Local News

  • Assessor’s request raises questions

    During last week’s budget hearings, Los Alamos County Council questioned County Assessor Ken Milder’s request that $12,037 allocated to the Property Valuation Fund be reallocated to the General Fund. Council approved a flat budget of $608,682 for the department, but refused the request to reallocate funds and asked for further discussion on the issue.
    County Manager Harry Burgess explained that he had moved that amount to the Property Valuation Fund after discussions with Milder about how to meet council’s request for a flat budget. Milder disagreed with Burgess’s decision.
    “This fund has been growing a balance for the last several years, and is projected to continue to do so, based on our evaluation and use of that fund,” Burgess said.
    “Given our zero percent direction, we looked at that fund and suggested that some of those salaries could be put into the valuation fund as opposed to pushing the assessor’s general fund portion beyond the flat budget.
    When questioned, Milder stated that the amount in question was mostly for salaries and benefits, which led Councilor Pete Sheehey to ask why those costs had jumped so much.

  • County, LANL consider colocation space

    One of the optional budget items the Los Alamos County Council tentatively approved Tuesday night was $50,000 from the Economic Development Fund to help finance an incubation colocate workspace.
    The proposed space – named Project Y, Cowork Los Alamos – is a collaboration between the Los Alamos Commerce and Development Corporation, Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Richard P. Feynman Center for Innovation, Central Park Square and possibly the county – provided the funding tentatively approved Tuesday remains in the final budget.
    Los Alamos County Economic Vitality Administrator Greg Fisher called colocate spaces “the rage around the country.”
    “The county’s been searching for a small business niche for some time, that wouldn’t put all the burden on the county, and it really is relevant to the modern business world,” Fisher said.
    LACDC has already committed $75,000 and LANL’s Feynman Center and Community Programs Office have pledged $30,000. Central Park Square’s in-kind donation provides reduced rent for the venture. The group also plans to seek grants and corporate sponsors.

  • Teacher settles discrimination suit against LAPS

    Los Alamos School teacher Zeynep Unal has settled her case against the Los Alamos County Schools and Kathryn Vandenkieboom, the principal of Aspen Elementary School.
    Unal filed her suit in 2013, alleging that Vandenkieboom regularly harassed and discriminated against her, due to Unal’s nationality.
    Unal is Turkish, and she is also a Muslim.
    Unal’s attorney, Kate Ferlic, said both sides agreed to settle the case before it went to trial for an undisclosed sum.
    “All I can say, in pursuant to the agreement, is that the case has settled, and we are thrilled,” Ferlic said. “It was a good result, a good settlement and I think both parties can move on with educating children.”
    As a condition of the settlement, the lawsuit will be dismissed.
    Ferlic added that Unal will continue to teach at Mountain Elementary School.
    “She will continue in her role as a Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) teacher there, and she thinks the world of that school. She loves it, and I think she’s doing very well there.”
    In her suit, Unal also alleged that Vandenkieboom also excluded Unal from staff meetings and other events, and also further isolated her by allegedly turning the staff against her.

  • Community Services gets budget approval

    Supporters of various organizations that receive funding through Los Alamos County’s Community Services Department packed council chambers during Tuesday’s budget hearings to support those entities’ requests for more funding.
    Their efforts were largely successful, at least in the initial round of voting. Twenty-five of 28 optional budget items received tentative council approval. All motions are tentative until council casts its vote to approve the entire fiscal year 2017 budget.
    The flat budget Community Services Department (CSD) Director Charlie Kalogeros-Chattan presented to council was $11,883,895. It received unanimous approval.
    Councilors David Izraelevitz and Kristin Henderson cast the only votes in favor of $2,500 to provide additional program staff support for various volunteer driven events, primarily for the triathlon. Additional funding would have expanded the responsibilities of a support position for running the event and provided additional funding for prizes and food and drink. The triathlon is currently an all-volunteer effort.
    “This is a longstanding event that we need to nurture, and it adds to our quality of life,” Izraelevitz said.

  • Case against former LAPD cop dismissed

    A case against a former Los Alamos police officer accused of illegally taking payment from the University of New Mexico-Los Alamos in June of 2014 has been dismissed.
    Assistant District Attorney Joshua Humphries dismissed the case against Jordan Redmond Tuesday. The police officer’s attorney, Marc W. Edwards, said what his client really wanted was a jury trial. A trial did not happen because the state’s 182-day window needed for a jury trial simply ran out, Edwards said.
    Edwards said that was unfortunate.
    “Jordan really wanted his day in court,” Edwards said. “He would have rather gone to trial. Acquittal is pretty good validation that he didn’t commit the crime. He was really looking forward to that, and didn’t get that opportunity. He’s disappointed he didn’t get his jury trial, but he’s very happy that this process is over.”
    Jordan was formally charged with “honoraria prohibited” which meant Redmond, who was on duty as a police officer at the time, could not accept payment or gifts from other sources in the course of carrying out his duties as a police officer.

  • Council tentatively approves 4 budgets

    The Los Alamos County Council tentatively approved four more budgets during Tuesday night’s budget hearings.
    The County Assessor’s budget of $608,682 was tentatively approved, but council rejected Assessor Ken Milder’s request for an additional $12,037 in General Fund expenditures. County Manager Harry Burgess had moved that amount to the Property Valuation Fund after discussion with Milder about how to meet council’s request for a flat budget. Milder disagreed with Burgess’s decision. Follow the Los Alamos Monitor for more on that story.
    The $17,166,687 County Manager’s budget was tentatively approved unanimously. That includes $3,519,671 for the General Fund, $278,219 for Lodgers’ Tax expenditures, $3,386,500 for Economic Development and $9,982,297 for Risk Management.
    The motion to approve included $295,000 for six additional requests, which included funding for signage and other items related to the Manhattan Project National Historical Park (MPNHP), maintaining last year’s funding level for Progress through Partnering initiatives and $10,000 to bring a “big name” to ScienceFest in order to increase attendance.

  • LANL security employee sues for discrimination

    A Los Alamos National Laboratory employee filed a federal lawsuit against the Los Alamos National Laboratory claiming age discrimination and retaliation Tuesday after he was passed over for a promotion.
    Michael J. Irving, a security program leader and manager at the security office since 1997, claims the lab did not promote him after he filed a prior lawsuit. According to his court filing, Irving’s job is to safeguard nuclear weapon materials and classified materials.
    In the prior suit, filed in 2013, he claimed rules were not followed when certain high-security officials visited the laboratory. Irving said that instead of acknowledging and correcting what he thought was wrong, management ignored his complaints “...and plaintiff was removed from his security oversight role with regard to VIP visits.” Irving claimed he was also demoted to two steps lower than his previous job position.
    Worse, he said, he was told by his supervisor that the LANL administration considered him a  “malcontent” and a “troublemaker.”
    He also complained to his supervisors that a fellow female coworker was being discriminated against.

  • What’s shakin’ for Earth Day

    Residents looking for ways to celebrate Earth Day won’t have far to go this weekend.
    Earth Day is officially today, but local organizations plan to have their major festivities on Saturday.
    The first Earth Day was March 21, 1970, and was started by peace activist John McConnell.
    “For PEEC, Earth Day is a wonderful opportunity to connect with nature, to develop a deeper understanding of what it means to be living on this Earth, especially in the Pajarito Plateau,” said PEEC Marketing Manager Sandra West.
    This year’s festival will be extra special. It is the first year anniversary of the PEEC in its new location on Canyon Road, and at 10:15 a.m., PEEC and Los Alamos County will mark a milestone by being the first county in New Mexico to be officially certified by the National Wildlife Federation as an official Wildlife Habitat Community.
    NWF representative Luisa Grant will be on hand to present the prestigious award. PEEC, along with PEEC Docent and certified NWF habitat garden expert Selvi Viswanathan, have done much through the years to reach this milestone, acting as a one-stop education center for those residents and businesses looking to turn their properties into natural, native wildlife habitats that also provide safe havens for New Mexico wildlife.

  • LA GOP fined for failing to file reports

    The New Mexico Secretary of State’s office has levied fines against the Republican Party of Los Alamos County for failing to file its campaign finance reports since last October.
    The party has missed filing its October and April 11 reports.
    According to Secretary of State spokesperson Kenneth Ortiz, the failure to file was discovered when the organization’s name failed to appear during a search of the office’s database for “Los Alamos” political action committees.
    The New Mexico Campaign Reporting Act requires all political committees that receive, contribute or expend in excess of $500 in any calendar year to maintain a treasurer and register with the Secretary of State’s office.  
    Finance reports detailing all contributions and expenditures are due in April and October during nonelection years and several times during an election year.
    A search of the state’s PAC database shows reports for the Democratic Party of Los Alamos County dating back to April 2010.
    The Monitor confirmed that the Republican Party of Los Alamos County does not come up in a search of “Los Alamos,” however the Los Alamos County Republican Central Committee has reports from April 2010 through April 2015.

  • New Mexico says more families eligible for child care help

    ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez has launched a push to get more eligible families to apply for federally-funded child care assistance and announced Thursday the state will expand eligibility requirements until late May

    The Republican governor said the effort is needed to get families to seek assistance for a program that some might not even know exists.

    Under the new changes, New Mexico families earning as much as 200 percent of the federal poverty line — an increase from the previous 150 percent — may apply for the child care assistance program.

    That's means a family of four earning around $48,600 or less a year is now eligible. Before the expansion, the same family earning more than around $36,000 a year would not have been eligible for the services.

    The program subsidizes the cost of child care for low-income families who are working or going to school and need child care.

    "With this expansion, we will be providing safe and reliable child care to more families who need it the most," Martinez said. "This program is one of our most important resources for helping to prevent child abuse, and I encourage New Mexico families who need it to apply for our child care assistance."