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Members of the Municipal Building Site Selection and Steering Committee got nothing but accolades for their work during Tuesday night’s county council meeting.
Prior to the public meeting, council met in closed session to discuss personnel matters related to the county administrator's position. No action was taken and the meeting is in recess until Aug. 11, at which time council will meet in closed session to continue the discussion.
Councilors praised the committee for working diligently on narrowing the original 23 site choices down to just seven. Committee Chair Stan Primak and Committee Vice Chair Carl Thornton, as well as committee members Mike Luna and Terry Goldman were at the meeting. Primak and Thornton briefed council on their progress so far, while Luna and Goldman made brief comments later on.
“County Council, Paul (Belson) and Rick (Bohn) have given us pretty explicit direction and goals,” Primak said. “You made this process pretty painless. We think we’re on the road to success,” he continued. Thornton agreed with Primak and said, “The team has come together. This is a good committee and team.”
During the briefing to council, Primak mentioned that the Los Alamos Public Schools District submitted the Canyon School site for consideration as a possible municipal building location.
Councilor Robert Gibson told both Primak and Thornton that if the schools want the site considered, he would suggest that they structure a way for the county to own the land. “We think the county should stick to ownership,” Gibson commented.
Councilor Vincent Chiravalle brought up the topic of the old municipal building site, near Ashley Pond. He asked Primak and Thornton why that site did not weigh higher during the criteria weighting process. Thornton and Primak both cited parking issues as one of the major factors as to why the old site was not chosen.
“You’re now building another complex there (the Judicial/Police/Jail Complex), there were parking issues and it might be cluttered. It seems like very nice park land,” Primak answered.
“I agree with Stan. After evaluating the criteria, we realized there wasn’t enough parking available,” Thornton said.
Luna also commented on why he thought the old site didn’t rate higher. “There is no eyesore at the site of the old municipal building, that’s something we looked at,” he said.
Goldman said one of the things that struck him was the history of the original site and at the beginning of the process, he was in favor of putting the municipal building at the original site near Ashley Pond; however he’s since changed his mind. “After it was down, I saw how nice it was,” he commented.
Chiravalle also shared some of his concerns with the committee. He said the Los Alamos Apartments site is probably the most attractive because the county owns it. “My concern is that the county would have to pay money to improve private buildings. I’m also concerned with taking lease revenue away from the schools by using the Trinity Site,” he said.
Councilor Ralph Phelps commended the committee for their work. “I think you’ve done a great job. I’m enthusiastic that you’ll come up with great recommendations,” he commented.
Councilor Sharon Stover also praised the committee and said the reason they asked for a briefing was to make sure that everything was going okay and in her opinion, it is.
“You’re done a great job. You already mentioned that you’ll be looking at economics and that’ll be important criteria,” Council Chair Michael Wheeler said. “All seven sites are viable in my opinion. I could support any one of those.”
Los Alamos County resident Ellen Walton spoke briefly following Primak’s and Thornton’s presentation. She expressed to council that she felt the original site of the municipal building is the best site. “The original site is the best site … I miss the original building. I grew up with it,” she said.
Richard Dunn suggested to council that perhaps a compromise could be made in which a building that looks similar to the old municipal building could be built, but used as a cultural center or something along those lines. “We could put the rest somewhere else,” he said.
Ronnie Walton also shared his thoughts with council. “The JPJ has swallowed prime real estate and restricted plans for a new municipal building,” he said. “I recommend scaling the building to its original size and putting it back where it is.” He also suggested that council give serious consideration to the Canyon School site and asked that the Trinity Place site not be ruled out, either.
Dale Kirstensen had a bit of a different suggestion for where the new municipal building might go. “Take a look at the Shrine Club site. Since it’s on a cliff, you could go (build) down. Everyone would have a window,” he said.