Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Bernalillo Continues Money Quest for New Fire Station


With a little luck and continued infusions of cash, Bernalillo is on its way to a new main fire station around the time the current facility turns 50.

"With what we have now, living quarters for the guys are very cramped," Fire Chief Michael Legendre said. Storage space is short as well for trucks, known as apparatus in the trade, and other gear and equipment, he added.

That will change in the coming years as $1.5 million appropriated by the 2023 Legislature is now available for planning the building and buying a site, Legendre said. The town does not yet have a location in mind for the project currently estimated to cost an additional $5.5 million.

As the town's 13 firefighters rotate shifts -- 48 hours on, 96 hours off -- they live on the second floor of Town Hall constructed in 1977 with the fire department at the south end. Next door on Calle Malinche, the historic town-owned Graber House, built in the 1920s and restored by the Youth Conservation Corps in 2012, serves as the Bernalillo Fire and Rescue administration building.

The department has seven firefighting vehicles including two pumper engines, two brush trucks, squad and ladder trucks and a rescue/ambulance rig. Some of those work from the 10-year-old station on Montoya Road off State Road 528 west of the Rio Grande.

If needed, the town also can call on other area departments that support each other through mutual-aid agreements.

In 1977, Bernalillo had fewer than 3,000 residents, about a third of the current population, and the fire department depended totally on volunteers. The building plaque on Town Hall, calling it the Multi-Use Municipal Facility, bore the name of Mayor Hilario "Lalo" Torres, father of current Mayor Jack Torres.

The present mayor told the Signpost he is hoping the new station can be in place within five years. As always, the town is looking for additional funding beyond the Legislature to include working with the congressional delegation on possible grant sources, he said.

During the Aug. 14 Town Council meeting, councilors approved the annual update of a five-year list of big-ticket projects in need of funding. Known as the ICIP, Infrastructure Capital Improvement Plan, the document helps local governments establish project priorities and is used by the Legislature in parceling out money for capital projects.

This will be the second year the fire station has been the top priority. Previously it was listed as No. 3 when the cost was estimated at $2.8 million.

The town's second and third priorities remain the same with the newly approved ICIP: major upgrades to the wastewater treatment plant and the ongoing phased work to replace problem water lines around the community. So far the town has received $750,000 toward the wastewater plant with an estimated $15.8 million needed to complete the job.

The water-line replacements have received $650,000 so far with another $2.5 million requested.

The fourth priority is $5 million sought over the next two budget years to improve energy efficiency in town facilities while the fifth is $900,000 for an additional fire truck.

Town's ICIP wish list includes 17 additional projects, some with price tags as low as $50,000 for collection management at the Bernalillo Community Museum. Last on the list is $3.2 million to rehabilitate El Molino, the three-story adobe flour mill that served the region from the early 1900s through the 1930s.

Youth Conservation Corps members also worked on the mill stabilizing the building and putting a roof on it before their funding ran out. The mill was served by the Santa Fe Railway and is near the Downtown Rail Runner Express station.

So far only the three top priorities – fire station, wastewater plant and water lines – have received any funding.


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