Local News

  • Library receives high marks

    The results of the Los Alamos County Library’s fiscal year 2015 Community Perception Survey were once again impressive.
    Of those surveyed, 87 percent had used the library within the last 12 months, 97 percent of those who use the library rated services as good or excellent and 98 percent rated availability of materials as good or excellent.
    This year, the library is projected to check out more than 380,000 items, have approximately 340,000 visitors, support about 27,000 computer uses and provide wireless access to many additional patrons, answer more than 25,000 reference questions and have more than 21,000 citizens attend programs.
    Library Board Chair Michelle Griffin presented the results of the survey as part of her annual report to the Los Alamos County Council at its March 15 work session. Council Chair Rick Reiss asked how library usage and satisfaction compared with other cities.
    “In general, when you run those statistics, we tend to be roughly double or triple the national average. We also, in terms of door count this year, will match – possibly exceed – our all time record on both those fronts,” Library Manager Steven Thomas said.

  • Today in history March 31
  • New Mexico rolls out cleanup proposal for federal lab

    ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — New Mexico regulators on Wednesday unveiled a draft proposal aimed at getting the federal government to clean up tons of hazardous waste and contamination left behind by decades of nuclear research and development at one of the nation's premier laboratories.

    The proposal comes after missteps by Los Alamos National Laboratory resulted in a radiation leak in February 2014 that derailed the federal government's multibillion-dollar cleanup effort at the northern New Mexico lab and other defense-related sites across the country.

    New Mexico Environment Secretary Ryan Flynn outlined the proposal Wednesday, saying the goal of the new consent order is to accelerate cleanup and leverage more federal dollars for the work.

    Flynn said the current order, which was signed by the state and the U.S. Department of Energy in 2005, is outdated and hasn't been working.

    Criticisms have been focused on its piecemeal approach and long-term goals and deadlines that were missed.

    "This is our effort to get the process moving forward," Flynn said. "We've tried to make it more flexible."

    That's one reason Flynn said the department didn't want to include a final date for finishing all the cleanup work at Los Alamos.

  • LA police union OKs new contract

    The Los Alamos Police Department’s union has negotiated a new contract with the county that will pay officers at least 10-25 percent more, the union announced Tuesday.
    The union unanimously approved the contract.
    “When we ratified the contract it was a 25-0 vote. I think we have presented a united front to the county,” said Monica Salazar-Casias, president of Los Alamos Police Association No. 14. “This is proof of what can be accomplished when parties negotiate in good faith.”
    A new pay scale was created under the new contract, a pay scale that will reflect each officer’s professional standing within the department.
    “Under the new plan, officers will now be compensated for associates, bachelors and master’s degrees by moving up two steps in the scale per degree,” a statement from the union read. “The average percentage increase is about 10 percent per officer with some going as high as 25 percent in order to make up for past inequities by the county.”

  • LAHS changes PARCC testing

    Los Alamos students will see changes to the PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) exams this year, the district announced Tuesday.  
    The PARCC testing window opens April 4, with the middle school being the first to test on April 7.
    Most schools will finish testing within five or six days, with a couple of extra days for make up tests. While the standardized tests will be similar to last year, the district has made some changes.
    Here are four ways PARCC testing will be different:
    • This year, test will be given in a single testing window. In the first year of PARCC, the exams were administered in two separate testing windows, one throughout March and a second during late April and May.
    • Students will spend less time taking math and English exams. Allotted testing time will be shorter by about 90 minutes, 60 fewer minutes in math and 30 fewer minutes in English.
    • Depending on the grade level, students will take fewer test sections.
    • Students will get test results in late summer, instead of December of January.
    The district has all of the student computers needed for testing, numerous staff trainings have been completed, according to a release sent out Wednesday.

  • Insurance company countersues former LAPD chief Torpy

    An insurance company accused of withholding long-term insurance benefits from a former Los Alamos County police chief filed a counterclaim against former police chief Wayne Torpy March 24.
    The company also denies allegations in the original lawsuit filed by Torpy.
    Torpy was Los Alamos County’s police chief until 2013, when he retired from the job for health reasons. Torpy became chief in 2005.
    Torpy was given a written promise that he would be paid 60 percent of his monthly salary through the county’s insurance company, Union Security, if he ever became permanently disabled and could no longer work, according to his attorneys. Torpy suffered a heart attack and a stroke in 2012, which eventually led to his retirement.
    Torpy claimed that while the insurance company initially honored the agreement, he claimed the disability payments stopped. According to a claims rep for Union, the insurance company stopped paying because Torpy was also receiving retirement benefits from his previous job as deputy chief of the Melbourne Police Department in Melbourne, Florida.
    According to a clause in the company’s contract, Torpy could not receive the full long-term 60 percent benefit if he was also receiving benefits from a “government plan.”  

  • Brush, bulk collection under review

    The Environmental Sustainability Board  is preparing to draft recommendations to council concerning the brush and bulk collection program at a special work session held 5:30 p.m. Thursday in the Eco Station break room.
    The board has spent months reviewing ways to improve the program and address related issues.
    A recent Open Forum survey revealed overall satisfaction with the program.
    The major criticism concerned residents leaving items for collection on the curb far in advance of pickup, citing instances of a 100-foot pile of trash, concrete and rock (none of which are eligible for pickup) and furniture left out for six months.
    Some respondents urged the county to eliminate the program unless this issue could be resolved.
    At the March 17 ESB meeting, resident Eldon Linnebur complained that people begin putting items on the curb two to three months in advance, “so it’s on the curb for eight to 10 months of the year.” Under the guidelines for the program, items are to be placed on the curb no more than two days in advance of scheduled pickup.

  • LA man faces court for bringing drugs to jail

    A Los Alamos man awaiting trial for allegedly committing homicide by vehicle while intoxicated will be going before Santa Fe District court April 4 for another crime he allegedly committed in February.
    Robin Wood, 37, recently gave himself up to authorities on an electronic monitoring warrant Feb. 9 in Santa Fe, according to court records.
    Authorities reported they became suspicious when he decided to turn himself in.
    “(The police officer) explained Robin was supposed to check in Feb. 6 but failed to do so for reasons unknown,” according to a statement in court documents. “(The police officer) stated due to the fact that Robin turned himself in for the warrant which was unusual, he decided to monitor Robin.”
    Police monitored phone calls Wood made from the jail, and discovered that he was trying to get “some items to the other inmates.”
    “(The police officer) explained that after reviewing the tapes he believed Robin was going to be distributing narcotics throughout the jail,” according to court records.

  • Wildfire 2016 raises awareness for fire season

    Saturday’s Wildfire 2016 event began with a bang, as hordes of youngsters scoured Ashley Pond Park for Easter eggs.
    The annual Easter Egg Hunt was sponsored by the Los Alamos Elks Lodge No. 2083, with help from the First Baptist Church of Los Alamos. Within 15 minutes, 11,000 eggs had disappeared into children’s baskets and bags.
    After that, children could visit with Smokey Bear and Sparky the Fire Dog or get close up views of fire trucks and police vehicles. But the main focus of the event was teaching residents how to protect their homes and families.
    One of the highlights was a children’s bike helmet giveaway. Helmets were donated by Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center and fitted by members of the Los Alamos Fire Department Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Bike Team.
    The bike team also offered bike safety training and provided bicycle safety inspections.
    “We’re providing helmets and safety instruction for kids so we improve the overall safety through the community, with the overall hope that we can eliminate any kind of bicycle accidents involving kids,” said LAFD EMS chief Benjamin Stone.

  • Schools in Ruidoso closed due to nearby wildfire

    RUIDOSO (AP) — Public schools are closed in the southern New Mexico mountain village of Ruidoso where a wildfire came within about 100 yards of the high school before being stopped by a fire line.

    Ruidoso's high school and middle school were evacuated Monday afternoon due to the approaching fire and the use of the high school's parking lot as a staging area for fire crews.

    Ruidoso schools remain closed Tuesday. They include two elementary schools also served by a road that goes near the fire area.

    Village spokeswoman Kerry Gladden says firefighters stopped the fire's spread toward the schools Monday and there wasn't much fire activity overnight.

    Gladden says the fire is estimated to have burned 150 acres of forest and open space and that containment is estimated at 30 percent.