County, NNSA reach agreement

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By Jennifer Garcia

After 11 years of not having a contract, Los Alamos County and the National Nuclear Security Administration struck a deal to provide fire department services for the protection of Los Alamos County and Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The contract signed Tuesday will provide the county and LANL with fire protection and emergency medical services for five years.

At the Sept. 23 council meeting, the council gave approval for the finalization of negotiations and signature authority for a limited time period to the county administrator to complete a five-year cooperative agreement with NNSA for the provision by the County of Los Alamos Fire Department services for the protection of LANL and Los Alamos County.

Staff from the NNSA and the county met collaboratively to finalize the negotiations and resolve all issues surrounding the agreement.

The county will share the cost of services and will use the 1/8 percent gross receipts tax and general fund revenues to pay for their share. According to county documents, necessary amounts have been appropriated in the county’s budget.

“There have been ups and downs to the negotiations. I’m happy to report that we have concluded negotiations,” County Administrator Max Baker said. “The agreement continues and the share starts at $3.5 million.”

He said the budget will be adjusted in one month and will come back to council for acceptance at that point.

“The budget was done last year and has to be adjusted for two more firemen and also for inflation,” Baker said.

Baker thanked everyone who worked on the agreement, including County Attorney Mary McInerny for her guidance and technical support, Fire Chief Douglas MacDonald and Deputy Fire Chief Douglas Tucker.

“There’s no one better anywhere,” Baker said.

Baker also thanked the men and women of the fire department for their patience. He also thanked Los Alamos Site Office Manager Don Winchell and Deputy Manager Dan Glen.

“It’s a win-win for the government and the community,” Baker said.

McInerny said LANL would now get the services it needs to protect its people and “all of us.” She also said that the agreement is a very good step forward.

Tucker addressed council and expressed his joy by saying, “Thank you for the confidence in the team and for your support. There were many times when we could have walked away. Max and Mary’s work has been phenomenal. The integrity of your team displayed speaks a lot for who you chose as county attorney, administrator and chief financial officer.”

MacDonald was also pleased with the decision. He thanked the NNSA, the Department of Energy, county council, and the fire fighters.

“Thank you very much. The government, LANL and the citizens are getting one heck of a deal and one heck of a fire service,” he said.

The county council was also glad that an agreement had been reached on this matter.

“Eleven years is a long time to work on a project,” Councilor Jim West said. “You climb over a mountain and fall back down. The community and lab is a real winner. The quality of protection and emergency medical services is something we couldn’t have on our own,” he continued. “I’m tickled to death that we have it.”

Councilor Ken Milder expressed his pride in the team and staff, saying that he’s proud of what the agreement represents for the community.

Council Chair James Hall said, “Eleven years without a contract left the people who work for the fire department in limbo. Mr. Baker has led the effort in this area, year after year, meeting after meeting.”

Hall said that he was amazed that Baker never came back to council and said enough is enough.

“Time after time Max gritted his teeth and climbed that mountain again,” Hall said.