White Rock Civic Complex gains support

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By Kirsten Laskey

Despite some discussion regarding location, size and combining organizations in one space, the majority who attended the public hearing about the proposed White Rock Civic Complex on Oct. 13 agreed on one thing – the project should be approved.
Most of the seats at the White Rock Town hall were filled for the meeting, which the Los Alamos Capital Improvement Projects Evaluation and Oversight Committee hosted.
The whole purpose of the meeting, said Gary Leikness, Community Development Department planner, was to gather input from citizens regarding the proposed capital improvement project  (CIP).
This CIP project and others that are being proposed, which include: improvements to Ashley Pond, a study of the Community Building, anaerobic digestion of horse manure, a cover for Los Alamos Ice Rink, signage and arts for the cultural district, the bathroom and locker rooms at the rink, the ice rink lift station, the rink parking lot, improvements to the Los Alamos Golf Course, a tennis complex, Ponderosa Estates Pocket Park, a multi-purpose teen facility, Pajarito Environmental Education Center facility, improvements to Oppenheimer/Central Street and a water harvesting for the roof of the Larry R. Walkup Aquatic Center, will be scored and ranked by the committee on Nov. 18.
If approved, the proposals would then enter phase one of the CIP process, which involves a study.
The study for the White Rock Civic Complex, according to the CIP application, would review with county staff the finance, design and construction of a library, senior center, youth program and town hall meeting space.
It would also interview different staff associated with these entities to evaluate statistics on facility usage to understand facilities’ operations and evaluate preliminary space, and create and administer a market/needs analysis survey.   
The study would also consider several sites for a separate or combined senior center, library, youth center and town hall. The sites under scrutiny include the existing complex center, the corner of Piñon Park N.M. 4 or Sherwood
Village. The CIP application reports that the White Rock Master Plan recommended the Piñon Park location.
Based on site evaluation, a development scenario would be created along with a conceptual site plan, schematic floor plan and preliminary cost estimates for development on each site.
The White Rock Civic Complex was one of the projects included in the White Rock Master Plan.
Several representatives of different agencies, which are included in the CIP project, urged the committee to consider approving this project.
Charlie Kalogeros-Chattan, director of the Los Alamos County Library System, said a bigger library is needed in White Rock.
It is heavily used, she said. During fiscal year 2010 nearly 77,000 visits were made to the library and 83,000 items were in circulation.
During the past 10 years, circulation has increased 35 percent and visits have risen 56 percent.
“More and more people are trying to use the space,” Kalogeros-Chattan said.
Plus, compared to Mesa Public Library, the branch library is tiny, she said. White Rock Branch Library is 4,000 square feet compared to Mesa Public Library, which is 48,000 square feet.
Los Alamos Retired Senior Organization Executive Director Pauline Schneider also advocated for a new senior center.
The center hopes to do some expansion, she said, noting that the senior population is growing.
Schneider said it would be great to have dedicated spaces for certain activities. Currently, she said, the pool table shares the same space with the reading area, which can make things difficult for both pool players and readers.
Another issue is having wheelchair and walker accessibility in the bathrooms. In regards to location, Schneider said it would be great if the senior center could be located next to the library because there is a lot of crossover between the two agencies.
Terry Goldman, a member of CIP Evaluation and Oversight Committee, showed his support for the project.
 In the 35 years he has lived here, Goldman said, he’s often felt Los Alamos County Council has underserved White Rock. As a result, he supports the CIP project for “all kinds of reasons. (There is) a tremendous need to vitalize the area and a centrally located town hall, library and senior center makes a good deal of sense to me.”
Plus, Goldman added, “White Rock deserves better than what it’s been getting.”
During the public comment period, resident Robert Nunz said he hopes people’s viewpoints will be heard and the committee will not operate on what is convenient or politically expedient.
Kent Budge, chair of the White Rock Master Plan Implementation Committee, addressed the site recommended for the complex, which deviates from the master plan. He said the master plan called for the senior center to be north of N.M.4 but that location had been removed after receiving negative input from the public.
Budge said it’s also questionable whether an entire complex can fit in the recommended corner of Piñon Park and N.M. 4, which is why a number of locations were suggested.
Linda Alderman, chair of the library board and a member of the White Rock Master Plan Implementation Committee, said the project is important because if the county pursues economic development, investors like to see communities that invest in themselves.
Mary Nunz, a volunteer and member of the White Rock Senior Center, gave a plug for her community. “It’s such a wonderful community … people like to stay here, they have friends here, they do things here … part of what they want is a senior center (that will) accommodate them.”  
She said the center needs more space; there is a need to expand the exercise room and it would be helpful to be able to prepare meals at the White Rock Senior Center.
Resident Robert Repass voiced his support for a new library.
He said math and science scores in the U.S. are lousy, which is something libraries can help change. “In my point of view,” Repass said, “a library is a strong pillar of education.”
Libraries, he said, work with schools and parents and it is vital to get children involved in libraries.