School district, college pursue plans to purchase Hilcorp building
Property on East 30th Street listed for $7 million
FARMINGTON — Farmington schools and San Juan College have started the process to possibly purchase the vacant Hilcorp building on East 30th Street to relocate operations from both organizations into one location.
The San Juan College Board and the Farmington Municipal School District Board of Education each have approved the formation of a joint powers agreement, which would allow college and district officials to negotiate a purchase contract for the building.
Listed at $7 million, the value of the building at 3401 E. 30th St. is about $30 million, according to Farmington Superintendent Gene Schmidt. The building was constructed in 1999 and was last occupied approximately two years ago.
Schmidt added it would be a very strategic purchase of a building at well below its actual value.
Farmington schools would operate on the first and fourth floor of the building while San Juan College would be on the second and third floor, according to San Juan College Executive Vice President Ed DesPlas.
San Juan College would own 53 percent of the building, and Farmington schools would own 47 percent. The cost of operating the building and purchasing the building would also be split by 53 and 47 percent, according to DesPlas.
It would give San Juan College 39,600 square feet of space and Farmington schools 34,900 square feet.
Farmington schools plans to centralize its district operations from as many as six locations across the city into the building if it is purchased, according to Ted Lasiewicz, the district's chief of operations.
Those locations include Farmington schools' central office on North Dustin Avenue, offices along East 20th Street, and the Career and Technology Education building on North Court Avenue.
Some of the buildings the district would vacate are about 40 to 50 years old and would be put up for sale later, Schmidt said.
The purchase of the building would be funded by San Juan College and Farmington school bonds, officials said.
Lasiewicz said the renovation cost to move into the space would be very minor since the building is in great shape.
Board member Sherry Galloway cast the only vote against the motion during a special Farmington school board meeting this afternoon.
Deputy Secretary Keith Corley, Secretary Robyn Hoffman and board Vice President Mike Isaacson voted in favor of the motion. Board President Kyle Rhodes was not present.
Galloway launched into a loud debate with the board and Schmidt regarding the possible purchase and negotiations of the Hilcorp building. Her stance was prompted in part by parent Amber Smith, who spoke at the meeting, asking several questions about the funding for the purchase and questioning if the district was a good steward of funds.
Smith stated teachers have to pay additional expenses for supplies out of their own paycheck, and she did not see how the purchase of the Hilcorp building would impact the education of her children.
Galloway later questioned if the district and board did their diligence regarding the purchase and if it would actually save the district money.
After the meeting, Schmidt said there are different "pots" of money the district uses to fund district operations, including capital projects and operational expenses. Bond funds can only be used for capital projects and construction work, he said.
"We believe that our operating efficiency will be increased, decreasing operational costs and push more money into the classroom," Schmidt said following the meeting.
San Juan College
Part of the 2015 bond funds from San Juan College that were authorized to renovate the 30th Street campus would be reauthorized for the purchase of the Hilcorp building.
College officials decided it would be a better use of the bond money to purchase part of the Hilcorp building than to renovate the Burlington building, DesPlas said.
"The amount of work it needs and the amount of money we have is terribly mismatched," Desplas said.
Current college programs and services at the 30th Street campus would be relocated to the Hilcorp building.
Some of the programs and services on the main campus, including operations/support of the health information systems and veterinary technology online programs would move, too, according to DesPlas.
Classrooms would be built on the second floor, as well as additional bathrooms to accommodate an increase in building users.
The Burlington and annex buildings on the 30th Street campus would be demolished if the purchase occurs. Those costs have not been finalized, DesPlas said. The buildings and land are owned by the San Juan College Foundation.
There are many hurdles that need to be cleared for the purchase to take place. Those include receiving approval from the New Mexico Higher Education Department, along with college and school board approval for the use of funds to purchase the building, DesPlas said.
Joshua Kellogg covers crime, courts and social issues for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.