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Today's News

  • Council OKs shelter manager

    The Los Alamos County Council tentatively approved the Los Alamos Police Department’s proposed budget of $7,952,256 on Monday, plus all six of the department’s optional budget items, which totaled $262,077.
    Councilor Steve Girrens voted against the motion, objecting to $75,000 to create a shelter manager position in the Police Animal Control division.
    Chief Dino Sgambellone explained the need for the shelter manager, reciting a long list of duties that the county’s three animal control officers have to perform in addition to answering calls for service and taking enforcement action if necessary. Sgambellone noted that officers have to shut down the shelter to answer a call. The new shelter is open 46 hours a week, as opposed to the 21 hours the old shelter was open.
    “And if they don’t go out and they leave the shelter open, the (non-animal control) officers are handling those calls, which, the officers don’t have the training that our animal control officers do and, quite frankly, probably don’t share the passion that our animal control offers do, which is why they have made that their career,” Sgambellone said.

  • 2016 wildfire season expected to be less severe

    DENVER (AP) — The upcoming wildfire season across the U.S. isn't expected to be as bad as last year's infernos, when a record 15,800 square miles burned, the nation's top wildland firefighting official said Wednesday.

    But parts of the nation should expect a rough season after a warm, dry winter or because of long-term drought, U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell said.

    Southern California, other parts of the Southwest, Alaska and Montana are all vulnerable, he said.

    "So where we anticipate the severity of the fire season will not be at the same level as last year, we still expect to have some areas that will be really active," Tidwell said.

    Tidwell discussed the fire outlook with The Associated Press four days before the federal government issues its wildfire outlook for the summer season. He was in Denver for a conference on forest health.

    California is vulnerable because much of the state remains in a drought, despite an El Nino weather system that brought near-average snowfall to its northern mountains. Wildfires have already broken out in Alaska after a warm winter with below-average precipitation.

  • LANL projects rosy job numbers

    Los Alamos National Laboratory Director Charlie McMillan assured local leaders in Santa Fe Tuesday that the lab is going to continue to be a strong community and regional partner.
    LANL is facing a period of relative uncertainty as Los Alamos National Security’s contract to manage the lab goes out to bid sometime after 2017. The National Nuclear Safety Administration put Congress on notice that LANS’ current contract will not be renewed and will be put out to bid after 2017.
    LANS LLC failed to get another renewal due to performance issues, even though the lab’s performance for 2015 was better than its performance in 2014.  
    “A very clear priority for us is assuring that the laboratory is as strong as it possibly can be through the contract transition,” McMillan said at Tuesday’s breakfast meeting. “Not just up to the transition, but through the transition. So, we’re looking to make decisions today about long-term strengths for the laboratory.”
    One of those long-term strengths will be through employee attrition, as LANL prepares to replace the next wave of employees that are set to retire.

  • Search resumes for missing treasure hunter

    ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — Authorities on Wednesday resumed the search for a Colorado man who disappeared more than three months ago while hunting for a $2 million cache of gold, jewels and artifacts in a rugged part of New Mexico.

    Officials at Bandelier National Monument confirmed that a search-and-rescue mission was underway in an area of the monument off-limits to the public.

    Bandelier Superintendent Jason Lott declined to provide details but said authorities are encouraging people to stay out of the area, which covers steep slopes and a mass of loose rocks.

    "It's rugged country and it takes a pretty high level of expertise to work in that area," he said. "We're actively pursuing the search and rescue and just ask that others don't try to engage in this."

    The search was triggered by the discovery of a backpack last weekend. Authorities wouldn't say whether it belonged to Randy Bilyeu of Broomfield, Colorado, who disappeared in early January after he set out to raft a portion of the Rio Grande northwest of Santa Fe.

    Bilyeu's dog and raft were found along the river, but authorities called off the search in mid-January when the trail went cold.

  • Appeal rejected in off-road vehicles case on forest use

    ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — A federal appeals court has rejected an appeal by a motorized off-road vehicles users group that challenged a Forest Service decision reducing the routes available for use in the Santa Fe National Forest in northern New Mexico

    A trial judge had upheld the agency's action, but the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling Wednesday says the New Mexico Off-Highway Vehicle Alliance didn't have a legal basis to sue.

    The appellate court's ruling dismisses the alliance's appeal and orders the trial court to erase its own ruling and dismiss the lawsuit.

  • County, LANL consider colocation space

    One of the optional budget items the Los Alamos County Council tentatively approved Tuesday night was $50,000 from the Economic Development Fund to help finance an incubation colocate workspace.
    The proposed space – named Project Y, Cowork Los Alamos – is a collaboration between the Los Alamos Commerce and Development Corporation, Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Richard P. Feynman Center for Innovation, Central Park Square and possibly the county – provided the funding tentatively approved Tuesday remains in the final budget.
    Los Alamos County Economic Vitality Administrator Greg Fisher called colocate spaces “the rage around the country.”
    “The county’s been searching for a small business niche for some time, that wouldn’t put all the burden on the county, and it really is relevant to the modern business world,” Fisher said.
    LACDC has already committed $75,000 and LANL’s Feynman Center and Community Programs Office have pledged $30,000. Central Park Square’s in-kind donation provides reduced rent for the venture. The group also plans to seek grants and corporate sponsors.

  • Partners in play

    After two years and some hard work, the Mountain Elementary School Parent Teacher Association has finally reached its goal.
    The association, with help from volunteers, parents and kids from the Mountain Elementary School community and Los Alamos, raised $5,000 to help replace worn out playground equipment and add other items for the children to enjoy.
    “I thank the Mountain PTA and the district for working together to replace the broken equipment,” said Mountain Elementary School Principal Jennifer Guy.  
    A climbing wall that was donated by a family on one of the playgrounds brought joy to many children through the years, but it developed cracks, became worn out. The school district paid for a “Monarch Climber” to take its place, and the PTA paid for additional equipment, including balance boards, spring pods and a “Buddy Bench.”
    Mountain PTA Treasurer and parent Kristen Kucko said that the equipment is spread out among the older and younger kids, so everyone will have something to enjoy.
    “The lower playground has the Buddy Bench for the younger kids and the upper playground has some balance boards and some other things like that American Ninja Warrior stuff that they like a lot,” she said.

  • Today in history April 26
  • 15th Street Road Closure Friday and Saturday

    Los Alamos, NM – There will be a road closure on 15th Street between Myrtle & Iris on April 29th and 30th from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. J.B. Henderson Construction will be closing off this section of road so that a rooftop air conditioning and heating unit may be replaced at 125 Central Park Square. Traffic will be detoured onto 9th Street through Myrtle Street. Contact the Traffic & Streets Division at 662-8113 or lacpw@lacnm.us with any questions or concerns.

  • Assessor’s request raises questions

    During last week’s budget hearings, Los Alamos County Council questioned County Assessor Ken Milder’s request that $12,037 allocated to the Property Valuation Fund be reallocated to the General Fund. Council approved a flat budget of $608,682 for the department, but refused the request to reallocate funds and asked for further discussion on the issue.
    County Manager Harry Burgess explained that he had moved that amount to the Property Valuation Fund after discussions with Milder about how to meet council’s request for a flat budget. Milder disagreed with Burgess’s decision.
    “This fund has been growing a balance for the last several years, and is projected to continue to do so, based on our evaluation and use of that fund,” Burgess said.
    “Given our zero percent direction, we looked at that fund and suggested that some of those salaries could be put into the valuation fund as opposed to pushing the assessor’s general fund portion beyond the flat budget.
    When questioned, Milder stated that the amount in question was mostly for salaries and benefits, which led Councilor Pete Sheehey to ask why those costs had jumped so much.