Wednesday, July 26, 2006

"Aztec Is Known For Its Alleged UFO Crash Site"

Aztec UFO Video
Dreaming of a science center and planetarium in Aztec

By Cory Frolik
The Daily Times
7-26-06

     AZTEC — Aztec is known for its alleged UFO crash site. But Aztec Library Director Leanne Hathcock dreams of the day when the city is also known for having a state-of-the-art science and cultural center with a digital planetarium.

Hathcock first proposed the project, called The Four Corners Center for Universe Studies (FOCUS), four years ago. Recently, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation expressed interest in the proposal, but it is unclear if the foundation will fund the proposal.

FOCUS is described as a digital science and cultural center designed to explore space — past, present and future — with a hands-on science lab. The center would host programs in the planetarium and offer public performance spaces and other high tech educational areas.

Hathcock originally proposed to install the center in the former Aztec courthouse, a building that has set unoccupied for nearly a decade. That idea was met with resistance from the city and a number of Aztec citizens, who wanted the courthouse torn down.

"That was a piece that became problematic," explained Marti Kirchmer, director of San Juan College East. "(The courthouse) became the bone of contention."

Now that the commission has voted in favor of demolishing the old courthouse, hope for the project has taken a new direction. Kirchmer recently facilitated an Aztec City Commission workshop that explored the possibility of creating the regional science center.

"I think it is moving past the dreaming phase," Kirchmer said. "I think it is into the early stages of implementation."

In the meantime Hathcock traveled to Boston, Mass., to give a presentation on rural library needs. According to Hathcock, at the meeting, sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the FOCUS project attracted further attention.

Hathcock and library board members have suggested that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is interested in the project but a show of community support is necessary for the project to move forward.

"A man, who is one of the wealthiest men in the United States, has shown an interest in Aztec, New Mexico, and there seems to be none from Aztec people. That scares me," said Gail Aspromonte, president of the Aztec Library Advisory Board. "(This project) will bring economic development that we need desperately."

They will not even attempt to come in without local support and that's what we're trying to generate," Hathcock said.

City commissioners were not clear as to what was expected from them. They expressed their confusion as to what kind of support project organizers were seeking.

"Correct me if I'm wrong but (you're saying) it would help to have a resolution signed by the mayor and voted upon by the city commission endorsing the concept, to lend some credence to the discussion with those people who actually might fund this," County Commissioner Larry Marcum said.

He said the commission was in favor of the project, and would sign such a proclamation, but the city did not see where the project's supporters expected the capital to come from. Other commissioners were similarly skeptical about sources of funding.

"Are they willing to put money where their mouth is?" asked Commissioner Diana Mesch. "I'm assuming you're talking about Bill Gates? Is he willing to put money into this? How much?"

Hathcock and other library board members admit that the plans are too preliminary to obtain any sense of the donor level of support.

Commissioner Jim Crowley said the city has more immediate costs like the Wastewater Plant.

"I don't see a problem with the idea at all. But the problem does come, exactly like Diana said, when you bring the city into it and it really is not much more than a slim skeleton. We don't know what the role of the city is going to be and we are very reluctant to obligate the city," Crowley said.

Jim Connor, a consultant with Trustee College Consulting Team, a nationwide consulting firm focused on improving rural communities, said the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was interested in the project but he doubted it would provide the funding.

"Are they going to pay for it? No," he said. "I would hope the community would. I would hope they would step up to the gate."

Connor said there are possibilities of grants from many other foundations and that it would be "foolish for the community not to look for some of those grants."

Hathcock disagrees with Connor. She said the foundation will shell out money once more refined plans materialize.

"He does not speak for Bill and Melinda Gates and I haven't sent them a proposal yet," she said. "Money follows good ideas."

Hathcock estimated that the center would cost between $6 to $10 million. She said such an attraction would bring tens of thousands of people to the region.

The region, however, already has a planetarium. San Juan College has had a planetarium since 1978, according to Planetarium Director David Mayeux. Last year, the planetarium had 8,300 visitors, a record high.

Mayeux said the proposed center could be invaluable to the area if done correctly.

"I would say it would be an asset to the community if it filled a niche in the community," Mayeux said.

In all events, Mayor Mike Arnold encouraged the library to keep working on the project and to return before the commission when the project had "more meat to it."

More . . .

See Also: The 'Aztec Incident' Revisited:
- Part One -


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1 comment :

  1. I cannot believe that our community is so short minded that we have not yet appointed a group or individual to embrace and THANK the Bill gates foundation for their interest in our community! There is no reason why finding funding for this amazing gift should interfere with funding for ANY other Aztec projects. This is a seperate endeavor that will only benefit the community to such a great degree that I can only imagine our commissioner must be fearful of change on any level! I have personally seen a 'Bill Gates' Wild life reserve' - it is out of state - it is understated and compliments its' surroundings beautifully. You wouldn't even know that Gates was part of it except that you have to ask 'who thought up this amazing tribute to nature!' We are so blessed as a community to have an opportunity to grow on so many levels. Please do not be afraid of change or of some one that might appear to be very different from us. We are ALL different and we are all amazing. Maybe looking up into the stars on any given night here in Aztec, might perpetuate one's mind to grasp the awesomeness of embracing working together to encourage growth and change. This project may not be the project you wanted to start, but it is one that could bring in revenue to pay for all the other projects we so deseperately need in our community, on a financial level! It's not going to take a few dollars out of every one's pocket, it's going to take gratitude and research and some phone calls! We can do this! We can benefit! If any one is angry towards Gates foundation....they are really just afraid. Don't let some one elses fear stop you, as a citizen of this beautiful community, keep you from moving forward to welcome change! I personally will find a way to thank and encourage the Gates foundation to feel that they are not only welcomed in Aztec, but loved and appreciated! They are a gift from above!

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