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Los Alamos County Council unanimously approved an amendment to Kroger’s/Smith’s ground lease agreement on the Trinity Site Tuesday night.
The amendment allows Smith’s two additional 30-day extensions of the feasibility period and adds provisions for Kroger’s to perform additional site work and utilities construction.
Deputy County Administrator Steven Lynne explained the reasons for the amendments during the council’s meeting.
“What’s been occurring since we assigned that lease is that Kroger’s/Smith’s have been doing their due diligence. They’ve actually been very busy, very active. They’ve submitted their site plan. It’s been through Planning and Zoning and been approved. They have done all of their construction drawings; and they’ve submitted a full building permit application. That’s currently in the review process. They have done full design and put this out to bid.
“So unlike previous developers, they have actually been working this and they are expecting this to move ahead.
“One thing that has slowed them down a little — although I’m very confident that we’re moving toward a good resolution here — has been working with the state on access off of N.M. 502/Trinity Drive.”
According to the New Mexico Department of Transportation control manual, the proposed intersections are too close together. Smith’s has requested a variance, which must be approved for the design to move forward.
Lynne noted that Public Works Director Philo Shelton has been working closely with Smith’s and the state to resolve any differences. One thing working in the favor of the variance is a plan to increase the safety of the corridor by combining the two Mari-Mac Shopping Center’s Trinity Drive entrances into a centralized one aligned with a signalized intersection into the Trinity Site development.
The original lease had two 30-day extensions built into the feasibility period. The second extension expires Thursday.
“We would expect Kroger’s to exercise at least that first 30-day extension; having said that, they’re very eager to get started,” Lynne said.
The revised agreement also requires Smith’s to perform some of the onsite improvements originally assigned to the county: demolishing existing asphalt, filling the existing retention pond and constructing a new retention pond and constructing the Canyon rim trail and traffic safety improvements.
The county will pay $622,000 for the work as tasks are completed. Smith’s is contributing $50,000 to the trail improvements.
Lynne said the work on the retention ponds was especially significant.
“We really felt it was appropriate and important for them to do that work, considering they’re going to put a building on top of it. We didn’t think it would be good for us to be working under their site,” Lynne said.
Smith’s also will agree to construct gas, water electric and sewer improvements and provide the engineering design services for those improvements. The county will reimburse the company up $1,031,276 for the improvements.
The county had planned to make the utilities improvements in FY2014 as part of the N.M. 502 corridor project.
“The developer would much prefer that we don’t go in and dig giant trenches and start a project right after they open up their store,” Lynne said.”The other reason for moving this work ahead and having them do it is to avoid the contractor conflicts, where basically we have two different contractors working side-by-side.”
Smith’s will be performing the site work and the utilities work on the county’s behalf and must meet county standards.
Council unanimously approved the amended contract.
“I believe that Kroger has been making very diligent efforts to move forward, and that a lot of the holdup has been out of their control, in particular with the state,” Councilor Kristin Henderson said. “I think the county and the state have been working to resolve things and we’re getting there. I think this is an important thing to do and I support it wholeheartedly.”
“I think we’re so close to getting there, especially with Kroger being excited to get there and wanting to start. I think this is basically our last chance and I think it’s a good one,” Councilor Frances Berting said. “I think moving forward at this point is an excellent step forward and certainly exciting, so we can actually see things happen.”
Council also unanimously approved a $2,360,901 contract with RMCI Inc. for construction of the Ashley Pond renovations and improvements project.
Councilors had some trepidation about approving the contract.
Parks and Recreation had originally recommended awarding the contract to Santa Clara Construction. RMCI protested the award because Santa Clara does not have a GS-6 license, which is required by the state for work involving spaces such as parks or golf courses.
Staff researched the claim and confirmed that although Santa Clara’s subcontractors had the necessary license; Santa Clara did not, and changed the recommendation to RMCI.
Councilors wanted to be sure that the 15-day period to appeal the decision had passed, so they would not find themselves in a situation similar to last week’s protest by GEW Mechanical over the Smart Meter contract. Staff was able to confirm that the 15-day period had expired.
“I’ve been working on this a long time and I’m really looking forward to moving and getting it done,” Parks Division Manager Richard McIntyre said.
The Notice of Award to begin construction services will be sent to RMCI on May 23 and work will begin by June 3. In order to complete the work before winter, the agreement calls for construction to be completed by Nov. 4 and includes milestone dates, incentive payments for early completion and liquidated damages for late completion.
Council also unanimously approved an ordinance authorizing the county to re-fund $41 million of the existing Gross Receipts Tax Improvement Bonds at a lower interest rate.
The move is expected to save the county $1,151,198.