State Finishes Inspection of Nuclear Repository, Bernalillo County OKs Behavioral Health Programs

Dec 14, 2016

New Mexico Completes Inspection of Federal Nuke Repository The Associated Press

New Mexico regulatory officials have completed their inspection of the federal government's underground nuclear waste repository as the troubled facility looks to reopen.

State Environment Secretary Butch Tongate says the onsite review covered issues that date back to a 2014 fire involving one of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant's mining trucks and a separate radiation leak that forced the repository's closure.

Tongate acknowledged the facility is a critical asset to the nation's security and the state's economy but that regulators needs to ensure corrective actions have been taken and violations have been addressed.

Tongate says once the inspectors compile their observations, the state will formally notify repository managers and the U.S. Energy Department of their findings. He did not offer any details of what inspectors noted during last week's visit underground.

Appeals Court Sides With Albuquerque In Rapid Transit CaseAssociated Press

Albuquerque has won another legal ruling as it proceeds with construction of a bus rapid transit system.

In a 57-page opinion Tuesday, the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower-court ruling that allowed construction of the $119 million Albuquerque Rapid Transit project to proceed.

Crews already are building a nine-mile network of bus-only lanes and bus stations in the middle of Central Avenue.

Critics say the construction will likely create traffic jams in one of the city's busiest areas.

Some business owners say the project would spark traffic congestion and ruin the car-friendly persona of the nation's largest urban stretch of Route 66.

Rapid Transit officials say at least one traffic lane is open in each direction and they're encouraging people to use Central and support local businesses.

Northern New Mexico village without water for 8 days – The Associated Press, KOB-TV

A northern New Mexico community is trucking in water as the village works to drill a new well.

KOB-TV reports that village administrators say most people living in Questa haven't had running water for about eight days and those who do are under boil advisory. The village is distributing bottled water for drinking and trucking in water for toilets and laundry.

Officials say they expect water to be restored in about a week.

Bernalillo County Board OKs Two Behavioral Health Initiatives The Associated Press

The Bernalillo County Board of Commissioners has approved two additional behavioral health initiatives that will activate mobile crisis teams and a supportive housing program.

After the board's approval Tuesday night, county officials now will begin to solicit requests for proposals to implement the initiatives.

The housing program will increase supportive housing throughout the county specifically for persons with behavioral health conditions who are homeless.

The mobile crisis teams will respond to individuals experiencing a nonviolent behavioral health crisis that necessitates a 911 response.

The county behavioral health tax will fund the mobile crisis teams in the amount of up to $1 million per year and will begin as a pilot program.

The health tax will fund the housing program for an amount not to exceed $1.2 million annually.

Cash-Strapped State Cancels Financial Literacy LessonsAssociated Press

A State Treasury program that taught lessons in personal finance to high school students is the latest victim of layoffs linked to New Mexico's state budget crisis.

Deputy State Treasurer Sam Collins said Tuesday that six positions at his agency have been trimmed with approval of the State Personnel Board — including two employees who ran a financial literacy program for youths.

The State Treasurer's Office is grappling with an 8.5 percent budget reduction for the fiscal year ending in June, as New Mexico seeks to close a stubborn budget shortfall linked to downturn in the oil and natural gas sector and high overall unemployment.

State Treasurer Tim Eichenberg described the bitter irony of cutting short an effort to help young people make responsible decisions about savings and debt.

New Mexico Congresswoman Announces Bid For GovernorAssociated Press

U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham says she is running for governor of New Mexico in 2018.

The Democrat from Albuquerque on Tuesday became the first contender to enter the race. Second-term GOP Gov. Susana Martinez cannot run again in 2018 because of term limits.

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall announced last week that will not run for governor after consulting with his family, colleagues and constituents.

In an email message, Lujan Grisham described a long list of social and economic problems afflicting New Mexico and emphasized her political qualifications as a two-term congresswoman and former head of New Mexico's Department of Health.

No Republicans have entered the race for governor so far. State Attorney General Hector Balderas says he is giving serious consideration to becoming a candidate.

Service Saturday for Valencia County deputy killed in crash The Associated Press

A funeral service will be held Saturday in Albuquerque for a Valencia County sheriff's deputy killed in a crash.

The Albuquerque Police Department says the service for Deputy Ryan Thomas will be held at 11 a.m. at the Legacy Church located at 7201 Central Ave NW, preceded by a viewing at 9:30 a.m.

Thomas was ejected and killed the night of Dec. 6 when he lost control of his patrol vehicle and it overturned in the Belen area while responding to a call for service.

Univ. Of New Mexico President To Leave Early Under AgreementAssociated Press

The University of New Mexico Board of Regents has reached an agreement with President Bob Frank for him to leave office early and the regents named another administrator as acting president.

The regents on Tuesday named Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Chaouki Abdallah as acting president. Dean Craig White will be acting provost.

University officials said in a statement that Frank will leave office Dec. 31 and he will be provided a paid leave of absence for "professional development."

According to the statement, the leave will end with the May 31 end of his contract and that he'll then begin a faculty appointment at a reduced salary.

Frank has been UNM president since June 2012. He announced in September that he won't seek to renew his contract.

Authorities Investigate McKinley County Jail Death The Associated Press, The Gallup Independent

McKinley County sheriff's deputies are investigating after a Yatahey man reportedly killed himself while in the county jail.

The Gallup Independent reports that 28-year-old Thomas Yazzie-Joe was found dead in his cell at the McKinley County Adult Detention Center on Friday.

The apparent cause of death is being listed as suicide.

According to sheriff's office, Yazzie-Joe was booked into jail Friday after being arrested on aggravated battery and aggravated assault charges. He was housed in a cell by himself because he acted aggressively and disorderly during the booking process.

When a corrections officer went to check on Yazzie-Joe a few hours after booking, she found him dead in the cell.

Supreme Court OKs PNM Rate Increase At Risk Of ReimbursementAssociated Press

The state Supreme Court has ruled to allow New Mexico's largest electric utility to go forward with a rate increase, but warned that regulators can order the company to reimburse their customers if the rate hike is determined to be unlawful after it is implemented.

The Supreme Court on Monday rejected an emergency motion filed by the nonprofit environmental group New Energy Economy, which had asked the court to place a hold on the rate increase that went into effect in October for Public Service Company of New Mexico customers.

New Energy Economy had wanted the justices to halt the increase pending the court's decision on an appeal of the rate increase.

Had the motion been approved PNM customers would have seen rates drop between $1.50 and $3.50 per month.

Former Pharmacist Admits To Dispensing Without Prescription Associated Press

A former Santa Fe pharmacist has admitted to dispensing testosterone without a prescription.

The U.S. attorney's office says David Nunez entered his guilty plea Tuesday in federal court in Albuquerque. As part of a plea agreement, he was ordered to serve three years of probation and perform 100 hours of community service.

Prosecutors say Nunez was a licensed pharmacist and the owner of a pharmacy in Santa Fe at the time he committed the crime.

He was accused of allowing another person to rent space in his pharmacy to make hormone replacement creams for distribution. Nunez allowed the use his federal drug registration number to order testosterone to make the products.

The New Mexico Board of Pharmacy suspended his pharmacist license in 2015 as the result of a separate investigation and he subsequently sold his pharmacy.

Deadly Street Racing Crash Reignites Push For Tougher Laws - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

The New Mexico Attorney General's Office and others are ready to push state lawmakers again to consider toughening the penalties for those convicted in deadly reckless driving cases.

The Democratic-led Senate derailed the effort during the last legislative session to make such a crime a second-degree felony worthy of a 15-year prison sentence, the same punishment a drunken driver now faces if convicted of vehicular homicide.

Supporters of the measure are pointing to the case of Carmen Esmeralda Rivera, a 10-year-old girl who was killed last month when a man suspected of street racing slammed into her family's SUV on Interstate 25.

Rep. Sarah Maestas Barnes says it was an avoidable tragedy and that families deserve to feel safe traveling on New Mexico's roads. The Albuquerque Republican plans to pre-file the legislation soon.

Group Drops Effort To Recall Las Vegas MayorLas Vegas Optic, Associated Press

The organizer of an effort to recall Las Vegas's mayor has notified the city clerk that he is withdrawing his recall petition.

The Las Vegas Optic reports that Manuel Martinez submitted a letter on Wednesday stating that he is no longer working to recall Mayor Tonita Gurule-Giron. The notice that Martinez is ending his recall effort comes five days before the deadline for turning in the petitions with signatures.

The recall petition needed to be signed by at least 25 percent of those who voted in the March regular city election.

Gurule-Giron issued a statement on Thursday welcoming the news that the recall effort was over. She had previously called the effort self-serving and not in the city's best interest.

New Mexico Launches Anti-DWI Campaign To Curb Over-Serving Associated Press

The New Mexico Department of Transportation has launched a new campaign aimed at curbing the over-serving of alcohol to patrons at bars and other establishments around the state.

The campaign has been dubbed "Buzzkill." It includes ads emphasizing the responsibility of bartenders and servers to cut off patrons when they've had too much to drink.

There's also a video to help bartenders and servers identify drunken customers. They'll be required to watch it as a part of their alcohol server training.

Napkins and coasters outlining the Buzzkill campaign also will be distributed.

It's illegal for an establishment in New Mexico to over-serve anyone — even if they're not driving. In the last year alone, state officials say 75 establishments were cited for over-serving.

Bernalillo County To Help Pay For Project In Valencia County Associated Press

The Bernalillo County Commission has voted to help pay for construction of a new rail spur and logistics park in Los Lunas in neighboring Valencia County.

The Bernalillo County Commission voted 4-1 Tuesday night to approve an agreement for reimbursement of Los Lunas up to $400,000 for the project.

Officials say the project could create thousands of jobs in central New Mexico through manufacturing, logistics and warehouse functions.

Commission Chairman Art De Laz Cruz said it makes sense to contribute to the project because many of the people who would work at the planned facility would be Bernalillo County residents.

Commissioner Debbie O'Malley voted against the agreement, saying the county's budget is tight and that she can't justify using county money for a project elsewhere.