Local News

  • Man attempts to steal liquor bottle

    A 21-year-old man from Santa Fe, Lance Pena, was arrested for attempting to shoplift a $9.65 bottle of vodka from Smith’s on Aug. 29.

    Around 10 a.m. that day, Los Alamos Police Department Cpl. Leandro Gallegos was dispatched to Smith’s for a suspected shoplifting incident.

    Gallegos met with the Loss Prevention Officer, Melissa Chamberlin, and the offender, Pena. Next to Pena, there was a plastic bottle of Premier Vodka on Chamberlin’s desk.

    Chamberlin stated that Pena took the bottle off the shelf while inside Smith’s and concealed it inside his pants.\

    According to the incident report, Pena then walked around the store before walking past all points of sale without attempting to pay for the liquor.

    “Lance admitted that he tried to steal the bottle of Premier Vodka,” said Gallegos in his report. Apparently, Pena thought if he were cooperative with law enforcement and the loss prevention department, he would simply be charged with trespassing and let go.

    That was not the case, however, and Gallegos promptly arrested Pena for shoplifting. After conducting a search of Lance, it was found that he did not have any cash or cards on his person to pay for anything from Smith’s.

  • CAP cadets pass milestones

    Aug. 28 was a big night for Los Alamos Civil Air Patrol Cadet Juan Romero and his air patrol.
    Romero was promoted to 2nd Lt, and he received his Billy Mitchell Award.

    The award marks a civil air patrol cadet’s transition from enlisted rank into the officers ranks, and is considered a turning point in a cadet’s career.

    The Los Alamos Civil Air Patrol has had nine cadets achieve the rank in the past five years.

    “Only 15 percent of all cadets nationally get this far,” Deputy Commander for Cadets Annette Peters said. “For us to have had this many cadets achieve this milestone speaks volumes about the awesome cadets we have. They are so focused on the cadet program.”

    His mother, Army National Guard LT. Col Pia Romero and his father, Ryan,  presented him with his new rank and award as the rest of Romero’s  crew looked on.

    “It’s a very proud moment,” Pia said. “He has a lot of discipline and stick-to-it-ness.”

    The award was created in 1964, and was named in honor of Army Gen. Billy Mitchell. He is one of the key figures in the formation of the U.S. Air Force, which he advocated heavily for when he became deputy director of the Air Service shortly after World War I.

  • Billions of dead trees force US fire crews to shift tactics

    Associated Press

    ALBANY, Wyo. — Vast stands of dead timber in the Western U.S. have forced firefighters to shift tactics, trying to stay out of the shadow of lifeless, unstable trees that could come crashing down with deadly force.

    About 6.3 billion dead trees are still standing in 11 Western states, up from 5.8 billion five years ago, according to U.S. Forest Service statistics compiled for The Associated Press.

    Since 2010, a massive infestation of beetles has been the leading cause of tree mortality in the West and now accounts for about 20 percent of the standing dead trees, the Forest Service said. The rest were killed by drought, disease, fire or other causes.

    Researchers have long disagreed on whether beetle infestations have made wildfires worse, and this year’s ferocious fire season has renewed the debate, with multiple fires burning in forests with beetle-killed trees.

    But no one disputes that dead trees – snags, in firefighter parlance – present an unpredictable threat, prone to blowing over onto people or getting knocked down by other falling trees. Amid the noise and distraction of a fire, firefighters sometimes get little warning.

  • LAPS gets latest teacher evaluation results

    Los Alamos school officials received the results of the latest round of teacher evaluations Friday from the Public Education Department but the district does not yet have the overall results.

    Principals began meeting with teachers Friday about the evaluations.

    “At this point, we do not have a summary of the results,” said Kurt Steinhaus Friday.

    Whitney Holland, president of the Los Alamos Federation of School Employees, said not much has changed since the PED started the evaluation system.

    “The general sense is that these evaluations will continue to be an unfair snapshot based on inaccurate data until the PED proves otherwise,” Holland said.

    About 74 percent of public school teachers in New Mexico are rated as effective or better when it comes to their success in the classroom, officials announced Friday after statewide results were released, according to the Associated Press.

    That’s the highest percentage of effective or better teachers since Gov. Susana Martinez adopted a new teacher evaluation system four years ago.

  • McMillan talks housing, LANL’s future, community

    Los Alamos National Laboratory Director Charles McMillan gave two similar yet different talks in Los Alamos last month, each one focusing on housing and jobs.

    At Los Alamos County Council’s Aug. 29 meeting, McMillan emphasized the lab’s employment strategies and how that figures into the council’s plans to create more housing opportunities.

    “We continue to bring new talent to the laboratory. As what  many organizations are experiencing today, we’re seeing retirements from the baby boom generation and, recognizing that was the case several years ago, we started working with the laboratory statisticians in the HR (human resources) organization, developing staffing plans that would address the future needs of the laboratory workforce, taking into account the projected retirements,” McMillan said. “Those projections are running very close to what we’ve expected and the consequences of that is that we hired over a thousand people last year at the laboratory, and this year, we are on track to hire almost another thousand.”

    McMillan said he and his staff were able to accomplish this goal with a five-year plan that is reviewed yearly. He also gave county council a breakdown of where the workforce lives.

  • Police: Thieves take SUV pulling U-Haul with a casket inside

    ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — Police say thieves have stolen an SUV and an attached U-Haul trailer — with a casket inside — outside an Albuquerque motel.

    Albuquerque police say the coffin heist occurred early Monday at a Residence Inn.

    Authorities say the casket contained the body of the victim's father-in-law.

    Police are searching for a black 2005 Chevy Trailblazer SUV with Oklahoma license plates.
    No arrests have been made.

  • Powerful quake rocks southern Mexico coast; at least 32 die

    MEXICO CITY (AP) — One of the most powerful earthquakes ever to strike Mexico has hit off its southern Pacific coast, killing at least 32 people, toppling houses, government offices and businesses while sending panicked people into the streets in the capital, more than 650 miles (1,000 kilometers) away.

    The U.S. Geological Survey said the earthquake hit off Chiapas state near the Guatemalan border with a magnitude of 8.1, equal to the strongest of the past century in Mexico.

    Hundreds of buildings collapsed or were damage, power was cut at least briefly to more than 1.8 million people and authorities closed schools Friday in at least 11 states to check them for safety.

    "The house moved like chewing gum and the light and internet went out momentarily," said Rodrigo Soberanes, who lives near the Chiapas state city of San Cristobal de las Casas.

    Oaxaca state Gov. Alejandro Murat told local news media that at least 23 people had died in his coastal state. Civil defense officials said at least seven died in Chiapas and two others in the Gulf coast state of Tabasco.

  • Irma leaves a trail of ruin in Caribbean

    CAIBARIEN, Cuba (AP) — Hurricane Irma scraped Cuba's northern coast Friday on a course toward Florida, leaving in its deadly wake a ravaged string of Caribbean resort islands strewn with splintered lumber, corrugated metal and battered cars.

    The death toll in the Caribbean stood at at least 21 and was expected to rise as rescuers reached some of the hardest-hit areas. And a new danger lay on the horizon to the east: Hurricane Jose, a Category 4 storm with 150 mph winds that could punish some of the devastated areas all over again.

    "I don't think it takes a rocket scientist to know that further damage is imminent," said Inspector Frankie Thomas of the Royal Police Force of Antigua and Barbuda.

    Irma weakened from a Category 5 to a still-fearsome Category 4 on Friday morning with winds near 150 mph (240 kph).

    The hurricane smashed homes, schools, stores, roads and boats on Wednesday and Thursday as it rolled over some of the world's most famous beach paradises, including St. Martin, St. Barts, St. Thomas, Barbuda and Anguilla.

    It knocked out power, water and telephone service, trapped thousands of tourists, and stripped the trees of leaves, leaving an eerie, blasted-looking landscape. Looting was reported on St. Martin, and a curfew was imposed in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

  • County OK’s home buyer program

    Los Alamos County Council took the final steps Tuesday night in implementing the county’s affordable housing program.
    The council voted unanimously to approve a set of policies and procedures for the Homebuyer Assistance Program.

    The approval paves the way for The Los Alamos Housing Partnership to officially start the program immediately.
    The council initially approved the program in July, on the condition council review the program’s policies and procedures for approval in September.

    Councilor James Chrobocinski liked the thoroughness the Los Alamos Community Development Department and the housing partnership integrated into the set of rules and regulations governing the program.

    “The Los Alamos Housing Partnership has a strong track record of being a very positive partner with the county and addressing affordable housing issues and rehabilitation,” Chrobocinski said. “I’m very happy they produced a very thorough set of policies and procedures that should help us move forward in achieving our council goals.

  • Residents, county eye bump in tourism

    Residents and county tourism officials met Wednesday at the University of New Mexico-Los Alamos to discuss ways to deal with what officials say is a recent bump of tourism.

    More than 100 Los Alamos County residents showed up to the meeting at the student center to give their take on how Los Alamos should capitalize on the new increase in tourists.

    Since the addition of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park, tourism has increased in Los Alamos County, according to a marketing firm hired by the county.

    The Denver-based marketing firm says the recent additions of the Manhattan National Historical Park and the Valles Caldera to the national parks system, tourism has caused an increase of 6 percent in the last decade and a lodgers’ tax revenue increase of 13 percent. This was cited on the company’s website. 

    “Things have changed for us, we’ve been discovered,” Los Alamos County’s tourism work group chair Susan O’Leary said. 

    With the new Manhattan Project National Historical Park attracting more visitors to Los Alamos, the county hired a marketing firm, Design Workshop, out of Denver, Colorado, to develop strategies on how to capitalize on the new tourism boom.