Voters approve $18 million for new bureau building
As most New Mexicans watched election results filter in Tuesday night, administrators at New Mexico Tech were paying close attention to voting on Bond Issue C.
That election initiative provides $119 million to colleges and universities in New Mexico, primarily for construction projects, including $18 million for a badly needed Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources building on the Tech campus in Socorro. Statewide, more than 61 percent of voters supported Bond Issue C, ensuring that a variety of projects will be funded.
“I was fairly confident that we’d get the bond issue passed,” Tech President Dr. Daniel H. Lopez said. “But I had no idea that it would be by that big of a margin – never in my wildest dreams.”
Lopez said he is grateful to New Mexico voters for seeing the need for capital improvements in higher education.
“I think that reflects our ability to inform the public more clearly about why Bond Issue C was important to pass this year,” he said.
Bureau of Geology Director Greer Price said he’s delighted about the passing of the bond.
“Many of us have worked toward this for a long time, and it will be a huge benefit not just to the bureau but to all who use it,” Price said.
Lopez said the university will work with the New Mexico Department of Finance to issue the bonds, a process that will take about six months to complete. In the interim, Tech will assemble construction documents and prepare for soliciting construction proposals.
Miguel Hidalgo, director of special projects at Tech, said the new building will be an 83,000 -square-foot, three-story space, with 32 percent dedicated to laboratories, 43 percent offices and 25 percent publications and storage. The bureau’s current operations are divided between the Gold Building and the Bureau of Geology Building, which are separated by Workman Center.
The new building will be constructed between Weir Hall and Bullock Avenue. The Information Services Department building will be razed to make room for the new building.
Price said the new facility will benefit students on campus, including work space for graduate students involved in research with bureau staff, classrooms and new laboratory facilities, which will — for the first time — all be housed in one place. Public facilities will all be vastly improved and more accessible, Price said, including the Mineral Museum, the Geologic Information Center, the Subsurface Library and publication sales office.
Joe Franklin, director of ISD, said his operations will move into the Gold building. The Bureau is consolidating its operations in that building to make room for ISD during construction. After construction is complete, ISD will make the Gold building its permanent home. The future of the existing Bureau of Geology building has not been determined. Lopez said he’d like to raze that building to make room for additional campus parking.
For the duration of construction campus will lose about 100 parking spaces in the lots near Weir Hall, ISD and the Skeen Library. Commuters will have to park along the streets or at Macey Center.
Tech initially secured state funding for architectural services about four years ago. Van Gilbert Architects developed conceptual plans in early 2009. The plan for the new Bureau was basically put on hold for two years after the unsuccessful general obligation bond election in 2010.
The next general obligation bond initiative in 2014 will include two New Mexico Tech construction projects: $16 million for replacement of Jones Hall for the Chemistry and Materials Engineering departments and $16 million for a Wellness Center, which will replace the gym and the swim center.