Judicial/Police/Jail complex gets past another hurdle

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By Jennifer Garcia

The Los Alamos County Judicial/Police/Jail project cleared another hurdle at the county council meeting last night when Public Works Director Kyle Zimmerman presented the Design and Development Review at 60 percent to council and asked for authorization to move forward to final design. The motion was passed 6-1, with Councilor Robert Gibson voting against it.

The purpose of the report and presentation was to bring council up to date on the design changes that have been implemented since the 30 percent design review and to seek council direction regarding any desired revisions before the project is awarded for Construction Manager at Risk services.

During the meeting, a slideshow was presented to provide council with layouts of public and staff parking; show the overall site plan; show plans for the police, jail and judicial areas; and show a plan for the future second floor to Building A-Jail.

Multiple elevations and the materials being considered for use were also included, as well as an outline of changes that have evolved since the Schematic Design 30 percent presentation to council and the schedule.

Following the slideshow presentation by a representative from WHPacific, Councilor Nona Bowman and Councilor Ken Milder expressed concern regarding unassigned space on the second floor that was shown in the floor plans.

Bowman asked if they expected more people to use the jail, and wondered if that is why the unassigned space was figured into the plans. Police Chief Wayne Torpy was present and he addressed Bowman’s concerns by saying that every police building he’s worked in was said to be designed for growth, but when you try to expand, you can’t.

He also said that you have to look at the community.

“By bringing more people and businesses into the community, you have to expect that jail growth will have an impact on the police department,” Torpy said. He added that the jail would now have a 16-bed capacity for male inmates, which will alleviate overcrowding problems.

Torpy said that currently, when a female or a juvenile is brought into the jail, they must close down a whole cellblock, which contains four beds, in order to segregate them from the male inmates.

Another concern that was raised regarding the site dealt with the southeast view and the south elevation view.

Milder said, “I like the lines and variations in the building, but there are two views that I’m concerned about – even though the architectural elements are there, they are muted. I request that Art in Public Places integrate art and landscaping into the building.

“It was requested by Planning and Zoning. I move to further direct APP to work with the architect,” he said.

Bowman agreed to have the APP involved in the project.

“APP would be very interested,” she said. “I think they could do more with the wall. I hope that wont be too much of a burden. We want the nicest building we can get. We don’t intend to tear this one down in my lifetime.”

Councilor Jim West responded to Bowman’s comment by saying, “if you’re ready to pay for it, we can make it out of Carpathian stone. I’d like that. We can have any building we want if we’re willing to pay for it. Get ready for budget revisions.”

Gibson had some issues with the design.

“Planning to add a second floor is good planning,” he said. “We hope we don’t need it, but I disagree with replacing a 30-year-old functional jail. I have issues with the west end of the project. Other than that, it looks like a really functional building from the outside. It looks like a factory, so I’m not impressed with the overall external facade. I don’t understand the emerald green roof. It’s out of character with the rest of the building. I’m curious about what other folks think of it.”

Councilor Michael Wheeler also voiced his concerns over the design element.

“I kept looking at the building and wondering what our grandchildren will think in 50 years. It’s about as homely a building as one can imagine. It’s functional and not intended to be a work of art. It fits our community. I’ll go with the 60 percent design,” he said.

Los Alamos resident Patricia Max was on hand and got a chance to address council with her concerns regarding the complex.

“The building is two-and-a-half times as long as what we have now. How much green are we losing to parking?” she asked. “Is the landscaping going to be rearranged, or are we losing grass to asphalt?”

Some of the changes that have been made since 2007 include relocating the existing generator, adding pumps for domestic water, adding pumps for fire protection, adding a pump for the mechanical room, relocating a four-inch gas service line, and making site improvements to the Trinity side to meet new downtown requirements.

In addition, the foundations have changed to drilled pier, after additional soil investigations were done, asbestos was removed from the existing building, screened recycle dumpsters were added and a wall was set up at the west parking lot in order to screen the view of police vehicles.

Now that Final Design direction has been received, staff will provide council changes to the two CMAR contractors who have submitted proposals for the construction of the Judicial/Police/Jail complex.

The firms will then be asked to review council’s changes and provide a best and final offer, which will be evaluated with the Request for Proposals evaluation criteria.

A staff recommendation for the award of the SMAR agreement for the construction of the complex will be brought before council at the Sept. 9 meeting.