Bond C to pay for much-needed overhaul of some NMSU buildings
LAS CRUCES, Nov 12, 2012 (Las Cruces Sun-News - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
History student Alysha Craig, 21, pulled some pink mittens from her backpack on a recent day, for show-and-tell purposes.
It's the same pair she donned earlier this semester to finish an exam in a classroom at Hardman Hall. The room was too cold and so was she.
"It was 80 degrees outside, and the AC was on," she recounted, while taking a break outside the building on Friday. "But the AC made it 50 to 60 degrees inside the room."
Continued Craig: "I've had a class where the teacher let us out a half an hour early because it was so cold."
New Mexico State University officials are all too aware that the heating and cooling system isn't adequate. And now, thanks to voters OK'ing a statewide bond measure last week, it's one problem of several with the aging, out-of-date Hardman Hall that will be addressed.
In all, $19 million from GO Bond C will go toward overhauling the 38-year-old building and its next-door neighbor, the 49-year-old Jacobs Hall. Together, they total 52,730 square-feet of space.
Jacobs Hall, once a music building, houses computer labs and a wireless Internet lounge. Hardman Hall has been used for years as general classroom space, mainly for freshman and sophomores. Its largest room can seat 1,200 students.
Hardman Hall was considered modern when it was built, in 1974, but it now lags behind today's ADA and energy-efficiency standards, said Greg Walke, N.M.SU architect.
The building uses an awkward combination of ramps for
walkways that aren't ADA-friendly. Plus, its hallways are open-air, which adds to the heating and cooling bills, Walke said.
The bond money will be used to correct those problems and give the building a face-lift.
"It will look like a different building," Walke said.
The idea is to turn it and Jacobs Hall into a single, "undergraduate learning center, Walke said. But exactly how that will be done architecturally will depend upon a design process that has yet to begin.
Craig said because her department doesn't have its own dedicated building, she winds up taking classes across the NMSU campus. However, often they are based in Hardman Hall.
Craig said she was pleased to hear that Bond C had passed.
"It needs it," she said. "It really does. The desks are uncomfortable. The chairs squeak, and they've got gum stuck under the bottom."
Another student, Andreana Diaz, 22, a sophomore, has a psychology class and a criminal justice class in Hardman Hall this semester. She agreed both buildings are in need of upgrades.
"They're so old and kind of run-down," said Diaz, a criminal justice major. "There's some cracks in the walls and the carpet is stained badly."
Bond C -- which included $119.4 million for higher education, brick-and-mortar improvements -- was one of three general obligation bond questions posed to New Mexico voters on Nov. 6.
Despite concerns by NMSU supporters that the measure might fail, possibly due to negative perceptions of recent tumult at the university, it passed. In all, 61 percent of voters favored its passed, to 38 percent that opposed it, according to results from the New Mexico Secretary of State.
NMSU Interim President Manual Pacheco said he remained unsure going into the election whether the measure would be approved.
"I was pleased there was as much support for that as there was," he said. "It was not a sure thing."
Two years ago, voters statewide rejected a $155 million GO bond measure that would have paid for improvements at universities, including $28.4 million at NMSU. It failed by a slim, 0.4 percent margin.
Had the bond failed this time, Pacheco said cobbling together the amount of money needed to renovate Hardman Hall and Jacobs Hall would have been tough. NMSU likely would have had seek direct appropriations from the state legislature.
"It would have been a much more difficult process, with no assurance it would succeed," he said.
And NMSU's regular budget wouldn't bear a $19 million expense, Pacheco said. And there's only so long building upgrades can be put off
"You can patch things together for a while, and then you run out of patchwork," he said.
An added benefit of the renovation project, Walke said, is that it will create planning and construction jobs.
NMSU will soon start the process of looking for an architect, according to Walke. By the fall of 2013, it's hoping to have finalized plans in hand.
"We're hoping to begin construction in January 2014, with completion and move-in in the fall of 2015," he said.
NMSU has until June 30, 2016 to spend the dollars, or else the spending authorization reverts back to the state.
In addition to the $19 million for main campus buildings, N.M.SU also will get $2 million for Dona Ana Community College and $1 million apiece for its Carlsbad, Alamogordo and Grants campuses, according to NMSU.
Diana Alba Soular may be reached at 575-541-5443; follow her on Twitter @AlbaSoular
Nov. 6 Bond Question Results
Statewide ... Dona Ana County only
For: 416,513 (62%) ... 36,249 (63%)
Against: 250,481 (37%) ... 21,614 (37%)
For: 415,068 (62%) ... 35,803 (62%)
Against: 254,099 (37%) ... 22,239 (38%)
For: 411,017 (61%) ... 34,344 (58.5%)
Against: 261,406 (38%) ... 24,394 (41.5%)
Sources: New Mexico Secretary of State; Dona Ana County Clerk's Office
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