Richardson: Los Alamos to get $3 million in stimulus money

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By Katy Korkos

Gov. Richardson rolled into town Wednesday morning on another stop of his statewide listening tour concerning the economic stimulus package.

The governor and his staff assembled a group of community leaders and legislators at Fuller Lodge.

“I’m going to every county, talking mainly to elected officials and answering some questions about the stimulus,” Richardson said. “I want to be sure that each community is aware of all the potential competitive grants.”

Richardson said many decisions have already been made on the allocation of stimulus funds.

In the area of transportation, $1.96 million is due to go to the county’s Diamond Drive Phase III project.

In education, $807,000 will go to the Los Alamos Public Schools for special education. Regarding clean water, Richardson said that the state revolving fund would “most likely” receive additional funding, and in the area of community services, $5 million would go to block grants to serve northern New Mexico including Los Alamos.

He said that $74 billion would come to the states from the federal government.

“We intend to compete for every dollar,” he said.

The three areas New Mexico will focus on are in broadband, smart grid and health information technology.

“Because of the rural nature of the state, we intend to be proactive in those areas,” the governor stated.

The listening tour was attended by Los Alamos County councilors Michael Wheeler, Nona Bowman and Ralph Phelps, county administrators Max Baker, Tony Mortillaro and Diana Stepan, Los Alamos Commerce and Development executive director Kevin Holsapple and Chamber of Commerce member services coordinator Katy Korkos, radio station owner David Sutton of KRSN AM 1490, Fire Chief Douglas R. MacDonald and three legislators: Rep. Jeannette Wallace, R-Los Alamos, Sandoval and Santa Fe, Rep. Nick Salazar, D-Mora, Rio Arriba, San Miguel, Santa Fe and Taos, and Sen. Richard C. Martinez, D-Los Alamos, Rio Arriba and Santa Fe.

Wheeler told Richardson he felt the county itself was doing very well, but that he was aware that a serious shortfall exists with Los Alamos Public Schools and the governor said he would look into that funding shortfall.

Salazar expressed his concern that all of the stimulus money appeared to be loan money rather than grant money, and many of the entities in his district did not have a planning budget.

Richardson asked county administrators “what ever happened to the West Jemez Bypass?”

He was told that he had promised $6 million, or one-half the original budget to pay for the bypass road, but that only $2 million had actually been appropriated and that the short funding had contributed to the county’s decision to put construction on hold.

“I’d be prepared to make a commitment for the remaining four (million),” Richardson said, adding that the Legislature might have to reauthorize the funds in a special session. “I think you really need it.”

Holsapple asked the governor what the stimulus means to small business. “What should they be looking at?”

The governor mentioned that the best way for a small business to find resources was to fit within the main criteria. “They should bring shovel-ready projects that create jobs, and fit within the categories of broadband development, renewable energy and economic development planning.”

Baker said Los Alamos County had submitted three potential projects for funding: a regional broadband initiative and two water projects, and Mortillaro added that a separate request had been submitted for transit projects.

“The regional broadband project stems from our Regional Economic Development Initiative (REDI),” Baker said. “We’ve got the local buy-in, we’ve got that completed here in the north.”

The two water projects named were one to take water up to the Ski Hill for fire protection and potential economic development with snow-making, and the second, to restore the Los Alamos reservoir.