Los Alamos County Council Approves Issuance Of RFP To Revise Chapter 18 In County Code

CDD Director Paul Andrus

Los Alamos Daily Post

Efforts to clarify and update Chapter 18 of the Los Alamos County’s code enforcement progressed further during Tuesday night’s regular County Council meeting.

Council unanimously approved to authorize a request for proposal (RFP) to hire a consultant that will be tasked with revising Chapter 18, which is also known as the chapter on environment, Community Development Department (CDD) Director Paul Andrus said.

Andrus explained the RFP’s goal is to analyze and update Chapter 18. The cost estimate for the work, he said, is $50,000 and the work is expected to take nine months. Andrus said there is additional funds in the CDD budget for advertising and marketing of the revision process.

He said the scope of work includes language and definition clarification, general cleanup, and removal of any inconsistencies.

“Even though it is an entire Chapter 18 update, there is some attention that (should) be paid to those issues CDAB (Community Development Advisory Board) and others have brought up with respect to weeds, outdoor material storage and inoperable vehicles,” Andrus said.

Additionally, he said there is some overlap between Chapters 16 and 18 that needs to be addressed.

The consultant will be asked to come up with recommendations for best practices, look at existing processes and determine what things need to be codified and what needs to be policy and procedure, Andrus said. Furthermore, the consultant will recommend types of performance monitoring and look at proper metrics for code programs.

The public will play a role in the revision process, Andrus said, particularly with property maintenance and safety issues. The intent is also to include the CDAB throughout the process, too.

While Councilor Pete Sheehey said he supported issuing the RFP, he recommended including three items into it, which the rest of council accepted. One of these three items is to have explicit instruction from the start that staff and CDAB review the status of code enforcement and the County’s current situation.

The point, Sheehey said, is to use what is already in place and not reinvent the wheel.  He added neighborhoods’ differences such as Pajarito Acres and other neighborhoods in town, be explicitly considered. Finally, Sheehey said the consultant needs to hear early on what council would like to accomplish through this process – what are council’s true goals and priorities.

Councilor Vice Chair Randall Ryti touched on the public engagement process. He wondered if it might be allowed to be informal.

“I am a little concerned the we might not get quite the input that we normally might get at a regular public meeting … that’s something to consider,” he said.

He added not everything needs to be recorded and maybe council should consider other avenues such as holding a booth at the Farmers’ Market. Public involvement is important, Ryti said. He pointed out that metrics are necessary but what builds a community are its neighbors.

Councilor James Robinson said he was pleased to approve the RFP.

“I am very happy to move this forward because this the crux of almost all the issues CDAB and CDD encounters,” he said. “The code needs to be rewritten…. the code needs to be revised.”

The County code was also discussed during CDAB Chair Aaron Walker’s presentation to council about the work the board has done.

“A lot of has gone on and lot has not gone on in the past 12 months,” he said.

Walker said COVID and a lack of quorum resulted in a lot of cancelled meetings. In fact, in the past four months, the CDAB had not met until last week

Still, Walker said the board updated its work plan for Fiscal Year 2021 and approved comments for the draft RFP to revise Chapter 18. While no action was taken, he added that the board discussed outreach and communication efforts.

Walker was critical of council; he said it contributed to CDAB’s hindrances.

“Recent appointments of board members to boards without filling the board show an appearance of a double standard when it comes to CDAB,” he said. “Other boards can have appointments made without filling the board, but ours seems to have meet additional arbitrary requirements that council seem to come up with at that time.”

He added that council has not given clear direction to CDAB other than to inform the board that it is not oversight.

To address these problems, Walker said board vacancies need to be efficiently filled and double standards need to be removed.

“If the board is significant enough to exist then we all significant enough to be held to the same standards without deviation,” Walker said.

Still, there has been positive developments. Walker said the relationship between CDAB and the CDD has greatly improved and Councilor Robinson is working to develop a clear path forward for the board.

He was also pleased that the RFP will be issued to address Chapter 18.

“I think the most important thing (with the RFP) … is it is not just that this is the path you have to follow but we can look at various different ways on how to change code enforcement and how to make it better for the people of the community,” Walker said.