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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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Bond Issue B would support science facilities, community college expansions

New Mexico State University's main campus and Dona Ana Branch Community College will receive about $14 million for building projects if voters approve Bond Issue B on the state's general election ballot Nov. 5.

Scientific equipment, desks and storage lockers line a hallway in Foster Hall, home to NMSU's biology department. Graduate student Rafael Leos, foreground, Skye Riordan, middle, and research assistant Eli Hyman are among those feeling the crunch. (NMSU photo by Darren Phillips)

d are $9 million to modernize biology facilities at the main campus, $3 million for Phase II of the Dona Ana Branch Community College's new East Mesa Center and $1.25 million for Phase II of DABCC's Sunland Park Center.

Statewide, Bond Issue B includes about $93 million for projects ranging from full-day kindergarten classrooms to university science facilities, information technology updates and improved access for people with disabilities.

At New Mexico State, biology students and faculty alike are hampered by overcrowded and outdated facilities in Foster Hall, which was built in 1930 and expanded in 1969. Shortcomings include laboratories that lack fume hoods and other safety equipment, lecture areas with columns that block views and reduce the number of students who can be accommodated, inadequate ventilation and lack of fire sprinkler systems.

"It's not that we're doing anything unsafe, but we could be doing so much more with adequate facilities," biology department head Laura Huenneke said.

Marvin Bernstein, who began his 30th year on the biology faculty this fall, said the department's needs have grown with its successes.

"We have been so fortunate in the last dozen years in attracting some of the finest teachers and researchers in their disciplines to the department," he said. "With their success, we need to upgrade our facilities for modern research. We're not able to take full advantage of our faculty expertise and abilities. Every one of us has had to compromise in some way."

The department's faculty members bring in about $4 million a year in research grants and are leaders in programs funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation to build New Mexico's resources and expertise in biomedical research, environmental biology and other areas, Huenneke said.

The department is home to about 400 undergraduate majors and 60 graduate students. It provides general education courses for more than 1,000 students each year; provides essential courses for students majoring in nursing, public health and degree programs in the College of Agriculture and Home Economics; and provides content courses for future science teachers.

The Dona Ana Branch, recognized as one of the nation's fastest-growing community colleges in recent years, would receive bond funds to help it meet the needs of two population growth areas.

The East Mesa Center is under construction near Roadrunner Parkway and U.S. 70 on Las Cruces' northeast side. Phase I, expected to be ready for a full schedule of classes in the fall of 2003, will accommodate about 600 students and Phase II will make room for another 400, said Campus Finance Officer Andy Burke.

The Sunland Park Center opened in 1997 in response to the rapid growth of Sunland Park and the economic development at the Santa Teresa Port of Entry. Phase II will add about 8,000 square feet to the current 12,000-square-foot facility.

Community College Week magazine last December identified DABCC as one of the fastest-growing community colleges in the nation. Since 1985 enrollment has increased from about 850 to more than 5,000 students this fall.

Bond Issue B also includes funds for infrastructure renovation and expansion at the university's other three branches -- $1.2 million for NMSU-Carlsbad, $727,000 for NMSU-Alamogordo and $500,000 for NMSU-Grants.

General obligation bonds are a traditional method of financing educational facilities in New Mexico. The bonds are repaid with property tax revenues.

If Bond Issue B is approved, the state Department of Finance and Administration estimates the cost would be about 34 cents per $1,000 of a property's taxable value. For the owner of a $100,000 house, with a taxable value of $33,333, that would average about $11.35 per year over a 10-year period.

Photo is available at http://ucommphoto.nmsu.edu/newsphoto/bond_issue_biology.jpg.