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$2.8 million to complete Gateway infrastructure

March 28, 2001|By RUDY YNIGUEZ, Staff Writer

The county Board of Supervisors voted to approve spending $2.8 million in insurance settlement money to complete infrastructure work at the Gateway of the Americas project.

The board decided to spend the settlement money and move forward on all facets of infrastructure work except one instead of moving forward on some of the work and applying for a $500,000 state Community Development Block Grant to help pay for the remainder.

There was no guarantee the county would get the grant — which would have to be repaid — since it appeared the county didn't need the money to move forward.

James Bishop, an economic development program specialist with the state Department of Housing and Community Development, told the board it sounded to him that the county did not need the grant because the county's Gateway project manager said all but a small portion of the work could be completed with the $2.8 million, which included a 7 percent contingency.

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"I'm hearing you may not need our money," he told the board.

Bishop later said state grants are available to fill gaps in funding and for job creation. He would not comment on the county's specific grant application.

Grady Dutton, the county's project manager, said the settlement money could pay for everything included in the original failed infrastructure contract, including sewer and water lines, a 1 million gallon fire-suppression tank and the contingency.

A second option would have been to move forward on the infrastructure items, seek the state grant and use that money to build a sewer line for a planned John Jay Hotel on land owned by Los Alamos Land Co., have an 8 percent contingency and retain a $400,000 reserve.

The board decided to move forward without the grant money because there was no certainty the money would be obtained and because waiting for the grant money would delay the development. The delay would result because no building or occupational permits would be granted without both water and sewer and appropriate fire suppression.

Gateway landowners were divided on how the county should proceed. Los Alamos principal Thomas Nassif urged the county to move forward without the grant, as any delays in getting the grant would delay some of his projects in escrow.

"All I'm asking is that you use the money to do what was originally planned," he said, adding he questioned the legality of using the settlement money on items not found in the original infrastructure construction contract.

Tom DuBose, manager of Development Design & Engineering of El Centro and representing Gateway landowners Tony, Edward and Joseph Menvielle, urged the board to forego the grant and move forward, as all planned development would be delayed without fire suppression and water and sewer services.

Gateway landowner Eric Rice said he is not convinced there will be enough money to perform all of the work and he urged the board to seek the grant.

Gateway landowner John Pierre Menvielle said the county should move forward without the grant despite his land being that which will not get the whole sewer line installed.

He said he has development waiting for infrastructure.

"The more this thing drags out, I might lose my guy," he said.

Staff Writer Rudy Yniguez can be reached at 337-3440.

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