The city of Rio Rancho worked with the RRAS, a 501c3 nonprofit organization, for several years to construct a roll-off top observatory to house three telescopes provided by the RRAS. Two permanently mounted telescopes were donated to the RRAS by the family of the late Walter Hiltbrunner, a Rio Rancho resident. A 25” Obsession Telescope was a gift from John Sefick, a part-time Rio Rancho resident from Chicago, Ill., who helped initiate the Chaco Culture Historical Park’s observatory and night sky program, and augmented the astronomy program at Rio Rancho High School.
Construction work started in October 2012 and included donated work and materials through three Eagle Scout projects (building foundation – Michael Brown, Troop #338; building framing – Tyler Mertens, Troop #417; and concrete patio and landing - Calvin Simmons, Troop #338). Design and professional services were also donated by URI, Inc. and K-Star Electric.
Direct construction costs for Phase 1 were approximately $29,000. Funding sources included $36,000 from the city of Rio Rancho ($20,000 in City Council District 1 discretionary funds and $16,000 from city general fund and park impact fee sources); Sandoval County Commission allocation of $15,000; and $2,000 raised by the RRAS. Remaining available funds will be applied towards the development and construction of the outdoor planetarium.