County Council Weighs In On Plans For Reopening

County Manager Harry Burgess

By KIRSTEN LASKEY
Los Alamos Daily Post
kirsten@ladailypost.com

While plans are in the works to reopen Los Alamos County government, nothing is certain.

As County Manager Harry Burgess emphasized during the County Council work session Tuesday night, everything hinges on meeting gating criteria.

“I certainly cannot predict the future,” Burgess said.

Burgess presented the current thinking about reopening plans to Council to get input and to see if there are areas the County should initially focus on. He reported that the pre-planning phase ended Friday. This phase includes:

  • Support reopening of limited retail businesses;
  • Have employees wear masks;
  • Reopen Los Alamos County Golf Course;
  • Enact baseline fire restrictions;
  • Cottonwood on the Greens, located in the County-owned golf clubhouse, is opened but only providing curbside pickup and delivery; and
  • County departments Public Works, Fire, Police and Department of Public Utilities are continuing to provide direct services.
  • Phase I, Burgess said, began May 16. Highlights from this phase are:
    Delaying the start of the Los Alamos Summer concerts to the end of June. Until then, Burgess said the vendor, which organizes the concerts, is looking to provide virtual presentations.
  • Bandelier shuttle services are canceled until both the National Park Service and the County agree to restart the shuttles. Burgess said the National Park Service is allowing cars to go to Bandelier through June.
  • Many County employees are continuing to telework or remain on non-essential leave although some employees are working onsite as necessary.
  • All park employees returned to work.
  • The Hawk to Hilltopper event, which takes place on a County-owned park, is canceled. To help give graduating high school seniors some type of celebration, Burgess said County officials have had several conversations with Los Alamos Public Schools and have also purchased celebratory banners, which will be hung throughout Los Alamos and White Rock.
  • County employee events such as spring fling and the annual picnic are canceled.

For planning purposes, Phase II is expected to begin in June, Burgess said. During this phase:
County employees will continue teleworking or being on leave.

  • The County Libraries are expected to offer curbside delivery of library materials.
  • Potentially, some County-contracted cultural services such as the Nature Center and History Museum could reopen with limitations.
  • Reopen Fuller Lodge only to tours.
  • The Community Services Department is reviewing how to revamp some of its summer programs. For instance, instead of holding movies in the park, the department is considering holding drive-in movies.
  • Also, staff are looking into holding neighborhood block parties with DJ vans.
    The visitor center at Bandelier National Monument may open during this phase with limited hours and no volunteers.
  • County administrative offices remain closed but can schedule appointments.
  • IBEW negotiations are postponed.
  • Phase III could begin in July. Burgess said this phase has the most uncertainty because the directives from the state for this phase are not known. However, in this phase, the following could potentially be considered:
    More County employees may return to work.
  • Atomic City Transit may restart. Burgess said demand will dictate what transit services will look like.
  • Reopen the golf pro shop.
  • Reopen the visitor centers in Los Alamos and White Rock.
  • Increase library services to limited numbers of patrons in the libraries as well as computer use and picking up holds on library materials.
  • The July 4 Kiwanis fireworks celebration is canceled as well as Science Fest’s Discovery Day.
  • The Larry R. Walkup Aquatic Center could reopen but with some restrictions as far as the number people allowed in the pool.
  • Opening the Art Center at Fuller Lodge, Camp May, parks for sport teams and Fuller Lodge for meetings.
  • Public spaces may be reserved and reservations for campgrounds may be increased.
  • Begin scheduling County board and commission meetings.
  • Fire Cadet testing may resume.
  • Resume Los Alamos County Academy, new employee orientation and bring back pension consultants for
  • County employees.
  • Postpone the annual triathlon.

Burgess further reported that in the future, at a date not yet determined, the County could consider operations at the Teen Center and the Youth Activity Centers, whether to hold the County Fair and Rodeo, reopening the senior centers, libraries resuming normal hours, etc. Council Chair Sara Scott emphasized that none of the items listed in the phases are set in stone.

“Anything beyond now is just a consideration,” she said. “My takeaway is … we move through this list of potential considerations in a graded approach with no assigned dates … this is a process of how to reopen, not a timeline.”

Councilor Pete Sheehey wondered if the County’s boards and commissions could be brought back earlier if, similar to County Council and Board of Public Utilities, they utilized Zoom and other online services. These boards and commissions do a lot of important work, he pointed out. Burgess said the County is following the state Attorney General’s guidelines and each board and commission operates differently. He added that they are looking into the issue more.

Councilor Antonio Maggiore said he thought the reopening plan was good but said he was concerned about the “ineptitude across the bridge.” Maggiore asked how is the County supposed to trust that Los Alamos National Laboratory is operating in a safe manner when it was observed that guards at the shacks outside Los Alamos National Laboratory were not wearing masks. Councilor James Robinson responded saying the issue of guards not wearing masks was addressed. He noted the majority of LANL’s workforce, 70 percent, is teleworking and things such as wearing personal protective equipment and social distancing is being enforced. Vice Chair Randall Ryti also praised the plan.

“I think going slowly and seeing what’s working are good ideas,” Ryti said.

He added he supports measuring demand for certain services as well as seeing what people are comfortable with.

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