Colleges insist bond money helps community, too

By Kevin Wilson

New Mexico voters approved more than $94 million in bonds on Tuesday to help the state’s colleges and universities upgrade infrastructure. But proponents say the voters’ decision will benefit more than just higher education.
“When you think of bonds, you tend to think of how it helps the university and that’s not the correct way to look at it,” said Beverlee McClure, president of Clovis Community College. “The bonds help the community. The more services we can offer and the more space we have, the more we can serve our students and our community.”
Clovis Community College is one of three higher-education facilities in the area that will take a piece of the $94 million pie that is General Obligation Bond B. The measure was approved with 58.7 percent (349,365) of the 595,565 votes cast throughout the state.
Eastern New Mexico University receives one of the larger amounts of funding through the bond, which is financed by additional property taxes. Voters approved an annual tax of $1 per $10,000 in property value. That funding will create about $9 million for the ENMU Portales campus, $3.175 million for ENMU-Roswell and $850,000 for ENMU-Ruidoso.
The biggest element for ENMU, a $7 million science building, will likely be the last in a series of upgrades for the university. Steven Gamble, ENMU president, said the university also received money for infrastructure, technology upgrades, Americans with Disabilities Act improvements and KENW-TV’s digital conversion.
“We at this point don’t know where we would be in the sequencing (of receiving bond money),” Gamble said. “We’re going ahead with our planning and setup for the work that needs to be done.
“Some of the ADA things they can get to very soon. KENW digital is under way as we speak. The science building will probably take about eight months to get under way.”
A steering committee for ENMU put forth a message that the money would recycle into local economies. Some other institutions tried to show a direct benefit to the community.
Phillip O. Barry, the president of Mesalands Community College in Tucumcari, said the $600,000 that MCC received would complete a package of $1.4 million that the Commission on Higher Education recommended in 2002 before the state legislature cut the amount to $800,000.
The money, Barry said, will be used to put in two to three more classrooms, a community meeting room and a fitness center.
“This was originally a vocational school and it transformed to a community college,” Barry said, “so we’re putting in those things that are indicative of a community college — things for the community.”
The college has fitness classes already, Barry said, but the current facility is little more than a modified truck bay.
“It’s better than not having one, but it would be nice to have something a little more conducive (to fitness),” Barry said.
Clovis Community College will receive $650,000 — $500,000 for classroom additions and $150,000 for infrastructure. A current focus for CCC, McClure said, is to have a 25,000-square-foot building dedicated to medical education. With a nationwide nursing shortage, McClure felt the center would serve an obvious need.
“I think it absolutely is more imperative,” McClure said. “Not only is our nursing shortage nationwide, but if you look in the rural area, it’s very tough to recruit healthcare professionals.”
CCC is already partnered with the University of New Mexico on education for paramedics, but is also considering partnering with UNM on physical therapy.