BY BRUCE WARREN
We are well into the new year with a new County Council. Let’s hope that the Council members will take some new directions for the County governance. Two big issues that concern me are:
1. Building New vs Maintenance and Repair: In the past the tendency of the Council and County staff has been to favor development and building new facilities rather than maintaining and repairing what we already have. Often the new projects have been way overblown for a community the size of ours. Three examples of recent projects that come to mind are the new County building, the justice center, and the golf course clubhouse. These buildings are far larger, more elaborate and costly than needed. In many communities our size the council meets in the school gym. Much of the justice center and the county building appear to be vacant a good bit of the time. Another example is the county facility in the canyon below the airport. It seems that the decommissioned school buildings are good enough for the lab and other entities to use, but apparently not for our county departments to make use of. The recent County staff’s proposals to expand the golf course into the forested area south of the course is another example of needless expansion at the expense of open space and a great deal of money, when what the golf course needs is maintenance and repair. The recent letter by Aryn Ward ( https://ladailypost.com/letter-to-the-editor-lack-of-care-of-los-alamos-ice-rink/ ) regarding the ice rink sheds light on another example of the County’s inattention to maintenance and repair. If one looks at the ice rink budget and the number of people (a large percentage of them young) that it serves, it is clear that the ice rink is one of the best bargains of our facilities. So take care of it! Do the necessary repairs and maintenance and reasonable improvements so our kids can continue to benefit from it. Our amazing trail system is another victim of poor maintenance, not to mention all the “ugly corners” in our town, which are bits of County land that are allowed to go to weeds or used for parking construction equipment. And speaking of invasive species, what about the Siberian elm invasion our county has been suffering for years now, with only feeble attempts by the County to stem it. Let’s emphasize maintenance and repair rather than new “stuff”. If new projects are proposed, the County needs to develop procedures that insure the projects truly benefit the broader public (especially our young people) and minimize their impact on the environment.
2. Protection of Our Natural Environment: Another upsetting tendency of past Councils and past and current staff is a disregard for our natural and open spaces. The County should start paying attention to the numerous surveys they have done over the years. In survey after survey an overwhelming percentage of the population has made it clear that what they value most about our town is not fancy buildings and facilities, but the natural environment, our open spaces, and the trails that give us access to them. Council should direct staff to consider that when developing projects. Keep things like the golf course and bike skills parks out of the open space woods. Too often, our canyons have been used as “staging sites” for construction projects. That should stop. I lived in an urban area for many years, and didn’t know what a staging site was until I moved to Los Alamos. Contractors there used industrial sites (like our former landfill) for construction materials and equipment storage. Council also needs to clarify zoning so that our forests and open spaces are protected from such proposals and uses, now and in the future. The County should have a strong environmental protection board, and all prospective projects and uses of open space should be vetted by this board before money is spent on consultants and extensive planning done. We live in an amazingly beautiful natural area. Let’s do our best to keep it that way!