Public hearing reviews three more proposals

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By Kirsten Laskey

Residents filled the seats and it became standing room only in the council chambers for Monday’s Capital Improvement Project (CIP) public hearing. In a show of force, teens were clad in neon colored T-shirts and environmentalists sported butterfly buttons as they pled their cases to the CIP Evaluation and Oversight Committee.
The committee heard presentations for a teen center, a new building for the Pajarito Environmental Education Center (PEEC) and improvements to the Oppenheimer/Central Avenue intersection. All three proposals are applying for phase one funding, which is the study phase.
The Juvenile Justice Advisory Board is sponsoring the teen center proposal. JJAB Chair Alan Kirk told the committee that an issue that is often discussed is why Los Alamos doesn’t have a facility for its youth.
Los Alamos High School senior Brandt Hodgson said the only places open after 9 p.m. are Smith’s and Sonic, “which are not exactly ideal places to study or hang out with friends.”
Teenager Jacob Hill said that the members of the committee have done great things and now it is his generation’s turn and he asked the committee to give him and his peers the opportunity to shine.
Los Alamos and White Rock each have a Youth Activity Center for fourth-grade through middle school students, but there is nothing currently available to meet high school students’ needs, according the CIP application. The proposed teen center would be multi-purpose, providing everything from technology to entertainment, Kirk said. It could also offer a snack bar, pool tables, foosball and areas for socializing and homework.
“Kids should have space that is flexible, available … and programming especially for them to succeed,” he said.
Committee member Terry Goldman asked if the suggested size of 17,000-25,000 square feet would be enough space. Kirk explained that they are asking for planning funds in order to determine the amount of flexible space to accommodate 400-500 kids.
President Chick Keller of the PEEC Board then addressed the committee about his organization’s need for additional space. He explained that PEEC has leased a building on Orange Street from the Los Alamos Public Schools for the last 10 years. In that time, the center has grown fast, he said, and “the community’s response has been absolutely remarkable.”
Keller revealed through a slide show presentation that the office, storage closet and even the restroom are piled high with boxes and papers. He briefed the committee on the background of PEEC saying that initially, PEEC worked out an agreement with the schools to rent the current building for $2 per year plus utilities. The State Board of Finance has stepped in now and the rent is $3,000 a month plus utilities, he said.
Because of high rent, space issues and renovation limitations, PEEC asked the committee to approve funds for a new building on county land or to allow the organization to purchase and renovate the existing building. PEEC also requested a consultant be hired to assist with site location, building size and space usage issues.
Whatever is decided, Keller said PEEC will continue to work with the schools.
High school student Nathan Clements said PEEC expands on what is taught in school.
“There’s a lot of education you can get out of PEEC,” he said.
The Oppenheimer/Central Avenue intersection poses several concerns, which prompted residents Janie O’Rourke and Kate O’Donnell to apply for CIP phase one funding.
O’Rourke said there are several safety concerns regarding the “skewed” intersection including its large size and lack of a crosswalk. Concerns also were expressed regarding the Central Avenue and Rose Street intersection.
The goal of the CIP project proposal is to provide safety at the intersections, accommodate all forms of transportation, crosswalks and pedestrian access to Mesa Public Library, O’Rourke said. To that end, the phase one study would review options, she said.
O’Rourke said a three-year police report showed six accidents in those intersections.
Another resident, Dave Collins, encouraged the CIP committee to support the proposal saying it is part of a bigger picture. A lot of young people use these particular intersections either to get to the library, Starbucks, the aquatic center or the high school, he said, adding that there is a responsibility to ensure people can get from place to place safely.
The committee will score and rank these three project proposals along with others presented at previous public hearings at its Nov. 18 meeting. The results will then be given to the county council, which will determine the projects that receive funding.
The final CIP public hearing of the year will review a water harvesting apparatus for the Aquatic Center rooftop and a 30-percent design phase of the Canada del Buey multi-use path in White Rock. The hearing is set for 5:15 p.m., Nov. 15 in council chambers.

Teen Multipurpose Center

I remember being a youth of the community and thinking there was nothing to do. I remember being so bored that we drove for hours around town and hung out at Conoco and Baskin Robbins. I remember desperately wanting a Teen Center. I even remember passionately sitting on numerous boards about it. And I remember that the Teen Center that was here closed. Has the committee asked the County about the issues that arose with the last one? Has anybody checked what studies were done? What will be different about this one? And seriously--400-500 students would use it? Is that at one time? Have we polled 400-500 students that all agreed to use it daily? That's just about 1/3 of the high school population, right? Who's going to staff this center? Who plans the programming for the center? And where will it go? There was a HUGE protest against the skate park's location...I'm pretty sure there will be protests and hurdles for a much larger facility.

There are communities that really have the need for a safe place for teens to go--Espanola's teen center is a prime example. Have we asked the Y about their discoveries? And have we considered that Los Alamos is not Espanola, and that our teens are not subject to the same circumstances as other communities that currently have teen centers? I'm all for supporting the youth--even if that does mean a teen center--but only when all the options have been checked, all the studies have been done, and we're really prepared to offer what LOS ALAMOS needs.