A $1 million federal CARES Act Recovery Assistance grant will allow a mechanical trades training center to double in size by moving from Los Alamos to the former Cariño de los Niños Charter School in Española.

Rio Arriba County received the grant from the Economic Development Administration, an agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The county will renovate one school building, with the former cafeteria to serve as a community center and the four classrooms hosting the training center, said Evan Crystal of the AmeriCorps Vista program within Rio Arriba County’s economic development department.

The United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 412, based in Albuquerque, will relocate its plumbing, pipefitting, welding and HVAC training center from Los Alamos to the former charter school, said Ray Trujillo, Local 412’s training director.

The Los Alamos training center primarily provides apprentices to Los Alamos National Laboratory and some independent contractors working in Los Alamos, Rio Arriba and Santa Fe counties. Local 412 has four similar training centers for plumbing, pipefitting, welding and HVAC in Albuquerque, Farmington, Las Cruces and El Paso, Trujillo said.

The Los Alamos training center opened in 2015 with about 20 trainees. That number has doubled to 42. The center now has to split groups into two and have training four nights a week instead of two, Trujillo said.

“We pay $2,200 a month [for] rent [in Los Alamos],” he said. “Just to double in size would cost $15,000 a month. We started looking in Española. We got wind of space becoming available.”

Rio Arriba County took over ownership of the school property after Cariño de los Niños Charter School closed in 2018. Local 412 approached the county to bring the training center to the school, Crystal said.

Rio Arriba County matched $250,000 to secure the $1 million bond.

An opening date will not be determined until after a general contractor is onboard, Crystal said.

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