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Building topic of special meeting

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Last chance to weigh in on site location

By Carol A. Clark

Anyone with anything left to say about where Los Alamos County should build its new Municipal Building has one more opportunity Thursday.

Earlier this month the County Council decided they would dedicate an entire special meeting at 7 p.m. in Council Chambers to that topic.

A council-appointed citizens’ committee narrowed down 25 possible sites throughout Los Alamos and White Rock to two, which they recommended to council last fall.

One site is the former Los Alamos Apartments, which is owned by the county. Four of the five apartment buildings are currently being demolished and the site is scheduled to be cleared by April.

LA Apartments filed for bankruptcy in 2008. The County Council purchased the property from HUD in October 2008, prior to any public auction, for approximately $1.2 million. The apartments are located east of the Bradbury Science Museum along Central Avenue.

At its 10th public meeting on Sept. 30, the committee took its third straw poll and passed a final site recommendation.   

LA Apartments ranked slightly higher than the committee’s second choice located across the street. That property, owned by local businessman Elmo C de Baca, encompasses a series of existing commercial properties including 1247 Central Avenue and 1360 and 1372 Trinity Drive.

Council may approve one of the two recommended sites or they may approve a totally different site.

Chair Stan Primak of the Municipal Building Citizens’ Site Selection Committee discussed this morning how he anticipates Thursday’s meeting will go.

“I think we’re going to get full support from the council with the possible exception of Councilor Robert Gibson who I believe wants the building back at the old site,” Primak said.

He anticipates that in these difficult economic times, the council won’t select the second site because they would have to purchase it whereas the county already owns the apartment property.

It was stated last fall the county would have to pay something in the $2-$4 million range for the

C de Baca property.

“In these economic times, the council probably would not pick that property. However, the theory is that it wouldn’t really cost anything because they could sell the LA Apartments and stipulate what would be built there, giving the county more control over downtown development,” Primak said. “But in reality, are there really any buyers out there based on these economic times, not much population growth in Los Alamos and the fact that nothing could get going on the Trinity Place development.”

The committee ranked the following properties as its top five choices:

1. The Los Alamos Apartments site;

2.  The privately-owned commercial site at 1247 Central and 1360 and 1372 Trinity Dr.;

3. A portion of the Trinity Place Site;

4.  A combination of the privately-owned Shrine Club and Hill Diner properties on Trinity Drive; and

5. The privately-owned commercial site at 1650 Trinity, on the corner of Trinity Drive, Deacon and 15th streets.

On Aug. 4, the committee presented an interim progress report to council at a public meeting. In its report, committee members gave several reasons for not giving further consideration to the Ashley Pond site, which is the location of the previous Municipal Building:

• Once the old Municipal Building came down the resulting new open space and views were impressive;

•With construction of the enlarged Justice Center, adding a second large structure would make the site appear overcrowded;

•The site is too far removed from the center of town to achieve Comprehensive Plan goals of creating a lively and active downtown, encouraging new commercial investment and removing existing downtown eyesores.

PAC 8 will broadcastThursday’s meeting live and via Internet streaming.