Girrens new alternate for Regional Coalition

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County > Councilor believes his LANL connection can be an asset to RCLC

By Arin McKenna

One of Councilor Steve Girrens’ campaign platforms was to support “the positive momentum promoting regional partnerships and collaboration.”

“The big picture is, you’re always stronger if you can speak as a community. Our voice is more impactful when it’s in a collaboration coalition,” Girrens said. “And if you want to be a strong regional neighbor, that’s part of it. I think it’s on the county to lead that or support that as much as we can. Isn’t support LANL number one in our economic vitality plan?”

As one of three councilors working for the lab, Girrens felt that one place he could be most effective in building those partnerships was with the Regional Coalition for Los Alamos National Laboratory Communities. He volunteered to be Councilor Frances Berting’s alternate as liaison to the coalition.

“I thought I was in a good position to be able to understand the acronyms and understand the talk, because the talk is a little different,” Girrens said. “And just maybe be a more understanding representative.”

Girrens feels the coalition is an important asset on several fronts.

“The coalition is important so you can have the communities support the lab, and that always carries more weight,” Girrens said. “It’s also important for the communities to be involved, to understand economic impact, and also to feel like they’re more informed when it comes to cleanup and have a voice when it comes to the education programs.

“The other thing they want to understand in terms of economic impact is what’s happening in terms of procurements. There was a major impact in the region when the lab cut back on procurements last year. It’s part of regional spending; it’s part of the economic engine.”

Girrens said the coalition is also important for those who oppose LANL activities.

“It’s always been a place where people can voice their stances one way or another,” Girrens said. “It’s another place where they get to be heard, whether they’re for the lab or not. My philosophy is, you would rather have someplace where you can have a continual pressure relieve valve than have the pressure build in a larger eruption.”

Friday’s meeting of the coalition focused on legislative agenda, sequestration and the lab’s educational activities.
On the agenda was a draft letter to President Barack Obama regarding funding for TRU waste cleanup. It reads, in part:

“The completion of the cleanup of defense legacy waste at Los Alamos is an important commitment that the DOE has made to our communities and the state of New Mexico. We believe it should remain a top funding priority for DOE. The New Mexico Environment Department and DOE have agreed to focus environmental priorities on the areas that pose the greatest risk, including the removal of 3,706 cubic meters of above ground TRU waste from Area G by June 30, 2014.

Environmental protection is our Coalition’s top priority. This includes the protection of water resources and monitoring of area groundwater and storm water runoff flows to the Santa Fe based Buckman Direct Diversion on the Rio Grande. To keep the efforts on schedule and assure that all obligations and deadlines are met, we urge you to request at least $255 million in 2014 for Los Alamos in DOE’s defense environmental cleanup budget.”

The coalition is also sending letters about the impacts of sequestration to members of the New Mexico’s Congressional Delegation from the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities, the Subcontractors Consortium, the Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce and the New Mexico Building and Constructions Trades Council.

LANL’s Director of Communications Kurt Steinhaus, presented a report on the lab’s educational investments. Highlights of the report included:

• LANL invests more than $1 million annually in education programs, including student scholarships, educational grants, master teachers support and educational training.

• 350 teachers have enrolled in LANL’s Northern New Mexico Math and Science Academy since it was established in 2000 and 57 teachers earned master’s degrees in teaching math and science through the Academy.

• In 2012, LANL supported more than 25 regional K-20 math and science educational programs, including the Math and Science Academy, middle and high School “Science Bowl” competitions, the Supercomputing Challenge and the Frontiers in Science lecture series.

• The lab employed 1,207 students as interns.

• LANL provided more than 3,500 hours of employee’s science education community service for 105 STEM-related initiatives.

• Los Alamos Employees Scholarship Fund awarded $425,000 in scholarships to 82 Northern New Mexico students.
A community leader’s survey showed 89 percent satisfaction with LANL’s involvement and impact in regional educational programs, that 80 percent of the leaders are satisfied with LANL’s partnerships in districts, colleges and universities in Northern New Mexico and that 91 percent of education leaders are satisfied with the Lab’s impact on education in LANL Northern New Mexico.

Liddie Martinez, director of the community and Economic Development Division of SOC Los Alamos and president of the LANL Subcontractors Consortium, also presented a report on the subcontractors’ contributions to educational programming. Subcontractors have contributed $500,000 to the LANL Foundation, UNM-LA and Northern New Mexico College, K–12 classrooms, scholarships and sponsoring educational events.

“It was a light meeting, but to me it was about, are we all aware of the investment we’ve been making in education?” Girrens said. “It’s having an impact, and we should be celebrating that and staying on track.”