Local News

  • Council concerned for safety of deputies

    During April’s budget meetings, Los Alamos County Councilors asked Sheriff Marco Lucero to elaborate on a statement in his report that read, “The sheriff’s office does not have a budget to cover and properly protect deputies.”
    Lucero told council that his deputies were at risk because his department did not have radio communication devices. He backed up his argument by describing how two officers he worked with in Santa Fe County were killed serving a restraining order.
    Lucero estimated that supplying radios for the department would cost approximately $10,000, and, by a 4–3 vote, council tentatively approved money for it.
    At the next hearing, council asked Los Alamos Police Chief Dino Sgambellone if LAPD had radios that the sheriff’s department could use. According to Sgambellone, his department provides Lucero with a radio on semi-permanent loan and that his deputies are able to sign out radios when they are in the field or covering events.
    When council was wrapping up loose ends on April 26, Councilor Steve Girrens moved to eliminate funding for the radios, since the department was able to utilize LAPD devices.
    Councilor Pete Sheehey – who had confirmed the cost with Sgambellone – made a substitute motion to approve $3,000 for one radio for the department.

  • Officials break ground on power station project

    County, federal and Los Alamos National Laboratory officials broke ground on a project Wednesday that will eventually replace the TA-3 Substation, a power station that has been supplying power to Los Alamos County and the lab for over 50 years.
    Besides supplying power to the town, the substation has also been supplying power to “mission critical” areas of the lab. It is located near Diamond Drive and Tech Area 3.
    “This project will help revitalize the lab’s electrical infrastructure by providing reliable service and sufficient capacity to enable DOE (U.S. Department of Energy) and NNSA (National Nuclear Security Administration) to fulfill mission-critical missions at LANL,” said NNSA Federal Project Director Bonita Rogozinsky in a press release. “In addition to enhancing LANL operations, the new substation ensures sufficient electrical capacity to support Los Alamos County operators.”
    Rogozinsky, NNSA Los Alamos Field Office Manager Kim Lebak, officials from the US. Army Corps of Engineers, and Gardner Zemke, the contractor in charge of carrying out most of the project, met in front of the substation to thank all involved and to tell the public what the new substation will mean once it’s built.

  • County to explore urban bike path

    In response to a citizens’ petition, the Los Alamos County Council voted 6–0 on Tuesday to direct staff to investigate options for building an urban bike path through downtown Los Alamos and return with a recommendation for action within 90 days. Councilor Kristin Henderson was not in attendance.
    The petition submitted by Brenda Fleming requested a paved, two-lane path accessible to bicyclists, wheelchairs, walkers and strollers.
    Fleming suggested a path leading from the Canyon Rim Trail to Central Avenue, past storefronts, museums, Ashley Pond and Fuller Lodge to the nature center and aquatic center, with a possible extension to residential areas.
    “This would just be an awesome opportunity to increase tourism for families, bikers, wheelchairs, anyone who wants to enjoy nature in our town, increase accessibility,” Fleming said.
    “I think it would actually help our local businesses be exposed, especially if we added paths that led to the co-op and some of these other hidden places. I think it would just be a great addition to our town.”
    Approximately 85 people supported Fleming’s proposal through both physical and online petitions.

  • Today in history May 5
  • Central Ave. work delayed

    Los Alamos County has rescheduled the warranty work on Central Avenue because of inclement weather.
    Starting May 9, the contractor will begin asphalt warranty work at the corner of Central Avenue and 20th Street. Motorists can expect flagging operations from 20th Street to Bathtub Row through May 11.
    The public is asked to contact the Public Works Department at 662-8150 or send an email to lacpw@lacnm.us, if they have questions.


  • Former chief files response

    Attorneys for former police chief Wayne Torpy recently replied to an insurance company’s claims that he violated a clause in its contract that caused the insurance company “Union Surety  and Indemnity Company,” to discontinue long-term health benefits to the retired former chief.
    The clause stated that Torpy would be given the benefit (60 percent of his monthly salary) if he became disabled and could no longer work.
    Torpy became disabled in 2012 after suffering a heart attack and a stroke. Torpy was Los Alamos County’s police chief for eight years. He officially retired in 2013.
    While the insurance company initially paid Torpy his long-term benefit, it ceased after USIC reps said he was also receiving benefits from a “government plan,” which apparently are not allowed under the contract he signed when he signed on as chief. USIC claims the government plans were retirement benefits he was receiving from his previous job as deputy chief of the Melbourne Police Department in Florida.
    “The pension the plaintiff receives from Melbourne is not paid to him by a government entity. It does not meet the definition of a government plan,” according to a statement from his attorneys. “Plaintiff was fully vested in the plan before his employment (with Los Alamos) began.”

  • LAPS gets top spot in national report

    Los Alamos Public Schools have once again received a high ranking in a national study conducted through the U.S. News & World Report news magazine and website.
    The Los Alamos Public School District was ranked top public district in New Mexico. Los Alamos High School was ranked fourth in the state by the national magazine.
    The U.S. News & World Report’s “Ranking and Advice” issue and survey is a 30-year tradition of national magazine.
    LAPS’s rankings were noted in the “Education Rankings” section.
    “For public schools, we’re No. 1, because the other schools were charter schools and they’re able to get a higher ranking, because they’re smaller,” said Superintendent Kurt Steinhaus.
    Steinhaus said he found out about the achievement like everyone else, through the website at usnews.com.
    The publication has been coming out with the annual survey and ranking issue since 1983 as way to give its readers the best choice in whatever it is they’re seeking, whether that’s a new car, medicine or education.

  • Council OKs pay hikes

    During last week’s budget hearings, the Los Alamos County Council voted 6−1 to approve $428,674 to bring approximately 100 county salaries in line with the market. Vice Chair Susan O’Leary opposed the motion.
    County Manager Harry Burgess explained the reason for the request. According to personnel regulations approved by council, staff is required to conduct a market study comparing the county’s salary structure to other counties every four years, and to propose adjustments if appropriate.
    The Human Resources Division recommends positions for evaluation that have issues such as difficulties with recruitment.
    This year’s market study revealed several positions that were being compensated below market values, some as many as four or five grades below parity.
    According to Burgess, raising salaries for those positions also affects job “families.”
    “So if you have a certain position such as an equipment operator, it also typically moves parallel with an apprentice operator as well as a senior operator…We want to have appropriate spread between the various grades to incentivize people to promote through the ranks,” Burgess said.

  • NNSA manager optimistic about LANL budget

    National Nuclear Security Administration’s field office manager in Los Alamos Kim Davis Lebak talked with local leaders last week about next year’s budget, the status of the Los Alamos National Security contract, and various environmental and construction projects the NNSA will oversee.
    Los Alamos National Laboratory could receive more money for its billion-dollar budget than last year’s budget, Lebak said.
    President Barack Obama’s requested budget for LANL is $2.2 billion, compared to this year’s enacted budget of $1.95 billion.
    “That a nice, strong hardy budget,” Lebak said. “Our friends in Congress are doing their work was we speak... it’s a good solid budget, it’s strong, and we have tons of scope to do.”
    She also talked about the NNSA’s total budget, using numbers directly from president’s budget request to Congress.
    For fiscal year 2017, President Obama requested $12.9 billion for the NNSA, which is $357 million more than the enacted budget of 2016.

  • Council approves FY2017 budget

    Los Alamos County Council unanimously approved a fiscal year 2017 budget of $188,398,147 Monday.
    After four previous nights of wrangling over budget options proposed by each department, the vote for final budget approval proceeded without additional discussion.
    After the vote, several councilors applauded the process for this year’s budget hearings. Council had asked staff to present a flat budget, along with optional items for approval.
    Each department presented the flat budget as requested, then made their case for additional areas they felt required more funding.
    Some of those requests were new, such as the option to create a placeholder for a full-time county clerk’s salary (council will consider whether to change the clerk’s position to full time at a later meeting) or  $56,672 to staff the new kitchen at the White Rock Senior Center.
    Other requests were to restore funding that had been cut in order to maintain a flat budget. One such request was to return $29,677 to the Los Alamos Police Department’s budget in order to fully fund anticipated overtime. The Community Services Department asked for inflationary increases for contracts with service providers such as the Juvenile Justice Advisory Board and the Los Alamos Family Strengths Network so they would not have to reduce services.