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Major projects set to benefit SF economy

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

State officials say Santa Fe is about to experience an economic boom, thanks to a $32 million energy-efficiency project the state will soon initiate, as well as several other major construction projects.

Those include a $28 million state crime lab and $12 million expansion of the Department of Public Safety’s records storage facility.

Land off Camino Entrada is being graded for the new New Mexico Bureau of Vital Records and Health Statistics Office. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

The projects are a slice of a huge $925 million public infrastructure bill approved by the Legislature this year, with about $137 million earmarked for the Facilities Management Division. While planning has been in the works, spending won’t take place until after the start of the new fiscal year on July 1.

“State government is going to be an enormous stimulus for Santa Fe and the state,” said Thom Cole, a spokesman with the state’s General Services Department, under which facilities management is the largest division. “And this may just be the beginning. It’s a chance to do a lot of the things that have been deferred and just haven’t gotten done.”

In all, there are 180 active capital projects underway across the state and another 160 in the pipeline.

GSD lists 151 capital projects of more than $5,000 on a link from its webpage. Fifty-eight of them – more than 38% of all projects – are in Santa Fe County.

It pays to be the state capital. By comparison, the county with the next most capital projects, Bernalillo, has 27 projects.

Anna Silva, who heads the Facilities Management Division, said there currently exists about $280 million worth of deferred maintenance to state-owned buildings statewide.

“With the capital outlay, we will finally be able to make a huge dent with buildings we haven’t been able to address,” said Silva, whose division oversees 800 state buildings and leases for 400 others totaling $50 million. “Basically, it will address needs at every state building in Santa Fe.”

Silva said the work will benefit Santa Fe by creating construction jobs, as well as more state jobs once the work is done. Local businesses will also benefit from the activity, and the sale of goods and services, she said.

“It’s a huge injection into the local economy, she said, adding that improved facilities will also boost morale and the “quality of work life” for state employees.

In a news release last month, the GSD said the energy-efficiency initiative calls for improvements to lighting inside buildings, electric transformers, heating and air conditioning systems, doors and windows, and installing solar power at 19 state buildings.

Some of the work that will be done has been put off for years, Silva said.

“We have gaps in walls at some facilities that are a half-inch thick,” which she said makes for uncomfortable working conditions for some state workers. “What employees are doing on their own is they are putting plastic over windows and wearing jackets.”

What’s more, she said, many of the facilities in need of repair or upgrades are historic buildings. Among them are the Bataan Memorial Building – which evolved over the decades from a 1900 territorial capitol, built 12 years before statehood, and served as the state capitol until 1960 – and the Lamy and Lew Wallace buildings, which once served as dormitories for St. Michael’s School prior to being purchased by the state in the late 1960s.

“There are so many historic buildings, and we want to take care of them and not let them go to waste,” she said.

Asked why the state previously allowed so much building maintenance to be deferred, Silva, who was initially picked as interim division director less than a year ago, said she couldn’t say for sure.

“Maybe it wasn’t a priority,” she said.

But building maintenance is a priority for Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and the state Legislature, which approved the spending, she said.

State budgets were much tighter during Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration. The infrastructure bill was largely fueled by a huge boom in state revenues from the oil and gas industry.

‘Now we’re ready’

Silva said state government recognized there was an opportunity to address the building maintenance needs and prepared for it.

“We knew this was coming, so we had to decide how were going to plan,” she said, adding that projects were prioritized based on need, with health and safety being a top concern. “Now we’re ready. We’ve met with other agencies and prioritized projects, and now we have the staff.”

Her own division is now fully staffed, she noted, with 13 project managers.

The $32 million green initiative is the most expansive and is part of Lujan Grisham’s interagency Climate Change Task Force strategy. In her first month in office, the newly elected governor issued an executive order for state agencies to reduce greenhouse gases and shrink their carbon footprints.

In addition to making state buildings more energy efficient by doing such things as replacing or upgrading heating and cooling systems, tinting and installing double-paned windows, and switching to LED lighting, about $1.5 million will go toward purchasing electric vehicles for state government use and building charging stations at state facilities in Santa Fe County.

Trane U.S., Inc. has been hired to implement the green initiative. Employing 70 New Mexico residents, Trane is recognized by the state Taxation and Revenue Dept. as a local resident business. Other subcontractors using 100% local labor include Sandia Mechanical, Welch’s Boiler, M Electric and Positive Energy Solar, all Albuquerque-based businesses. In all, 99% of the work will be done by New Mexico contractors.

The project is being touted as the state’s first “energy savings performance project,” with projected savings of $1.4 million per year, after the bonds used to borrow about $12 million from the Department of Finance and Administration are paid off in 12 years.

It’s also the first with a master plan for security.

“The number one question I get is: what are you doing about security?” Silva said.

Security was taken into consideration throughout the planning process for the capital projects.

“What’s been done in the past is we’ve always been in a reactive state,” she said. “By working in collaboration with other agencies and stakeholders, we’re looking at it, so we’re not just reacting.”

Taking care of maintenance issues now will save the state from paying for problems that could crop up later. “Then, we get out of that reactive mode,” she said.

New crime lab

Security is also of special concern for the new crime lab and secure records facilities.

Work on the $28 million crime lab, a two-story 41,000-square-foot facility to be built on Galisteo Street, south of St. Michael’s near Santa Fe County Magistrate court, is scheduled to begin by the end of the year. The buildings will also house the Department of Public Safety’s statewide training facility, offices, meeting space and a vehicle inspection facility.

“It’s going to be pretty sophisticated,” Silva said.

Another major project is construction of a new facility to house the Vital Records and Health Statistics Office. Preliminary work on the $12 million project on Camino Entrada on the south side of town has already begun.

Silva said part of the Facilities Management Division’s strategy is to reduce the number of state offices under lease. By erecting new buildings, state government can cut into the $50 million it is spending to lease space. It will make state government more efficient and save taxpayers money, she said.

Silva said the Facilities Management Division is excited about getting started on their plans once funds become available after July 1.

“We’re prepared for it. We have contractors and price agreements in place,” she said. “It’s a lot of money and a huge responsibility, but it’s exciting to be able to show what Facilities Management can do. We can address so many needs.”

And while building new buildings is exciting for facilities management personnel, so is fixing the old historic buildings the state currently occupies.

“It’s the responsible thing to do, instead of just putting a Band-Aid on them and letting these buildings go to waste,” she said.

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