Rodgers, Izraelevitz to lead county council

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County > To solicit public comment on naming Municipal Building

By Arin McKenna

In the first order of business for Los Alamos County’s newly seated council, Geoff Rodgers and David Izraelevitz were elected unanimously as chair and vice chair, respectively.  

Council then proceeded to adopt rules for notification of meetings by council, boards and commissions, the county hospital and the county indigent board. 

Notice of council meetings and agendas must be posted at least 72 hours in advance. Changes to the agenda may be posted a minimum of 36 hours in advance, provided that a copy of the change is made available to broadcast stations and newspapers that have requested such notice. 

All county boards, commissions and policymaking bodies must give notice at least 10 days in advance of the meeting date and agendas must be available at least 36 hours in advance.

An emergency meeting may be called with 24-hour advance notice, unless threat of personal injury or property damage requires less notice. The notice must include the agenda or information on how the public may obtain a copy of the agenda.

Notice of the date, time and place for all meetings must be posted in a conspicuous place near the front door of the county Community Building. After council moves to the new Municipal Building, notice will be posted near the front door of that facility. Copies must also be provided to broadcast stations and newspapers that have requested it. 

Individuals with disabilities that require a reader, amplifier, qualified sign language interpreter or any other form of auxiliary aid or service to attend or participate in the hearing of the meeting should contact the Human Resources Department at 662-8040, at least one week prior to the meeting or as soon as possible. Public documents, including the agenda and minutes, can be provided in various accessible formats by contacting the county administrator at 663-1750.

Any county entity may close a meeting only if authorized by the Open Meetings Act. Except as provided in the Open Meetings Act, any action taken as a result of discussions in a closed meeting must be made by a vote in an open public meeting. 

Councilor Francis Berting introduced a motion to name the new Municipal Building the “Jeannette O. Wallace Municipal Building” in memory of New Mexico Rep. Jeannette O. Wallace. 

Berting introduced the motion in response to a petition with 25 signatures of either registered voters or councilors. Berting said that she heard this request from a number of members of the public. 

Wallace resided in Los Alamos for 52 years and was active in the community for 50 of those years. She participated in many public venues, including the Kiwanis Club, the League of Women Voters and the United Way.

Wallace served six years on the county council in the 1980s and as a lobbyist for the county to the state legislature afterward.

Wallace was elected representative for House District 43 in 1991 and served until her death in 2001. During that time she worked to protect the county’s interests. 

“I think there’s enormous justification for having our core building, the one that is going to be the icon of Los Alamos, named for a person who was so intimately involved and lovingly involved with our community,” Berting said. 

County code allows councilors to make such a decision, but council voted instead to follow another code option and have County Administrator Harry Burgess appoint a committee to review the request. 

The committee will consist of one staff member (Public Information Officer Julie Habiger), two members of the public with no connection with the facility other than being citizens of the county, one representative of the Planning and Zoning Commission and one business person. Habiger suggested Don Brown and Steve Boerigter as citizen members and Ina Acomb as the business representative. All have served on naming committees in the past.

Izraelevitz advocated for putting out a call for citizens to serve on the committee. Habiger noted that lengthening the process for choosing a committee could make it difficult to get signage made in a timely manner. 

Councilor Rick Reiss made a motion for Burgess to select a committee to review the request as delineated in the code. 

“I’m in complete agreement that we need to get all the public input we can on this, and that committee is going to be listening to an awful lot of people if we give them a forum for that,” Reese said. “If we have multiple forums, I think we can get some input, and hopefully that committee’s job is to tabulate, summarize and not prejudge, and I’m sure the administrator will take that into consideration when they look at the staffing.”

Councilor Kristin Henderson offered a friendly amendment to remove the words “to name the new Municipal Building the “Jeannette O. Wallace Municipal Building” in memory of New Mexico Representative Jeannette O. Wallace” from the motion and replace them with “to name the municipal building.” 

“Without intending any disrespect for Jeannette Wallace, I think it might discourage members of the community from providing other names,” Henderson said. 

Reiss and Councilor Pete Sheehey, who seconded the motion, both expressed reservations but agreed to the amendment. Berting protested the change, arguing that if public opinion were against the name it could be voted down and other options considered. 

“The whole idea here is, should we name this building for this person who did an enormous amount of work for 20 years, for somebody who really supported this community, or not? And to bring up all sorts of other people seems to me to just muddy the water enormously,” Berting said.

Berting offered a substitute motion to go back to the original motion, which Councilor Steve Girrens seconded. Sheehey also withdrew his support for the friendly amendment. 

The motion passed 7-0, with councilors directing staff to offer as many options for public input as possible. 

Council also voted unanimously to allow the transfer of Liquor License No. 474 from the Canyon Bar and Grill to the Giant Convenience Center in White Rock.

Councilors also reviewed the county’s financial report and audit. Read more on that in Thursday’s Los Alamos Monitor