Editor's Note: This is Part 7 of a multi-part series on the Prospectors' forum, which was held on Dec. 9. Then the holidays happened, and the rest of the articles did not get written.
Bridge Community representative Don Trammell said: "We are a 501c3, with the mission to provide appropriate affordable housing for seniors over the age of 55."
"Our services would be a continuum of care from independent living to assisted living, from memory care to skilled nursing and hospice," Trammell said. "We will also allow home health services from outside to come into the facility. Adult day care will also be offered.
"We began this with a group of adults from a Sunday School class," he continued. "We called it Faith Community, but because our original intent was to include everyone, we changed the name to Bridge Community. We want a broad diverse population in the facility."
He said the group is working to increase its board to 13 members.
"We are concerned by the large number of single women and veterans in substandard housing.," Trammell said. "Also of concern are couples where one needs helping. Often the caregiver precedes the ill one in death."
New Mexico has one of the higher percentages of its population over the age of 65 years, with southwest New Mexico even more so, he pointed out.
"We have raised nearly $300,000," Trammell said. "Using a Freeport McMoran Grant and a generous landowner, we bought 10 acres off the ByPass Road for the facility. A Casper, Wyoming, consultant is updating our feasibility and business plan."
He said the comment they hear most often is: "When can I move in?"
"We want to have a full range of care, so no one has to relocate when he or she needs a change of care," Trammell said. "The nearest providers of continuing care are in Las Cruces.
"The feasibility study will help us decide how large a facility we need," he continued. "We will continue to apply for grants to keep the care affordable. We want to develop a foundation to allow those who run out of money to be able to stay.
Rep. Dianne Hamilton said: "Your proposal impresses me. It is similar to a home in Kansas City where a retarded cousin of mine lives. Any idea of when you can break ground?"
"We have set a goal of five years," Trammell replied.
"This is absolutely right," Rep. Rodolpho "Rudy" Martinez said. "We need more of these facilities. How will it be funded?"
"It will be self-pay, with the person buying into it," Trammell said. "Each year, the amount they will receive if they leave will decrease by 5 percent. We will also take Medicaid and Medicare. For veterans, so many are by themselves in substandard housing, so we would accept VA funds."
"The feasibility study was supposed to be ready by Dec. 1?" Sen. Howie Morales asked.
"A snowstorm knocked out the consultants' computers, so they asked for an extension," Trammell said.
"How could this work with government funds?" Morales asked
"We plan to apply for USDA funding and NMFA could provide loans," Trammell replied.
Southwest New Mexico Council of Governments Director Priscilla Lucero said a small amount of USDA funding is in grants, but it is primarily loans. "NMFA is where we're heading, but we're not sure because of HUD. It is an economic development venture, but it would still be a loan. It has to funnel to local government."
"You should work with local governments," Morales said.
"All local governments must go to the council," Lucero said. "If there are any funds, we have to make sure they spend them expeditiously."
"We are also looking at the possibility of bonding," Trammell said.
"I would like to see the feasibility plan," Morales said.
"My recommendation is to have a public meeting once the plan is received," Lucero said. "There will be a huge cost with the wastewater issue."
Martinez asked if the project could be public/private.
"That is a possibility," Lucero said. "La Vida Llena had a desire to run the facility."
Fort Bayard Historic Preservation Society and Fort Bayard Restoration and Development Coalition were represented by Cecilia Bell, FBHPS president, who showed a PowerPoint with photos and text). Ansel Walters represented the coalition as its president.
"We have two projects and two groups, but we work hand-in-hand," Bell said. "There is no current project at Fort Bayard. Last year, we put in a request for heating for the theater. Then there was money allocated to demolish the hospital. No money has been used to demolish the hospital or to heat the theater.
"If we cannot get heating and be able to lock the doors and windows, the theater will be a white elephant like the biomass plant," Bell said.
"Yucca Lodge clients work with us once a week," she continued. "The first time, they were all eyes down; the second time a small smile and heads up. From the third time on, we have eye-to-eye contact. They have cleaned ditches, painted the Commanding Officer's quarters, and put in a handrail for the steps. Basically, we have given $6941 to the state.
"We ask that the theater be updated so it can be utilized," Bell requested. "Our big barrier is whether Fort Bayard is going to be sold," she said. "We met in Santa Fe with the Department of Health, Historic Preservation and the General Services Department. The GSD director said he wants to maintain the structures and the cultural history."
Walters said the coalition's major objective is to pursue the sale and development of Fort Bayard. The coalition has reached the executive branch level of government in New Mexico.
"It became obvious that no department was funded to do maintenance," Walters said. "Each thought the other was maintaining it, but no one has maintained it since 2010.
"The state put out an ad program for expressions of interest in purchasing Fort Bayard," he continued. "Each of the dozen interested will fill out a questionnaire by Dec. 20. And then other reports will be required."
All questions about the expression of interest were due to Elizabeth Jeffries by Dec. 13.
"Thank you for working together," Morales said.
"Our request is the same as last year to fix up the theater," Bell said. "We didn't put it out again because the sale of the property is in limbo."
"The theater is doable," Morales said. "A capital outlay request should come through you. Please submit it. We don't know what direction the state is going now. The theater is on state property, so funding can come from statewide dollars."
"What if it's not on anyone's ICIP?" Lucero asked.
"Keep it separate," Morales recommended. "Put in the applications and we can put in for the dollars."
Martinez pointed out that Property Control is now under the General Services Department as Facility Maintenance, so the request should go through GSD. "You may also be able to set aside certain buildings."
"We were told that the DOH has asked for 50-70 acres, with 20 going to the national cemetery and 100 for veterans," Walters said. "We have written interest from 22 different local organizations, which want to use certain buildings."
"Fort Bayard is also a national historic landmark," Martinez said. "Has anybody contacted the congressional delegation for funding?"
"The National Parks Service said it had funding for planning," Bell said.
"I suggest talking to the congressional delegation," Martinez said. "Do we want to direct effort toward preserving the site, toward a public/private partnership or as a state park?"
"The national historic landmark designation would remain even if the hospital were taken down," Bell said she had been told.
"I see so many people so interested in keeping Fort Bayard viable and volunteering for so many years," Hamilton commended the groups. "You don't give up."
"Is there any way to get you three together with the congressional delegation?" Bell asked. "You say you want us to talk to the federal government, but they say it is state-owned."
"Get the request submitted for capital outlay," Morales said. "We will try to take it from statewide funding."
The next article continues the non-profit sector presentations.