Council OKs service projects

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By Carol A. Clark

It’s that time of year when many service contracts come before Los Alamos County Council for renewal.

Following detailed discussion at its regular Tuesday meeting in the Community Building, council approved those services - all but one - unanimously. Councilors Nona Bowman and Mike Wheeler were out of town.

One change was made to the services provided in this year’s general services agreement for PAC 8 Television, which televises council and other important meetings and community broadcasts.

The county has eliminated the television show, “County Forum” based on input from residents that they prefer to see more programming about county projects or issues of interest beyond a studio environment.

Council Chair Jim Hall brought up the channel's poor reception. “I fully support PAC 8..., but the public deserves proper reception,” he said.

Councilor Jim West mentioned he lives in Barranca Mesa and the reception has been terrible. Councilor Ken Milder explained that PAC 8’s website is clear, which means the problem is with Comcast.

PAC 8 Executive Director Jean Gindreau explained the frustration she has felt with the reception problem, especially during the last five months.

“I’m not fighting Comcast,” she said, “I’m just trying to get them to do something about it.”

As a possible course to remedy the ongoing reception problem, Milder described a case in which a municipality took over the customer service portion of its agreement with a cable company. “Then they were able to document a track record and ultimately get rid of the cable company,” he said.

The county has been operating under a 1996 franchise agreement with the cable company, County Communications and PR Administrator Julie Habiger explained, adding the draft of a new franchise agreement went to the county attorney's office two years ago with quite a bit of work that needed to be done.

Personnel changes and other issues have delayed forward movement on the agreement, she said.

Councilor Fran Berting suggested the county attorney's office have the draft franchise agreement, "bubble to the top," as soon as practicable.

Council unanimously approved PAC 8's contract for $96,875, plus applicable gross receipts tax.

Business Development Director Patrick Sullivan of the Los Alamos Commerce and Development Corporation presented a refocused proposal to provide business development services to Los Alamos County under a three-year contract.

This year the scope of services emphasizes attracting new companies and creating new jobs rather than the heavy retail emphasis of years past, Sullivan said. The organization intends to go out and proactively recruit companies where as in the past funding only allowed for a reactive approach to respond when companies made contact, he said.

The $319,970 agreement includes a $60,000 subcontract with Angelou Economics. Jim Colson, president of site selection for the Austin-based company, joined Sullivan in explaining their new approach to attract companies to town.

Council Vice Chair Robert Gibson asked how success will be measured to which Assistant County Administrator Tony Mortillaro said the contract includes 16 metrics that will be provided to the county through quarterly reports.

The contract was approved in a 5-0 vote.

Approval of amendments to services agreements with various cultural services providers passed unanimously. Community Services Director Stephani Johnson explained that last fiscal year the county solicited proposals from interested parties to provide services and operation of a youth activity center, operation of a historical museum, operation of the Arts Center at Fuller Lodge and provision of a children's theater and a variety of musical and theatrical performances. "As in the past, bids were only received from the agencies that currently provide these services," Johnson said. "Since this has been a pattern for the last several years, the county was able to enter into multi-year contracts with these organizations."

This allowed council Tuesday to simply approve date changes to reflect the new fiscal year and a 2.5 percent adjustment increase for the services.

The Art Council received a 2 percent increase as included, in its contract. Gordon’s Summer Concert Series, which receives $75,207 in direct county funding and $6,600 in indirect funding, comes up for renewal later this year, Johnson said.

Service providers approved Tuesday:

$148,625 direct/$136,688 indirect - Family Council

$71,585 direct/$185,060 indirect - Historical Society

$8,498 direct/$8,126 indirect - Arts Council

$29,099 direct/$147,281 indirect - Arts Center

$89,543 direct/$18,559 indirect - Cooperative Extension

The only project that didn't receive a unanimous vote was the final design approval of the Central Avenue Pedestrian Crossings and Streetscape Project.

The project will include a series of landscaped curb extensions, called bump outs, with pedestrian ramps, street tree planters, pedestrian streetlights with flower baskets, and reconstructed curb cuts that allow sidewalks in conformance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Berting voiced her concern with the project's expense and the visibility hazard she said parking along Central Avenue poses for cars entering from side streets.

Gibson voted against the motion after expressing concern with the expense associated with the bumpouts and questioning whether a need exists to slow traffic on Central Avenue, and if so, if all the individual bump outs are necessary to accomplish that goal.

The $1,117,000 project, which includes a $200,000 MainStreet grant and $17,500 from LA Walks passed 4-1.

"We're very excited about this project," said Wendy Swanson of LA Walks. "We've been a part of it since the beginning."