Regional Coalition of LANL Communities board members, from right, Taos County Commissioner Tom Blankenhorn, Santa Fe City Councilor Michael Garcia, Espanola City Councilor Peggy Sue Martinez, alternate, and Rio Arriba County Commissioner Leo Jaramillo during the Jan. 24 RCLC meeting in Espanola. Not pictured are Espanola Mayor Javier Sanchez, Santa Fe County Commissioner Henry Roybal and Los Alamos County Councilor Randy Ryti who also attended. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
BY MAIRE O’NEILL
The status of the Department of Energy – Environmental Management (DOE-EM)annual grant to the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities for this year seems to be undetermined at this time judging from a discussion at the Jan. 24 meeting of the RCLC board in Espanola.
While board members were reviewing the treasurer’s report being presented by executive director Eric Vasquez, board member and Espanola Mayor Javier Sanchez asked if there were any updates on the grant issue.
“We are still in discussions and I don’t have an update that I can share at the moment,” Vasquez said.
Sanchez asked at what time of the year the DOE grant normally came in. Vasquez said as he understands, the grant was received when the fiscal agent (Los Alamos County) put in a request for it “towards the first half of the year”.
Sanchez asked if that meant the RCLC was a year into not receiving the grant or potentially having to wait another year for the funds and Vasquez responded that the RCLC is a year into not receiving the grant.
Taos County Commissioner Tom Blankenhorn, also a board member, asked what the expectation is on the DOE grant. Vasquez explained that the RCLC was receiving a five-year grant of $100,000 a year.
“The DOE over the last year conducted an internal investigation onto the way they handled the grant and how we were expending the grant. That final report, I believe, came out in late September. At that time there was a recommendation that the RCLC account for $300,000 of grant funding,” Vasquez said. “It was requested that we do so by a set date. We provided the documentation to the best of our ability at that time. Since then we have been in discussions with the grant officers about whether everything is kosher.”
He said moving on from there, after that is settled, the RCLC is “anticipating and hoping and talking with individuals about restarting the grant”. He said he has every belief that will occur but that if it does not, the board at that point in time will have to “reassess our budget process”.
“By the end of April I’m hoping we will have some idea of what’s going to happen,” Vasquez said.
Alternate board member Espanola City Councilor Peggy Sue Martinez asked Vasquez who he specifically was speaking to at the Department of Energy and who the RCLC is working with to secure getting the grant back.
“I have had conversations directly with the office that oversees the grant, the ones that are asking us to account for the $300,000. We’ve also spoken with individuals higher up when we’ve visited with DOE in the past. We are also talking with members of the delegation about the situation, so kind of across the board,” Vasquez said.
At an RCLC board meeting in June 2019, Vasquez admitted that he had not submitted a request to DOE for the grant monies, see https://losalamosreporter.com/2019/06/28/vasquez-100000-doe-grant-for-rclc-not-requested-this-fiscal-year/. At the Jan. 24 meeting, however, he seemed to indicate that Los Alamos County as the fiscal agent would be submitting the request although this has not been the past practice of the RCLC.