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Today's News

  • Management, safety cited for radiation release at WIPP

    ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — Poor management, an eroding safety culture, ineffective maintenance and a lack of proper oversight are being blamed for a radiation release that contaminated 21 workers and shuttered the federal government’s nuclear waste dump two months ago in southeastern New Mexico.
    The series of shortcomings are identified in a report to be released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Accident Investigation Board and are similar to those found in a probe of truck fire in the half-mile-deep mine just nine days before the Feb. 14 radiation release from the Waste Isolation Pilot Project (WIPP) near Carlsbad.
    Board chairman Ted Wyka previewed the findings at a community meeting Wednesday, identifying the root cause as a “degradation of key safety management and safety culture.”
    With the source of the leak still unknown, the Department of Energy’s investigation focused on the response to the emergency and to the safety and maintenance programs in place. Shortcomings were found at almost every step, from a more than 10-hour response to the initial emergency alarm to a bypass in the filtration system that allowed the radiation to escape above ground.
    “The bottom line is they failed to believe initial indications of the release,” Wyka said.

  • Child molester gets 4 years

    Matthew English, the 25-year-old son of a local daycare owner, was convicted Wednesday in district court of molesting two young girls who were in the care of his mother.
    For the two separate incidents, English was sentenced to four years in prison. He could have received six years plus a year — the added year for having committed a prior offense in California — but prosecutor Kent Wahlquist and English’s public defender, Scott Riedel, worked out a plea agreement that took into account that English had already spent 22 months in jail for his crimes. He was arrested in July 2012.
    The plea was also arrived at because Wahlquist thought it best to spare English’s victims a trial.
    “It wasn’t because one count was weaker than the other, or anything like that, it was because I was reluctant to drag two young girls — I believe they are 8 or 9 now — into court and have them describe to 12 adults what the defendant did to them,” he said to Judge Sheri Raphaelson, the judge presiding over the case.
    According to court documents, in each separate incident, English inappropriately touched the girls for a short period of time before they told him to stop.

  • Departments give annual progress reports

    During budget hearings, Los Alamos County’s department directors also present a report titled “Innovations, Improvements, Positive Outcomes,” which highlights accomplishments throughout the year. The reports provide a snapshot of new developments within the county structure.
    The Los Alamos Municipal Court had several significant developments.
    The court has been working with the Community and Economic Development department on code enforcement. Judge Alan Kirk stressed that the goal is to bring individuals into compliance with the code.
    “The program’s been very effective,” Kirk said. “We’ve had a lot of cooperation within the community to resolve these cases.”
    The court has addressed 35 citations, with 30 of those brought into compliance. One of those cases had 130 violations. Another case was appealed to district court, but the finding was guilty and the case was referred back to the municipal court for sentencing.
    Teen court is earning increased recognition. Last fall, the program had more than 60 volunteers, and is now getting referrals for criminal cases in addition to minor infractions such as traffic violations.

  • Restaurant Inspections 04-24-14

    Santa Fe
    Starbucks at Target, 3550 Zafarano Dr.
    Date inspected: March 4
    Violations: Two high-risk violations. Dishwasher is not sanitizing properly. Upright refrigerator holding at improper temperature.
    Status of Establishment: Approved. No follow up required.

    Water Boyz, 1700 Llano St., Suite 112
    Date inspected: March 5
    Violations: All high risk violations corrected.
    Status of Establishment: Approved. Follow up from previous inspection. No further follow up required. 

    Fox’s Uptown Grill, 450 Galisteo St.
    Date inspected: March 6
    Violations: One moderate-risk violation. Inadequate drain board space, dirty dishes held in all three-compartments of wash sink and in the two drain tabs. Two low-risk violations. Base covering and wall peeling away near refrigerator. Wall near wash area is not easy to clean.
    Status of Establishment: Approved. No follow up required.

    Rasa, 815B Early St.
    Date inspected: March 6
    Violations: One low-risk violation. No base covering on lights throughout the entire facility.
    Status of Establishment: Approved. No follow up required.

  • Update 04-24-14

    County Council

    Council will hold the third of its budget hearings at 7 p.m. Monday in council chambers in the Municipal Building.

    Dog Jog

    The 2014 Dog Jog.9 a.m. Saturday at the White Rock United Methodist Church. $25. Checkin begins at 8 a.m.

    Dark night

    The Pajarito Astronomers county-sponsored Dark Night is set for 8 p.m. Saturday at Spirio Soccer Field, Overlook Park in White Rock.

    Fundraiser

    Benefit spaghetti dinner for Joy Handsberry, a Los Alamos High School teacher battling cancer. 5:30 p.m. today at the Christian church. Members of the community are invited to come eat dinner with cookies for dessert. There will also be a dessert auction, sponsored by the Los Alamos Math department. The public is welcome.

    Blood drive

    United Blood Services drive will be from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. May 1 at the First Baptist Church on Diamond Drive.  

  • Prescription take-back day set for Saturday

    National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day is scheduled for Saturday and Los Alamos will have two drop-off locations, according to LAPD’s Oliver Morris.
    From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., those who have unused prescription drugs can drop them off at the Los Alamos Medical Center parking lot or the White Rock Visitor Center parking lot.
    Morris said no needles are allowed.
    Members of the New Mexico Congressional delegation also urging state residents to take part.
    “New Mexico has taken strong steps in fighting the prescription drug abuse epidemic, but we must keep it up,” Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.) said. “We know that addiction to painkillers, particularly among teens, often begins with taking unused medications found at home. But we also know that events like Take-Back Day are helping New Mexico families protect their loved ones from the threat of abuse. I encourage the public to take advantage of this free and anonymous opportunity, and help us keep unused or expired prescriptions out of our medicine cabinets, out of our water systems, and most importantly, off the streets and out of the hands of our children.”

  • McDonald's coming to Pojoaque

    The Pueblo of Pojoaque broke ground on a new McDonald’s Restaurant this week. The groundbreaking ceremony was held Tuesday with construction expected to last about 100 days. The Pueblo will lease the new land and the new eatery will open on in July/August 2014.
    Participating in breaking ground was: Mark Cordova, Managing Member of Cordova Contracting and Developments LLC; Timothy Vigil, Director of Special Projects, Pueblo of Pojoaque; Stephanie Crosby, Tribal Secretary, Pueblo of Pojoaque; George Rivera, Governor, Pueblo of Pojoaque; Julian Garza, Franchise Owner.

  • Udall raises $1M for Senate race

    SANTA FE (AP) — A new campaign finance report shows Democratic incumbent Tom Udall with a large fundraising advantage in the race for New Mexico’s Senate seat.
    Udall raised about $1 million during the first three months of the year and spent about $262,000.
    Udall’s campaign had cash-on-hand of $3.1 million at the end of March.
    Former GOP state chairman Allen Weh reported a cash balance of nearly $206,000. He raised nearly $414,000, including personal loans and contributions of $160,000. Weh’s campaign spent $208,000.
    Republican David Clements, a Las Cruces attorney, had cash-on-hand of $7,497.
    His campaign raised $40,579 and spent $44,968 from January through March.
     

  • State offers help with uranium mine cleanup

    ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — New Mexico is offering to help the Navajo Nation and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency figure out how to best use $1 billion for cleaning up abandoned uranium mines throughout the region.
    The offer was made public Wednesday as the state scrambles for a seat at the table of what is expected to be a massive undertaking.
    Right now, New Mexico now has no say in how the funds are spent as the result of a 2009 decision by former Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson’s administration and a bankruptcy expert in Attorney General Gary King’s office. At the time, the officials agreed it would not be in the state’s best interest to seek environmental-cleanup funds from a company that had filed for bankruptcy.
    The federal government ended up reaching a $5.15 billion settlement with Anadarko Petroleum Corp. in December. The deal resolved a legal battle over Tronox Inc., a spin-off of Kerr-McGee that Anadarko had acquired in 2006. Kerr-McGee had operated dozens of uranium mines in the area, including 21 in New Mexico.
    Some of the settlement funds have been earmarked for cleaning up contaminated sites in the Navajo area, including sites near Ambrosia Lake just east of the reservation.

  • County budget hearings resume with little fanfare

    Compared to last year’s furor over how cutbacks necessitated by reduced Gross Receipts Tax (GRT) would affect services, the Los Alamos County FY2015 budget hearings have been relatively subdued.
    Councilor Kristin Henderson admitted that several of her queries were unrelated to budget, such as questions about how many users the golf course has and questions about fire mitigation and whether burned trees from the Las Conchas fire pose a fire hazards.
    Other councilors directed their questions to the issues at hand.
    Many of those questions centered on changes in the Health Care Assistance Program (HCAP) due to the Affordable Care Act and the passage of SB268, which replaces the Sole Community Provider program with the Safety Net Care Pool.
    Deputy County Administrator/Chief Financial Officer Steven Lynne reported last night that the county must pay $1.1 million into that pool, with approximately $800,000 of that covered by GRT previously committed to the Sole Community Provider Fund.
    Councilor Pete Sheehey took the opportunity to speculate on the impacts of the Affordable Care Act and SB268, but other councilors asked for clarification of the changes.
    Although it is too early to assess how changes in healthcare law will affect HCAP, Social Services Manager Kim Gabaldon was able to report some hopeful trends.