State Faces Renewed Criticism On Welfare Delays, Four Men Rescued From Collapsed Gravel Pit

Jun 30, 2017

New Mexico Confronts New Criticism On Welfare DelaysAssociated Press

Attorneys for welfare recipients in New Mexico say thousands of residents have gone without emergency food assistance or health care coverage under Medicaid because of processing delays at the state Human Services Department.

A federal court judge heard testimony Thursday on the agency's progress in meeting court orders related to a backlog of food and medical assistance claims.

The New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty says one in 10 applicants for emergency aid are unable to buy food within the required seven-day period. That left 2,046 people without emergency food assistance in May, up from 1,167 the previous month.

The center also says many newborn babies are not being added by the state to Medicaid within the required three-day period, leaving them without medical coverage outside hospitals.

Las Cruces, El Paso Rail Eyed To Connect Border CitiesLas Cruces Sun-News, Associated Press

A proposed plan seeks to build a commuter rail line in one of the nation's busiest regions along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports a feasibility study unveiled this week said there is a sufficient economic base to support a rail system running from Las Cruces, New Mexico, to El Paso, Texas.

A feasibility study by the Chicago-based nonprofit Center for Neighborhood Technology estimates potential rail ridership between 4,500 and 7,400 passengers on an average workday.

The group's principal business analyst David Chandler says the cost of driving the 86-mile, round-trip from city to city is about $11,000 per household.

David Armijo, executive director of the South Central Regional Transit District, says officials need to conduct an engineering study next.

Officials estimate the rail system would cost costs between $120 million and $430.6 million.

Missing Albuquerque Man Found Dead In Gila National ForestAssociated Press

Authorities say a missing Albuquerque man has been found dead in the Gila National Forest in Silver City.

New Mexico State Police say 24-year-old Phillip Cook apparently died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

They say the official cause of death will be determined after an autopsy is done.

State Police say Cook was reported missing by his parents who said he was schizophrenic, not on his medication, and may be in possession of a handgun.

Cook's vehicle was found abandoned off a forest road on June 22.

State Police say Cook's body was found last Saturday and he was pronounced dead at the scene.

Fast-Moving Fire In New Mexico Grows Amid Hot ConditionsAssociated Press

Officials say a fast-moving wildfire in central New Mexico has grown to nearly 8 square miles.

Authorities say the lightning-sparked blaze expanded Thursday but is now 40 percent contained.

The fire is burning grass, brush and salt cedar on private land near San Marcial in Socorro County. The resulting plume of smoke could be seen by motorists along Interstate 25 and by weather forecasters on their radar systems.

Officials say lightning started the inferno Monday on private land.

Ex-Prison Transport Officer Indicted After 3 Sexual AssaultsAssociated Press

A federal grand jury in Phoenix has indicted a former prison transport officer who's accused of sexually assaulting three female prisoners while threatening them with a gun.

U.S. Department of Justice officials say 49-year-old Eric Scott Kindley was arrested June 1 in Stockton, California.

They say Kindley operates a company that jails hire to transport people who have been arrested on out-of-state warrants.

Prosecutors say Kindley assaulted the women separately while transporting them between states on separate occasions between January and May.

The transports were California to Arizona, Alabama to Arizona and Mississippi to New Mexico.

Kindley is accused of stopping in secluded locations, attacking the handcuffed women, threatening them and warning them no one would believe them if they complained.

It was unclear Thursday if Kindley has a lawyer.

New Mexico State Police: 2 Found Dead Inside Vehicle On I-40Associated Press

New Mexico State Police say they're investigating the suspicious deaths of a man and a woman found inside a vehicle west of Albuquerque.

The Albuquerque Journal reports police discovered the bodies while providing traffic control for an accident on Interstate 40 on Thursday morning. A semitrailer crashed with a load of radioactive materials after the driver fell asleep at the wheel.

The officer saw a pickup truck with a camper shell parked on a shoulder of I-40 and found the two occupants both dead inside the vehicle.

Authorities say the deaths are suspicious in nature and the State Police investigations bureau has been called to the scene. Officials told the Journal they don’t believe the two incidents are related and said there was no contamination from the hazardous waste.

State Police say the identities of the two dead still are being determined and the manner of death remains under investigation.

Feds Release Long-Awaited Recovery Plan For Mexican Wolves - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

After repeated failures over decades, U.S. wildlife officials have finally drafted a recovery plan for endangered wolves that once roamed parts of the American Southwest and northern Mexico.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is under a court order to complete the plan by the end of November.

The draft document released Thursday calls for focusing recovery of the Mexican gray wolves in core areas of the predators' historic range. That means south of Interstate 40 in the two states and in Mexico. The document also addresses threats, such as genetic diversity.

The recovery plan is a long time coming as the original guidance for how to restore wolves to the Southwest was adopted in 1982.

The lack of a plan has spurred numerous legal challenges by environmentalists as well as skirmishes over states' rights under the Endangered Species Act.

Elephant Butte Lake Managers Warn Of Possible Toxic AlgaeKOAT-TV, Associated Press

Elephant Butte Lake State Park managers are warning the public that toxic blue-green algae might be present in the lake.

KOAT-TV reported Wednesday that boating manager Salvador Gonzalez says the algae might have bloomed in the shallow areas of Elephant Butte Lake along Three Sisters Cove.

Officials say the algae could be harmful if consumed by humans and could be deadly if dogs ingest it.

Managers are still working to confirm whether or not the algae is toxic, though. They put notices up around the potentially impacted areas, as thousands of people are expected to head to the park for the Fourth of July weekend.

Albuquerque Mayor To Receive Public Safety Excellence AwardAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry received an award Thursday night for "excellence in public safety" even though violent crime in the city is on the rise.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce's award was presented to Berry for several initiatives he launched to help fight crime.

Addressing the rise of violent crime in Albuquerque is at the forefront of many public policy discussions, including the mayor's race. Many of the candidates have blasted Berry, who is not seeking re-election, saying he is not doing enough to address the issue.

Chamber CEO Terri Cole says the inaugural award was created because business leaders have identified education, public safety and downtown transformation as the three greatest challenges facing the city.

Fire Officials Rescue Four Men From Gravel PitKRQE-TV

Four men were rescued from a gravel mine in La Placitas after it collapsed and trapped them inside.

KRQE-TV reported two men went to aid two other men caught in a collapse at Lafarge Gravel Mine Thursday evening. All four became trapped, with two buried to their necks, and the other two buried to the waist and chest.

Sandoval County Fire officials rescued two men and crews worked into the night digging by hand to extract the other two. The operation was hampered by continued collapsing at the pit, which prevented rescuers from using heavy equipment.

All four men were transported to a hospital.