A group of public officials—including two Sandoval County Commissioners and the mayor and a councilman from the Town of Bernalillo—churned the first ceremonial shovels full of dirt on this long-awaited project on Friday, May 12, 2017.
“This project has been five years in the making,” Denise King, manager of Sandoval County Senior Programs, told the crowd assembled in Bernalillo’s Rotary Park for the groundbreaking. The new, 7,200-square-foot facility is expected to open in the spring of 2018. It will replace the near century-old building at 255 S Camino Del Pueblo that currently serves as the Bernalillo Senior Center.
The new center is being built on land in Rotary Park that is owned by the Town of Bernalillo. The building, once completed, will be owned and operated by the county.
“We’ve had quite a few problems with the existing building,” King said. “We prepare meals for homebound seniors in Placitas, Jemez and the northern parts of Rio Rancho in the kitchen of the Bernalillo Senior Center. As the number of meals being prepared has increased over the years, the kitchen has become too small to accommodate the program.”
There also have been many issues with plumbing and other required repairs to the aging structure. The move to seek funding for a new center started in earnest in 2012, when an infestation of squirrels in the current building’s ceiling caused the center to shut down for more than a week while county maintenance crews oversaw a remediation plan that cost more $70,000.
The county community services division assembled a planning committee that quickly applied for state funds to develop a design for a new center. That funding was secured 2013, and shortly after an architect was hired to develop the design.
With the design in place, county officials applied for additional state funding, this time $1.85 million, to fund the building’s construction. That funding was approved during 2016 legislative session, but there were still a couple of detours on the way to the groundbreaking.
In the three years between the creation of the design and securing of construction funds, the cost of building a facility of this type had risen. Therefore, the county had to put the project out to bid three times—and alter the original design—to find a contractor who could complete the project within the $1.85-million budget. The winning bidder was Anissa Construction of Albuquerque.
The final design reduced the building’s size by nearly 3,000 square feet, it did not cut any amenities.
In addition serving meals, King said, the center will host activates ranging from physical fitness classes such as yoga and tai chi to bingo, billiards and card games for the area's many active seniors.
“We will have a fully functional senior center,” King said, “including the large commercial kitchen we need—with some room for expansion.”