civic group with an audience to educate them about two general obligation bond items that will go before voters in Tuesday’s elections.

Although NMMI and ENMU-R are prohibited from telling voters how they should vote, Donna Oracion, college development director at ENMU-R, said they are working to make sure voters are educated before casting their ballots.

General obligation bonds are used to fund capital building projects and are paid for by levies accessed to all statewide properties subject to property taxes. In even-numbered years, the New Mexico Legislature passes legislation to place the general obligation bonds on the ballot. With the governor’s approval, the G.O. bonds then go before the public to either approve or reject them.

Maj. Gen. Jerry Grizzle, superintendent of NMMI, said in an interview that the G.O. bonds are the way that many specialty schools and campuses get money to upgrade their buildings. Many of NMMI’s buildings are on the state or national historical registries, so they can not tear the buildings down, they must work to keep the infrastructure within the existing structures up to date.

He added the projects also inject money into the local economy since NMMI and ENMU-R use local contractors for the construction.

Four G.O. bond issues are on the ballot this year.

Bond D, if approved by state voters would provide more than $128 million in funding for projects for higher education institutions, special and tribal schools in New Mexico including $3 million for Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell and $8.25 million for the New Mexico Military Institute, for a total of $11.25 million for Chaves County, according to educational material about the bond issues.

Another bond — Bond B — would provide $12.75 million for academic, public, school and tribal libraries across the state, including eight in Chaves County. In all, libraries in Chaves County would receive $306,116.48 in earmarked funding from the bonds.

The library at ENMU-R would receive $34,959.13 in bonded money and the NMMI library $10,727.07. The Roswell Library would get $118,002.30. The school libraries in Dexter would get $13,010.48, Hagerman schools $10,820.68, Lake Arthur Schools $9,414.73, the Roswell Independent School District $105,912.51, and the library at Sidney Gutierrez Middle School $3,269.58, according to educational materials about Bond B.

Money from Bond B can be used by higher education and public school libraries as well as public and tribal libraries for their materials, databases and equipment.

NMMI has been approved by the state to receive bond money for two projects: Part of the money will be used for phase one of a plan to renovate the sink rooms – common shower and bath facilities in the NMMI barracks, according to Gen. Grizzle.

Grizzle said the cadet barracks have a total of 35 sink rooms in need of renovation, some dating back to 1915 that have rusted shower pens and floors stripped down to bare concrete. Grizzle said the number of sink rooms upgraded with the 2018 round of G.O. bonds will depend on plans the architects come up with.

He said the remainder of the money will be used for the second project, which is for the renovation of Hinkle, John Ross Thomas and Vlahopoulos Halls, three adjoined buildings that house recreation facilities, a student barbershop, post office, bowling alley and some classroom space for cadets.

Though the building structures themselves are strong, Grizzle said the plumbing, electrical, air conditioning and heating infrastructure is antiquated and needs to be modernized.

“What we are doing is changing all the infrastructure,” he said.

NMMI will likely request money for the 2020 general bonds to complete the project. Along with the money from bonding, NMMI will also put up some money for the project.

Shawn Powell, president of ENMU-R, said improvements need to be made to the current automotive technology and welding facility. An oil boom in the southeast corner of the state has led to increased demand for welders and area businesses to look toward ENMU-R to find workers for jobs in the automotive field, he said.

Although the facility has had some work done to it such as lighting, it needs more work done to allow it to meet the demands of the modern workforce, said Donna Oracion, College Development Director at ENMU-R. She said the upgrades will bring the existing facility up to code.

A component of the automotive program that focuses on auto body repair will also be taken out of the current facility, which will allot more space for auto mechanics programs.

If the bonds are rejected by voters this year, none of the institutions would get the earmarked funds. ENMU-R would then have to work with the university, the board of regents and the chancellor to make the needed improvements to the facilities.

Grizzle said rejecting the bonds would lead to more differed maintenance on buildings, and for the needs of the infrastructure to grow. Voters rejected the bonds in 2010, and NMMI responded by rolling their proposals from that year over into the 2012 proposal in the hopes that voters would approve them.

“It just puts your whole program at least two years behind,” Grizzle said.

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at breakingnews@rdrnews.com.