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Santa Fe councilors question LANL coalition membership

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

What’s the actual benefit to the city?

That was the question Santa Fe city councilors debated Monday as they considered the city’s membership in the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities.

At the center of it all was a revised Joint Powers Agreement for the coalition, which officials hope will solve some of the group’s long-standing organizational issues.

Formed in 2011, the coalition consists of elected officials from nine local governments near Los Alamos National Laboratory. The body’s website states it seeks to ensure federal decisions regarding LANL reflect local needs.

But some in Santa Fe question how beneficial membership is, especially when it costs upwards of $10,000 to join. Those concerns were highlighted at Monday’s Finance Committee meeting, where councilors considered ratifying the new agreement.

“What’s troubled me … is that we remain a member of this coalition, yet we never have received any updates about accomplishments,” Councilor Renee Villarreal said.

What has come out of the body is disorganization. The coalition has had no executive director for the past six months, has no fiscal agent and has lacked federal funding for three years due to financial impropriety.

That impropriety stemmed, in part, from purchases made by former executive director Andrea Romero, such as baseball tickets, expensive dinners and alcohol. All funding for the coalition is taxpayer money.

“All of these things combined just make me very wary about our role and relationship (in the coalition),” Villarreal said.

Los Alamos County Councilor David Izraelevitz, who sits on the coalition, said the body still serves a valuable purpose to local communities.

The city’s Quality of Life Committee will vote on the agreement before it goes before the City Council at a later date.

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