LANL Report Details Nuclear Waste Cleanup, Teachers Union Has No Confidence In Evaluations

Sep 16, 2016

LANL Report Details Scope Of Nuclear Waste Cleanup – The Associated Press

A new report estimates that it will take more than 20 years and nearly $4 billion to clean up decades-old hazardous waste from nuclear weapons production in Los Alamos.

The New Mexican reports that Los Alamos National Laboratory publicly released the estimate this week. It gives the clearest picture yet of the scope of the work left to remove radioactive waste and environmental contamination from the area.

The report lists 955 potentially contaminated sites and says the lab still has 5,000 cubic meters of legacy waste. That's half the amount of waste present when cleanup began 25 years ago.

The lab, the New Mexico Environment Department and the U.S. Department of Energy entered a new cleanup agreement in June. A previous agreement expired in December with several missed deadlines.

Teachers Union Has No Confidence In Evaluations – The Associated Press

A union in New Mexico that has been critical of the state's teacher evaluation system says it doesn't have much confidence in the latest results.

The executive director of the National Education Association of New Mexico, Charles Bowyer, says tying the evaluations to student achievement based on standardized test scores doesn't reflect the true effect a teacher can have on individual students.

Bowyer's group is among those suing the state over the evaluation system. A hearing in the case is expected later this fall.

The evaluation results show more than 70 percent of public school teachers across the state are effective or better when it comes to their success in the classroom.

There are now more teachers who are considered highly effective and exemplary, but the number of those on the other end of the scale also has grown since 2014.

Accreditor Puts New Mexico Highlands University On ProbationThe Associated Press

New Mexico Highlands University has been placed on probation by an accreditation group.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that the Higher Learning Commission, which accredits about 1,000 colleges in the country, placed the university on probation for what it says are a series of deficiencies.

Among the commission's concerns are staffing, student assessments, student retention and completion rates, governance and planning. The commission's public notice about Highlands states there is a problem with how the college supports student learning and formal teaching.

Highlands spokesman Sean Weaver says that some of the concerns include the size of the university's financial reserves, the school's mission statement and operational budgeting issues. He says the university is working on all the problems.

Health Officials Investigating Cases Of Crypto In New MexicoAssociated Press

Officials with the New Mexico Department of Health are investigating cases of cryptosporidiosis among state residents.

They say there have been six confirmed cases of "crypto" — a diarrheal disease caused by microscopic parasites — since Aug. 31.

Each reported consuming raw milk products.

The affected individuals are from Bernalillo County.

Epidemiologists, laboratory staff and inspectors are working to confirm the source of the outbreak.

The state Department of Agriculture and New Mexico Environmental Department also are involved in the investigation.

Health Department officials recommend that anyone in New Mexico who has raw milk products discard the product to prevent infection.

UNM To Move Forward With On-Campus Residency Requirement Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

The University of New Mexico is moving forward with a plan to require incoming freshmen to live on campus.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that student leaders have criticized the policy, calling it an overstep and saying housing choice is one of the university's selling points.

But the Board of Regents approved the measure with a 5-to-2 vote. Supporters say students who spend their early years on campus are likely to do better academically.

The living requirement is set to take effect in 2018 and would allow several exceptions. Students would be allowed to live with family members within 30 miles of the university, and they could get out of dorm living if it would pose an "undue hardship" -- financial or otherwise.

New Mexico Governor Details Fight For Facebook Data CenterAssociated Press

It won't be long before the bulldozers start clearing a lonely patch of rangeland in central New Mexico to make way for the newest of the several data centers that keep Facebook humming.

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez and other officials gathered in Los Lunas, just south of Albuquerque, on Thursday to celebrate the announcement that the social media giant would be building a quarter-billion-dollar facility on the edge of the community.

Facebook plans to break ground in October.

Martinez says had it not been for her meeting with Facebook executives more than a year ago, New Mexico wouldn't have been a contender.

The governor acknowledged that New Mexico had to fight its way to the top of a list that once included Utah and more than 20 other states.

Utility Regulators To Hold Hearings Over Crouch Mesa WaterAssociated Press

State regulators are set to determine whether penalties should be assessed against a water supplier for how it conducted itself during a Farmington-area water crisis and months-long boil advisory.

The New Mexico Public Regulation Commission voted on Wednesday to hold a hearing on Oct. 12 to determine possible penalties for AV Water Co.

AV Water Co. customers in the Morningstar and Harvest Gold systems were issued a boil-water advisory in June. The Morningstar system had its advisory lifted earlier this month, but the Harvest Gold residents remain under a boil-water advisory.

Utility officials say they are working to restore water to Harvest Gold.

Since the commission will hold a hearing, the more than 7,000 affected customers will be able to provide testimony.

2 More To Join The Ranks Of International Ballooning Fame – Associated Press

New Mexico balloonist Troy Bradley and the late Japanese airship pioneer Isaburo Yamada will be inducted into international ballooning hall of fame for their accomplishments and contributions to the sport.

Officials at the Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum scheduled the induction ceremony for Sept. 30, the eve of this year's balloon fiesta.

Bradley holds more than five dozen world records in hot air, gas and hybrid balloons.

Most recently, he and Russian co-pilot completed a record-breaking flight across the Pacific Ocean. They traveled more than 6,650 miles (10,700 kilometers) and were aloft for more than 160 hours.

The posthumous inductee, Yamada, was an early innovator. He created the first practical manned airship ever produced in Japan during the early 1900s. His company, Weather Balloon Mfg. Co., Ltd. continues to produce weather balloons and kite balloons.

New Mexico Delegates Push For F-16s To Move To Holloman Associated Press

Congressional delegates from New Mexico are pushing for the U.S. Air Force to relocate F-16 squadrons to Holloman Air Force Base.

U.S. Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and Rep. Steve Pearce met Thursday with Air Force Under Secretary Lisa Disbrow to make their case for expanding the mission of the southern New Mexico base to include F-16 training units.

Their first plea came in a letter sent last month to top military officials.

Pearce said Thursday that Holloman is a premier base for training pilots due to its restricted airspace and favorable weather.

The Air Force plans to move F-16s from Hill Air Force Base in Utah to make room for new F-35s.

The delegation says a decision on where to send the F-16s is expected within months.

Doña Ana County Commission Did Not Break Open Meeting Laws Associated Press

The New Mexico Attorney General's Office has ruled that the Doña Ana County Board of Commissioners did not violate open meeting laws as was alleged by the county sheriff in part of his ongoing dispute with commissioners.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports that Sheriff Enrique "Kiki" Vigil had alleged that commissioners violated the Open Meetings Act in April 2015 when discussing matters related to collective bargaining negotiations.

Assistant Attorney General Joseph M. Dworak wrote in a letter dated Tuesday that there is no evidence such a violation occurred.

Vigil did not immediately return requests for comments.

Previously the sheriff had accused county commissioners of trying to curtail his right to free speech when he criticized the commission over staffing and pay levels. Those claims were also ruled unfounded.

Moody’s Eyes Downgrade For University Credit ScoresAlbuquerque Journal

A lead ratings agency that announced it was reviewing the state’s credit rating in the face of a huge budget gap is turning its attention to the state’s research universities as well.

The Albuquerque Journal reports Moody’s Investor Service said it may downgrade the credit scores of New Mexico State University, the New Mexico Institute of Technology and Mining, and the University of New Mexico. It’s also looking at New Mexico Military Institute.

Moody’s officials said the credit fundamentals of the institutions are tied to the state’s financial health and credit. New Mexico is facing an estimated shortfall of $458 million in the current fiscal year. That comes on top of a $131 million deficit from last fiscal year.

Universities have already enacted cuts and hiring freezes in anticipation of state-mandated cuts that could come out of a planned special legislative session.