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Commission Votes To Buy Building

By Dan Mckay
Journal Staff Writer
       Bernalillo County commissioners are about to have some room with a heck of a view.
    They voted 4-1 late Tuesday to authorize a $42 million deal to purchase the old Petroleum Club building at 500 Marquette NW. At 15 stories, it towers well above the City Hall complex across the street, which now houses most county offices.
    County Manager Thaddeus Lucero said the move would allow the government to consolidate its offices — now spread across a handful of Downtown locations — into one spot. Several real estate professionals said the new location would be more convenient.
    "We can do it at no additional cost to the taxpayer," Lucero said. "This is a smart idea."
    The proposal drew some opposition. David Campbell, an attorney representing some tenants of 500 Marquette, asked commissioners to postpone the deal until there could be more public discussion and analysis.
    In an interview, he said that, based on information he had, the 500 Marquette building was sold for only $26 million about five years ago.
    The tenants "have some very serious concerns," Campbell said. "There hasn't been the kind of public discussion you usually require for spending tens of millions of dollars on public improvements."
    Michael Brasher was the lone vote against it. He said the county hadn't provided enough analysis to support the project yet.
    Commissioner Tim Cummins, a real estate broker, said the county's high bond rating and the "down cycle of the economy" combined to make it a uniquely good deal.
    County executives told the commission their appraisers have valued the building at what the county proposes to pay. Officials also said rental income from the current tenants would more than cover the debt payments for the first few years and, after that, savings from moving county offices there would cover the cost.
    Commissioners also OK'd plans to put a few items on the Nov. 4 ballot, including a one-eighth-cent sales tax for the Rail Runner commuter train. About $21 million in county capital projects will also appear on the ballot.