Local News

  • New Mexico candidates clash on labor, business reforms

    ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — The Democratic and Republican candidates for governor of New Mexico are offering contrasting visions for changing the state's labor and business climate at a public forum.

    Congressman and gubernatorial candidate Steve Pearce said Monday that businesses are showing an interest in expanding to counties in New Mexico that want to limit compulsory union fees by ordinance. Pearce praised right-to-work reforms as a way to give workers greater choice.

    Rival Democratic gubernatorial candidate and Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham described right-to-work reform as a divisive, partisan issue that doesn't address the state's economic challenges.

    New Mexico's Democratic-led Legislature has consistently defeated proposals to outlaw compulsory fees for workers who decide not to belong to a union.

    The winner of the November gubernatorial election will succeed Republican New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez.

  • LAFD gets input for accreditation

    The Los Alamos Fire Department is the only fire department in the state of New Mexico that holds an accreditation from the Commission on Fire Accreditation. And it is currently taking steps to ensure it retains that status.

    Maintaining an accredited classification is an ongoing process for the fire department, which will go before the commission for a fifth consecutive time in 2020.

    Norma Valdez is the accreditation manager for the department, which has held that status for the last 20 years. She and the department hosted two community stakeholder meetings on Aug. 13 at Fuller Lodge as part of the preparation process for the next appearance before the commission.

    “The accreditation is part of our commitment to continuous improvement,” Valdez said. “In that vein, these meetings are one of the most critical parts of the accreditation process because we’re soliciting feedback from our customers. Once we understand what their expectations are we’re able to develop a strategic plan to address those expectations.”

    About 60 people attended each of the two meetings, which were led by Matt Keller and Brian Dean from the Center for Public Safety Excellence.

  • School grades stay flat; LA Middle School improves


    ALBUQUERQUE — The number of New Mexico public schools receiving top grades remained flat while some schools face closure for constantly getting a failing grade, according to statewide results released Friday.

    The New Mexico Public Education Department’s annual report card showed that 12.9 percent of public schools earned an A for the 2017-2018 academic year. That’s a drop from 14.5 from the previous year.

    The percentage of B grades ticked up slightly to 25.9 percent — an increase of 2 percent.

    However, 14.6 percent of schools earned an F, a small decrease from 15.7 percent from the previous year.

    At Los Alamos Public Schools, Superintendent Kurt Steinhaus said the district was pleased overall with how the schools were performing.

    “This is a reflection of our quality teaching and strong parental support for student success,” Steinhaus said in a release Friday.

    Los Alamos Middle School increased its score by two letter grades, from a D in 2017 to a B in 2018.

    At LAPS, Aspen Elementary School received a C; Barranca Mesa, Chamisa and Piñon elementary schools, and Los Alamos Middle School received Bs; and Mountain Elementary School, Topper Freshman Academy and Los Alamos High School earned an A.

  • ‘I build stuff’

    Los Alamos resident Bill Hamilton can tell you a lot about working with wood, everything from how to get the most from every piece and how to bring out its colors.

    What he can’t tell you, though, is how he does what he does – creating works of art that also function as tables, play alphabet and numbers blocks for children, cutting boards, tree stands, wine stands, or whatever he feels like building at the time.

    His talent, he said, has a lot to do with patience and the type of wood he happens to have in his shop. Whatever the end product is though, he has to know a little bit about the pieces of wood he’ll use, much like those that collect cars or fine wines need to know about grapes or serial numbers. It has to have potential.

    Hamilton points to a piece of natural walnut in his shop as an example.

    “Sometimes it takes me two to three years to figure out in my head what I’m going to do with it. But if it is a nice piece of wood, it has a nice grain, it has a nice shape, that’s what I like to buy,” Hamilton said.

  • First day enrollment up at LA schools

    Los Alamos Public Schools celebrated a positive start to the 2017-18 school year Thursday with an increase in student numbers.

    Superintendent Kurt Steinhaus said the district’s enrollment on the first day was 3,737.

    “Enrollment is on an upward trend,” he said. “We are fortunate to have highly-qualified teachers in all classrooms. In addition, every school has at least one guidance counselor, nurse and resource specialist.”

    Because safety has become a growing issue among not only the Los Alamos school district but also districts across the nation, the Los Alamos district put its teachers and staff through its Safety University program in an effort to strengthen their training in this area.

    The training was held the week prior to the first day of school so it could be taken care of without cutting into the school schedule.

    “Principals and staff around the district reported that they valued the time to focus on safety and talk about issues specific to their work place and student safety,” Steinhaus said. “All of the eight LAPS schools have a detailed safety plan and a standard protocol for conducting threat assessments. And we appreciate Los Alamos Police Chief Dino

    Sgambellone for providing school resource officers in our schools.”

  • Bird communities dwindle on New Mexico’s Pajarito Plateau

    Submitted to the Monitor

    Researchers have found declines in the number and diversity of bird populations at nine sites surveyed in northern New Mexico, where eight species vanished over time while others had considerably dropped.

    “These birds are not using these habitats anymore,” said Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist Jeanne Fair, lead author of the study published recently in the journal Biological Conservation.

    The study, conducted on those sites covering several hundred acres on the Pajarito Plateau from 2003 to 2013, revealed a 73 percent decrease in abundance of birds, dropping from an average of 157 to 42 birds. The diversity of bird species also dropped by 45 percent, from a mean of 31 to 17 species. Some of the species impacted include the hairy woodpecker, western tanager and violet-green swallow.

    The decline of birds may be an early indicator of the significant loss of piñon pine trees due to prolonged drought, hotter temperatures and bark beetle outbreaks in the Southwest, according to the research. The study points to a forecast of the loss of piñon-juniper forests in the Southwest by 2100. Other Los Alamos studies suggest conifer trees in the region could die by 2050.

  • Big move begins at Mesa Public Library

    In order to accommodate the renovation project at Mesa Public Library, the library will be closed on Monday and will reopen Tuesday.

    The road between the two library parking lots will also be closed intermittently on Monday in order for cement to be poured.

    The White Rock Branch will be open usual hours, which are: 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; 10 a.m.-6 p.m. on Fridays; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on Saturdays and noon-5 p.m. on Sundays.

    The building and lobby will be closed for the duration of the project, which is expected to be complete in early December.

    Access to books and other library materials and staff assistance will be provided in a small area on the ground floor of the building, called “The Zone.”

    There will be a children’s lending library set up in the classroom on the second floor of Fuller Lodge, open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m.-1 p.m., beginning Aug. 21.

    For more information about the construction project and how to access library services, visit the website libraryimprovementsproject.us or call 662-8250.

  • Hummingbird Music Camp required to boil drinking water

    About 150 people in the Hummingbird Music Camp in the Jemez Mountains were told Friday they will be required to boil their drinking water, according to the state Environment Department.

    A boil water advisory was issued Friday after bacteriological contamination (E. coli) was detected in repeat drinking water samples from the water system’s distribution system.

    New Mexico Drinking Water Regulations require Hummingbird Music Camp to notify their water system consumers of this finding as soon as practical but no later than 24 hours after the system is notified of the confirmation of the violation.

    The camp serves about 150 users.

    The boil water advisory applies only to the drinking water from the Hummingbird Music Camp and does not extend to any other surrounding water systems, according to the environment department.

    Water users at the Hummingbird Music Camp were advised to boil the water for one minute, or three minutes if above 6,500 feet in elevation, before drinking, cooking, washing fruits and vegetables, feeding a baby, brushing teeth, preparing drinks, making ice, and providing drinking water for pets.

    The presence of E. coli in water indicates that the water may have been in contact with sewage or animal wastes and could contain disease-causing organisms.

  • Los Alamos schools, board receive honors

    The Los Alamos School District has been recognized for excellence in two areas it was announced at Tuesday’s school board meeting, one for the district and another for the school board.

    The district was honored with a certificate of accreditation after meeting the criteria for quality established by the AdvancED Accreditation Commission. The NCA Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement, the Northwest Accreditation Commission and the SACS Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement awarded the international accreditation certificate to the district.

    “We are now officially accredited by this organization called AdvancED,” said Los Alamos Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Kurt Steinhaus. “This is something we worked really hard on last year.”

    AdvancED evaluated the district based on its criteria and, after the evaluation, presented district officials with some suggestions of processes they could implement ahead of the next accreditation cycle, which happens every three years.

  • Judge rejects inmate move

    Los Alamos County District Court Judge Jason Lidyard rejected the state’s request to have an inmate transferred to Santa Fe County because of mental health issues.

    In court Aug. 8, the state argued that inmate Marion Loope, who was jailed in April for allegedly threatening to cut her mother’s throat during an argument over medication, needed around-the-clock mental health care and monitoring, something officers who testified in court said the Los Alamos County Detention Center could not provide.

    Officers testified that Loope was cutting herself and being a disruptive inmate.

    In two reported incidents, Loope allegedly threw a cup of water at one officer and threw her tray of food on the floor because she said there was something wrong with the food.

    After hearing both sides of the argument from Assistant State District Attorney Kent Wahlquist and Loope’s attorney Mary Carmack-Altweiss, Lidyard did not agree with the state’s assessment of Loope’s mental state.

    He noted that the state admitted in its testimony against Loope that it is still waiting for a competency report that would officially note Loope’s mental state.