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Commissioners award contract for BernCo building renovations

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Alvarado Square’s massive reboot is a go.

The Bernalillo County Commission on Tuesday night unanimously approved a design-build contract to renovate the eight-story Downtown Albuquerque building and add an adjacent public meeting chambers – all part of a plan to consolidate county government functions.

The contract with HB Construction amounts to $45.77 million. Gross receipts taxes tip the total to $49.4 million.

The commission had deferred a vote on the contract at two previous meetings, with members saying they wanted additional information. On Tuesday, they approved it 5-0 and also passed a series of amendments that gives the board of elected officials more oversight of the project. That includes board approval of any changes that raise the total price.

“When we have been given a promise, for $45.7 million, which is a lot of money – I think the biggest appropriation I have ever been part of in my time on the commission – we ought to hold our contractors to that,” Commission Chairwoman Maggie Hart Stebbins said. “If there is anything above and beyond that, it ought to come to us. We’re the ones who ask taxpayers for these dollars.”

The renovation will cost significantly more than originally anticipated. When the county bought the building in 2017, officials estimated a $33 million overhaul. But they later discovered that they would need to add a chambers instead of incorporating it into the existing 280,000-square-foot building. The new price also includes more mechanical upgrades, furniture and security measures than planned.

The new county headquarters will consolidate about 900 employees, making operations more efficient and publicly accessible, according to County Manager Julie Morgas Baca, who provided the commission with 10 reasons it was the right decision. She also said it would help the county avoid an estimated $22 million in deferred maintenance on the buildings it will vacate as part of the transition and that it would create about 450 jobs during construction.

“We realize this is a huge decision and we know that you all have not taken it lightly, and we do appreciate your questions and your concerns,” Morgas Baca said.

Commissioners had at a board meeting earlier this month expressed concern that they did not have enough details about the proposal. Last week, they had a meeting with the project team and Commissioner Charlene Pyskoty said that – and the thousands of pages of project-related documents she was provided – made a difference.

“I have to say I do feel much more comfortable (with this vote) since the last meeting,” she said.

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