Local News

  • New Mexico economists slash revenue expectations

    SANTA FE (AP) — New Mexico expects to collect far less revenue this budget year and next than previously forecast as employment, wages and economic growth lag, a group of state economists said Monday.

    The economists from three executive agencies and the Legislature estimated the state's annual revenue stream will decrease by $131 million to $5.6 billion for the current fiscal year, and by $127 million for the fiscal year starting in July.

    Falling fossil fuel prices and declining employment in the oil sector have significantly decreased taxes on gross receipts, which provide about one-third of general fund revenues for the state.

    The figures presented in Santa Fe set a benchmark for lawmakers who meet in January to shore up state finances and craft a new budget.

    The budget crisis has spilled over into courts where public defenders say they cannot keep up with caseloads. Other state agencies and universities are grappling with annual spending cuts as high as 8 percent.

    The forecast indicates spending is likely to outstrip operating reserves by $69 million during the current fiscal year. Next year, revenues are expected to fall $93 million short if New Mexico continues to spend at its current pace of just over $6 billion a year.

  • Council selects DP Road site for rec center

    The Los Alamos County Council began preliminary deliberations about the 2017 recreation bond projects last Tuesday. The only significant decision they made was about where to locate a proposed recreation center/indoor ice rink.
    Council’s most recent direction to staff was to eliminate the Larry R. Walkup Aquatic Center and North Mesa as possible locations for a recreation center and to develop costs for building on either the A-8 site behind the Smith’s Marketplace or at the Pueblo Complex.
    In the end, neither of those locations was selected. Instead, council voted to approve the A-16 site – located further down DP Road from the A-8 site – for the recreation center location.
    Councilor Kristin Henderson raised objections to the A-8 site, which is currently under consideration for housing development. Preliminary findings suggest that 150 to 400 units could be built at that site.
    “I’m concerned about A-8, because as much as we need a rec center, our more urgent need is housing,” Henderson said. “And it concerns me to put something else right there in the middle.”
    Dekker Perich Sabatini (DPS) Principal/Urban Planner Will Gleason, the consultant providing scoping for the bond projects, pointed out that the recreation center would only occupy about one-quarter of the A-8 site.

  • Mediator takes on NM budget impasse

    SANTA FE (AP) — He is a mild mannered attorney who negotiates out-of-court resolutions to legal disputes for a living.
    In his unsalaried job as the next New Mexico state Senate majority leader, Peter Wirth is positioned as a lead Democratic power broker for high-stakes decisions about plunging state revenues and essential government services when the new Legislature meets in January.
    Amid an oil-industry downturn, New Mexico has largely depleted state operating reserves, slashed agency spending, refinanced construction and closed tax loopholes without fully closing a stubborn budget deficit.
    In a wide-ranging interview this week, Wirth said his challenge is keeping the doors of government open and protecting programs that are economic drivers of the state. And that could mean raising more tax dollars from gasoline sales, corporate income taxes or even the legalization of recreational marijuana — ideas that have been anathema to the state’s second-term GOP governor, Susana Martinez.
    For validation, he points to Wyoming’s recent enactment of a fuel tax increase by a Republican governor and GOP-dominated Legislature.

  • LA makes strides to decrease drunken driving

    This year, Los Alamos County and the Los Alamos Police Department have made inroads into eliminating drinking and driving.
    In 2015, the Los Alamos Police Department arrested 45 drivers for suspected drunken driving. This year, the number of arrests is expected to reach the upper 60s. Police officers have received more training on how to recognize and catch drunken drivers, enabling them to take more offenders off the road, according to Chief Dino Sgambellone.
    One training technique the LAPD has implemented is “Wet Lab,” where volunteers drink alcohol and allow the officers in training to evaluate them.
    “We evaluate them. It’s real world, it’s practical,” Sgambellone said.
    The department will also continue to partner with the community in cutting down on drunken driving in other ways.
    “We continue to collaborate with different organizations including the DUI Planning Council with funding that helps us with our youth planning and educating young people about the dangers of driving under the influence,” Sgambellone said.
    On the county side, the DWI Planning Council and the Los Alamos County Council are also taking steps to eliminate drunken driving. They are joining the state in acknowledging and supporting “DWI Awareness Week” this week.

  • Be a Santa to a Senior

    The Santa Fe/Los Alamos branch of Home Instead Senior Care has been lifting spirits during the holidays since 2003 by sponsoring “Be a Santa to a Senior,” a program that works to guarantee that senior citizens who might not otherwise receive a holiday gift are not forgotten.
    “I’m just really thankful to work for a company that’s involved in the community like this and serve people who are often overlooked, especially around the holidays,” said Ken Hendricks, community service representative for Home Instead Santa Fe.
    Home Instead begins working with local nonprofits and community organizations around October to identify seniors who might not otherwise receive gifts.
    “Stars” are filled out with the first name of the recipients and one or two items they might like to receive. The stars are hung on “giving trees” at various locations. Those who wish to participate choose a star, buy the gift or gifts and return the items unwrapped to the location the tree was in.
    In Santa Fe, giving trees are located at Christus St. Vincent, the Santa Fe Place Mall, the Walmart on Cerrillos Road and the Walmart Super Center. The Los Alamos tree, located at the Betty Ehart Senior Center, is already bare of ornaments.

  • LAPS lowered to ‘B’

    The Los Alamos Public Schools has been downgraded to a “B” by the New Mexico Public Education Department. The district received its annual report card Tuesday.
    “Overall I’m pleased with how are kids are performing and also well aware we can do better and we are going to do better,” said Superintendent Kurt Steinhaus, which was based on last year’s performance.
    The summary includes assessments of student achievement, school board qualifications, educator quality, demographics, expenditures and parent satisfaction.
    The report card included a specific grade for each of the district’s seven schools.
    Aspen Elementary and Los Alamos High School each received an “A,” and the other district elementary schools received a “B.”
    Los Alamos Middle School received a “C.”
    Students were graded in reading, math and science in grades three through 11.
    “There’s always room for increasing the percent of students who are proficient in reading and mathematics,” Steinhaus said. “We are going to continue to provide that extra support.”

  • C’YA launches new website

    Champions of Youth Ambitions has launched a new website for accepting nominations for the Community Asset Awards. The website can be found at cya-nm.org and nominations are accepted through Dec. 23.

  • Free sand for farolitos available

    Free sand is now available for Los Alamos County residents who want to make holiday farolitos.
    Each year, the Los Alamos County Traffic and Streets Division provides free farolito sand as a courtesy to residents.
    Sand is now available at these locations:
    • Overlook Park, in south parking lot.
    • Urban Park, in the 42nd Street parking area.
    • Sullivan Field, in the west side of parking lot.
    • Barranca Mesa, at the end of Barranca Road at Navajo.
    • North Mesa, at the north end of the soccer field parking lot.
    Residents are asked to limit the amount of sand taken to the amount needed for their farolitos.
    For questions, call 662-8113, email lacpw@lacnm.us.

  • Rio Arriba County to host gun buyback

    Rio Arriba County will host a gun buyback from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Dec. 10 at the Rio Arriba County Sheriff Office, 1122 Industrial Park Road in Española.
    Following a successful fundraising effort by New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence this summer, Dec. 10 will mark the second statewide gun buyback to safely get unwanted guns out of homes and off the streets.
    Over the coming year, RAWtools, in partnership with Santa Fe Community College welding and sculpture students, will forge unwanted, dismantled guns into garden tools and public art projects and installations.
    According to the New Mexico Department of Health, 405 people were shot and killed in New Mexico in 2015.
    Merchant cards for gas, electronics and food will be distributed in exchange for unloaded, working firearms.
    All exchanges are anonymous, and SFCC welding instructors will dismantle guns onsite.

  • LAPD clamping down on thefts

    The Los Alamos Police Department Investigations Unit will be conducting some covert operations this Holiday Season as a proactive measure against package theft on citizen’s doorsteps.
    As the increase in online shopping continues each year the draw towards a trend tagged as “Porch Pirates” also increases. LAPD also wants to encourage citizens who believe they have had a package stolen to contact LAPD dispatch at 662-8222 to report thefts.  Any suspicious behavior observed by citizens should also be reported.