County doesn't listen to citizens

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By The Staff

Dear Editor,

Los Alamos and White Rock were busy towns when I first arrived in 1968. However, since my 1986 LAHS graduation, I’ve witnessed a steady loss of retail, and a deterioration of infrastructure and public buildings.

Throughout the years, I proudly assumed the Municipal Building to be a permanent landmark, like Fuller Lodge, that would be preserved. The senior class photo in front of the Municipal Building was an unquestioned tradition and, like many others, I received photo calendars featuring the historical structure in its frame of blue sky and mountains when I went to college.

County councilors and administrators swore in 2006 that the cost of fixing the structural problems of our Municipal Building would be substantially more than tearing the building down and starting again. I listened as they told knowledgeable citizens we did not understand the complex issues and had no right to comment on the cost of the structural renovation.

We now know it was right to question the cost. Saving the building would have saved $4 million. The building was in disrepair for many years, and yet county officials mentioned nothing to the public until the proposal of a much larger, brand new Municipal Complex came forward. I don’t believe longtime county officials were unaware of what was happening to the building they worked in, even as the Council Chambers were being refurbished.

We know that the building was originally built without proper reinforcements, specified weight limits were exceeded for multiple years and the structure twisted under the weight at the top. We watched as insurance on the building was denied, officials evacuated at the last possible moment and a hurried process to approve the demolition ensued.

The process of citizen involvement in Los Alamos County government is a painful and time-consuming fight, as I discovered when helping others to stop the construction of multiple roundabouts on Diamond Drive and to petition a vote on Ordinance 529. The fight is impractical for anyone who wants to hold a job and have time to enjoy life.

Our county charter was approved in 1966, and it is time for a major review. Without provisions for votes on capital projects, the government forces citizens who don’t wish to fight at every turn to simply swallow what is given them.

No, I do not want a skateboard park in front of the library, and the destruction of our Municipal Building seems a strange thing to do to a town uneasy about its future. Town meetings, brochures and informational sessions did not change my views. A citizens’ vote would have.

Ellen Walton

Los Alamos