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Today's News

  • District hikes rent on instruments

    For all those aspiring musicians out there in the Los Alamos Public Schools system, the school board has some good news and some bad news.

    The bad news is, it recently voted to raise the rental fees for school instruments by $20, making the price $100 to rent an instrument from the district per school year and $50 for the summer. Percussionists, who never had to pay a rental fee, will now have to pay $20 a year for the privilege.

    The good news is the rental rates haven’t been raised since the 80s, and the $20 hike should be more than adequate to take care of repairs for quite a while.

    “We decided on $20 because it was a nice round number that would be adequate for repair and maintenance of the instruments,” said Kim Lettellier, the school system’s music staff team leader. “This should prevent us from having to nickel and dime parents every year.”

    During an interview with the school board, Lettellier also noted that $100 a year is still quite a bargain.

    “To rent a violin some place else, it would cost students about $15 a month. That’s a basic fee, anywhere you go,” she said. “ … It is quite a service we are providing to the community.”

  • Laser shoots first Martian target

    NASA’s Curiosity rover has zapped its first Martian rock, aiming its laser for the sake of science.

    During the target practice on Sunday. Curiosity fired 30 pulses at a nearby rock over a 10-second window, burning a small hole.

    Since landing in Gale Crater two weeks ago, the six-wheel rover has been checking out its instruments including the laser. During its two-year mission, Curiosity was expected to point the laser at various rocks as it drives toward Mount Sharp, a 3-mile-high mountain rising from the crater floor.

    Its goal is to determine whether the Martian environment was habitable.

    In several days, flight controllers will command Curiosity to move its wheels side-to-side and take its first short drive.

    Members of the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover ChemCam team have received the first photos from the instrument’s remote micro imager. The successful capture of ChemCam’s first 10 photos sets the stage for the first test bursts of the instrument’s rock-zapping laser in the near future.

  • Preparation will spur economic growth

    When Economic Vitality Administrator Greg Fisher asked for council’s approval of his Economic Development Fund program priorities and budget two weeks ago, he painted a grim picture of the current situation.

    Although some needs — such as replacing an aging county infrastructure — are being addressed, critical pieces of a sound foundation are missing.

    A shortage of desirable commercial sites and blight are two issues that have been identified.

    “We had a national retailer that we met at the International Conference of Shopping Centers who came into town last week looking for 4,000 square feet for a national sporting goods store. He couldn’t find anything that suited him,” Fisher said. “We’re pushing real hard to get him into something now, but the point is, having a good quality commercial product available is half the battle of getting economic development in the community.”

    “We have a lot of aging commercial properties. It comes with the territory when you have a community that was built about the same time. Many of the buildings are 50 and 60 and 70 years old now, and that’s just the time when they either get renovated or fall apart,” Fisher said.

    Fisher acknowledged the county’s limitations in cleaning up blight.

  • Gas line leak causes school evacuation

    Los Alamos Middle School was evacuated Monday afternoon when a gas line was inadvertently punctured by construction crews at approximately 1:10 p.m.  

    According to LAMS Principal Rex Kilburn, procedures for emergencies such as this were followed and there was a two-hour delay today for students and staff.

    “The gas is off to the site, and I have directed McCarthy ( the construction contractor) to search for any other potential leaks,” Kilburn said.

    School Utilities Facilitator Jeff Sargent, said the gas line is owned by the school and supplies the kitchen area. It also heats water for rest of the school. Sargent said they shut off the gas yesterday and have started a 24-hour pressure check on the pipe. As of 8 a.m. Tuesday morning, Sargent said they are still working on the problem.

    “We are still concerned, because we are still registering a slight drop in pressure,” Sargent said. As for the kitchen being inoperable, he said that’s been taken care of too. “We’ve already negotiated with our food service to bring hot food from offsite,” he said.

    The LAMS website stated there will be no gas pressurization tests while students are on campus. Food service will not be affected Tuesday.

  • Rahn is all about practical design

    Pete Rahn’s path has taken him from Farmington to Santa Fe, where he was Highway and Transportation Department secretary for Gov. Gary Johnson, to Missouri, where he had the same job, to Kansas City, where he joined HNTB Corp., and back to New Mexico, where he lives while working with HNTB and is a member of the Transportation Commission.
    HNTB, Rahn says, does large complex transportation projects but does not work in New Mexico, which means his commission post poses no conflict.
    One modest insight into Rahn is his subscription to at least one car magazine. We visited at the Rahn dining table.
    Practical Design provided an overview for consideration of the big picture of transportation (really, roads) in New Mexico. Practical Design is a conceptual road design and construction framework that Rahn started in New Mexico. The approach was fully developed in Missouri and has been adopted by other states. The word “practical” explains much.
    “Practical design is about a lot of little things that add up to a lot,” Rahn says.
    Some realities overlay New Mexico’s roads.

  • When you should file an amended tax return

    Not every interaction with the IRS must necessarily induce flop sweat.
    Case in point: A few years ago a friend of mine decided his income taxes had become sufficiently complicated to merit hiring an accountant. After examining previous tax returns, the accountant discovered my friend had claimed the standard deduction for two years when he should have itemized expenses. He filed a couple of amended tax returns and voila – the IRS wrote him checks totaling more than $1,200.
    Of course, not all tax-filing mistakes end on such a happy note. Sometimes people find out after submitting a return that their employer had sent an incorrect W-2 form, or they forgot to report self-employment income, or they incorrectly claimed someone as a dependent.
    Although it’s tempting to let such mistakes slide, chances are the IRS will discover the error eventually, and when they do you could be liable for interest and penalties going back to the due date of the original tax return. Worst case: You could even face criminal charges for filing a fraudulent return.
    Here’s a guide to when – and how – you should file an amended tax return:

  • Martinez gets primetime speaking slot for GOP convention

    SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez will make a primetime speech next week at the Republican National Convention.

    Republican officials announced Tuesday that Martinez will deliver her remarks right before the keynote speaker on the convention's second day.

    Martinez appears before a video and the keynote address next Tuesday night by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie

    Republicans are holding their presidential nominating convention Aug. 27-30 in Tampa, Fla.

    A primetime speaking role increases the potential for national television exposure for Martinez, who is the nation's first Hispanic female governor.

  • Pushing the Pace

    The 38th annual Los Alamos Triathlon took place Saturday. The event included a 20K bike leg, a 400-meter swim and a 5K run.

  • Topes Notes 08-21-12

    Zephyrs pound Isotopes
    Pounding out 17 hits and scoring 10 runs wasn’t nearly enough for the Albuquerque Isotopes against the New Orleans Zephyrs Monday.
    The Zephyrs came up with 23 hits to win going away, 20-10 at Isotopes Park in the third of a critical four-game set between the two teams.
    Nevertheless, the Isotopes will still head into the series finale tonight with a 3-game lead over the Zephyrs in the PCL American Southern division. The finale is scheduled for 6:35 p.m. in Albuquerque.
    Just two games separated the two teams heading into the series opener Saturday, but the Isotopes took the first two games by counts of 3-1 and 6-0.
    Isotopes starter Fernando Nieve (6-8) gave up seven earned runs, including four homers, in two-plus innings of work Monday. He didn’t record an out in the third inning and allowed three runs, giving the Zephyrs a 7-2 lead at the time.

  • Aquatomics finish 11th at state meet

    Ashlynn Bennett of the Los Alamos Aquatomics finished as the third-highest scorer in her age group at the New Mexico Long Course Championship meet.
    The state long course championship was July 19-22 at the Farmington Aquatic Center. In all, 22 teams and 446 swimmers took part.
    Bennett, swimming in the girls 15-16 age group, picked up victories in the 400-yard freestyle, the 200 freestyle and the 200 butterfly, as well as turning in a runner-up performance in the 200 individual medley and a third-place finish in the 50 butterfly.
    As a team, the Aquatomics, who had 23 representatives at the meet, finished 11th among the participating club-level teams.
    Among the other top scorers for the Aquatomics were Alex Jaegers, who scored 32 points in the boys 13-14 competition, Ian Jaegers, who had 11 points in boys 10 and under, and Nick Greenfield, Alana Goodwin and Max Corliss, all of whom finished with five points.

    Here are the results for the Los Alamos Aquatomics at the New Mexico State Long Course Championship meet July 19-22 (name, division, event, place, time):

    Ashlynn Bennett,
    girls 15-16
    200 individual medley, 2, 2:41.73; 100 butterfly, 5, 1:16.57; 400 freestyle, 1, 5:05.44; 200 freestyle, 1, 2:26.34; 50 butterfly, 3, 32.23; 200 butterfly, 1, 2:43.46.

    Jillian Bennett,