Frazer Lockhart at an August meeting in Ohkay Owingeh. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
BY MAIRE O’NEILL
Frazer Lockhart, regulatory and stakeholder interface manager for N3B, was questioned about the contractor’s community commitment plan (CCP) and efforts during the last six months to put the plan in place during the recent Los Alamos County Council workshop in White Rock. N3B took over the Los Alamos National Laboratory Environmental Management contract almost six months ago.
Council Vice Chair Chris Chandler and Councilor Susan O’Leary, who attended by phone, asked Lockhart about opportunities, resources and funds for supporting local schools and communities.
Lockhart said the CCP has two pieces.
“One is embodied by this meeting here today – we go out and give presentations as requested at open public meetings, meet with people one-on-one, small groups or large groups to try and explain what we’re doing. Another part of what we brought to this contract was a commitment made to the Department (of Energy) and to Los Alamos and the region to contribute five percent of our earned fee on this contract into support for community activities,” he said.
Lockhart said N3B chose to make education and training the center of the CCP.
“There are many needs out there obviously in every community but rather than just be kind of random, we wanted to have a focus to try leverage our donations to the maximum extent possible. The center of that from a training and education standpoint is an effort to set up an apprentice program here within Los Alamos that would serve us but would also serve the broader needs of DOE sites and the Laboratory,” he said, adding that this has been kicked off initially with Northern New Mexico College but that he expects it to extend to other colleges in the region as the program gets under way and starts to get some traction. He said N3B believes the first students are going to come into the program looking at radiation technology skills later this year.
Lockhart said the CCP is in draft with the final draft being put together. He said the outline of the plan is available on the N3B website where it was posted soon after the contract was awarded.
Councilor O’Leary asked how Los Alamos residents, both adults or students, get involved, if they are eligible for the programs and whether or not N3B is directly working with Los Alamos Public Schools or if the program has “more of a regional focus outside of Los Alamos”.
Lockhart said it’s a mix with the focus more towards Los Alamos and the near adjacent region.
“Since the programs are just being stood up, a lot of the specific details we’re working out in real time. Our commitment to the Department was to do some of these programs with our earned fee and we haven’t earned anything yet. We are ahead of our timeline because we wanted to jump into these programs early and that’s what we’re doing. It’s still pretty early and we are developing those and what we have been doing is really scheduling a number of meetings with interested stakeholders to start to open up those lines of communications. There’s a lot of folks we want to talk to so we’re trying to get through those one at a time,” he said.
Councilor O’Leary suggested that the contractor speak directly with the school district to make sure Los Alamos Schools are included. She also suggested that N3B does what it can to communicate within the communities through marketing efforts so that “we have an opportunity to participate as well”.
“We’re really glad you’re here and we hope to benefit from your location here in our county,” O’Leary said.
Council Chandler asked about N3B’s earned fee performance-based fee. Lockhart replied that the company has a target fee in its contract but that how much of that but that how much of that the company get depends on how well they do.
“Initially, a lot of the fee in the first five months was focused to our stand-up activities, our business system and our readiness – pulling all those things together. There weren’t very many field activities that we were ready to do in the first couple of months. But as we move into FY19 and into the balance of the contract we expect more and more of our fee to be based upon completing tangible activities as part of the cleanup,” Lockhart said. “For our planning purposes, and it’s slightly optimistic, I’m looking at about $500,000 a year round numbers. It could be less than that initially because we’re starting out with portions of a year.”
The other point which maybe wasn’t clear, Lockhart said is that although N3B have not earned fee yet, they have already spent $40,000 to $50,000 because they thought it was important.
“There were some things that went on in Los Alamos over the summer, events that we wanted to be a part of to show our face and start to become known in the community. So we’ve already been spending money that the DOE will not reimburse us for that comes out of our fee,” he said.
Councilor Chandler asked what stakeholders N3B has talked to and said she is trying to understand the decision process as to what should be a priority and how N3B knows they are really meeting a community’s need. She said $500,000 doesn’t sound like all that much when you’re talking about multiple community colleges and the University of New Mexico and asked how the $500,000 is going to be “allocated in a meaningful way to support programs that the communities think are important”.
Lockhart responded that what the CCP will reflect is the focus first on their apprentice school which he said will probably take close to a third of the budget that has been laid out. He said looking at other very focused education things, supportive to the schools and STEM programs, will probably take the next biggest chunk and that beyond that are those programs that maybe peripherally support and can be linked to an education or training thing but maybe aren’t as directly obvious.
“Finally we do want to reserve some portion of our budget just for areas in the community that are strong needs and worthy causes even if they may not have a direct, tight link to education. That kind of tiered approach will be reflected in our plan and that will guide our decision-making process. We do expect to continue to have dialog with the various stakeholders. We welcome your suggestion of stakeholders we should talk to,” he said.
Lockhart said the key thing was that having to meet with folks takes a lot of time.
“We’ve had many other things we’ve had to do to meet our contract terms and rather than wait till we had all those discussions and truly were able to gather all the input to get a final plan that everyone would sign up to, we chose instead to take our first cut and follow our commitment as we laid it out in our proposal focused on education and while we are executing that to then continue and to evolve that real time through our dialog,” he said adding that the company is setting up a living plan rather than trying to have all the discussions in place and get to the absolute final answer before they ever started.”
“It’s the choice we made and that’s the path we’re on,” Lockhart said.
Councilor Chandler asked him if he had talked to the Los Alamos School Board yet and he said, not with the board but that there had been some discussions at a staff level.
Councilor Chandler said $500,000 frankly doesn’t strike her as a lot of money and that she thinks the stakeholders the company should be talking to are elected officials.
“I’m not talking about the Los Alamos County Council – this is not a self-serving comment. The school system knows what the school system needs. They are the elected body to determine what the priorities of the school system are. So you’re looking at k-12 programs – that should be the first group of people you talk to. I don’t know who all you’re talking to but if you’re interested in k-12 programs it’s the schools systems you need to be talking to, not some amorphous stakeholder that I can’t quite get my head around,” Chandler said. “There are people responsible for setting educational priorities in the state and those are the groups that should be spoken to in terms of setting priorities, not I’m not sure who.”
Lockhart said the CCP would be a live document and that N3B is happy to receive input from stakeholders.