County Council Action Taken Feb. 28, 2023

Los Alamos Daily Post

Los Alamos County Council hit the pause button on rolling out the bear-proof roll trash carts County wide during its regular meeting Tuesday night.

In a 4-1 vote, with Councilor Randall Ryti opposed, council agreed to stop County-wide distribution of the bear-proof carts for the year to fully evaluate how the carts that have already been distributed to residences in the North Mesa community perform during this year’s bear season. Residents can continue to request a bear-proof cart.

Ryti voted against the motion, saying he felt it would be a mistake to return the program to being voluntary and suggested that County staff investigate alternatives to fix the technical issues with the bear-proof carts. Councilors Melanee Hand and Suzie Havemann were absent from the meeting.

“We still have the problem with the bears,” Ryti said. “We have no data suggesting it’s been abated … in terms of the residents, it’s actually fairly successful. There are some issues with the trucks and lifting mechanism. I don’t think we should just abandon the program at this point in the time … it’s basically going back the old system, which wasn’t working …”

Councilor Denise Derkacs said she felt a trial basis for the new roll carts was a good compromise.

“We distribute the carts by request only for a year and … revisit this again in a year and see if the issues that have been identified have been resolved before we commit to buying the carts for all of Los Alamos,” she said.

County Sustainability Manager Angelica Gurule, Public Works Director Juan Rael and Environmental Services Division Manager Armando Gabaldon reported to council about the roll carts.

According to their report, during the FY2022 budget process, council approved $2.4 million to be spent on bear-resistant dumpsters and roll carts. This would allow for 260 dumpsters and rolls carts for all 7,250 residences. So far, 480 roll carts have been given to North Community due to its high number of calls to Los Alamos dispatch regarding bear activity. Based on a recent County survey, people seem to give positive reviews on the new roll carts. Most respondents said they felt the new carts were effective, that they preferred them over the old ones and that they were not having a lot of problems with them.

Still, some survey participants said the carts were hard to maneuver and difficult to open and close. Plus, the Environmental Services Division crew have had difficulty with their trucks opening and emptying the new roll carts. It can take a few tries and that adds wear and tear to the equipment.

Council’s motion does not address the dumpsters, which have been reported to be hard to operate due to the height and weight of the door. In response to residents’ concerns, Rael said 10 dumpsters were swapped out for the old models and a step was installed on one of the dumpsters to see if that alleviates some of the issues.

Although council hit the brakes on rolling out the bear-proof carts County-wide, the bear problem persists.

Councilor Keith Lepsch noted that when bears consistently find easy, quick access to food in dumpsters and trash cans, they will become habituated.

Gurule echoed this fact saying that Game and Fish “likened it to being addicted to drugs. You have your first interaction with the garbage container and it’s like instant gratification … they remember that – forever. The mom will teach their cub where to get that food and they will go back to that house year after year … we can’t change their behavior but we give humans tools to reduce those encounters.”

In other business, council:

  • Heard a presentation on the work being done to address short-term rentals in Los Alamos County. It was noted during the presentation that currently the County does not have any regulations on these types of rentals and is working to begin the conversation on what the regulations should be.
  • Unanimously approved a liquor license for Los Alamos Cantina and Pyramid Café.
  • Unanimously approved a resolution to submit an application to the Department of Finance and Administration to participate in the Local DWI Grant and Distribution Program.
  • Unanimously approved an ordinance to amend Chapter 22 in the Los Alamos County Code regarding Fire Prevention and Protection. The amendments were minor and mainly updated code references.
  • Unanimously approved an ordinance to amend another section of Chapter 22 to codify restrictions that may be imposed by the Fire Chief to limit the potential for wildfires.
  • Unanimously approved an ordinance to amend several sections in Chapter 38 of the Los Alamos County Code, which addresses traffic codes. These changes make the local codes more in line with the state’s codes.
  • Appointed David Hampton to the Board of Registration.
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