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New AHS complex faces budget cuts

Posted: Wednesday, Apr 10th, 2013

Ground is broken for the new athletic/vo ag facility for Alamosa High School. Courier photo by Eric R. Flores

Courier staff writer

ALAMOSA — Monday evening’s Alamosa Board of Education (ABOE) athletic complex and vo ag building conversation carried over to a Tuesday breakfast meeting with the Alamosa City Council, revealing both project challenges and opportunities to bring voters a quality facility.

The $5.6 million mill levy funded complex and building are slowly becoming a reality since taxpayers approved the project last November. The ground is broken, and now the Alamosa School District (ASD) awaits permit approval to begin construction, hopefully without any unpredictable expenses to cause a delay.

The ASD is facing a construction budget crunch, and is preparing to ask G.E. Johnson (GEJ), the project’s contracted construction firm, why the projected expenses aren’t adding up to the mill levy amount, which the firm recommended. Right now, for the district to stay within budget, it will have to cut the $65,000 greenhouse out of the design and settle for a lower quality track for a savings of about $300,000.

If GEJ, however, could commit to a flat layout fee, the ASD could have upwards of $25,000 extra dollars to put into the project. This would ensure the track surface is made from top materials and that it extends to the complex’s “D” areas where athletes compete in events like high jump and poll vaulting. If the track surface does not encompass the “D” areas, athletes will face competition on asphalt, which some consider dangerous because of the bodily harm it could cause when falling from airborne challenges.

“They haven’t covered us,” said ABOE Official Keith Vance Monday night. “That is the problem. We need to make a decision on the budget.”

Another concern over the track surface is its ability to withstand long-term use and harsh weather conditions. The ABOE does not want to invest in a product that will need repairs within the next five years, which is a lesson learned from Adams State University’s (ASU) decision to go with a lower quality track surface.

“We’ve learned through ASU that if you get the base bid project, you get problems in a couple of years,” Vance said about the institution having to resurface its track this spring. “We are stewards of this money and we need to use it wisely.”

On Tuesday morning, ABOE President Bill Van Gieson referenced the community fallout that came after Alamosa High School was constructed.

“We want a good quality facility,” Van Gieson said to the city council. “We took a beating with the high school design and the way it turned out. We don’t want to relive that.”

The city council agreed the facility should be top of the line, and extended a hand in helping the complex and building project come to fruition.

“We as a city don’t have monies, but we talked about in kind services,” said Alamosa Mayor Kathy Rogers. “When it involves expenditures on our end, it is a whole different ballpark.”

The ABOE, with help from AHS teacher, coach and project leader Andy Lavier, presented the city council with three in kind ideas: signage, piping for the bus loop drainage system and tap fee waivers for both the complex and the building. If the city council can accommodate, the ASD will have access to about $50,000 additional dollars. Before the end of the week, the ASD should have an itemized list of possible in kind project donations for the city council.

“I want to see a list with itemized things,” said Alamosa City Councilor Marcia Tuggle. “What are the things you are hoping for us to do? We don’t want to hold you back if there are things we can do to help you.””

Alamosa Police Chief and Interim City Manager Craig Dodd recommended that the city could also possibly provide street construction preparation, and Alamosa City Councilor Josef Lucero offered the services of both the Alamosa Marketing District Board and the Alamosa Tree Board to help improve the area’s landscape.

“Can’t something be done to make it more beautiful?” Lucero asked. “Things like that make a big difference when people come from out of town.”

He also encouraged the ASD to join forces with ASU and the city to transform Alamosa into a premier sports training destination.

“We want to make Alamosa the high altitude training center of the world,” Lucero said. “We are with you.”

Lavier agreed, recalling his days as a former ASU All American distance runner, “They (athletes) wanted to long jump far and sprint fast. They came here. We could build on that.”

In regards to the greenhouse, Tuggle and Alamosa City Councilor Charlie Griego said they recognized it was possible to add it on in the future, but would like to find a way to keep it in the original plan.

“I am a big supporter of the ag building,” Tuggle said. “A greenhouse is critical.”

Griego recommended the ASD turn to area farmers for greenhouse funding.

“I think the vo ag building is a very important part of this deal,” he said. “It is what the voters wanted.”

ASD ag teacher Kevin Rice commented via email, “I’m not too worried that I won’t get a greenhouse. The ABOE has been working diligently to try and make everything come together for this project. It’s amazing how much goes into a project of this magnitude.”

Another ASD idea to raise funds is to sell engraved bricks that will be a part of the complex to graduating seniors and the community at large.

The Alamosa City Council will review the project for permits on Wednesday, April 17 and take into consideration city planning commission recommendations.

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