Highlights From County Council Meeting Tuesday Night

Council Vice Chair James Robinson, right, presents a proclamation marking the 10th anniversary of the Las Conchas Fire during Tuesday’s council meeting to, from left, Police Chief Dino Sgambellone, Wildland Fire Chief Kelly Sterna, Fire Chief Troy Hughes and Deputy Fire Chief Steve Dawald. Photo by Kirsten Laskey/ladailypost.com

Staff Report

2021 marks the 10-year anniversary of the Las Conchas Fire, which was recognized during Tuesday’s Los Alamos County Council meeting.

Council Vice Chair James Robinson presented a proclamation for the anniversary to Fire Chief Troy Hughes, Deputy Fire Chief Steven Dawald, Wildland Division Chief Kelly Sterna and Police Chief Dino Sgambellone.

The proclamation read:

WHEREAS: It has been ten years since the Las Conchas Wildfire – which was at that time, the largest fire to ever occur in New Mexico – and the Los Alamos County Council wishes to mark this historic milestone for our community with a moment of sadness for our landscape that forever changed, as well as offer our gratitude for all of those in our community who helped us recover after this terrible fire threatened us on June 26, 2011; and

 WHEREAS: We especially remember and thank our firefighters, emergency responders and police officers who battled the flames on the front lines, protected lives and property, and worked to evacuate Los Alamos safely during this raging wildfire that ultimately burned over 154,000 acres before it could be contained, primarily damaging nearby Bandelier National Monument, miles of backcountry trails and Frijoles Canyon; and

 WHEREAS: The fire was ignited approximately 5.5 miles west of Bandelier, when a large tree fell on a power line amid high winds, sparking the fire near the Las Conchas recreational area; during the first night of the blaze, the fire rapidly burned over 43,000 acres, spreading at a rate of an acre per second and offering dramatic views of the flames across the ridgetop of Los Alamos as it burned far into the night; and

 WHEREAS: The Las Conchas wildfire burned so hot and so fast that it left in its wake severe damage to the surrounding landscape, even through previous burn footprints of the La Mesa, Dome and Cerro Grande fires – consuming homes in the forest, threatening Los Alamos National Laboratory, the beautiful Valles Caldera National Preserve, and our town of Los Alamos – and we offer a heartfelt thanks to all those who helped us through this difficult time and over many days of recovery that followed after the fire, including the threat and damage caused by local flooding at Bandelier;

 NOW, THEREFORE, on behalf of the Council of the Incorporated County of Los Alamos, I do hereby ask our community to once again express their gratitude to all firefighters, public safety personnel, emergency responders, Bandelier staff and volunteers who put their lives on the line to protect us, or who served our community in numerous ways, as we remember “The ten-year anniversary of the Las Conchas Wildfire.”

Dawald said Los Alamos looks different after 10 years than it use to and the same goes for the Los Alamos Fire Department.

“As a department we became better and stronger due to the experiences we had …,” he said.

In unrelated matters, the council did the following:

  • Councilor Sara Scott introduced Ordinance No. 02-316 to rezone Tract RM, Eastern Area 3, to Professional-Office (P-O)
  • Councilor Sean Williams introduced Ordinance No. 02-317, which would add a new section in Chapter 16 of the County Development Code to create a new downtown overlay zone referred to as the downtown pedestrian retail overlay zone (“DT-PRO”).
  • Held a public hearing and unanimously passed Code Ordinance No. 707, which authorizes the refinance and re-issuance of amended promissory note agreements with the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) to reflect a lowered interest rate. This applies to the NMED loan for the Los Alamos Wastewater Treatment Plant, Department of Public Utilities Deputy Manager Bob Westervelt said. The interest rate was lowered to 1 percent, which allows the County to save more than $47,000 per year for the remaining 14 payments on the loan, he said.
  • Held a public hearing and unanimously passed resolutions No. 21-11, 21-12 and 21-13, which support the County’s participation in the 2021-2022 New Mexico Department of Transportation Local Government Road Fund for reconstruction and improvements of various County roads in Los Alamos under the County Arterial Program, School Bus Route Program and Cooperative Agreement Program.
  • Held a public hearing and unanimously passed Resolution No. 21-10; which designates the location of election day polling places for all statewide and special elections conducted in 2022 and 2023. Additionally, it establishes a County Canvassing Board through the end of 2023.
  • Held a public hearing and unanimously approved Resolution No. 21-09, which adjusts precinct boundaries in the County. County Clerk Naomi Maestas said state law requires that the boundaries be adjusted because several precincts exceeded 750 voters during the 2020 election. “I recognize the public for being so engaged … I think for government this a good problem to have,” Councilor Sean Williams said.
  • Heard from Acting County Manager Steven Lynne that the County has a “relatively severe” shortage of lifeguards. Additionally, he said Customer Care is temporarily relocated to the Boards and Commissions Meeting Room while the Customer Care Center is renovated. Lynne also reported that for the second year in a row, Los Alamos County was deemed the healthiest county in the U.S. by U.S. News and World Report and the Aetna Foundation.
  • Approved 4-3, with Councilors David Reagor, Robinson and Williams in opposition, to revise the charters for the Racial Equity and Inclusivity Task Force, Los Alamos Resiliency Energy Task Force and Sustainability and Tourism Implementation. Williams, Robinson and Reagor wanted to table to issue until July 13 to discuss the issue further.
  • Unanimously approved the FY22 Salary Plan Job Class Order Schedule and re-classified the Broadband Manager position to receive higher pay.
  • Unanimously approved to award the IFB 21-43 Otowi Well #2 Well House & Equipment and Otowi Well #4 MCC Replacement Project.