KUNM

Agency Receives Proposals To Prevent Cavern From Collapsing, Griego To Be Sentenced In February

Nov 30, 2017

Agency Receives Proposals To Prevent Cavern From CollapsingThe Associated Press

New Mexico officials say at least four companies have submitted proposals to take on the project to prevent the brine well in Carlsbad from collapsing.

The Carlsbad Current-Argus reports the New Mexico State Purchasing Office disqualified one proposal for the estimated $25 million project, and the Carlsbad Brine Well Remediation Advisory Authority selection committee shortlisted two companies.

The request for proposals was sent out in September and closed earlier this month. The request called for plans to backfill the cavity that experts say could collapse as early as 2020.

The two companies are expected to submit tactical proposals with their estimated cost for the project by mid-December.

The final selection is expected before Christmas, and a project design is expected to be submitted to the purchasing office in June.

Former New Mexico Senator To Be Sentenced In FebruaryThe Associated Press

A former New Mexico state senator convicted of fraud, bribery and felony ethical violations stemming from allegations that he used his position for personal gain will be sentenced early next year.

A state district judge scheduled Phil Griego's sentencing for Feb. 16 in Santa Fe.

Griego was convicted earlier this month. He could face more than 20 years in prison.

Prosecutors with the New Mexico Attorney General's Office accused Griego of using his elected position and acumen as a real estate broker to guide the sale of a state-owned building in downtown Santa Fe through various approvals without properly disclosing his financial interest.

Griego maintained he did nothing wrong in earning a $50,000 commission from buyers of the property.

He resigned from the Legislature in 2015 at the close of a Senate ethics investigation.

Redevelopment Of Historic Motel Along Route 66 BeginsThe Associated Press

Work to restore another old motel along historic Route 66 in Albuquerque is underway.

Mayor Richard Berry and other officials marked the beginning of construction Wednesday. Berry said redevelopment of the site will breathe new life into the area and attract locals as well as tourists.

Albuquerque is partnering with Anthea @ Nob Hill LLC to bring the De Anza Motor Lodge back to life. The property has sat vacant for years.

The $8 million project will feature a boutique motel, an extended stay hospitality hotel, up-scale apartments, a restaurant and retail space.

The developer also will work with Zuni Pueblo to preserve the historic Shalako Murals on the property so they can remain on display for public tours.

The construction is expected to take about 18 months.

Civil Rights Lawyer Tapped As Albuquerque's Deputy AttorneyThe Associated Press

Albuquerque's mayor-elect has appointed a civil rights lawyer and immigrant rights advocate as deputy city attorney.

Tim Keller announced Wednesday that Oriana Sandoval will serve under the new role created by the mayor-elect as the city works their federal-court order reforms to reform its police department.

The Berkeley Law School and public policy school graduate recently worked as the executive director of the Center for Civic Policy in Albuquerque.

She's also worked with the UC Berkeley Labor Center to provide leadership development training to Latino immigrant grassroots organizers in California's Central Valley.

New Mexico Predicts More Education Funding From InvestmentsThe Associated Press

Public education is expected to get a financial boost in the coming year from New Mexico's two major sovereign wealth funds, based on investment returns and income from the oil sector this year.

The State Investment Council estimates that New Mexico's Land Grant Permanent Fund and Severance Tax Permanent Fund are likely to pay out $963 million for the coming fiscal year, a $64 million increase from the fiscal year that started in July.

The value of the two funds climbed to a combined $21.8 billion at the end of September.

The majority of annual distributions go directly toward public schools. About $200 million flows to the state's general fund, which also underwrites public education.

New Mexico struggled this year to sustain funding for public education amid faltering tax revenues.

Audit: $145K In Public Funds Likely Stolen At Deming SchoolsThe Associated Press

A special audit of a southern New Mexico school district has resulted in numerous findings that include nearly $145,000 in public funds that were likely stolen.

State Auditor Tim Keller released the audit of Deming Public Schools on Thursday. He said the inquiry stemmed from information from the district about the potential mishandling of money by a former employee.

According to the audit, potential criminal violations include fraud, forgery, larceny and embezzlement. The findings will be forwarded to the district attorney.

The audit covered a period between 2012 and 2016 and focused on cash receipts from laboratory and class fees, computer fees, student fines, parking fees and other activities.

Auditors identified an estimated $256,000 in cash receipts that should have been collected and deposited, but receipt tickets were issued for less than half of that.

Environmentalists Plan Lawsuit Over Wolf PlanAssociated Press

Environmental groups say they intend to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over its plan for recovering the endangered Mexican gray wolf in the American Southwest and northern Mexico.

The agency released the plan Wednesday, just a day before a court-ordered deadline. That triggered instant criticism from the same groups that had initially sued in an effort to get the agency to update outdated guidance for restoring the species.

The groups followed up Wednesday afternoon with a notice of intent to sue, accusing federal officials of violating the Endangered Species Act.

The groups contend the plan contains shortcomings that will hinder recovery of the predator and could threaten to lead to the extinction of the wolves.

US Adopts Recovery Plan For Mexican Wolves - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

U.S. wildlife managers have finally adopted a plan that will guide recovery of a wolf that once roamed parts of the American Southwest and northern Mexico.

The plan unveiled Wednesday sets a goal of having an average of 320 Mexican gray wolves in the wild over several years before the predator can shed its status as an endangered species.

Officials say that could take another two decades and cost nearly $180 million.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service considered tens of thousands of public comments as it worked to meet a court-ordered deadline to craft the recovery plan. It was a long time coming as the original guidance for restoring the wolf was adopted in 1982.

The lack of a plan had spurred legal challenges and skirmishes over states' rights under the federal Endangered Species Act.

New Mexico Predicts More Education Funding From InvestmentsAssociated Press

Public education is expected to get a financial boost in the coming year from New Mexico's two major sovereign wealth funds, based on investment returns and income from the oil sector this year.

The State Investment Council estimates that New Mexico's Land Grant Permanent Fund and Severance Tax Permanent Fund are likely to pay out $963 million for the coming fiscal year, a $64 million increase from the fiscal year that started in July.

The value of the two funds climbed to a combined $21.8 billion at the end of September.

The majority of annual distributions go directly toward public schools. About $200 million flows to the state's general fund, which also underwrites public education.

New Mexico struggled this year to sustain funding for public education amid faltering tax revenues.

4 Men Charged In Scheme To Defraud Small Business ProgramAssociated Press

Federal authorities say four men have been indicted in a fraud case involving a program at Kirtland Air Force Base that was meant to help minority-owned small businesses.

The U.S Attorney's Office for the district of New Mexico announced the 46-count indictment Wednesday. It names 72-year-old Milton Boutte of Moriarty, New Mexico; 55-year-old George Lowe of Fort Washington, Maryland; and 58-year-old Jose Diaz and 54-year-old Arturo Vargas, both of El Paso, Texas.

Arraignments have yet to be scheduled. It was not immediately clear if the men had attorneys.

Authorities have accused the men of running their scheme from October 2004 through February 2009.

The indictment alleges that the defendants submitted fraudulent invoices to federal agencies and that funds were used to pay lobbyists and consultants.

Civil Rights Lawyer Tapped As Albuquerque's Deputy AttorneyAssociated Press

Albuquerque's mayor-elect has appointed a civil rights lawyer and immigrant rights advocate as deputy city attorney.

Tim Keller announced Wednesday that Oriana Sandoval will serve in the new role created by the mayor-elect as the city works through its federal-court ordered reforms of its police department.

The Berkeley Law School and public policy school graduate recently worked as the executive director of the Center for Civic Policy in Albuquerque.

She's also worked with the UC Berkeley Labor Center to provide leadership development training to Latino immigrant grassroots organizers in California's Central Valley.

Redevelopment Of Historic Motel Along Route 66 BeginsAssociated Press

Work to restore another old motel along historic Route 66 in Albuquerque is underway.

Mayor Richard Berry and other officials marked the beginning of construction Wednesday. Berry said redevelopment of the site will breathe new life into the area and attract locals as well as tourists.

Albuquerque is partnering with Anthea @ Nob Hill LLC to bring the De Anza Motor Lodge back to life. The property has sat vacant for years.

The $8 million project will feature a boutique motel, an extended stay hospitality hotel, up-scale apartments, a restaurant and retail space.

The developer also will work with Zuni Pueblo to preserve the historic Shalako Murals on the property so they can remain on display for public tours.

The construction is expected to take about 18 months.

New Mexico AG Demands Damages From Wells FargoAssociated Press

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas is demanding damages from Wells Fargo after an investigation showed the financial institution created nearly 19,000 fake and unauthorized bank and credit card accounts in the state.

Balderas on Wednesday accused Wells Fargo of victimizing New Mexicans. If a resolution can't be reached, he said he'll pursue litigation.

Wells Fargo was rocked last year by a nationwide scandal over practices in which employees created millions of accounts without customers knowing about or authorizing them to meet ambitious sales goals.

A Wells Fargo's chief executive apologized most recently during an October congressional hearing. The company also has changed its sales practices and ousted executives.

Balderas says his investigation has focused on potential violations of the New Mexico Unfair Practices Act.

Report: State School Funding Behind Pre-Recession LevelsSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

A new national report says New Mexico's public school funding is still 11.7 percent less than the state spent before the 2008 recession.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reported Wednesday that the nonprofit Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that 29 states, including New Mexico, are still spending less on public schools than they did before the recession.

The nonprofit's report is based on 2015 data from state budgets and the U.S. Census Bureau.

The report cites declining oil and gas revenues among the number of reasons the 29 states decreased their public school funding.

The nonprofit's Director of State Fiscal Research Michael Leachman says in New Mexico's case, its schools are paying for pre-recession tax cuts.

Lease For Navajo Generating Station Gets Final ApprovalAssociated Press

A lease allowing a coal-fired power plant on the Navajo Nation to operate through 2019 has received final approval.

The tribe and most owners of the Navajo Generating Station near Page signed off on it earlier this year.

But the document also needed the OK from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and a former owner in the power plant. Those approvals came ahead of Friday's deadline.

The Salt River Project and other owners decided in February to shut down the generating station in favor of power produced by natural gas.

Under the lease, the Navajo Nation will keep some buildings on site and the rail line that transports coal 80 miles. The tribe also could use existing transmission lines for other energy projects.

Judge Orders Santa Fe To Implement Ranked-Choice VotingAssociated Press

A judge has ordered Santa Fe to use a ranked-choice voting system in its March elections.

Santa Fe District Court Judge David Thompson made the ruling Yesterday.

City voters in 2008 approved a charter amendment to elect their municipal officers with ranked-choice voting. It allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference instead of just choosing one.

The amendment stated the voting system would be implemented as early as March 2010 if voting equipment became available at a reasonable price.

The equipment became available for free this year and the Secretary of State certified it for use in all New Mexico elections beginning in 2018.

But the Santa Fe City Council voted this summer not to implement ranked choice voting until 2020.

A group of Santa Fe citizens filed a petition in New Mexico district court to compel the city to comply with its charter.

FAA Awards Albuquerque Film Company First Drone WaiverAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

An Albuquerque cinema drone company says the Federal Aviation Administration has issued it a waiver that will allow it to fly drones over cast and crews on film locations.

Flytcam Motion Pictures Managing Partner Luke Davis says they are the first cinema drone company to get such a waiver from the FAA.

The Albuquerque Journal reported Tuesday the waiver will allow the company to get aerial shots they could not have gotten otherwise.

Davis says the company has been helping the FAA write regulations for drone flying for a few years.

According to Davis, CNN was previously unsuccessful in getting the waiver from the FAA.

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