A bill currently pending in the New Mexico State Legislature would allow for the use of up to $50 million in state funding for rural water projects across the state.
As proposed by Senator Liz Stefanics, the legislation, Senate Bill 18, would put new funding into the Water Trust Fund beginning in fiscal year 2023.
According to an analysis of the bill compiled by the Legislative Finance Committee, the Water Trust Fund has not received a state appropriation in the last 15 years.
Lawmakers and others have long complained that state funding for water projects tends to end up in larger metropolitan areas, even though the need for updated and modernized water infrastructure projects in rural areas remains great.
Senator Stefanics’ legislation has so far won the unanimous approval of the Senate Conservation Committee.
A report called the 50-Year Water Plan looking at water issues in New Mexico, including the issue of inadequate infrastructure, is expected to be finalized and sent to Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham this summer.
By Garry Boulard
The number of unionized workers in the nation’s construction industry was up by around 31,000 last year, according to a new report issued by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Overall, union membership in the building sector rose to 1,024,000 in 2021. That is an increase over the previous year when the numbers were down to 993,000.
Analysts note that that 993,000 figure may be artificially low, given the number of both union and non-union workers who lost jobs in 2020 due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
In 2019, union membership was higher, at 1,055,000 jobs.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics report additionally notes that the number of unionized workers in the public sector, at 33.9%, is more than five times as large as the those working in the private sector.
In a contrast to the early decades of union representation in the U.S. when the vast majority of organized workers were employed in blue collar jobs, the highest “unionization rates” last year were seen in such white collar fields as education and training.
Regionally, Hawaii and New York have the highest percentage of unionized work forces at 22.4% and 22.2% respectively. The state with the lowest labor jobs in 2021 was South Carolina, with 1.7%.
In Arizona, the numbers stood at 6.7%, down from 7.1% the year before. Around 8.2% of Colorado’s workforce was unionized as of 2020, dropping to 7.5% last year.
New Mexico, meanwhile, recorded 8.6% of its workforce as unionized in 2020, with that number increasing to 9.1% last year.
The number of unionized jobs in the country have been gradually declining for decades. In the early 1950s the figure was in excess of 32%. As of 2021, that number stood at 10.3%.
By Garry Boulard
Work could begin later this year on one of the largest wind farms in the Southwest on a site to the north of Flagstaff.
The project belongs to NextEra Energy Resources, whose corporate headquarters are located in Juno Beach, Florida, and will see construction off of U.S. Route 180.
Slated to feed the utility company Salt River Project, the farm upon completion is expected to have enough power to supply up to 40,000 residences.
In a statement, Kelly Barr, chief of strategy for the Salt River Project, said the new wind farm will “bring more diversity to our resource mix which is growing rapidly in clean energy generation.”
Barr added that wind power in general is a “great compliment to solar power generation, as wind often blows at times when the sun is not shining.”
The project will go up on what is known as the Babbitt Ranches land, some 25 miles north of Flagstaff. That property comprises around 750,000 acres of private, federal, and state land.
What is being called the Babbitt Ranch Energy Center will have the capability of generating a minimum of 160 megawatts of electricity in optimal wind conditions. Power from the farm, heading to the metro Phoenix area, will be sent via existing high-voltage transmission lines.
Although the Salt River Project, based in Phoenix, will purchase power from the Babbitt Ranch Energy Center, it will not own the facility.
The company has noted that with metro Phoenix experiencing epic growth in population, efforts must be taken to “build new generation resources that will help meet rising energy demand from customers,” while also supporting the Salt River Project in its “long-term decarbonization goals.”
If all goes as planned, work on the new wind fam is expected to be completed, with the facility fully operational, by the end of next year.
By Garry Boulard
Plans are underway for the construction of more than 500 housing units on the current site of a church in Arapahoe County, some 12 miles to the southeast of downtown Denver.
The development company DHI Communities, which has offices in Arlington, Texas, has announced that it wants to build the project on a 32-acre site located at 9495 E. Florida Avenue.
That site, in a neighborhood of mostly upscale homes, is currently the home of the Potter’s House Church, a multicultural church with a more than 2,000-member congregation.
The semi-circular, just under 137,000 square foot building was completed in 1989 and formerly served as the Heritage Christian Center, which attracted a similarly large congregation.
Although a specific construction plan for the site has not been announced, published reports indicate that nearly 170 homes may be built there, along with another 345 apartment units.
Public input meetings are expected to be held in the months to come regarding the future of the site. In one already-held meeting, residents have indicated that they would like to see a portion of the site preserved as a park.
Final approval from the County of Arapahoe is expected to be secured for the project later this year.
Founded in 2015, DHI Communities specializes in multifamily complexes in up to a dozen states.
By Garry Boulard
The up-and-down pattern of lumber prices in recent months has not been seen in such frequency since the immediate post-World War II years, says a new report.
According to the National Association of Home Builders, the price of softwood lumber has been on a wild ride since the Covid-19 onset, with the producer price index doubling between the spring and fall of 2020, before dipping at the end of that year.
Last year then saw a tripling by early summer, with a decline of equal measure, and then a late-year doubling. “The monthly change in softwood lumber prices averaged 0.3% between 1947 and 2019,” says the report.
By contrast, in the last nearly two years, the change has averaged around 12%.
Price increases remained steady particularly from the 1960s to the 1980s, with an average 3% growth. Only in the early 1990s, during a brief recession, did the increase reach the 4% level, but still far below the volatility of the last two years.
Increases in 2021, note industry observers, were partly spurred by torrential rains and floods in the British Columbia, which supplies a significant portion of the U.S. lumber market.
Other factors: ongoing supply chain disruptions as well as unprecedented wildfires in California and Oregon that disrupted lumber production.
Notes the magazine Fortune: “The supply decline is simply outmatched by high demand from builders who are still selling homes faster than they can build them.”
Ultimately, the lumber price spike will be felt by consumers, contends the National Association of Home Builders, which notes that the hike has “added nearly $7,300 to the market value of the new multifamily home.”
By Garry Boulard
A popular lodge offering luxurious housing to generations of guests is being listed for sale in Taos.
Located at 1101 Witt Road, the Blue Sky Retreat at San Geronimo was built in the mid-1920s and features a 13,900 square foot adobe guest lodge on a 2.3-acre site that was once farmland.
Everything about the property suggests early 20th century southwest elegance, with 18 rooms, covered porches, kiva fireplaces, and larger grounds that include a chili-shaped swimming pool, a 45-foot diameter meditation labyrinth and landscaped winding pathways.
The property, with a $3.6 million asking price, is listed with Taos Properties Real Estate.
Always a point of pride among the local residents, the Blue Sky Retreat, notes the Taos News, was the “first modern hotel in Taos when it opened in 1926.”
It has long attracted visitors from across the country. Observes Sharon Niederman in the Explorer’s Guide to New Mexico: “If you yearn for old New Mexico as it was in the heyday of the Taos Society of Artists, this eighteen-room lodge is your place.”
By Garry Boulard
The Fort Worth-based Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad company is making plans to build on a large swath of primarily vacant land in the metro Phoenix’s West Valley.
Located just to the northeast of State Route 60, and an already-existing BNSF railway between the towns of Wittman and Surprise, the site is bordered by 235th Avenue on the west and 211th Avenue on the east.
The property in question will be the subject of an auction with a minimum bidding price of $49.1 million and sponsored by the Arizona State Land Department on March 30.
State documents describe the site as “undeveloped land used for livestock,” noting also that it contains a 4-acre corral area near the eastern side of the site which features a supply well and cistern.
If BNSF makes the winning bid, it will begin plans to transform the vast acreage into an intermodal and logistics center, as well as an overall industrial complex.
According to reports, the logistics center would be built in the middle section of the site, with the intermodal facility going up on the property’s southeast corner.
With roots reaching to the years before the Civil War, BNSF today is the country’s largest freight railroad. One of its busiest routes slices through mid-Arizona in an east-to-west direction.
BNSF currently operates nearly two dozen intermodal centers across the country, with the vast majority located in the West.
By Garry Boulard
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has announced that it is officially yanking its vaccine and testing mandate requirements for businesses, nearly two weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court blocked that same mandate.
OSHA is also requesting that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit dismiss all the many cases pertaining to the mandate.
In a statement issued by the Department of Labor it was noted that OSHA was withdrawing the vaccine mandate “as an enforceable emergency temporary standard.”
According to the New York Times, OSHA “could still try to move a version of the vaccine-or-test standard forward through its official rule-making process, such as one focused on high-hazard industries like meatpacking.”
Last fall OSHA announced that, starting on January 4, it would require workers at firms employing one hundred or more people to be either vaccinated or tested weekly.
Several construction industry and business groups challenged the OSHA action, resulting in the January 13th anti-mandate Supreme Court decision.
An unsigned opinion released by the higher court after the 6 to 3 vote declared that “although Congress has indisputably given OSHA the power to regulate occupational dangers, it has not given that agency the power to regulate public health more broadly.”
The opinion added: “Requiring the vaccination of 84 million Americans, simply because they work for employers with more than 100 employees, certainly falls in the latter category.”
In a statement, Stephen Sandherr, chief executive officer of the Associated General Contractors of America, lauded the withdrawing of the OSHA vaccine mandate, but added that AGC continues to support a mandate in such industries as healthcare that are otherwise deemed as “high risk from the coronavirus.”
It is not yet known what steps OSHA will take now that it has withdrawn the mandate and testing order. But published reports have indicated that the agency may become more vigorous in enforcing covid workplace protocols that include mask-wearing, distancing, and improved ventilation systems.
By Garry Boulard
A one-story building on the southwest side of Denver that has for years housed one of the city’s most popular restaurants is being listed for sale for $1.7 million.
Located in the city’s Harvey Park neighborhood at 2133 S. Sheridan Boulevard, the structure, encompassing around 5,100 square feet, has for decades been the home to the Rosemary Café.
That eatery, known for its wide variety of sandwiches, steaks, and especially, breakfast offerings, is regarded as a Denver landmark.
The structure, as listed by the Denver real estate company of NAI Shames Makovsky, is a free-standing building in a shopping center district.
Built in 1973, the building includes kitchen, dining, and office space, with the front decorated with a “high visibility” tall steel sign.
It is not known whether the Rosemary Café will remain in operation once the building is sold.
By Garry Boulard
A project seeing the building of nearly 30 townhomes belonging to the Pascua Yaqui Tribe some 12 miles to the southwest of Tucson may soon be underway.
Based in southern Arizona, the tribe last year was the beneficiary of a housing tax credit award via the Arizona Department of Housing that, in turn, resulted in around $8.3 million in investor equity for the project from Redstone Equity Partners, which has offices in New York, among other cities.
Upon securing funding, Keith Gregory, housing director for the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, remarked: “For the first time ever, we are able to offer housing diversity that will hopefully fuel future development creativity in tribal housing while simultaneously providing critical affordable housing for our tribal members.”
As planned, the project will see the construction of 3 four-bedroom townhomes, 12 three-bedroom townhomes, and a dozen two-bedroom townhomes. Each of those structures will have a rooftop terrace as well as outdoor patio space.
Each home will additionally include green building features that include energy efficient windows, doors and insulation.
A real estate investment firm, Red Stone has helped fund residential development projects throughout the West, including in Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico.
Project architect for the new Pascua Yaqui Tribe townhouses is Travois Design of Kansas City. Travois specializes in affordable housing projects for American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian communities.
By Garry Boulard
Get stories like these right to your inbox.