Friday News Roundup: Legislative Report Touts Prekindergarten Benefits

Apr 18, 2014

Legislative Report Touts Prekindergarten Benefits The Associated Press

A legislative committee report concludes that prekindergarten delivers a greater return on investment for New Mexico than taxpayer subsidized child care.

The Legislative Finance Committee staff report says prekindergarten's benefits outweigh the costs, although that's not the case for child care provided through registered homes and some state licensed programs.

Prekindergarten provides services through public schools and other locations. It costs about $3,000 for each student. But report says research shows prekindergarten's benefits include improving student achievement through the third grade.

New Mexico will spend about $231 million on early childhood programs in the next budget year — a nearly 13 percent increase. About $98 million is for childcare assistance for about 20,000 children, and $37 million is for prekindergarten to serve more than 10,000 children.

Albuquerque Settles Lawsuits Over Feeding Homeless The Associated Press and KRQE

Albuquerque is paying $98,000 to settle lawsuits by people arrested or given citations for giving food to the homeless in the downtown.

KRQE-TV reports that all of the criminal trespassing cases were thrown out.

City Attorney David Tourek says the officers were acting in good faith to ensure that the food code was being enforced.

US Marshal Involved In Albuquerque Shooting  The Associated Press and KOAT

Law enforcement officers have cordoned off an area near the Rio Grande in Albuquerque following a shooting involving the U.S. Marshals Service.

Albuquerque police confirmed Friday evening that federal marshals requested the help of city officers along Central Avenue near the river.

Authorities say federal marshals were serving a warrant when the suspect pulled out a gun. A federal marshal then fired a shot.

KOAT reports the suspect fled the scene and it's not clear if anyone was struck by the gunfire.

Earlier this month, federal marshals shot and injured a wanted felon after a task force moved in to arrest the man. The man was a parole absconder wanted for aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, child abuse and possession of a firearm.


Crews Find Suspected Area Of Radiation Leak The Associated Press

More than two months after radiation leaked from the federal government's half-mile deep nuclear waste dump in southeastern New Mexico, crews think they have identified the area where the release occurred.

The Department of Energy's deputy recovery manager, Tammy Reynolds, told a community meeting in Carlsbad Thursday night that more trips need to made into the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant to further investigate the accident. Officials say they hope to have a lot more information next week.

Reynolds says on their fourth trip into the mine on Wednesday crews made it into the area where active waste storage was last being conducted and found contamination. As they went farther into the rooms, the contamination became more widespread.

But Reynolds says the crews had to retreat before identifying the possible source because they had been underground for five hours in protective gear and needed to make their way back above ground.

Community Input Sought On Albuquerque Police Department The Associated Press

The U.S. Justice Department is seeking community input on possible reforms for the Albuquerque Police Department over its use of force.

The federal agency recently issued a scathing report on what it called excessive force and a culture of abuse and aggression at the Albuquerque Police Department.

Albuquerque officers have shot at 37 men since 2010, killing 23.

The report also criticized the city's oversight system and limited powers in investigating cases of questionable police conduct.

The Justice Department now is organizing meetings for the week of April 28.

Federal officials will meet with Albuquerque community stakeholders, police officers, and police and city officials to gather insights and recommendations on how the police department should be reformed.

Homeland Security Nabs 34 In New Mexico Gang Sting The Associated Press

Homeland Security Investigations have arrested nearly three dozen "violent" Sureño gang members and associates during a New Mexico gang sweep.

The federal agency announced Thursday the 34 people were taken into custody as part of a national sting called "Project Southbound" aimed at arresting Sureño members linked to criminal activities.

Kevin Abar, assistant special agent in charge in New Mexico, says the gang members were arrested during a month-long sting that began in March with the help of Albuquerque and Santa Fe police.

He said the Valencia Country and Bernalillo County Sheriff's Office also helped with the sting.

The agency says the Sureños are one of many street gangs operating in rural area of New Mexico. The agency says they are linked to drug cartels.

NTSB: Copter Pilot Reported Problem With Controls – The Associated Press

The pilot of a medical helicopter that crashed in Albuquerque last week reported that the control pedals jammed or locked while taking off from the helipad on the University of New Mexico Hospital's roof.

The pilot's statement is contained in a National Transportation Safety Board preliminary report on the April 9 crash.

It says the pilot began making a left turn but the helicopter kept turning and spun several crimes before crashing.

The pilot and the two paramedics aboard the helicopter suffered only minor injuries but the helicopter was heavily damaged. The helipad's fire suppression system put out a small fire.

The Airbus helicopter owned by PHI Air Medical was leaving the hospital after dropping off a patient.

It may be several months before the NTSB issues a final report.

New Mexico Agency Upgrading Area On San Juan River – The Associated Press

The Game and Fish Department is closing a fishing and hunting area along the San Juan River in northwestern New Mexico while stream and access improvements are made.

The agency said the 80-acre Hammond Tract Wildlife Management Area will close until June 20. The area is about 14 miles downstream from Navajo Dam near the community of Blanco.

Workers will start next Monday to improve stream habitat, plant native vegetation, replace a boat ramp and upgrade a parking lot. The agency already has cleared invasive trees that grew thickly along the river, and it plans to create new wetlands for waterfowl.

The agency said boaters should exit the river before the Hammond Tract boat ramp because it's the last takeout above a diversion dam.

Feds To Release Water From Santa Rosa Dam The Associated Press

The Pecos River south of Santa Rosa will be flowing a little faster next week.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says it will begin a routine release of water from Santa Rosa Lake and Dam starting Wednesday morning.

The release follows a request by the Bureau of Reclamation and the Carlsbad Irrigation District for 30,000 acre-feet of water. The extra flows are expected to last through May 4.

Federal officials say the release of water is expected to drop the lake's level by about 10 feet. However, they say there will be no effects on recreation activities at the lake.

Santa Rosa is one of three reservoirs on the Pecos River that will be making releases for irrigation operations and to meet water delivery obligations to Texas.