Collaboration culminates in groundbreaking

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By Carol A. Clark

County and school officials joined representatives from New Mexico’s Congressional Delegation, contractor Hensel Phelps, consultants with WH Pacific and other entities in celebrating the official ground-breaking for the county-owned Airport Basin Site Friday morning.

The ceremony took place behind the RV Park on East Road. The site is slated to become the new location for Los Alamos County’s and Los Alamos Public Schools’ warehouses, shops, fleet and bus barns, and other facilities in early 2010.

The new facilities will replace the decrepit buildings at the county’s and schools’ annex at 901 Trinity Drive.

Los Alamos County Council Chair Jim Hall told the crowd of nearly 100 that first and foremost, the project will give county and school employees safe, efficient and modern facilities in which to work.

“If any of you have visited the shops and warehouses over at the Trinity Site, you know that they are truly in terrible condition,” Hall said. “This is a project that has been long overdue for both entities, and today’s event is the culmination of thousands of hours of work by dozens of individuals at the county and the schools.”

Hall explained that in the past, the county and schools were divided and separate entities but that philosophy has recently changed. Now, the two entities are working together for the benefit of the community.

He praised the efforts of the current school board and called School Board President Steve Girrens “a true leader” who was instrumental in the collaboration.

Girrens credited recently retired Superintendent James Anderson, LAPS Business Manager John Wolfe, School Board Vice President Joan Ahlers, LAPS Construction Administrator Herb McLean and Assistant County Administrator Tony Mortillaro, among others, for their participation in the project.

“The school board supports this project 100 percent,” Girrens said. “We believe in working together with the county ... sharing resources on projects when they all tap from the same well – the taxpayers. We are one county and one body of taxpayers and we think this project is the first step in many more collaborations ... to benefit the taxpayers and ensure Los Alamos continues to be the great place that it is.”

The Airport Basin Site project would not be possible without the land transfer spearheaded by Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M.

“The senator is glad he could help the process through that legislation,” spokesperson Veronica Rodriguez said.

She described Domenici as being very excited about the ground-breaking, saying it was a long time coming and took a lot of work from many people.

“The senator is glad the county and schools joined together on this wonderful facility and is hopeful that by the end of next year, the employees will have a beautiful place to come to work – you can’t beat the view out here,” she said.

Rep. Tom Udall, D-N.M., sent his congratulations through representative Anna Rael DeLay.

Following the ground-breaking, County Administrator Max Baker scanned the enthusiastic crowd and said, “This is a great day – a big milestone in an important project. We see lots of smiles on faces and that’s a good thing.”

Hansel Phelps Vice President Steve Grauer surveyed the site with other construction officials and commented, “We’re privileged to have been chosen by the county to execute the largest public project that the county has endeavored in its history and we’re up to the challenge of bringing the project in on time and within budget.”

Hansel Phelps Project Manager Gary Johnson agreed, adding, “This is a great opportunity for Hensel Phelps to continue its partnership with the Los Alamos community through another successful project.”

Hall asked those gathered Friday to take a moment to look around and notice the many “exciting changes” poised to take place in the surrounding landscape.

“In the coming weeks, you’ll see construction of the access road to our site in the basin, which will also lead to the new Entrada Business Park with its new hotel and other amenities, as well as IMTEC’s brand new facility,” Hall said. “It’s a sign that there are people who are interested in re-investing in Los Alamos, and that’s good news for us.”

He continued, “It means more visitors, more jobs, more revenue and more diversification for Los Alamos County in the future. This is an exciting time to be living in Los Alamos County and we have many things to look forward to in 2008 and 2009.”