Local leaders react to CMRR decision

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Economy: County officials prepared in advance for possible delays

By Arin McKenna

“Funding for national security and science at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), including the CMRR Project” is one of the top four priorities for the county council’s 2012 Federal Agenda.

Council will have to work even harder to achieve that goal, now that President Obama’s 2013 budget proposal recommends putting CMRR funding on hold for five years.

“We’re very disappointed. I’m really trying to understand what went wrong with this. The administration was in support of this at one time,” Council Chair Sharon Stover said.

Neither county officials nor the business community were surprised by the decision.

“There was a lot of anticipation this would happen, so I haven’t talked to anyone who was really banking on this schedule holding,” said Kevin Holsapple, executive director of Los Alamos Commerce & Development Corporation. “I don’t like to hear it, but I haven’t talked to anyone its causing distress for. If they already had contracts underway, it would have been a whole different story.”

That is not to say that a delay will not have an impact. The project was estimated to bring 1,000 jobs to Northern New Mexico, largely for construction of the facility.

Any delay also will impact gross receipts tax (GRT) revenue for the county, although the extent is not known yet.

“We’re meeting with the lab’s financial people on Thursday to get a briefing on the proposed budget. After that, we’ll update our GRT projections,” Acting Assistant County Administrator and Chief Financial Officer Steven Lynne said.

“This will decrease our long-term GRT projections, so it will have a negative impact,” Lynne said. “However, to the extent we had included it in our previous projections; we had segregated it for some specific GRT and revenue mitigation strategies. We’ll obviously be looking at those this next budget development cycle.”

Delaying the project also raises questions about the investment already made.

“I believe half a billion dollars has already been laid out on planning. A lot of time and money has already been spent on this project,” Stover said. “I wonder what they’re going to do with that big hole on Pajarito Road. I don’t know what the plans are going to be for that building site now.

“I also wonder how NNSA (National Nuclear Security Administration) plans to address the safety issue, which was one of the reasons for this project to begin with. They were also trying to modernize LANL,” Stover added.

Holsapple is optimistic that this may have a silver lining. “It also means priorities change with other projects, so we have no way to gauge which projects will work up in the budget.”

This morning, Holsapple was asking for any businesses affected by the CMRR decision to call his office at 505 662-0001.

Council, meanwhile, is planning more direct action.

“We will be in touch with our Congressional delegation and we hope they can rectify this,” Stover said.