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Math and science building expansion is college's priority

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FARMINGTON — The San Juan College staff is preparing to tackle three capital projects after college board members approved the sale of $5 million in bonds.

The board members approved selling half of the $10 million general obligation bonds approved by voters in February during Tuesday night’s board meeting.

The funding will be split between two projects: $3 million will help fund the $7 million renovation and expansion of the School of Science, Math and Engineering, and $2 million will go toward the purchase and installation of a new fire tower and renovation of the classroom building at 800 S. Hutton Road.

Garry Smothers, physical plant interim director, said the college’s first priority is the math and science expansion followed by the work on Hutton Road, then the proposed $5 million renovation of college’s 30th Street campus.

Smothers said the remaining $5 million in bonds will be sold in the future to fund the 30th Street project, which will relocate campus offices from the main campus to offer more campus space for classrooms.

The college will take bids for architect services on the School of Science, Math and Engineering project on Friday, and the college board will hold a special meeting on Oct. 27 to approve a bid.

State Bond Question C, which was approved by voters in November 2014, provides the remaining $4 million for the project.

The School of Science, Math and Engineering project is split into three phases, with phase one consisting of five new classrooms built on a lawn area located between the West Classroom Complex and the Education Services Center.

Phase two includes the renovation of three existing classrooms into new science laboratories, and phase three includes the renovation of about 43,000 square feet of existing space to handle the growth of programs.

An expanded laboratory preparation space is part of phase two and will be welcomed by biology professor Don Hyder. Hyder, co-director of the horticulture program, said several classes share the same storage space in the laboratory preparation area, which can make it difficult to locate items.

During a tour of the lab space Wednesday, Hyder showed how the horticultural program, the invertebrate zoology class and the environmental conservation class store items on the same shelf.

“It all gets very confused here because we don’t have the space to put all of the things in separate areas,” Hyder said.

Smothers said SJC officials estimate construction will start on phase one in spring 2016, but that will depend on the design process.

The five new classrooms need to be finished before the three classrooms are renovated in laboratory space as part of phase two to avoid impacting the availability of courses for students, Smothers said.

The renovation of the 21,000-square-foot building at 800 S. Hutton Road will be much easier, Smothers said. The building is currently vacant after classes were relocated to the School of Energy building this summer.

The renovated building will house the fire science, emergency medical services and commercial driver's license programs.

Smothers said the college is spacing out the procurement processes for each of the three projects to avoid having them overlap, delaying the approval of an architecture firm for the Hutton Road project until summer 2016.

The building was constructed in the 1960s and will require additional work to bring it into compliance with current building codes.

Work on the renovation of the two buildings on the college’s 30th Street campus will begin after it is determined which programs will be moved from the main campus.

The buildings are currently in trust to the San Juan College Foundation, which voted to transfer the property to the college.

Smothers said a finalized plan about which offices will be moved is required by the New Mexico Higher Education Department before the department approves the property transfer.

The college is estimating it will seek an architect to start design work in late fall or winter 2016.

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627.

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