Judicial/jail complex gets green light

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By Carol A. Clark

This time next year, if all goes as planned, the community will dedicate a new, security-compliant, energy-efficient (LEED Silver certified) Judicial/Police/Jail (JPJ) complex at the corner of Trinity and Oppenheimer drives.

The Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously approved the site plan portion of the long-awaited project during its meeting at the Community Building Wednesday evening. Chair David Izraelevitz was absent.

While Assistant County Attorney Charles Rennick said he was satisfied that the site plan presented by County staff Wednesday meets code, he also advised commissioners that the plan may need further review depending on where the new Municipal Building is ultimately constructed.

Public Works Department Director Kyle Zimmerman presented the site plan with assistance from Community Development Director Rick Bohn, Project Manager Victor Martinez and Project Architect John Rupley. Police Chief Wayne Torpy also answered questions from commissioners.

This morning, Torpy expressed delight that commissioners approved the site plan.

“I’m happy to get this step of the new JPJ complex completed,” he said. “We’re up against a tight time line to accommodate the needs of the District, Municipal and Magistrate courts.”

Last year, the Municipal and District courts vacated the dilapidated Municipal Building, which is now being demolished. Not only was the space the courts occupied in the more-than-40-year-old Municipal Building inadequate for security reasons, but state law requires the county to provide adequate courtroom space to its residents.

Another pressing issue is the fact that the lease runs out in June on the space occupied by the Magistrate Court behind Hill Diner on Trinity Drive. The court must vacate that property and apart from obvious efficiency benefits, the county could benefit from annual lease revenues if the Magistrate Court is included in the project.

Also, the operations costs for the police department to transport and monitor prisoners for trials increases if the Municipal, District and Magistrate courts are separated.

Another issue is that the existing police facility was constructed in 1977 and does not meet modern security and energy efficiency standards.

The JPJ complex has been in the works for five years in an effort to address those deficiencies with all three facilities.

The project team’s goal is to complete the grading, drainage and site preparation portion of the design, Zimmerman said, and award a contract to the Construction Manager at Risk (CMAR) company so the contractor can begin work in August, in order to take advantage of the construction season.

“The county is in the process of selecting a CMAR and interviews start today,” Zimmerman said this morning.

The project will be paid for from a special 1/8-percent county correctional facility GRT tax increment in effect since July 1, 2006. Some $4 million has been collected to date from that increment.

Bonds will be issued for the remainder of the cost of the project estimated in the $20 million range, Zimmerman said.

The JPJ complex is designed to do the following:

• Provide a consolidated judicial complex to serve the citizens of Los Alamos County;

• meet Los Alamos County judiciary requirements;

• provide a modern police/jail facility to meet future needs with minimal staffing increases; and

• design the project to accommodate possible future parking and infrastructure needs on the municipal site.

The project schedule is set to follow this time line:

• Award a CMAR contract by Aug. 5;

•  start construction in August;

•  enclose the building by November; and

• complete construction by next summer.

For information, contact Project Manager Victor Martinez at 662-8150.