Notes from the Aug. 29, 2003 Regents Meeting

by George Zamora

SOCORRO, N.M., August 29, 2003 - The New Mexico Tech Board of Regents, after convening early this afternoon in an emergency meeting conducted by telephone conference call, has approved a $225,952 road construction project which will benefit the research university’s soon-to-be-constructed Magdalena Ridge Observatory (MRO).

The road construction project, which falls under a previous maintenance agreement New Mexico Tech entered into with the U.S. Forest Service in the mid-1960s, will improve and enhance the unpaved road that now exists between the Magdalena Mountains campground and the university’s Langmuir Laboratory for Atmospheric Research, located atop the Magdalena Mountains.

“The original cost projected to make improvements to the road for the MRO project was over $3 million, but now, by using a construction company we recently identified as being part of the U.S. Department of the Interior, New Mexico Tech will be able to complete the project for less than a tenth of the original cost,” said New Mexico Tech President Daniel H. López.

López informed the Tech Board of Regents that the Coronado Construction crew, employed by Arizona’s Coronado National Forest, is contracted on a regular basis to do roadwork in U.S. forests throughout the West.

Because of a previously scheduled work contract being dropped, New Mexico Tech could now stand to benefit from their services, although “only a small window of opportunity has been opened,” López said, requiring immediate action on the part of the university’s governing board.

The New Mexico Tech Board of Regents unanimously approved the contract to proceed with the roadwork.

The $45 million Magdalena Ridge Observatory, scheduled to be completed sometime in late 2007 near the summit of the 10,800-foot Magdalena Mountains, is slated to be a state-of-the-science astronomical research facility which will employ an array of optical and infrared telescopes to produce extremely detailed images of the far reaches of the universe.

The design, development, and operation of the observatory are under the auspices of a multi-national university research consortium, with New Mexico Tech as the lead institute. Additional members of the consortium include New Mexico State University, New Mexico Highlands University, University of Puerto Rico, and the United Kingdom’s Cambridge University, as well as research partner Los Alamos National Laboratory.