Options for site of new muni building down to two

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Report to be presented to council Tuesday evening

By Carol A. Clark

Two sites along Central Avenue have emerged as frontrunners from among more than two dozen that were considered by the Municipal Site Selection Committee.

Fifteen residents served four months on a committee tasked with locating, evaluating and recommending the best overall site in the entire county on which to construct a new Municipal Building.

With their work now complete, the Municipal Site Selection Committee will present their final two choices to County Council Tuesday evening.

During their tenure from June through September, committee members met 10 times and toured 25 sites; some commercial and others privately owned.

They analyzed and weighed each site against 13 criteria.

“It was surprising to many of us that the original Municipal Building site didn’t score well against the criteria,” County Planner Paul Belson said during a recent interview.

Belson served as the county’s liaison to the committee.

Committee Chair Stan Primak joined Belson in the interview, explaining why he thought the original site adjacent to Ashley Pond didn’t make the cut.

“I think the focus was on how to stimulate downtown activity and when ranked against other sites it just didn’t do well. Also, concerns for that site included removal of the green area now enjoyed by the public and also the high density parking that would be created if placed next to the new Judicial Complex,” Primak said.

Following a tedious and time consuming exercise in weighing each site against each criteria, the committee voted Site 6 as its first choice followed closely by Site 13.

An incorrect public concept surrounding Site 6, located where Los Alamos Apartments stand on Central Avenue, involves the entrance.

“The architects drew possible arrangements and happened to draw the entrance from Iris Street rather than from Knecht and Central. We know our town and we know the entrance should not be from Iris. People need to understand that we are only recommending the site – the final design will be completed at a later date,” Primak said.

Site 13, located across the street from Site 6, came in slightly behind because of the unknown appraisal cost of the property as well as the fact that tenants reside on that property who would be required to relocate their businesses elsewhere.

The architects also chose Site 6, Belson said, because it is rectangular rather than L-shaped as is Site 13.

“The rectangular shape is easier to develop,” he said.

Committee members felt Site 6 was more cost effective than site 13 because the county seized an opportunity to purchase Site 6 at half price because it had gone into HUD foreclosure.

The final decision is out of the committee’s hands. County council has that task to complete and will utilize the committee’s recommendations in their decision making process.

The committee is well aware of the pressure on county council to be wise in determining where the new Municipal Building will be, Belson said, and did everything possible to make that process easier for them.

See the 13 criteria and read the committee’s final report on the county’s Web site at http://www.losalsmosnm.us/projects/cdd/Pages/