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Local News

  • LAPS waits for word on budget, special session

    Los Alamos Public Schools Superintendent Kurt Steinhaus said Wednesday he is keeping a close watch on several bills and waiting to hear if or when a legislative special session will be called to finalize a state budget.
    Steinhaus said several bills that require the Governor’s action or “pocket veto” by April 7 will determine what steps the district will take in its budget planning.
    Although he does not have any indication as to what Gov. Susana Martinez will do, Steinhaus said, “She’s got a big stack of bills and a lot of work to do, so I’m not sure she even knows yet.”
    Senate Bill 462, if signed by the governor, would return about $530,000 taken from the LAPS Cash Balance account.
    “I am pleased to report that these funding cuts did not result in any furlough days for LAPS staff. In addition, we protected LAPS classroom funding for 2016-17,” said Steinhaus. Other school districts, however, met a different fate and will have to implement furlough days and reductions in teaching staff.
    The district is also keeping an eye on the HB 2 General Appropriations Act that includes funding for public schools, HB 185 Limit School Testing Days and HB 211 Next Generation Science Standards.

  • County Council to consider immigrant, refugee resolution

    Los Alamos County Council is expected to consider a resolution Tuesday, taking an official stand against unjust treatment of immigrants and refugees.
    The move is a reaction to President Donald Trump’s attempt to ban refugees from six countries, but at least one councilor fears the timing risks millions in federal funding for the Los Alamos National Laboratory.
    The resolution calls for all branches of the county government, including local law enforcement, to respect a person’s universal rights to due process and equal protection under the law and that county services “observe the fundamental American value that all people including immigrants and refugees should be treated with respect, justice and compassion.”
    The resolution, sponsored and written by Councilor Pete Sheehey, was in part a reaction to an executive order issued by President Donald Trump’s ban on refugees from six Muslim-majority countries as a strategy against terrorism.
    The federal courts have challenged Trump’s ban, and arguments for and against are expected to be heard in April.

  • Citizen board recommends DOE shed more light on WIPP waste storage

    A local citizens advisory board recommended to the Department of Energy Wednesday that it provide more information to the public on a proposed above-ground nuclear waste facility at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant at Carlsbad.
    The recommendation was put forth by Northern New Mexico Citizen’s Advisory Board member Stephen Schmelling.  
    “It is a fairly straightforward construction project and there is little reason to doubt, that if constructed to the proposed specifications, it would be capable of temporarily storing a large quantity TRU (transuranic) waste,” the recommendation said.
    “However, the permit modification provides no information on the cost of the facility, or the expected benefits to be derived from either in terms of the more efficient operation of the WIPP facility, or the reduction in risk around the DOE complex from the more efficient operation of the WIPP facility, or the reduction in risk around the DOE complex from the more efficient operation of WIPP and the TRU waste disposal process.”
    The board voted to direct the DOE to shed more light on how the proposed facility will benefit the region, how much the facility will cost and present these reasons before the public at a later date.

  • N.M. hit by ‘flash drought’ weather phenomenon

    ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — Across New Mexico, unusually warm March weather and virtually no rain for a month prompted dust storms that closed highways, warnings for some to stay inside and rapid mountain snow melting that could threaten drinking water supplies and farmers’ irrigation needs.
    This weather phenomenon — driven by a quick increase in temperatures and a lack of precipitation resulting in bone-dry soil — is called a flash drought. It has affected pockets across the country in recent weeks, from the Midwest to northern California.
    In New Mexico, the flash drought is ending as quickly as it began thanks to rain finally falling this week.
    Here are some things to know about the phenomenon:
    Quick Start
    With a snap of his fingers, National Weather Service hydrologist Royce Fontenot explained the speed at which flash droughts can develop and then disappear.
    New Mexico broke dozens of high temperature records in March with some weather stations recording highs nearly 10 degrees above normal. Communities on the state’s eastern edge approached 90 degrees, while some parts of the arid state had no rain for a full month.

  • N.M. cash reserves threatened amid budget fight

    SANTA FE (AP) — Concerns about New Mexico’s short-term cash reserves are taking center stage as state lawmakers await anticipated veto decisions by Gov. Susana Martinez on a budget for the coming fiscal year.
    Top finance officials for Martinez said Wednesday that a $102 million operating reserve cushion will leave the state perilously close to insolvency when the fiscal year ends in June. Martinez is preparing plans to possibly furlough state government workers as soon as April and reduce the number of days that state museums, parks and motor vehicle offices are open to the public.
    Leading lawmakers in the Democrat-controlled Legislature are questioning whether the Republican governor’s warnings of a government shutdown are justified or amount to a bargaining tactic in the larger state budget standoff. Legislators are concerned about dwindling state cash accounts as the federal government delays a major payment on an oil and gas lease sale.
    Here are some things to know about the state budget and the political confrontation:

    Cash balances
    The Martinez administration and the Legislature are working off nearly identical estimates placing state general fund reserves at between $95 million and $102 million at the end of the current fiscal year in June.

  • Efforts coalesce to avoid cavern collapse in Carlsbad

    SANTA FE (AP) — Efforts are coalescing to shore up a giant, man-made underground cavern in southern New Mexico before it collapses underneath a community of mobile homes and critical highway and rail transportation routes, nearly nine years after state officials sounded the first danger alarm, state Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Secretary Ken McQueen said Tuesday.
    He said his agency will be prepared as early as July to help commission engineering plans to stabilize the cavity left by the extraction of a salt formation underneath a crossroads at the edge of the small city of Carlsbad.
    The formation was mined by flushing water through it to extract brine for use by the oil and gas industry for drilling operations. Operations were halted in 2008 in following cavern collapses at two similar brine wells in nearby unpopulated areas with similar geology.
    “Basically the idea is to fill that void space, which is filled with water, with solid material which is designed to keep the cavern from collapsing at any time in the future,” McQueen said.

  • On the Docket 3-29-17

    Feb. 27
    Gilbert Marquez  was found guilty by the Los Alamos Municipal Court of failing to appear in court and not having a proper driver’s license. Defendant was fined $75 and must also pay $130 court costs.

    Tina Martinez was found guilty by the Los Alamos Municipal Court of speeding six to 10 miles an hour over the speed limit. Defendant was fined $50 and must also pay $65 in court costs.

    Christan Gerardo Andresen was found guilty  through Citepay of speeding six to 10 miles an hour over the speed limit. Defendant was fined $50 and must also pay $65 in court costs.

    Christopher Ellard was found guilty  through Citepay of speeding 11 to 15 miles an hour over the speed limit. Defendant was fined $75 and must also pay $65 in court costs.

    Hunter Gustafson was found guilty of hitting an unattended vehicle with his vehicle. Defendant received a deferred sentence but must also pay $65 in court costs. Defendant was also sentenced to community service.

    Deryl Garcia was found guilty by the Los Alamos Municipal Court of speeding 16-20 miles per hour over the limit. Defendant was fined $100 and must also pay $65 in court costs.

  • 22nd Annual Photographers Show set for April 3 at Mesa Public Library

    Interested in local photography? What about pictures from around the United States or even the other side of the world? The public is invited to view all of this and much more at the 22nd Annual Los Alamos Photographers Show hosted by the Los Alamos Photo Club on April 3-April 28 in the upstairs gallery of the Mesa Public Library. 

    The show will start with an April 3 opening. The community is also invited to the April 18 Club walk-through, where the photographers will discuss their images and briefly explain where it was taken, what it is, and what they are trying to convey. 

    Both events will allow guests and participants to view submitted works and to interact informally with the photographers.

    The show is intended to give people who live and work in Los Alamos a chance to display their photos in a formal setting. 

    The content of the images can be diverse, ranging from local to astronomical. The pieces might be displayed for sale or simply for viewing pleasure, depending on the photographer’s goal. 

  • LA museums, parks won’t be affected by a state shutdown

    New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez on Thursday ordered a hiring freeze for all agencies under her control, a move designed to save cash pending a political standoff over the funding of state government and public schools.

    The state personnel director outlined the freeze in a memo to cabinet secretaries, citing the need for executive agencies to take immediate action to control spending due to unprecedented budgetary challenges.

    Despite the freeze, some hiring will continue for jobs identified as critical for public safety and health as well as those related to taxation and revenue collections.

    The memo did not mention the governor’s disappointment with the outcome of the legislative session that wrapped up more than a week ago. However, she has been outspoken about the Democratic-controlled Legislature sending her a budget built on $350 million in tax increases and fee hikes.

    “The fact is, state government affects every New Mexican, and passing a balanced budget is critical in funding education, public safety and service to protect abused children,” she said in a statement.

  • Local Habitat for Humanity preps for its next build

    By Wren Propp

    Special to the Monitor

    Preparing for its 12th build beginning April 22, local Habitat for Humanity organizers are gearing up for a busy season.

    There’s been a steady stream of fundraising events that are supportive of Española Valley and Los Alamos (EVLA) Habitat for Humanity, with more on the calendar, said Victoria Erhart, who is in charge of communication and grants management for the organization. 

    “People have generous impulses,” she said.

    Last Saturday it was an all-day-until-midnight luau at the Pajarito Brewpub and Grill in Los Alamos. The event was geared to help “shake of the winter chill,” said owner Patrick Mocker-Wood.

    This coming Sunday EVLA Habitat for Humanity will be the beneficiary of the community breakfast, Erhart said.

    This year’s house will be a three-bedroom, 1.5-bath, valued at $70,000, Erhart said. There are several volunteers preparing to spend time at the site, but more are always welcome, she said. For example, a group of 18-to-22-year-old New Mexicans, who are obtaining work skills while they complete their GED, will be working at the site for several months.