Otero County, New Mexico Courthouse Move: History and 20 Year Discussion Finally Concludes


The Otero County, New Mexico courthouse will be moved from it’s historic downtown Alamogordo location of over 123 years, to the outskirts of  the city, as a part of a development to be located on the opposite side of the Charlie T. Lee relief route and directly north of Mesa Verda Ranch Road. 

The specific location would depend on the amount of space needed," states the proposal.

The decision to move the courthouse from its present location and construction cost of up to $30 Million is cited as a part of an intergovernmental agreement, as due to a number of years of debate and litigation with a need for better public safety. 

Some downtown businesses are concerned about loosing the foot traffic into the downtown shops and restaurants that the courthouse brings to the city center. On a jury day up to 50 additional people come to the downtown district and before hand business owners estimate 10% to 20% or more pop into the stores, eat breakfast at the two restaurants at 12th and New York and pop then down to businesses such as Roadrunner Galleria, Victoria or Mia’s Collectibles for browsing and local shopping. 

In addition support staff to the courthouse such as deputy sheriff’s, and support staff are often seen parked at the 1200 Block prior to court eating at the Country Kitchen and at La Cocinita

The loss of the courthouse from the downtown district, is seen by some as yet another blow to foot traffic being routed away from the downtown city center.

The vote of 3 to 0 approving the $30 Million dollar relocation and new build will be paid for with Otero County residents footing 50% of the expense and the state judicial system the remaining 50%. The decision was made with little consideration for the negative impact to downtown business by this relocation. The city and county is rumored to consider the land as an opportunity for open space or a park.

Downtown business owner Rene Sepulveda with a business interest at 1209 New York Avenue has suggested the courthouse property should be “rezoned for mix use residential loft apartments with ground floor restaurants and entertainment venues downstairs.

Mr. Rene Sepulveda, a retired NCAA big 12 coach,  fitness trainer and artist suggests that  “the negative political climate towards newcomers and outsiders makes recruiting a visionary to Otero County for business investment with the financial strength to develop downtown properties difficult.” 

His fear is the courthouse property will become “yet another derelict building that will be an eyesore to the downtown corridor” just as the Great Blocks project is about to get off the ground.

City and county leadership is weak when it comes to vision and savvy thinking towards business development as witnessed by the decades of a struggling economy in Alamogordo, just look at the commercial vacancy rate citywide and the disrepair of so many downtown properties,” says Rene Sepulveda.

“A recent movie filming an apocalyptic scene in Alamogordo speaks volumes to the impression our city center leaves upon visitors. Rather than embracing New Mexico’s architecture and culture, capitalizing on the adobe architecture and Hispanic cultural identity that is native to the region, Alamogordo leaders fight it and the result is the dereliction we see around us,” Rene Sepulveda concluded.

The Otero County Courthouse History:

According to Mrs. Tom Charles, in her book, “Tales of the Tularosa”, the Otero County courthouse was built in 1902 by contractor S. E. Pelphrey at a cost of $13,047. Otero County had been created on Jan. 30, 1899 by an act of the 33rd Legislature and named after Territorial Gov. Miguel A. Otero.

Alamogordo Otero County Courthouse 1902 AlamogordoTownNews.com

A new courthouse has built in 1956 to replace the original building…

Alamogordo Otero County New Mexico Courthouse 1956 AlamogordoTownNews.com
Alamogordo Otero County New Mexico Courthouse 1956 AlamogordoTownNews.com
Alamogordo Otero County New Mexico Courthouse 1956 AlamogordoTownNews.com

There are one story wings on the northwest and on the southwest corners. The Jail was constructed in 1975 as part of the complex

Otero County Jail Addition to County Courthouse AlamogordoTownNews.com

The architect was Charles E Nolan Jr. & Associates and the contractor was H T Coker Construction Company.

The building was expanded in 1986 to 1988. The architect was Sam Pool.

Alamogordo Otero County Courthouse 1986 update AlamogordoTownNews.com

The building was again remodeled in 2009. The architect was AA Architects and the contractor was White Sands Construction of Alamogordo.

Alamogordo Otero County New Mexico Courthouse 2009 AlamogordoTownNews.com

The battle for a new courthouse has been brewing for years with concerns brought to the Otero County  beginning around 2012 and the commission has dragged its feet at a resolution.

At a special Otero County Commission meeting on October 8, 2020 at the Otero County Fairgrounds, then-Judge James Counts spoke on behalf of the 12th Judicial District about the courthouse issues.

We have articulated the court's needs over the last eight years in a variety of forums and have made proposals that have not been acted upon by the County one way or another in a number of different ways,Counts said at the meeting in 2020. 

In 2021, the Otero County Commission passed a resolution in support of the County Courthouse Bonding Act proposed by State Sens. Ron Griggs (R-34) and Bill Burt (R-33), at its Feb. 11 meeting.

"The Board encourages the New Mexico Legislature to repeal the unfunded mandate to provide office space for District Courts and District Attorneys or else provide counties with a continuing revenue stream to fund this mandate," the resolution stated.

The Act allowed the state government to help counties pay for county courthouse renovations, construction of new county courthouses and court-related facilities.

August of 2022,  Otero County requested from the state of New Mexico of $19,707,348 for courthouse additions and remodeling to be phased over a four-year period as part of its Infrastructure Capital Improvements Plan, or ICIP, projects.

 An intergovernmental agreement was entered into this 27th day of December,
2023, by and between the County of Otero, a political subdivision of the State of New Mexico, and the Twelfth Judicial District Court to fund, relocate and build the new courthouse.

And finally, the Otero County Commission unanimously approved an agreement on March 21 with the 12th Judicial District Court to build a new courthouse.

And yet according to a report in the Alamogordo NewsCounty manager Pamela Heltner said as the project is in the preliminary design phase, it would be difficult to pinpoint a budget, but hoped the budget would not become a challenge.

So the $30 million project is approved but with still many questions outstanding, so stay tuned…

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