By KIRSTEN LASKEY
Los Alamos Daily Post
Purchasing the former Reel Deal movie theater building and transforming it into a tween center, could potentially be on the slate of local capital improvement projects (CIP) for Los Alamos County.
Los Alamos County Manager Steven Lynne discussed CIPs on the local, regional, state and federal levels as well as available funding during the Los Alamos County Council work session Feb. 8.
Locally, the major focus is on the Public Works Department and the Department of Public Utilities’ development of their CIPs as well as maximizing outside funding and grant matching, Lynne said.
The big element is the coordination between the two departments, he added.
“It really adds overall efficiency for the community to have those two programs coordinated.”
The other focus is revisiting the idea that was considered last year: purchasing the building that was formerly the Reel Deal building and using it for a tween center.
Lynne explained in 2021, the purchase of the Reel Deal was packaged with the purchase of the CB FOX building, which council voted down.
“We now know that we can consider those properties separately as two separate transactions, so we’re looking at the Reel Deal first, separately, and we’ll see if those discussions progress enough to actually bring something forward,” he said.
If the logistics and potential design work out and are reasonable then a draft proposal will move forward, public hearings will be held to determine if this turns into a real project proposal, Lynne said.
Regionally, Lynne pointed out that Council recently heard from Española Mayor Javier Sànchez, as well as Rio Arriba County Manager Lucia Sanchez, about the needs that could be addressed with the regional capital improvement fund. Another significant regional CIP is broadband.
For broadband, three partnerships are being pursued. The partnerships include San Ildefonso Pueblo, which is waiting to hear about its grant application for broadband, Santa Fe County, which is addressing a potential fiber backbone project, and Los Alamos National Laboratory, which is also discussing a similar project, he said.
Lynne said there are a lot of potential opportunities with broadband and the County plans to pursue them all.
As far as the state and federal levels, “that’s where a lot of the funding comes in,” he said.
Lynne explained there is a great opportunity at the state level; the Governor has put together several new offices to help organize and receive funding from the American Rescue Plan Action (ARPA), the general surplus money and pass-through federal infrastructure money.
“We went into this state legislative session identifying two projects that we’ve made legislative capital outlay requests for,” he said. “One is for the waterline replacement along N.M. 4 … the ask is about $2.9 million and the second one was for the infrastructure on DP Road and that request is over $6.9 million.”
Lynne said it was decided to increase the dollar amount for these requests because of the additional money available. It isn’t likely that either project will get fully funded through the normal capital outlay process, but there is a chance to get money from other funds.
Broadband also is being pursued on the state level. Lynne said nothing is specifically identified; however, the state hired a broadband manager, and the County expects to meet with them.
At the federal level, Lynne reported that the County is pursuing broadband, water and road projects. He added that the Department of Energy received $62 billion of ARPA funds and as a result the County has been doing outreach with DOE to suggest potential projects that would benefit the laboratory and the County.
Council Chair Randall Ryti added that he heard “shovel ready projects” are being emphasized and money, especially money earmarked for infrastructure, is for five years.
“Things we can do for the County and things we can do in partnership with some of our regional neighbors, too is just a great opportunity at this moment … it’s a good time to make sure we’re prepared with good projects that meet criteria they have,” Ryti said.
In other news, Council learned about a possible ordinance for mobile food vendors.
Senior Planner Sobia Sayeda said work is being done to include provisions in the County code to allow for, and regulate, mobile food vending in the County as well as establish a mechanism to allow food trucks on public land, private land and public right-of-ways and establish guidelines that are favorable to brick-and-mortar food establishments as well as food trucks.
The challenge is that right now there isn’t anything written about food trucks, she said; the current ordinance is silent on the issue.
However, food trucks offer several advantages such as low costs, minimum risk to test out new concepts, access to local venues and festivals and availability to local food options, Sayeda said.
Things that need to be considered include addressing proximity prohibition to established restaurant storefronts, allowing food trucks to temporarily park at public places, providing on-site power, refuse and gray water services on public land and rights-of-way and addressing adherence to the noise ordinance.
County Councilor Melanee Hand said she felt it was worth investigating.
“It brings a lot of new business in Los Alamos; it could support tourism; it could support a lot of special events,” she said. “I think it is a great idea to support these kinds of endeavors.”
Editor’s Note: During his presentation, County Manager Steven Lynne said part of the Reel Deal Theater would be used as a Tween Center.