Headlines: WIPP Worker Sues, Migrant Education Deadline And More...

Aug 14, 2014

Credit U.S. Department of Energy

Nuke Dump Worker Sues Over Smoke InhalationThe Associated Press and Albuquerque Journal

A worker at the troubled nuclear waste dump in southeastern New Mexico is suing over smoke inhalation injuries from an underground fire in the storage facility.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that William Utter filed the lawsuit in May, three months after the Feb. 5 incident in which a salt-hauling truck caught fire below the surface at the now-shuttered Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.

Utter is a waste handler for Nuclear Waste Partnership. The contractor and its corporate parent are defendants in the lawsuit, which seeks unspecified compensation and punitive damages.

NWP spokesman Donavan Mager said the company does not comment on pending litigation.

In addition to the fire, the plant located in Carlsbad experienced a radiation leak on Feb. 14 that contaminated above-ground workers when a waste barrel burst.

ICE Eyes Extension On Ed Rules For Detainees - The Associated Press and Artesia News

Artesia Mayor Phil Burch says immigration authorities are seeking an extension on a deadline for providing federally-mandated education to detained immigrant children.

Burch told the Artesia News this week that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement needs additional time to choose among educational contractors.

Currently, more than 600 women and children from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador are detained at Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Artesia while they await either deportation or asylum.

Federal officials say the center has to provide educational services for the detained children.

Santa Fe Toughens Fines For Texting While Driving - The Associated Press and Santa Fe New Mexican

Santa Fe is toughening its penalties for texting and doing other digital activities while driving.

The City Council voted unanimously Wednesday to double the existing $100 fine for using a mobile device texting, posting on Twitter, updating Facebook or engaging in similar activities while driving.

The penalty triples if the offense is in a school zone during school hours.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that the city's new penalties will be stiffer than those under the state's anti-texting law. That law calls for fining violators $25 for a first offense and $50 for every subsequent violation.

Santa Fe's new penalties take effect on Aug. 25.

Mayor Javier Gonzales says he introduced the proposal after seeing motorists texting in a school zone where children were walking across the street.


Governor Candidates To Speak Separately At NMSU - The Associated Press

Republican Gov. Susana Martinez and Democrat Gary King will speak at New Mexico State University next month but it's not a joint candidate forum.

Martinez will speak on Sept. 18 at 8:15 a.m. and King's appearance is at 12:45 p.m. at a public policy conference by the university's Domenici Institute.

The university said Wednesday that Martinez was moved to the morning because of a scheduling conflict.

Martinez and King are to appear at a candidate forum Sept. 22 in Albuquerque hosted by the New Mexico chapter of a commercial real estate development association.

King has accepted invitations to other forums and debates.

A Martinez campaign spokesman says the governor is "committed to having additional debates as the election draws closer" and the campaign is working on a TV debate.

New Mexico State Plans To Build Park Near Stadium - The Associated Press and Las Cruces Sun-News

New Mexico State University officials hope a planned new park will help make a favorable impression on potential students and other visitors and also beautify the school's Las Cruces campus.

The new park would be located just east of Aggie memorial Stadium and be visible from Interstate 25.

According to the Las Cruces Sun-News, the site is currently a vacant lot.

University President Garrey Carruthers says planting grass and trees on the site would create a place where families could have picnics, play games or just relax.

Facilities and Services Executive Director Tim Dobson says state funding would pay for the project, which would cost up to $4.2 million depending on the chosen design.

Initial work has already begun with the planting of pecan trees around the perimeter.

Gary King Backs Expanding Early Childhood Programs - The Associated Press

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gary King proposes using one of New Mexico's endowment funds to provide additional money for public schools and expand early childhood programs.

King outlined his educational policies yesterday, which include supporting a proposed constitutional amendment to increase yearly allocations from the Land Grant Permanent Fund.

He also wants to end "high-stakes" testing that students must pass to graduate from school.

King contends that expanding early childhood education can help children succeed in school and in the workforce.

King supports a measure introduced in this year's Legislature by Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez.

Republican Gov. Susana Martinez opposes the proposal, which would provide nearly $700 million during its first three years for schools and early childhood programs such as pre-kindergarten.

County Considers Option To Close Budget Shortfall - The Associated Press and Daily Times

San Juan County officials have been presented with a list of options ranging from park and golf course closures to a sales tax increase to close a budget deficit.

The Daily Times reports that County Executive Officer Kim Carpenter presented the county commissioners with the options on Wednesday.

The county faces a shortfall of over $6 million in a program that helps uninsured residents pay medical bills and reimburses providers for care delivered to the uninsured.

The county already reduced the health care assistance program's reimbursement rates nearly in half last month.

County officials say the shortfall largely results from the state's new requirement that counties pay into a statewide fund that helps hospitals pay for uninsured care.

San Juan County must make a $3 million payment.

Feral Horse Fight Brewing In New Mexico Village - The Associated Press

Free-ranging horses have roamed the small New Mexico hamlet of Placitas for decades. They often gallop on residents' property and dash along roads, attracting tourists and wildlife fans.

But recently some residents have complained that the growing number of horses is hurting the delicate desert landscape because they are eating what little vegetation is left amid an ongoing drought.

Federal officials say they will start removing horses on nearby federal land.

Those removals have set up a potential standoff between horse advocates and local and federal officials who have long been at odds about what to do with such horses.

Gary Miles of the Placitas Animal Rescue says he and other residents are willing to die to save the horses. He says the horses aren't bothering anyone.

Emergency Rehab Work Complete On Gila Fire - The Associated Press

Emergency rehabilitation work is now complete in an area of the Gila National Forest that was charred by wildfire earlier this year.

The burn response team has installed water bars on forest roads in an effort to prevent erosion and to help direct any runoff away from the roads.

The team also installed signs throughout the area to warn visitors of possible post-fire hazards.

Aerial seeding was also done on more than 2 square miles where the burn severity was considered high. With monsoons in full swing, officials hope the seeding will lead to more vegetative cover on the steep slopes.

The Signal Fire burned more than 8 square miles north of Silver City in May and forced the temporary closure of some forest roads and recreation sites.