Sandoval Signpost


An independent monthly newspaper serving the community since 1988
  Around Town

After visiting the face painter, Alex Nance and her mother found the children's section of the newly rededicated Martha Liebert Public Library now located in Bernalillo's 84-year-old former public school. The Nances are the daughter and granddaughter of town librarian Kathy Banks.
Photo credit: —Bill Diven

Bernalillo celebrates new uses for venerable buildings

~Signpost Staff

The transformation of a deteriorating school campus into a vibrant community asset leapt forward in July with the move of Bernalillo's public library and the opening of a law-enforcement training center.

A July 22 ribbon cutting at the Roosevelt Complex dedicated the Martha Liebert Public Library in the 84-year old, two-story adobe building that was once the town's public school. In addition to adult and children's spaces, the recent renovation created crafts, computer, and study rooms, plus a space for community meetings.

"This is really the crown jewel of the campus for us," Mayor Jack Torres said. "Our former library was beautiful, but it was packed."

Among those attending were past Roosevelt Elementary School teachers, students, and former Mayor Charles Aguilar who was principal of the school that closed six years ago. Town Councilor Dale Prairie said he began attending Roosevelt as a first grader in 1959 and would help the custodian shovel coal to heat the building.

Torres credited a historical consultant, several businesses, craftspeople, and town staff for completing the renovation using $300,000 from state library bonds and $175,000 from the town general fund. He drew applause when he said the project was accomplished without issuing local bonds or raising taxes.

Martha Liebert opened the library in 1965 in a part of town hall, and its last move in 2006 took it from the adobe building across the driveway to a renovated home next to the Bernalillo Fire Department. "We've moved eight times, and I hope this is it," Liebert said.

Librarian Kathy Banks said she and her four-person staff have plans to increase the collection, expand hours, and bring in more programs.

The town bought the 7.7-acre campus including the 1950s main office and classroom building in 2015, paying the Bernalillo Public Schools $1.2 million for the property. The site sits between town hall and Camino Don Tomas with Rotary Park, the town recreation center, and the county senior center now under construction just to the west.

The goal has been to convert the schools buildings to public uses with rents discounted for tenants who cover renovations costs. The non-profit home-rehab organization Rebuilding Together Sandoval County leased one of the portable classrooms last year, and two others house training facilities for the town police and fire departments.

The gym and cafeteria building is being used for a children's summer recreation program.

And, the town recently announced Bernalillo-based Rescue Tactics and Training has leased part of the administration and classroom building that faces Camino Don Tomas. Founded nearly three years ago by firefighter-paramedic Dan Barela, the company trains first responders in a variety of rescue techniques from trench collapses to wilderness incidents and also sells technical and tactical gear.

Barela said, during the first of three training sessions held earlier this year, that he discovered the school building and the town's hopes for it. His reaction: "What an amazing place for a training facility."

The training also will add to the local economy as first responders from in and out of New Mexico, and abroad, come to Bernalillo for multiday sessions, he said. After remodeling part of the building, the company plans to expand in two phases to occupy the entire structure.

At that point, the company could cycle around one thousand first responders a year through its programs, Barela said. A grand opening with a nontraditional ribbon-cutting ceremony is planned for August 26.

Bernalillo Community Development Director Mike Kloeppel told the Signpost, "He’s going to do a lot for the community," speaking of Barela. Kloeppel said he has other deals pending for a portable classroom and for a separate classroom building that faces the campus courtyard from the north. That would leave two portables that are somewhat limited as they lack easy parking, he added.

Master Gardeners offer seed-saving class on August 19

The Sandoval County Seed Library, a Sandoval County Master Gardeners project, is hosting a Seed Saving workshop with Judy Jacobs, Sandoval County Master Gardener Life Member, on Saturday, August 19, from noon to 1:30 p.m. at the Esther Bone Memorial Library. The class is free, open to the public, and requires no registration. The library is located at 950 Pinetree Road SE, Rio Rancho, NM 87124.

The Sandoval County Seed Library teaches seed saving to ensure a successful, regionally-adapted, and genetically diverse seed collection that is self-sustaining. The workshop will cover pollination, varietal purity, isolation techniques, criteria for plant seed selection, and seed saving methods and storage.

"In this environment, it is so important to save seeds and protect our genetic diversity." said Jacobs.

For more information, contact Esther Bone Memorial Library at 505-891-5012.

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