Today's News

  • Schools, community rally around teachers

    The Los Alamos school district and the community have reached out to the district’s school teachers after many teachers voiced concern about receiving flawed performance evaluations from the New Mexico Department of Education. 

    The teachers also pushed back against the state department’s new teacher attendance rules, which many say have left them very little leeway when it comes to taking care of their health and family emergencies.

    On Thursday, school district officials took a proactive stance on the issue, seeking clarification on the new attendance rules from the NMPED, and submitting 80 appeals to the department on behalf of teachers who said their evaluations were flawed.

    Superintendent Kurt Steinhaus said the third issue the district is working on with the NMPED is teacher peer groups, where teachers are grouped together in accordance to their skill level and experience.  

    At an Oct. 11 school board meeting, many complained the NMPED included on their evaluations tests their students didn’t participate in that were used to factor teacher scores. Some said the number of students they taught also was incorrect. 

  • WIPP storage plan draws concern

    A nuclear watchdog group raised concerns Friday with a plan to build above-ground storage of transuranic waste at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad.

    The U.S. Department of Energy has applied for a permit with the New Mexico Environment Department for the new storage facility. 

    Joni Arends of Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety said the DOE should be concentrating on ongoing safety issues at WIPP, not expanding the facility with another above ground, permanent waste facility at the site. 

    WIPP already has a similar facility for the same purpose.

    “They never needed to use that surge to be able to store extra waste, so we don’t understand why DOE is proposing it,” Arends said.  

    She also said that with the recent series of ceiling cave-ins that has caused the DOE to phase in a shut down of the southern part of the facility, safety should be the first priority. 

    “We think that for worker safety and protecting the environment and human health, resources need to be put into closing that part of the mine where the roof falls have taken place,” Arends said. 

  • Council to vote on county attorney Tuesday

    Los Alamos County has announced that Joseph Alvin Leaphart is the successful candidate for the county attorney’s position. Leaphart’s appointment comes to council for a vote on Tuesday. 

    Leaphart rose to the top in a field of four candidates. The other finalists were Charles Rennick, Kenneth J. Tager and Stephen P. Thies. 

    Leaphart has been city attorney and solicitor for the City of Statesboro, Georgia, for the last five years. Leaphart himself created the in-house council position for Statesboro, replacing the contractual council the city had previously relied on. He also has 16 years of trial practice.

    If council approves the contract, Leaphart will start on Jan. 1, 2017.

    Other agenda items include consideration of a pilot project for mountain bike trails on county land. 

    The pilot project would utilize $500,000 that council previously earmarked for incentivizing the Pajarito Recreation Group (PRG) to create mountain bike trails on Pajarito Mountain. That project has been delayed due to land transfer issues. 

  • Espinoza would work for adoption of Voter ID

    One of Republican candidate for secretary of state Nora Espinoza’s top priorities is working to have the legislature adopt Voter ID. Espinoza, who currently serves as New Mexico representative for District 59, introduced a HB 312, Voter ID bill, earlier this year. 

    “The singular most important role of the SOS (secretary of state) is to ensure the integrity of the elections system, protecting every single citizen’s vote, ensuring their votes are not stolen, and that their identity is not stolen,” Espinoza wrote in response to questions from the Los Alamos Monitor. 

    According to Espinoza, the state’s current system, which requires only that a voter state their name, address and year of birth at the polls, is insufficient. She cited a 2014 case of voter fraud in Española as proof that someone can impersonate another person at the polls. 

    “Without Voter ID, the poll workers have no way of knowing if they are actually talking with the voter in question or not,” Espinoza said. “We need Voter ID so that the poll workers can ensure that people do not steal other people’s votes.”

  • LAPD stats show decrease in violent crime in 2016

    Los Alamos Police Department reported the latest crime statistics Friday, showing a 13 percent decrease in violent crime in the first three quarters of this year, compared to last year. 

    Violent crime has decreased from 15 offenses, through the first three quarters of 2015, to 13 in 2016.

    Property crime decreased by 11 percent from 121 in 2015 to 108 in 2016. 

    Officers responded to a total of 121 offenses that included arson, burglary larceny and auto theft in the first three quarters of 2016, compared to the same time period in 2015.

    “While Los Alamos continues to enjoy a relatively low crime rate, the Los Alamos Police Department encourages our residents to practice safety by securing homes and vehicles,” said Police Chief Dino Sgambellone.

  • Pumpkin patch catch

    Baranca Mesa Elementary student Savannah Salazar, 10, picks out a pumpkin at the Los Alamos High School choir pumpkin patch at Central Avenue and NM 502 Friday. 

  • New Mexico jobless rate rises to 6.7 percent in September

    ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — New Mexico’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is up for the third straight month.

    The Department of Workforce Solutions reports that the September rate was 6.7 percent as nonfarm employment dropped by 2,000 jobs from September 2015.

    The state’s unemployment rate was steady at 6.2 percent in March, April, May and June before rising to 6.4 percent in July and 6.6 percent in August.

    Of the 13 industries measured in the state’s economy, six added jobs, six lost jobs and one was unchanged from September 2015.

    The largest gain was recorded by education and health services, up 6,100 jobs over the year, while mining lost 6,900 jobs.

  • New Mexico officials seek money for campaign finance system

    SANTA FE (AP) — New Mexico election officials requested nearly $1 million on Friday to replace an online campaign finance information system.

    The current system cannot be adapted to meet public calls for transparency or new legal requirements approved in February, state Elections Director Kari Fresquez told lawmakers in Santa Fe.

    “We believe that to do the system right, it’s going to cost $985,000,” Fresquez told a legislative committee on technology.

  • Ahlers tapped for economic development position

    Los Alamos County Manager Harry Burgess announced Friday that Joanie Ahlers was selected for the position of Economic Development Administrator. 

    Ahlers has been the chief operations officer for Los Alamos Public Schools for over four years, with oversight of six departments and responsibilities involving leased facilities, construction of new projects, custodial and maintenance operations, managing fixed assets, and technology and data integration.  

    Ahlers is also co-owner of Courthouse Properties LLC, a privately held firm that performs real estate development for the State of New Mexico, specializing in design/build of office space and magistrate courthouses. Prior to joining the school district, Ahlers was also co-owner of North Mesa Builders in Los Alamos, providing new construction and remodeling services for homes. 

    “I am excited to welcome Joanie to our staff to take charge of our economic development division,” said Burgess.

    Ahlers’ first day of employment will be Dec. 5.

  • Prescribed burns continue in Valles Caldera next week

    National Park Service fire managers successfully treated 478 acres with prescribed fire in the Banco Bonito district of the Valles Caldera National Preserve,  north of NM 4 near mile marker 30. 

    Because the weather forecast for Thursday through Sunday is not favorable for smoke dispersion, fire managers will not conduct more fire starts during this time.

    Fire personnel are patrolling and monitoring the treated portion of the planned 1,200-acre prescribed burn area to ensure the fire continues to provide resource benefits in a safe manner. Ignitions may begin again as early as Monday if the forecast improves.  

    This was the second successful prescribed fire on the preserve this year. In May, fire managers successfully treated 1,250 acres of grassland in the Valle Grande.