KUNM

New Mexico Prosecutor Calls For School Board Member Resignation, Prescribed Fires Planned In NM

Sep 25, 2017

New Mexico Prosecutor Calls On School Board Member To ResignThe Associated Press

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas is seeking the resignation of a member of the Albuquerque Public Schools education board concerning her prior role as executive director at a charter school that is under scrutiny for the alleged embezzlement of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Balderas on Monday wrote to Analee Maestas to say she no longer qualifies for her position on the education board in light of concerns regarding the misuse of public funds at La Promesa Early Learning Center.

Maestas has said she was unaware of any wrongdoing at La Promesa. The state auditor's office has reported allegations that La Promesa's former assistant business manager — Maestas' daughter — had deposited over 500 checks worth more than $475,000 into her personal bank account over several years.

Handful Of Prescribed Fires Planned For New Mexico DistrictThe Associated Press

Fire officials with a ranger district on the Lincoln National Forest in southern New Mexico are planning a handful of prescribed fires over the next several months to clear out dead trees and reduce fuel loads.

Officials on the Sacramento Ranger District say the work is scheduled to begin in October and run through next April as long as weather conditions permit.

The prescribed fires will target a total of about 3,200 acres around the communities of Mayhill, Weed and Cloudcroft. The largest of the projects will involve the burning of more than 2,100 acres about 5 miles southwest of Weed.

Officials say reducing forest fuels can help minimize future wildfire risks.

They also warned that smoke may be visible during the prescribed fires.

New Mexico Dispute Over Bail Reform Escalates In CourtThe Associated Press

The New Mexico Supreme Court is pushing back against a lawsuit that seeks to block new rules governing pre-trial release of defendants.

On behalf of the court, New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas has described the lawsuit from the Bail Bond Association of New Mexico and several state lawmakers as frivolous and asked a federal court to sanction the plaintiffs' attorneys.

Bail Bond Association President Gerald Madrid on Monday accused state prosecutors of using strong-arm tactics in court.

Proponents of the new rules say they help ensure defendants are not kept in jail only because they cannot afford bail provisions.

Voters approved a state constitutional amendment last year that lets judges deny bail to dangerous defendants and overhaul the pre-trial release system for others.

Extent Of Los Alamos Chromium Contamination Still Uncertain – Santa Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

A top official with the U.S. Energy Department says the agency is still uncertain about the extent of contamination from a massive plume of chromium that resulted from decades of poor waste management at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Doug Hintze with the Energy Department's environmental management field office in Los Alamos told state lawmakers during a recent hearing that cancer-causing chromium and other chemicals have continued to seep from the soil in Mortandad Canyon into the groundwater.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that chromium was detected at concentrations five times the state limit in July in a newly drilled well outside the perimeter of the plume.

Lawmakers say they plan to appeal to New Mexico's congressional delegates and request more federal funds to expedite cleanup.

Oversight Panel: Nuclear Lab Workers Violated Safety RulesSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

Workers at Los Alamos National Laboratory producing a shell for a triggering device for nuclear weapons violated safety rules in August by storing too much material at one location in a facility for plutonium.

A memo from the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board called the Aug. 18 incident at LANL a "criticality safety event" and said workers there discovered the placement error three days later when they moved the grapefruit-sized shell again.

The memo says workers at that point failed to follow proper reporting procedures. It doesn’t specify whether the shell itself contained plutonium.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports a second incident in August resulted in nearly a dozen workers being exposed to alpha particles, with some contamination on protective clothing and one worker’s hand.

Efforts to obtain comment from the federal agency that oversees Los Alamos weren't immediately successful. The lab said in a statement "there was no criticality accident" and that the lab "takes criticality safety very seriously and is conducting a full fact finding." In physics, the term criticality refers to the point at which a nuclear reaction is self-sustaining.

New Mexico Pursuit, Shootout Ends With Suspect In CustodyRoswell Daily Record, Associated Press

New Mexico authorities say a man is in custody after a pursuit and shootout.

The Roswell Daily Record reports that no officers were injured, but the suspect is believed to have been hit by gunfire at least three times.

Authorities say the suspect, 30-year-old Jose Manual Diaz Montelongo, is expected to recover.

The incident began Sunday when authorities were called to investigate a possible drunken driver passed out behind the wheel. Once police got there, the suspect drove off.

There was a brief standoff before the suspect fled, driving through fences. Authorities believe he fired shots at officers as he left.

He stopped again, gunfire was exchanged and his last attempt to drive away was unsuccessful.

Authorities say Montelongo has a record and was wanted by federal authorities on a drug trafficking charge.

KRQE-TV reports New Mexico State Police, Roswell Police and the Sheriff's Office are investigating the shooting.

Santolina Developer Funded Attack Ad – The Albuquerque Journal

The Albuquerque Journal reports a controversial attack ad criticizing mayoral candidate State Auditor Tim Keller was funded partially by Western Albuquerque Land Holdings which owns Santolina.

The ad, which has been discredited, accuses Keller of protecting sex offenders over children. Gov. Susana Martinez signed a measure into law in 2013 that included the provisions Keller voted for.  

Santolina is a huge mixed-use development that must have an agreement with the Albuquerque Bernalillo County water utility. The mayor has a seat on the water utility board.

Filmmaker, Family Begin New Look At New Mexico Cold CaseKRQE-TV, Associated Press

Nearly three decades since a 19-year-old woman disappeared from her small New Mexico town, the family with the help of a former friend and filmmaker are still searching for answers.

KRQE-TV reported last week that filmmaker Melinda Esquibel began a new investigation into the disappearance of Tara Calico whose case has remained unsolved since she went missing from Belen in September 1988.

Esquibel with help from Calico's family began a documentary film project examining the vanishing of her high school friend, but that examination became an investigation after finding the case files in disorder. She also began releasing what they have learned in a podcast.

Esquibel says progress has been made on the case, and they're sharing the information they gather with law enforcement agencies.

Fort Sill Apache Gets Grant To Build Fuel StationLas Cruces Sun-News, Associated Press

The Fort Sill Apache Tribe has been awarded $800,000 from the federal government to help build a fuel station on its property in southern New Mexico.

Tribal Chairman Jeff Haozous tells the Las Cruces Sun-News that details still need to be worked out for the project at Akela Flats, but he believes it will be larger than a similar project the tribe recently started in Oklahoma.

That $2.5 million project includes construction of a 4,000-square-foot convenience store and a gas station.

Work on the New Mexico project is expected to begin next year.

The Fort Sill Apache Tribe is based in Oklahoma. But the federal government in 2011 designated a 30-acre parcel between Las Cruces and Deming as the tribe's reservation. The tribe first acquired the land in 1998.

New Mexico School Board Opts For Bilingual PledgeLas Cruces Sun-News, Associated Press

The Pledge of Allegiance will soon be recited in both English and Spanish at school board meetings in Las Cruces.

Board Chairwoman Maria Flores made the request that the pledge be recited in Spanish starting at the next public meeting.

Las Cruces Superintendent Greg Ewing told the Las Cruces Sun-News that students are entitled under law to choose to have part of their education in Spanish and that reciting the pledge in Spanish during board meetings will be a wonderful experience for students.

He says inclusivity is the goal.

Districts in Albuquerque and Santa Fe have been reciting the pledge in both languages for years.

Archaeologists: More Protections Needed For Chaco Region - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

Archaeologists and other researchers are calling for more protections of an expansive area surrounding Chaco Culture National Historical Park.

In a report released Friday, they say increased oil and gas development in northwestern New Mexico has the potential to destroy parts of the landscape that could provide a better understanding of the ancient civilization that once inhabited the area.

The report comes as federal officials revamp a management plan that will guide development as more companies look to tap the region's shale deposits.

A world heritage site, Chaco and its outlying archaeological remnants have become the focus of the fight over expanded drilling.

Outside park boundaries, scientists say new technology has uncovered indiscernible sections of ancient roads. They also pointed to less tangible features that could be at risk, such as views of distant buttes or mountain peaks.

$9.1M Project To Deliver More Water To Navajo CommunitiesAssociated Press

Work has started on a $9.1 million project to improve access to water in several Navajo communities.

Navajo President Russell Begaye signed legislation last year to fund dozens of water and sanitation projects across the reservation.

Officials gathered in Greasewood on Friday for a groundbreaking ceremony for one of the projects. It's being funded partly through a $554 million settlement the tribe reached with the federal government over management of natural resources revenue.

Rex Kontz of the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority says the project will double the water capacity for several communities, including Ganado, Greasewood, Dilkon and Teesto. A new well and a water filtering plant are planned.

The work is expected to take 18 months.

Other funding sources include federal grants and the tribal utility.

Handful Of Prescribed Fires Planned For New Mexico DistrictAssociated Press

Fire officials with a ranger district on the Lincoln National Forest in southern New Mexico are planning a handful of prescribed fires over the next several months to clear out dead trees and reduce fuel loads.

Officials on the Sacramento Ranger District say the work is scheduled to begin in October and run through next April as long as weather conditions permit.

The prescribed fires will target a total of about 3,200 acres (1,295 hectares) around the communities of Mayhill, Weed and Cloudcroft. The largest of the projects will involve the burning of more than 2,100 acres (850 hectares) about 5 miles southwest of Weed.

Officials say reducing forest fuels can help minimize future wildfire risks.

They also warned that smoke may be visible during the prescribed fires.

Eastern New Mexico To Drop Out-Of-State TuitionAssociated Press

Eastern New Mexico University says it's lowering tuition for out-of-state students next year.

The small university said Friday that its board of regents approved the drop in cost and that it will take effect in fall 2018.

Currently, out-of-state students pay 203 percent of what in-state students do. That'll be down to 150 percent.

The 2016-2017 tuition cost was roughly $6,000 for in-state students and a little over $15,000 for out-of-state students.

ENMU says it wants students to graduate with as little debt as possible and that it hopes to recruit more students from outside New Mexico.

New Mexico Regulators Consider Utility's Power PlanAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

New Mexico's largest electric provider wants to add another 50 megawatts of solar energy to its portfolio.

Public Service Co. of New Mexico also wants to boost output from its current wind and geothermal resources as part of a plan to comply with the state's renewable energy standards.

The state Public Regulation Commission wrapped up hearings on the proposal this week.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that one environmental group has taken issue with the plan, saying the utility stacked the deck to gain ownership over the new solar farms rather than considering purchase agreements with independent power producers.

Utility officials and other environmentalists dismissed those arguments, saying the plan was more cost effective.

If approved, the utility would pay Albuquerque-based Affordable Solar to build five small solar farms.

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