Regional Coalition of LANL Communities Chair Henry Roybal, center, discusses the agenda and the lack of a quorum Friday afternoon with Executive Director Eric Vasquez, standing, Deputy Rio Arriba County Manager, Leo Marquez, left and Los Alamos County Councilor David Izraelevitz. The meeting was held at Espanola City Hall. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
BY MAIRE O’NEILL
Regional Coalition of LANL Communities executive director Eric Vasquez struggled to find a quorum Friday afternoon for a meeting of the RCLC board in Espanola.
At 1:30 p.m. when the meeting was scheduled to begin, only Santa Fe County Commissioner and Chair Henry Roybal and Los Alamos County Councilor and Secretary David Izraelevitz were present along with Deputy Rio Arriba County Manager Leo Marquez who was filling in for Rio Arriba County Commissioner Leo Jaramillo.
So far this year, the RCLC has held a retreat Jan. 26; the Feb. 22 meeting was rescheduled for Mar. 1 and then a quorum was only present for part of the meeting; the Mar. 22 meeting was canceled; the Apr. 19 meeting was rescheduled because it was Good Friday. Friday’s meeting finally started 20 minutes late with Vice Chair Darien Fernandez of Taos County Council and Santa Fe City Councilor and Treasurer Peter Ives available for part of the meeting by phone.
The board and an audience of about half a dozen heard from Veronica Arzate De Reyes, a partnership specialist with the United States Census Bureau for the 2020 Census. Arzate mentioned a study conducted by George Washington University which indicates that New Mexico receives $2,972 per capita in federal funds and explained that undercounting by even the smallest margin places the state at risk of missing out on its fair share of the distribution of federal funds.
Arzate said the census is the law, it’s safe, it’s easy and “it’s the process of our democracy that builds equity in access to funding and representation in Congress”. She said the 2020 Census offers the ability to respond by internet, phone, paper or in person. The self-response option will be available until July 24, 2020.
Complete Count Committees are being formed throughout the country. The Census Bureau is working with tribal, state and local governments as well as community organizations to form CCCs around the country to plan and implement locally-based outreach campaigns that raise awareness of the census and ultimately drive participation.
Census 2020 is currently advertising jobs for next year at https://2020census.gov/jobs. Arzate said because the majority of the work is going to be done electronically the Census Bureau made the decision to have only two offices in New Mexico one in Albuquerque and one in Las Cruces. Farmington and San Juan County will be supported by Window Rock, Ariz., she said.
Every household will have the option of responding online, by mail or by phone. 95 percent of households will receive their census invitation in the mail. Almost five percent will receive their census invitation when a census taker drops it off. Less than one percent of households will be counted in person by a census taker instead of being invited to respond on their own.
While the board had a quorum, several business items were handled. A resolution on the Open Meetings Act for 2019-2020 was passed. A meeting schedule for 2019-2020 was approved. Chair Roybal again asked that the board consider have meetings in other communities. Vasquez mentioned that he has been contacted by Taos County residents asking that some RCLC meetings be held there. Izraelevitz asked for monthly meetings of the board until issues such as audits and appointment of an executive committee have been resolved.
On an item pertaining to authorization to pursue legal counsel for the RCLC, Izraelevitz said he had passed along to Vasquez possible job descriptions for legal counsel prepared by Los Alamos County but Vasquez said they were not distributed to the board. Vasquez said what he was going to suggest at this time was that the board appoint him along with any other board members appointed by the chair to develop a job description and then solicit to legal counsel in the state and bring back recommendations to the board. Izraelevitz volunteered to be involved in working on that.
Chair Roybal said this is actually a really important step for the RCLC to make.
“We have had issues in the past. It’s very difficult for any of our attorneys that work for any of our counties or pueblos to intervene and represent the Coalition. I think it’s imperative that we have our own counsel so I think this is a positive step in the right direction,” he said.
During his report to the board, Vasquez said there was a misunderstanding between the office of the State Auditor that resulted in them not issuing approvals for all six years that are to be audited.
“So approval letters have now been issued and the contracted IPA firm which is Kubiak CPA is scheduled to meet with RCLC staff and our fiscal agent Los Alamos County on May 13. We’ve already received a list of all information they are requesting and I’ve already spoken to Los Alamos County staff and find that the vast majority mirrors almost all the OSA asked for last year when they did the special audit so it should go very quickly,” Vasquez said.
Izraelevitz asked what the timeline is. Vasquez said we are still on line he believed to complete it by June 30. The audit was originally supposed to be completed by the end of May. The audit will examine RCLC records from 2013-2018 at a cost of $3,472.
Vasquez reported that a Joint Powers Agreement amended by the board in March now goes to the member communities for consideration. He said Santa Fe County considered the JPA at their Apr. 9 meeting but the vote was moved to Apr. 30.
Vasquez said in response to requests made at the RCLC retreat in January, a new webpage is being developed and that sandbox versions would be ready within a week.
He reported that he and two board member would be traveling to Washington, DC, this week to attend a local community round-table discussion and briefing on the Department of Energy’s reclassification of high-level nuclear waste. He said the round-table is jointly sponsored by the Energy Communities and ECOS to review how the proposed changes could affect sites like Los Alamos National Laboratory, the surrounding communities and the state as a whole.
Vasquez said during the week, meetings are scheduled with DOE, congressional delegation members and key staff “with the goal of requesting the reversal of the waste cleanup budget, updating members on the RCLC status since last year and requesting that local communities be included in possible future discussions about defining what cleanup will look like at the LANL site”.
Vasquez reported that an update on the RCLC was given to the Town of Taos Council Apr. 21 which included the change in management, the goals of the organization and the proposed amended JPA. He said the Council asked that the amended JPA be presented to them in the coming months.
Vasquez said conversations have been held with Northern New Mexico Citizens Advisory Board members about possibly coordinating with the CAB on discussions of the New Mexico Environment Department Consent Order.
“This is a topic that cam up with our conversation with NMED Secretary James Kenney in February. This is a topic that is becoming more pertinent and staff recommends that the RCLC form a study group to address this issue and the related subject of ensuring local communities have a voice in the discussion of how DOE and the State of New Mexico define what a final cleanup of legacy waste entails,” he said.
Vasquez said the RCLC was contacted recently by multiple media outlets regarding a “tip” that was sent to them saying the organization by DOE’s Inspector General.
“After multiple conversations with media sources, we were unable to ascertain the source of the rumor, but can report that the RCLC has received no formal notification of an investigation. However, we have received information that an IG investigation into the internal handling of the grant process is underway. During multiple interviews with medic sources, we had to explain that the RCLC is a chartered JPA within the state of New Mexico, not a DOE-administered entity. We will continue to monitor this situation,” he said.
Vasquez also announced that invoices for the current fiscal year have been mailed to all RCLC member communities. It is presumed that those invoices are for the FY19 adopted budget which indicates
- $100,000 in restricted DOE funding;
- $5,000 from the City of Espanola;
- $60,000 from Los Alamos County;
- $5,000 from Pueblo of Ohkay Owingeh
- $10,000 from Rio Arriba County
- $10,000 from the City of Santa Fe
- $10,000 from Santa Fe County
- $3,500 from Taos County
- $3,500 from the Town of Taos
- $2,500 from the Pueblo of Jemez
As of the Apr. 24 budget update, no funding has been received for FY19.