Leaders Hold Special Meeting After Girl's Death, NM To Grant Right-Of-Way For New Power Line

Aug 30, 2016

Leaders Hold Special Meeting After Girl's Death – The Associated Press

City and county officials have called a special meeting to address the brutal slaying of a 10-year-old Albuquerque girl in the hopes of identifying opportunities for the community to better protect children.

Officials say they will be seeking funding for more social workers, and exploring solutions for drug treatment, mental health services and child abuse prevention.

The meeting is being organized by Bernalillo County Commissioner Debbie O'Malley and Albuquerque City Councilor Klarissa Pena.

It comes nearly a week after police say they found the dismembered body of Victoria Martens in her mother's apartment while responding to a pre-dawn disturbance. Three people have been arrested in connection with Victoria's death.

The girl's mother, the mother's boyfriend and his cousin face charges of child abuse resulting in death, kidnapping and tampering with evidence.

Slain Girl's Relatives Express Sorrow, Grief – Associated Press

The grandparents and other relatives of a 10-year-old Albuquerque girl brutally murdered last week clutched each other, wept and shook their heads in disbelief while making their first public statements about Victoria Martens' death.

They gathered Monday at an Albuquerque park where she loved to play.

Family spokeswoman Laura Bobbs says the family plans to push for stronger laws to stop crimes against children.

They also thanked Albuquerque for an outpouring of support.

Police found Victoria's battered and dismembered body inside the apartment she shared with her mother Aug. 24 after responding to a pre-dawn disturbance call.

The girl's mother, boyfriend and boyfriend's cousin face charges of child abuse resulting in death, kidnapping and tampering with evidence.

New Mexico Official To Grant Right-Of-Way For New Power LineThe Associated Press

New Mexico State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn has decided to grant a right of way for a proposed new transmission line between southern New Mexico and southern Arizona.

Dunn's announcement Tuesday says the Southline Transmission Project will improve New Mexico's electric grid and support the transmission of electricity to key markets while generating revenue for the State Trust.

He also says Southline is striving to use existing corridors and minimize the overall footprint on trust lands.

Developers say the 360-mile-long line would improve reliability of the electrical grid and help bring more electricity generated with renewable resources to regional markets.

Dunn says the New Mexico right of way for the project should be finalized by the end of the year.

Southline Transmission L.L.C. is a subsidiary of Hunt Power, L.P.

New Mexico Judges Disband Chaves County Grand JuryThe Associated Press

Judges in New Mexico say they have disbanded a grand jury in Chaves County because of a lack of funding.

The Roswell Daily Record reports that judges of the Fifth Judicial District disbanded the county's second grand jury, saying there wasn't enough money to pay jurors.

The district judges last year denied a citizen petition asking for an 18-month grand jury in Chaves County, but they did convene a grand jury in the county for three months. The second grand jury was created in May.

Roswell Mayor Dennis Kintigh called the dismissal of the grand jury disappointing and disturbing. He says he offered to discuss how Roswell could contribute to funding the jury, but says the judges didn't respond.

Race For Facebook Data Center Raises Tax-Break Questions The Associated Press

The race between a small town on the Rio Grande in New Mexico and a Salt Lake City suburb to entice a new Facebook data center with millions of dollars in tax breaks and subsidies is raising questions about public investments in a booming cloud-computing economy that typically brings few local jobs.

In Utah, an initial $240 million tax-break plan fell apart after several leaders said the lure was too rich. Negotiations have since restarted for the project in West Jordan.

The New Mexico town of Los Lunas, meanwhile, agreed to give up all property taxes for 30 years in exchange for annual payments from Facebook that start at $50,000 and top out at less than $500,000.

Supporters say it's an opportunity to attract a big-name company, but others question whether the effect with be noticeable on the local economy.

Utility Wants New Mexico Regulators To Act On Rate RequestThe Associated Press

New Mexico's largest electric provider wants state regulators to act on a proposed rate increase rather than delay a decision with more hearings.

Public Service Co. of New Mexico filed a response Monday with the state Public Regulation Commission, saying extensive testimony and exhibits submitted over the course of the yearlong case provide enough information for commissioners to make a decision.

The commission last week indicated it would reopen hearings if PNM agreed to provide more information regarding transactions related to an Arizona nuclear power plant and pollution controls at its coal-fired plant in northwestern New Mexico.

A hearing officer recommended earlier this summer that regulators approve a rate increase far lower than the utility's proposal.

The commission is scheduled to take up the rate proposal during a meeting Wednesday.

New Mexico Economic Development Secretary Moves OnAssociated Press

New Mexico Economic Development Secretary Jon Barela is leaving his Cabinet post to take a job with a nonprofit group that promotes business expansion along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Gov. Susana Martinez announced the departure Monday in a news release and credited Barela with helping New Mexico diversify its economy and reduce reliance on federal government.

Barela has been named CEO of Borderplex Alliance. He was appointed as secretary at the outset of the Martinez administration nearly six years ago. He served in government previously an assistant attorney general and an aide to former U.S. Rep. Joe Skeen.

The Economic Development Department this year has announced a string of business expansions tied to training and infrastructure subsidies, though employment in New Mexico lags behind most of the country.

Whistleblower Says She Was Told To Commit Fraud New Mexico Political Report, Santa Fe New Mexican

A woman who worked for a state contractor filed a whistleblower suit claiming she was fired for revealing a pattern of falsifying numbers on a work program aimed at welfare recipients.

The New Mexico Political Report and the Santa Fe New Mexican reported Lorraine McCullough contends her former employers, which includes SL Start and Associates, told her to inflate the numbers of participants to make it appear federal requirements were being met by the state.

The allegations echo those by workers at the Human Services Department, who testified earlier this year that they were instructed to falsify data on applications for emergency food assistance.

The companies deny McCullough’s allegations and officials from the Human Services Department, which oversees the contracts, did not respond to requests for comment.  

Suspicious Item Spotted In Cabin Delays Flight To DenverAssociated Press, KOB-TV

Authorities say a Southwest Airlines flight from Albuquerque to Denver was delayed after a suspicious item was spotted in the cabin before takeoff.

Albuquerque International Sunport spokesman Dan Jiron says the plane was scheduled to depart before 5 p.m. Monday.

Instead, the plane was evacuated and taxied to a remote part of the airport and passengers were taken by bus back to the terminal.

Jiron says the item and plane was inspected and cleared by airport authorities and a canine.

He says it's unclear what the suspicious item was. KOB-TV reports passengers were rescreened and put on another plane, but there was no indication what the package was.

Workers At New Mexico Plant Practice Handling Nuclear Waste Carlsbad Current-Argus, Associated Press

Workers at New Mexico's Waste Isolation Pilot Plant are completing training exercises as they prepare to resume handling nuclear waste.

The Carlsbad Current-Argus reports that the training exercises taking place 2,150 feet underground Thursday lasted five hours. A team of Department of Energy experts kept an eye on the radiation control technicians and waste handlers during the task.

Jim Blankenhorn, the vice president and recovery project manager for Nuclear Waste Partnership, said Friday that the exercise should normally take three to four hours, but the exercise was delayed and ended up being interrupted by a shift change.

Nuclear Waste Partnership Assistant manager Bobby St. John says WIPP will only receive five shipments a week when operations first resume. In a typical week, workers would process 20 to 25 shipments.