2008 was a year of change for LA County

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By Jennifer Garcia

2008 was an interesting year for Los Alamos County.


A new skate park was built, despite the controversy it was embroiled in for many years. The Judicial/Police/Jail Complex began to take shape and new county councilors were elected.


The skate park was the hot topic for Los Alamos residents during the summer. The county decided to build the park, despite questions about its location.


County Councilors reported that several other possible sites had been considered, however, none proved to be as suitable as the site in front of Mesa Public Library.


This decision upset some county residents and in an effort to stop construction and get councilors to reconsider the location, a petition was circulated and presented to council.


Los Alamos residents Jack and Colleen Hanlon spearheaded the petition and attended numerous County Council meetings at which they voiced their opinions and concerns on the project.


In the end, Councilors voted to proceed with the project.


This decision did not please those who had signed the petition in a final effort to get the county to stop construction on the project, the Hanlons filed an injunction against the county.


This action, however, was short-lived and they dropped the injunction shortly after it was filed. Despite the petition and injunction, construction of the park had begun. The skate park ribbon cutting was held in October, much to the delight of local skate enthusiasts.


2008 was also the year that the old municipal building next to Ashley Pond came down.


After being deemed unsafe, the building was demolished, making way for what many Los Alamos residents hoped would be used for green space.


However, not everyone was on the same page about how the space should be used. Some residents wanted to see a new municipal building built in that very spot.


County officials had other thoughts, however. During the summer, it was decided that a new Judicial/Police/Jail Complex would be built.


This new building would be the first of its kind in New Mexico, in that it would house municipal, magistrate and district courts all under one roof.  


While some residents showed enthusiasm for the new complex, others argued that the complex was too big and would cost the county too much money.


Council Chairman Jim Hall and Vice Chairman Robert Gibson shared the same thoughts, however, public input was lacking and the project was approved by Councilors.


Even though construction on the JPJ Complex began sometime in November things are progressing quickly, local business owner Min Park decided to circulate a petition in an effort to get construction stopped.


The petition was presented to councilors on Dec. 9, during the regular meeting. At that time, Council thanked the petitioners but decided to proceed with the JPJ plans.


Guaranteed Maximum Price #2 was presented to Council during the Dec. 16 meeting, for which Park and other residents were present. Park and other petition signers asked Councilors once again to reconsider the project and asked that construction be stopped.   


Councilors pointed out that the petition had been presented after GMP #1 had been approved and construction started. They also questioned why it had been presented so late in the process. Park and others claimed that they had been busy with personal business and were unable to present it any sooner.


Despite residents’ last ditch efforts, GMP #2 was approved and construction continues on the JPJ Complex.


County council also saw a changing on the guard this year.


Chairman Jim Hall and Councilors Ken Milder and Frances Berting all left their council seats, as their terms came to an end. Hall and Berting chose not to seek reelection, while Milder lost his incumbent seat.


Newcomers Sharon Stover and Vincent Chiravalle, as well as veteran councilor Mike Wismer, will replace the three exiting councilors.


A swearing-in ceremony was held on Dec. 27 at the Community Building for the councilors elect. The first meeting of the new council will take place on Jan. 6, 2009.


Even though the election is over, another council seat is up for grabs. Councilor Jim West submitted his resignation at the beginning of December because of health reasons.


During a regularly scheduled meeting, the current council decided to leave the process of filling the vacancy up to the new council. It’s unclear how the new council will proceed, however, a decision on the process is expected soon.


2009 will be a year of change for the residents of Los Alamos County. The new council will undoubtedly have their hands full with various projects still in the planning stages.


The Trinity Site project is still in the works and planning for a new municipal building will most likely also begin.