Sandia National Labs Contract Awarded, APS Extends Superintendent's Contract

Dec 16, 2016

Sandia National Labs Contract Awarded, Leadership Changes to ComeThe Associated Press, The ABQ Journal

Federal officials have awarded a $2.6 billion contract to manage Sandia National Laboratories to a subsidiary of Honeywell International.

The U.S. Energy Department's National Nuclear Security Administration said Friday the winning bidder was the newly formed National Technology and Engineering Solutions of Sandia. The Albuquerque Journal reports that both The University of New Mexico and New Mexico State University are included in the winning bid.

Bidding began earlier this year, marking the first time in years that there was any competition for the lucrative contract. Lockheed Martin has operated the Albuquerque-based weapons and research lab for the past two decades.

Sandia Director Jill Hruby says there will be changes to the leadership team at the Albuquerque-based lab once a new contractor takes over next May.

In an email to employees Friday, Hruby said that under Lockheed, Sandia has taken on some of the nation's toughest security challenges. She encouraged workers to continue with the remarkable jobs they've done and stay focused on their health and safety and that of their colleagues.

The current contract expires April 30. There will be a four-month transition period that officials say will provide stability for employees and operations.

Federal officials say the bid generated unprecedented interest from the across the country. Other bidders were Lockheed Martin and Boeing as well as a team that including the University of New Mexico, the University of Texas, Texas A&M University.

Albuquerque School Board OKs Extension for SuperintendentThe Associated Press

The Albuquerque public school system’s superintendent is getting a contract extension.

The district’s Board of Education voted 5-to-2 Friday to extend Superintendent Raquel Reedy's contract by a year to June 2019.

APS Board President David Peercy says Reedy provides stability and can be counted on to provide plans for student success in the face of declining funding from the state.

Reedy took over as acting superintendent in August 2015 and was named superintendent in April. Her contract includes an annual salary of $240,000.

Lawyer Asks Supreme Court to Force Senate Action on GarlandThe Associated Press

A lawyer from New Mexico is mounting a longshot challenge to the Supreme Court, asking it to order the Senate to consider the high court nomination of Judge Merrick Garland.

Lawyer Steven Michel of Santa Fe submitted an emergency application for injunction Thursday. He says Senate Republicans' obstruction of President Barack Obama's nomination of Garland violates his rights as a voter under the provision of the Constitution that provides for popular election of senators.

Lower courts have easily dismissed Michel's case, which began in the summer, well before the election of Donald Trump seemingly doomed Garland's nomination.

The Supreme Court has been operating with eight justices since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February. Obama nominated Garland in March.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Obama's successor should fill the seat.

Cibola Ex-Commissioner Pleads No-Contest in Corruption Case The Associated Press

A former Cibola County commissioner has pleaded no contest to charges in a corruption case.

The New Mexico State Police said former Commissioner Antonio Gallegos entered the plea Monday in Cibola County District Court in Grants in a case stemming from a real estate purchase by the county.

The State Police said the plea caps an investigation that began in late 2014.

According to State Police, Gallegos is accused of personally enriching himself by acting as broker-seller in the sale of commercial property in Grants to the county.

Gallegos pleaded "no contest" to charges that included attempt to commit an official act for personal financial interest and use of confidential information.

Lawmakers Eye Permanent Fund For Education BoostAssociated Press

Democratic New Mexico lawmakers are proposing a constitutional amendment to provide new funding for early childhood education programs from the state's permanent fund.

Reps. Antonio Maestas and Javier Martinez want the state to increase annual distributions from the state's $15 billion Land Grant Permanent Fund from 5 percent to 6 percent of its value.

The proposal likely would provide well over $100 million each to year early childhood education programs. It would need approval by the majority of elected lawmakers and also by statewide referendum.

Maestas argues the permanent fund can withstand the increase.

New Mexico Taxation Secretary Resigns Amid InvestigationAssociated Press

New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Secretary Demesia Padilla has resigned after state prosecutors raided agency offices and seized her personal tax filings amid allegations she gave preferential treatment to a former business client.

Gov. Susana Martinez on Thursday accepted the immediate resignation by Padilla.

Martinez said in a statement that she takes any allegations of misconduct seriously and ordered the tax department to cooperate with the investigation by the New Mexico Attorney General's Office.

State investigators raided tax agency offices on Wednesday to seize personal and business income tax records for Padilla and her husband.

A search warrant affidavit says interviews with several employees at the tax department suggest that Padilla may have attempted to circumvent an agency audit of a former business client.

Feds: No 'Show-Stoppers' Found In Nuke Readiness Review Associated Press

U.S. Energy Department officials say no "show-stoppers" were found during an intensive review of whether the federal government's nuclear waste repository in southern New Mexico is ready to reopen following a radiation leak.

Officials outlined the findings during a town hall Thursday night, saying the goal is still for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant to resume limited operations before the end of the month.

Some in audience expressed skepticism.

It's been nearly three years since a chemical reaction inside an inappropriately packed container resulted in a radiation release and forced the facility's closure.

While the readiness report hasn't been released publicly, officials highlighted deficiencies that range from simple paperwork issues to the need for improved controls and oversight in some areas.

Corrective actions plans have been developed, and officials say they've addressed six of 21 findings so far.

Feds Want Albuquerque To Return Housing FundsAlbuquerque Journal

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development wants Albuquerque to return about $1.4 million in housing program funds.

The Albuquerque Journal reports HUD is also designating the city as a “high-risk grantee.” That could hurt the city’s access to Community Development Block Grants.

HUD has questions around oversight of federal funds for low-income housing. Those include how people find and evaluate people who need housing help.

Several projects could be impacted, including the redevelopment of the El Vado Motel near Old Town.

The city has repaid about $330,000 and Mayor Richard Berry’s administration has created a team to respond to HUD’s findings.

Federal Law Embraces New Mexico Model For Rural Health CareAssociated Press

A system developed in New Mexico for improving health care in hard-to-reach, rural areas through video conferencing could be replicated on a national scale under newly approved federal legislation.

New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall on Thursday applauded the signing of a law requiring that the U.S. Health and Human Services Department consider integrating and expanding a health care model developed by Project ECHO at the University of New Mexico.

Originally designed the combat hepatitis C, the program connects rural clinics and physicians with experts and specialists at major medical institutions to ensure patients receive advanced treatments that might otherwise be out of reach for an array of maladies.

The New Mexico project was founded by Sanjeev Arora has been expanded to communities internationally.

Police Make Arrest In Anti-Police Graffiti CaseAssociated Press

Authorities have arrested a man suspected of painting anti-police graffiti on the funeral home that handled the services for a Valencia County sheriff's deputy killed last week in a crash.

Police say Daniel Kota turned himself in Thursday morning after an arrest warrant was issued. Security video led investigators to Kota.

He's facing nearly a dozen counts of unauthorized graffiti.

Authorities say the Noblin Funeral Service home and other businesses were hit last weekend. The message painted at the funeral home began with an acronym for a profane insult toward police officers and finished with the words, "Crash harder next time."

Deputy Ryan Thomas was responding to a call when the single-vehicle crash occurred in the Belen area. The 30-year-old officer was ejected after losing control of his vehicle.

University Researchers Help Hopi Tribe With Drought PlanningAssociated Press

University of Arizona researchers are combining local observations with regional climate data to help the Hopi Tribe monitor and plan for drought on the tribe's 2,500-square-mile reservation in northeastern Arizona.

According to the university, information on drought conditions can help tribal leaders and resource managers better decide when to stake such steps as closing rangelands, and hauling water.

Project leader Dan Ferguson of the Climate Assessment for the Southwest program housed in the university's Institute of the Environment says local observations are more relevant on the Hopi Reservation because traditional drought indicators such as total precipitation, temperature and streamflow are lacking.

Ferguson says the Southwest's decades-long drought has shriveled crops, dried up springs and forced ranchers to reduce their cattle herds.

Judge Rejects Claim That Stalled Diocese Bankruptcy CaseGallup Independent, Associated Press

A New Mexico diocese is a step closer to resolving its bankruptcy case after a federal judge rejected a claim that had stalled the proceedings.

The Gallup Independent reports that the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament filed a claim against the Diocese of Gallup as it was concluding its Chapter 11 reorganization case.

Attorneys for the diocese say the claim wasn't filed in a timely matter. The Sisters' attorney says the organization did not know of the diocese's bankruptcy case until December 2015, more than two years after its Chapter 11 petition was filed, but the attorneys for the diocese say the Sisters were sent legal notices at the time the claim was filed.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge David T. Thuma concluded a Monday hearing by disallowing the claim by the Sisters.