Tech needs new building

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New Mexico Tech is looking to build a new building to house the multi-function geology department. The college wants to make the department more accessible and safer, as well as bring all its functions into one building. The new facility would accommodate the museum, state geology bureau, storage, teaching and lab spaces currently spread throughout several different areas of the campus.

“Two years ago we got the state to support replacement of one of our oldest buildings and it was placed on the ballot,” said Daniel Lopez, New Mexico Tech president. “But the voters defeated that bond issue, by less than 1 percent.”

The current geology building poses potential health problems because there are places the rain leaks into the walls, which could cause mold to creep in.

Fire worries Lopez as well because the low ceilings hold outdated wiring “not in the best condition,” he said. Problems are repaired as they come up.

“But when it’s old, it’s just putting a Band-Aid on it,” Lopez said.

Lopez called the problems in the old building “multi-layered.” It has a lot of handicap-access issues as well, he said.

The building currently has a large data storage function, holding extractive mineral information from across New Mexico. It houses the Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources for the state, created at Tech in 1927.

“We have industry that depends on that data,” Lopez said. “It serves a multi-faceted purpose, serving the citizens, students, state and federal entities.”

The geology department is also home to the Mineral Museum, he said. And a number of highly ranked research scientists and their interns teach and learn as part of the department.

Of the $23 million needed to complete a new building, $18 million is part of Bond C, coming to New Mexico voters in the Nov. 6 election. The $18 million would provide a large start to the new building project.

“It would get us quite a bit to start on,” Lopez said. The shell and first two floors of the building could be completed, but not the third floor.

“The $18 million is what is available in this bond issue,” he said. “There are 29 projects across the state provided for by Bond C funds, and 27 of the 29 are for upgrades and renovations. Only two are for new constructions.”

A vote for Bond C will not increase current property taxes, Lopez said.

“In a poll, one reason voters would not vote for this is they think it could mean a property tax increase,” he said. “But there will be no property tax increase.”