At the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities board meeting Friday in Espanola are, from left, executive director Eric Vasquez, Rio Arriba County alternate Leo Marquez, treasurer Peter Ives, Espanola Mayor Javier Sanchez, chair Henry Roybal, secretary David Izraelevitz and Espanola Peggy Sue Martinez. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
BY MAIRE O’NEILL
Two members of the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities board, Los Alamos County Councilor David Izraelevitz and Espanola Mayor Javier Sanchez expressed a desire to see more discussion and consensus on board policy and collaboration with other entities as well as board’s talking points for meetings with Department of Energy officials during Friday’s board meeting in Espanola.
Under public comment the board heard from Los Alamos resident Maire O’Neill who asked the board to consider putting some of the topics being discussed under executive director Eric Vasquez’s monthly report into the main agenda to facilitate discussion by the full board. O’Neill said she has attended every board meeting held in the last year and that the trend seems to be for Vasquez to read from his report with little to no discussing ensuing on what he reads. She referred to two recent examples where Vasquez notified the board that he would be working on collaborating with the Northern New Mexico Citizens Advisory Board and the Regional Development Corporation which she said was never addressed by the board as a whole.
“In face, very few topics are discussed by the board to decide what the consensus of the board might be before the executive director visits with the Department of Energy or other entities,” she said. She said sporadic attendance by board members, with as many as three board members participating by phone means little or no discussion of what the board as a whole feels.
At the end of the meeting, RCLC secretary Los Alamos County Councilor David Izraelevitz said he wanted to go back to O’Neill’s comments which I thought were appropriate.
“I think it’s great that we’re looking for collaborations with other partners in the area. Let me suggest that we ask the executive director to write a paper for our review that goes through all possible partners that might be strategic partners for the RCLC and then give us the opportunity to review those and have a discussion of what those partnerships might be,” he said. “Process-wise, I think it’s important for the board of directors to have direction as to what we need in strategic partnerships so that the executive director can approach these partners with the full support and understanding of the board of directors.”
Izraelevitz said he knew Vasquez was putting together talking points for the trip some board members were taking to Washington, DC this week and that he would like to see those distributed to the board prior to the meetings scheduled there so that board members could provide some feedback to the executive director. He said he appreciated that board member Espanola Mayor Javier Sanchez had earlier expressed that he wanted some concurrence from the board before representing the RCLC with an outside agency which is what Izraelevitz said he thinks should be done as a matter of process.
“I would like to have on the next agenda our conversations, not just who we met, but what we said and what we heard in those meetings,” Izraelevitz said.
Also under board member comments, Sanchez said that very much in line with an earlier request from Santa Fe County Commissioner and RCLC Chair for a spreadsheet of the goals for the RCLC identified during a January day-long retreat, he wanted to mention a few things that have been concerning him.
“I think that one of the issues I’m having, that I know the community is having, is that we seem to be stuck and maybe it’s because we haven’t received the audits. Maybe it’s because we are waiting on some other pieces of information, but I think it will be important to have a very open way to produce those results and exactly what we intend to do without covering anything up so that we pull off the scab and figure out what needs to happen,” Sanchez said. “In conjunction with that, we need to refocus on that strategic planning meeting that we had to potentially give us a refocus or new focus on the ideas and accomplishments that we wish to achieve. And I say that because otherwise in my opinion it’s rather nebulous with regard to what our real goals are. I look at how we want to improve economic development and work in partnership, but I think we owe it to the taxpayers and ourselves to be very specific about what we wish to accomplish.”
Sanchez said with RCLC members going to Washington DC, one of the comments that kind of scared him from DOE was that they’re engaging in new accounting and they’re calling it end state accounting. He said he believes the federal government is thinking about how to put up stop gates with regard to funding.
“That is crucial for us to know because that should be our red flag that eventually money will stop. And when we do things like site employment or continue to work only with a direct pipeline of employees to the Lab, I think we’re doing ourselves a disservice and I think that the eventual economic development in my opinion should be 100 percent unhitched from work that happens at the Lab,” Sanchez said. “So with the board’s permission, I’d also like to pursue that discussion when we speak to DOE-EM. A lot of the time they want to give us a couple of crackers to work with them and produce the pipeline for them so basically we do their jobs for them. So what would be very important is for us to recognize the need for our independence from it as much as humanly possible.”
He said he knows the Energy Communities Alliance is creating a new subcommittee to work on economic development so that’s the direction that he’d like to move in, with the board’s permission, to represent the RCLC.
Izraelevitz said he thinks the Laboratory, from his discussions with Triad, is very interested in general development of an economic ecosystem around the Laboratory, not just for civic reasons, which is one of their goals now. He said he is on the board of the ECA and that it’s very interesting to see the similarities and differences that different communities have.
“The concern of the mayor about economic development that is outside the direct mission of the Laboratory is the same issue at Oak Ridge and I think it would be valuable for us,” he said.
Under an item allowing review and possible action for a legal counsel services contract, Vasquez told the board that the staff recommendation was to accept the proposal submitted by Long, Komer & Associates which was one of two submitted. Board members asked to see the competing bid which was not provided in the agenda packet and took a brief recess to review both proposals before deciding to accept the bid from Long, Komer & Associates.
Espanola City Councilor Peggy Sue Martinez said in looking at the agenda, it read that the board was voting on the services contract for the firm.
“I agree that both firms would be able to do the work. I’m a little disappointed that the contract itself is not in the packet. There’s nothing in writing as to how to cancel the contract. Contract should be in the packet and we should be able to look at it,” she said.
Izraelevitz said the scope of work for the proposal was approved a couple of months ago. He said the most important issue would be whether or not the board expected the attorney to attend meetings. we expect the attorney to attend meetings. Vasquez said the company was willing to attend all RCLC meetings.
“However we have a very small budget, ($9,000) so I would encourage the board to invite them to attend when we specifically need them. Izraelevitz said he wanted to make it clear that legal counsel works at the direction of the board so that if the executive director needed legal services he would come to the board of directors. The board opted to have Vasquez prepare a contract ready for the October meeting.
Under his director’s report, Vasquez said the audits for fiscal years 2013-2018 have been completed.
“RCLC management in collaboration with our member communities have submitted our responses. The audits have been submitted to the OSA. We are awaiting their review of our responses. If they have any issues they will kick it back to us, if not they will issue receipts for all six years in question and following that there is a standard five-day waiting period and then we can finally make everything public. It’s in OSA’s hands at this point” he said.
Vasquez said he met with the NMCAB and talked to some of their board meetings and staff.
“The most recent meeting was Aug. 28 in Pojoaque. We have been talking about possible collaboration on areas of reaching out to the public to get public input on their thoughts about cleanup at the Lab going forward. We have in our budget line items for a retreat type of forum. We talked about possibly collaborating with them on something similar,” he said.
He said he was in Taos Aug, 26-27 for an “executive meeting with the Town Council answering questions about the RCLC audit process and where we are on our audits”.
“They wanted to understand what we are looking at as they are considering the joint powers agreement. They asked us to come back the following day to brief the community about what the RCLC is and our division and that it is not actually an entity of the Lab or DOE but that it is a local organization for local communities. The (council) responded that they are inclined to approve the JPA. They are waiting for the IG report from DOE to finally be released and submitted to their community members before they finally vote on the JPA. But at this time we are waiting also for the IG report to come out,” he said.
Izraelevitz asked for an update on the other members of the RCLC and formal or informal discussions about approving the JPA.
“We have had informal discussions about the timeframe. It is my intention to have those done by January. Quite frankly the IG investigation is holding me down until that actually clears with communities like Taos. They had actually planned to vote on the 27th and they delayed it until the IG investigation is finally released. Don’t have a date on when it will be released but it is my hope that it will be coming out soon. And at that point we’ll be able to start rescheduling some of these,” Vasquez replied.
Izraelevitz said he wondered if the board should formally just hold off on holding some of the discussions with member communities about signing the revised JPA.
“I totally understand their reticence to make a decision until they have all the information. Maybe we should hold off on any kind of outreach until then so that they can have all the information and resolve all these questions,” he said, adding that he appreciates that Los Alamos and Santa Fe have already approved the JPA.
Vasquez said he would take the board’s guidance on this.
“My own thoughts were that I wanted to continue to communicate with the communities. I understand where the Councilor is coming from. I will follow the board’s guidance on this” he said.
Board treasurer and Santa Fe City Councilor Peter Ives said he has been in the process of trying to schedule time with Mayor Webber to make sure the is on an agenda before too long moving it forward but that he certainly agree that “the focus of some of the efforts the RCLC has been doing to right the financial house are significant to those efforts”.
“Otherwise you’re getting questions and you hate not to be able to answer and move the thing forward but I think an initial discussion, talk about that, get that lined up at a reasonable time not far in the future makes sense certainly in the case of Santa Fe. If everybody pursues it based on their perception of the pros, cons, needs in their community, that makes sense, so that’s what we’ve been doing in Santa Fe,” Ives said.
Chair Royal directed that Vasquez engage as far as finding out with each community “where they are on this”.
Under the treasurer’s report, there was some discussion about work being done to “recharacterize” the expenditures for the prior years between DOE restricted funds and unrestricted funds.
“We are currently working on all expenses during the past three years going down through line items that were reported by one of our contractors for this position and also all reimbursements and categorizing whether they were restricted or un restricted expenses,” Vasquez said.
“Per the contract that CPLC signed, we agreed that we would delineate all our expenses on whether they were approved or they would be DOE grant allowable or not allowable and that’s why we are doing it this way. So even though right now we are running off the totally unrestricted funds, we are still splitting it this way at least in our accounting history what would be allowed,” Vasquez said.
Izraelevitz addressed the RCLC website which has not been fully updated since CPLC’s contract period commenced in August 2018.
“We haven’t heard about the website in quite a while. I think at this point – and I know there are some technical issues – I would like to see us refocus on just improving what we have so that it’s current, so that we have for example the current members of the board of directors and our contact information. I think at this point we are back to some prior set of board of directors, at least it’s listed as the 2018 board of directors. We really need to update the website and at this point I really don’t want to wait for whatever remodel there might be because it is certainly taking a long time and part of our responsibility as community outreach is our presence on the internet,” he said.