Top story in county government for 2007

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By Katy Korkos


In a year of many achievements for Los Alamos County, the passage of ordinance 529 on Jan. 30 will have the widest-ranging impact on the quality of life in Los Alamos County. The positive vote clears the way for a wide range of improvements in the county, beginning with the ability to issue bonds, which will go to pay for new county and school facilities at Airport Basin, as well as other capital improvements.The passage of the ordinance paves the way for the county to construct new buildings at Airport Basin, which will house shops, warehouses, maintenance facilities and offices for both Los Alamos Public Schools and for the county.That will clear a space for retail development on “Trinity Place” as well as for additional housing on the remaining portion of county land, which stretches along Los Alamos Canyon toward the east, bounded by Trinity Drive and DP Road on the northern boundary.The certified election results show that 4,286 residents were in favor of the ordinance and 3,234 were opposed, as 7,520 votes were cast from a total of 13,300 ballots mailed.The county annex building, school headquarters, bus storage, county and schools warehouses and shops sit along Los Alamos’ busiest street, Trinity Drive, many in trailers or buildings that were constructed to be temporary when built in the 1940s and ’50s.The unique topography and history of Los Alamos has meant that there has not been much land available for development, and most of the buildings were built at the same time.The market for land was artificially supported, the single employer did not contribute to the tax base and many employees travel an hour or more to work at the lab. Proponents of 529 argued that the passage of the ordinance would rectify many of those problems.The county and schools have negotiated a complex series of lease agreements, that show the schools leasing their space from the county once Airport Basin is built; the schools receiving lease revenue from the developer of their property and the county receiving land that it can sell for housing. Those agreements haven’t been approved yet, but will be combined with the developer agreements and presented to the county council, tentatively scheduled for the Jan. 29 meeting.Negotiations with the Boyer Company, a Salt Lake City-based mixed-use developer who was selected to create the new project, are still ongoing.Those agreements will include details such as who will pay for utilities infrastructure to support the new development, housing density and location of easements, as well as addressing the guarantees the developer will provide to the county and schools should the project fail to be completed.Three of the seven county councilors provided comment on this issue.

Michael WheelerThe passage of 529 means that Los Alamos is anxious to move forward.  The local economy is strong; LANL budget continues to exceed $2 billion dollars annually, and the county is replacing and maintaining infrastructure that was deferred for years.Land transfers from the federal government are proceeding which will continue to support modest growth. We have developed good relations with both regional and state communities.We have an attractive active community that supports youth with excellent schools. 529 provides a source for future school revenues and will allow redevelopment of aging AEC site facilities. With the county on the road to a diversified local economy and resources that allow for maintenance and replacement of county infrastructure, we can turn our attention to support, maintenance, and replacement of the public schools in the community. This is our challenge for the future.

Nona BowmanPassage of the ordinance was a major step forward for Los Alamos.  The old buildings on the site have been poor space for our Los Alamos County and school employees for too long. I noticed this eyesore the first time I came into town in 1982 and it's a shame that it wasn't dealt with long before. Moving the project ahead is particularly important now when we need to make our town as attractive as possible to new people who might consider settling here and businesses that might want to locate here.Our community certainly has not forgotten the enormous improvements on the north side of downtown.  We owe a lot to Tom Netuschil for his forward action on revitalizing his property and we are all pleased with the new library, swimming pool, senior center and a new movie theater. Now we have prospects for major improvements to the south side of downtown as well.  We aren't far from making our town clearly the most delightful place to live in all of New Mexico.Robert GibsonI interpret the affirmative vote on Ordinance 529 as a strong indication that a majority want Los Alamos to modernize.  But the substantial negative vote says a large minority either do not want modernization, however carefully considered, or oppose some specific aspects of the proposed projects.  The projects must be well structured and executed if there is to be broader community acceptance.