LAS VEGAS, N.M. (KRQE) – The two-toned building on Ridge Runner Road behind the Walmart here was built for the Children, Youth and Families Department.
The layout of offices and observation rooms — even the radiant heat, sliding windows and evaporative cooling system — were requested by the state. The department was so happy with the result that it signed an extension to turn an eight-year lease into a 20-year lease.
By most accounts, it was year 12 that the leaky roof became too much to bear. The building’s owner replaced the roof, property manager Tim Ott said, at a cost of $70,000. The full renovation cost that year, according to Ott, was closer to a quarter of a million dollars.
But when the leaks returned, the accusations came spilling forth.
A series of emails obtained by KRQE News 13 shows growing frustration among employees and CYFD staffers who handle issues at the department’s facilities throughout the state.
By the fall of last year, the emails say employees were switching offices to stay ahead of the leaks and the department was growing increasingly frustrated with a lease that cost it $361,818.95 each month.
Ott and Kirk Meyer, the building’s owner, were frustrated, too:
Kirk and I, like you and your staff, are concerned about these issues and want to get them resolved… The replacement roof performed well until the building by over pressurized by the staff, coolers were turned on without enough windows opened… This over pressurization compromised the new roof… if the entire southwest corner of the roof needs to be replaced again, then your agency will need to bare that expense.
CYFD’s liaison for the lease, Anthony Pacheco, was having none of it:
Our staff is not responsible for any roof damage caused by the operation of the cooling systems.
As the department and Ott went back and forth, he was scheduling fixes for the roof.
“It’s not the staff’s primary mission to take care of that building. The staff’s primary mission is to take care of families and help families,” Ott said. “You just have to do things to where it doesn’t require the tenant to do much of anything other than to walk in and work.”
As it stands, CYFD has not paid anything beyond its normal lease rate.
The repairs made last fall held through the entire winter until a weekend snowstorm, deep freeze and quick thaw created ice dams in the canalés that drained the roof. Water backed up and by the time the work week came, the fire alarm was malfunctioning.
The Las Vegas Fire Department told staff to make routine rounds while the alarm system was being fixed.
To cabinet secretary Monique Jacobson, regular fire patrols are not something staffers should have to deal with.
“That, to my knowledge, is not continuing,” she said. “Nor should it be. And if we find out that it is, then we have to put a stop to that because these workers need to be focused on the children.”
Jacobson, who has been at the helm of the headline-grabbing department for less than four months, called the role of staffers — particularly Protective Services caseworkers — “intense.”
“The number one thing I can and must do is alleviate the stresses and pressures that are put on our workers that keep them from doing their job every day,” she said.
Both Jacobson and Ott described their tenant-landlord relationship now as basically healthy.
“You pick your battles and you pick what you want to do in life,” Ott said. “And we don’t want to fight with the state and we don’t think the state wants to fight with us.”
The state has no plans to break its lease, which still has five years remaining on it.
CYFD will continue to monitor conditions in the building. Ott ordered a mold test, the third in the last four years, for later this week. The previous two showed normal levels relative to the spores floating around outside the building.