CIP projects get tentative green light

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By Jennifer Garcia

County budgets hearings are nearing a close as several capital outlay projects were approved as the council took action tentatively approving design, study and budgets for them at its meeting Thursday night.

Capital Improvement Projects were the topic of Tuesday night’s meeting, a continuation of the meeting held in Council Chambers on Monday.

Councilors voted on various courses of action regarding the CIP applications that the CIP committee reviewed at their public meetings at the beginning of the year.

The final outcome of the hearing resulted in the following projects being tentatively approved for conceptual design/study:

• The North Mesa Ball Field lights electric design

• Golf course clubhouse

• Historical archives and county record archives

• Aquatic Center leisure pool

• Art Center building safety improvements

• White Rock gateway structure

• White Rock visitors center and RV Park

• White Rock Arroyo Trail

• White Rock State Road 4 improvements study

If all goes according to plan, White Rock will benefit from the CIP process, however, Community Development Director Rick Bohn wanted to make clear that any phase one budget amounts are for phase one studies only.

“This doesn’t mean funding for an entire project has been approved,” he said.

He went on to say the Evaluation and Oversight Committee will continue to meet and will continue to keep the public informed and involved. As part of the effort in remaining transparent during this process, Bohn said that a web page will soon be developed and devoted to CIP projects.

Chief Financial Officer Steven Lynne explained to council that a project is not officially approved until it gets to phase two. A list of CIP projects was given to members of the public present at the meeting, as well as councilors.

The list showed the status of each project and revealed whether it was a phase one or phase two project.

As part of the Trinity Site demolition that would clear the way for the anticipated retail project to be built, Los Alamos Public Schools was set to contribute $3,222,920 for the demolition project.

However, Councilor Nona Bowman made a motion to amend the FY 2010 budget by removing the $3.2 million as a revenue source in the CIP Fund listed as LA Public Schools contribution and designating a like amount from the CIP Fund balance in its place to partially fund the Trinity Site Demolition project.

Councilor Vincent Chiravalle seconded the motion.

“They won’t receive any income from the Boyer site until something is built. We shouldn’t deplete their reserve,” Bowman said, explaining her action.

Chiravalle concurred with Bowman and said, “The schools have felt the pressure from funding reductions. The county is in a position to help the schools and we should do that.”

Council Vice Chair Mike Wismer said that he waffled on this topic, however, after some consideration, he agreed with it.

“The schools would have paid this. The problem is, if they expended their reserve funds, they’d have little left in their contingency funds for unexpected repairs,” he said.

Councilor Robert Gibson was unconvinced of the action the three councilors were suggesting.

“This might be a good idea, but it’s fire, aim, ready.” He went on to explain that the school formula has not changed and there might be other things that could be done.

Council Chair Michael Wheeler, however, agreed with the trio, saying that the council is committed to helping the schools.

“We’ve looked at their budget and now it’s time to fire,” he said. After a vote, that motion passed 6-1, with Gibson voting against it.

In an effort to further trim costs, Chiravalle moved, seconded by Gibson, that council direct staff to delete the $5 million increase projected in FY 2011 for the municipal   building project, keeping the total project budget at $15,802,875.

“The cost goes up with add-ons,” Gibson said, “If we increase the budget, the project will grow to meet that budget.”

After a vote on the motion, if passed 5-2, with Councilor Sharon Stover and Wheeler opposed.

Another project discussed during the meeting was the demolition of the Los Alamos Apartments. During his presentation, Lynne suggested that the majority of the money for the demolition come from the economic development fund.

Gibson, however, disagreed, saying that demolishing the apartments would not be good for economic development.

He then moved to replace the proposed $3 million Economic Development Fund transfer component of funding for the apartment demolition project, with an additional $3 million transfer from the General Fund in FY 2010.

The motion passed 6-1, with Councilor Ralph Phelps opposed.

Before the vote, Phelps pointed out that council seemed to think that demolition for the Trinity Site project is a good idea and wondered how this situation differed from the Trinity demolition.

In addition to the projects approved for conceptual/design study, the following potential projects were tentatively approved:

• Parking improvements

• White Rock economic development

• Road replacement

• Major network replacement

• Other potential projects

• Schools/County project partnerships

• Other projects – land sale proceeds not programmed

• Major facilities maintenance projects

The motion to approve these projects passed with a 6-1 vote, with Chiravalle voting against it.

The meeting recessed following public comment and will resume Thursday at 7 p.m. in Council Chambers.