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Local News

  • On the Docket 5-27-17

    March 30
    Michelle Frybarger pleaded not guilty to driving while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs. Defendant was fined $500 and must also pay $290 in court costs. Defendant was sentenced to DWI school, community service and substance abuse assessment.

    Aaron L. Sanchez was found guilty of driving while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs. Defendant must pay $290 in court costs. Defendant was sentenced to DWI school, community service and substance abuse assessment.

    Gerald F. Heck was found guilty to driving while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs. Defendant was fined $500 and must also pay $290 in court costs. Defendant was sentenced to DWI school, community service and substance abuse assessment.

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

    Lucy Scully was found guilty of menacing behavior and must pay $65 in court costs. Sentence deferred until May 29.

    Janine Sears was found guilty for failing to display a current and valid registration plate. Defendant was fined $50.

  • Cerro Grande Fire 17 years later

    BY JODY BENSON
    Pajarito Group Sierra Club

    Seventeen years ago, May 18, 2000, a New Mexico National Guardsman at the bottom of the Main Hill Road saluted the Cerro Grande evacuees who were heading home to Los Alamos. 

    The Jemez Mountains to the northwest still burned, smoke still hovered over Pajarito, and police and the National Guard prevented all but the residents to enter the neighborhoods incinerated at the urban/forest interface.

    As a disaster, Cerro Grande was well-run, and the efficiency was due in large part not only to the “national importance of LANL” and the (only ever) admission of guilt by the federal government, but to the emergency management planning that had begun back in 1992.

    When then Fire Chief Douglass MacDonald came to Los Alamos in December 1992 what he noticed first was the dangerous wilderness/urban interface that surrounded The Hill.

    Having come from a wildlands fire background, he made two decisions – to live in White Rock, and to inform people of the imminent danger posed by the overcrowded forest growing up to people’s back doors.

    We had forgotten the proximity of La Mesa Fire in 1977 – the past 15 years were wet. But MacDonald remembered the urban-interface fires in Southern California, and the1988 Yellowstone Fire.

  • Española man pleads no contest in LANL copper thefts

    A 23-year-old Española man who was charged last year with stealing copper pipe and fittings from the Los Alamos National Laboratory worth between $15,000 and $20,000 was sentenced to three years probation Wednesday at the Los Alamos Magistrate Court.

    Joshua Montoya worked as a pipefitter when the thefts occurred. Montoya was arrested in July 2016, after the owner of an Española scrap metal yard gave investigators Montoya’s driver’s licence information and sales records of the transaction that also had Montoya’s personal information. 

    In court Wednesday, Montoya pleaded no contest to larceny. In exchange for his plea, Montoya was sentenced to three years probation. If he completes the three years without breaking any other laws, the felony conviction will be wiped from his record.

    Montoya’s attorney, Tyr Loranger, said he was able to get a more lenient sentence for his client because there were others involved.

  • School board OK’s $800,000 more for Duane Smith Auditorium project

    The Los Alamos School Board approved an $800,000 increase in the budget to remodel the Duane Smith Auditorium during a work session Thursday.

    Los Alamos Public Schools Chief Financial Officer Lisa Montoya presented the Duane Smith Auditorium finance plan to the board.

    “I stand before you tonight to respectfully request that you consider authorizing an increase to the Duane Smith Auditorium Lobby Remodel budget,” Montoya said.

    LAPS was given $1.2 million by the county for the renovation and Montoya asked that the board authorize the district to increase the budget to $2 million.

    The one-time expense of up to $800,000 would be pulled from the leased facilities fund.

    The district is in the process of updating the 66-year-old, 956-seat auditorium on the Los Alamos High School campus. The new plans feature 3,600 square feet of new construction to the front of the building. The bathrooms that were once located inside the hall will be moved into the space, and there will also be additional rooms for concessions, merchandise, and storage.

    Suggestions were given for ways to reduce the overall cost, but most were in agreement that the auditorium was worth putting extra money toward.

  • New Mexico governor restores university funds, vetoes taxes

    SANTA FE (AP) — Republican New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez restored funding Friday to all state colleges and universities that she had vetoed earlier by tapping money from suspended infrastructure projects, while rejecting a string of tax increases proposed by the Democratic-led Legislature.
    The spending bill signed by the governor reinstates $745 million in general fund dollars to institutions of higher education that include university hospitals, medical research facilities, agricultural programs and schools for the blind and deaf.
    It also restores funding for the upcoming fiscal year to the Legislature that the two-term Republican governor struck from legislation in April amid a standoff with lawmakers over how to resolve a budget crisis.
    "It restrains government spending to live within our means — as our families do every day — and puts us back on track," Martinez said in a written statement. "I'm disappointed lawmakers once again tried to take the easy way out with hundreds of millions in tax increases."
    Lawmakers from both parties have emphasized the need to rebuild the state's depleted financial reserves after New Mexico's credit rating was downgraded in October, raising borrowing costs.

  • 20th Street Parking Lot closed on Friday evenings for Summer Concert vendors

    For the 2017 Summer Concert Series the vendors are moving back to the 20th Street and Trinity parking lot. 

    Every Friday afternoon at 3 p.m., staff with the Parks, Recreation and Open Space Division will close the parking lot and access will be limited to vendors setting up, handicap parking (placards must be visible) and vehicles accessing the mailboxes.

    The parking lot will remain closed for the duration of the concert to ensure the safety of concert goers enjoying the music and vendor area. Staff will remain onsite throughout the evening to monitor and assist with access.

    Contact the Los Alamos County Parks, Recreation and Open Space Division at 662-8170 or lacrec@lacnm.us for more information.

  • LANL teams get DOE Secretary appreciation awards

    Three teams at Los Alamos National Laboratory were the recent recipients of the Department of Energy’s Secretary Appreciation Awards for their exceptional contributions to the agency’s mission.
    The laboratory’s Ebola Task Force, Cancer Moonshot team, and Technology Convergence Working Group were all recognized in January by then-Secretary Moniz and again in April during a ceremony hosted by Lab Director Charlie McMillan and Dimitri Kusnezov, NNSA’s chief scientist and senior advisor to the Secretary.
    The laboratory’s Ebola task force was part of a multiple-lab effort to use computer modeling to predict the spread of the 2014 Ebola outbreak. Whenever a disease outbreak occurs, the overall level and spread of disease is determined by a complex interplay of variables, including policy decisions. The U.S. government’s response to the Ebola outbreak reflected the importance of using the computer models to project the potential spread of the disease resulting from distinct policy choices  – which is what the modeling led by the Los Alamos team did.

  • Lawmakers urge gov. to reinstate funding

    SANTA FE — New Mexico lawmakers sought new ways Thursday to increase state tax revenues and shore up state finances, urging Republican Gov. Susana Martinez to reinstate vetoed funding to state universities and the Legislature.
    On the second day of a special session, lawmakers in the Democrat-dominated Legislature approved two bills to increase state tax revenue and help restore $765 million in funding that was vetoed by the governor.
    Without a budget agreement, all general-fund expenditures for the Legislature plus state colleges, universities and schools for the deaf and blind are scheduled to run out July 1.
    The Legislature sent bills to the governor Wednesday to reinstate a $6.1 billion state spending plan for the fiscal year starting July 1 and ending June 2018.
    Gov. Susana Martinez praised the efforts by lawmakers to balance the state budget for the coming fiscal year, though she intends to veto outright tax increases.
    The Republican governor issued a statement by email Thursday saying that she is “pleased that we were able to come to an agreement on the budget.”
    The Legislature is recessing for the long weekend after delivering a collection of tax proposals and other measures aimed at filling a budget shortfall for the upcoming fiscal year.

  • Rec bond vote fails

    The $20 million recreation bond did not pass muster with the those that voted in the mail-in ballot election.
    The final tally was 3,446 for and 3,932 against the recreation bond.
    A large turnout – 7,378 – voted in the election, making the total  slightly over 50 percent of the county, with the county getting back 7,383 ballots returned out of the 13,480 that were sent.
    The election began in early May and continued through May 23.
    Those for and against the $20 million bond came out in force, as the public carefully considered wether they wanted their property taxes to go toward funding five projects. The issue became so heated that the vote caused a shake up in the Los Alamos County Republican Party.
    To some county Republican Party officials, the people, did the right thing.
    “The people rejected the leadership of both parties in this case,” LARP Acting Chairman Lisa Shin said. “They voted consistently with the principle of fiscal responsibility.”
    She thought that going forward, the county and its council should do a reality check about what the bond vote means.
    “The county should focus on managing our existing facilities first,” Shin said. “The county needs to better manage the resources and the funds it already has,” Shin said

  • Local woman recounts brutal robbery, attack

    On the evening of May 12, an elderly woman in her 80s, who asked to remain anonymous, was robbed and beaten in the garage of her home.

    The incident began in the Smith’s parking lot in Los Alamos where an unknown woman came up to the victim, offered unsolicited help and then asked for some change.

    After opening the wallet to retrieve some coins, the woman was able to see the wallet’s contents, which contained cash. The victim was presumably followed home from the grocery store and approached by another woman while in her garage.

    This woman attacked the elderly victim, causing major bruising on her face and cuts within her mouth, and proceeded to run off with the victim’s purse.

    “I was so scared,” the elderly woman recalled. After lying on the ground for about 20 minutes, a good Samaritan happened upon her and offered assistance.

    That good Samaritan was Kiersten Haffey, a student working on artificial organ development at Los Alamos National Laboratory and who recently moved to the area in January.

    While she may be relatively new to Los Alamos, her actions a few weeks ago exemplify the qualities of a compassionate, caring citizen.