Pueblo Hall

By Bill Knief

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It goes by a variety of names: the new building, the Mazria building (after the architects Mazria, Odem and Dzurec of Santa Fe—try saying that three times fast) the shelled building, the multi purpose classroom building. The New Mexico Solar Energy Association recently called it “…the transition to a new paradigm in large public assembly buildings wherein climate is no longer ignored and the need to minimize our fossil fuel use is a given.”

It’s the big green crescent moon of a building with the saw tooth roof that dominates the south face of the UNM-Taos Klauer campus. What’s important about it is that it is the visionary work of the current and past UNM-Taos administrations, and it has been shut down in mid-construction for nearly two years.

During the recent Fall Harvest Festival of Education and the Arts citizens donned hard hats and toured the vacant site. Big, airy classrooms with high ceilings and clerestories to bring in natural light. But no students. Courtyards that encourage casual conversation while discouraging the high velocity winds the southern llano is famous for. Thermal mass storage of heat from the sun; Mike Reynolds would be proud. Double metal stud exterior walls. Ample space for the heart and soul of culinary arts, office space and a student snack bar. Heat recovery ventilators—HRV’s for those in the know—that preheat the fresh air coming in by capturing the heat in the air being vented to the outside.

An amazing, standard-setting structure embodying the college’s commitment to innovation and sustainability. But no students.

We’re always tempted to attach blame to a failed or truncated project. But in this case, blame Hurricane Katrina; in 2005 it bumped the price of construction materials overnight to historic proportions. Blame Zimmerman Library on the UNM campus for burning down April 30, 2006, and creating the subsequent “resistance,” to put it mildly, of the state fire marshal to grant variances to allow sprinkler systems to run off of water tanks (from the nearby National Guard Armory) no matter how enormous the capacity. Together, they shut the shining project down.

Here’s the point: this building needs to come to life, and become a tool and resource in the day to day activity of our community in the tough years to come. The infrastructure is in and ready for hookup. But it is going to take an additional 3.3 million dollars to complete the project.

That’s where the General Obligation Bond comes in. Hidden away on the back page of the long November 4 ballot are two bond issues, B and D, that will determine the fate of the classroom building and the health of our local libraries. Consider both carefully. Bond D will transform our community college campus by providing the 3.3 million needed to get the building operational. Bond B addresses our libraries.

According to Kathleen Knoth, UNM-Taos librarian and regional coordinator for the Library Books Bond 2008 initiative, Bond B would bring just under $150,000 to 13 Taos County libraries and roughly $86,000 to libraries in the town of Taos. Knoth maintains that fully three quarters of school library books in social studies, computer science and geography are out of date, and that state sources estimate that the average cost of Bond B to New Mexican tax payers would be only about 77 cents per $100,000.00 in assessed value in a home.

“This is the kind of money you can find under your couch cushion,” Knoth maintained, but added that she understood the seriousness of the current economic situation.

“I hear that economics is the first thing on the minds of two thirds of New Mexican voters, and so obviously if we say that these bonds will raise your taxes, that might not go over so well. But something that keeps coming to my mind is the importance of education in economic development. So you can look at it as, yes, my taxes might rise by a couple of dollars each year for the next ten years if I say yes to these bonds, but what will the benefits of saying yes be in educating our community here in northern New Mexico? You have to look at that side of it. We’re not talking about anything major that’s going to put a dent in your pocket, but it will have a major positive impact in all libraries across the state.

“It’s not just about UNM-Taos students, it’s about all citizens, because Bond B is about public libraries, school libraries, and for the first time this year they’re funding tribal libraries as well. And it’s the same with Bond D; you’re affecting all citizens of New Mexico.”

Now more than ever we need an educated workforce and citizens that are well prepared to face the challenges of an uncertain future. On November 4 don’t forget to turn the ballot over and give close attention to Bonds B for libraries and D for completing educational buildings across the state.

A quick reminder from the Academic Student Success Department: Thursday, October 23 is the annual Transfer Advising Day, when you can talk to an advisor about transferring to UNM main campus. You can get information on admissions, scholarships and your future college plans this afternoon from 1 to 5 P.M. at the Klauer campus south of town.

About The Bill Knief