Bernalillo County considers adding millions more to headquarters project

Albuquerque News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The cost for Bernalillo County’s new downtown headquarters has almost doubled.

The price tag has gone up by more than $30 million since KRQE News 13 first reported on the project where the county will consolidate its offices.

“Ideally, four to five buildings will be sold and that, of course, will help offset the total cost of this project,” Bernalillo County Communications Director Tia Bland said. The County Commission is set to vote Tuesday night on adding another $3 million to the total price tag.

“It’s a little surprising and disturbing that the price keeps rising,” Russel Howard of Albuquerque said.

“To put some energy and life back into that section, I think is worth it,” County Commissioner Debbie O’Malley added.

The new work would include replacing the 40-year-old stucco. They also want more parking and audio and visual equipment for the conference rooms and new commission chambers being built next door.

However, the idea that’s raising some eyebrows is a 2,500 square foot rooftop patio.

“That would allow employees to access fresh air, to get outside essentially,” Bernalillo County Communications Director Tia Bland said. “You can hold meetings out there, you can eat lunch out there.”

“There’s a lot of stuff around here for the people in that building if they want to get away or take a break from the office so there’s other things out here for them to do besides spending money on a rooftop patio,” Howard argued.

The county commission already signed off on $11 million more in extra project expenses, like property acquisition, utilities and maintenance, bringing the total project estimate to nearly $65 million.

It’s a big jump from the original $33 million estimates after the county bought the building back in 2017 for just under $3 million.

“I just don’t feel like we the taxpayers have had honest accounting for this process,” Paul Gessing with the watchdog group Rio Grande Foundation said.

“What has happened is there’s a list of projects and they’ve been prioritized and the point is to do those projects as resources allow,” Bland stated.

The county maintains this is responsible spending. They say constructing a new county building from scratch could cost up to $80 million.

Nearly 900 employees are expected to move into the county offices by Spring 2021. Right now, a lot of them work at the city-county building in Civic Plaza, which most people think of as city hall.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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