BELEN — After months of looking into buying the Wells Fargo building, the Belen City Council has put a nix on the purchase and any further negotiations.
After an executive session to discuss the purchase of the building and to relocate city hall to the four-story building, the council voted unanimously Monday evening to stop all and future negotiations.
The idea to purchase the building was that of former city manager Andrew Salas, who proposed moving city hall across the street. The building currently houses Wells Fargo Bank and the 13th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.
The former city manager and Belen Police Chief James Harris had suggested that when city hall moved, the police department would then move into the current city hall on the corner of Main Street and Becker.
In November 2021, Hub City voters approved a $2.5 million general obligation bond to construct a new police station. The current building has had its share of problems, including structural issues and mold.
City officials say the money approved for a new police station won’t be enough to purchase land and construct a building.
In October, the council agreed by a 3-1 vote to submit a draft purchase offer of $3.6 million for the building, which is listed at $4.5 million. In November, the city entered into a purchase agreement contingent on a structural analysis and a fair market appraisal of the 44,480 square foot building.
After Monday’s meeting, Belen Mayor Robert Noblin told the News-Bulletin the city will continue to look for property for the police station.
“The council, to this point, has acted in good faith on our end of it,” Noblin said of the negotiations to purchase the building. “We’ve already extended it once, and it’s not fair to the seller to keep on extending and it’s not appropriate for the city to put out money for further appraisals and inspections.”
The mayor said the city had not received an updated mechanical inspection of the building since entering into a purchase agreement.
“It’s a situation where even investigating purchasing the building further is a cost to the constituents and the city,” the mayor said.
The plan going forward, the mayor said, is to find a facility for a police station using the GO bond money. Noblin said the city needs to spend the $2.5 million by 2027.
“It’s quick when talking about purchase, renovation and purchase equipment,” Noblin said. “I believe we’ll have a new path forward and a plan in short order.”
Clara Garcia is the editor and publisher of the Valencia County News-Bulletin.
She is a native of the city of Belen, beginning her journalism career at the News-Bulletin in 1998 as the crime and courts reporter. During her time at the paper, Clara has won numerous awards for her writing, photography and typography and design both from the National Newspaper Association and the New Mexico Press Association.