By KIRSTEN LASKEY
Los Alamos Daily Post
As Los Alamos County prepares the FY2024 budget and a 10-year capital improvement project (CIP) projection, County Manager Steven Lynne stated community input is sought on 10 potential new assets.
During a town hall meeting Tuesday night, Lynne said maintenance of existing facilities is not included in the list of potential CIP projects since it is already designated a higher priority. Lynne reported on the existing and potential CIPs. A second town hall will be held at 6 p.m. today at White Rock Fire Station 3. It can be accessed on Zoom by going to https://lacnm.com/CIPTownHalls.
The purpose of the town halls, Lynne said, is to inform individuals about the existing projects and gather input on the level of importance of the potential CIPs to help plan for the next 10 years.
“That Capital plan will include what we are appropriating for new projects in FY24 and also includes a 10-year projection and that will be important because what we are looking for is more than a single year,” he said.
Prioritizing funding to maintain and protect existing assets before investing in new ones has been heavily discussed by Los Alamos County Council, Lynne said.
“Within County policies we actually have an obligation and are directed by council’s 2023 Strategic Leadership Plan to maintain our existing assets,” he said. “It’s an essential, basic function.”
Several County department managers highlighted a few of their existing CIPs.
Public Works Department Director Juan Rael said most of his department’s CIPs involve roadways. For instance, one CIP is to install a crossway near Sherwood Boulevard and La Vista in White Rock. Another CIP is renovating the taxiway at the Los Alamos County Airport. Rael said the eastern side of the taxiway needs to be improved.
Department of Public Utilities (DPU) Manager Philo Shelton said existing CIPs in his department include improving electric reliability by replacing buried cables. As far as gas, Shelton said the County is working to take over the gas infrastructure at the Elk Ridge mobile home park. In response to the New Mexico Department of Transportation proposing a road project from the Truck Route to Rover Boulevard, Shelton said DPU applied for grant funding to replace a buried water supply line in that area. Additionally, he said there is a restoration project planned for Los Alamos Canyon. The creek channel needs to be maintained so that it doesn’t wash up onto the access road to the reservoir. Improvements are proposed for lift water stations and equipment needs to be replaced at the Los Alamos wastewater treatment plant, Shelton added.
Forming partnerships to address housing challenges is on the list for the Community Development Department, Director Paul Andrus said. He said there are avenues the County can pursue such as donating land, as what was done on DP Road for the two affordable apartment complexes or providing infrastructure. Andrus noted that there is the realignment of 35th and Finch streets to allow for a second connection to the Los Alamos Medical Center parking lot. Plus, he reported on placeholder projects for potential housing in the downtown areas. A project still in the planning stages includes the North Mesa housing project that the Los Alamos Public Schools is investigating. A long-term project includes improvements to Deacon Street, should the opportunity for redevelopment arise, Andrus said. Finally, he shared plans for the White Rock Visitor Center to expand the capacity of the restrooms, the number of restroom facilities and create space for food trucks.
Deputy County Manager Anne Laurent touched on the broadband projects. There are two aspects, she said. One was hiring a consultant to update a 10-year-old study on fiber to homes to allow for high-speed internet for everyone, have an open access network and manage broadband as essential infrastructure. The second aspect is middle mile, she said. Laurent said while a microwave antenna was installed at the Municipal Building for County operations and to maintain public WIFI connectivity, conversations are ongoing with regional partners for an additional fiber line that would go off the hill to create redundancy and prevent another internet outage from happening.
Community Services Department Director Cory Styron listed some of his department’s CIPs. These include a placeholder for a social services hub – which would bring all the different services into one central location. Another is the municipal-wide food composting program, extending the Canyon Rim Trail, improving mountain bike trails and making improvements to the Los Alamos County Golf Course. He mentioned plans are still being discussed for a shared gym space between the County and Los Alamos Public Schools on the middle school campus as well as a recreation space in White Rock. Discussions continue about a proposed Tween Center and improving tennis courts, Styron said.
The project that the public weighed in on and advocated for was not listed on any department’s CIP lists – improving the Los Alamos County Ice Rink. One speaker commended the County for the new locker rooms at the rink, calling them a “great asset”. Still, they mentioned that a lot of the local hockey games had to be cancelled this season due to the ice’s poor condition. The speaker advocated for a cover over the rink.
“What’s got to happen … there needs to be a cover … for a number of reasons,” he said. “The only way we can keep this going on a consistent basis even with a down compressor is we got to be able to keep the sun off the surface. Many of us discussed a retractable cover … that’s one of our requests.”
Another speaker also supported investing in the rink, saying it brings in visitors and their money to Los Alamos.
“We have the opportunity to bring people to see our town, to visit it that is not replicated elsewhere,” she said. “Investing in the rink is a very important point not just for supporting the children in town, the program in town, but it also is a factor in attracting visitors and really building up the stature of Los Alamos as a destination.”
Lynne said a rink cover was evaluated in the past and could be evaluated again. He encouraged the speakers to “stay engaged” as the budget process progresses. Other public speakers emphasized the importance of maintaining existing facilities over new construction.
“Why doesn’t County management put a moratorium on all new development until it gets its act together and maintains all of the existing facilities that need to be maintained,” one speaker asked.
For a recording of the meeting, see the county’s budget planning page at CIP Town Halls – Los Alamos County (losalamosnm.us).