NM Has More Money Than Anticipated, Group Calls For Release Of Wolves

Jul 17, 2017

New Mexico Rebuilds Financial Reserves After Budget Crisis – The Associated Press

A top finance official say New Mexico state government has a bigger financial cushion than anticipated.

Finance and Administration Deputy Secretary Stephanie Schardin Clarke told a panel of lawmakers Monday that the state entered the fiscal year on July 1 with reserves equal to 5.3 percent of annual spending obligations, and expects to maintain a 3 percent cushion at the end the current fiscal year in June 2018.

Estimates based on earlier revenue forecasts had the state nearly running out of cash by mid-2018, threatening the New Mexico's credit rating and its access to low borrowing costs on infrastructure projects.

To shore up shaky state finances, the Democratic-led Legislature and Republican Gov. Susana Martinez agreed in May to tap into borrowed money from suspended infrastructure projects.

Group Calls For Release Of Mexican Gray Wolves In New MexicoAssociated Press

Environmentalists are asking that federal wildlife managers release more captive Mexican gray wolves into the wild in New Mexico to help with recovery of the endangered species.

The Center for Biological Diversity outlined its request in a letter to regional officials with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The group pointed to two family packs that biologists earlier this year identified for release and an additional three packs to bolster genetic diversity among wolves currently in the wild in New Mexico and neighboring Arizona.

The group also is seeking the release of a female wolf from Mexico that was captured this spring in Arizona.

Officials with the wolf recovery team couldn't comment on the request since releases are at the heart of a pending legal dispute between the state of New Mexico and the federal government.

Judge Puts An End To New Mexico's 1966 Water-Rights LawsuitThe Associated Press

After more than 50 years of litigation, a federal judge has brought an end to a water-rights lawsuit involving four Native American communities and various residents in northern New Mexico.

The lawsuit, known as the Aamodt Case, began in 1966. U.S. District Judge William P. Johnson's decree on Friday puts an end to it, unless someone appeals — again.

Johnson affirmed a 2010 settlement calling for a regional water system in the Pojoaque Basin. The settlement also puts rules in place for well owners to either tie into the system or continue using their wells.

The federal government has set a 2024 deadline for substantial completion of the $260 million regional water system, which will divert from the Rio Grande. It will be paid for with federal funds and about $72 million in state funds.

New Mexico Revises Guidelines To Recruit More NursesThe Associated Press

New Mexico is revising guidelines related to the hiring of nurses in hopes of bolstering recruiting in rural and underserved areas of the state.

The Health Department made the announcement Monday, saying state agencies will be able to hire recent graduates who are unlicensed but have obtained short-term permits to practice under the supervision of a licensed nurse or nurse practitioner.

Gov. Susana Martinez says the changes will help alleviate a critical shortage around the state.

All but one of New Mexico's 33 counties are designated by the federal government as health professional shortage areas.

The state also has created a new classification of job positions that will allow for the hiring of medical assistants to complete administrative and clinical tasks in public health clinics and other state facilities.

Eastern New Mexico Residents Eye Recall Of SheriffEastern New Mexico News, Associated Press

A group of residents in eastern New Mexico want to launch efforts aimed at recalling Roosevelt County Sheriff Malin Parker.

The Eastern New Mexico News reports the group is asking a state district judge to allow them to circulate a recall petition.

Records show the petition claims "Malin Parker has a policy, custom and routine of retaliating against any individual(s) ... who oppose him and his policies."

Portales attorney Eric Dixon represents criminal defendants Cody Banister and Armando Pena who claim they've been victimized by Parker's actions.

But Parker's attorney, Roosevelt County Attorney Randy Knudson, said claims against Parker are frivolous.

Knudson says the petition demonstrates no misconduct on the part of Parker, and holding an election would cost taxpayers $50,000.

A hearing is scheduled July 25.

Santa Fe Community College Adding Several New CertificatesAssociated Press

Santa Fe Community College is adding several new certificates next fall.

The school recently announced it would offer certificates and an associate in applied science. Under the program, students will have access to the planned 12,000 square foot 4-Bay Gutter Connected greenhouse.

In addition, the school is offering a certificate in building science and construction technologies.

SFCC's new Infant and Family Studies Certificate also will prepare students to work in the Early Childhood fields of home visiting, early intervention, and infant/toddler education.

Other new offerings include certificates in web development, business administration, manufacturing engineering technologies and medical bill coding.

Hit For-Profit Santa Fe Art Venue Seeks Out Tiny InvestorsAssociated Press

The startup company behind a popular immersive art exhibition space in Santa Fe is seeking out small-scale equity investors online as it lays the groundwork to take its themed entertainment to a major metropolitan market.

More than 500,000 visitors have crawled and walked through Meow Wolf's kaleidoscopic exhibit space since it opened in a converted Santa Fe bowling alley in early 2016. The art installation starts with a riddle on the doorsteps of a fanciful Victorian house and extends through a maze of glowing passageways and rooms.

The privately held company behind the art complex hopes to raise roughly $1 million in increments of as little as $1,000 through the crowdfunding website WeFunder starting on Saturday, with no guarantee of a financial return from private shares.

New Mexico Family Continues To Seek Purple Heart For FatherLas Cruces Sun-News, Associated Press

A New Mexico family is renewing an effort to seek a Purple Heart for a family member who was injured during a firefight on a battlefield in Morocco and spent 14 months as a prisoner.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports George Gay left his farm in Hatch to enlist in the Army during World War II. After three years, Gay made it back home with many injuries, but was never awarded a Purple Heart while he was alive.

Gay's son, Hebert, say they have tried three times to seek the recognition, but have been told that there is no record of Gay receiving injuries as of result of hostile action. A friend has asked her military connections to help the family as they try resubmitting the case to the Army board one last time.

Eastern New Mexico Airport To Get Federal FundsAssociated Press

The Portales Municipal Airport has been awarded a federal grant of nearly $432,000 that will allow for the construction of two 12,000-gallon fuel tanks.

With the new tanks, officials say the eastern New Mexico airport will be able to sell fuel as it looks to become financially self-sustainable.

Members of New Mexico's congressional delegation announced the grant Friday. They say airports help drive the economy in rural communities by keeping them connected via air service to the rest of the state.

The funding comes from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Aviation Administration. Under the agency's airport improvement program, dozens of airports across the nation are sharing in the latest round of grants.

Airports in Grants, Hobbs, Jal, Lordsburg, Los Alamos, Lovington and Roswell received funds earlier this year.

New Mexico To Get Federal Funds For Drug Court ProgramsAssociated Press

New Mexico could receive up to $1.7 million in federal funding over the next several years to help support drug court treatment programs.

The funding comes from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Such programs combine the sanctioning power of courts with treatment services to reduce further criminal justice involvement. Officials say they also promote recovery for people with substance use disorders or those dealing with mental disorders and substance abuse issues.

Supporters say that by reducing the health and social costs of substance abuse, treatment drug courts can benefit public safety.

New Mexico Jail Director Charged With Marijuana PossessionLas Cruces Sun-News, Associated Press

A New Mexico jail director is accused of purchasing marijuana from undercover sources on four separate occasions this year.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports 54-year-old Doña Ana County Detention Center Director Christopher Barela was placed on leave Friday after being charged with four counts of possession of marijuana.

The misdemeanor drug charges come more than a year and a half after Barela was arrested by sheriff's detectives on fraud and embezzlement charges in a case that was eventually dismissed for lack of evidence.

A summons ordering Barela to appear in Doña Ana County Magistrate Court will likely be issued at a later date.

New Mexico Forest Warns Against Drones During Aerial SurveysAssociated Press

The U.S. Forest Service is asking people not to fly drones over the Gila National Forest next week because the agency will be conducting aerial surveys for insect and disease outbreaks using low-flying planes and helicopters.

The annual survey work on the southwestern New Mexico forest will begin Monday.

Forest Service aircraft fly at or below 400 feet while on natural resource management missions. Officials say the combination of low-flying aircraft and drones can be deadly.

Gila Forest Supervisor Adam Mendonca is asking the public to work with the agency to help prevent any tragedies.

The data collected from the aerial surveys will be posted online. The most recent available data shows pockets of tree mortality around the Gila as well as pest damage across large swaths of the West.

Appeals Court Upholds Dismissal Of Former Deputy's LawsuitAssociated Press

An appellate court has upheld a judge's dismissal of a lawsuit filed by a former Roosevelt County sheriff's deputy who claimed he was wrongfully terminated.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling Wednesday upholds a magistrate judge who dismissed Robert Ellison's suit alleging his firing violated his constitutional rights to free speech, due process and equal protection.

Ellison contends he was fired after he was falsely accused of mishandling a traffic stop and related arrest and after he reported alleged wrongdoing by another deputy.

The 10th Circuit says Ellison's report of the other deputy's alleged wrongdoing was part of his official duties and not free speech protected from discipline.

The ruling also said a supervisor's criticism of Ellison's handling of the traffic stop and arrest didn't violate Ellison's rights.

Bernalillo County Buys More Trackers For Released DefendantsKOAT-TV, Associated Press

Bernalillo County officials have ordered more GPS monitors for released defendants in response to new pretrial and detention rules handed down by the New Mexico Supreme Court.

KOAT-TV reported Thursday that the new rules went into effect on July 1. The rules are expected to increase the usage of GPS monitors on released defendants instead of holding them in jail or offering bond. This means suspects who commit minor offenses can be released automatically without having to pay a bond, in some cases.

Commissioner Wayne Johnson says the county ordered 35 more trackers for defendants that will arrive this week.

Trackers used by regular defendants cost the county about $4 per day, whereas trackers used by defendants involved with alcohol-related crimes cost the county about $6 a day.

Feds Investigate Role Of Products In Teen's Bathtub DeathHobbs News-Sun, Associated Press

Federal safety regulators are investigating the death of a Texas teenager who is suspected to have died from electrocution in New Mexico after her plugged-in cellphone made its way into the bathtub she was in.

Hobbs News-Sun reports the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission is investigating to find out if any products played a role on Sunday in 14-year-old Madison Coe's death.

Authorities say Madison, a Lubbock resident, was visiting at her father's house in Lovington when she died. Family members say Coe was found in a tub holding her cellphone that was plugged into an extension cord beside the bathtub.

Emergency personnel attempted life-saving measures at the scene, in the ambulance and at the hospital before she was pronounced dead.