Torpy: Overcrowding warrants new complex

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By Katy Korkos

The Judicial/Police Jail Complex was the second major capital project discussed at Tuesday’s council meeting, beginning with an introduction by project manager David Apple and Police Chief Wayne Torpy. The pair returned to council with a detailed review of the police department’s needs in the proposed complex after being directed to do so at the Dec. 4 council meeting. The jail and court functions for the complex were accepted in a 4-to-3 vote at that meeting, with councilors Gibson, Berting and Bowman opposed to the motion.“If we used the county’s space standards for every employee, this building would be double in size,” Torpy said. He outlined the history of the police department’s building, which was built in 1977 to house 34 employees. “In 30 years,” he said, “there have been no additions to police space.” He added that the police department has added the functions of emergency management, detention staff and animal control for a 34-percent increase in staff, and that the design for the complex only shows a 29-percent increase in space needs. The department currently has 75 employees, of whom 17 work at the Consolidated Dispatch Center.“Twenty-five officers share four cubicles,” Torpy said. He also spoke of the need for more storage space, for both evidence and for records. “We can’t even turn around in our evidence room,” he said, “and we don’t have any place to work on evidence.” Torpy also explained a configuration in the design for 2,500-3,000 square feet of unassigned space, which could be used by the county for other functions, but which might be needed for growth in the police department. “It would be really unprofessional of me to suggest that we don’t preserve some of that space,” Torpy said. “We’re doing our job, and it’s having an effect on the crime rate. When you’re trying to grow your community, you’re going to see growth in your police department.”Torpy cited statistics that showed 50 more prisoners processed in Los Alamos County in 2007 than in 2006, and 40 more prisoners in 2006 over 2005. “And that’s not because the crime rate is going up. The crime rate is actually down,” Torpy said, “We’re just being more effective.”Councilor Nona Bowman was the first councilor to speak after Torpy’s presentation, and, though she commended him on an “excellent presentation,” she immediately made the motion “that the council task staff to come up with a total capital funding that the County can prudently afford for both the Judicial/Jail/Police Complex and the Municipal projects, and to report back to the council with this total figure for the two projects at the next meeting of the Council.” Councilor Robert Gibson said, “This is part of what we should be getting in the long range plan. It seems to be asking staff to lead, rather than council. It’s really redundant if we get a good long-range financial plan.” Bowman’s motion failed in a 2-5 vote, with Bowman and Wheeler in favor of getting the budget first, before the space needs.Continuing discussion by council centered around the unassigned space in the police portion of the building, and whether it might be used for other county functions.“I move the acceptance of the police space requirements with the following conditions,” Hall said. He asked that the current design footprint be maintained, that the contiguous space be maximized and that the staff make recommendations to fill unassigned space with county functions to reduce the cost of the county (Municipal) building.That motion carried in a 5-to-2 vote, with councilors Bowman and Gibson opposed.Copies of the presentation on the space requirements for the police department are available at the Mesa and White Rock Branch public libraries.

Other business

In addition to the two major topics on Tuesday, the proposed location of a skate park in front of Mesa Public library also arose when Colleen Hanlon presented a petition to council. “There are more than 324 signatures on this petition,” Hanlon said. She said the people who signed the petition do not want a skate park  in the proposed library site, and prefer a site on Trinity or in East Park.PAC-8 broadcast Tuesday’s meeting and it will also be available over the internet, through PAC-8. PAC-8 employee Greg Kendall said that the signal that cable provider Comcast was sending out was not of good quality, and if residents could not view Tuesday’s meeting, they should contact Comcast.Council will meet in the New Year on Jan. 8, in council chambers in the Community Building, 475 20th St.