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Though county councilors and others are mourning the drowning of the proposed leisure pool, maybe it’s time for someone to point out that this tragedy might have been averted had current and previous county council members not tossed the leisure pool project a concrete brick instead of a life preserver.
Forcing the project to be financed through a property tax increase — particularly when the sting of recent school bond increases was still very fresh in the minds of voters — was like hanging a millstone around the neck of a distressed swimmer. It would have been very easy for the county to simply fund the leisure pool outright from the seemingly endless cash reserves the county seems able to tap into whenever it wants.
In the past five years or so, our county has spent upwards of $60 million to carve out a new shops and warehouse complex from a cliff side east of the airport, and gleefully spend some $20 million clearing the former shops site for the singular purpose of providing Smith’s Food and Drug (or Kroger Corp.) with a grocery monopoly in our community.
Moreover, the county spent tens of millions of dollars on a bloated fire station in White Rock and a grotesquely enormous Justice Center, which has now become the unofficial centerpiece of our community.
Add to those foibles the several million dollars the county spent purchasing and then destroying the only vestiges of affordable housing this community has ever had, the county’s plans to erect a $30-plus million county administration building on the site (prime commercial property), the county’s latest grandiose plans for an over-budget visitor center in White Rock (a full-size industrial kitchen? For whom?), and assorted other millions bandied about hither and yon, and it suddenly becomes clear that the County has been playing around with well over $100 million for “pet projects,” not even counting the myriad consultant studies and road projects we’ve suffered through.
Sadly, however, the leisure pool apparently didn’t make county most-favored status and was forced to fend for itself through a property tax hike.
Let’s not kid ourselves, Los Alamos County is extremely fortunate and awash with cash, thanks to the revenue it receives each year from the LANL operating contract.
It’s probably pretty accurate to say that the results of the leisure pool vote have less to do with community desire than they have to do with a protest against county leadership that seems to be able to tap into financial resources for the projects it wants, but is quick to cry poor when it comes to funding other things.
James E. Rickman