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Council schedules a special meeting for CIP projects

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Administrator ranks projects differently than CIP committee

By Kirsten Laskey

To determine how to handle the 16 newest capital improvement project (CIP) applications, Los Alamos County Council agreed Tuesday night to hold a special meeting at 7 p.m. Dec. 15 in council chambers to further discuss the proposed projects.
County Administrator Tony Mortillaro recommended to the council during their regular meeting to approve a budget amendment of $690,000 for fiscal year 2011 to fund phase one studies for:
• Los Alamos Ice Rink bathroom, lift, station, parking, cover and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) improvements – $240,000;
• Ashley Pond improvements focused on health and safety, which includes sidewalks, ADA improvements, storm water and water quality issues – $100,000;
• White Rock Civic Center – $200,000; and
• Teen Center – $150,000.
Mortillaro recommended that the remaining proposed projects be discussed as part of the budget development in FY 2012. The total funding requests for FY 2012 would be $900,000.
The remaining projects are, in order:
• Golf course improvements – $75,000
• Pajarito Environmental Education Center – $120,000
• Oppenheimer intersection improvements – $150,000
• Anaerobic digestion of horse manure – $30,000
• Ashley Pond improvements that are unrelated to health and safety – $150,000
• Water harvesting at Larry R. Walkup Aquatic Center, $20,000
• Community Building study – $100,000
• Ponderosa Park – $40,000
• LA tennis center – $150,000
• Signage for the art and cultural district –$95,000
Mortillaro moved
around some of the projects from the CIP Oversight and Evaluation Committee’s original rankings.  He also split the Ashley Pond CIP project; raising the health and safety aspects on the rankings and maintaining the other aspects at their original ranking.  
“All these projects have merit,” Mortillaro said.
When considering his recommendation to council, Mortillaro said he reviewed the different projects to see if they took health, safety and legal criteria into consideration. He also analyzed the projects to see if they reflected any of the plans incorporated into the county such as the economic strategic vitality plan. Additionally, Mortillaro said he considered county staff’s needs.
There is no way the county staff could handle 16 projects, he said. More staff would need to be hired to handle the workload.
Mortillaro added just because an application is awarded a study phase, it is not guaranteed to receive phase two design and construction funds.
The CIP Oversight and Evaluation Committee scored and ranked the projects vying for funds on Nov. 18.
Councilor Ralph Phelps wondered why Mortilllaro moved away from the committee’s recommendation.
The criteria Mortillaro said he used was ADA compliance, health, safety and legal standards.
He added that the Department of Energy was willing to assist with some of the ice rink projects because the rink does have a water line easement agreement with DOE, and he followed the committee’s recommendation to combine the rink cover with the other projects at the rink.
Issues regarding the water quality at Ashley Pond have been brought up in the past as well as the conditions of the sidewalks at the pond, Mortillaro said.
Councilor Nona Bowman said the 16 projects are “very worthy.”
Councilor Mike Wheeler said perhaps a few projects should set separated and placed in a category of mandatory funding/maintenance. He identified the improvements to Ashley Pond and improving the Oppenheimer intersection as projects that could be placed into this category.
Councilor Robert Gibson added that the council should keep in mind what is a “want” and what is a “need.”
While needs may not be as “sexy” as wants, needs to trump wants, he said.
To reduce costs, Gibson said perhaps some projects could be combined. For instance, he wondered if it was time to move the ice rink, and if it was feasible to have it share facilities with the golf course.
In looking at the FY 2011 budget, there are $2 million of uncommitted funds so in reality, the county has the money to fund all 16 projects, Phelps said. As a result, he did not feel that money was really the issue.
What Phelps felt should be addressed are proposed CIP projects that perhaps should be included in departments’ budgets rather than in CIP process.
In the 16 applications, Phelps said he thought seven would be more appropriate for a department budget such as the anaerobic digestion of horse manure.
While many members of the community spoke in favor of different CIP projects, others complimented the CIP process.
“This is really working,” Lisa Reader said.
Pauline Schneider, executive director of Los Alamos Retired Senior Organization, and Charlie Kalogeros-Chattan, library manager, spoke in support of the White Rock Civic Complex. They both cited a large demand for their services as a reason why the new facility was needed.
Kalogeros-Chattan added, “We’re very pleased with the ranking they gave us.”
Not everyone spoke in favor of the CIP projects.
Olga Certkov voiced her opposition to the anaerobic digestion of horse manure.
She noted the cost of the digestion is high and unless it used for a farm of 8,000-10,000 animals, there is little profit.
It also takes about four months for the digestion process to be completed. In that time, neighboring residents at the North Mesa stables where the CIP is being proposed would have to deal with the stench and flies that manure would produce, she said.