Rio Rancho Fire Rescue Chief Paul Bearce, left, presents newly promoted Capt. Jimmy Wenzel with the diploma Wenzel earned for his completion of the two-year National Fire Academy Managing Officer program. The presentation came at the Rio Rancho Governing Body meeting Wednesday night at City Hall.
Photo Argen Duncan/Observer

University of New Mexico leaders aim to open a new building focused on orthopaedics in fall 2021, provided the Rio Rancho Governing Body approves the plan.

UNM Sandoval Regional Medical Center President and CEO Jamie Silva-Steele presented plans to the governing body at its meeting Wednesday night at City Hall.

For construction to proceed, the governing body must approve an agreement with UNM at a meeting in January.

She listed five initiatives UNM is working on in City Center, in which the hospital and UNM Health Sciences Center Rio Rancho campus are located. They are:

• Broadmoor Boulevard extension;

• A “linear park” to provide drainage and recreational opportunities;

• Another Rio Rancho senior center;

• Campus Park, across from City Hall; and

• The Center for Excellence for Orthopaedic Surgery and Rehabilitation, a planned building next to SRMC but officially part of the Health Sciences Center Rio Rancho campus.

Silva-Steele said UNM is working with architects and will pick a construction manager at the beginning of 2020. She expects the new two-story, $21 million facility to be southeast of the current SRMC building.

The 48,000-square-foot center will house academic, research and clinical activities, with 10.5 full-time equivalent providers and dozens of students. She said the students will learn in the clinical space.

“This is where our learners work alongside our providers and work with patients that are being seen within the space,” Silva-Steele said.

The work will address shortages of medical providers and fine-tune new specialties, such as cast technicians, and technology, such as 3-D printing of replacement joints, she added.

“It really helps us enhance patient experience and patient access by being able to provide a one-stop shop, basically, for patients that are seeking and needing joint-replacement services,” Silva-Steele said.

She said UNM would provide moveable equipment for the center.

The City of Rio Rancho Higher Education Gross Receipts Tax will pay for the construction. Voters approved the tax in 2008 and it sunsets in 2028.

“Rio Rancho continues to be at the center of excellence,” said Rancho Mayor Gregg Hull in a statement the day after the meeting. “The proposed expansion of the UNM Health Sciences Rio Rancho campus to include an academic learning space for students, an orthopaedic center and cutting-edge health-care technology truly adds to Rio Rancho’s reputation as a visionary community.”

In another matter, governing body members approved legislative priorities. The priorities for capital outlay money are:

• $6.1 million for a digital public-safety radio system;

• $12 million for a new fleet maintenance/fueling building;

• $15 million for reconstructing and widening Unser Boulevard from Paseo del Volcan to Cherry Road;

• $925,000 for building out Sports Complex North;

• $592,000 for sidewalk and handicap-accessibility improvements;

• $890,000 to replace vehicles and heavy equipment; and

• Almost $4.5 million for water and wastewater system improvements.

In other business, governing body members:

• Approved a final reading of amendments to the code of conduct;

• Awarded a $967,000 contract for erosion control at the Rio Rancho Sports Complex to Compass Engineering and Construction Services LLC; and

• Approved a collective bargaining agreement with the firefighters union.