BELEN — The city of Belen is one step closer to purchasing a building for a new city hall.
The Belen City Council approved to continue negotiations to purchase the four-story building, commonly referred to as the Wells Fargo building. During Monday’s meeting, the council voted 2-1 in favor.
In October, the city council agreed by a 3-1 vote to submit a draft purchase offer of $3.6 million for the building at 100 S. Main St., which is currently occupied by Wells Fargo bank and the 13th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.
Belen Mayor Robert Noblin told the News-Bulletin the city entered into a purchase agreement contingent on a structural analysis and a fair market appraisal of the 44,480 square foot building, which was listed for $4.5 million.
The building sits on 3.8 acres of land, and was built in 1985. Each floor of the building is 11,170 square feet.
Noblin expects the two current tenants to remain in the building, and the city would use the top two floors for Belen City Hall. He said a large portion on the first floor, which is now being used by a real estate company, would be used as the council chambers and a welcome desk where customers can pay their utility bills.
“Future plans beyond that would be to use the $2.5 million GO bond for the police department to renovate the current city hall into the new police department,” the mayor said.
Noblin said he expects the structural analysis will “come back fine. I don’t have any concerns about the structure.”
“The current (city hall) doesn’t allow for more employees in any department,” Noblin said.
Charles Eaton, the city’s administrative services director, said the current city hall is 11,000 square feet. There are 16 city staff members that work at city hall.
The mayor said the timeline for the purchase is about four months out.
“There’s another contingency with the financing and restructuring of other debt to make this happen and to make it a situation that’s not a financial burden on the city,” he said. “At the end of the day, $3.6 million probably wouldn’t be enough to build a new, up-to-date police department either.”
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.
“The idea is we move to the city hall location and refurbish it to our needs. We don’t have all the exact figures, but it might be between $1-1.5 million,” Belen Police Chief James Harris told the council in August. “The rest of the money we could use for a real time crime center for the city of Belen.”
Noblin said when and if city hall does move into the Wells Fargo building, and the police department moves into the current city hall, the police station will be demolished and used for parking in the area.
Councilors Danny Bernal Jr. and Steve Holdman voted Monday in favor of continuing the purchase of the building while Frank Ortega voted against it.
Ortega told the News-Bulletin he is not in favor of the city purchasing the building because “there are greater needs in the city than buying another building. We need flood control and a new waste water plant.”
Councilor Yvette Padilla was not present at Monday’s meeting.
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.