OPEN LETTER TO LOS ALAMOS COUNTY COUNCIL
The proposed donation of land and improvements, by the Los Alamos County Council to TNJ to develop a hotel/conference center, is highly questionable and irregular. Although a project like this would be desirable, there are issues which need to be addressed.
The “proposal” that will be on the agenda on August 27 is the result of back-room negotiations with one developer. Council Chair Sara Scott stated that “during the previous 10 years there have only been a few developers interested in building a hotel here, and none were interested in constructing and operating a conference center. None of these possible projects went forward.” She further states “I feel that this actual offer and opportunity to invest in a downtown conference center is worth serious discussion and consideration.” So – DO provide time for more serious discussion and consideration.
The main problem I see with this proposal is the lack of open competition through a fair solicitation. Ms. Scott says “Over the five years this land has been available and two years since the utility and road infrastructure was added, there has been minimal interest in one or two of the six parcels and there are no offers on the table for any parcels at this time.” Would there have been more interest (and a better deal) if other parties were to be given all the freebies (all 6 parcels and improvements) going to TNJ?
Through an Open Records request, I learned that there has been no open solicitation which included the donation, leading up to this Council action. At the very least, the County needs to issue a Request For Interest (or alternatively Requests For Information or Proposals) that include the giveaway. The solicitation should be widely distributed to possible parties, who might be willing to provide a better deal for the taxpayers. Also, pending is a records request for all communications between the County and TNJ regarding the negotiations and proposals that brought us to this point.
Since Economic Development Administrator Joan Ahlers is all for transparency, perhaps the public should have time to review these before the Council takes an irrevocable, consequential action. The Council should at the very least table this proposal until more information is available and a proper solicitation has been done.