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San Juan County Commission OKs $1M renovation contract for Totah Theater


County commissioners also voted to turn the property over to Farmington once the renovations are complete.

Mike Easterling   | Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — The future of an iconic downtown Farmington structure has come into sharper focus with the approval Dec. 15 of two measures by the San Juan County Commission.

Commissioners voted to award a construction contract for renovation of the Totah Theater at 315 W. Main St. and to transfer ownership of the property to the city of Farmington when that renovation is complete. Both votes were unanimous.

Commissioners first voted on the motion to award a construction contract. The county's chief procurement officer, Diana Chapman, said county officials sent out 116 invitations in November seeking sealed bids from contractors and received three responses. She said the county staff recommended that commissioners accept the bid of the Jaynes Corporation of Farmington, the company that submitted the lowest bid.

After a brief discussion, commissioners approved the measure. The renovation project is split into four parts — a base project and three alternates — and the total contract will come to a little more than $1 million.

Chapman said the Jaynes Corporation submitted the shortest timeline for completion of the work at 182 days. She said there is a penalty clause in the contract that would require the firm to reimburse the county at the rate of $250 a day if it fails to meet that deadline.

Immediately after approving that measure, commissioners voted to transfer the property to the City of Farmington, pending completion of the renovation work and the county's receipt of $275,000 that Farmington officials pledged for the construction. Deputy county attorney Joe Sawyer said it is expected that the transfer will not actually occur until late in 2021.

MORE: Farmington approves agreement to acquire the Totah Theater from San Juan County

Members of the Farmington City Council voted Dec. 8 to accept ownership of the theater from the county, pending approval of the transfer by the County Commission.

Over the course of two recent legislative sessions, the county had received $1.5 million in capital outlay funding to help pay for the acquisition or construction of a film studio project. County officials used part of that money to fund the acquisition of the theater in March for a little more than $300,000 from its then-owner, Taylor LLC.

Much of the remaining money will be used to cover the renovation of the theater, as local officials have said they envision it being used for a variety of purposes, including auditions and office space for film and TV producers, as well as a training site for local film and TV crew members. It also will continue to be used for live music and theater productions, as well as film screenings.

The theater is part of a new entity called Totah Studios that will be operated as a partnership between the county and the City of Farmington as part of an economic development initiative centered on attracting more film and TV productions to the area.

Totah Studios also includes a 120-acre film backlot owned by the city near Jackson Lake and N.M. Highway 170.

MORE: San Juan County Commission buys downtown theater, launches Totah Studios

County Manager Mike Stark said Dec. 15 the county anticipates having approximately $350,000 in capital outlay funding left after the theater renovation for construction of the backlot on the city-owned property. County officials have said they anticipate building perhaps five buildings at the site to serve as a movie set that can serve as the backdrop for everything from a Middle Eastern village to a Native American pueblo.

According to The Daily Times archives, the theater was built in 1949 and seated 500 people in its original configuration. A renovation was completed in the 1980s that converted the theater into a live events venue.

County Commission Chairman Jack Fortner said previously an extensive renovation of the property needs to be done before it is ready for its new role in film and TV production. He said it must be brought into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and major infrastructure systems such as plumbing, electrical, lighting, fire suppression, and heating, cooling and ventilation must be updated.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or measterling@daily-times.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription.