Today's News

  • After brief relief, forecasts indicate drought will continue

    By KELLY P. KISSEL, Associated Press

    Dry weather will prolong the wildfire threat through summer in the southwestern United States, even though weekend showers temporarily relieved drought conditions in parts of the area, forecasters said Monday.

    The drought is rooted in a dry spell that began in October and is considered "extreme" from southern California to central Kansas. Conditions are even worse in the Four Corners region and the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles, warranting their description as "exceptional."

    "The proverbial spigot shut off," said Brian Fuchs, a climatologist at the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. "Drought isn't necessarily a signal for wildfires, but it can exacerbate the conditions that do take place."

    Climatologists consider the months from October to April to be a "recharge" period, with showers and snow replenishing water supplies in the Southern Plains. However, the most recent significant rain in the area came in early October.

  • Records: Ex-candidate was paid by rival before exiting race

    ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — A former candidate for New Mexico governor was paid $14,000 by a Democratic rival a day before announcing his exit from the race, according to campaign finance records.

    Candidate Peter DeBenedittis told the Albuquerque Journal on Thursday that rival Jeff Apodaca had paid him for an email list and to be a campaign spokesman after he had decided to drop out of the race. He said he wasn't paid to leave.

    Apodaca's campaign finance reports show the $4,000 and $10,000 payments to "Peter D and Company" of Santa Fe on March 13.

    DeBenedittis announced his departure the next day. He sent a formal letter to the Secretary of State's Office to withdraw his candidacy on March 15.

    DeBenedittis said he decided to endorse Apodaca after speaking with all the candidates about the issues.

    Being unemployed at the time, DeBenedittis said Apodaca offered him the position so he took it.

    "To me, I'm trying to leverage the assets in my campaign into assets I can survive off of," DeBenedittis said.
    Through running his own campaign, he said he had gained expertise and compiled a valuable list of Democratic contacts.

    "For the amount of work I'm doing vs. any other campaign consultant, I'm getting paid peanuts," DeBenedittis said.

  • Bandelier to raise entrance fees

    The National Park Service announced last week that Bandelier National Monument will modify its entrance fees to raise more funds for infrastructure and maintenance needs. These funds will be used to enhance the visitor experience, according to park officials.

    Effective June 1, the entrance fees to Bandelier will be raised from $20 to $25 per vehicle. The price for motorcycles will go up from $15 to $20 per motorcycle, and entrance fees for visitors will be raised from $10 to $15 per person.

    The Bandelier annual park pass, will be raised from $40 to $45.

    Revenue from entrance fees remains in the National Park Service. At Bandelier, at least 80 percent of entrance fees stay in the park, according to park officials. The park shares the other 20 percent of entry fee income with other national parks for their projects.

    In response to public comments on the fee proposal released in October 2017, there will be a modest increase for all entrance fee-charging parks, rather than the higher peak-season fees initially proposed only for 17 highly visited national parks.

  • LA woman arrested for aggravated battery

    A 35-year-old Los Alamos woman was charged with aggravated battery and a dangerous manner and aggravated battery misdemeanor after choking her mother and holding a knife to her throat.

    The defendant, Marion Loope, was arrested April 15 outside the home she shares with her mother.

    The defendant’s mother told police at the scene her daughter accused her of taking her medication. Loope then attacked her, hitting her head against a door frame before attempting to strangle her. Loope then got a knife and held it to her mother’s throat from behind.

    “I did notice a lump on the back of her head, a mark on her neck and a cut in the webbing between her thumb and index finger from where she said she had reached up and grabbed at the knife to remove it from her neck,” Los Alamos Police Department Cpl. Jaime Gonzalez said in his report on the incident.

  • County budget is in, now comes the wait

    If its 2019 budget approval process were a game of chess then the Los Alamos County Council, having just made a move to put itself one step closer to a checkmate victory, is now waiting to see if the move will get snuffed out with a defensive counter or remain viable, thus keeping the door open for the win.

    “We’re just playing a wait-and-see game,” County Manager Harry Burgess said Wednesday, the day after the council approved the $188,838,880 budget.

    The county is now in the process of submitting the budget to the state while waiting on the outcome of the Los Alamos National Laboratory’s contract decision, which will determine whether LANL is listed as for-profit or not-for-profit which, in turn, will have a major positive or negative affect on this budget.

    “The best guess we’ve got is that we’ll know around June,” Burgess said. “You can see how it affects our operations. We just went through a whole process, months of preparing this, to essentially create a tentative plan.

    “That’s the issue we’re up against,” he continued. “We’ve got a great economic driver, but we’re subject to their decisions because of that.”

  • New Mexico Democrats elect Corrales woman as party leader

    TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES (AP) — New Mexico Democrats have elected a new party leader, weeks after the previous one resigned over his handling of sexual misconduct claims.

    The selection of Corrales resident Marg Elliston came over the weekend.

    Elliston will fill out the term left vacant by Richard Ellenberg's resignation in mid-March. Ellenberg had defended a prominent figure in the state's film industry who had been facing sexual misconduct allegations.

    The leadership shake-up comes as Democrats are hoping to recapture the governor's seat and flip a closely watched congressional seat in southern New Mexico.

    Elliston says she is excited to take on the challenge and promote a progressive platform.

    She previously led the Democratic Party of Sandoval County and has volunteered as a lobbyist at the legislature.

  • Los Alamos loses a legend

     He was born with so little, but in the end, had given the community he chose to settle in so much. Los Alamos lost one of its most influential residents Wednesday.

    Nerses “Krik” Krikorian was born on a Turkish roadside in 1921. He was a refugee of the Armenian genocide. He was an immigrant, a chemist and a family man. He passed away Wednesday at 97.

    Krikorian, had such an influence on what Los Alamos is today that in a way, he is still here. He helped found the Los Alamos United Church of Los Alamos, the J. Oppenheimer Memorial Committee and he also helped create the original county charter. 

    He did all these things while working as a chemist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory and raising a family. These are just some of the reminders of Krikorian’s dedication to making what started out as a place to put a secret laboratory into a real, working community. 

  • Santa Fe's city manager resigns at the request of the mayor

    SANTA FE (AP) — Santa Fe's city manager has resigned at the request of the mayor.
    City Manager Brian Snyder had approved pay hikes of 10 percent and 15 percent for 37 staff members on the eve of the

    Mayor Alan Webber's inauguration last month.

    Webber says the municipal government will halt the pay increases Snyder had approved.

    The mayor had initially defended the move as an important part of a project to modernize Santa Fe's software system.

    Webber has now conceded that a policy enacted in 1992 required City Council approval for the pay raises.

    Snyder has been city manager since 2013, but he won't be off Santa Fe's payroll altogether.
    Under a contract provision approved by a former mayor, Snyder will return to a supervisory job in the city's water division.

  • School board votes in $37.9M budget

    The Los Alamos School Board voted 5-0 Tuesday to pass a $37.9 million budget for the 2018-19 school year.

    The budget includes a 4.5 percent raise for all staff and teachers starting July 1. Raises for teachers over the last four budgets totaled 10 percent overall.

    Other budget highlights included the addition of a student success coordinator at the Los Alamos Middle School, a middle school math coach and the addition of a part-time Native American liaison for the middle school.

    The board began working on the budget at the beginning of the year, and prioritized the budget according to the goals and directives included in the school board’s Strategic Plan. The board adopted the Strategic Plan in April 2016. The top three priorities of the plan are student well being, student learning and teacher and staff well-being and excellence.

    The suggestion to add a Native American liaison came from the district’s Native American Parent Advisory Council.

    “There was a need to coordinate more closely with the tribal governors and to provide training for culturally appropriate material for students,” said Superintendent Kurt Steinhaus.

  • LA County Council passes $188M budget

    The Los Alamos County Council passed the proposed budget for fiscal year 2019 in the amount of $188,838,880 Tuesday following two nights of departmental budget hearings.

    The budget, which was arrived at under a flat budget moratorium by County Manager Harry Burgess, will be submitted to the state prior to the June 1 deadline, and will then be adjusted either up or down depending on the outcome of the Los Alamos National Laboratory’s contract status. The outcome of the lab’s bid won’t be made public for at least a couple of months.

    Should the contract come back putting LANL in the for-profit category, the council would start considering budget options, or add backs, submitted by each department.

    “Although flat budgets are easy to listen to and easy to approve, I think we’d all rather be fighting over a list of add backs at this point,” said Councilor Antonio Maggiore. “So I look forward to the contract getting resolved and being able to hack this out in the true, usual fashion and get a little more for the community.”

    But should the contract outcome be not-for-profit, the councilors would then have to look for cuts in the budget.