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Council agrees to $10M for new UNM West educational facility

The lobby at the UNM West campus is shown in a 2013 photograph. The Rio Rancho Governing Body voted 4-2 to proceed with funding for a health sciences building. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

The lobby at the UNM West campus is shown in a 2013 photograph. The Rio Rancho Governing Body voted 4-2 to proceed with funding for a health sciences building. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

City officials have agreed to a $10 million memorandum of understanding and budget adjustment for the development of an additional education facility at the UNM West campus in Rio Rancho.

The funds would come from the city’s quarter-cent gross receipts tax for higher education facilities, which was approved by voters in 2008. The city funds would be matched with $10 million from statewide general obligation bonds, subject to approval by voters in 2016.

At the Rio Rancho Governing Body’s meeting Wednesday, the measure passed on a 4-2 vote.

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If funding falls in line as planned, UNM West could be home to a new health sciences building by 2018, officials said.

The project would dovetail with local efforts to establish the area as a regional training center for healthcare jobs.

The UNM Board of Regents previously approved making the project for a new Health Sciences Center West Healthcare Education building part of UNM’s capital project submission to the Higher Education Department for the next fiscal year.

The state Legislature and the governor must first approve the project in the package of GO bonds to be placed on the general election ballot in November 2016. The project would then be subject to voter approval.

City councilors Chuck Wilkins and Mark Scott dissented because they wanted more safeguards in place to protect taxpayers in case UNM West’s plan doesn’t come to fruition, .

“Nothing would make me happier (than) to have (this plan) a go,” Scott said. “But without safeguards (for reimbursement) I’m very, very apprehensive.”

At issue were a budget adjustment and the initial disbursement of $2 million in funds authorized under the resolution, in addition to previous dealings with UNM in which expansion plans did not go forward as promised after money was paid by the city.

City Manager Keith Riesberg assured councilors that the memorandum of understanding was negotiated in a “good faith effort” and was “fair,” and therefore he recommended passing the measure as presented.

“There are protections for a clawback provision,” Riesberg said. “If they discontinue the use of the facilities, the funds are to be refunded.”


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