Student housing gets regents’ final approval

By Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor

Eastern New Mexico University regents gave final approval on two student housing projects Thursday during their regular meeting.

The projects would provide student housing complexes at the Portales and Roswell campuses that are to be privately owned and financed through the sale of bonds that would be repaid from rental of the units. In Portales, the estimated $14 million project would provide 270 beds.

Need for a final resolution giving the administration the authority to complete the ground leases and management agreements for the projects caught regents and administration officials by surprise earlier this week after other parties involved made the request.

The item had to be rushed onto the agenda giving regents short review time on a tall stack of paper.

The lack of final details in the contracts led regents to question staff and legal aid extensively during the meeting.

“We’re being asked to approve a lease that’s not in its final form?” Regents President Jay Gurley asked.

Vice President of Business Affairs Scott Smart acknowledged there were a lot of details still to be plugged into the contracts, some of which would not be available until close to the Sept. 18 closing date on the real estate transaction. He said because there were as many as 12 parties involved in the deal, the need for the resolution authorizing President Steven Gamble and himself to act on the university’s behalf in the transaction was needed.

“Some of these numbers you can’t pin them down until almost last minute because they’re coming from other parties,” ENMU legal counsel Chris Holland said by conference call.
Regent Marshall Stinnett questioned Smart and Holland about what the university’s liabilities were and what would happen if financial problems crop up.

“What happens if something happens to this primary company, where are we?” Stinnett asked.

Holland said that the LLCs (limited liability companies) being set up to manage the student housing facilities were set up to operate independently of the developer. He said in case of bankruptcy or some type of insolvency the contracts would leave the development in the LLCs’ hands. Performance bonds would come into play to finish any uncompleted work if necessary, he said.

Gamble remarked that he was relying heavily on legal counsel’s advice in the matter.

“We certainly trust the administration,” Gurley said. “But we want to make sure we brand our calves.”

The Portales project includes four new residence halls on the campus just east of Eddy Hall. The developer chosen for the project is Collegiate Development Services of Irving, Texas.

Plans call for construction to begin this fall with completion by the fall of 2007.

In other business regents:

• Made amendments to the ENMU-Roswell faculty handbook.

• Gave approval of the Portales and Roswell campus annual research and service project requests for 2007-08 to be sent to the legislature.

• Approved awarding a posthumous degree to Susie Blevins, a non-traditional student who died of cancer just short of her degree.

• Approved a resolution supporting the state-wide general obligation bond issue that will be on ballots this November.