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Today's News

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Trash fee increase proposed

    The Environmental Sustainability Board released its proposed trash pick up rate hikes Thursday. Councy Council is set to discuss them at its June 6 meeting.
    For curbside residential, roll cart trash service, the board has proposed a $3 increase from $22 to $25, with extra roll carts per household also going up to $25. The same increases will apply to roll carts for commercial businesses. The commercial recycle pickup fee of $2 goes away, making once-a-week pick up for commercial businesses free.
    The Environmental Sustainability Board also is proposing to make dropping off cardboard at the Eco Station free, instead of having residents mix it all in with other recyclables.
    “When people move here, they usually have a truckload of boxes to bring in. We’re hoping to serve people like that,” said Public Works Department Manager Philo Shelton.
    The board plans to present its entire proposal which include increases to dumpster fees, trash compactor fees and fee increases for special services at the County Council June 6 meeting.
    The board proposed the fee hikes to cover a $300,000 deficit in the Environmental Services budget.
    Inflation from labor costs, contracts and a rise in the price of trash cans are fueling the deficit, as are oil prices.

  • 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.

  • Police Beat 5-27-17

    Police Beat items are compiled from public information contained in Los Alamos Police Department Records. Charges or citations listed in Police Beat do not imply innocence or guilt. The Los Alamos Police Department uses the term “arrest” to define anyone who has been physically arrested, served a court summons, or issued a citation.

    April 24
    10:45 a.m. — LAPD investigated a high school student found in possession of drug paraphernalia.

    12:27 p.m. — Shannandoaha D. Lopez, 35, of Alcalde was arrested on a municipal court warrant.

    1:41 p.m. — Casandra Ruybal, 27, of Los Alamos was arrested for driving on a suspended driver’s license and a warrant out of Santa Fe County.

    4:21 p.m. — LAPD investigated a report of a forged check at Smith’s.

    6:06 p.m. — Sarah M. Preteska, 60, of Jemez Springs was arrested for operating a vehicle while under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.

    6:33 p.m. — Garrett J. Eckhart, 35, of Los Alamos was arrested on a magistrate court warrant.

    7:06 p.m. — Russell C. Dupree, 44, of Espanola was arrested on a warrant and for driving on a suspended driver’s license.

    April 25

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • LA County GOP chair, vice chair resign after bond election

    The chair and vice chair of the Los Alamos County Republican Party abruptly resigned this week immediately after voters rejected the county’s recreation bond Tuesday.

    County Chair James Robinson resigned a few minutes after the polls closed. First vice chair James Chrobocinski resigned Tuesday or Wednesday morning.

    Second vice chair Lisa Shin is now acting chair of the county party.

    Robinson cited personal reasons for his resignation. Chrobocinski cited personal attacks against him and his family over his advocating for the bond funding as his reasons.

    “I believe there is too much hate and vitriol in politics today from both parties,” Chrobocinski said in a written statement to the Monitor Thursday. “Unfortunately, during this rec bond vote I had an incredible amount of personal attacks against me and my family.”

    Robinson said he resigned for more personal reasons.

    “My decision to resign was for personal reasons and had nothing to do with the rec bond,” Robinson said. “I was asked by both those for and against to wait until the bond was finished before resigning.”

  • 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.