Local News

  • 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 nuke repository defends plant safety plans

    ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — A U.S. Department of Energy official says new procedures in place would have detected a drum filled with radioactive materials that ruptured earlier this month at Idaho's Radioactive Waste Management Complex

    The Albuquerque Journal reports Todd Shrader, manager of Waste Isolation Pilot Plant's Department of Energy field office in Carlsbad, said last week that detection would have happened before the drum left the facility for emplacement at the deep geologic repository in southeast New Mexico.

    He says the drum that ruptured due to an exothermic event "not that dissimilar from the one we had here" was in the very beginning stages of characterization.

    The U.S. Department of Energy says the 55-gallon barrel ruptured earlier this month at the 890-square-mile  site that includes the Idaho National Laboratory, one of the nation's top federal nuclear research labs.

  • 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.

  • Report on problems at DOE facilities released

    For the first time, the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency produced a report Wednesday documenting challenges facing federal agencies.

    The extensive report contains 61 Top Management and Performance Challenge reports, including a report on the Department of Energy.

    The Department of Energy’s report points out issues with the stockpile stewardship infrastructure, the primary mission of the Los Alamos National Laboratory. This report highlighted problems with the infrastructure.

    “The nuclear weapons stockpile is aging and contains many obsolete technologies that must be replaced as the service lives of the weapons are extended,” a statement in the report said. “Further, NNSA’s mission depends on the facilities, infrastructure, and equipment for success. Yet the current demands of the stockpile stewardship program have placed increasing loads on an aging National Nuclear Security Administration infrastructure.”

  • Los Alamos Canyon Reservoir expected to open this week

    The Los Alamos Department of Public Utilities is close to reopening the Los Alamos Canyon Reservoir after improvements to water lines at the location.

    Clay Moseley, an engineering project manager with the department, said the reservoir should open this week, but acknowledged that some individuals have already been making their way up the road to the reservoir.

    “We finished the last big construction work up there Thursday and there is still equipment up there,” he said Friday. “We have seen people coming in and out of there and that’s OK.”

    Moseley said the county is asking that visitors to the reservoir walk up to it instead of trying to drive or access the area with off-road vehicles. Currently a locked gate is in place in an effort to keep vehicles off the road.

    “The road to the reservoir will not be open to vehicular traffic,” he said. “It’s not that kind of a road. And we still have some work left to do up there, like some soil stabilization and reseeding. So there’s still some construction activity planned and people trying to drive up there will only hamper that work.”

    Moseley also said people should be aware of where they can and cannot park before heading up to the reservoir.

  • 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.

  • New Mexico unemployment rate drops to 5.6 percent in March

    ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — New Mexico's unemployment rate is down as state officials report an increase in private sector jobs.

    The Department of Workforce Solutions' monthly report released Friday says the state's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 5.6 percent in March, down from 5.8 percent in February and 6.3 percent a year ago.

    New Mexico's total nonagricultural payroll employment grew by 8,900 jobs between March 2017 and March 2018, for an increase of just over 1 percent.

    The year-over-year increase in private sector employment was nearly equally split between service-providing industries and goods-producing industries.

    Mining and construction added 3,000 jobs for largest year-over-year jobs increase for an industry, while professional and business services added 1,900 jobs and leisure and hospitality employment increased by 1,900 jobs.

    Among other industrials, retail trade lost 1,100 jobs.

  • Police Beat 4-15-18

    Police Beat items are compiled from public information contained in Los Alamos Police Department records. Charges or citations listed in Police Beat do not imply innocence or guilt. The Los Alamos Police Department uses the term “arrest” to define anyone who has been physically arrested, served a court summons, or issued a citation.

    April 4
    8:20 p.m. – Los Alamos Police  investigated a tailgating incident in Los Alamos. Investigation is inactive.

    April 5
    10:50 a.m. – Los Alamos Police cited a pet owner for having two dogs roaming off the owner’s property, third offense.

    2:30 p.m. – Los Alamos Police referred a Los Alamos High School teen to juvenile authorities after finding drug paraphernalia on the teen’s person.

    5:35 p.m. – Hallie May Schwenk, 19, of Grants was arrested by Los Alamos Police on a magistrate court bench warrant and released.

    8:20 p.m. – Los Alamos Police investigated possible vandalism to a vehicle.

    April 6
    12:38 p.m. – Los Alamos Police investigated an unlocked storage unit that was supposed to be locked. Investigation is inactive.

    April 7

  • 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.

  • Seoul: N. Korean leader removes major nuclear sticking point

    Associated Press

    SEOUL, South Korea — South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Thursday that his rival, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, isn’t asking for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the Korean Peninsula as a precondition for abandoning his nuclear weapons. If true, this would seem to remove a major sticking point to a potential nuclear disarmament deal.

    North Korea, a small, authoritarian nation surrounded by bigger and richer neighbors, has always linked its pursuit of nuclear weapons to what it calls a “hostile” U.S. policy that is embodied by the 28,500 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea, the 50,000 stationed in Japan, and the “nuclear umbrella” security guarantee that Washington offers allies Seoul and Tokyo.

    Although Moon reported that North Korea isn’t asking for the U.S. troops to leave, he said the North still wants the United States to end its “hostile” policy and offer security guarantees. When North Korea has previously talked about “hostility” it has been linked to the U.S. troops in South Korea.