County comes up with new plan to fund purchase

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By Jennifer Garcia

The purchase of the Los Alamos Apartments by the county is on track, but it hit a snag that will delay the foreclosure sale slated to take place this week.

In addition, the county has decided to use $1.2 million from the self-sufficiency fund, which is usually used for economic development, to make the purchase of this prime Central Avenue property.

Councilors voted 6-1 to transfer the self-sufficiency funds to the general fund in order to make the purchase. Council Vice Chair Robert Gibson opposed the motion.

County Administrator Max Baker told county councilors that he was made aware of the foreclosure sale’s delay yesterday.

“We received previous approval to initiate this transaction,” Baker said. “Today we were advised that the foreclosure sale needs to be delayed because certain publication requirements for the sale were not met.”

Baker said that Housing and Urban Development was supposed to advertise the sale three different times, a week apart, before the sale took place.

“One was missed for whatever reason,” Baker said. He then asked Chief Financial Officer Steven Lynne to explain to council his thoughts on how the county should fund the land purchase.

Lynne told councilors that he came up with the idea of using the self-sufficiency fund as he was doing his end-of-year audit work.

“It prompted new thinking on my part,” he said. “The designated use (of the fund) is economic development and investments. Suggested expenditures are there though they are coming out of the general fund. There are sufficient balances to handle this out of that fund. Id like to present it to you for consideration,” he finished. Council Chair Jim Hall asked Lynne if there was a downside to using the fund. “There's one aspect to that,” Lynne said. “When we sell the land, the funds will not go back into the self-sufficiency fund.”

Gibson disagreed with Lynne's suggestion. He said that he was not concerned with the purchase, but rather, with the source of the funds.

“The purpose of self-sufficiency funds are for economic development, yet this seems to be the purchase of land without a clear idea of what it’s going to be used for.”

He pointed out that the land might be used for economic development, or any other number of things.

“Even if it is sold, the money goes someplace else or into another fund,” he continued.

Gibson also said that the county has major economic development needs and was concerned about the amount of money in the self-sufficiency fund.

“The original purpose of this money was the buyout funds that were supposed to help replace the income we’re no longer getting from DOE. This doesn't meet this intent and I’m not sure it meets the current financial policy statement,” Gibson said.

Though he didn’t comment on what Gibson had to say, Councilor Jim West shared his sentiments about the self-sufficiency fund, in general.

“I think most councilors know that for the last six years I’ve been saying that I’ll be glad when the self-sufficiency fund is gone," he said.

“I’d like to see that category and ideal of the self-sufficiency fund go away and things stand on their own merits. We either have the money or we don’t. We either should do it or we should not,” he explained.

Hall seemed to find the idea of using the self-sufficiency fund to purchase the Los Alamos Apartments satisfactory.

“In my sense, buying this land is economic development because were tearing down stuff,” he said. “Preferably there will be a tax-paying business that goes in there. In that sense using the money from the self-sufficiency fund is to free up the land for higher and better business use.”