By Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor
It took Portales Municipal School officials a year of fine-tuning their plans, but once the right plan was presented to Portales voters overwhelmingly approved a school bond to build a new elementary school. In higher education, Eastern New Mexico University celebrated solid enrollment and a new facility as the fall semester began.
In September, voters voiced their approval for replacing two schools, Lindsey and Steiner elementaries, which are more than 70 years old, with one new school by approving $9.5 million in bonds in a 871-172 vote.
The $9.5 million will be coupled with $11.8 million from the state to construct the new school on grounds near Lindsey.
“I’m very pleased with the support the community has shown for our school system,” Portales School Superintendent Randy Fowler said. “I think the school bond is very positive for our school system, as well as our community.”
Steiner and Lindsey had moved up to No. 6 and No. 14 on the state’s list of schools in need of renovation or replacement, making the district eligible for generous state support. The cost of renovating the two buildings was estimated at $26 million while building a new facility should cost about $16 million, according to Fowler.
School officials are refining plans for the school through regular building committee meetings, and plans call for construction to begin this spring and be completed by fall 2009.
“It has served this community well. It’s had it’s grace but it needs to stand in it’s place in history now,” Steiner Principal Becky Flen said of the her building.
Fowler said money left over after the building is constructed next year will be put into renovations around the district.
In September, ENMU administration reported that enrollment was up slightly in head-count over the previous year. They also told regents that semester credit hours were down, but only slightly.
President Steven Gamble said that last year was a bad year for the university so beating those numbers might not seem like a victory at first glance, but he said low unemployment and other pressures were causing institutions across the state and nation to experience budget-bruising enrollment declines.
“I think the credit goes to our recruition and faculty doing a great job,” said Regent Marshall Stinnett. “It’s just teamwork. If you look at what’s going on around us it’s pretty sad.”
Various construction projects at ENMU continued into the fall but one major new facility was completed. San Juan Village, a new student housing cluster of buildings was open in time for returning students to move into in the fall and received rave reviews from students.
The new facility, which replaces the two high-rise dormitories on campus, includes a pool, residents clubhouse, kitchens with appliances in the rooms and a choice of number of bedrooms in each unit from one to four bedroom.
Other Top Stories
• The 25th annnual Great American Race made a breakfast pitstop in Portales. The 4,000-mile crosscountry race involved 67 vehicles.
• John Bridges, a 19-year veteran of the Portales Fire Department , was named as the department’s new chief. He replaced Raul Muniz who left the department for Arizona.
• District Judge Joe Parker, who was assigned most of the cases heard in Roosevelt County, announced his retirement. Parker said an ongoing battle with Parkinson’s disease forced the decision.
• The PNT ran a three-part series in July examining the effects of methamphetamine on the area.
• A section of N.M. 206 was experiencing significant failure of the pavement which had been replaced less than a year earlier. State highway officials determined in the fall that the cause was failure of the oil and aggregate to bond correctly. They announced that the project would be redone next year at a significant increase in price.
• Longtime PNT columnist and former United Press International reporter Bob Huber died of cancer.
• Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) reports initially showed that most of Portales’ schools hadn’t received a passing grade, Portales High School and Valencia Elementary later learned that they had actually made AYP. State officials hadn’t factored in the “safe harbor” clause of the act that allows a school to pass if at least 10 percent of the students in a subgroup had moved up in proficiency.
• U.S. Sens. Pete Domenici and Jeff Bingaman held a field hearing on the Ute Water Project in Clovis. The field hearing was a major step toward seeking federal funding for the project.
• Cannon Air Force Base’s new Special Operations mission was officially approved by the Air Force.
• Students and faculty at Portales High School were outraged when Portales Police Department officers put on a blitz of citations for various infractions in school zones at neighboring residents’ requests. Most of the citations were dismissed by Municipal Judge Frederic Arnold.
• Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Office officials began targeting the rising number of thefts of copper wire on farms and remote homes and businesses. Rising prices for scrap copper fueled the burglaries. Before year’s end several arrests were made.
• The RCSO also investigated what it eventually determined to be the homicide of a 9-month-old Roosevelt County girl. Reports from the medical examiner determined that Kyler Willis died by blunt force trauma to the head. Arrests in the case had still not been made at year’s end. Law enforcement was awaiting further lab testing results, Sheriff Darren Hooker said.
• Pioneer Woodworkers shop facility east of Portales was destroyed by fire. Owner Joe Chandler said he had lost everything in the fire. The business had recently been forced to drop its fire insurance because of the expense.
• City of Portales and Portales MainStreet officials, along with residents and business owners began a visioning process to possibly remake Portales’ downtown. The process envisions a return to a large lawn on the south side of the courthouse, the possibility of moving the train depot across the tracks and a gathering place being constructed at the end of Avenue A near the Tower Twin. Some funding for the changes is already in place, and officials will seek more after a formal master plan is complete.