By Kevin Wilson

Regents updated on building projects


Last updated 11/20/2021 at 3:51pm

PORTALES — Eastern New Mexico University’s regents got a touch of good news, along with a dose of uncertainty, on various building projects during their Friday meeting.

Vice President for Business Affairs Scott Smart told regents design is complete on Roosevelt Hall renovations, and he’s hoping to get construction documents in late February to set up March bidding and May construction. He did say construction price increases could wreak havoc on the budget, and that he plans to see what additional help the state could provide.

“As we stand here today,” Smart said, “I can’t tell you the budget is completely in good standing.”

Board Vice President Lance Pyle said he feared price increases would only continue, and said anything that could speed up the process would help the university. Smart said he’d see if the construction document process could be handled more expediently.

Smart said Xcel Energy has signed off on the university’s solar farm project, with the $7.75 million project generating up to five megawatts annually. Smart said the solar farm, which was first discussed in 2009, would pay for itself in energy savings and the university could promote itself as the state’s only solar-powered university.

In prior meetings, Smart said the school could pay for the construction with reserves, and energy savings would create a better return than the reserves would generate sitting in an interest-bearing account. He backed off from that idea Friday, noting the university will probably need its reserves for Roosevelt Hall and Student Academic Services building renovations.

The regents did get some positive news on another longstanding project, its University House. The presidential residence, which has been uninhabited since April of last year and in renovation for much of this year, could be complete late next month. Smart said cabinets and countertops are being installed and appliances are being moved into the house. The arrival of the custom cabinet was a linchpin for other work. The living room and kitchen area are being given top priority while additional bedrooms on the house’s south portion will be saved for last.

In other items discussed during the four and a half hour meeting:

n In her report, Chancellor Patrice Caldwell said the college is reporting a 65% vaccination rate for staff and faculty and a 20% rate for students. The student count is almost certainly underestimating, Caldwell said, since it reflects students who self-reported vaccination status to earn a cash incentive.

Caldwell said the theme for the 2022 homecoming would be “There’s No Place Like ENMU,” a reference to “The Wizard of Oz,” and that ENMU-branded food items are selling well. The university has branded coffee and salsa, and is hoping to have red and white wines introduced in the next few weeks. Sales of the items help cover student scholarships, and Caldwell said she’d report in January on sales.

“I know some of you are looking for Christmas gifts,” Caldwell said, “and we have some good ones.”

n Cody Spitz reported on recent recruitment events, including a Nov. 6 open house that drew 62 students and 59 guests. Spitz said the attendance numbers were positive, given that four other colleges within 250 miles also held open houses on the same day.

The college is prepping for a virtual open house Dec. 4, with 41 people already signed up, and will do an in-person open house in March and another virtual open house in April.

Student Regent Chandlar Head suggested expanding the recruitment office’s online presence. She noted she went through the online application process at New Mexico State for a comparison, and has received numerous messages about the college’s programs and perks like car insurance discounts. Those small messages become recruitment tools, Head said, because, “it’s constantly feeding me things about how I can better myself and save money as a student.”

n Caldwell gave a brief athletic department update, noting many positive changes initiated by Athletic Director Paul Weir. She said he has found ways to better handle administrative tasks for coaches (i.e. coordinating travel), and pursued new methods of acquiring and keeping sponsors. Caldwell added there are many daily conversations, and that his department’s actions consistently support the college’s overall academic vision.

Patterson told Caldwell it’s been evident Weir was a good hire, and that he’s hopeful the department can soon get to work on reinstating men’s soccer. Patterson said shelving the program was the right decision at the time, but that he never wanted the program suspension to become permanent.

Earlier in the meeting, Smart credited Weir and Greyhound Club President Charles Bennett for researching a quasi-endowment that was started 30 or 40 years ago. The original $150,000 has never been touched, and has grown with interest to $711,000. Regents approved moving the money into an actual endowment, with 4% of proceeds dedicated to granting aid.

n The board voted to elevate current Pyle to president and Regent Phillip Bustos to vice president, effective at the beginning of 2022. Head was retained as secretary/treasurer, as the board generally reserves those duties for the student regent.

n Regents approved changes to their upcoming meetings calendar, in addition to its Dec. 9 work session in Roswell.

The board eliminated a Jan. 18 work session prior to its scheduled meeting in Santa Fe, citing a desire for staff to dedicate more time to the legislative session. The board also flipped February and March locations, moving the Feb. 18 meeting to Ruidoso and the March 23 meeting to Portales.

Morning regent meetings will also be held at 8:30 a.m. instead of 9:30 a.m., with Pyle noting regents either lived in the area or were coming to Portales the night prior to meetings.


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