Board votes to ratify leases

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LAPS: Honnell critical of administration’s actions

By Jennifer Garcia

The Los Alamos Public Education Board met in a special session Wednesday afternoon to discuss disposal of assets, approve an easement and finalize two lease agreements.

The meeting moved swiftly, with board members Melanie McKinley, Kevin Honnell, Dawn Venhaus and David Foster unanimously approving the disposal of assets. Judith Bjarke McKenzie was not present.

The items slated for disposal included old computers that need to be recycled because they have outlived their usefulness and some older fleet vehicles that are going to be put up for auction.

They also approved an easement at the high school, requested by Los Alamos County and approved a lease agreement with PM Tech, to rent suite T at 2075 Trinity Drive.

Chief Financial Officer John Wolfe said the company previously leased two suites, S and T and paid $654 a month for both. However, since the school district purchased the property at 2075 Trinity Drive for its administrative headquarters, Wolfe said a market appraisal determined a higher rent is warranted for those suites, so PM Tech now pays $954 for only suite T.

“We had a long conversation …. It had to come up to market appraisal,” Wolfe said of the deal with PM Tech. “They said they could do with one suite because of cutbacks in staff.”

Another lease that raised the ire of at least one board member involves two acres of a 7.5 acre property the district owns on DP Road. Paul Parker Construction agreed to lease a two acre portion of the district’s land at 274 DP Road on a month-to-month basis at $2,286 per month.

Parker previously expressed his interest in purchasing the property, but the board never reached a decision. At the time, McKinley made clear that she was not interested in selling property, but would consider a land swap. Discussion stalled on the sale of the land, but Parker was able to lease it, with the hope of purchasing the parcel at some point.

Wolfe said Parker moved onto the property in September after getting pressure from the community to move his equipment from a site occupied on Barranca Mesa.

“They’re already paying rent,” Wolfe pointed out.

Honnell wanted to know how Parker was able to move onto the property without board approval. Wolfe said the board discussed a lease with Parker during a March 24 meeting. Although no paperwork had been drawn up at that time, the board gave Wolfe direction to proceed with the lease. He also said LAPS Superintendent Gene Schmidt and McKinley were aware of the move.

“I want to go on record to say I object to anyone occupying land before it goes to the board,” Honnell said. “Regardless of how we feel about this, we’re going to rubberstamp a lease because we don’t have an option.”

Foster wanted to know if there were any utilities installed at the site, to which Wolfe said that water and electricity were being utilized. He also said some soil was moved in and some small trees were cut, but so far, no building has been put on the property.

“They want to put a building on there,” Wolfe said. “But they’d have to go to zoning for that.”
McKinley also pointed out that Parker had some issues in getting a bank loan for a building because he’s leasing the property.

“That’s why they want to buy,” she said.

Honnell voiced his opinion about the lease. “I’m very disappointed with administration’s conduct in this matter,” he said before the vote.

Venhaus, Foster and McKinley voted in favor of approving the lease, while Honnell cast a dissenting vote.