Council adopts sustainability initiative

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By Katy Korkos

There were a few gaps at the council’s table Tuesday, but it was standing-room only for interested people in White Rock Town Hall, as the council got its first glimpse at the proposal to create catalytic development in White Rock, heard the IT division’s plans for a county fiber network and adopted a new initiative that will pervade all county departments and boards with a program of sustainability.As budget hearings for the fiscal years 2009-2010 are approaching, Tuesday’s meeting provided a last opportunity for council to get some idea of the cost of implementing the three projects, despite the absent councilors: Councilor Jim West, who is still recuperating from back surgery; Councilor Nona Bowman, who is traveling, and Councilor Robert Gibson, who was delayed, but arrived shortly after the meeting started.

Environmental sustainability

Solid Waste Division Manager Regina Wheeler and the chair of the Solid Waste Advisory Board Larry Warner presented the sustainability initiative, which has been developed over the last year at the direction of council to implement many of the county’s strategic goals.“To provide for the needs of the current generation without compromising the needs of future generations” is the definition of sustainability, Wheeler said.The initiative includes both an organizational approach and specific programs under headings such as waste and recycling, hydrocarbon independence, water, land use, economic development, education and outreach, measurement and reporting. She said that many of the programs could be accomplished with a small effort and budget, such as recycling in county offices, while other activities such as greening the fleet, will require more planning and evaluation of alternatives.Under the motion, which was approved in a 5-to-0 vote, the Solid Waste Advisory Board will be “sunsetted” (closed out) and a new Environmental Sustainability Board will be created, in addition to implementing the initiative. “This is a well thought-out proposal,” Councilor Robert Gibson said, adding that the Solid Waste Advisory Board must be a “very unusual entity in government, as it has recommended its own demise.”“If you should decide to establish a board to oversee environmental sustainability, I will volunteer to be on it,” Warner said.

White Rock Master Plan

After seven months of work, four community forums, several steering committee meetings and many stakeholder interviews, the White Rock master plan is nearly ready for publication. A consulting team comprised of planning consultants Moore Iacofano Goitsman (MIG), with economic and engineering experts has written the community-originated plan, which will be published for review by April 22. The final plan will be presented for approval to council May 20.Goals the community has developed include creating a visual identity for White Rock, creating a commercial core, enhancing the physical connections to the core for transit, bikes and pedestrians and capitalizing on the natural beauty of the area. The plan includes relocating the municipal complex to a new commercial core near the intersection of Sherwood Blvd. and N.M. 4, creating an overlay or downtown district, and creating a formal gateway to White Rock.“The plan was community-created and community-built,” MIG planner Chris Beynon said.“This process has had dramatic and sustained participation,” said steering committee spokesman Denny Erickson.Dan Guimond is the planning team member responsible for the economic feasibility part of the master plan, through his company, Economic and Planning Systems (EPS). The short-term investment strategy includes negotiating for the A-19 parcel and forming financial partnerships to build an interpretive center. Over the long term, the whole package of proposed improvements might cost the county $10 million for improvements.“We’re still looking at innovative financing strategies,” Guimond said. Those include selling the old fire station on Rover and the adjacent vacant lot for private development and forming a special tax increment district.“We only have that 60 acres (on A-19),” Councilor Ken Milder said. “We don’t want to squander that.”Under the draft plan, Sherwood Blvd. and N.M. 4 would be landscaped and a new safe intersection constructed, crossing the highway to tie in with planned development on A-19.“This is the most important thing we’ve done in White Rock since I’ve lived here,” Councilor Wheeler said.

Wideband infrastructure

Information Technology Division Manager Laura Gonzales appeared at the request council to present an overview of plans to improve communications within county operations, including replacing the antiquated radio system and installing fiber in conduit to connect county facilities. Council had requested more information about plans to install a fiber network at its Feb. 26 meeting, after hearing the results of a wideband communication feasibility study by Utilities Manager Robert “Buck” Monday.Councilors agreed that high-speed data transmission is necessary for the future of the county, in its ability to be attractive to both residents and businesses.“I’m convinced in 10 years open access fiber to the home will be a necessity for us to be competitive,” Council Chair Jim Hall said. In a 5-to-0 vote, councilors approved a conceptual design study for a project to provide a county-wide network infrastructure that will meet planned county government communication needs and provide the foundation for an open-access network delivering advanced broadband communication to all Los Alamos citizens, should such a network be created by future council action.Council will meet again at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Council Chambers at 475 20th Street. Budget hearings are scheduled for April 21, 22, 24 and 30.