Serving the High Plains

Mesalands building closed due to mold

The president of Mesalands Community College said its main Building A on campus will be closed to students until early 2023 as a company eradicates mold contamination, with repairs to follow.

Mesalands President Gregg Busch told the college’s board of directors during its regular meeting Oct. 18 a recent environmental assessment of campus buildings revealed the presence of mold or fungi “above acceptable levels” in several buildings.

Busch said Buildings A, C and D and the former armory on campus showed varying levels of mold or fungi. Building G, the wind-energy center and the dinosaur museum were free of such contamination. He said a company began eradication procedures the next day.

Busch said employees were kept off campus during those procedures but still were working. He said the contamination in Building A was around the bathrooms area, necessitating the removal of drywall, tile and flooring. He said only one bathroom was functional in Building A, but it was not safe due to proximity of the microbes.

Jim Morgan, chief of campus operations, stated in his monthly report to the board that Building A “encountered large areas of mold and corrosion on the East end where the older bathrooms are being demolished for new Veterans and mother’s rooms.”

He said employees could return to work in a limited fashion this week in Building A, but it will be off-limits to students. Busch said classes in Building A will be moved to other sites on campus.

Busch said he was hopeful repairs to Building A would be ready by the next semester, which would be January.

Busch said the initial environmental assessment cost about $24,000. The same company offered 50% off its services for the remediation.

Busch said he would meet with his executive staff shortly after the meeting to discuss sending out a request for proposals to rebuild the torn-up areas of Building A.

The board approved giving Busch and his staff authority to deal with the situation.

Several board members praised Busch’s quick action on the contaminants.

“I think it’s great you jumped on it when you did,” board member Tom Sidwell said.

In other business:

• In a sign of growing discomfort with Mesalands’ commitment to the nonprofit Collaboration with Higher Education Shared Service, or CHESS, the board approved Busch’s request to have him and chief of staff Duane Brooks to engage with discussions with CHESS on whether “it can be viable” and “cost-beneficial” for the college. Brooks said they may have to act quickly “due to the expense involved.”

• The board approved increasing Busch’s spending limit to $40,000, up from $20,000 from his first year in office. Busch said there were “a couple of instances” where the higher spending limit would have allowed the college to take faster action, including construction and developing of the forthcoming nursing program.

Board Chairman Jim Streetman floated the possibility of a $50,000 limit. Busch discouraged that, citing the need for “checks and balances” on his spending.

“I don’t believe a president should be given an exorbitantly high limit,” Busch said.

• The board approved a policy that awards college credits to students who display “provable life experience.” That can range from advanced placement credit from high-school students to those who have gained skills in the workforce, such English credits to an experienced newspaper reporter. Busch said such life skills can add 10 credit hours — or a full semester — to such students and enable them to graduate more quickly and with less debt.

• Busch said Mesalands entered into a partnership with Capitol Technology University in Maryland to offer bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in Tucumcari in fields that include cyberanalytics, construction trades, technology and space operations. He said Capitol will offer $10,000 scholarships, a lower tuition rate and will pay off student loans to any graduate who fails to land a $50,000-a-year job.

“This is a tremendous opportunity,” Busch said.

• Busch said Mesalands entered into an agreement with Eastern New Mexico University-Ruidoso to trade students and programs. He said Mesalands can offer ENMU students wind-technology courses, while Ruidoso campus can offer cybersecurity courses in Tucumcari.

Brooks mentioned the college was working on possible partnerships with Western Wyoming Community College and Menlo College in California.

• Busch said he attended a state hearing on funding options for Mesalands. He said his priorities are funds for campus security, department of nursing, a center for workforce and economic development, wind-training center, an intern for the dinosaur museum and expansion of its athletics offerings.

In addition to currently offering rodeo, esports, golf and cross country, Busch said he wanted to add soccer and clay shooting.

• Busch said Mesalands recently was approved as a commercial driver’s license testing facility. The next-closest facility is more than 100 miles from Tucumcari.

• Busch said he met with officers from Emprasas Tajin on its venture with Paulita’s New Mexico, which is manufacturing its green chile products at Mesalands. He said college was in talks to provide training to Tajin employees and that Paulita’s planned on “greatly expanding” its operations.

• Busch said professor Manny Encinias and his family received a Certified Angus Beef Sustainability Award for their Buffalo Creek Ranch in Moriarty.

• The board approved policy changes defining part-time and regular employment. Busch said part-time employees now will be considered as 29 hours a week or below, up from 20. The change aligns with the Affordable Care Act and the Internal Revenue Service regulations.

• After a closed 15-minute executive session, the board authorized Busch and Brooks to negotiate on behalf of the college with the state.

• Josh McVey, vice president of public relations, said the college has broken records for dual and corrections enrollment.

• The board approved the addition of chief financial officer Blanca Pauliukevicius to the college’s accounts at Wells Fargo Bank in Tucumcari.

• Busch introduced three new Mesalands employees: Paul Moss, athletic director and senior director of the fitness center; Clara Benavidez, director of the accounting business office; and Anthony Lovato, director of information technology.

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