Discovery Museum eyes ’09 opening

The Durango Discovery Museum is going to the “next level.” The museum has hired a local architect to continue the transformation of the old power plant at Camino del Rio and 14th Street with an eye toward opening the new science and energy museum in 2009.

Longtime Durangoan Rick Feeney, of FeeneyArchitect, was recently hired to take on the next steps in the museum’s construction. Feeney will create the conceptual plans for adding heat, lighting and plumbing to the existing Power Plant building, as well as design a 2,000- to 4,000-square-foot addition in line with green building certification standards. Also within his team’s scope of work will be exhibit space and designs for a community plaza, café and museum shop.

 “I’m very excited about this project,” said Feeney. “It’s a fantastic building that I’ve been thinking about since I led the group that did the very first feasibility study and adaptive re-use plan when the city acquired it way back in the ’80s.”

The old power plant was the generating station for the electricity that first lit portions of Durango. In 1893, the Durango Light and Power Co. embraced the fledgling technology of alternating current, placing Durango at the forefront of the birth and use of electricity. The Discovery Museum hopes to honor that heritage, as well as the region’s rich history of human innovation.

“The Power Plant is indeed a Durango landmark,” said Jill Seyfarth, Discovery Museum board member and facilities committee chair. “Thanks to the design work of R. Michael Bell & Assoc., the guidance of Earthly Ideas LLC and the construction work of local contractors, including Kennebec Construction and Bill Granda, the exterior of the Power Plant has been beautifully restored. Now we begin work on the actual museum. We look forward to working with Rick and his team.”

Feeney offers extensive expertise in preserving Durango’s architecture and authentic look. He has numerous certified historic rehabilitation projects to his credit and is most recently known for his design of the new construction at 12th and Main – The 1201 Lofts.

“I’m looking forward to getting back to work on this really significant project,” Feeney said. “The hard work on the existing building has been completed thanks to the other architects, engineers and consultants. Now, I feel like I’ve finally come full circle and the really fun and creative part of developing the future master plan for the build-out of the project begins.”

On the museum exhibit side, Feeney has enlisted the help of Thomas Nielsen, of Tucson, Ariz., who has more than 20 years experience in exhibit design and fabrication for science centers and children’s museums nationally and internationally. His company, The Exhibit Guys Inc., is currently working on a project for a new science center in Bergen, Norway. As for the sustainable building piece of the design puzzle, Feeney has hired Ashley Muse, of the Built Environment Team at the Rocky Mountain Institute, an alternative energy and design think tank in Aspen. Muse will focus on strategies to increase the overall environmental performance of the buildings.

For further information on the Durango Discovery Museum, visit

Navajos prevail in uranium fight

The Navajo Nation has won a battle in its continued fight against the Four Corners’ uranium mining renaissance. Members of the tribe successfully turned back an effort to reopen mines on tribal property in northwestern New Mexico.

Hydro Resources Inc., a uranium processing company, has continued to push to restore mining in the area despite a Navajo Nation law and opposition against uranium mining or processing.

Nonetheless, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission had approved requests by the company to mine in the vicinity of Church Rock. However, the Navajo Nation took the fight to court and on Feb. 6 won a determination that the Church Rock mine is actually Navajo property and should be off-limits to mining. The decision means that the EPA has recognized the sovereignty of the Navajo Nation to prohibit uranium mining and processing on the Navajo Nation.

“This is really just fantastic,” Navajo President Joe Shirley Jr. said. “Of course we’ve been praying about it all along. I’m glad the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has determined to respect the Navajo Nation and the laws that are passed by its Legislature.”

Companies have continued their efforts to bring uranium operations back to northwest New Mexico, despite the objections of the Navajo Nation. To date, most of those efforts have been concentrated in the Navajo Eastern Agency and the Church Rock area.

Hydro Resources may appeal the decision to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals and remains optimistic about the prospect of returning uranium mining to the region.

Dave Clark, the company’s president, commented, “We remain confident regarding the prospects of our New Mexico assets. Recently, McKinley County, N.M., passed a resolution supporting the development of its natural resources, specifically uranium. Church Rock, as well as all of our other identified mineralized resources, are located in McKinley County.”

Durango High principal resigns

Durango High School Principal Greg Spradling announced that it was “time to head down the road” this week. Spradling, who is credited with improving student achievement and shepherding the school through a $23 million expansion, submitted his resignation last Tuesday.

“Greg’s leadership made a significant contribution toward improving student achievement at Durango High School,” said Superintendent Mary Barter.

Barter then added, “He successfully shepherded his school community through the difficult process of planning, designing and literally rebuilding Durango High School; increased the overall graduation rate from 85 percent in 2000 to 92 percent in 2005, and significantly reduced the graduation achievement gap between American Indian, Latino, and Anglo students, among many other accomplishments. He deserves the community’s gratitude for a job well done.”

Spradling joined Durango High School in 2001. Prior to that he was principal of the high school in Roswell, N.M., and earned the New Mexico Secondary Principal of the Year Award twice.

Spradling will finish the school year at Durango High School. In the meantime, the district will appoint a search committee and begin the hunt for a new principal, said Barter.

Eight candidates vie for council

The race for Durango City Council is officially off and running. Eight candidates successfully completed and submitted the required nomination petition prior to last Tuesday’s deadline. The eight will vie for three available seats on the five-member council in an April 3 mail-in election.

Incumbents Sidny Zink and Tom Howley were among the first to submit their petitions. Fellow council member Dale Garland announced he would not seek reelection. However, a strong field has turned out for the seats, including Linda Geer, Peter Tregillus, Leigh Meigs, Michael Rendon, Jerry Swingle and Scott Graham.

The next step in the 2007 election process is the ballot-placement lottery, when names are drawn on March 7 for their order on the ballot. The mail-in election will begin with ballots being sent to voters from March 9-19. Walk-in polling begins March 20, and all ballots must be returned by 7 p.m. on Election Day, Tuesday, April 3.

– compiled by Will Sands



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