Local News

  • Gas rates likely to drop 10 percent

    After last month’s news that the Los Alamos Board of Public Utilities will consider a 10-percent water rate increase at its Aug. 17 meeting, there is some good news for customers. That increase is likely to be offset by a 10 percent rate reduction on their gas utility bills.
    The board had a preliminary discussion about the proposed gas rate structure at its July 20 meeting.
    Department of Public Utility (DPU) staff is recommending that the current rate structure be maintained, with a 20-percent reduction to the fixed cost portion of the bill.
    The fixed cost recovery rate would be reduced from $0.29 to $0.23 per therm, which would result in a 10-percent reduction on the overall bill.
    If future projections prove themselves out, customers will see another 10 percent reduction a year from now.
    The rate reduction will serve to draw down a high cash balance in the gas fund. Staff policy is to maintain $2 million in reserve. The balance currently stands at $6 million.
    “We’d start spending that cash reserve down until we identified through our cash policies what should our target level be. We intend to get to that through rate reductions as appropriate,” said Deputy Utilities Manager for Finance and Administration Robert Westervelt.

  • LA 911 goes out

    Los Alamos Police Department’s dispatch center reported Thursday that 911 phone lines were out.
    The dispatch center forwarded 911 calls to Santa Fe’s police dispatch center as an interim solution. Santa Fe dispatch worked the calls made to 911 back to LAPD dispatch using cell phones to relay information.
    LAPD Spokesman Preston Ballew said the delay between Santa Fe call center and Los Alamos Dispatch was minimal.
    “I don’t think we’d be getting it as timely as if we’ve been getting the calls ourselves. I’d think I’d be lying if I told you we did, because somebody else has to make a phone call to us,” Ballew said. “This isn’t a unique situation, but obviously, we’ve dealt with it before.”  
    Phone technicians were on the way to the dispatch center to try to resolve the issue and Century Link was also investigating the phone line, according to county spokeswoman Julie Habiger.
    Radio transmissions were not impacted and dispatchers were able to receive and transmit information with public safety services through the radio system.
    There was no estimate Thursday on when 911-line service may be restored, Habiger said.

  • Mosquitoes capable of transmitting zika found in Roosevelt Co.

    The New Mexico Department of Health and New Mexico State University announced Thursday that Aedes albopictus, a species of mosquito that can transmit Zika virus, has been identified in Roosevelt County.
    This is the first time this mosquito species has been identified in this county.
    Mosquito surveillance in many of New Mexico’s southern counties is part of a NMSU project funded by the New Mexico Department of Health to map out the range and distribution of both Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus in the state. Both mosquito species are capable of transmitting Zika virus to people.
    The ongoing project has not yet sampled all of the counties in the southern half of the state.
    “This collaboration with NMSU will help us get a clear picture of the areas at risk of Zika transmission in the state,” said New Mexico Secretary of Health Lynn Gallagher.
    To date, Aedes aegypti mosquitoes have been trapped and identified this summer in Doña Ana, Eddy, and Chaves counties and now Aedes albopictus in Roosevelt County. Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes have also been reported from Otero County and Aedes albopictus from Curry County in past years.

  • Valles Caldera to celebrate 16 years with free entry

    Valles Caldera National Preserve will celebrate its 16th birthday Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
    Visitors will get an insider’s look at the scientific discoveries being made at the preserve and can take part in traditional “Earth-skills” demonstrations. Entrance to the preserve is free on Saturday for the family-friendly event.
    National Park Service staff will give mini presentations on wildlife research, archaeology, fire recovery efforts, and much more. Park staff will also have wildlife monitoring and other scientific equipment on display and be available to answer questions from visitors.
    At the Earth-skills gathering, visitors can watch demonstrators create and use beautiful and functional products made from natural materials. Demonstrations include flint-knapping, yucca fiber cord making, jewelry making, and atl-atl throwing. There will also be rounds of family-friendly primitive games.

  • Branding efforts enter next phase

    At the July 12 Los Alamos County Council meeting, staff provided an update on the county’s branding initiative and suggested a change in direction.
    Council approved the “Brand Identity” (the logo called “Balance” and the strapline, “Where Discoveries Are Made”) in December 2015. Staff has since been working with Atlas Advertising, LLC to finalize the logo design and develop design guidelines and a marketing plan.
    Once the logo was finalized, the first priority was integrating the brand identity with such items as county uniforms, stationary, business cards and fleet vehicles. Staff worked with Atlas to write an Identity Style Guide, which illustrates how the logo and strapline can be used in different media. They also established an internal branding review committee to answer questions as they arose.
    “Right now, it’s all about trying to help our employees first understand what is branding? Why is it important? Why are we being kind of nitpicky about quality, consistency and messaging? And then the more technical part if it, which is its application within the county,” said Public Information Officer Julie Habiger.

  • Woods talks about run for clerk’s office

    Amy Woods, who is running on the Democratic ticket for the county clerk’s office, stresses her education, management experience and community service.
    “I have roots in the community. I grew up here. I know the town. I know how it evolved, or sort of how it evolved,” Woods said. “And I know how important it is to support the community and recognize and acknowledge Los Alamos is a really special place, and to deal with stuff that comes up in recognition of that specialness.”
    Woods grew up in Los Alamos but spent years traveling the county, pursuing her bachelor’s degree and an M.B.A. and working in management for companies like IBM and Data General. She returned three years ago to care for her mother, Carlotta McInteer, when her health was failing.
    McInteer, who has since passed away, was Woods’ inspiration for becoming involved in the community and running for office. McInteer had an unsuccessful run for county office and served with several local organizations.
    “It just felt right to continue that tradition,” Woods said. “One of the things I missed while I was out on the road was a sense of community and a sense of participation and building a relationship with the community and building help for the community.”

  • Anti nuke group wants lab cleanup agreement tossed

    Nuclear Watch New Mexico has asked a federal judge to throw out a new hazardous waste clean-up agreement signed by the New Mexico Environment Department, the U.S. Department of Energy and the Los Alamos National Laboratory.
    The citizen-action group filed a lawsuit in federal court in May, calling for the DOE and LANL to be held responsible for not meeting deadlines set by NMED in a consent order worked out between the parties in 2005.
    The 2016 order is a revamp of the earlier consent order that was made between the DOE, NMED and the University of California (predecessors of Los Alamos Security LLC, the managers of the lab). The 2005 order established deadlines and methods LANL must adhere to in cleaning up multiple sites on the property, including areas that were in use during the Manhattan Project.
    The lawsuit cites 12 alleged violations where deadlines and timetables were not met. The lawsuit claims NMED set and reset deadlines at least three or four times under the 2005 agreement.
    The lawsuit’s amendment, which was filed July 19 and includes the lab’s new managing contractor, Los Alamos Security LLC, claims NMED failed to adequately consider public comments concerning the 2016 update.

  • LANB customers, bank deal with computer upgrade

    Customers of Los Alamos National Bank who may have had difficulties enrolling in the bank’s new online banking system should see their issues resolved by next week, officials said Thursday.
    The bank started the massive system upgrade Saturday and completed it on Monday.
    Chief Executive Officer John Gulas also wanted customers to know that everyone’s money is right where it should be.
    “No customer data was lost or destroyed during the upgrade,” he said.
    The upgrade did cause customers some grief this week. Customer wait times were reported to have exceeded one hour when they called the bank’s call center for assistance.
    Those who went to the bank for help were met by customer service representatives in the lobby with clipboards, who took down their names. Seating sections were created so customers could wait sitting down.
    The changes are designed to make present – and future – online banking more convenient and safer.

  • County: Los Alamos 911 line out

    Los Alamos Police Department’s dispatch center is reporting that the 911 phone lines are out.

    The dispatch center has forwarded 911 calls to Santa Fe’s police dispatch center as an interim solution. Santa Fe dispatch is then working the calls made to 911 back to LAPD dispatch using cell phones to relay information.

    Phone technicians are on their way to the dispatch center to try and resolve the issue and Century Link is also investigating the phone line, according to county spokeswoman Julie Habiger.

    Radio transmissions are not impacted and dispatchers are able to receive and transmit information with public safety services through the radio system. There is no estimate yet on when 911 line service may be restored, Habiger said.

  • New Mexico senator sounds alarm on evaporating revenues

    SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A bipartisan alarm was sounded Thursday by state officials who say evaporating revenues could leave New Mexico scrambling to meet its spending commitments for everything from schools and public safety to health care over the next budget year.

    A key state senator called on Republican Gov. Susana Martinez to order lawmakers back to Santa Fe this summer to fill an expected hole of close to $200 million in the budget for the fiscal year that ended in June.

    The other concern is future spending, as revenues are not expected to keep up with spending plotted out under the current budget.

    Sen. John Arthur Smith, a Deming Democrat who heads the Senate Finance Committee, warned that anywhere from $300 million to a half-billion dollars in revenue could fail to materialize and that state leaders need to address the problem soon rather than wait for the next legislative session in January.

    "The volatility we're looking at that created this is the roller coaster of oil and gas," Smith said, pointing to the ripple effect caused in the state's economy by tanking prices, resulting job losses and the effect the downturn has had on gross receipts and corporate taxes.