Rehab center demolition nears completion

January 9, 2014 • Local News

Workers from Guzman Construction Solutions demolish the old New Mexico Rehabilitation Center at the corner of Gail Harris St. and E. Wells. (Mark Wilson Photo)

Demolition of the former New Mexico Rehabilitation Center located near the Roswell International Air Center is slated for completion in February.

One building remains in use on the property and will not be demolished. The new location of the center continues to use the old location’s 7,200- square foot laundry facility, due to limited space at the new center, according to New Mexico Department of Health Spokesman Kenny Vigil.

Cost of demolition of the 87,000-square foot structure at 31 Gail Harris Road totals $1.3 million, including the cost of asbestos remediation. GranCor Enterprises, Inc. is being paid with state funding to oversee the project.

The destruction eliminates public safety concerns regarding the vacant structure, but to some it represents a loss of potential.

When the building was [auth] boarded up in 2011, it became a magnet for criminal property damage, resulting in the exposure of asbestos.

“I do understand why the state’s doing it. It is a shame because it was a big building and in an area of town which is in need of services,” said Eastern Regional Housing Authority Executive Director Chris Herbert.

The housing authority previously sought to turn the property into a community center. Herbert said the housing authority had been in discussions with community organizations to turn the center into a housing and vocational training program for homeless veterans and other homeless populations.

The General Services Department ultimately declined to formalize an agreement with the housing authority, in preference of seeking a paying tenant.

The City of Roswell condemned the property June 13, according to a Notice to Proceed and Declaration of Emergency issued by GSD Oct. 4.

Numerous intrusions occurred after the building was condemned, and on Aug. 7, a fire was set at the building, the notice states.

Roswell Fire Department Deputy Chief Devin Graham said RFD saw the vacant building as a hazard to public safety and is glad to see the risk eliminated.

“We all know that vacant buildings are a hazard for crime and danger,” he said.

He said RFD would also have been happy to see the building occupied as that would eliminate hazards as well.

He warns against entering the cordoned off demolition site because debris poses a health hazard.

Site workers say they are wetting down debris to minimize its spread.

Preliminary work for demolition began in September, according to GSD records. Asbestos remediation started Oct. 14 and ended Dec. 13

Asbestos is common in buildings and houses located on the base, as is lead.

GSD Public Information Officer Tim Korte wrote in an email, “The contractor’s employees did not perform a lead test or lead remediation at the old rehabilitation hospital because, based on their survey of the property, they didn’t believe any lead was present.”

Demolition is slated for completion Feb. 14. Workers are expected to stay on site into March to perform grading work so as to make the lot usable in the future.

Korte said he was not aware of any new construction slated for the property.

The rehabilitation hospital was conveyed to the State of New Mexico in 1968 from the United States government, according to Korte. The federal government acquired the premises from Walker Air Force Base when the base closed, he stated.

The rehab center has since moved closer to ENMU-Roswell. Herbert said the move took place in part because the center was unable to make modifications to the building without disturbing the asbestos in the walls.

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