San Juan College board OKs $1.7 million in construction contracts

Some pay raises also approved at Tuesday meeting

Megan Petersen
Farmington Daily Times
Chris Harrelson, the senior director of the physical plant at San Juan College, stands before the college's South Hutton Road building in Farmington on Wednesday. The facility will undergo a renovation.
  • The South Hutton Road location was the former home of the college's School of Energy.
  • The college board approved pay increases for full-time employees of 1 and 2 percent.
  • The renovated building and new fire tower likely will be finished in the fall.

FARMINGTON — San Juan College has awarded contracts for a projects totaling approximately $1.7 million to renovate the old School of Energy building and construct a new fire tower at 800 S. Hutton Road in Farmington.

The college’s Board of Trustees approved the contracts with local construction companies at a regular meeting Tuesday.

Spellbring Construction Inc. was awarded the fire tower construction contract, worth $1.15 million, and Winters Construction LLC was awarded the building renovation contract, worth $600,000, according to information from college spokeswoman Rhonda Schaefer.

Chris Harrelson, the physical plant senior director, said funding for the projects will come from 2015 local bonds, which also funded the recently completed renovation of the college’s STEM-H building.

The South Hutton Road building housed the college’s School of Energy until 2015 and has since been unoccupied and used as storage, Harrelson said.

The building will undergo some minor exterior renovation, including stucco and landscaping. Harrelson said when the building is finished, the School of Trades and Technology’s fire science program and the School of Energy’s commercial driver’s license training program will move in.

The college partnered with San Juan County in 2017 to pave a seven-acre parking lot at the site for the CDL training program to use for practice, Harrelson said.

San Juan College's South Hutton Road location will become the new home of the School of Trades and Technology’s fire science program and the School of Energy’s commercial driver’s license training program.

The new four-story, 4,600-square-foot fire tower will be built in an open space in the parking lot at the South Hutton Road location. Harrelson said the fire science program currently uses a 30-year-old fire tower on the main campus for practice, but the building is developing structural issues.

“It’s just been on fire so many times over 30 years, it starts to wear on it,” Harrelson said at the South Hutton Road location on Wednesday, adding that building a new fire tower at the off-campus location “makes more space up there for future endeavors.”

The new fire tower will feature propane-fueled fire props as opposed to live wood fires, as well as insulated burn rooms that will lengthen the building’s life, Harrelson said.

Both projects likely will begin in early July, Harrelson said. The renovated building should be open for use by the beginning of the fall 2019 semester, and the new fire tower likely will be finished within four to six months.

The programs will continue to use current facilities until the projects are complete so classes will not be disrupted, Harrelson said.

The college board also approved capital improvement project priorities at the Tuesday meeting. New Mexico community colleges can request two priority projects for Higher Education Department funding, with the expectation that the college match 25 percent of the project costs, according to information from Schaefer.

The board’s fiscal year 2019 priorities are replacing fire alarm and emergency lighting systems and adding fire sprinklers to several buildings on campus for an estimated $1,025,200 project cost, and repairing the roof at the college’s Quality Center for Business building for an estimated $396,000.

Salary increases from the state also were approved at the Tuesday meeting. Full-time college employees will receive a 1 percent or 2 percent raise — based on how long they’ve been employed by the college — effective July 1, according to Schaefer. Full-time employees hired after the beginning of the spring semester and part-time employees are not eligible for the raises.

Biology professor Lance Myler, who represents the college’s faculty association, said the raises are a step in the right direction. He advocated for “consistent incremental pay increases” to combat inflation’s effect on wages.

“Over time, (inflation and lack of responsive raises) really erodes our competitiveness and ability to keep quality employees and unfrustrated employees,” Myler said.

Schaefer said the state will contribute $306,224, and the college will contribute $236,000 to fund the increases.

Megan Petersen covers business and education for The Daily Times. Reach her at 505-564-4621 or