County Manager Steven Lynne
By KIRSTEN LASKEY
Los Alamos Daily Post
COVID-19 continued to play a starring role in 2021.
“Certainly, overlaying everything has been the County’s and the community’s response to the pandemic … we really very much appreciate the community’s effort and the partnerships we have with the community to help us through the pandemic,” Los Alamos County Manager Steven Lynne said during his Annual Report preview presentation Jan. 13 at the Los Alamos Chamber of Commerce Business Breakfast.
Lynne credited the “excellent” County staff for maintaining essential services. Additionally, a COVID committee was created along with a COVID newsletter to inform the public about the pandemic and the County’s response to it.
“Despite COVID, a lot has gone on,” he said.
Lynne touched on the work being done to address the seven priorities identified by Los Alamos County Council.
Enhanced communication and transparency
Lynne reported that the County’s communication plan is being updated and that the focus on the strategic priorities will be a little more explicit. Additionally, the County’s website is being updated and a new resource will be available to the community. This new resource is a mobile app, which will allow citizens to make requests for County’s services as well as track the requests and their follow-through.
Lynne further reported that former Public Information Officer (PIO) Julie Habiger retired in 2021 and that Julie Williams-Hill was hired as the new PIO.
The second phase for the Mirador housing development has been approved, Lynne said. Additionally, the affordable housing apartment complex, the Canyon Walk Apartments, are nearing completion and construction for the second affordable housing apartment complex, the Bluffs, has begun.
Another development, Arkansas Place, has also started construction, he said.
Lynne reported that a memorandum of agreement between Los Alamos Public Schools and the County entered to study the potential for housing near Los Alamos Middle School. Furthermore, a joint committee was formed to guide this study.
In other housing news, Lynne said there was a groundbreaking in 2021 for the Hills Apartment Complex located on the former Los Alamos Site Office land.
He further noted that the County continues to offer the Homebuyer Assistance Program and the Home Renewal Program.
Despite all of this, “…There is quite a bit of demand and quite a bit more needed in this area,” Lynne said.
Enhance Open Space, Recreational and Cultural Amenities
In 2021, the former Women’s Army Corp dormitory was acquired by the County and Lynne said plans are being developed for what to do with the building.
The County is in the middle of improving the Los Alamos County Golf Course. The irrigation was completed last year and this month the Council discussed the remainder of the project, he said.
A project addressing tennis courts and shared gym space between the County and the schools is being discussed, Lynne added.
In other recreational news, he noted that last year improvements to the ice rink were completed and the Splash Pad in White Rock was opened to the public. Construction also is underway for the Leisure Lagoon at the aquatic center.
Improvements also were made to the Canyon Rim Trail and discussions are being held for a potential bike flow trail in Los Alamos Canyon.
Lastly, Lynne said an ADA audit was kicked off last year. He said this audit is relatively new and should lead to improvements to all County recreational facilities.
Support local business environment
In 2021, Council approved $4.5 million for infrastructure on DP Road, Lynne said.
In other development news, he said the Planning and Zoning Commission approved the Marriott hotel and conference center. However, the project has hit a “wait and see” stage, Lynne said. He explained the developer wanted more time for the project, but that request was not approved.
Lynne further reported that a new Economic Development Administrator, Dan Ungerleider, was hired last year.
He also touched on the American Rescue Plan funds, which will be made available to businesses.
“We really view this as an opportunity not only to handle some of the COVID recovery assistance but also it really is going to help in terms of business expansion ,” Lynne said.
He added the target is to launch the funds around April.
The County is striving to provide additional assistance for local businesses through consultant grants. Lynne explained that one of the big challenges for businesses is startup costs associated with expansions and the hope is to provide grants and maybe offer larger Local Economic Development Act (LEDA) projects.
Other work the County did in 2021 for the business sector was develop and adopt the downtown master plans for Los Alamos and White Rock, Lynne said. Additionally, Chapter 16 (Development Code) of the County Code is being revised and cannabis retail and manufacturing was included in the code. Chapter 18 (Nuisance Code) is also being revised.
Finally, Lynne said a Metropolitan Redevelopment Area (MRA) was approved for White Rock to help with its economic development.
A new office for the County’s social services opened last year, Lynne said. Furthermore, he said Los Alamos Health Council is developing a comprehensive health plan.
Broadband has become a higher priority for council, Lynne said. He added that Jerry Smith was hired as the Broadband Manager.
The next step is to build off the latest study done, quickly bring executable conceptual plans and two to three options to council “so we can move ahead with real improvements to broadband in our community,” Lynne said.
Work continues with the Carbon Free Power Project, Lynne said. Additionally, to make the County carbon neutral, a resiliency and energy sustainability task force was formed. The committee’s initial report, which include recommendations, is being finalized.
Lynne added the Department of Public Utilities is installing electric charging stations around town.
In other infrastructure news, the White Rock wastewater treatment facility is about to be replaced. Lynne added that 2021 was a challenging year for procurement, which resulted in the cost of the replacement plant increasing significantly.
As far the County’s electric generation infrastructure, Lynne said the County is exiting the San Juan Generating Plant and entered a power purchase agreement for wind and solar.
Several trails are being investigated throughout town, he added. One that is being planned is an Urban Trail Corridor, which would be multi-use.
Another major project in 2021 was the NM 502 construction. While this was a state project, it was coordinated with the County, Lynne said. Another major road project coming up is the intersection improvement project to NM 4.
In other news, Lynne reported the food compost feasibility study was completed and the Council approved the purchase of bear resistant roll carts.
In summing up 2021, “I am proud of our community,” he said. “Given the challenges of the past year to see how much we all were able to accomplish, I think it just demonstrates how resilient we are, how capable we are and why this is a great community to live in.”
Lynne added that this is a group effort. He said he appreciates the County but “it’s all our organizations” that have contributed to a successful year.