Committee outlines federal agenda

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By Jennifer Garcia

Every year, the Los Alamos County Council adopts a federal agenda, which is used as a guide for the council’s federal-level intergovernmental efforts.


A council committee meets to develop the agenda and produce recommended county priority topics. This year’s committee members were Council Chairman Jim Hall and Councilors Michael Wheeler and Jim West.


During last Tuesday night’s county council meeting, Assistant County Administrator made a presentation to council regarding the federal agenda. “Annually we prepare a federal agenda about this time of year,” Mortillaro said.


According to county documents, the federal agenda will serve as guidance from the county council to staff and their legislative support contractor, in dealing with various federal officials and entities with a consistent voice. This also allows staff to focus its attention on the direction approved by council.


The committee used four sources to determine the county’s priorities. They were: Regional, state and national identified priorities; staff identified and recommended issues; county intergovernmental priorities; and a review of the state and federal budgets.


The committee and staff have recommended five priorities for 2009. They are: Intergovernmental partnerships, Trinity Site development, LANL funding, economic diversification and community revitalization and transit and transportation system funding.


In addition, the following have been deemed as top priorities for Los Alamos County for fiscal year 2010: Environmental cleanup and land transfer, support funding for national security at Los Alamos National Laboratory, transit and transportation infrastructure funding, promote resolution of land transfer to county related to the San Ildefonso Settlement agreement with U.S. Forest Service and appoint county representative to the Valles Caldera Board.


After the priorities were stated, Vice Council Chair Robert Gibson said, “Is it the committee’s intent that these five items be considered in which they are presented in priority?”


He also went on to say that he wasn’t hearing that there was a priority implied.


“The schools get significant funding through the government and that impacts our ability to attract and retain personnel. Was that deliberately left off here to not raise that issue, or was it left off because it’s technically a school issue and not a county government issue?” Gibson asked.


Mortillaro said, “We left if off to not raise the issue. It’s funded. It wasn’t in the last one, either. It had been sort of addressed when it was put into legislation in hopes that it wouldn’t rise every year as an issue.”


In relation to the environmental cleanup and land transfer, the committee is requesting $4 million for the Department of Energy land transfer environmental activities.


In addition, they are requesting the expansion of the current land transfer law that requires DOE to look at existing unused assets and convey to the county the assets that are no longer needed for federal purposes.


  “One of the topics is environmental cleanup and transfer,” Mortillaro said. “Environmental cleanup is a key activity that we’ve sought funding for. We’ve sought additional land transfers, specifically in the White Rock area. We continue to ask that they consider the transfer of that land transfer. Our request is about $4 million for land transfers,” he continued. He said that the money for land transfers goes to the LANL budget.


Where funding for national security at LANL is concerned, the committee is requesting that ’09 funding and beyond be sufficient for LANL missions and that no significant job cuts will occur. They are also requesting that the existing mission of LANL will be enhanced with continued emphasis in science. The committee is also requesting that the federal government ensure that ’09 funding and beyond, for environmental cleanup is sufficient to continue to accomplish the cleanup at Los Alamos required by the Consent Order and to avoid using cleanup funds on fines.


The transit and transportation infrastructure funding includes a request for $2 million for capital equipment (buses) and maintenance facilities for the new transit system that the county is operating.


The county will be provided with $588,000 in 2008. The county is investing $65 million in the new maintenance facility, which includes space for transit.


The committee is also requesting funding for aviation activities that include $748,600 for airport drainage improvements; $308,750 for runway rehab and extension (design only); and $3,752,500 for runway rehab and extension (construction).


  In addition, the committee is requesting that there by an appointment made by the president of a Los Alamos County representative to the nine-member Board of Trustees of the Valles Caldera Board.