Headlines: Fired Police Officer, Protected Forest Land...
Project Protects NM Forested Land From Development – The Associated Press
More than 11,000 acres that adjoin the Carson National Forest have been permanently protected from development through a conservation easement.
A conservation effort on the Upper Rio Chama River property in northern New Mexico began in 2009. The final and largest piece of the nearly 12-thousand-acre property became part of the easement Monday.
The $8.4 million dollar project aims to protect the local water supply and wildlife habitat. Nearly half of the funding came from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Legacy Program. The state of New Mexico and the landowner chipped in as well.
The property will remain in private ownership but will be safeguarded through requirements of the easement held by the New Mexico State Forestry Division.
The land includes mixed conifer, aspen and spruce-fir trees, meadows and tributary creeks.
NM School Gets Extra Security After Gunman Scare – The Associated Press
Extra security has been dispatched to an Albuquerque elementary school a day after authorities searched a nearby neighborhood following reports of an active shooter.
The beefed up security presence Tuesday follows a tense afternoon when the school was placed on lockdown and parents had to wait for hours to pick up children.
The school was on lockdown after police received reports of a man with a rifle and handgun. Sandia National Laboratories and nearby businesses also were locked down for a nearly four-hour manhunt.
The unknown man reportedly fired shots outside the Emcore Corp. No injuries were reported and no arrests have been made.
Albuquerque police spokesman Tanner Tixier says detectives Tuesday were looking for any new evidence at the scene.
Task Force: New Mexico Water Supplies At Risk – The Associated Press
Researchers from universities around the state say New Mexico is undoubtedly dealing with a dire situation thanks to a persistent drought and there's no telling when conditions will improve.
The task force of experts on Tuesday delivered their preliminary findings to lawmakers on the vulnerability of the state's water supplies.
University of New Mexico Professor David Gutzler says the current drought has been bad but not as bad as the 1950s. However, he says matters are more complicated now thanks to warmer temperatures and four straight years of dismal snowpack.
That combination has helped to put New Mexico's reservoirs and aquifers at risk over the long haul.
The task force is continuing to look at the implications the drought could have on agriculture and other industries in New Mexico.
Albuquerque Officer In Questionable Shooting Fired – The Associated Press
An Albuquerque officer who fatally shot a 19-year-old woman and did not record the encounter has been fired.
Albuquerque Police Chief Gorden Eden said in a statement Monday that Officer Jeremy Dear was terminated after an internal investigation. He says the probe found that Dear violated department policies and wasn't truthful.
Attorney Thomas Grover, who represents Dear, told reporters the firing was unjust and Dear planned to appeal.
Dear had been on administrative leave since he fatally shot suspected truck thief Mary Hawkes following an April 21 chase.
Authorities say Dear shot Hawkes after she pulled a weapon on him. An autopsy showed Hawkes died from three gunshot wounds to the head, neck and chest.
A toxicology report later showed Hawkes had methamphetamine in her system.
Search For Shooter Closes Albuquerque Neighborhood – Russell Contreras, The Associated Press
Police searching for a man who fired shots at a business in southeast Albuquerque have come up empty handed.
A lockdown of schools and businesses in the area was lifted Monday evening after authorities said they couldn't find the man. Dozens of police vehicles flooded the area after the initial calls.
Police spokesman Tanner Tixier had warned people to stay away from an area near Eubank and Innovation while the search continued. He says the man fired at the Emcore building as officers were responding to reports of a person armed with numerous weapons.
Police say they'll continue investigating to try to identify the man believed to be in his 20s, wearing all black.
There were no reports of any injuries.
New Mexico Court Asked To Intervene In Recount – The Associated Press
New Mexico Land Commissioner Ray Powell wants the state Supreme Court to intervene in a recount in his close statewide race with Republican challenger Aubrey Dunn.
The State Canvassing Board last week ordered a recount in the race between Dunn and the Democratic incumbent when the latest tally showed Dunn with a 704-vote lead out of nearly 500,000 votes cast in the Nov. 4 general election race.
Powell's petition to the Supreme Court contends that the board's plans for the recount would use improper procedures that don't track state law and wouldn't properly check the accuracy of vote tabulating machines.
Rod Adair is spokesman for Secretary of State Dianna Duran. He says the board's procedure would be more accurate than what Powell wants.
The recount is scheduled to begin Monday.
Applications Sought For Vacant Senate Seat – The Associated Press
The Bernalillo County Commission is accepting applications for a vacant seat in the state Senate.
Tim Keller, a Democrat who represented much of Albuquerque's Southeast Heights, won the race to become state auditor.
The commission is tasked with recommending someone to to replace him.
Applications are being accepted through noon Wednesday. The commission expects to make its selection at a special meeting Thursday.
Editor's Note: According to Bernalillo County Attorney Peter Auh, because Senate District 17 does not span more than one county, the Governor does not get to choose from a list of suggested replacements for the vacant seat, as this story originally reported. We regret the error.
Navajo President Signs Bill For Tougher Sentences – The Associated Press
Navajo President Ben Shelly has signed off on a bill to stiffen penalties for misdemeanor crimes on the reservation.
New jails and the confirmation of a handful of judges gave the tribe an opening to reconsider penalties. Lawmakers had eliminated or reduced penalties for nearly 30 offenses more than a decade ago because of a lack of detention facilities.
Shelly said Monday that public hearings demonstrated that Navajos want stronger sentencing provisions. Previously, Navajos could shoplift, abandon a child, receive stolen property or commit burglary and fraud without facing jail time or fines.
Some lawmakers had opposed the bill and questioned the cost of incarcerating people. They said the tribe needed to develop drug and rehabilitation programs, and mental health services that could help deter criminal activity.
Dona Ana County Facing Bail Problems After Ruling – The Las Cruces Sun-News, The Associated Press
A recent state Supreme Court decision on high bail has created a jump in Dona Ana County's jail population.
The Las Cruces Sun-News reports that after the November decision, the southern New Mexico county had to change the way bail was set. That led to a lag in setting bail as officials worked through the changes.
Magistrate Court Presiding Judge Joel Cano says workers do not like the new directive.
Last month, the state's highest court ruled that judges couldn't use exorbitant bond setting to keep a criminal defendant in jail pending trial.
For years, bail schedules have been common at jails all over New Mexico. They allow for most of those in custody to post bail quickly.
But critics say bail schedules contradict state law because they use only the offense charged to determine bail amount.
Hobbs Facing Shortage Of Developed Land – The Hobbs News-Sun, The Associated Press
A bustling city in southeastern New Mexico's oil patch has another problem aside from its housing crisis.
Despite the resulting construction boom, Hobbs real estate agents say the city just doesn't have enough land developers.
Real estate agent Bobby Shaw tells the Hobbs News-Sun that many homebuilders don't develop land because of the high cost of putting in streets and water, sewer and communication infrastructure. Shaw says they would rather focus simply on building homes.
And without new developed land on the horizon, many builders are running out of space to build.
Builders say the reason infrastructure is so slow to come is the cost and the slow rate of return.
Las Cruces Delays 2 Parts Of Minimum Wage Plan - The Associated Press & The Las Cruces Sun News
The Las Cruces City Council is delaying the second and third steps of a three-step plan to implement a higher minimum wage in the southern New Mexico city.
Under the City Council's vote Monday, the first increase to $8.40 will take effect Jan. 1 as previously approved.
However, an increase to $9.20 is being delayed to January 2017 instead of January 2016. And an increase to $10.10 would take place in January 2019 instead of January 2017.
New Mexico's statewide minimum wage is $7.50.
The Las Cruces Sun-News reports some business owners sought the delays approved by the council on a 4-3 vote.
The council also repealed a minimum wage ordinance it passed in June that would have taken the rate to $8 per hour in July 2015 and $8.50 in January 2016.
NM Agency Seeks More Details On Water Proposal – The Associated Press
A revamped application by a commercial venture to pipe billions of gallons of drinking water from western New Mexico to more populated areas of the drought-stricken state still lacks key information.
That's the latest finding by the state engineer's office.
The agency's general counsel told state lawmakers during a meeting Tuesday that Augustin Plains Ranch has been directed to provide more specifics on what type of water rights would be developed and what municipalities or industries would benefit.
Augustin Plains' first application was rejected two years ago. It was one of the most contested filings in the history of the state engineer's office.
The company filed a new application in July.
Critics continued to raise concerns about the latest application during Tuesday's meeting.
Health Center To Pay Settlement In Disability Suit – The Associated Press
An Albuquerque health and rehabilitation center will pay $145,000 to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit involving a worker who was terminated while on leave for a heart attack and other medical conditions.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunities Commission says the worker was terminated by Paloma Blanca Health and Rehabilitation in January 2012, about five weeks into an approved 12-week leave under the Family Medical Leave Act.
Doug Johnson was told his position had been eliminated and he was being laid off due to a "reduction in force" but the EEOC says no other workers were discharged at that time due to a reduction in force.
According to the EEOC, other settlement terms include a requirement that the company train employees regarding disability discriminations and requests for reasonable accommodations.