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Today's News

  • Investigators ask DA to reopen LANL director’s death case

    Three people with past connections to the Los Alamos National Laboratory are urging that the U.S. District Attorney’s Office reopen an investigation into the death of Richard Burick, a former deputy director at the lab. 

    Burick died in January 2003 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to Los Alamos County police. He was found near his truck at the Pajarito Mountain Ski Area parking lot. 

    The three people who have requested the reopening of the case, Charles Montaño, Glenn Walp and Steve Doran, sent a formal letter to Damon Martinez, U.S. Attorney for the New Mexico District. The letter was dated Feb. 2. 

    “Our concern is that a full and complete investigation is needed in order to clean house and help ensure that one of the premier nuclear weapons labs long plagued by scandal is properly managed in the future, free of any possible reoccurrence of fraud and corruption,” the letter read.

    The three also mentioned in the letter that the reason why they decided to contact Martinez is because he is also the chairman of the National Lab/Research University Working Group for U.S. Attorneys.

  • County clerk releases levy results

    The Los Alamos County Clerk’s office completed the required canvass process to certify and finalize the 2016 Special Los Alamos Public Schools All Mail Election results. The Canvass Board consisted of Dr. Kurt Steinhaus, Los Alamos Public Schools Superintendent, and County Clerk Sharon Stover.

    During the canvass process, the board reviewed and verified the accuracy of the results of the all-mail election. The final count of ballots cast in the election totaled 5,806, representing a turnout of 44.5 percent among eligible Los Alamos County registered voters.  The canvassing results also included the hand tally totals that the Absentee Board tallied on election night.  

    There were a total of 13 ballots that were hand tallied as they were not able to be read through the voting machine.  As a result, the board issued a certificate of canvass, which will be sent to the New Mexico Secretary of State and kept on file in the County Clerk’s office, and official election results have been made available on the County Clerk webpage at losalamosnm.us/clerk. The projected cost of this election is $30,000, and is paid by Los Alamos Public School District, excluding the cost of the County Clerk staff time.

  • Council tables variable gas rate

    The Los Alamos County Council voted 6−1 Tuesday to table discussion on the Department of Public Utilities’ variable gas rate. 

    The current gas rate is designed with both a fixed-cost recovery and a variable cost of gas component. When council approved the variable rate in 2013, one condition they placed on it was that DPU provide a yearly report.

    Department of Public Utilities Deputy Utilities Manager for Finance and Administration Robert Westervelt presented the report.

    According to Westervelt, the variable gas rate has fluctuated from 20 cents to 51.5 cents per MMBTU since this rate structure was implemented.

    “So by having this variable cost of gas, that meant that when the cost of gas in the San Juan Index was high, we were able to pass that cost directly through,” Westervelt said. “But for all of the months – there were a lot of months when the rate was considerably lower – we were able to not collect those funds from the ratepayer and allow them to keep that avoided cost in their bank accounts instead of in our bank account.”

  • Debate team denied entry in competition

    The Jemez Mountain Home School Speech and Debate Team was denied a spot in the New Mexico Speech and Debate Association Congressional Debate Championship last week, and according to the coaches on the team, they will likely get shut out of many more future competitions.

    The highly ranked team, made up of Jemez and Los Alamos County students, was denied entry because of recently changed rules that govern how home-schooled children participate in extracurricular activities. 

    The associations that govern the competitions, the New Mexico Activities Association (NMAA) and the New Mexico Speech and Debate Association (NMSDA) have recently changed how they interpreted the rules allowing the teams to participate to better match state legislation passed in 2007.

    New Mexico Legislature passed a set of laws that kept parents from pulling their kids out a school that might not have a stellar sports program, home-school them, and then enroll them in a “winning” school. 

  • 'Longmire': Film industry supports local communities

    Saturday’s “Longmire” casting call in Española was co-sponsored by the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts of the United States, Local 480, and doubled as a “thank you” to Sen. Richard Martinez (D-District 5), whom the union called a “champion of workers.”

    Martinez was held up on Senate business and was unable to attend, but Jon Henry, business agent for the local IATSE, spoke with the Los Alamos Monitor about the film industry’s role in boosting local economies. 

    “Basically, what we’re doing is coming into the communities where ‘Longmire’ shoots and making sure there’s economic activity in these communities,” Henry said. “The picture business can’t just be about Santa Fe and Albuquerque, it’s got to be about everywhere.”

    The casting call had a dual purpose, not only giving local people a chance to work as background actors on Longmire but reaching out to potential vendors in the local business community. 

    “That’s really our goal, is to get as many local people making money from these movies as we can,” Henry said. 

  • Arizona regulators approve SunZia project

    PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona utility regulators have authorized construction of a controversial planned $2 billion transmission line between Arizona and New Mexico.

    The Arizona Corporation Commission voted 3-2 Wednesday to approve the 515-mile-long SunZia Southwest Transmission Project. The certificate is one of the last major permits the project needs.

    The SunZia project aims to tap into wind resources in New Mexico as well as solar and geothermal potential in New Mexico and Arizona. The line will export electricity to markets in the West.

     

    Commissioners Andy Tobin, Bob Stump and Bob Burns voted for approval, while Commissioners Tom Forese and Doug Little voted no.

  • Sanchez-Gagne files for DA

    Santa Fe native and long-time prosecutor, Maria Sanchez-Gagne, announced Thursday that she will seek the position of district attorney for the First Judicial District, representing Santa Fe, Rio Arriba and Los Alamos counties. Sanchez-Gagne is collecting petition signatures and will formally file her declaration of candidacy with the Secretary of State on candidate filing day on March 8.

     “I am pleased to announce my candidacy for this position. I have served our community for 20 years as a criminal prosecutor seeking justice for victims,” said Sanchez-Gagne.  “As your next District Attorney, I will not shy away from prosecuting difficult cases in order to ensure community safety.  I will serve you with honesty, integrity and experience.”

    Sanchez-Gagne has 20 years of experience. She was director of the Border Violence Vision of the State’s Office of the Attorney General from 2005-2015. Prior to that she was an assistant Attorney General. Sanchez-Gagne began her career as an assistant District Attorney in the First Judicial District DA’s Office where she prosecuted felony child abuse cases and domestic violence cases from 1996-2000. 

  • Judge: teacher’s discrimination case OK to proceed

    A U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeal judge ruled Friday to allow a case brought by a Mountain Elementary School Teacher against the Los Alamos Public Schools to proceed.
    Teacher Zeynep Unal filed the discrimination case against the LAPS, Los Alamos School Board, former Superintendent of Schools Gene Schmidt and Aspen Elementary School Principal Kathryn Vandenkieboom in April 2013.
    In the suit, Unal claims that Vandenkieboom harassed and discriminated against her while she was a teacher at Aspen Elementary.
    In her original complaint, Unal claimed that the school principal “regularly made insensitive remarks regarding the ethnicity and national origin of both the plaintiff and other persons as well.”
    Unal also claimed the principal regularly excluded Unal from staff meetings and informal conversations, and that she did this just because Unal was of Turkish Muslim descent.
    “Defendant Vandenkieboom consistently conspired to make the plaintiff feel like an outsider for the sole reason that the plaintiff was the only foreign-born teacher at Aspen Elementary,” according to a statement in Unal’s lawsuit.

  • Measure supports storing spent nuclear fuel in New Mexico

    ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — New Mexico lawmakers are considering a pair of nonbinding measures that would signal support for the development of a temporary storage facility to house spent nuclear fuel that has been piling up at reactors around the nation.

    The Senate Conservation Committee approved one of the memorials on a 6-3 vote during Thursday's meeting. The other is awaiting consideration by the full House.

    Neither holds any legal weight, but supporters said Thursday that an endorsement from the state Legislature would help in what is likely to be a competitive process as the federal government weighs proposals for what to do with thousands of tons of spent nuclear fuel.

    "The bottom line is we think this is a great project for our part of the state," said John Heaton, a former state lawmaker and chairman of the Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance, a consortium of city and county governments that has partnered with an international firm in the race to build an interim storage facility.

    "As most of you who live in rural communities know, it's tough out there and we have to make our own way," Heaton told the committee.

    The project would result in about 150 jobs and capital investment of more than $1 billion, he said.

  • ‘Longmire’ looks for local talent

    More than 300 people showed up for a casting call for “Longmire” at the Santa Claran Hotel in Española Saturday. The Netflix series – which originated on A&E – was looking for background actors for its fifth season.
    Local residents had a variety of reasons for showing up.
    Jonathon Willeto had served a background actor when “Longmire” was shot at the Santa Claran Casino last year, and wants to do it again.
    Fabian Gonzales has worked background for several films, including the second “Independence Day.”
    “I have a few friends who are into it, so I decided to go one day, and found that I was into it,” Gonzales said. “I like doing the work, and hopefully it will come to something bigger, higher up there. It’s really fun. I enjoy doing it.”
    For others, this was their first casting call.
    Megan Orr – who lives near Santa Clara Pueblo – likes “Longmire’s” local connection. In one show she recognized a location along the Rio Grande, with Black Mesa in the background, that was a half-mile from her house.