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Pongratz takes seat on council

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By Tris DeRoma

Los Alamos County Councilors appointed veteran councilor and active community member Morris “Morrie” Pongratz to fill a vacant council seat Monday.

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The seat was vacated in early May by Councilor James Chrobocinski, who left his position due to illness.

Starting in the 1980s, Pongratz served six terms on Los Alamos Council and one term on the Los Alamos School Board.

According to Pongratz’ letter of intent to the Los Alamos County Council, Pongratz last held public office in 2007.
Recently, Pongratz has worked with the youth of Los Alamos as a member of the Los Alamos Kiwanis Club, The Los Alamos Health Council, the Los Alamos Public Schools Foundation and other organizations.

Some of Pongratz’s testimony to council Monday involved the Los Alamos National Laboratory’s recent management and operations contract, awarded to the nonprofit group Triad National Security LLC, and how the change would affect Los Alamos County.

The council candidates were asked by councilors about which issue or issues the candidates would like to see county council focus on in the next six months.

“I think the answer is pretty clear, the budget and the impact of the new LANL contract,” Pongratz answered.

Since the National Nuclear Security Administration announced the new contractor Friday, questions remain whether Triad Nuclear Security LLC, will pay gross receipts tax to the county or state. 

In two other budget related questions asked of the six candidates, Pongratz again brought up the gross receipts tax issue, as it relates to LANL. According to Pongratz, 58 percent of the county’s gross receipts tax revenues come from science and technical services, according to the county’s latest financial data.

“Fifty-eight percent comes from this one category,” Pongratz said. “Fourteen of those budgets I worked on when I was on the county council were without getting gross receipts tax from the lab,” Pongratz told the council.“That is terribly unfair, given the impact they have on our community.”

In another question about the budget, Pongratz told the council that if Triad National Security LLC does file for the GRT tax exemption, then the county should take the contract to court.

“This would be a gross injustice if they get away without compensating the community for keeping our county going,” Pongratz said. 

Pongratz was one of five candidates, which included Republican candidate for county council Brady Burke, Aaron Walker, David M. North, Laura Crotzer and K. Michael Cleveland.

The appointment process consisted of council presenting six questions and then each of the county councilors picking the candidate that gave the best answers to each of the questions.

Five of the councilors in the first round, including Council Vice President Chris Chandler, Council President David Izraelevitz, councilors Rick Reiss, Antonio Maggiore and Pete Sheehey voted for Pongratz. Councilor Susan O’Leary voted for K. Michael Cleveland.

After the vote was taken Monday, Pongratz said it was a “great honor and a great challenge” to be appointed to the council during this time. Pongratz will fill out the rest of Chrobocinski‘s term, which ends Dec. 31.

Izraelevitz thanked the candidates for giving their time to the appointment process.

“I appreciate the attention and answers. I think it gave us an insight into your perspective.”

Chandler said each of the candidates had some good ideas and she encouraged them to continue their pursuit of community service through public office.

“Boards are a way to learn about the county and to contribute to the county,” Chandler said. There are many boards that serve numerous, diverse kinds of interests, and for that reason, if you are not selected, consider applying for one because it is a great way to contribute.”