School board hears details on dorm project
February 26, 2020
Tucumcari school board members listened during a work session Feb. 17 as Mesalands Community College’s president gave more details about a plan to build a 150-bed dormitory on a district-owned vacant lot near the college.
Mesalands President John Groesbeck said he wants to boost enrollment by adding intercollegiate sports and a residential component. He asked district officials to deed a parcel off South 11th Street, now used as a bonfire site for the high school’s football Homecoming, to build the dorms near a former armory being converted into a student center by the college.
In response to a question from Tucumcari schools superintendent Aaron McKinney, Groesbeck said the dormitory would be financed by a municipal-rate loan from the New Mexico Finance Authority that has expressed initial support for the project.
Groesbeck said the dorms would not be built in phases, but all at once. He noted more than half of Mesalands’ students come from out of the region. If the dormitory is built, “we anticipate we’ll fill that quickly.”
He said 150 students in the dorms would create an “economic impact” for Tucumcari because they would average $15,000 in spending each.
“That’s a fairly substantial injection into this community,” he said.
In response to a question from board President Leif Gray, Groesbeck said the college would assume the costs of the land transfer, labeling it “a simple transaction.”
Groesbeck talked about more details of the college’s plans:
• Land behind the former armory would be converted into a soccer field, with possible long-term plans of building a fieldhouse there.
• Stampede Village, the only student-housing complex used by the college, would be converted to housing for students with families once the dormitory is built.
• Groesbeck said he hopes the college eventually offers women’s volleyball, men’s and women’s soccer and cross-country, in addition to its rodeo and golf teams. He said Mesalands also might offer club sports such as rugby, archery and motocross.
Board members didn’t express any obvious support for Groesbeck’s presentation but didn’t seem to oppose it, either. The work session was not an action item. McKinney noted any land transfer probably would be placed on the school board’s agenda and voted on during meetings in March or April.
Mesalands had proposed the land transfer in late 2019, but McKinney advised college officials to not make a presentation about it until new board members were seated in January.
In other business by the board:
• During his superintendent reports, McKinney said he received a $21,000 estimate to survey existing baseball and softball fields for a planned redevelopment but was reluctant to authorize the survey until after he received a renewed commitment from city officials on deeding a parcel to the district for the project.
The Tucumcari City Commission recently added a new member, and city manager Britt Lusk recently announced he would leave in early April to take a similar position in Texas. McKinney said he might consult with Lusk and hold a work session “to get a feel of the new commission” before proceeding with the survey and the project.
McKinney said after the meeting he “had no reason to believe” the new commission won’t support the redevelopment. However, he said if the commission won’t approve the land deal needed for it, the school district instead would redevelop 13.2 acres it owns near Mountain View School for the project.
• The board approved the 2020-2021 school calendar. Assistant superintendent David Johnson said he’d offered two options to faculty for the calendar — one with little structural change from the previous school year and a proposal to start and end school later in the year, with changes to spring break. Johnson said faculty by a 76% vote favored the first option, which the board subsequently approved.
• The board approved an amended policy for evaluating the superintendent. Instead of the superintendent providing the board a copy of the of the evaluation instrument no later than December, the time was changed to no later than May. The board president also will schedule a meeting no later than June, instead of January, when the board would meet in executive session to evaluate the superintendent’s performance.
• The board approved dates for budget committee workshops. The first budget workshop will be 5 p.m. March 16 at the unit office before the board’s regular meeting at 6 p.m. Another budget hearing is set for April 20, with a special meeting for its approval May 4. Times for the other hearings were proposed for 5 p.m. but may be adjusted depending on public interest and the committee’s progress from the March session.
• New board member Jerry Lopez thanked McKinney and other staff members for leading a recent tour of the district grounds. He expressed concerns about two broken heating and cooling units. McKinney said fixing those “takes time” because only two electricians reside in the area. Lopez also said he wants the board to take a harder look at the district’s vision and goals. “My biggest concern is retaining students,” he said.