By KIRSTEN LASKEY
Los Alamos Daily Post
Demand for recreation facilities has reached its limit in Los Alamos County, according to Los Alamos Futures Recreation Bond Advocacy Group, a recently formed Political Action Committee (PAC).
“We’re busting at the seams with what we’ve got,” PAC Co-Chair Tony Fox said.
As a result, young athletes practice and even hold games in school cafeterias or commute out of town to use other communities’ facilities, Fox said, adding that after 16 months of collecting public feedback and working to determine cost implications, a solution is being proposed.
Los Alamos County Council has approved placing in the community’s hands the decision to enhance recreation amenities. Ballots will be mailed out May 2 to all registered voters in Los Alamos County on whether a $20 million bond should be approved. Voters have through May 23 to return their ballots.
Los Alamos Futures was organized to help promote the bond, Fox said. The PAC was formed in late January and has 15 committee members and four board members. Along with Fox, Darren Meadows serves as co-chair and Council Vice Chair Susan O’Leary is the PAC’s treasurer and Councilor James Chrobocinski serves as secretary.
If approved, the bond money will be combined with $13.5 million from the County’s capital improvement fund to construct new facilities and improve existing ones.
- Splash Pad at Pinon Park;
- Multi-generational Swimming Pool at the Aquatic Center;
- Recreation Center with gymnasiums, walking track, and multi-use arena that’s part ice rink, part recreation space for many activities;
- Los Alamos County Golf Course Improvements; and
- Overlook Park Ball Field Improvements.
The bond would have a 20-year term, which would cost .022 mils of taxable value per year per household. For a $300,000 house, this would mean an $18.33 monthly expense.
Members of Los Alamos Futures say it would be a smart investment; one that would reap a lot of benefits for the community.
“We don’t want to minimize the fact that there will be a tax increase.” Fox said. “I believe all these projects just create a healthier, more vibrant community to live in and thrive in and recreate in.”
Meadows pointed out that “there’s a lot of money lost” when athletes have to travel outside the community to practice or to compete in games. The money that could be spent in Los Alamos for lodging, food and other items is given to other communities.
Plus, it also costs parents and students’ time. Meadows pointed out that it is difficult to drive to a neighboring community on a school night, practice and still find time to do school work and other things.
Meadows added that with these projects, everyone benefits.
“If you are a child or an adult, in an organized sport or not, there is something you can get out of these facilities,” he said. “It’s part of a comprehensive package that is going to benefit a large number of diverse groups.”
Fox agreed, saying anyone from badminton players to roller derby participants can utilize these facilities. “It’s pretty significant,” he said.
Plus, in regard to concerns that these projects will increase the County’s annual operating budget, Fox said there will be a $1.6 million increase but “a lot of these projects are going to be self-sufficient.” He explained the facilities will charge admission, which will help offset operating costs.
Additionally, the capital improvements projects such as the recreation center are expected to spur economic growth. For instance, Fox said construction of the recreation center would bring utilities and infrastructure to DP Road, which the County has wanted to develop. “This rec center is a catalyst to revive the DP Road area,” he said.
Meadows said having more recreation opportunities may also be a great employment recruiting tool for the laboratory. The capital improvement project would enhance quality of life and add to the list of things to do in town. “It would be a large benefit to recruit people here,” Meadows said.
Members of Los Alamos Futures also say it is time to invest in the County’s recreation facilities. In the last 10 years, the County has spent nearly 90 percent of its capital improvement funds on roads and County facilities. Only 3 percent of these funds have gone to recreation amenities.
“It’s really an investment in you, the citizen,” Fox said.
Meadows pointed out that the existing recreational organizations such as The Family YMCA are supportive and excited about the recreation projects. He said the YMCA experiences space shortage and is excited to offer programs at the new facilities.
“They are very excited about additional gym (space). They are absolutely excited,” Meadows said.
In general, Fox said the public’s feedback toward the proposed bond has been positive. “I’ve heard really good feedback,” he said.
Meadow agreed, “People are really excited.”
Fox and Meadows said they became active in the PAC through their families’ involvement in different recreation activities. Through his participation in the committee, Fox said, “I’ve come to see, wholeheartedly, the value of all these projects. I think they can improve the quality of the community.”
To learn more about the proposed bond, visit the Los Alamos County website at https://losalamosbondprojects2017.com, or the PAC’s website at losalamosfuture.com.