With a funding pledge for a health sciences building at UNM West secured from the City of Rio Rancho last month, university officials are preparing to seek $10 million for the expansion in a statewide general obligation bond issue.
But first, it has to win approval from the state Legislature to include the project in the package of proposed GO bonds for capital outlay projects to be submitted to voters in the November 2016 general election.
Jamie Silva-Steele, president and CEO of the UNM Sandoval Regional Medical Center, said a UNM representative spoke to the Legislature’s Legislative Finance Committee a couple of times this fall about funding the project.
“They are primed, as of last week, (about) our priorities and now it’s just a matter of waiting for the session,” Silva-Steele said. The 30-day session begins Jan. 19.
The city council approved a $12 million memorandum of understanding and budget adjustment on Dec. 9 for the proposed new building, voting 4-2 to utilize the city’s quarter-cent gross receipts tax for higher education facilities.
If the proposed GO bond issue is approved for the ballot and voters also approve, funds could be available by January 2017, with construction of the project expected to take eight to 12 months, Silva-Steele said.
The proposed Health Sciences Center West Healthcare Education building was approved earlier this year as a capital outlay priority by the UNM Board of Regents. Silva-Steele said discussions of the new building will heighten at the university next year.
“We’re going to start the more serious dialogue about campus evolution,” she said. “There are lots of things with respect to the property that we have to consider, such as roadways and where this initial building gets placed because it, in essence, then dictates how the rest of the campus needs to evolve.”
In a guest column that appeared in the Observer in August, UNM CEO Wynn Goering said the building could provide teaching laboratories for biology and chemistry curricula required for a wide range of majors, as well as classroom and office space for selected health science undergraduate programs that could include nursing, pharmacy, medical laboratory sciences, emergency medicine and population health.
The building would be close to the existing UNM West building, she said, although the official site has yet to be determined. Silva-Steele said she, along with other members of the university, are considering ways to transition programs from SRMC and UNM West to the new building.
“To bring out a health science center here would be huge bonus for the community and for the university,” she said. “We’re thrilled, as a hospital, that programs are coming because that means learners can continue to be a part of our environment, in a hospital setting, which is a goal of ours organizationally to bring in learners to our facility.”