BERNALILLO COUNTY, N.M. (KRQE) – At the State Capitol, there’s a funding request called Project 463. But if you ask lawmakers what it is, you’ll get blank stares. “I read the description of what this project is and it didn’t make any sense,” said State Senator Mark Moores (R-ABQ). In fact, the only thing anyone really knows about Project 463 is that it will cost taxpayers $50,000. “It (is) very nebulous. It asked for money but didn’t actually tell us where it was going to,” said Senator Moores.
Project 463 is a request from the Bernalillo County Commission to state lawmakers for $50,000 to build an international heavy metal music mobile museum. If that sounds familiar, it’s because this isn’t the first time Bernalillo County is seeking taxpayer money for a heavy metal music museum. Last year, the very same museum proposal was called Project 1891 and was the subject of a News 13 investigation.
In 2022, music enthusiast Mike Trujillo came up with the idea for a museum featuring the history of heavy metal music. “Heavy metal always gets a very bad rap over the decades,” Mike Trujillo told KRQE News 13 in a 2022 interview. “I think that there’s more positives to the genre of music than there is negatives, and there’s a lot that (the public) can benefit to learn,” said Trujillo.
Trujillo envisioned a $50,000 ‘mobile’ museum that could be moved from location to location displaying musical artifacts like ticket stubs, drumsticks, and t-shirts. Mike Trujillo didn’t have money of his own so, in an effort to secure public funding, he pitched his idea to Bernalillo County Commissioner Adriann Barboa. “I never received a written proposal. He talked to me (on the phone) about the program and said that he had had legislative support,” Commissioner Barboa said in a 2022 interview.
Commissioner Barboa thought the music museum idea would be a good use of public funds so, last year, Bernalillo County petitioned state lawmakers for a $50,000 Capital Outlay appropriation to build the museum project. State Senator “Moe” Maestas (D-ABQ) co-sponsored the appropriation. “New Mexico music has never had a national chartbuster. But it is very important to the culture and the people of the state. So to capture that in a museum, I think would be fantastic,” Senator Maestas said in a 2022 interview. Speaker of the House Javier Martinez (D-ABQ) also co-sponsored the museum project. “Any project that helps improve the quality of life for our residents, for young people, for older people I think is worthy of investment,” State Rep. Javier Martinez said last year.
It was only after lawmakers appropriated the $50,000 for Bernalillo County’s museum project that KRQE News 13 learned county and legislative officials had been careless, even reckless with taxpayer’s money. When it came to Project 1891, public officials didn’t follow the rules, they broke them.
Nobody at Bernalillo County bothered to verify the details of Mike Trujillo’s museum proposal. If they had, they would have found it was a $50,000 project with no documentation, no plans, no design, and no budget. And when county officials asked state lawmakers to fund the project, they improperly circumvented commission policy. Bernalillo County’s Chief of Staff, Clay Campbell admitted in 2022 that he failed to evaluate Mike Trujillo’s museum project for viability. “I will accept responsibility for that,” Campbell said last year.
And when State Reps. “Moe” Maestas and Javier Martinez put their seal of approval on the museum project with a $50,000 appropriation, they ignored legislative guidelines by appropriating Capital Outlay funds for an ill-conceived project that lacked plans or a budget.
After New Mexico’s Department of Finance and Administration (DFA) raised red flags about the legality of the appropriation, Bernalillo County quietly dropped the museum project. End of story? Not quite. Among the funding requests submitted to lawmakers this year is Project 463: A Bernalillo County Heavy Metal Music Mobile Museum.
It’s buried on page 5 of Bernalillo County’s Legislative Capital Outlay Priorities. Hidden among new patrol cars for the Sheriff’s Office and South Valley sewer improvements is a request for $50,000 to build a heavy metal music mobile museum to “enhance the cultural learning of New Mexico children and underserved communities.”
County officials admit they don’t know what the 2023 version of the metal museum will look like. However, in a funding application, the project sponsor says the project will include “mobile display structures”, a “concrete, stone, and bronze art installation”, “heavy custom-fitted casing for transport of museum artifacts and memorabilia” as well as “monitors and speakers for videos and interactive screens.” Even though the project still doesn’t have a master plan or cost estimate, County Commissioners are asking lawmakers to fund the project anyway.
State Senator Pete Campos (D-Las Vegas) says Capital Outlay is “definitely not” intended for things like heavy metal music museums. “When we talk about a local government taking care of the basic needs for their citizens. This is not one of those basic needs,” Senator Campos says.
“I don’t know what a Bernalillo County heavy metal music museum is and I’m very concerned about Bernalillo County saying this is one of their priorities,” said State Senator Mark Moores. “The need in New Mexico is better schools, better police officers, and better infrastructure, sewers and dams and water systems. We do not need an RV to go around and promote heavy metal music in New Mexico. We need stuff that actually improves the quality of life for our constituents,” said Senator Moores.
So how does Bernalillo County justify its decision to seek taxpayer funds for a heavy metal music museum? They don’t. County Manager Julie Morgas Baca, County Chief of Staff Clay Campbell and Social Services Director George Schroeder refused interviews. Four of the five elected County Commissioners did not return phone calls for comment.
Newly elected County Commissioner Eric Olivas said his vote to seek public funding for the music museum project was a mistake. “I’m embarrassed by this vote. I’m embarrassed by this project. I don’t believe that reflects the good work that we do here at Bernalillo County,” Commissioner Olivas said. “I intend to lead on this going forward to reform our process here at the county. I think it shows that we have a broken process. There are serious flaws there. And as a Commissioner that’s my responsibility to step up and address that by changing the process,” Commissioner Olivas said.
“I expect Bernalillo County to do a better job of vetting these programs in the future,” State Senator Moores said. “This is not acceptable. By them saying this is a critical need for Bernalillo County really makes me question their judgment,” said Senator Moores.
“My message to Bernalillo County today is this: Look at the health and safety and the well-being needs of the people of the area,” said Senator Campos. “If we don’t do this right, we’ll continue to squander resources that could go to make people’s lives better,” said Senator Campos.
After reviewing the results of our investigation, County Manager Julie Morgas Baca decided to pull the plug on the music museum by withdrawing the county’s legislative funding request. Project 463? Never mind.