Burgess: Now You See Us…Now You Don’t

County Manager

Part 2 of a two part series

In my last column, I highlighted the apparent, visible projects you can easily see happening in White Rock and Los Alamos on a drive through town. However, other less visible but important infrastructure projects are happening right now, and I’d like to take the opportunity to tell you about some “behind the scenes” items in progress, too.

First, the new Citizen Access Portal for filing or viewing Code Enforcement cases moves on-line this month. Community Development staff previewed the software at the County Fair and are already receiving comments from residents using the new system. The second project, and hopefully one you’ve had a chance to comment upon, is the updated Comprehensive Plan, which is moving into its next phase of review with a draft of the future land use map.

On a much more widespread scale, two other projects include replacement of some major software for County Government – with both efforts kicking off this month. First, the County has contracted with CivicLive to launch a brand new, easier to navigate and service-friendly website by February 2017. Over the next few months, County staff will work with the vendor to design the look and feel of the site, migrate current website data to the new site, and be trained on working within the new structure. Residents should see a vast improvement next year on requested options like better calendars for events, work request submittals, and more vibrant use of photos and videos to make the site more attractive.

The other large software project that got underway last week is a plan to replace the County’s antiquated financial, utilities billing, procurement, human resources and payroll system. The new system will be phased in starting in 2018, with a significant amount of time spent in 2017 by staff across most departments in merging customer and vendor data carefully into the new software, and plenty of opportunities for testing the new system. We’ve hired a project manager specifically to help us navigate the project and manage the cost and staff resources with an eye toward responsible stewardship of this high-profile, long-range task. Both the new financial system and new website are going to result in some increased efficiencies, new options and ability to view data from the County from the convenience of your home computer or smart-phone, 24/7/365.

Finally, not always in the spotlight but definitely developing at a quick pace is work on two other economic development projects: building out and publicizing the new brand for Los Alamos (showcased at the County Fair and now prominently visible on street banners for White Rock and Los Alamos), and getting our community ready for what we believe will be an increase in tourism because of the new Manhattan Project National Historical Park designated last year. I recently attended a meeting with our Park counterparts from Oak Ridge, Tenn., and Hanford, Wash., and can confidently state that the three communities, as well as our local National Park associated sites for Bandelier and Valles Caldera, are working together to bring cohesion and continuity of message to the entire “gateway” experience for visitors.

It’s exciting to be on the ground level of such an extensive effort, and more details will be coming to the Council this fall about everything from infrastructure projects needed for DP Road, housing on County land (including more affordable choices for those wishing to live and work in Los Alamos), and ideas to bring more businesses to 20th Street and Trinity through road improvements.

We’re also taking a closer look at Deacon Street to see what simple street changes or amenities we could make to foster more of a “festival” atmosphere and less “alley or back of street” view. It’s all part of downtown redevelopment in Los Alamos, and we’re excited to discuss these projects with the community and then the Council.

The Economic Development Projects could definitely enhance our community as the home of the new Manhattan Project National Historical Park, too, along with enticing new businesses to locate or relocate to Los Alamos County.

So, while it might feel like summer is winding down, many aspects of life in our community are poised to leap forward and really begin to take off this fall. To that end, we recognize that change can be exciting but aggravating, too.

We’ll be working hard to continue to reach out to the community to give you information and ask for input along the way on all of these major projects – the ones you can see and the ones you don’t – and if you have any concerns or questions, my door is always open to visit with you.

Please send me an e-mail at lacmanager@lacnm.us or stop by my office (Suite 350, Municipal Building).