A long-standing plan to build a modern forensic unit that will be operated by the New Mexico Behavioral Health Institute may be a step closer to reality with significant funding from state lawmakers.
The Institute, located at 3695 Hot Springs Boulevard in Las Vegas, is the only state-operated and owned psychiatric hospital in New Mexico.
Opened in 1889 and originally called the Territorial Insane Asylum, the Institute treats sometimes violent offenders who have been arrested for a felony-level crime to determine whether they’re competent to stand trial.
Those patients are typically held for a 90-day period before a determination is made regarding their competency.
Members of the New Mexico State Legislature have given their approval to a big $68 million capital outlay allowing for the planning, design, and construction of a forensic unit, which will be located near the Institute’s main campus. The funding will also pay for the furnishing and equipping of the new facility.
The $68 million capital outlay for the new forensic unit is the largest such outlay for a series of proposed projects in San Miguel County approved by lawmakers and comprising a total of just over $90 million.
By Garry Boulard
With labor negotiations appearing to stall, the Associated Builders and Contractors has asked the Biden Administration to play a greater role in an effort prevent a possible work stoppage at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.
Officials with the International Longshoreman and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association, which represents ocean carriers and port employers, have been engaged in talks since last spring, but with only marginal progress.
In a letter to Biden, the ABC, joined by a wide range of industry groups including the Associated General Contractors of America and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said that it was “imperative that the administration work with the parties to quickly reach a new agreement and ensure there is no disruption to port operations and fluidity.”
A central concern for builders remains the possibility that a complete breakdown in negotiations will lead to a work stoppage, which will then impact the delivery of building materials.
The ongoing impasse, notes the Wall Street Journal, has led to increased tensions, with “employers accusing unionized dockworkers of slowing cargo handling.”
As recently as the last week of February both the Pacific Maritime Association and International Longshoreman and Warehouse Union announced that they had reached a “tentative agreement on certain key issues, including health benefits.”
In a joint statement, the two groups said they remained “committed to resolving remaining issues as expeditiously as possible.”
But tensions have risen in the last several weeks, especially as dockworkers, according to reports, are no longer spreading out lunch breaks, resulting in a complete and costly work stoppage on the docks for one hour.
In urging a greater federal role in the negotiations, the Associated Builders and Contractors, along with the other organizations petitioning Biden, observed that “significant issues remain for both parties to resolve. However, the only way to resolve these issues is for the parties to remain at the bargaining table and actually negotiate.”
By Garry Boulard
Three Years after Initial Attempt, City of El Paso Looking at Site for Possible Water Park, as Well as Hotel and Convention Space
An effort in El Paso is underway to build a new water amusement park, not to mention a hotel and convention space, on a site running adjacent to Interstate 10.
Located near the West Towne Marketplace shopping center in the 6400 block of N. Desert Boulevard on the far west side of the city, the site measures around 22 acres and is owned by the City of El Paso.
That site is where the Madison, Wisconsin-based Great Wolf Lodge company once anticipated building an amusement park and 250-room hotel, as well as a convention space measuring some 10,000 square feet.
In anticipation of the Great Wolf project, members of the El Paso City council had approved a multi-million incentives package before the company in 2020 pulled out due to the Covid 19 outbreak.
Ever since the Great Wolf company decided to not build in El Paso, city officials have been strategizing to find another amusement park-type use for the site. Published reports late last year indicated that El Paso might make a pitch to the Kalahari Resorts and Conventions company, which is based in Baraboo, Wisconsin, and specializes in African-themed waterparks, resorts, and convention centers.
By Garry Boulard
Long in the talking and imagination phase, a new library in a southern New Mexico village may finally take shape if state funding this spring is approved.
Officials in the Village of Hatch, roughly 40 miles to the northwest of Las Cruces, have long talked of the need for a modern library in the community of nearly 2,000 people.
Now a capital outlay bill approved by members of the New Mexico State Legislature is providing roughly $420,000 in funding not just for the construction of a library, but also the acquisition of land for the facility, as well as its planning and design.
The current one-story wood-frame library, located at 530 East Hall, was built in 1936 and originally served as a rail station. The Santa Fe Railway company donated the structure to the village in 1986.
Hatch is also in line to receive some $175,000 in capital outlay funding to plan, design and renovate a building for an existing food pantry; along with $100,000 to create and equip a controlled environmental vertical garden that will belong to the Hatch Valley High School.
By Garry Boulard
Passage of the nearly $2 trillion American Rescue Plan Act has indisputably aided the economic recovery of municipal areas from coast to coast, contends the head of a major urban government organization.
In remarks made during a National League of Cities conference in the nation’s capital, Victoria Woodward, president of the organization, remarked that the Rescue Plan Act has proven to be “a lifeline to all of America’s cities, towns and villages.”
Woodward added that funding from the legislation has allowed local governments to keep essential services in place, mentioning in particular, “trash collection, police, fire, and so much more.”
The NLC head said that an interview with any city leader would quickly reveal “a number of critical programs that they have been able to fund with ARPA dollars.”
Woodward also lauded the program’s flexibility, allowing local leaders to determine what projects have been most in need, rather than leaving such decisions entirely in the hands of Washington.
“When you give money to local cities, towns, and villages, we know the best how to spend it,” Woodward added.
A recent report jointly compiled by the NCL, the National Association of Counties, and the Brookings Institute, revealed that some 328 cities and counties were able to use Rescue Plan funding in the last year, applying that funding to just a little over 8,800 projects.
How the funding was spent had a distinct regional flavor, with cities and counties in the Northeast emphasizing public health initiatives and their counterparts in the Midwest doing the same with public safety.
Cities and counties in the South prioritized infrastructure work, while those same entities in the West tended to support community aid.
Overall, some 43% of ARPA funding went to government operations; with 11% targeting public health priorities; and 10% each going to infrastructure and housing efforts.
By Garry Boulard
Planning for the construction of a new pedestrian overpass that will span Interstate 19 on the south side of Tucson is expected to begin soon.
That planning, as well as the design work, is being partially funded out of Washington via a Department of Transportation’s Reconnecting Communities Pilot Program’s $900,000 grant.
The passenger bridge will run along West Nebraska Street, connecting two neighborhood sections that are currently difficult to reach by walking or riding a bike.
“We felt that this particular space, the Nebraska Street Bridge, really fit the bill of being divided by infrastructure that was developed back in the 1950s and 60s,” remarked Tucson Mayor Regina Romero in a statement.
Last month, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced more than $185 million in grant awards for dozens of similar projects across the country through the Reconnecting Communities program.
According to a Transportation Department document, the largely Hispanic community that will be bridged by the overpass project in Tucson has suffered from a lack of access to “essential medical facilities and other services.”
“Currently, residents of this underserved community, which includes a significant population of vulnerable road users, experience major safety hazards due to their limited ability to navigate the highway,” continues the document.
The Reconnecting Communities program is specifically designed, according to a Department of Transportation press release, to “reconnect communities that are cut off from opportunity and burdened by past transportation infrastructure decisions.”
By Garry Boulard
A building to house a busy Navajo Nation preschool program, while also renovating an existing senior center, are among the items that may be approved as capital outlay projects by New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham.
As proposed, some $3 million in state funding will go for the construction of the Chi Chil Tah Head Start building near the New Mexico/Arizona border. As planned, the structure would be an energy-efficient facility, providing a safe environment for the early childhood education program.
A second project hopes to secure $2 million in funding: the renovation of the Baahaali Senior Center in Vanderwagen, some 17 miles to the south of Gallup.
An additional Navajo Nation proposal is calling for construction of a new veterans building in Manuelito, with a capital outlay request of $2 million for the project. Once completed, the veterans building will provide offerings ranging from housing assistance to employment counseling, and health care services.
Altogether, New Mexico lawmakers have given their approval to more than $24 million in facility projects for the Navajo Nation this year.
In a press release issued by the Navajo Nation Council, Delegate Seth Damon remarked that the Navajo Nation capital projects under consideration have the potential to “bring not only much-needed infrastructure improvements, but also job creation and economic development opportunities.”
By Garry Boulard
While American views of the economic prowess of China have declined due to several trade and policy issues, those who believe the United States is now the leading economic power in the world has increased.
That finding is revealed in a new survey conducted by Gallup Incorporated, showing that 44% of Americans place the U.S. in the number one position as a global economic power. That figure represents an increase of 7% over a similar Gallup survey taken two years ago.
At the same time, those viewing China as the world’s number one global power have declined from 50% in 2021 to 42% today. Such figures are indicative of an attitudinal upheaval among Gallup’s respondents, who overwhelmingly placed China in the number one position in surveys conducted between 2008 and 2020.
“Democrats and independents are responsible for the increased belief that the U.S. is the leading economic power in the world today,” notes a narrative accompanying the Gallup survey. “Both party groups show significant increases from 2021 in the percentage choosing the U.S.: 14 points among Democrats and nine points among independents.”
Republican responses to the same question revealed a movement in the other direction, with 43% of respondents in 2021 calling the U.S. the number one global economic power, a figure dropping to 39% this year.
A plurality of respondents, by a 44% to 37% margin, also believe that the U.S. will remain the world’s leading economic power two decades from now. Considerably lower on the response list: India and the European Union, seen by only 5% as becoming the world’s number one economic power by the 2040s.
Russia placed at the bottom of the list, with just 3% of respondents thinking the nation will emerge as the number one economic power on the globe in the next 20 years.
The Gallup essay noted that American attitudes regarding the resilience of the U.S. as the primary world economic power have “generally shifted according to the perceived health of the U.S. economy.”
Reflective of that latter trend, a separate Gallup survey indicated that 64% of respondents thought it was currently a good time to find a quality job in the U.S. That figure is significantly up from the 22% who responded similarly just two years ago.
By Garry Boulard
A 60,000 square foot commercial space in Colorado Springs may see a significant renovation and upgrade if members of the city council vote in April to approve an economic development agreement.
That agreement between the City of Colorado Springs and a yet unnamed company will pave the way for an effort that could result in around 70 new jobs, as well as a possible $33 million upgrade of the facility in question.
To date, the mysterious project has received nearly $763,200 in economic incentives awarded by the economic development commission that is a part of the Colorado Office of Economic Development and Trade.
An additional package of well over $202,000 in economic incentives for the project has been awarded by the City of Colorado Springs.
The project has been referenced as “Project Jade,” with the company in question also looking at possible locations in California and Florida.
By Garry Boulard
Up to $6 million in infrastructure improvements and upgrades at the New Mexico State Fairgrounds have been approved by state lawmakers.
Located at 300 San Pedro Drive NE in Albuquerque, the fairgrounds encompass just under 240 acres and plays host to everything from cattle shows to flea markets to musical events.
The site is most known as the home to the New Mexico State Fair, which is held for 10 days every September. Last year the fair attracted more than 475,300 people.
Funding for work at the Fairgrounds has been included as part of the massive House Bill 505, which includes thousands of infrastructure projects across the state. That legislation is currently being reviewed by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham.
Officials with Expo New Mexico, the organization running the Fairgrounds, say the $6 million appropriation, if approved, will be used for building and electrical upgrades. Also targeted: safety upgrades, which would include the installation of camera systems.
The New Mexico State Fair has been an annual event for more than a century in Albuquerque. It was not held during the pandemic year of 2020, but reopened the following year.
By Garry Boulard
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