RCLC executive director Eric Vasquez at a previous RCLC meeting. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter,com
BY MAIRE O’NEILL
The executive committee of the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities meeting by phone Feb. 18, voted to send a letter to the New Mexico congressional delegation to inquire about the status of the DOE grant funding for the RCLC and ask them to urge Department of Energy Environmental Management leadership to fully fund the RCLC.
A request from the Los Alamos Reporter for information from DOE-EM on the status of the grant funding drew a response of “no comment”.
The agenda for the meeting listed the CPLC office in Santa Fe where RCLC executive director Eric Vasquez was located but executive committee members Santa Fe County Commissioner Henry Roybal, Taos City Councilor Darien Fernandez, Espanola Mayor Javier Sanchez and Los Alamos County Councilor David Izraelevitz all attended remotely by phone. The door to the CPLC office suite was locked and as a result the Los Alamos Reporter was only able to attend part of the meeting after Vasquez came to the door, but following a request, he supplied a recording of the meeting.
“This goes back a few months to conversations we had offline with EM-LA regarding the funding for the grant and there was a suggestion that getting the congressional delegation’s input to push DOE-EM to renew the grant would be very helpful,” Vasquez told the committee. “We have been in discussions with three offices of the delegation since then. They were primarily led up by Senator (Tom) Udall’s staff. After going back and forth about having them draft a letter, they finally asked us to rewrite the letter to be from our board to the delegation which they could then forward on to DOE-EM to ask them to answer to it.”
The committee voted to have Vasquez send the draft letter to the delegation for final review and for Chair Roybal to sign it and send it if there were no substantive changes suggested.
The letter notes that the RCLC is the region’s local government organization that deals directly with DOE related issues and is asking for assistance in ensuring that the RCLC continues to receive DOE support for funding education and community outreach efforts.
“As many tribal, city and county governments in DOE host communities around the country have done, we have organized ourselves into an advocacy group that can speak on matters that impact our constituents and local communities such as legacy cleanup and economic development,” the letter states. “The RCLC has worked collaboratively with DOE since its inception in 2011 to the benefit of both DOE and local communities and in 2015 DOE entered into an assistance agreement with the RCLC, providing a grant of $100,000 per year to assist in education and community outreach activities. This funding has become instrumental in the RCLC’s abilities to serve in this role.”
The letter states that during the spring of 2018, details were uncovered about deficiencies in the RCLC’s internal controls and spending policies. It notes that the coalition has since then taken “deliberate steps to ensure tighter controls around its spending and reimbursement practices” and engaged an independent accountant, an outside auditor and legal counsel with experience in representing organizations that receive federal grants.
“Therefore we are writing to inquire about the status of the DOE grant funding for the RCLC, and ask you, our congressional delegation, to urge DOE leadership to fully fund the RCLC so that we may continue our essential work on behalf of the citizens of northern New Mexico,” the letter concludes.
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