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Bingaman gets piece of LA, LANL history

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Zia Company ran residential areas of Los Alamos, lab after the war

By Kirsten Laskey

Politicians often receive a lot of souvenirs when they visit a town – a plaque or a group photo – but U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman was a given a gift that stands out from all the other memorabilia during his visit to Los Alamos Wednesday afternoon.

Los Alamos County Councilor Mike Wismer presented the New Mexico senator with a lock that is an artifact of the Zia Company, which ran Los Alamos living areas and the laboratory after World War II.

“I thought it was terrific,” Bingaman said. “It is a great relic of the history of Los Alamos and the role the Zia Company has played in Los Alamos, so I was very honored to receive it.”

Wismer said he presented this key to Bingaman because “It’s a symbol. The Zia Company operated and maintained the technical areas and all the living areas in Los Alamos from 1946-1986 and they did everything – all utilities. It ran the fire department, schools system, youth center, medical center, provided mail and janitorial service, did street maintenance and repair, operated the bus system, taxi service and did all vehicle equipment maintenance and repair – so essentially the Zia Company ran everything in this town when Los Alamos was incorporated.

“It’s a symbol of where we were in the past and hope that we move in the future toward a sustainable community,” Wismer said.

But that was just one gift the county officials presented to Bingaman during his visit.

The senator also received a “key to the county.”

Wismer, in a written statement, explained that the key was a thank you for Bingaman’s leadership in Los Alamos and his assistance in many of the county’s endeavors.

These include Bingaman’s support of the Recovery Act funding of nearly $4.5 million, which with the utility department is paying another $4.5 million and is helping to install a 3,000-kilowatt low-flow turbine generator for renewable hydroelectric energy at the county’s hydroelectric plant in Abiquiu.

Bingaman, along with Sen. Tom Udall, also wrote legislation to transfer management of the Valles Caldera National Preserve to the National Park Service.

Wismer said also Bingaman secured $588,000 in federal funding for the Atomic City Transit operations.

Bingaman took a short tour of the Atomic City Transit headquarters and provided a brief update regarding the laboratory funding.

 “Funding levels are good,” he said. “They show a significant increase in funding over the next fiscal year.”

He said the appropriations committee added money to the laboratory’s funding, which the administration had already increased from previous years.

More funding, Bingaman said, should help ensure employment levels are high at the laboratory, which adds to the local economy of Los Alamos and New Mexico.