Sep 8, 2007
Various segments of the community expressed their thoughts on Thursday following Director Michael Anastasio's talk to employees at Los Alamos National Laboratory regarding budget uncertainties and future workforce planning needs.
Anastasio said he had hoped LANL's budget uncertainties would have been resolved by now, adding that despite efforts by DOE, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and New Mexico's congressional delegation, the budget will likely be subject to a continuing resolution for several months.
"There doesn't seem to be any new news," said Executive Director Kevin Holsapple of the Los Alamos Chamber of Commerce and the Los Alamos Commerce and Development Corporation. "I think it was a wise decision by the lab directorate to formalize this situation. It makes total sense given the uncertainties we've all known about for a couple of months. It's really saying we've got to be prepared for the worst cases up to the better cases."
Holsapple addressed the impact Anastasio's talk may have on local business.
"It's absolutely a concern that this will cause people to be worried," he said. "It is worrisome to business people and others if residents don't live normal lives. I hope people can do their best in working toward a positive future instead of obsessing about what may or may not happen."
Rep. Jeannette Wallace, R-Los Alamos, said she thought the subject needed to be addressed. "I think they (LANL) had no choice but to come forward and were forced to come forward and discuss a worst-case scenario," Wallace said. "I don't think that will happen but they need to be prepared."
Long-time business leader Dave Fox of CB Fox in downtown Los Alamos said the timing of the talk, given the restart of Congress following the recent recess, made it pretty clear.
"My understanding is that NNSA required the laboratory to make a statement regarding their workforce," he said. "We don't see anything but a bright yellow caution flag - it's got us alert but not alarmed."
Ron Selvage owns a hotel and restaurant in Los Alamos and a restaurant in White Rock. He expressed concern that what was said in Thursday's all-hands meeting will impact area business. "I think it will have an impact," Selvage said. "People get very worried about jobs and they worry about spending and cut out things like eating out."
Selvage said he understands why Anastasio addressed the budget uncertainties.
"I don't blame Director Anastasio," he said. "I really don't think it will be that bad but it will impact area businesses. It's going to be lean times for a while and we just have to buckle down and get though this period."
Program Director Cheryl Pongratz of The Los Alamos Family Council spoke about her concerns from a mental health perspective during an interview on Friday. "I think there was a lot of stress and anxiety before yesterday's announcement and it's going to be worse," she said. "What worries me is that I think people aren't comfortable seeking help for their anxieties and I worry about an increase in suicide or serious depression or domestic violence."
Pongratz said that people can't help but be concerned, especially those with children and homes to sell when there are already "hundreds on the market."
"We've seen a decrease in people seeking help because they think it might make them get picked to go in a job reduction situation," Pongratz said. "I'm concerned. I'm on the Community Health Council. We just met at the Betty Ehart Senior Center and we're all very concerned."
Anastasio told employees Thursday that he found it personally difficult to tell them about the FY08 uncertainties. He said he understands that these decisions affect individuals, families, and entire communities. With the anxiety the uncertainties will surely create, Anastasio said that now more than ever, it is critical that employees look out for one another's safety and security, and take time to think before they act.
LANL will continue to make limited strategic hires during this period, Anastasio said, adding that they will give employee raises this year - paying special attention to ensure that the best people are paid the appropriate salaries.