Taking a critical look vital

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By Ralph Damiani

If any of you came away from Tuesday’s county council meeting confused, you are not alone.

In a series of back-and-forth 4-to-3 and 3-to-4 votes, the council accepted design requirements for the new jail and court complex that is to be built but wanted more information on the police side of the building.We think.The council discussed at great length on the functions and requirements for a new Judicial-Police/Jail Complex. But – for some reason not fully understood – were prohibited from discussing the cost or the location.That, we were told, would come later. Why, we’re not sure.Anyway, the council asked for more information on the police part of the building and to be honest, that seems like a reasonable request.The design of the new Judicial-Police/Jail Complex has the police department offices growing from the current 7,500 square feet to nearly 17,000. And Councilor Jim Hall quite correctly asked why.There was much gasping when the $21 million building plan was unveiled – especially since the cost was double the original estimate.We understand the need to have a facility that can grow into the future, but triple the size? That needs to be explained.There was talk that given the design, you could not make the police department smaller and save money. Then redesign it.Nona Bowman was right on when she said that any business has a budget and they must live within that budget. The county must be no different.There should be a bottom line and that is it. If the facility can’t be built for that, then you should start over and change what you have to to get it done for what you can afford.Tuesday’s presentation by project manager David Apple and Police Chief Wayne Torpy was the first step in a three-part review by council. There is no doubt that something is needed; the jail is inadequate and we really have no courtroom. But with all going on here, the West Jemez Bypass hanging over our heads and the uncertainty with the lab and its resulting gross receipts income, and the Trinity project in the works, the county shouldn’t be spending a lot of money it could save.So taking a very hard look here is the very responsible thing to do.We need a consolidated and modern judicial complex in Los Alamos. But there are times you need things and just can’t afford them so you scale back.We applaud the council for taking a critical look at this – and every – project.