Today's News

  • Former asst. county administrator found dead in Los Alamos home

    Former Los Alamos Assistant County Administrator Diana Mariani-Stepan was found dead by police in her Los Alamos home Dec. 4. She was 57.
    Los Alamos Police Department officers tried to contact Mariani-Stepan after receiving a request for a welfare check. Cpl. Adam R. Jung was dispatched to the home when a call came in reporting an unresponsive female.
    Upon arrival, medical personnel already on site informed Jung that Mariani-Stepan was deceased. She was pronounced dead at 10 p.m. The police report classified it as “unattended death.” There was no evidence that a crime was committed, according to the police report.
    Mariani-Stepan lived alone. She was formerly married to Tom Stepan.
    She began with the county as director of the Administrative Services Department in November 2001 and was promoted to assistant county administrator in May 2004.
    The county fired Mariani-Stepan in December 2010, after she had filed a grievance against former County Administrator Tony Mortillaro. An investigation by an outside firm found no wrongdoing by Mortillaro, but in June 2012, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) found the county guilty of sex discrimination and retaliation.
    Stepan filed suit against the county for wrongful termination, which resulted in an $800,000 settlement.  

  • School bond election set for January

    In January, Los Alamos County residents will once again decide whether to fund another school renovation with $13 million in general obligation bonds.
    If approved, property owners will not see a bump in property taxes. The bond will replace the bond residents voted for four years ago to renovate Aspen Elementary School.
    Voters will receive mail-in ballots, which should show up in mailboxes around Jan. 3. They are due back at the county clerk’s office by 5 p.m. Jan. 24.
    In this bond cycle, the next school will be Barranca Mesa Elementary School. The district plans to use $12 million of the bond funds to reconstruct parts of Barranca Mesa Elementary. The remainder will be added to about $7 million in funds leftover from the last bond election and be used to renovate Aspen Elementary.
    School administration officials and members of the school board have presented the details of the reconstruction and bond plan to the community.
     “They’ve been asking very good questions,” Superintendent Kurt Steinhaus said. “People are very interested.”
    One of the questions people have asked is how the district will use the bond.
    Funds from the sale of general obligation bonds can only be used for construction and maintenance, per state regulations.

  • Council adopts comp plan

    What was expected to be a routine vote to adopt Los Alamos County’s new comprehensive plan became a hot topic at Tuesday’s Los Alamos County Council meeting.
    Councilor Pete Sheehey removed the item from the consent agenda to address citizens’ concerns about a last minute amendment to the plan.
    Planning and Zoning Commissioners and county staff had recommended changing three parcels between the Canyon Rim Trail and NM 502 – currently zoned industrial – to open space and included that designation on the plan’s future land use map.
    At its Nov. 14 session, council approved an amendment to change the designation on two of those parcels to mixed use. Citizens have been protesting that decision, especially council’s decision not to seek public input on the change.
    P and Z Chair Philip Gursky explained that the decision to designate those parcels open space was based on the fact that the strip of land available for development is very narrow.
    “As a practical choice, open space was the most likely future use for that,” Gursky said.

  • New charitable foundation opens its doors

    The Los Alamos Community Foundation has a home now, thanks to the Los Alamos National Bank. The nonprofit organization officially opened its doors with a ribbon cutting Wednesday night at its offices located inside LANB’s lobby at Trinity Drive.
    On hand from the board were President David Izraelevitz, Vice President Don Cobb and Treasurer Ken Milder.
    The foundation was started one year ago with the idea of promoting philanthropy within Los Alamos, highlight the specific needs of the community and help Los Alamos smaller non-profits grow.
    “Some of us saw that there was a need in Los Alamos to promote large-scale philanthropy within the community. We wanted to facilitate that,” Izraelevitz said. “Where individuals that wanted to donate to the community in general or in specific areas of interest to them, there’s now a mechanism set up that can address any type of need they wanted to address.”
    The community foundation has just completed the first year of its three-year start up phase. The organization obtained its 501c3 status in June. They’ve already started helping and training other non-profits in the areas of recruitment, marketing and finance.
    The Community Foundation already has about $200,000 in funding and support from the community.

  • WIPP gets tentative OK to start

    Waste Isolation Pilot Plant officials have received a preliminary approval to reopen the plant for regular operations from the Department of Energy, but more work needs to be done.
    The opening date has not been set, and probably won’t be for a while.
    “We will be moving waste that has been in our waste handling building to start with,” said Carlsbad Field Office Manager Tim Runyon. “We will not be expecting shipments for a while.”
    That process is expected to take 60 to 90 days.
     When opening day does come, the plant will begin by taking care of the transuranic waste contained in the surface buildings at the plant, which is located outside of Carlsbad.
    Before that happens, WIPP has to complete one more major step, and that will be to resolve 21 pre-start issues identified in a preliminary review.
    Runyon said a report on the findings will come out next week, and it’s too early to set a specific date for an opening.
    “We don’t have an official timeline for the official opening yet,” said Field Office Manager Todd Shrader. “We’re still working through the DORR (Dept. of Energy Operational Readiness Review) findings. We have not set a date.”

  • Hall running for reelection

    Los Alamos School Board President Jim Hall announced Wednesday he is officially running for reelection for his seat on the school board.
    As a board member, Hall represents District 1 in White Rock, which covers precincts one, two, three and seven. Since his announcement, no challengers have come forward.
    “Right, now, I am planning to sign up and run again,” Hall said. “A lot has been accomplished in the last four years and I’ve enjoyed it. I hope I’ve made a contribution, and I’d thought I’d do one more term.”
    Hall is looking forward to what’s coming up in the next four years.
    With the economic hits the state budget has taken, mainly due to New Mexico’s sharp decline in oil and gas revenues it’s going to be tough.
    His priorities include adequate compensation for staff, providing the technology needed to educate students for a 21st century world.
    “We want to enable our generally outstanding staff to further individualize instruction and enable multiple pathways for all of our students,” he said.
    He also said it was important the board carries on the district-wide upgrade of all the schools.

  • Winterfest is a success for local nonprofits

    For many Los Alamos residents, the holiday light parade and tree lighting at Ashley Pond are probably the highlights of Winterfest. But many of the day’s events are not only community celebrations but also fundraisers for local nonprofits.
    Kiwanis Los Alamos’ annual “Breakfast with Santa” raises money for a Christmas party and presents for area foster children in Española and for other initiatives that benefit kids. Both breakfast and photos with Santa are provided on a donation only basis. The Kiwanis also take in canned food donations for LA Cares during the event.
    Del Norte Credit Union sponsored the breakfast, donating $1,500 to purchase 150 pounds of pancake mix, 1,400 sausages, 60 pounds of liquid eggs, 12 32-ounce containers of orange juice, 30 containers of chocolate milk, 50 containers of white milk and five gallons of maple syrup.
    According to organizer John Arrowsmith, almost all those supplies had run out by 10:15 a.m. Arrowsmith and other organizers believe this year had the best turnout ever, with more than 850 people attending. Volunteers took more than 350 photos with Santa.
    “So we’re doing very well today. It’s exciting. It’s exciting to see so many young families come out,” Arrowsmith said.

  • Former astronaut, US Sen. John Glenn of Ohio has died at 95


    AP Science Writer

    WASHINGTON — John Glenn, whose 1962 flight as the first U.S. astronaut to orbit the Earth made him an all-American hero and propelled him to a long career in the U.S. Senate, died Thursday. The last survivor of the original Mercury 7 astronauts was 95.

    Glenn died at the James Cancer Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, where he was hospitalized for more than a week, said Hank Wilson, communications director for the John Glenn School of Public Affairs.

    John Herschel Glenn Jr. had two major career paths that often intersected: flying and politics, and he soared in both of them.

    Before he gained fame orbiting the world, he was a fighter pilot in two wars, and as a test pilot, he set a transcontinental speed record. He later served 24 years in the Senate from Ohio. A rare setback was a failed 1984 run for the Democratic presidential nomination.

    His long political career enabled him to return to space in the shuttle Discovery at age 77 in 1998, a cosmic victory lap that he relished and turned into a teachable moment about growing old. He holds the record for the oldest person in space.

  • Gun safes issue on hold

    The decision to install gun safes for the Los Alamos Police Department in the Los Alamos Middle School and the high school might not be decided until next year.
    LAPD Chief Dino Sgambellone is putting together a proposal to talk to the school district, but he has not completed it yet.
    Sgambellone’s initial idea was to install gun safes inside the buildings where they would be accessible only to police officers in active shooter or other emergency events, when they needed more firepower than what they normally carried.
    One officer is assigned to each school. The safes would contain AR-15s, shotguns, safety and first-aid equipment.
    “There has been nothing new on that…we are currently putting together a proposal that we will eventually discuss with the superintendent,” Sgambellone said.
    Sgambellone wants to come back to the district with a proposal that is acceptable to the community.
    “If we are going to do this, it will be in a way that makes the best sense for us,” he said.
    When the proposal returns, Superintendent Kurt Steinhaus said student and staff safety will be the No. 1 priority.

  • Today in history Dec. 8