Fate of Municipal Bldg. to be settled

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By Katy Korkos

When the Los Alamos County Council meets Tuesday, it will face major decisions with long-lasting impact to the county. The fate of the Municipal Building, a plan to move forward with a Judicial/Police Jail Complex, and a discussion of the county’s long-range financial plan and capital improvement projects will all come before the council this week. The first item on council’s business agenda is the draft capital improvement program as presented by Chief Financial Officer Steven Lynne and County Administrator Max Baker. More budget information had been requested by council in order to clarify just how much of the budget is available for capital improvements such as the Municipal Building and Judicial Police/Jail Complex. On Jan. 15, Councilor Robert Gibson suggested an approach of “estimating a range.” Councilor Nona Bowman, who had requested that the revenue projections be a part of council decisions on capital improvement projects, agreed. “I like this approach,” Bowman said. “I feel that the council can make some better decisions on what projects we can do.” 

Municipal Building options 

The public will get its first glimpse of the engineer’s report that will determine the fate of the Municipal Building Tuesday evening. The report from the Hartman Majewski Design Group, dated Jan. 11, 2008, shows three major structural issues plaguing the building on Ashley Pond: overstress and deflection in the second floor slab and roof slab due to under-design, the allowable punching shear is exceeded on the second floor slab, and the building does not meet code requirements for seismic loads. A punching shear or two-way shear, as explained in the engineer’s report, “is the shear stress that is developed in a slab around a column. It is referred to as punching shear because the column tries to punch through the slab.” The county’s Engineering Project Manager Steven Huebner said Thursday that if council directs a remodel, staff will recommend a carbon fiber system for repairing the vertical load problem, and interior shear walls for repairing the lateral load problem. The estimated cost for repairing the building, with the addition of 10,000 square feet of space and a parking structure, is $28,900,000. The estimated cost to replace the building with a new structure is $32,100,000. Huebner said staff will recommend that the building be replaced rather than remodeled, because of several considerations. “There are more considerations besides cost,” Huebner said. “The existing building is not as flexible or as usable of a building. There’s no elevator to the basement, we’ll have to enlarge the bathrooms and it’s going to be harder to make it energy efficient. Remodeling will mean gutting the interior and pulling out everything. It will be very invasive.”He said a new building will allow for “more flexible uses around the pond, and for more flexible uses inside. With new buildings, the structure would last longer, and we’d be more able to bring in natural light.” 

One less court to build

Up until Monday, Jan. 28, all of the design work for the Judicial/Police Jail Complex has made accommodations for the operation of three separate courts within the complex: the Municipal, District and Magistrate Courts. The three courts were to share two courtrooms in a two-story addition to the current police building. On Jan. 28, Project Manager David Apple received an e-mail from the facilities manager of the Administrative Office of the Courts, Ruth Dygert, requesting that the Magistrate Court be removed from the project, due to the length of time it would take to have a new court in place, given the delays on the project. “Staff has estimated that approximately $3 to $3.5 million could be save from the project by deleting the Magistrate Court program, providing for share First Judicial District and Municipal Court spaces, and changing from a two-story to a single-story courthouse addition.” When council directed Apple on Oct. 2 to suspend design work on the complex, he was directed to return with options to phase the project and to find cost-saving solutions. At subsequent council meetings in December, Apple was asked to provide alternative uses for unassigned space within the existing police department building. A final decision on the entire complex is not expected at Tuesday’s meeting. Council will be asked to direct staff to revise the program to remove the court from the design. The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. in Council Chambers, in the Community Building at 475 20th Street. The meeting will be televised on PAC-8 and also streamed via the Internet.