County gets a move on

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By Arin McKenna

It has been a long haul since site selection for the new municipal building began in 2009, but the end is finally in sight. 


The first department has made its move and the grand opening is set for June 28.

The project is both under budget and ahead of schedule by two weeks. The entire cost of the project is $25 million, including replacing utilities infrastructure on Iris Street. Construction costs are currently at approximately $20 million. 

The excitement among those overseeing the transition is palpable. No one appears to be harried by the prospect of moving 16 departments and 140 people in a one-month span.

“It’s going to be a hectic month, but we’ve got a lot of experience at moving people around,” Project Manager Anthony Strain said. “I don’t know about moving them all back to one location, though. It’s going to be a challenge. And I think there’s a lot of anticipation, a lot of anxiety from the groups, but they’ll settle in.”

Jaynes Corporation is putting the finishing touches on “punch list” items even as the move gets underway, and Jaynes representatives will be on hand throughout the move to ensure that everything is in order. The perimeter fence comes down next week and the construction trailer will be removed.

A key component for occupancy has been making sure all systems are up and operational and then training facilities staff on their use. Jaynes has been testing systems, bringing them online, conducting functional tests then balancing the system and training county staff the entire month. That process is nearly complete. 

For the first time, Jaynes is providing electronic operations manuals for all the systems.  The searchable data base will be accessible from any computer or by IPad in the field. The trainings Jaynes conducted were also videotaped and will be linked to the Operations and Maintenance database for future use.

“I think that’s going to be invaluable,” Strain said. “Because the potential of it is to have a technician in the field armed with that information. So it’s going to streamline his job, hopefully just make it a ton easier. 

“And with the ease of that kind of information at hand, maintenance becomes easier, and it’s more assured of getting done so your equipment is kept up better and lasts longer. And that’s the whole intent of this, to become user friendly.”

Project Manager Steve Huebner is coordinating the move. He has a 2-foot by 3-foot schedule posted on his wall “to make sure all the pieces fit together.” 

“I see it as kind of a logistical puzzle that you have to put together,” Huebner said. “Then during the move it’s kind of like being a ring master. It’s just that there are a lot of things going on and you just have to be on your feet to make each day work out.”

Huebner speaks from experience. He managed the move out of the old municipal building and the move into the Pajarito Cliffs facility, and also sees a parallel to his time with Habitat for Humanity.

“It reminds me of when we used to do blitz builds, build a house in a week or two,” Huebner said.” It’s kind of like that: long days and just a lot of things you have to deal with to make it happen very quickly.”

The process began in February when Huebner met with each department and key people involved in the move to begin planning. 

“Each department has its own unique needs, so we’re making sure that’s all taken care of,” Huebner said. HR has been conducting trainings for each department about how to avoid injury during the move. 

Three “preliminary” moves have already occurred. The massive chore of moving county records and historic archives is already complete, although the departments themselves will be the last to relocate. 

The information technology staff took advantage of a long holiday weekend in February to splice the fiber optic cable that runs from the Pajarito Cliffs facility to offices along Central Avenue into the building. All county operations have been run from the new complex since then.

The Information Management department made its move last week, prior to moving the county’s servers on the weekend. The Information Technology staff of that department is the key player in making sure every other department moves with minimal interruption. 

IT staff has already been busy installing new software on every computer so it is able to access a new high security wireless system in the building, which will have both a closed system for county computers and an open system accessible to everybody. The county network will only recognize authorized computers on the system.

“We’ve been going to each of the sites and insuring that they have all of those settings turned on and ready to go, so that when they come over here and we’re working on maybe 20 or 25 computers in one day in an area that’s moving, it will just mostly be plugging in cords, checking everything and insuring that everything is coming up the way it’s supposed to be coming up,” Chief Information Officer Laura Gonzales said. 

IT staff will also be relocating roomfuls of networking equipment on moving day. 

May is virtually a month of moving days. 

“We’re really trying to keep the time that a department is not working to a minimum,” Huebner said. 

The plan is to move one department at a time, with only two days of limited accessibility, on the day of the move and the day after. Even on moving day, at least one employee will be designated as a cell phone contact to answer any pressing questions. 

The county clerk and the assessor’s offices will be open for business even on the day of the move, operating out of the boards and commissions room in the new building. 

As each department makes the move it will open for business, but the county is asking residents to refrain from visiting the building unless they have business to conduct.

“Customer service is actually the last department to move into the building, and the reason for that is that’s where we have a lot of the public interaction, and I didn’t really want the public in the building while we’re conducting the move, moving a lot of boxes and furniture and equipment,” Huebner said. 

Huebner also is coordinating the process of dismantling transportable office units and restoring both those sites and the leased spaces to a neutral condition.

 Engineering Aide Brian Valdez will be overseeing the contractors in the field on that project. 

The IM department already is starting to look like “home,” with plants and artwork and busy workspaces. The department also “baptized” the new building, spilling coffee during their first week of occupancy. The facilities staff removed the stain. 

During May, call the 311 information center (662-8333 from cell phone) for information on whether departments are in their old location, in their new one or in the process of moving. 

The grand opening is scheduled for June 28, with tours of the building from 9–11 a.m. followed by dedication ceremonies.