BY MAIRE O’NEILL
Los Alamos County Councilor Denise Derkacs wants to see cost estimates before she makes up her mind about the proposed purchase by the County of the CB Fox building and the Reel Deal Theater, both located on Central Avenue.
In an interview with the Los Alamos Reporter Saturday, Derkacs said first and foremost she is ever cognizant of Council’s obligation to be fiscally responsible for taxpayer dollars.
“I will wait until after Council receives a briefing at our March 16 meeting on cost estimates for possible building uses to make an informed decision on the purchase of the two properties,” she said.
Derkacs noted that she has reservations about the County’s involvement in redevelopment of the CB Fox property for commercial use.
“Purchasing the Reel Deal property for public use is an easier decision. I also have reservations about the legal issues related to the Central Parking Lot Corporation. My understanding is that County staff are working to address the issues to allow the purchase to go forward, if Council so votes,” she said. “At the same time, I am concerned that if the County does not purchase and redevelop the properties, they could remain vacant for years and add to the blight in our downtown areas.”
Derkacs said she has been closely following the County’s online Open Forum survey results and reading the comments, which will factor into her decision.
“Although this is not a statistically valid survey, it is an indication of trends in public opinion.
As of Monday evening, 65 percent of “unregistered” responses to the purchase of the two buildings were opposed and 48.5 percent of “registered” responses. More than 1,000 people had responded by Monday evening with more than 400 comments. The survey is open through 5 p.m. Wednesday, March 10, and Derkacs said she encourages all residents to respond.
Derkacs addressed her vote at the February 16 Council meeting against waiving attorney-client privilege for a memo written to Council by County Attorney Alvin Leaphart concerning the proposed property purchase.
“My vote not to waive attorney-client privilege was based on my individual conversation with the County Attorney. My understanding from that conversation was that we Councilors could discuss the parking lot corporation issue within the framework of Section 7 (iv) and (v) of the purchase agreement, which has been publicly available since mid-December,” she said. “Those sections address the need for a waiver or an amendment to comply with state law and/or constitutional limitations related to the debt clause and the anti-donation clause. Hence, a waiver of privilege for the attorney memo was not needed for Council to publicly discuss the issue. The information was already in the public domain.”
Derkacs commented at the February meeting that she believed waiving attorney-client privilege is ill-advised and could set precedence for future matters.
“The Council can discuss matters related to the possible property purchase without waiving this privilege…..I don’t think we should go down this path of waiving the attorney-client privilege,” Councilor Derkacs said.