Alternate site considered

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By Carol A. Clark

Two options exist for Los Alamos County’s new Municipal Building. The first keeps the building at its previous location, nestled between Ashley Pond and the police station. The second moves it several blocks to the east, at 15th and Trinity Drive where Hill Diner, Magistrate Court, and the Elks and Shriners clubs currently reside.

County Council heard intricate details of both options during a special session beginning Thursday night and ending early this morning in Council Chambers.

During the nearly seven-hour-long meeting, architects and developers, potential tenants and interested citizens weighed in, the vast majority favoring the 15th and Trinity site.

A site selection review committee also recommended that location citing several reasons:

The new Municipal Building complex will replace the worn-out facilities along that stretch of Trinity Drive, presenting a better image for the entrance to town;

it will combine with commercial property – it will serve not only to provide county office space but also to generate revenue for the county and schools;

economic development will be enhanced through proposed new retail shops, a restaurant and the creation of new jobs;

most property owners and tenants intend to relocate to the Entrada Business Park;

the site allows for construction of an underground parking garage; and

a developer, rather than the county, will invest the bulk of the cost and will be responsible for project design and construction.

The county would simply have office space should the Municipal Building be rebuilt at its current location, explained Assistant County Administrator Tony Mortillaro. Also, with this option, there would be no opportunity to place any type of new community-oriented facility at the pond.

Mortillaro briefed council on the history, current status and various studies conducted on the Municipal Building over the years.

“We went out in May 2007 with a request for interest until December with no results,” he said. “So we went back to council ... We put out a request for proposals in February 2008 and received only one response.”

The response included both a phase I and phase II proposal and was from DePonte Investments Inc., of Albuquerque, and LAMB LLC, which includes local business owners Denise Lane and Rick Reiss.

“We also engaged the firm of DG Architects to develop conceptual designs and initial project costs (for the Ashley Pond location) in order to provide council with an idea and point of comparison of the two projects,” Mortillaro said. “We tried to be as comprehensive as possible and as fair as possible in reviewing the projects and we did have a majority recommendation by the committee for the 15th and Trinity site.”

Total costs estimates, including land acquisition and underground parking structure for the 15th and Trinity site, is about $24.8 million, with the county’s portion totaling about $3 million.

The Ashley Pond site would run the county about $20 million, Mortillaro said.

The entire 15th and Trinity site complex is projected to cost about $41 million and could include an outdoor plaza, space for the Los Alamos Cooperative Market, an upscale restaurant, wine and spirit store, space for additional retail shops, offices, and amphitheater with stadium seating, and a canyon rim walkway.

Community input on the site location for the new Municipal Building will be considered again during a separate public meeting Thursday in Council Chambers, which also will be broadcast and web streamed on Pac 8.

“It will be a miniature version of tonight,” said County Public Information Officer Julie Habiger.

The county also will have information available Aug. 9 at its booth during the county fair festivities.

The county also plans presentations during a chamber breakfast meeting and another opportunity for public comment will take place at the Aug. 19 council meeting in White Rock and again at the Aug. 26 council meeting in Council Chambers, where councilors may make a final decision on the location, Habiger said.

Posters and documents also are on display at the 311 Customer Care Center in the County Annex, at both libraries and on the county’s website, she said.

For those unable to attend those meetings, council welcomes public comment in writing.

Further information is available on the county’s website at www.losalamosnm.us.