Highlights From County Council Meeting Dec. 17

Los Alamos Daily Post

Dec. 17 was the final meeting for the Los Alamos County Council in 2019. Here are some of the highlights from the meeting:


Public Voices Concern For LAMC OBGYN Services

During public comment, several individuals expressed concern that Los Alamos Medical Center (LAMC) is at risk of losing its obstetrics and gynecology services.

Community Health Council Vice Chair and Chair of Baby Net Carie Fanning said she thought that after decades of continuous use, LAMC’s mother/baby unit is in jeopardy of closing. “Continuous local access to obstetrics and gynecology services at LAMC as well as access to providers trained to care for newborns is uncertain and (Los Alamos) in danger of being left without sufficient local care providers … the loss of OBGYN providers in January 2019 has created a domino effect that caused LAMC to loose contract obstetricians, advanced practicing nurses and nurses. These losses … created uncertainty of care at LAMC and frustrated anxious families intending to deliver at LAMC. Many of these families have transferred their care to outside the County.”

Council Chair Sara Scott said she was planning to meet with LAMC CEO John Whiteside along with State Rep. Christine Chandler and LANL Director of Staff Francis Chadwick to discuss community and council concerns about the local availability of OBGYN services.

“We understand this is a big concern to the community and will relay that message and discuss potential options for addressing this situation,” Scott said.

UnQuarked Owner Discusses Code Issues

Also during public comment, UnQuarked Owner Prashant Jain expressed to Council his frustrations with the County’s code enforcement program. He said his business relocation to 813 Central Ave. is in jeopardy due to be being red-tagged for violations Jain said he feels are nonexistent.

Council Gets Update On County Trail System

In his presentation to Council, Open Space Specialist Eric Peterson provided a status report on several projects the County’s Parks, Recreation and Open Space Division is working on, including the proposed bike flow trail. He commented that $50,000 was allocated for the trail and to date, $2,400 has been spent on plans and the trail development process.  As a result of the last public meeting held on the flow trail, top options for the trial’s location are: DP Canyon to Los Alamos Canyon, Los Alamos Canyon to its north side and Los Alamos Canyon to its south side.

“But due to land ownership there is (a) …we would need to pursue these possibilities  with land acquisitions in the future,” Peterson said.

Peterson said, per council’s suggestion, Pueblo Canyon is also being considered as a possible site for the trail. There are pros and cons to this location, he said. The pros are good proximity to town and transit route and elevation. The cons are challenging terrain and the canyon faces north so snow and ice will not melt fast in the winter.

Peterson also addressed the signage project, which was a response to public input. He said a plan to incorporate signage in Los Alamos and White Rock has been followed. A test run was done in Deer Trap Mesa in 2016 to gage the public’s response of the signs.

“We didn’t hear much negative feedback,” Peterson said. “We got a lot of positive feedback on the signs.”

As a result, he said work moved to phase II in 2018, which included installing signs in Bayo Canyon by the aquatic center and Kiwage Mesa. Currently, Peterson said the focus is on putting signs along the perimeter trails around Los Alamos. He added a marketing effort is underway for the County’s open spaces. A trail network map is available along with trail brochures.

Peterson also touched on the recently completed Graduation Canyon restoration project.

“We are already seeing visible signs of work just from the small amount of time since It was completed,” he said. “In my eyes, it was a very successful project and we look forward to repeating this project in other canyons in the County.”

Council Approves RFPs For Downtown Master Plan And Updates To Chapter 16 And 18 In County Code

With interest in developing the downtown increasing, council never having formally adopted the downtown master plan that was drafted in the early 2000s, and a need in the context of increased housing and business development to update chapters of the County code, two budget revisions were approved.

The revisions are for two requests for proposals (RFP).

The first budget revision is for $150,000 and Community Development Department Director Paul Andrus said the work would be done in two phases. The first phase would focus on a downtown master plan for Los Alamos and White Rock and the second phase would work on Chapter 16, which addresses development.

Andrus said the idea behind working on the downtown plan and Chapter 16 of the County code is to realize smart growth philosophies, which includes mobility, traffic, accessibility as well as density in the downtown area.

County Principal Planner Ryan Foster said a consultant would be hired to help assist with the work, which would include site analysis and public outreach. “I think this is a really important investment,” Scott said. “I’ve heard that while the community really wants additional housing options and some additional economic development – that they want us to proceed carefully as we undertake these efforts and make sure that what we do choose to proceed with, is accomplished in a responsible way, in a way which makes our town more attractive and livable.”

The second budget revision is for $50,000 to update Chapter 18 of the County code, which addresses standards and compliance processes for the maintenance of structures, including all existing residential and nonresidential structures, premises and exterior property, according to agenda documents.

Andrus said the budget request was per the council’s direction to hire a consultant to assist the Community Development Advisory Board in resolving the areas of concern the board identified in this chapter of the code. 

Increasing County Share In Carbon Free Power Project Budget Approved

To continue in the Carbon Free Power Project through the spring and summer, Council agreed to increase the Department of Public Utilities’ (DPU) share of the project’s budget. The amount is $52,000 with a 20 percent contingency of $10,500.

The County is a part of the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) and hope is that DPU will receive some of its electric power from a small nuclear reactor facility called the Carbon Free Power Project that would be located in Idaho. This is an effort to that would help achieve the County’s goal of being carbon free by 2024.

Previously, Cummins reported DOE had shown an interest in purchasing two of the units through a Joint Use Module Plant (JUMP) contract.  By increasing DPU’s share in the project, it will allow Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) to finalize the terms and conditions of the JUMP contract.

The County is currently subscribed to receive eight megawatts of power from the facility. Cummins said the JUMP agreement would give DPU an additional 3.2 megawatts of power.

Additionally, Cummins said UAMPS wants to continue to contractually negotiate on the short-term engineering procurement and construction development agreement, increase the number of subscribers in the Carbon Free Power Project, identify key risk items and run economic competitive tests that are expected by March.

All these items, he said, allow the County to make an informed decision on whether to continue with the project.

Although he said he was in favor of budget increase, Councilor David Izraelevitz pointed out that nuclear power isn’t the only option to be carbon free.

 “We may decide we waited long enough and there are other opportunities to achieve our carbon neutral goals … we may go in a different direction at some point … if this continues to be, OK, we need another six months…,” he said.  

County Agenda For State Legislature Approved

Council approved its agenda for 2020 state legislature. Among the items council decided to support are:

  • Sufficient funding for New Mexico public schools;
  • Restoration of full-service Public Health Offices throughout the state, including in Los Alamos;
  • Full and/or increased funding for projects to reduce risk of wildfire such as authorized under the Forest and Watershed Restoration Act;
  • Supporting Los Alamos County’s application for capital outlay funding to develop sufficient community recreation space;
  • 2020 Census general funding request; and
  • Legislative priorities of NMAC and NMML.

Scott also proposed, depending on the governor’s list of topics for the 2020 legislative session, that council consider putting forward specific language for making common sense gun measures a priority.