By KIRSTEN LASKEY
Los Alamos Daily Post
The Los Alamos Public Schools Credit Union is getting a new home – right next to the Los Alamos County Municipal Building.Los Alamos County Council unanimously approved the sale of 1010 Central Ave., a stretch of green space that runs along the parking lot in front of the Municipal Building, during its regular Tuesday night meeting.
The sale price, according to agenda documents, is $360,950. The May 2019 appraisal estimated the market value was $390,000 but this was made before a lot line adjustment, which reduced the square footage and, therefore, the purchase price of the property was at the same value/square foot as appraised
The building that will be constructed at this location will not only house the LAPS Credit Union but also the Los Alamos Public Schools Foundation. The hope is to have the construction completed by the first or second quarter of next year, LAPS Credit Union CEO Matt Schmidt said.
The new location will be a welcome change for the credit union, he said. Its current location inside the Pueblo Complex on Diamond Drive was never really intended for a financial institution.
“This does check a lot of boxes for us, for our members and for the community as well,” Schmidt said.
The building will be 3,800 square feet. Schmidt said the credit union is working with a design/build firm, which specializes in banks and credit unions.
Councilor Pete Sheehey asked what the plans were for the trees planted in this space. He wondered if the credit union would be amendable to salvaging as many as possible and if it couldn’t keep some trees, if the County could relocate them elsewhere.
Schmidt said he has met with Los Alamos Landscaping and More Owner Craig Wehner and said if any of the trees can’t be salvage then an equal amount will be planted in school district sites.
“We will be making as many concessions as we can to keep as many existing trees as possible,” he said.
Several people spoke in support of the sale.
LAPS Superintendent Kurt Steinhaus said he feels the sale will be good for the credit union and the LAPS Foundation.
“I stand … in full support of this decision,” Steinhaus said. “I think it’s good for the credit union as well as the foundation. Both organizations provide a tremendous service to the schools. If you approve this, it would be a good decision for the schools as well as the community of Los Alamos.”
Not everyone thought so.
Los Alamos resident Greg White advocated against the sale, saying the credit union should pursue one of the vacant commercial buildings rather than paving over one of the few green spaces in Los Alamos.
Los Alamos Commerce and Development Corporation Executive Director Patrick Sullivan disagreed. He pointed out that the park was never the intended use for this land. The credit union, on the other hand, is the perfect fit, he said.
“They can fit on the property; they are a long-vested business in the community … I encourage you to vote for this,” Sullivan said.
County Manager Harry Burgess reported that when the land was purchased for the Municipal Building, it was more than what was needed for the County building and therefore the then-seated Council directed him to explore options for transferring the remaining parcel to commercial use.
The County, he said, went through several solicitations but a sale was never achieved due to the challenges of adequate parking and delivery access associated with the site. The credit union, Burgess said, can operate within the existing parking.
Schmidt commented that the credit union has a long history in Los Alamos. It opened in 1955 with just a dozen teachers. In fact, the credit union’s first location was in a school employee’s home. Today the credit union has 1,800 members and close to $20 million in assets, he said. The credit union supports LAPS athletics, music and academic endeavors such as the science fair. It also teaches a finance class and makes weekly visits to the schools. Furthermore, Schmidt said the credit union supports local organizations including the YMCA, Juvenile Justice Advisory Board and the Los Alamos Public Schools Foundation.