ENMU regents make capital choices

By Karl Terry: Freedom Newspapers

With a power grid that they fear could blow and leave the university in the dark at any time, along with other projects on their minds, Eastern New Mexico University administration officials discussed capital infrastructure needs with regents Friday during their regular meeting.

ENMU President Steven Gamble and Vice President of Business Affairs Scott Smart presented regents with a prioritized list of capital projects totaling $7 million and identified possible reserve funds that could pay for them.

“We’ll change our line of thought on this if things come out well in the next legislative session,” Gamble said.

Gamble and Smart expressed optimism that some projects would likely be funded by the New Mexico Legislature, but they said they feared that many of the projects couldn’t wait and planning needed to be advanced.

The president stressed that everything presented was tentative and the university still hadn’t gotten firm estimates on the projects.

“We’re just trying to keep you aware of what we’re doing,” Gamble said. “The main reason we have this as an information item is to get the ball rolling on the discussion.”

Topping the list was an estimated $2 million for redoing the university’s electrical distribution system.

Smart said the 30-year-old system is unsafe and cannot provide the power load necessary to operate the campus.

He also noted that the addition of new student housing and remodel of the Science Building in the near future will create additional power demands.

Smart said the university experienced an electrical short in a wire in the system in August that almost caused a major portion of the campus to be without power for several weeks.

“If that wire would have burned just a little further, we would have had power out for up to a month at Lincoln, Bernallio, the CUB (Campus Union Building) and Harding,” Smart said. “It’s very critical, and we need to do something about it immediately.”

Smart said electricians have told university officials that failures would continue with possible catastrophic equipment loss and safety issues as concerns.

Other items on the list included connecting the new student housing to the HVAC (heating, ventilating and air conditioning) and electrical loop, reconstruction of the HVAC loop, remodeling the Music Building, remodeling the Natatorium, repairing the roof on Greyhound Arena and remodeling the dining hall at the CUB.

Each of those projects is listed at $1 million. The Music Building has $4.5 million additional in recently approved General Obligation bond money and Sodhexo will provide $600,000 of the $1 million needed for the dining hall remodel.

Regent Alva Carter instigated discussion on changing the university’s lease arrangement for vehicles instead of keeping a motor pool. He said he felt the administration needed to review the policy.

“If we’ve got this kind of money, why are we continuing this?” Carter asked.
Regents President Jay Gurley asked about the condition of roads and parking lots and if they should be included.

Smart admitted that sidewalks, roads and parking lots had rated among the worst infrastructure items on a recent survey. He said the university tried to keep up with issues there as they cropped up either internally or in cooperation with the city.