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Expo NM ‘ecstatic’ to get $2.5M in capital funds

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Expo New Mexico’s slice of the capital outlay pie that legislators agreed to earlier this month will be $2.5 million.

“We’re ecstatic,” Expo general manager Dan Mourning said Thursday. “This will allow us to be proactive” in addressing the most pressing issues at 236-acre fairgrounds, such as roofing repairs, sewage line replacement and improvements to its electrical distribution system.

Mourning said a number of planned projects will likely be completed in time for the 2015 State Fair, scheduled for Sept. 10-20.

Despite a laundry list of needs at the 79-year-old fairgrounds – ranging from leaking roofs and collapsing sewer lines to rickety utility poles and patchwork asphalt – legislators gave Expo just over one-forth of its initial capital request.

Even before the ink had dried on Expo’s initial $11.1 million request for capital funding, a legislative panel slashed it to $4.5 million. As the capital outlay bill inched through the legislative process, Expo’s request was trimmed to $3.3 million, then to $2.2 million. But the entire capital outlay package died in the closing minutes of the regular 60-day legislative session that ended March 27.

When Gov. Susana Martinez called lawmakers back for a one-day special session on June 8, they approved a $294 million capital outlay bill, of which Expo will receive $2,515,000.

Expo New Mexico is a state enterprise fund, meaning it must pay for itself. Though the Legislature does not fund Expo, it gives the facility capital outlay money to maintain and improve its facilities.

Between 2010 and 2014, Expo sought a total of $15.5 million in capital outlay funds and received slightly more than $5.5 million, according to Expo communications director Erin Thompson.

For the coming fiscal year, the capital outlay funds include: $2.4 million for repairs and improvements to Expo’s electrical distribution system, sewer system and roofing; $70,000 for improvements to the Sheryl M. Williams Stapleton African American Performing Arts Center; and $45,000 for improvements to Expo’s grounds and buildings, Mourning said.