Rumor had it that there were walls going up at the UNM-Taos Klauer campus on Monday, November 26, so the next day I braved the mud to go out and see what was going on.
There I met Wes Klitzman, a soft spoken, affable man in a hard hat talking on his cell phone from the cab of his pickup parked alongside the Flintco trailer just west of Klauer. He is the project superintendent on what will eventually be the 4,000 square foot Career Tech building and 2,600 square foot Child Care Center. He was communicating with seven or eight men using two hydraulic platforms to place and secure steel studs around the periphery of the Career Tech slab. It was a classic winter’s day: chilly, not much wind and a cloudless blue sky. Perfect for putting up buildings.
According to Klitzman, the roof decks should go on by Christmas. By June, with good weather and timely inspections, both buildings would be complete, ready for water, sewer and power hookups.
The price tag for the buildings will run over two million dollars.
Wes is a man who likes his work. He had just come off a job in Reno creating a drug treatment center for kids before taking on the UNM-Taos project. Before that, and for the past 30 years, he’s been putting up buildings all over the country.
“It doesn’t much matter to me what kind of building it is, I just build ‘em,” he said. “But what I like is, I don’t have to sit behind a computer all day. I had never been to Taos before, and the fun part is being here, seeing something happening, where every day is different.
“I think it is a fine project. It will be a real asset to Taos once the campus gets completed. The overall picture of it is fantastic. The Career Tech, they’re starting off with a smaller building, but they will be able to add to it. Same with Child Care, and the other buildings they want to do. They’re designing them to get started, and then enlarge them at a later date at a reasonable cost.
“This’ll eventually be an awesome campus for you guys where you can really grow and serve Northern New Mexico.”
Right now, UNM-Taos is the smallest and youngest of the UNM branch campuses, but it is pushing to expand to meet the educational needs of its broad constituent base. That, according to executive director Dr. Kate O’Neill, should extend as far as the Penasco and Mesa Vista areas:
“We want to be able to serve all the citizens in our part of Northern New Mexico. Our neighbors in outlying areas deserve to be served primarily by UNM-Taos just as much as Questa and the Town of Taos do. The New Mexico Department of Higher Education saw it differently, and made a preliminary assignment of Penasco and Mesa Vista districts to Northern, but that decision is currently being appealed by UNM-Taos and local community representatives.”
The key to measuring up to the challenges of the future, according to Klitzman, is careful planning:
“From coast to coast I’ve seen a lot of growth, and some of it is good planning, and some of it is helter skelter all over the place. Our job is to figure out now how to serve the needs of people 20 years from now, and your director is very well aware of those issues. That’s important, because if you go light on the planning, you eventually pay three times: you pay at the start, you pay to demolish, and then you pay to rebuild.
“It all goes back to the numbers. Rate of growth, the cost of that growth, how to control growth. Infrastructure: water and sewer, power, parking facilities, fire suppression, data transmission. Placing your buildings within that infrastructure so that they can grow. It’s a big challenge, but it all comes down to being aware of the big picture.
“This location you’ve got here has a lot of potential. It’s a jewel for you guys. It’s really an awesome deal. If you plan for the ultimate, but then start small and work outward, you can achieve your goal eventually. But your planning is the most important.”
Wes smiled and looked off toward the job site, where the growing line of steel studs flashed in the late afternoon sun.
“You get that, and the rest is just driving the truck—getting where you want to be.”