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Council watch 2008

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By The Staff

The county council has some big decisions to make in the coming year, with long-lasting consequences for the future of Los Alamos County. Council will be allocating tens of millions of dollars on capital improvement projects for the county this year, from the Judicial Complex to Airport Basin, and along the way it will be refining the whole process used to allocate funds.Debate in council has centered on how best to improve the capital improvement project process, so that councilors will not be blindsided by escalating costs. At the Dec. 18, meeting, Councilor Nona Bowman suggested a motion asking that councilors know what their budget is before being asked to decide on how to spend capital. At the six-month strategic planning session, a new process for developing costs on projects showed that council would not see the cost of a project until the scope and design were known.In the coming year, council will be asked to look at projects from both perspectives, and with many variable elements in the equation.Beginning with the Judicial Police/Jail Complex, projected to cost at least $12 million, council will have some large and expensive capital improvements in the coming year. The design for the complex, which will include two courtrooms as well as an expanded jail and police headquarters, is between the 30-percent and 60-percent phase.A decision on the fate of the Municipal Building is needed, after the report on the condition of the building and the costs of repairing or replacing it are known. The report on the building’s condition is due to be presented to council this month.Council will consider three options recommended by a taskforce last year: to repair the existing building, to replace it in the same location or to allow developers to build spaces for the offices and customer service functions in the downtown area.Two responses were received in a request for proposals from developers to build 30,000 to 40,000 of office, administrative and customer service space, and those responses are being evaluated. The schedule for the request for proposals from developers shows council action taking place in April or May.Airport Basin will be the home of all of the county’s warehouses, shops and maintenance facilities, and may cost as much as much as $65 million to build. The project is between 30-percent and 60-percent design, and has already undergone work flow in the a value engineering session, which helps to maximize the space usage, life-cycle costs and work flow in the design. It will be paid for by the issuance of bonds, approved by the voters in January 2007 with the passage of Ordinance 529.The West Jemez Bypass Project could cost $14 million to build a road connecting West Jemez Road with a road built by the from the research park to Camp May Road and an intersection at Trinity Drive. A 90-percent design was presented to council on Dec. 18, along with estimates for upgrading West Road, and council directed staff  “to obtain more design and cost information for West Road and also to optimize the placement of a bypass road.”The project update on the county’s website states the original funding plan for the West Jemez Bypass was to use $6 million in county funds and $6 million from state appropriations, as promised by Gov. Bill Richardson. That $6 million from the state was reduced to $2 million in appropriations, leading council to reconsider the whole project.The council has promised to build the skate park in the downtown areas, and has approved a location on Central Avenue in front of Mesa Public Library. The amount of $500,000 has been set aside in the budget to build a skate park. The Parks Division is currently reviewing three designs, and will present the design options to council in the coming weeks. The location of the park has been controversial, and has brought extensive public comment in recent council meetings.