School board: Lease too high risk

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By Kelly LeVan

The school board still has plenty of questions as it reviews the proposed Airport Facilities Lease Agreement.First and foremost, it wants to make sure it won’t end up paying 40 years of rent should the Boyer Company back out.Los Alamos County and Los Alamos Public School Board of Education representatives jointly announced last month when they reached an agreement for LAPS to lease its facilities from the county at the county-owned Airport Basin Site, 18 acres located north of DeColores and N.M. 502.Adoption of the Airport Basin Site would allow the schools and county to move off the Trinity Site parcel at Trinity Drive and D.P. Road, thus freeing the land for the Trinity Site Revitalization Project.However, the Airport Basin lease agreement is far from finalized.As school board member Allison Beckman said at Thursday’s board meeting, according to the current wording, “if the developer goes away, the district has to pay full rent for 40 years at the Airport Basin ee If Boyer backs out, I don’t see where we have any income coming in – and I don’t see any way we can back out. Everything is contingent on the developer sublease.”Currently, the county and the school district have a draft master plan, and the county and Boyer have a separate sublease. Members of the school board and the community expressed confusion and dissatisfaction with this arrangement.“The agreement looks muddied,” said a member of the public, explaining that the sublease and developer were mentioned too many times in an agreement supposedly between the district and the county.An additional major hitch, Beckman said, is that the lease fails to provide a cap should any contamination be found on the land.“The schools have the entire risk,” she said. “There’s nothing in here to cap it.”While conceding that the lease could stand more clarity on the issue, board member Joan Ahlers reminded the board that other protections are in place.“By law,” she said, “we are only responsible for any contamination we cause.”Patricia Max, another member of the public, voiced a variety of concerns Thursday evening. She read aloud from a full page of questions and a distributed a packet of comments for the board.Among numerous concerns, she asked, “What responsibility does LAPS have to a community that is currently experiencing a large number of homes for sale and the proposed job cuts at LANL? Has LAPS access to any statistics that show how a small, landlocked community with one main employer has been economically resurrected by more shopping and homes while the employer’s job base is shrinking?”Board member Ken Johnson responded, “That’s an imponderable.”Because the board has yet to receive the Boyer agreement, it will not vote on the lease at its Dec. 11 meeting as previously discussed.

Other business

The school board also discussed its superintendent search, deciding to ask 35 committee members for assistance in choosing the district’s new superintendent. The list includes leaders from many areas of the community.The board also heard from several district principals on their first-quarter testing results in math and reading proficiency. Generally, the schools are seeing improvement in both areas.School board: Lease too high risk