Becker Avenue building to go up for lease

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The Becker Avenue building, which once housed the Valencia Shelter Services, will remain vacant for now.

Belen City Manager Mary Lucy Baca announced at the city council's Jan. 7 meeting the city would issue a request for proposals for the building at 513 Becker Ave.

The RFP will describe the city's plans for the area as an art district and offer the building at a discounted lease in exchange for enhancing the building for the planned district.

The city's intention is to get the empty building occupied to avoid vandalism, Baca said at a city council meeting last month.

Previously, the city spoke with Valencia Shelter Services officials about reoccupying the building that their offices were housed out of for 13 years, said VSS Executive Director Alexandria V. Taylor.

With this location, the nonprofit organization was hoping to expand their current services to include a Belen location once again, since they operate out of two Los Lunas locations, according to the VSS proposal.

The proposal states that VSS planned to create a revenue-generating thrift store from donations received, which would have supported VSS clients, created on-site job training, employed residents and contributed to the local economy.

VSS asked city officials to "negotiate a rate that would allow us to expand our services to the greater community of Valencia County, directly meet citizens' needs in Belen, without compromising the fiscal health of the organization," VSS's proposal stated, since they didn't plan to operate two offices in their 2013 budget.

VSS was asking to rent the 4,000-square-foot building for $150 a month, which was outlined in the previous lease.

The city's proposed lease agreement with VSS asked for $300 a month.

This lease was tabled at a city council meeting in December after councilors urged Baca to renegotiate the contract to keep the increased rent or provide enhancements to the building to offset the fair market value.

Baca estimated the fair market value for the building to be $1,500 to $2,000 in rent per month.

At the meeting, councilors expressed concern over the proposed contract with VSS since city records indicated the organization paid their rent a handful of times from April 1998 to October 2003 and still owed the city $8,550 worth of rent.

Baca said she wasn't sure how accurate these records were.

Councilor Mary Aragon said not collecting funds owed to the city was a problem past administrations had, and one the city should continue to avoid.

"I think we need to continue on that path for the city to continue to hold their own," Aragon said.

Valencia Shelter Services relocated to two Los Lunas locations, one for offices and one for services, after two downpours in May and July of 2011 left them with several inches of water throughout the building and repairs that wouldn't be completed for several months.

But since the organization moved to Los Lunas, callers continue to ask the nonprofit where they are located and several said they thought VSS closed its doors, the VSS proposal states.

"This is worrisome at the least, because it means clients needing our services may not have known we were available to assist them," the proposal states.

VSS' proposal asked the city to repair the building, including replacing the carpeting throughout the office, conducting a mold inspection, rectifying any mold found, repainting the building and any other maintenance needed.

These repairs, as well as any modifications a future tenant may need to make the building suit their needs, still needs to be completed, said Steve Tomita, the city's planning and zoning director.

In exchange for a reduced lease, these improvements and repairs will be completed by a future tenant, not the city, Tomita said.

The city has, however, repaired water damage done to the building from the 2011 downpours.

VSS offers a 24-hour crisis hotline, an emergency domestic violence shelter, transitional housing for those leaving the shelter, domestic violence counseling, legal advocacy, supervised visitation and exchanges and a Batterer's Intervention Program.

For information on VSS and its services, visit www.valenciashelterservices.org, or call its 24-hour hotline, 864-1383.


-- Email the author at aortiz@news-bulletin.com.