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Local News

  • O’Leary challenges county fleet replacement

    The Los Alamos County Council this week tentatively approved the remaining departmental budgets, but tabled discussion on parking lot items and adoption of a fiscal year 2017 budget.
    Council tentatively approved the Los Alamos Police Department budget of $7,952,256, plus  $262,077 in optional budget items, plus budgets for Public Works, the Department of Public Utilities and Administrative Services.
    The $30,132,463 Public Works budget and four of the five proposed options received tentative thumbs up. Those are:
    • $160,000 to replace the Mesa Public Library HVAC unit.
    • $53,000 to restore funding for pavement preservation and facilities maintenance contractual services.
    • $105,000 for an industrial tractor with boom mower to maintain county right of ways and reduce hand labor.  
    • $48,000 to implement a Recycle Bank points program to promote recycling and help to reduce waste generation.
    A $325,000 option for constructing new hangars at the airport was not approved on the grounds that the county should explore options for private investment first.
    Vice Chair Susan O’Leary asked how staff determined when fleet vehicles needed to be replaced.

  • Today in history April 29
  • Application filed for high-level nuclear waste site in Texas

    DALLAS (AP) — A Dallas-based company has submitted an application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a license to construct and operate an interim storage site in West Texas for high-level nuclear waste from around the country.

    Waste Control Specialists, which submitted the application Thursday, had notified the NRC last year of its plan to seek the license to build the facility in rural Andrews County that would store spent fuel rods from power plants. There's currently no such disposal site in the U.S.

    The Nuclear Regulatory Commission says the review process is expected to take about three years.

    Rod Baltzer, president and chief executive officer of Waste Control Specialists, says the license submittal puts his company on track for completion of the facility as early as 2021.

  • NMED to host Open House tonight in Council Chambers

    The New Mexico Environment Department’s Hazardous Waste Bureau will host an Open House from 5-7 p.m. in the Los Alamos County Council Chambers, 1000 Central Ave., to present an overview of proposed changes to the Draft Consent Order regarding clean up at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

    NMED representatives will take citizen and stakeholder input, address concerns and answer questions.

    On March 1, 2005, NMED and the U.S. Department of Energy and the Regents of the University of California entered into the 2005 Consent Order that prescribed fence-to-fence clean-up requirements for LANL. Any scope of work that was not completed under the 2005 Consent Order is carried forward by inclusion in the draft Consent Order. NMED started public discussion and feedback on this draft Consent Order at the November 12, 2015 Northern New Mexico Citizen Advisory Board meeting and the November 13, 2015 Regional Coalition of Los Alamos communities meeting.

    NMED continues to meet with other interested stakeholders, including tribes, local governments and non-governmental organizations, to better understand the public’s outlook on NMED’s recommended approach to the order. The public comment period continues through May 16.

  • Today in history April 28
  • Council OKs shelter manager

    The Los Alamos County Council tentatively approved the Los Alamos Police Department’s proposed budget of $7,952,256 on Monday, plus all six of the department’s optional budget items, which totaled $262,077.
    Councilor Steve Girrens voted against the motion, objecting to $75,000 to create a shelter manager position in the Police Animal Control division.
    Chief Dino Sgambellone explained the need for the shelter manager, reciting a long list of duties that the county’s three animal control officers have to perform in addition to answering calls for service and taking enforcement action if necessary. Sgambellone noted that officers have to shut down the shelter to answer a call. The new shelter is open 46 hours a week, as opposed to the 21 hours the old shelter was open.
    “And if they don’t go out and they leave the shelter open, the (non-animal control) officers are handling those calls, which, the officers don’t have the training that our animal control officers do and, quite frankly, probably don’t share the passion that our animal control offers do, which is why they have made that their career,” Sgambellone said.

  • 2016 wildfire season expected to be less severe

    DENVER (AP) — The upcoming wildfire season across the U.S. isn't expected to be as bad as last year's infernos, when a record 15,800 square miles burned, the nation's top wildland firefighting official said Wednesday.

    But parts of the nation should expect a rough season after a warm, dry winter or because of long-term drought, U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell said.

    Southern California, other parts of the Southwest, Alaska and Montana are all vulnerable, he said.

    "So where we anticipate the severity of the fire season will not be at the same level as last year, we still expect to have some areas that will be really active," Tidwell said.

    Tidwell discussed the fire outlook with The Associated Press four days before the federal government issues its wildfire outlook for the summer season. He was in Denver for a conference on forest health.

    California is vulnerable because much of the state remains in a drought, despite an El Nino weather system that brought near-average snowfall to its northern mountains. Wildfires have already broken out in Alaska after a warm winter with below-average precipitation.

  • Appeal rejected in off-road vehicles case on forest use

    ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — A federal appeals court has rejected an appeal by a motorized off-road vehicles users group that challenged a Forest Service decision reducing the routes available for use in the Santa Fe National Forest in northern New Mexico

    A trial judge had upheld the agency's action, but the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling Wednesday says the New Mexico Off-Highway Vehicle Alliance didn't have a legal basis to sue.

    The appellate court's ruling dismisses the alliance's appeal and orders the trial court to erase its own ruling and dismiss the lawsuit.

  • Los Alamos recognized as certified wildlife habitat

    Those who attended the Pajarito Environmental Education Center’s Earth Day Festival Saturday learned that this year’s festival was a little bit more special than most.
    The festival kicked off with an announcement that Los Alamos was the first county in New Mexico to become a certified wildlife habitat by the National Wildlife Federation.
    NWF representative Luisa Grant came from NWF’s Washington, D.C. headquarters to present to the community a special sign that will be prominently posted somewhere in the community.
    At the event, Grant credited PEEC volunteer Selvi Viswanathan the Los Alamos Habitat Committee and the county for its efforts to obtain the certification.
    “It took Selvi, the habitat team, but it also took more than that,” Grant said. “It took the entire community...all of you have helped the community achieve this great recognition.”
    PEEC volunteer and founding board member Michele Altherr got things started by also acknowledging that April also marked the first year of the center’s new location.
    “It just demonstrates how many things people can get done when they want to,” Altherr said, adding that they are thankful to be in a region that has much diversity.

  • LANL projects rosy job numbers

    Los Alamos National Laboratory Director Charlie McMillan assured local leaders in Santa Fe Tuesday that the lab is going to continue to be a strong community and regional partner.
    LANL is facing a period of relative uncertainty as Los Alamos National Security’s contract to manage the lab goes out to bid sometime after 2017. The National Nuclear Safety Administration put Congress on notice that LANS’ current contract will not be renewed and will be put out to bid after 2017.
    LANS LLC failed to get another renewal due to performance issues, even though the lab’s performance for 2015 was better than its performance in 2014.  
    “A very clear priority for us is assuring that the laboratory is as strong as it possibly can be through the contract transition,” McMillan said at Tuesday’s breakfast meeting. “Not just up to the transition, but through the transition. So, we’re looking to make decisions today about long-term strengths for the laboratory.”
    One of those long-term strengths will be through employee attrition, as LANL prepares to replace the next wave of employees that are set to retire.