County earns coveted award

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By Carol A. Clark

Los Alamos County is this year’s small community winner of the Siemens Sustainable Community Awards, which recognizes towns taking active steps towards sustainable development.

County Council Chair Michael Wheeler is in Chicago were he received the prestigious award at the National Conference on Corporate Community Investment Monday evening.

In just a handful of years, Los Alamos County has taken bold steps toward becoming a more sustainable community.

The county’s comprehensive planning process has involved residents, non-governmental organizations, businesses, staff and elected officials.

The result of this approach has been significant achievement of community-stated goals, increased environmental and economic sustainability and improved quality of life.

“Becoming a sustainable community is a long-term strategic effort on the part of the community and it takes leadership from county staff and an active and engaged participation by the community,” County Council Vice Chair Michael Wismer said.

“We are on a path toward increased sustainability and this award recognizes the close collaboration amongst our major stakeholders including the county, Los Alamos National Laboratory and the community at large towards that goal. We are all very proud of Los Alamos County for achieving this prestigious goal.”

Environmental Services Manager Regina Wheeler agreed.

“Los Alamos County residents, leadership and staff can be proud of their team work and accomplishments toward creating a sustainable community,” she said.

“It is great to have this award recognize and help generate momentum for our Sustainability Initiative.”

In working to create a sustainable community, Los Alamos County government has forged a productive relationship with LANL as the region’s largest employer.

The relationship between the county and LANL had been inactive for some time but a new cooperative relationship is being fostered and is helping to achieve mutual goals, according to the county.

Some of the steps taken to ensure environmental sustainability include:

• Los Alamos County is pursuing hydrocarbon independence through the availability of renewable energies, green building to Gold and Silver LEED standards, free communitywide bus transportation, LED-powered traffic signals, free energy audits for high-use customers, and a solar and hydro power partnership with LANL;

• resource conservation takes place through a wide variety of recycling programs including contracting for crushing concrete and asphalt for reuse, as well as the use of environmentally preferable purchasing;

• a 40-year water plan evaluates future demand against available water resources and makes recommendations for conservation; and

• the County is raising the level of management of open space and trails and proactively managing the health of the forest.

Siemens Sustainable Community Awards were also presented to Denver in the large community category and to Anaheim, Calif., as its mid-size community recipient.

For information on Los Alamos’ Sustainability and Quality of Life Improvements, access http://www.uschamber.com/bclc/communities_losalamos.htm.

Contact Carol A. Clark at lanews@lamonitor.com or (505) 662-4185 ext. 25. Read her blog at www.newsextras.wordpress.com.