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County council discusses future of Pajarito Mountain ski area

By Tris DeRoma

Members of the Pajarito Ski Club urged the Los Alamos County Council Friday to do its part to save the Pajarito Ski Area from closing for good.

Pajarito Ski Club President Susan Brockway-Hahn asked the Council to release county funds that would help pay for a water-supply pipeline to Pajarito Mountain. The deal would be that the county pay $1.7 million for the pipeline, and the club’s business partner, Pajarito Recreation, would pay the other half.

Brockway-Hahn told the council the club’s board has already approved a deal where the Pajarito Recreation Limited Partnership will soon assume ownership of the land and the ski area’s equipment and assets. The deal she said would guarantee that residents would be able to enjoy skiing on Pajarito Mountain for many years to come. A contract is currently being written up, she said. Pajarito Recreation joined with the club three years ago, and has been working without a contract.

“We can no longer just support the ski area within our community. Those days, unfortunately, have passed,” Brockway-Hahn said of their partnership with Pajarito Recreation.

She also said that the club will continue to be a vital part of the community, even though Pajarito Recreation will own the land and the assets of the ski area.

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Fallout over rec bond plows on

By Tris DeRoma

A fake Twitter account and a cease-and-desist order are the latest chapters in the dispute between a former Los Alamos County resident and his mother, and some members of Los Alamos County Council.

Patrick Brenner, of Sandoval County, and Lisa Brenner, of Los Alamos, have lodged legal complaints against Los Alamos County over emails regarding the May recreation bond.

Most recently, Patrick Brenner filed an ethics complaint against County Councilor James Chrobocinski, which the county is investigating.

This week, a fake Twitter account briefly surfaced under Chrobocinski’s name, before disappearing. The account featured a picture of Chrobocinski wearing a pink “pussy hat” recently associated with left-wing protesters. The page also made statements, saying he was a “Republican in Name Only,” and statements about his family.

Chrobocinski said he thought Patrick Brenner and his mother, Lisa Brenner, were the ones behind the fake account.

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County sells another piece of A-19

By Tris DeRoma

County Council approved selling another piece of A-19 land in White Rock to a real estate developer in hopes of getting the long-stalled project off the ground.

The decision to sell the land was made during council’s regular meeting July 11.

The development at A-19 has been plagued by delays. Contractors walked off the job in May 2016 after a thick layer of basalt was discovered beneath the site.

The county negotiated a deal in June, agreeing to pay the developer, the A-19-A-1 Acquisition Group, $2 million to break up the basalt and install utilities.

Council agreed July 11 to sell 12.76 acres in the northern section for $460,000 to the A-19-A-1 Acquisition group. The parcel is on the north side of NM State Road 4, between the intersections of Sherwood Boulevard and New Mexico State Road 4.

The county has been working with the A-19-A-1 group to build housing in that area in anticipation of the Los Alamos National Laboratory’s recent announcement to hire thousands of workers to fill an upcoming retirement gap. The homes are expected to cost between $300,000 and $400,000.

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Council OK’s waste fee hike

By Tris DeRoma

Los Alamos County Council voted six to one Tuesday to increase waste disposal and recycling fees by an average of $3.

The vote was 6-1, with Counselor James Chrobocinski voting against the increase.

For residents and businesses, the monthly $22 fee will increase to $25. Dumpster collection service will increase from $121.22 to $125.

The new fee structure was based on recommendations from Environmental Services staff and the Environmental Sustainability Board.

These fee increase will go into effect immediately.

The increase will close a projected  $300,000 deficit in the Environmental Services budget, which Environmental Services officials said is mostly due to escalating costs in disposal.

Another cause is the declining value of oil, which impact the price the county gets for its recyclables.

The fee increase will bring in $326,000 annually.

Los Alamos County Council Vice Chair Susan O’Leary approved of the increases, along with five of her colleagues.

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Council OK's 20th Street contractor

By Tris DeRoma

Los Alamos County Council unanimously approved a contract for a construction firm to begin work on extending 20th Street across Trinity Drive. When finished, the project will link 20th Street to six 20,000-square-foot empty, county-owned lots on the other side of Trinity Drive.  

Gandy Dancer of Albuquerque secured the winning bid of $998,068.50. The approval also will allow for the county to use $1.3 million in capital improvement funding to add utilities and 600-foot extension of 20th Street that will connect all the plots.

At least one resident took issue with the project, which will begin in July and continue through October.

“I cannot believe that you are considering approving $1 million to extend 20th Street, while you took that money out of the recreation bond and the recreation budget,” resident David Sutton said. “If developers want to build there then they should put up some of the money from the sale of the land and they should also pony up the bucks to build the road.

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LTAB receives 6 percent increase in revenue

By Arin McKenna

 

Ryn Herrmann, chair of the Lodgers’ Tax Advisory Board (LTAB), presented the board’s annual report to the Los Alamos County Council last week. 

Herrmann had one qualified bit of good news:  Lodger’s Tax revenues were up 6 percent over this time last year. The board’s goal had been a 2-percent increase. However, revenues had taken a sharp dive after the Hilltop House closed late in 2012. 

According to Herrmann, that closure reduced the available hotel rooms by 30 percent, to 280 within the county. LTAB is asking council to prioritize securing a new hotel/conference space. 

“We’re very dependent on lab for room nights. It makes it difficult to have any other space available at the hotels,” Herrmann said. 

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Council OKs golf course restaurant proposal

By Arin McKenna

 

On Friday, the Los Alamos County Council voted 6-0 to approve a proposal from the Pajarito Golf Group LLC to operate a restaurant in the golf course community building. Councilor Rick Reiss was unable to attend Friday’s meeting. 

PGG is comprised of Patrick Mockler-Wood, Catherine Mockler and Dorota and Pawel Listwan, co-owners of the Pajarito Brew Pub and Grill. Menus completely distinct from those at brewpub are planned for the new venue. 

The county can now proceed with some modest modifications to the venue that PGG has requested and the procurement process for outfitting the restaurant. Staff estimates it will be November before the restaurant is outfitted and ready for occupancy. 

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Dem council candidates state their platform

By Arin McKenna

 Five Democratic candidates for council vied for the attention of their fellow citizens at the League of Women Voters of Los Alamos’ candidate forum on Wednesday. The Democratic ticket has room for four of those candidates in the November election, so one of the contenders will be eliminated in the June 3 primary. 

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Each candidate was allowed opening and closing statements to introduce themselves and their platforms, but answers to questions from voters and the LWV formed the core of the event.

LWV asked each candidate to state their two top priorities. 

For Ed Birnbaum, those were water and better cooperation between the lab, the county and the various pueblos.

“Clearly the climate is such that whether you believe it’s global warming or just random climate fluctuation, drought is becoming more important. People are going to be fighting over water in the next several years and for the indefinite future.”

Birnbaum would like to work toward developing better infrastructure for fire protection and bringing people together “in a consensual way” to work on projects such as that.

Michael Redondo is committed to filling the demographic gap for people 18 to 30 years old.

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WR library deal OKd

By Arin McKenna

 

On Tuesday, Council unanimously approved a $4,342,205 construction services agreement with Bradbury Stamm for the design-build of a new White Rock Library and the remodel of the youth activity center. 

The project will increase library space from 4,000-square-feet to 10,500-square-feet. 

The remodel for the youth activity center includes new roof, exterior and windows, as well as some interior renovation. 

“The primary request of the youth activity center was expanding the outdoor play area and having some better defined outdoor play areas that allows them to have better supervision, and not have balls roll off into the parking lot and things like that,” said Community & Economic Development Director Anne Laurent. “They wanted a better contained and improved exterior play area.”

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County > New clerk impressed by staff’s ability to meet high demand

Stover relishes new role

By Arin McKenna

The two months since Sharon Stover relinquished her role as chair of the Los Alamos County Council and took up the duties of county clerk have been anything but dull. In addition to learning what her new position entails, she has overseen two elections and joined other county clerks in lobbying during the state legislative session.

“I’m really amazed at how much really goes on in the office,” Stover said. “Everyone thinks of the clerk’s office as having an election, and if you’re not doing an election, just what are you doing? Well, there’s a tremendous amount of recordation, recording of various documents. Because of the system, the clerk’s office holds all these documents. It’s just a hub of where information is held.

“People will be looking for a marriage license; they’ll be looking for mortgages. We get public information requests. There’s always some sort of activity going on there.”

The county clerk is also the clerk to the probate judge, with staff serving as probate deputies. They are responsible for signing letters of testamentary or administration.

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County > To solicit public comment on naming Municipal Building

Rodgers, Izraelevitz to lead county council

By Arin McKenna

In the first order of business for Los Alamos County’s newly seated council, Geoff Rodgers and David Izraelevitz were elected unanimously as chair and vice chair, respectively.  

Council then proceeded to adopt rules for notification of meetings by council, boards and commissions, the county hospital and the county indigent board. 

Notice of council meetings and agendas must be posted at least 72 hours in advance. Changes to the agenda may be posted a minimum of 36 hours in advance, provided that a copy of the change is made available to broadcast stations and newspapers that have requested such notice. 

All county boards, commissions and policymaking bodies must give notice at least 10 days in advance of the meeting date and agendas must be available at least 36 hours in advance.

An emergency meeting may be called with 24-hour advance notice, unless threat of personal injury or property damage requires less notice. The notice must include the agenda or information on how the public may obtain a copy of the agenda.

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Sheehey's main goal: Boosting retail

By Arin McKenna

Third in a three-part series

Municipal Judge Alan Kirk swore in new councilors Steve Girrens, Kristin Henderson and Pete Sheehey, along with new county clerk Sharon Stover last week.

The priorities each of the new councilors has established as they prepare to take up the reins may point to some shifting alliances as the council is reformulated after the first of the year and it may also shed some light on how these new councilors will reshape local governance during the next four years.

Pete Sheehey
“The thing that I was talking about all through the campaign and people were telling me about as I was knocking on doors was priorities,” Sheehey said. “Can we really afford all the things we’ve committed to and are they the most important things that we should be spending our money on?”

Sheehey’s priorities are public safety, infrastructure and support for public education, economic development and recreational amenities — in that order. He asserts that most of the people he has talked to have similar priorities and questions whether the previous council followed those priorities when they decided on CIP funding.

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VIDEO EXTRA -- County Council candidates: How would you keep young people in Los Alamos?

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2012 Sample Election Ballots Released -- Check Attachments

The Los Alamos County Clerk released the sample ballots for the 2012 General Elections. Check out the following attachments.

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County: Newest councilor’s goals include housing and economic development

Reiss tackles another challenge

By Arin McKenna

Following three hours of opening statements, grilling by council and three rounds of votes, Rick Reiss was appointed to fill the council seat vacated by Ron Selvage in early August. 

In his three-minute statement, Reiss said he stood out like a sore thumb among candidates with degrees in areas such as nuclear engineering and medicine. Rather than working for Los Alamos National Laboratory, Reiss is a small businessman who provides research and office space to LANL and its contractors. 

“I’m so hands on that I mow the grass at Entrada Business Park, a development where I own lots. I change light bulbs and air filters at 999 Central, a building I developed and manage and owe a lot of money on.” Reiss said. “I am the little guy. I can’t delegate to others, because there are no others in my organization.”

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