Council OKs LAFD office lease

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County > Steps taken to avoid conflict of interest

By Arin McKenna

Los Alamos County Council voted 6-0 to approve an office lease for the Los Alamos Fire Department administration staff at 999 Central Ave. during its meeting Tuesday night.

Councilor Rick Reiss recused himself, since he has an ownership interest and is the managing member of the business that owns the building. The motion included a waiver of conflict of interest.

Recognizing that conflict of interest may arise, particularly in small communities, the County Procurement Code and the New Mexico Governmental Conduct Act both allow for the waiver under certain conditions. Those are:

  • Reiss’ financial interest in the subject property was publicly disclosed prior to solicitation for the subject property.
  • Reiss, by abstaining from any participation in the approval of the proposed lease, shall not exercise any apparent bias or favoritism.
  • The approval of the lease will be in the best interests of the county.
  • The lease was competitively procured.

LAPD administration has occupied offices at 195 East Road, Suite 101, since 1994. The current space has several issues that needed to be addressed. Those are:

  • Parking: when field officers have business at the administration offices they must park large fire apparatus on the north side of N.M.502 and cross traffic. This presents not only a safety issues but can delay their ability to respond to a call.
  • Too much noise in the primary classroom.
  • A three percent rent increase.
  • The need to reconfigure the offices to accommodate six divisions in close proximity. The cost estimate for the reconfiguration was $54,000 plus costs for IT infrastructure, which the property manager was unwilling to pay for.
  • In/Outbound vehicle access:  staff vehicles are frequently blocked by large tractor-trailers.

LAFD evaluated six properties, including the current one. The 7,290-square-foot 999 Central Ave. location came in at the lowest bid, at $14,549.63 per month for the base year. The highest bid was for the 3M building, at $26,415. The property managers were unwilling to rent half the building to meet LAFD’s space requirements.

The 999 Central Ave. building also had the best match for LAFD’s criteria. The property manager agreed to pay up to $150,000 to reconfigure the space based upon a design provided by LAFD. The space has adequate, designated parking for both large vehicles and staff vehicles. The proximity to the new municipal building is another advantage, since LAFD has had a 20 percent reduction in staff vehicles due to cuts in federal spending.

“I think one of the sensitivities is the involvement of Councilor Reiss in this transaction,” Councilor David Izraelevitz said. “There are unavoidable circumstances, and I would hate to impose additional burdens on the fire department’s efficiencies for the sake of the appearances. The easiest thing to do would be to disqualify that property, but that would be burdening the fire department in regards to space they need to make them efficient.”

Councilor Pete Sheehey urged other businesses in town to reconsider both their rates and defraying costs for reconfiguring space to adapt it to prospective renters’ needs.

“I hope we can set a precedent and encourage other landowners to work with us. We want downtown property used. You can still make a good profit,” Sheehey said.