Today's News

  • DOE awards cleanup contract

    The Department of Energy announced Tuesday night that it had awarded the new Los Alamos National Laboratory's legacy waste cleanup contract to Newport News Nuclear BWXT-Los Alamos LLC.
    The contract is for $1.39 billion with a base period of five years. The total period of performance also includes a 90-day transition period, a three-year option period and a two-year option period for a total of 10 years and three months. The current legacy cleanup contract is held by Los Alamos National Security LLC (LANS). That contract expires on March 31.
    The new contract will cover disposal of waste generated by the lab between 1970 and 1998.
    Members of Newport News Nuclear BWXT-Los Alamos include Stoller Newport News Nuclear Inc. and BWXT Technical Services Group Inc.
    The services will be managed by the DOE Office of Environmental Management’s Los Alamos Field Office.
    The scope of the contract will include monitoring and protecting the regional aquifer and razing inactive contaminated and non-contaminated buildings that in the way of its main focus, environmental remediation. The contract also calls for the continued removal of low level radioactive waste and transuranic waste off the site.
    DOE officials said the department will work to ensure a smooth transition from the LANS contract to the new contract.

  • Congress clears temporary spending bill to avert shutdown

    WASHINGTON (AP) — The Republican-led Congress narrowly passed a temporary spending bill Thursday to avert a government shutdown, doing the bare minimum in a sprint toward the holidays and punting disputes on immigration, health care and the budget to next year.

    The measure passed the House on a 231-188 vote over Democratic opposition and then cleared the Senate, 66-32, with Democrats from Republican-leaning states providing many of the key votes. President Donald Trump is expected to sign the measure.

    The stopgap legislation would keep the government from closing down at midnight Friday. It has traversed a tortured path, encountering resistance from the GOP's most ardent allies of the military, as well as opposition from Democrats who demanded but were denied a vote on giving immigrants brought to the country as children and in the country illegally an opportunity to become citizens.

    The wrap-up measure allows Republicans controlling Washington to savor their win on this week's $1.5 trillion tax package — even as they kick a full lineup of leftover work into the new year. Congress will return in January facing enormous challenges on immigration, the federal budget, health care and national security along with legislation to increase the government's authority to borrow money.

  • New Mexico regulators approve utility rate hike with caveat

    SANTA FE (AP) — State regulators have agreed to allow New Mexico's largest electric utility to raise rates over the next two years but with the stipulation it cannot recoup the money the utility is spending to upgrade a coal power plant.

    The state Public Regulation Commission approved the rate increase Wednesday, allowing the Public Service Co. of New Mexico to raise electricity rates by about 8 percent for the average consumer by 2019.

    The commission has also barred the utility from recovering nearly $150 million spent on improvements for the coal-fired Four Corners Power Plant near Farmington, describing that spending as "imprudent."

    Utility spokesman Pahl Shipley told the Albuquerque Journal that the company is reviewing the commission's order before determining its next action.

    "The parties to the settlement agreement have worked together to strike a fair and balanced outcome, with only one party opposing the settlement," Shipley said in an email. "Making significant changes to a settlement that has overwhelming support adds to the uncertain regulatory environment in New Mexico."

  • Basketball teams struggle on the road

    Before getting nearly two full weeks off for the holidays, both the boys’ and girls’ basketball teams at Los Alamos High School each played a game on the road last weekend.

    And the results weren’t what either team was hoping for. On Friday, the boys’ team traveled to Eldorado High School, falling 92-46 to the Eagles.

    Saturday, the girls’ team traveled to Artesia High School, where the Bulldogs walked away with a 59-44 victory.

    For the boys, the game against Eldorado comes as a bit of a letdown. Thursday evening, the Hilltoppers went to St. Pius X High School and came away with a 70-56 victory. It was easily the biggest win of LAHS’ season to this point, and appeared to be the start of a positive momentum swing.

    However, those thoughts quickly faded once the game against Eldorado began. Unlike St. Pius, which struggled to knock down shots against the Hilltoppers, Eldorado came out on fire, scoring 28 points in the first quarter, and building a sizeable lead before LAHS had even gotten into the game.

    After eight minutes of play, Eldorado led the Hilltoppers 28-8.

  • Saturday school a success at Los Alamos Middle School

    Los Alamos Middle School (LAMS) is successfully implementing Saturday School, a completely voluntary program in which students get extra help from teachers and catch up on school work.

    The goal is to finish assignments and make sure they are not falling behind. Last year was the first year for 7th and 8th grade Saturday School and this year’s improved version comes with extra assistance and better communications from teachers.

    At Saturday School, students tend to work on makeup homework, makeup tests, or even to get ahead on assignments before a busy week. There is a mix of students who attend: some are simply asking for more help from a teacher while others are specifically recommended by a teacher.

    According to Johnson, some students like to attend because it is a quiet place to get work done, free of distractions.

    Students stay for the entire three-hour period and are also instructed to keep a log of the work they accomplish.

    Saturday School is not meant for one type of student, but rather students of any level who might need help, including special education students.

    And students really see the results from attending Saturday school; “Kids are amazed with how much they get done,” said Johnson.  In one case, a teacher was working with a particular student that was behind.

  • Project VeX robotics team places 3rd

    The Mountain Elementary School Robotics Team, Project VeX, traveled to Arizona Dec. 1-3 to compete in the Northern Arizona VeX IQ Challenge. Out of 40 teams, they finished 3rd in the skills portion of the competition, an impressive feat for a brand new team.

    Not only was this the first competition for the young team, they were also the only team from New Mexico.
    Mountain’s PE teacher, Tony Hinojosa, lead the budding team of nine 6th grade students (including his son) who met after school every Monday for two hours to work on designing, building, and programming a competition robot. Project VeX, named after the building platform they use, had about seven weeks to prepare before traveling to Arizona to compete against 40 other teams.

    This year, the challenge game was “Ringmaster” and the object of the game was to attain the highest score by successfully placing colored rings on a 4’x8’ rectangular field with posts.

    There were two main categories in the competition: the Teamwork Challenge and the Robot Skills Challenge. Project VeX placed 3rd in the Skills Challenge, which consisted of a driver controlled round and an autonomous round.

  • Assets in Action: ‘Take a second, make a difference’ this week

     “And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love, cannot be killed or swept aside”-Lin-Manuel Miranda.
    Mr. Miranda said these words at the 2016 Tony Awards and I feel it was really a much, needed anthem for the year.

    I see this love shown in many ways and for a variety of people throughout the year. The ladies of Alpha Zeta showed it once again as they saw fit to find volunteers to adopt 80 families with kids in our local schools, for the holidays.

    Kate Stoddard, one of those people you love to be around and her band of merry makers, some husbands and a few children dragged along for fun pulled off the annually impossible last weekend. They transformed the Christian Church into, “Love Central,” preparing for many to feel the love this holiday season. They weren’t even miffed if you showed up a bit late or with something not wrapped yet.

    Ironically for 2016, the ladies with their “sweetness of spirit,” received a Community Asset Award for the work that they do in our community. It was just a small opportunity to let them feel some of that love in return.

    So now, here is my final plea, a chance for you to do a kindness for someone that otherwise we may never know about.

  • Farmington manufacturer seeks quality-management goal with help from MEP


    Brothers Kyle and Jim Rhodes have big ambitions for the family business they’ve owned since 1970. It’s not enough that their Farmington company Process Equipment & Service Company Inc. (PESCO) has a solid reputation as a manufacturer of natural gas and oil production equipment and that the company continues to grow even as gas prices rise and fall, employing more than 300 people and serving national and international customers.

    The Rhodes brothers want to earn their place among the winners of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, which Congress established in 1987 (and named for a former Commerce Department secretary) to recognize American companies with exemplary quality-management systems.

    To that end, and to find inspiration and ideas, the co-owners send a delegation of PESCO employees each year to the Quality New Mexico Learning Summit, where recipients of the Baldrige award describe what led to their recognition. Kyle and Jim Rhodes hope to learn from these top achievers what more they can do to make PESCO a better place to work, to expand its profile in the industry and to continually improve its products.

  • Regulatory pendulum swings again in FCC’s net neutrality decision

    The trouble with regulation is what I call the Rule of One, as in, there’s always one. It applies to the regulated and to the regulators.

    Regardless of the industry, most of the regulated do their best to operate within the rules, but there’s always at least one company abusing the process, the consumer, the environment or its own employees. Once the abuses come to light, regulators come down on everybody, and no good deed goes unpunished.

    On the other side of the fence, most regulators try to be conscientious but fair and don’t assume that every entity they oversee is up to no good. But there’s always one who doesn’t wear the mantle of authority well or applies the rules in ways lawmakers never intended. Often they have no idea what the impact of their actions will be.

    I’ve reported on this see-saw for years and heard horror stories on both sides. It’s the reason we swing back and forth between lax and intrusive regulation. Now you can hear it in the arguments for and against net neutrality. And, of course, it’s political. Republicans favor less regulation; Democrats want more.

    Last week that the Federal Communications Commission abandoned net neutrality rules debated for more than a decade in favor of what FCC Chairman Ajit Pai calls a regulatory “light touch.”

  • County council discusses future of Pajarito Mountain ski area

    Members of the Pajarito Ski Club urged the Los Alamos County Council Friday to do its part to save the Pajarito Ski Area from closing for good.

    Pajarito Ski Club President Susan Brockway-Hahn asked the Council to release county funds that would help pay for a water-supply pipeline to Pajarito Mountain. The deal would be that the county pay $1.7 million for the pipeline, and the club’s business partner, Pajarito Recreation, would pay the other half.

    Brockway-Hahn told the council the club’s board has already approved a deal where the Pajarito Recreation Limited Partnership will soon assume ownership of the land and the ski area’s equipment and assets. The deal she said would guarantee that residents would be able to enjoy skiing on Pajarito Mountain for many years to come. A contract is currently being written up, she said. Pajarito Recreation joined with the club three years ago, and has been working without a contract.

    “We can no longer just support the ski area within our community. Those days, unfortunately, have passed,” Brockway-Hahn said of their partnership with Pajarito Recreation.

    She also said that the club will continue to be a vital part of the community, even though Pajarito Recreation will own the land and the assets of the ski area.