Bandelier Officials: Possible Falling Trees, Las Cruces Businesses See Minimum Wage Hike

Nov 4, 2017

Bandelier Officials: Years Of Fires Can Cause Falling Trees Associated Press

Multiple fires have weakened many trees at Bandelier National Monument in northern New Mexico, prompting officials to warn hikers about the dangers of suddenly falling trees.

The Las Conchas Fire in 2011 and several others since 1977 have resulted in dangers from falling trees, even healthy ones.

Bandelier Superintendent Jason Lott says hikers should choose days that are not windy and be aware of their surroundings.

The monument says a hiker who stopped at Frijoles Creek in October barely averted being struck by a falling tree. The woman heard a cracking sound as she sat down to eat and got up just in time for the tree to miss her.

Las Cruces Businesses Surprised By Minimum Wage Hike Associated Press

Business owners in Las Cruces are bracing for another possible increase in the minimum wage at the start of 2018.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports that the wage hike is taking some owners and city councilors by surprise due to a flaw in the original ordinance that was adopted in 2014.

The ordinance calls for three stepped increases. Two have already been implemented and the last is scheduled for January 2019. Language in the measure also allows for a cost-of-living increase based on the Consumer Price Index starting in 2018.

Business owners say the cost-of-living increase was never intended to be applied until after the final step increase in 2019.

Mayor Pro-tem Greg Smith expects the cost-of-living review to be discussed by the council before being implemented.

Nurse Licensure Deadline Draws Near In New Mexico Associated Press

Leading New Mexico lawmakers say they want to extend an agreement that allows nurses licensed in New Mexico to work in participating states and vice versa.

Senate and House leaders from both political parties pledged on Friday to swiftly adopt a new nurse licensure compact when the Legislature convenes in January.

In a news release, Democratic Speaker of the House Brian Egolf said the existing compact allowing New Mexico nurses to work in other compact states will remain in effect until Jan. 19. That leaves lawmakers and Republican Gov. Susana Martinez with three days in which to approve legislation to extend New Mexico's participation.

Martinez spokesman Joe Cueto says the administration has been in discussions with several legislators to bring about a quick resolution.

At least 26 states participate in the new compact that provides nurses with a multistate license.

New Mexico Regulators Report Drop In Methane Emissions Associated Press

State regulators say methane emissions from oil and natural gas production in New Mexico have dropped by more than 50 percent over the past year thanks to advances in technology and changes in the way wells are drilled.

Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Secretary Ken McQueen told a panel of state lawmakers Friday that most companies that are actively drilling are reporting the volumes of methane intentionally released through venting and flaring as part of their operations.

McQueen says out of the 60,000 active wells that are documented each month, his agency found 56 instances in which operators failed to report the required data.

Environmentalists say the state isn't accounting for methane pollution resulting from leaks and that allowing the gas to escape is costing New Mexico millions of dollars in lost tax revenues and royalties.

Eddy County Collecting Back Taxes From Oil And Gas Industry Associated Press

Officials in one southeastern New Mexico county have collected more than $300,000 in back taxes from oil and natural gas companies for equipment and other assets.

The Carlsbad Current-Argus reports that companies have allegedly failed to render their gas gathering pipelines for taxation and possibly more than 100 drilling rigs managed by various companies were omitted from Eddy County's tax rolls.

An audit thus far shows that some of the companies operating in the county have failed to pay taxes for the last decade.

County Assessor Gemma Ferguson said a total of about $365,000 was billed to companies so far and more bills are forthcoming.

The process will continue as a company contracted by the county is undertaking a mapping and discovery project that includes evaluating pipelines, wells and compressors.

New Mexico Man Sentenced In Rape, Death Of Baby Case Associated Press

A New Mexico man was sentenced to 30 years in prison and must register as a sex offender after he was convicted in the rape and death of his girlfriend's 4-month-old daughter.

Elijah Fernandez was sentenced on Thursday in Albuquerque after pleading guilty in September to rape and reckless child abuse resulting in death.

Police say Izabellah Montano died at the hospital in February 2014 from severe brain damage and injuries consistent with rape.

Fernandez, who was 19 at the time, was watching the baby for the mother. Police say he had been with the mother for about seven months and periodically cared for the child.

The newspaper could not reach Fernandez's attorney for comment on Thursday.

New Mexico State To Close Its Running Track To The Public Associated Press

New Mexico State University says it will close its running track to the public because of costs from wear and tear on the intercollegiate athletics facility.

The university says the closure will take effect Jan. 1 and that it is encouraging the public to use the running trail at the university's Sisbarro Park.

Athletics Director Mario Moccia says the university wants to upgrade the running track's surface and complex in the near future so NMSU can host a host a Division I track meet at home for the first time since 2006.

Regents Name University Of New Mexico President Associated Press

Regents at the University of New Mexico have selected Garnett Stokes to serve as the first woman president in the school's 128-year history.

The decision came Thursday morning during a special meeting in Albuquerque.

Provost of the University of Missouri's Columbia campus, Stokes replaces Bob Frank, who left the office last year.

Stokes was among five finalists who were chosen as part of a national search. Before being hired by Missouri in 2015, she served as provost at Florida State University for four years. She was also that university's interim president in 2014.

Stokes will start her new post at New Mexico's flagship university in March.