Council approves fence for Muni Building

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By The Staff

All seven county councilors turned out on an icy evening for a work session on Tuesday, where budget guidance, the scope of construction on Diamond Drive and RV storage were the topics placed on the agenda weeks ago. A last-minute addition to council’s agenda was the recommendation to place a barrier fence around the Municipal Building.In response to a letter the county received from the Design Group about the condition of the Municipal Building, council adopted the recommendation that a fence be installed around the 40-year-old building. The letter from architect Gregory Hartman, of the firm hired to assess the condition of the building, states,  “John A. Martin and Associates (engineering firm) believes the Los Alamos County’s decision to vacate the structure was excellent. Due to the potential for collapse, we are also recommending that some form of barrier be placed around the building until such time as the hazard is removed by repair or demolition.” “We hired this company to get a third opinion about the condition of the Municipal building,” Milder said. “Once this is brought to our attention, we have some very severe liability.”“A barrier around the Municipal Building would protect innocent bystanders,” Public Works Director Kyle Zimmerman said.A final report from the Design Group will be presented to council in late January 2008, when it will become part of the decision council must make regarding refurbishing, rebuilding or relocating the municipal services.Council authorized the installation in a 6-to-1 vote, with Councilor Robert Gibson opposed.Gibson questioned the engineer’s data, asking Zimmerman whether the preliminary report cited in the letter was based on independent evaluations. “Is the report based on new insight, or is it based on (the engineering firm) protecting themselves?” Gibson said.Zimmerman said that the report was based on computer modeling of the building and on the as-built plans.

 RV storage 

Community Services Director Stephani Johnson brought several questions to council to answer staff regarding RV storage in the county. Johnson said that she and Parks Division Manager Dick McIntyre had looked at several additional sites for RV storage, and would bring recommendations back to council at a future date.An ad hoc committee was formed in August 2006 to solve the problem of large vehicles parked on small streets. The committee recommended upgrading security on the North Mesa storage lot and creating an ordinance to ticket RVs parked on neighborhood streets if neighbors object. Both recommendations were accepted by council May 15.“The ordinance has only been in effect for about 30 days,” Police Chief Wayne Torpy said, adding that two problem vehicles that may have been the impetus for council’s action have been moved. Torpy also said that the police department is looking at a video alarm system for the current lot. “No petitions have been made to Kyle (Zimmerman) and no complaints have been made to me,” he said. Diamond Drive Phase II

Zimmerman and project manager Rey Gonzales presented the next phase of Diamond Drive construction to council for consideration. “Originally, we looked at the project in three phases,” Zimmerman said, but the project to reconstruct the entire length of the busy road is now broken into four phases, with 2008 construction reaching from Urban Street. to 35th Street.In Phase II, the design calls for a signalized intersection with a left turn lane at the intersection of Diamond with Arkansas/38th Street. Wheeler suggested reviewing the option of a roundabout, but later withdrew his motion.“The vertical curve,” as Zimmerman called the steep hill at the intersection, will be regraded.Zimmerman reported that Phase I was completed under the projected $6,527,037 budget, at $6,063,000. The remaining funds of $464,000 will be applied to the next phases of the project.

Budget planning

Chief Financial Officer Steven Lynne and County Administrator Max Baker are in the preliminary stages of budget planning for the 2009 budget, and came to council Tuesday for guidance in this early stage of planning.“It’s typical around this time that we meet with council to discuss preliminary budget guidance,” Lynne said. Lynne listed negative impacts on the 2009 budget, as well as positive indicators. In the agenda documents, Baker recommended “a conservative position by setting a target of 2.5 to 3 percent growth (over 2008) in overall ongoing operating expenditure budgets.”“The gross receipts taxes are lower than the original estimates, and the capital needs are greater. There are new costs associated with transit and with the Consolidated Dispatch Center. The new fire contract will impact operating costs,” Lynne said.He went on to say that the county’s financial picture was strong.“We have $6.8 million in our general fund balance for revenue stabilization.” Lynne said. “Our reaction (to the economic situation caused by job losses at Los Alamos National Laboratory) doesn’t have to be dire.”Gibson said that he was glad to see council discussions of long-range financial planning scheduled for January, but disagreed with being asked to approve budget guidance before the long-range picture was clear.“I would like to look at the big picture first,” Gibson said.Councilor Jim Hall moved “that council approve the preliminary budget guidance with the exception of costs of the fire contract, as well as a salary cost target commensurate with the broader target.” The motion was approved in a 6-to-1 vote, with Gibson opposed.Boards and commissions 

Two new members were appointed to the Planning and Zoning Commission to fill positions left vacant by the resignations of Allison Majure and Carl Reisch, four members were appointed to the Parks and Recreation Board, and Brad Duni was reappointed to the Lodger’s Tax Advisory Board. In a period reserved for public comment, Patricia Max said that if the council wants to encourage public participation, it should not have its meetings on the same night as the Board of Education.“It’s contradictory to claim that it’s important for citizens to be  involved and then make it difficult for them to be involved,” she said.Max also said that several documents she would like to see relating to the lease agreements between the county and schools, which are not available.The council’s last regular meeting for 2007 will be held on Tuesday, Dec. 18 in Council Chambers in the Community Building at 475 20th St.