Regents Hear Update On Legislative Session

SOCORRO, N.M. February 25, 2013 – The New Mexico Tech Board of Regents learned that the state legislature seems to be leaning toward providing the needed funding to complete construction of the new Bureau of Geology building during the current session.

Tech requires $6 million – in addition to the $18 million approved by voters last November – to complete the new 85,000 square-foot, three-story building on the north side of campus.

“We were able to convince the executive staff that the Bureau is a state agency and is deserving of $6 million,” President Dr. Daniel H. Lopez said. “The legislative staff proposal is to include the funding [as part of this year’s severance tax bonding bill] and the Legislative Finance Committee is on board too. So we have good recommendations coming into the session.”

Director of Special Projects Miguel Hidalgo said that Tech would hire one contractor for demolition of the ISD building and a second contractor for construction.

“We are hopeful that with the economic conditions; we got a great price on the residence hall [currently under construction],” he said. “There have been a lot of general contractors who have expressed interest in bidding on this project.”

Hidalgo said Tech administrators will solicit bids as early as May, then seek approval of the Regents, followed by state approval from the Higher Education Department and the State Board of Finance.

“It’s an exciting project,” Hidalgo said. “It’s been a long time in the works and it’s going to happen.”

Lopez said the new construction will lead to a major dislocation of parking on campus – as many as 100 spaces. He said administration is considering options for adding new parking.

Lonnie Marquez, Vice President of Finance, said campus has about 1,700 parking spaces, which includes roadside parking on Leroy Place and Bullock Street.

Two Regents – Richard Carpenter and Jerry Armijo – asked about issuing permits or instituting fees.

Lopez said, “We’ve discussed that … but we will try to stay away from that as long as possible.”

In other legislative news, Lopez said he had good news from the House of Representatives side of the funding debates.

Tech has requests for $750,000 for the Magdalena Ridge Observatory, $800,000 for “Building Renewal and Replacement,” and another appropriation for the Geophysical Research Center.

On a sobering note, Lopez reported on the debate surrounding the declining financial health of the Lottery Scholarship program. The fund is dwindling and is expected to go bankrupt if changes aren’t made.

The Legislature could decide to fund the program with revenues from sources other than the State Lottery; or it could institute limits on the program, Lopez said. Options that have been discussed include a limit of seven semesters (instead of eight) and an increase to the minimum GPA required to keep the scholarship.

Regarding the current dormitory construction, Hidalgo said the contractor is on schedule for a mid-June completion, which is about 30 days ahead of schedule. He and Auxiliary Services are working with the contractor on finalizing plans for the interior of the building, including furniture, fixtures and color schemes.

Lopez reported that the Advancement Office has made headway in the initial phase of a new capital campaign. Melissa Jaramillo-Fleming, Vice President of Student and University Relations, said a recent telephone campaign netted more than $72,000 in donations from alumni.

Lopez said the campaign is entering the “open phase.” Jaramillo-Fleming said the Advancement Office will use both traditional and new media methods to reach potential donors.

Lopez also introduced the two Regents-elect in attendance, who are expected to be confirmed in coming days by the Legislature.

Debra Hicks of Hobbs is an engineer and entrepreneur. She is the president and CEO of Pettigrew and Associates. She also has served on a number of public boards, including as a New Mexico Transportation Department commissioner.

Israel Rodriguez-Rios is a junior mechanical engineering student from Santa Fe.

Later in the meeting, outgoing student Omar Soliman expressed his gratitude to the board.

He is graduating with two bachelor’s this May and is staying at Tech to complete a master’s. He said, “Tech is a really cool place and I’ve had great opportunities here. Being a Regent has been a great learning experience.”

In other business:

  • The Board approved a list of items to be removed from inventory, all with initial coasts between $5,000 and $10,000.

  • Dr. Richard Sonnenfeld, chair of the Faculty Senate, presented three concerns: (1) loss of parking spaces, (2) a request to add a faculty member to the space allocation committee, and (3) thanks to the Property Office for accommodating faculty input, particularly about the cannibalization of equipment.

  • Faculty member Dr. Bill Stone reported on the addition of a new interdisciplinary project for biomechanics, which will include mechanical engineering, materials engineering and chemical engineering. Ultimately, he said, the faculty is hoping to propose a new degree program in biomedical sciences, which would incorporate biology and psychology.

  • Also, Graduate Dean Dr. Lorie Liebrock r reported that the Communication, Liberal Arts and Social Science Department is adding a new Graduate Certificate in Scientific and Professional Communication.

  • The Regents learned of five professors who are taking sabbatical leave:
    • Dr. Julianne Newmark of the CLASS Department;
    • Dr. Rakhim Aitbayev of the Mathematics Department;
    • Dr. Bruce Harrison of the Earth and Environmental Science Department;
    • Dr. Fred Phillips of the Earth and Environmental Science Department; and
    • Dr. Michael Heagy of the Chemistry Department.
  • Marty Mathisen of Atkinson and Co. presented the annual audit findings. Tech had no significant findings. The audit was “unqualified,” meaning Tech has no deficiencies in accounting methodology.

  • Marquez presented the quarterly financials for December 2012, showing that Tech is within budget.

  • Marquez presented the financial analysis for January 2013, showing that Tech is within budget.

  • The Regents learned of degree conferrals since the last meeting, including November and December 2012 and January 2013 graduates. Tech awarded 35 bachelor’s (all in December), 15 master’s and two doctorates.

  • The Board approved two new policy documents: the Purchasing Policy Manual and the Capitalization Policy.

  • The Regents approved two resolutions for removal of property between $1,000 to $5,000 and a second resolution for property over $5,000.

  • The Board learned of eight purchases with restricted funds, each of which totaled more than $100,000.

– NMT –

By Thomas Guengerich/New Mexico Tech