HOBBS – Wheels tend to grind slowly in the COVID world, especially when you’re talking about shipping and construction.
Over the past nine months, some business owners throughout New Mexico have complained that at times their biggest problem isn’t just hoping the governor will let them stay open, but also getting their supplies from point A, the warehouses, to point B, the businesses that need to receive them.
That is the case for New Mexico Junior College, not a business so much as an institution, but one that does need supplies for an upgrade that is underway. As reported in the Hobbs News-Sun in November, NMJC is having renovations done on its athletic center in an effort to stimulate recruiting for its championship-caliber junior college sports, and to make tournaments easier to host, make them more accommodating to visiting teams.
Phase A of construction was supposed to be completed by last week, but the ugly head of COVID keeps rearing itself. The projected construction, like so much projected construction in 2020, has been delayed by the point-A-to-point-B problem that the virus has caused.
Or more simply put, by “COVID setbacks”, as NMJC athletic director Deron Clark calls them. They have pushed Phase A’s projected completion date back into the ballpark of mid-January.
“It’s just that the supply chain has gotten all screwed up, manufacturing and the supply chain,” Clark said Wednesday. “We just can’t get the parts here. There are some of the parts that we need that are being specially manufactured.”
Slowdowns have affected work being done on the trophy display and entryways that need waxing and glazing. “They need to get that completed before we move in,” Clark said.
There is another issue, a big one, involving fire inspections, which have been temporarily halted by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham due to safety precautions.
“We can’t occupy until the fire marshal can do an inspection,” Clark said. “I think something’s going to have to give, because there are projects going on all over the state that are going to have to be inspected somehow. They’ve got to get it worked out; they can’t hold everybody up.
“So a big chunk of it is out of our control; it’s out of everybody’s control,” Clark added.
“The whole country’s going through it right now.”
Some of the delays have involved COVID cases, but that hasn’t been a widespread problem. Clark says an isolated exposure here or there has caused stoppages due to protocols.
“One day the crew that was putting in the ceiling tiles had to take a few days off,” Clark said, “and the crew that was putting in the floor had to take a few days off. It’s just been some sporadic slowdowns, but the crew is pushing ahead; they’re doing a really nice job.”
If there is a positive test or an exposure, contract tracing must be conducted. It’s part of the crazy life that has become all too familiar during the pandemic.
And then there is the refreshingly normal work delay caused by abbreviated holiday weeks.
“I think it stopped (Tuesday); they had the short week,” Clark said. “They were taking Wednesday through Sunday off for Christmas, and they’ll be back at it again next Monday. I’m not completely sure what their New Year’s schedule is going to be next week. It’ll probably be the same; they’ll probably take off Wednesday through Sunday, be back on the fourth of January.”
The construction company undertaking the $17 million project is Bradbury Stamm, which is also building a work skills training center at Hobbs High School, behind the east side of Watson Memorial Stadium. Considering what’s been going on in the world for the past year, going on in the country since March, just the fact that construction is ongoing, even with some delays, seems encouraging.
“Oh yeah, a ton of positives,” Clark said, “for them to have moved as quickly as they have.”
The entire NMJC project is not expected to be finished until May. Phase A does include a lot of it, though, covering everything from the men’s basketball locker room back by the weight room all the way to the administrative offices.
And that – Mustang faithful fingers crossed – is on track for next month.
“We’re happy to have January (as a completion time),” Clark said. “We’re just hoping we can make that work.”