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CURTIS WYNNE/NEWS-SUN Jal city officials examine the exterior of the former Jal Middle School, also known as the Burke Building, in this 2018 file photo.

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ARCHITECTS’ CONCEPT DRAWING

Once completed, at an estimated cost approaching $3.3 million, the Jal City Hall will occupy the eastern third of the Burke Building. Council chambers, the motor vehicle department, the water department, and offices for the mayor, city manager, city clerk and other personnel are planned. Eventually, at an additional $2 million or more, the city hopes to remodel the building for a conference area, a meeting area and a wellness facility.

JAL — The City of Jal may soon have a new City Hall, among other amenities at the long-vacant Burke Building, which has been mostly unused for two decades.

The City Council on Monday unanimously approved architects to continue with phase one plans for a 14,300-square-foot city hall at the east end of the 37,900-square-foot building, based on opinions expressed at a recent community meeting about how to use the structure.

Robert Calvani, representing Albuquerque-based NCA Architects, explained the base cost of creating a city hall in that space would be $1.4 million, but adding general requirements, bonds and insurance, taxes and other costs would bring it to $2.2 million. Once furniture and landscaping is added, the total comes to about $3.3 million, he estimated.

“It’s a great building. It has good bones. It’s a good idea to do what you’re doing,” Calvani said. Building a new city hall would cost about twice as much, he added.

With him was Rob Loftis, representing Albuquerque-based MRWM Landscape Architects.

Loftis pointed out, “Some significant investment has been made over the past 10-15 years. There’s a new HVAC system, there are upgrades with a new roof, windows and doors. It really is time to find a good use for that building. Different ideas have been thrown around.”

The city council last fall listed renovation of the building as No. 2 on the city’s Infrastructure Capital Improvement Plan, behind water issues, opening the door to possible grants including the New Mexico Legislature’s capital outlays.

City Manager Matt White said $3 million is a lot of money, even with recent increases in gross receipts tax revenue.

“We’re going to have to do some hard looking at where we’re going to get the money. We do have other projects that we have to do, too,” White said. “I think we can possibly start planning, take our time and see what the Legislature does in January.”

Loftis provided concepts for landscaping around the building, including the parking lot, sidewalks and trees.

“Really, it’s cleaning up what we have,” Loftis said, estimating the total cost for landscaping at $550,000. “It’s bringing the parking lot and sidewalks into ADA compliance, providing a little maintenance, landscaping and then some places for the staff and public to gather outside the council chambers.”

He praised the organization of the building.

“It just needs some TLC outside to kind of spruce things up and bring it into ADA compliance,” Loftis said. “All the exciting stuff is going on in the inside of the building.”

Calvani followed with a description concept for improving the interior, focusing on the city hall, but mentioning a wellness/ fitness area, meeting rooms, a 360-person conference space, restrooms, a warming kitchen and other possibilities in the central and western portions of the building.

Councilor Melody Beckham asked, “What would we do if we get the city hall done and decide we don’t have enough money to do the other phases?”

“You can build in small pieces. You’d have a lot of flexibility to phase out the rest of the building in small amounts,” Calvani said.

Asked what the costs for those additional improvements would be, he estimated $623,000 for the wellness center, $995,000 for the meeting rooms and $1.3 million for the conference space.

The City Hall construction, phase 1, would take about five or six months to complete, he said. Other phases could be completed as the city finds the funding and need to do so.

Mayor Stephen Aldridge, looking to city employees at the council meeting, asked, “How much more efficient would this (new City Hall) be for the city?”

White responded, “It would give us an opportunity to expand the motor vehicle department and the water department. It would make it a little easier for people to get in and out.”

White had also told the News-Sun in a previous interview the city hopes eventually to fulfill the needs of major oil and gas companies desiring a large conference space in Jal.