Notes from the Feb. 17, 2004 Regents Meeting
by George Zamora
SANTA FE – The New Mexico Tech Board of Regents was given an update on the pending purchase of Playas, N.M. by the state-supported research university in Socorro, a $5 million transaction which is expected to be officially closed later this year, probably no later than May 15.
During the governing board’s February meeting held recently in Santa Fe, New Mexico Tech administrators told regents that a sale contract for the townsite and surrounding acreage had been signed last month by representatives of the university and current Playas owner Phelps Dodge Corporation.
With both groups having signed the agreement, the Playas purchase has now entered into a 60-day “due diligence” period in which New Mexico Tech will thoroughly inspect the acreage included in the deal, making sure everything is in compliance with state and federal laws and regulations.
At the end of the due diligence period, officials from New Mexico Tech and Phelps Dodge will meet again to address issues — if any are found — and determine how to remediate them. This process could possibly take up to 60 more days.
If no issues are raised, however, the New Mexico Tech Board of Regents may vote on whether or not to accept the Playas purchase on behalf of the university at one of its monthly meetings in either March or April.
In addition, approvals for the transaction must be garnered from New Mexico’s Commission on Higher Education and State Board of Finance.
Much of the $5 million cost of the real estate deal is being financed through federal funds obtained by New Mexico Tech for its training programs which are run in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Some of the programs, which include counter-terrorism and first responder training, are slated to eventually be conducted in Playas once the university assumes ownership of the townsite.
During the board’s meeting, New Mexico Tech regents also were briefed on the highlights of the recent session of the New Mexico State Legislature, with particular focus on legislation that was passed pertaining to the state-supported research university.
New Mexico Tech President Daniel H. López characterized the 30-day legislative session as having been “extremely successful for higher education in New Mexico.”
In fact, New Mexico Tech will stand to gain from several bills that state lawmakers passed, López told the regents, including the following:
- full-formula funding for state research universities;
- tuition credits of four percent for state institutions of higher learning;
- $219,000 for a program to encourage high school and middle school teachers to enroll in a Master of Science Teaching degree program at New Mexico Tech;
- $500,000 for the Magdalena Ridge Observatory;
- $200,000 for the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources for a study on eradication of salt cedar along the Rio Grande, as well as $75,000 to $100,000 for a statewide aquifer mapping project;
- $3.5 million for renovation and refurbishment of the Kelly Petroleum Building and Jones Hall; and
- $750,000 for infrastructure improvements.
In addition, the New Mexico State Legislature passed several bills which include some funding for New Mexico Tech, including:
- $300,000 to plan for hosting the annual International Science and Engineering Fair in New Mexico;
- $4 million in library support for the state’s universities (about $250,000 to $300,000 which will go to the Skeen Library);
- $4.4 million for information technology (IT) programs (about $850,000 going to New Mexico Tech’s IT program;
- $1.7 million for compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (about $200,000 going to New Mexico Tech); and
- development of an “e-mercado” by Sandia National Laboratories (about $950,000 going to New Mexico Tech).
López also noted that funding that had been cut earlier in the legislative session for some of New Mexico Tech’s research divisions, including the Petroleum Recovery Research Center, the Institute for Complex Additive Systems, and the National Cave and Karst Research Institute, was restored by the end of the session.
However, López cautioned Tech regents that all the recently passed legislation was still subject to approval or veto by Governor Bill Richardson.
López also told regents that he and his administration would be trying to secure an additional one percent salary increase for all Tech employees in the coming fiscal year, on top of the two percent raise that is provided for in the recently passed state budget.
In official actions taken at its monthly meeting, the New Mexico Tech Board of Regents approved the establishment of the New Mexico Tech Research Park Corporation, a not-for-profit corporation that will work with the university to help fulfill its mission of stimulating economic development in the area.
The board of regents also approved granting degrees to a list of 101 candidates who had fulfilled their degree requirements at New Mexico Tech in December at the end of the 2003 Fall Semester.
The New Mexico Tech Board of Regents also granted tenure to Tech staff member Brian Brister, a petroleum geologist with the university’s New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources.
Also acting in an official capacity as the university’s governing board, Tech regents voted to approve a Budget Adjustment Request for the university’s current fiscal budget, and approved the sale of about $22,000 worth of aluminum scrap that the university had accumulated over the years.
Reports were also presented to the New Mexico Tech Board of Regents during its meeting by various Tech administrators on topics including student enrollment and recruitment, financial statements for the New Mexico Tech Research Foundation, the status of the Tech President’s performance goals and objectives, a policy development document, and a contract made by the Energetic Materials Research and Testing Center.