Awkward point for county archives

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Trinity Site delay complicates decision

By Mandy Marksteiner

County records are stored in a building with a leaky roof and poor lighting, but the decision to move them, along with 47 employees who work in the Annex Building, was sidetracked by uncertainty of the future of the Trinity Site Project.

 “The roof is at the end of its useful life,” said Ann Laurent, the capital projects and facilities director.

“But investing in a building that is going to be demolished doesn’t make sense because you can’t get that money back. We’ve gone many years not wanting to invest in that building, knowing it was slated for demolition.”

The county council’s 6-1 decision Monday night to discontinue exclusive negotiations with The Boyer Company for the development of the Trinity Site project made it hard for councilors to approve leasing space for 3-5 years for personnel in the Community Development Department, the utilities department and the records department.

Councilors agreed that the county needs to clear the Trinity Site in order to attract a developer. But the immediate lack of a developer made them hesitate to spend the money. The debate over the issue went from 8:30 p.m. to midnight.

Councilor Vincent Chiravalle, who opposed the decision on Boyers, moved that both the employees and the records stay in the Annex Building.

“We’re not going to have a big box store on Trinity Site soon,” Chiravalle said. “It’s a reality we have to deal with.  I don’t think we should spend another public dime on the Trinity Site …. Now is our chance to be fiscally conservative.”

Councilor Robert Gibson said, “It will cost several million dollars to move out of the Annex when there is no reason to be in a hurry.  

There is a small risk that we’ll get a deal for the Trinity Site and we’ll have to move in six months … I would be willing to save millions for that.”

Anthony Mortillaro, the Assistant County Administrator, argued that the county could save much more by acting now.

With a $13 million demolition budget set aside, the county then received a bid to demolish the buildings at the Trinity Site and the Los Alamos Apartments for only $2.3 million.  He said, “When the bids came in, it was like a gift. I can’t see why we wouldn’t take advantage of it.”

The bid for $2.3 million expires in 45 days.

Dennis Erickson, a member of the Ad Hoc Advisory Committee for the Triniy Site and the President of the Los Alamos Historical Society, said, “I’m disappointed with the deliberations this evening.… If you defer demolition of the Annex Building, when a developer comes, the Annex Building should have a certain amount of months to vacate and demolish.”

The council voted 4-3 to direct staff to proceed with negotiations to purchase and renovate the Hytec Building to store and process the county records. Councilor Ralph Phelps said, “We need a place to put the records.  This is such a good deal we can’t turn it down.  This building is $1 million.  It’s just a great deal.”

Council Chair Michael Wheeler said, “The fundamental issue is when will the Trinity Site be available for development? Right now the earliest date is September of 2010.  Every month we delay pushes back that date. If we don’t move off that site we will fail our voters.”

The council voted 4-3 in their meeting Tuesday night to direct county staff to proceed with exploring the possibility of leasing space in four separate buildings within Central Park Square. Councilor Sharon Stover added a friendly amendment to the final motion asking staff to explore cost and timing feasibility of moving the employees to rental space in White Rock before a final decision is made to relocate to the downtown Central Park Square in Los Alamos.