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Local News

  • Science fair set for this weekend

    Los Alamos County youth will showcase their ingenuity and research skills at the Los Alamos Public Schools County Science and Engineering Fair this weekend. The fair – cancelled due to snow on Jan. 21 – is rescheduled for Saturday.
    Saturday’s fair is the first step toward qualifying for regional, state and international competition. The county’s top award-winners will move on to regional competition in Las Vegas, New Mexico, and from there hope to go on to compete in state finals at New Mexico Tech in Socorro.
    Six students from state competition and two from each region move on to the Intel Science and Engineering Fair, which bills itself as “the world’s largest international pre-college science competition.”
    Approximately 1,700 high school students from more 75 countries, regions and territories compete for approximately $4 million in prizes at that event.
    “So it’s a real honor for our kids to be there. For at least the last 12 years I know that we’ve had students qualify for it,” Coordinator Dawn Brown said.  
    Brown believes Los Alamos has been competing for at least 30 to 40 years. She works with someone at Los Alamos National Laboratory who entered as a child. This year she expects to see between 230 and 250 entries.

  • Votes trickle in for school elections

    Tuesday is Election Day for the Los Alamos Public (LAPS) School Board and the UNM-Los Alamos Advisory Board elections. Early voting ends at 5 p.m. today.
    Election Manager Gloria Maestas reported that as of Thursday morning 224 absentee ballots had been received, a small number considering that LAPS District 1 has 2,477 eligible voters and District 2 has 5,036.
    The county has 14,152 registered eligible voters who can vote in the UNM-LA election.
    “School board elections, unfortunately, have a lower turnout. But this is the highest number we’ve had in the last two school board elections,” Maestas said.
    Those who want to vote by mail must submit an absentee application, which is available online at or at the clerk’s office on the second floor of the municipal building. Online applications must be filled out and signed, then returned to the clerk’s office in person, emailed to clerks@lacnm.us or faxed to 662-8008.
    The clerk’s office can mail absentee ballots until 5 p.m. today.
    Absentee ballots may be marked in person (in-person early voting) at the clerk’s office until 5 p.m. today. All absentee ballots must be physically in the clerk’s office by 7 p.m. Tuesday.    

  • LAPS ready for state budget cuts

    Officials from the Los Alamos Public Schools estimate legislation signed by Gov. Susana Martinez Wednesday will set the district back about $1 million for school year 2016-17.
    Superintendent Kurt Steinhaus assured district employees that in spite of the shortfall, there will be no teachers or staff employees laid off.
    “We will be looking for savings outside the classroom,” Steinhaus said.
    Some cost saving measures will include relying on local expertise within the district for problem solving, Steinhaus said.
    Steinhaus and the school’s Chief Finance Officer Lisa Montoya saw the $1 million hit coming long before the January legislative session. To avoid a budget deficit, they started planning this year’s current budget with the financial loss in mind.
    “When we started planning the last budget, which was in March of last year, we looked at oil prices, and we knew that oil prices were lower than what the state budget was built on,” Steinhaus said. “We anticipated that we would have to start tightening our belts, so we started to look for savings way back then. You never know. We don’t have a crystal ball, but we planned ahead just in case.”

  • LANL, WIPP officials to discuss shipment restart

    Officials from the Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Los Alamos field office of Environmental Management will meet next week with officials at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad to discuss when shipments of transuranic waste from LANL will resume.
    Los Alamos Environmental Management Field Office Manager Doug Hintze revealed a part of the plan at a January meeting of the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities.
    The topic of the meeting with WIPP will be about what the shipping process will look like and what the priorities will be. “All I can guarantee is that Pete (Maggiore, NNSA Los Alamos Field Office administrator) and I are going to be fighting for Los Alamos,” Hintze said at the meeting.
    Shipments from the lab to the plant were interrupted in February 2014 when a drum of radioactive waste stored in an underground storage chamber at WIPP leaked waste. After an investigation by the Department of Energy, it was found that the lab packed the drum with an organic kitty litter. Inorganic, clay kitty litter is commonly used in the industry as an absorbent of radioactive waste. The kitty litter used in the exploding drum was organic (wheat based), which caused a chemical reaction inside the barrel which led to an explosion that contaminated much of the storage area at WIPP with radioactive waste.

  • Crime down, DWIs up in LA

    Rape, assault, burglary and larceny in Los Alamos declined substantially in 2016, while crimes like auto theft and arson increased by 100 percent from last year, according to the Los Alamos Police Department’s annual report.
    In 2016, there were three cases of rape, 13 cases of aggravated assault, one case of aggravated robbery, 12 cases of larceny, six cases of auto theft and two cases of arson.
    The most dramatic shift was in drunken driving cases, with DWI cases going up by 24 cases – or 75 percent – in 2016.
    Vehicle accidents decreased by 15.5 percent in 2016.
    The LAPD began publishing quarterly and yearly crime reports in 2014.
    LAPD wanted to highlight the DWI cases because of the dramatic increase and the seriousness of the issue, said LAPD Chief Dino Sgambellone.
    The department is working on ways to identify what times of the year and day DWI crimes are more likely to occur most in an effort to better understand and combat the issue, Sgambellone said Thursday.
    “We’re doing a more substantive analysis using the day, time of the week, age, gender and other forms of data to see if there are any trends that we can devote some prevention and education resources, too,” Sgambellone said.

  • Today in history Feb. 2
  • New Mexico Land Office suggests land swap for border wall

    SANTA FE (AP) — New Mexico Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn is proposing a federal land swap in order to make room for President Donald Trump's promised border wall.

    In a letter to Trump signed Wednesday, Dunn proposed to swap state surface and mineral estate rights within three miles or less of the U.S.-Mexico border for what he called "more desirable" land in Chaves, Lincoln and Otero counties.

    Dunn's office said that if the Trump administration refuses the swap offer, the federal government will have to pay New Mexico $3 million for an easement to construct the wall on state land.

    Last month, Trump signed an executive order demanding the immediate construction of a wall across nearly 2,000 miles of the border. The federal government needs to own all land within a few miles of the border for construction.

  • 2017 State Legislature: Better vehicle mileage crimps NM’s road fund

    BY BRUCE KRASNOW
    The New Mexican

  • State organic certification program withering from funding drought

    By Staci Matlock

    The New Mexican

    Satisfying consumer demand for organic products in New Mexico is an expanding industry, but the state program responsible for inspecting and certifying organic farms is withering financially.

    The New Mexico Organic Certification Program has grappled with a $100,000-a-year deficit since the state cut the small agency's funding in 2010 and capped the fees it could collect from more than 150 organic farmers and processors.

    Now the state Department of Agriculture is looking at options to save the program, including raising farmers' fees to cover costs, a move likely to meet with mixed reactions. But many growers and processors say they want the state program to continue rather than turning to private companies for organic certification.

    "We desperately want them to stay and think they are an integral part of organic agriculture in the state. Organics are a growing industry and need that support," said John McMullin, the farm manager at Embudo Valley Organics, which raises turkeys. "My feeling is if we had a better governor and a better Legislature, they would have been fully funding the program."

    Facing a state budget deficit, lawmakers this year and next are unlikely to restore funding, much less increase it.

  • 2017 State Legislature: House bill calling for $2M in tuition aid for preschool teachers advances

    By Robert Nott
    The New Mexican

    A measure that would provide $2 million in tuition assistance for preschool teachers to further their education advanced in the state House on Wednesday, with unanimous approval from lawmakers on the Education Committee.

    The money, which would come from the state's general fund, would help retain early childhood educators and allow them to command higher wages, said the bill's sponsors, Rep. Christine Trujillo, D-Albuquerque, and Rep. Rebecca Dow, R-Truth or Consequences.

    "This is directly tied to the quality of [the early childhood education] staff," Dow said during Wednesday's hearing on House Bill 135. She said the vast majority of educators who would benefit from the bill are women and minorities.

    A 2016 report by the U.S. departments of Education and Health and Human Services said preschool teachers in the U.S. earn an average of $28,570, far less than the average salary of a kindergarten teacher -- over $51,000 -- and less than the wages of waiters, janitors and pest-control workers.

    As a result, said Baji Rankin, executive director of the New Mexico Association for the Education of Young Children, retaining early childhood educators is a challenge.