Schools sign off on Trinity Site partnership

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By Carol A. Clark

The Trinity Site Revitalization Project crossed a major hurdle during Thursday’s school board meeting at Mountain Elementary School.

In a unanimous vote to affirm a partnership with Los Alamos County, Los Alamos School Board members marked an end to years of negotiations.

County Administrator Max Baker, County Council Chairman Mike Wheeler and Council Vice Chairman Mike Wismer turned out for the big event.

“You should be proud of your board chair – she did a yeoman’s job,” said Wismer in referring to President Joan Ahlers.

Ahlers has been the lead negotiator on behalf of the schools since her election to the board in 2006. She and Superintendent Mary McLeod have gone back to the drawing board several times after meeting with the county in their mission to protect the interests of the school district.

Ahlers, McLeod, Wheeler, Baker and Assistant County Administrator Tony Mortilaro crafted the document signed Thursday detailing the principles affirming a partnership between the schools and the county.

“This is a statement to the public that we are working together… of how our relationship is defined…,” Ahlers said.

The board and county were adamant in wanting once and for all to make one thing crystal clear.

“We are not building at the Airport Basin for your (LAPS) administration or for the county’s administration,” Baker stated firmly. The board emphatically confirmed Baker’s statement.

Ahlers read the one-page document prior to the board’s 4-0 vote; Board Vice President Ken Johnson was absent.

“The Board of Education, Los Alamos Public School District and the Los Alamos County Council recognize that forging a strong partnership is beneficial to the entire community of Los Alamos,” she said.

By entering into a Joint Powers Agreement in 2004, 2005 and 2006, the schools and county have indicated (their) ongoing interest in a joint revitalization on Trinity Site, Ahlers said, in order to achieve the following complimentary goals:

Replace the aging facilities on the Trinity Site that are becoming an increasing liability each year, which will require a major expenditure of funds…;

Engage in the Trinity redevelopment project while at the same time protecting the traditional LAPS funding sources for upgrading and replacing schools;

Increase the assessed valuation of the Trinity Site land by encouraging new development thereby generating additional property tax revenue for replacement of facilities and capital expenditures;

Generate new and ongoing lease revenue for LAPS, and property taxes and gross receipts tax for the county; and

Make the Trinity Site available for development to enhance the downtown and the vitality of the entire community.

“The board and the county desire to continue (their) participation in the Revitalization Project on Trinity Site,” Ahlers continued, reading from the document. “As the county takes the lead responsibility of the negotiations with the developer (The Boyer Company), the county recognizes the financial situation of LAPS. The county will consider assisting LAPS through its consideration of conducting and paying for all Trinity Site preparation costs.”

In the partnership agreement, the board and the county commit to structuring a business arrangement that is fair and equitable and that will provide a positive revenue stream for the duration of the agreement for both parties.

County council is expected to add its signature to the partnership agreement at its April 7 meeting.

Telephone calls placed for comment to project developer David Nielson at The Boyer Company Friday and Saturday were not returned.

For detailed information about the Trinity Site Revitalization Project, access the county’s website at www.losalamosnm.us.

Contact Carol A. Clark at lanews@lamonitor.com or (505) 662-4185 ext. 25. Read her blog at www.newsextras.wordpress.com.