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THURS:  APD finds Chief Medina’s crash was not preventable and not criminal, + More

Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina
Susan Montoya Bryan
Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina

 APD finds Chief Medina’s crash was not preventable and not criminal - By Elise Kaplan, City Desk ABQ

The Albuquerque Police Department’s Fleet Crash Review Board and its Fatal Crash Unit have reviewed the chief’s actions leading up to him running a red light and crashing into another vehicle while fleeing the sound of gunfire.

They determined the crash was not preventable and he should not be criminally charged, members of APD told the Albuquerque City Council Wednesday night.

However, the city’s Chief Administrative Officer Samantha Sengel stressed that many other eyes will review the investigation into Chief Harold Medina.

“The District Attorney’s office has that case — which is completed by our investigators — therefore it is an independent review,” she said. “Our independent monitor (Victor Valdez) — who has been approved by the Department of Justice as an independent monitor for us to continue compliance as we go forward — will review this.”

Sengel added: “Then lastly we will be inviting the Department of Justice — which we have no authority over and no ability to direct — to also review this in this monitoring period.”

Sengel said the city also asked the New Mexico State Police to review the investigation.

However, an NMSP spokesperson told City Desk ABQ on Thursday that it will not be reviewing the incident although he did not answer follow-up questions as to why not.

The attorney for Todd Perchert, who was severely injured in the crash, told City Desk ABQ that they were disappointed with the findings by the Fatal Crash Unit, “who state the chief failed to activate his emergency lights and sirens.”

“He never gave our client the chance to stop or slow down because the chief never activated his emergency lights or sirens,” said James Tawney of Tawney, Acosta & Chaparro P.C., in a statement. “The chief also put other drivers’ lives at risk. ART bus station video shows the chief weaving through two other vehicles before slamming into Perchert’s Ford Mustang. These actions display the chief’s poor judgment and complete disregard for the safety and wellbeing of others.”


Sgt. Ryan Stone and Cmdr. Benito Martinez, who sit on the crash review board, appeared before the council to explain their findings that the crash was non-preventable. They said the vote by four sworn officers and one civilian was unanimous.

“He was in the line of traffic, his wife was in the vehicle, I don’t think he could have engaged that target,” Stone said. “Myself, I would have moved forward to get out of the immediate threat. That’s part of my decision on why it was non-preventable … I think he exercised normal judgment and foresight, getting out of the way of a firearm. We know there was a firearm, we know there was an altercation, and we know there was a shot fired.”

However, the conclusion raised the eyebrows of some of the councilors, who repeatedly questioned how the board could challenge or effectively question the head of the department.

“I just find it impossible to believe that a fair challenge or a good, tough, honest questioning would happen in this regard,” Council President Dan Lewis said. “Which was the reason why this council was requesting a different process. Not to be critical of you, I think you guys are doing your job, but I think you’d be facing an impossible situation in that regard.”

In response to Councilor Louie Sanchez asking whether anyone asked the chief anything during the board’s investigation, Stone said some members asked questions but he could not remember exactly what they were and nor were they written down.

Sanchez listed the things he would have asked, including how they knew that Medina was in fact in a dangerous situation, particularly given the fact that he was in an unmarked vehicle.

“There’s a good chance that every single person in that area who was in an unmarked car did not deem to be a threat to those individuals or did not think that they were in a threatening situation,” Sanchez said. “Only one person, with all these cars around, thought they were in a dangerous situation. There seem to be a lot of things missing from your investigation.”

Martinez said the crash review board would not normally have handled this case but did so because of its high-profile nature and to make sure “everybody’s doing everything in their due diligence to make sure they do not mess up in this investigation.”


Meanwhile, the Fatal Crash Unit — which normally would be the only entity tasked with investigating the crash — also completed its investigation, finding that Medina “will not be held criminally liable for the incident.”

“Chief Medina violated New Mexico State Statute, ‘Traffic-control signal legend,’ which directly induced the crash,” an offense report for the incident states. “According to State v. Harris ‘injury caused by mere negligence, not amounting to a reckless, willful and wanton disregard of consequences, cannot be made the basis of a criminal action.’’

Investigators spoke with Medina, his wife and 58-year-old Perchert, who was severely injured. Perchert’s 1966 gold Ford Mustang was totaled.


Superintendent of Police Reform Eric Garcia explained to the council what will happen next, saying that the Internal Affairs Division will receive the findings from the Fleet Crash Review Board. Since they ruled it was non-preventable, no disciplinary action will be taken.

However, he said Internal Affairs will continue to review the incident and is “trying to identify any possible SOP sections that may have been violated.” Medina took a drug and alcohol test following the crash, which came back negative, Sengel said.

Garcia said internal investigators are reviewing body camera videos and security camera footage as well as identifying any other possible witnesses.

“After reviewing all the evidence, the investigator will compile a list of questions for the witnesses, they’ll interview the witnesses,” Garcia said. “A revision of that list of SOP sections will be looked at just in case there are other additional SOP violations that are identified and at that point, the target in the investigation is interviewed.”

In response to questions from Councilor Lewis about how they can be assured the internal affairs investigation won’t be biased, Garcia — who answers to the mayor’s office, not the chief — pointed out that they are almost in full compliance with the court-mandated reform effort “as far as disciplinary action and how we impose that discipline with the monitoring team.”

“I think that shows that we have a good track record of imposing discipline fair and equitable throughout the department, regardless of rank,” Garcia said. “I have not been questioned as far as my decisions being made. That’s why I’m in this position right now.”

No-Confidence Vote Goes Nowhere Again - By Carolyn Carlson, City Desk ABQ

It was a no vote for a vote of no confidence leveled against the Albuquerque Police Chief at Wednesday’s City Council meeting.

Councilor Louie Sanchez sponsored the declaration of no confidence but withdrew it after a lengthy discussion. This was his third attempt at getting the message off the council table and into the mayor’s office.

Police Chief Harold Medina has been under the microscope for several reasons. In January, news dropped that there was a federal investigation into several APD officers who were implicated in a DWI scandal where nearly 200 cases were dismissed. Five officers resigned before attending Internal Affairs interviews. More questions arose after Medina was involved in a crash in his department vehicle while fleeing gunfire at the intersection of Central Avenue and Alvarado Drive with his wife in the car.

Prior to the no-confidence vote, officers from the Crash Review Board told the council that Medina’s crash was non-preventable.


Sanchez first asked for a deferral for his declaration saying that while something needs to change at the city’s police department, some time is needed to answer the questions raised by the council. Councilor Nichole Rogers questioned whether this was a human resource issue and if there was a process to evaluate department leaders. City administrators said there was and they would get her the information.

Councilor Klarissa Peña commented on Sanchez’s no-confidence declaration. She said she did not support a deferral and they should just vote it up or down. She said she looks for due process when making a decision and much of the declaration was based on public outcry, was subjective and not based on facts.

She said the allegations of unchecked corruption, profound lack of leadership and mismanagement of the police department are not substantiated.

“Where are the facts?” Peña asked. “I have seen some successes come out of this chief.”

She asked who put this memo together without facts, to which council staff replied that they assisted with the writing but it was done at the direction of Councilor Sanchez. Peña said she had human resource questions about the council approving this message and City Attorney Lauren Keefe said there were HR implications and those are best discussed in executive session.

The motion to defer failed on a 5 to 4 vote. This would normally prompt a call for the vote to be taken and not deferred.

Sanchez then motioned to have his message of no confidence withdrawn, instead of facing a vote.

“What I heard was this needs a little bit more work, so I am going to withdraw it,” he said.

Councilors unanimously approved a withdrawal of the motion.

If the message of no confidence had been approved, it would bear no weight and would have just been sent to Mayor Tim Keller’s office. It is a first step in the process leading up to a removal vote. Voters changed the city charter to give the council the power to remove a police chief and it must be done by a vote of two-thirds — or six votes.


  • Councilors filed a grant application from the State Outdoor Recreation Division for expanding and improving disc golf facilities.
  • Councilors authorized the sale of almost $112 million in general obligation bonds to finance city projects relating to public safety, seniors, homelessness and community enhancement, parks and recreation, transportation and many other projects approved by the voters.
  • Councilors approved an alignment of the Rio Grande Trail which is the state’s portion of a roughly 500-mile trail plan from Colorado to Texas for hiking, biking and horseback riding along the river. There are currently only about 88 miles completed with six state parks on board. The city is looking to align the Paseo del Bosque trail with the state’s larger Rio Grande Trail plan.

They also approved the filing of an application from the Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund for a grant to purchase the 640-acre Northern Sand Dunes property to be part of the Open Space Division. The property is privately owned, vacant and located on the city’s Westside, southwest of the Shooting Range Park. The property was recently appraised for $550,000, according to city documents.

New Mexico eateries are finalists for James Beard Awards - Alice Fordham, KUNM News

Four New Mexico businesses have been named as finalists for prestigious James Beard awards, in the categories of outstanding restaurant, outstanding bakery and best chef in the southwest.

Steve Riley, of Mesa Provisions in Albuquerque, is up for best chef. He recently joined KUNM's show Let's Talk New Mexico and spoke about the menu at his restaurant, saying dishes like the smoked half chicken, or harissa roasted carrots, are designed for sharing.

"We try to encourage a little bit of a different type of dining at Mesa," he said. "And that's more of a communal, sharing environment."

You can taste more dishes that way, he said, and it's cozy; family style. He added that the menu changes with the seasons.

"Nature is always my number one influence, like whatever's in season," he said. "I don't know that Mother Nature necessarily wants it to be spring yet, but we are patiently waiting for those spring vegetables."

Other finalists are The Compound and Zacatlán in Santa Fe, and the Burque Bakehouse.

Medicaid open enrollment begins - By Susan Dunlap, New Mexico Political Report

Open enrollment for Medicaid recipients begins this week.

The New Mexico Human Services Department announced that the open enrollment period for Medicaid under the new Turquoise Care program began on Monday and will continue until May 31. This year the open enrollment will include expanded managed care options, according to a news release.

HSD will automatically reenroll current Medicaid recipients who are currently enrolled in existing Presbyterian Health Plan and BlueCross BlueShield plans if they do not choose an MCO, the release states. Individuals who are covered through Western Sky Community Care will be assigned to another MCO if they do not choose a new plan as that insurance company will no longer provide services through Medicaid, according to the release.

The Turquoise Care program is set to begin on July 1.

HSD and the MCOs will host more than 20 statewide informational events on Turquoise Care in the upcoming weeks to further assist Medicaid customers. More information about times, dates and locations can be found here.

Medicaid customers enrolled with an MCO will receive instructions in a yellow envelope from HSD beginning in April, according to the release.

Medicaid recipients can choose their MCO through the following methods:

· Go to yes.state.nm.us and use the Chat feature to choose their MCO.

· Log into their YesNM account at yes.state.nm.us and choose their MCO.

· Complete the open enrollment paperwork they will receive in the mail.

· Call 1-800-283-4465 and choose their MCO.

Available MCOs include:

· Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Mexico

· Molina Healthcare of New Mexico

· Presbyterian Turquoise Care

· United Healthcare Community Plan of New Mexico To learn more, visit the HSD website.

Judge Dismisses Typo-Related Campaign Challenge - Tierna Unruh-Enos, City Desk ABQ

This story was originally published by City Desk ABQ

A state district court judge has given the state Senate campaign of a high-profile former DREAMer the green light.

Audrey Trujillo, a Corrales Republican candidate for State Senate District 9, along with two high-profile local Democrats—County Commissioner Katherine Bruch and former state Senator John Sapien filed a lawsuit asking a judge last week to invalidate all of the signatures of local voters nominating Democrat Cindy Nava of Bernalillo to run for the District 9 seat.

The issue involved a technical error on the petition forms Nava used to qualify for the ballot, which her campaign admits accidentally listed Nava’s Town of Bernalillo address as being in Bernalillo County instead of Sandoval County.

“Over 250 Democratic voters in Senate District 9 signed petitions to put Cindy’s name on the ballot,” Nava’s campaign manager Sandra Wechsler told the Sandoval Signpost. “They know, as we do, that Cindy’s experience and story is inspiring voters, and that she is a needed voice in the state Senate. It is unfortunate her opponents seek to disenfranchise the will of these voters by filing this challenge.”

The plaintiffs wrote in their suit that good intent isn’t good enough and they say state law is clear that nominating petitions with address errors must be thrown out. The lawsuit asked the judge to direct the county clerk to disqualify Nava and remove her name from the June 5 Democratic primary ballot.

The judge didn’t agree.

Late Tuesday afternoon, 13th Judicial District Court Judge Allison Martinez issued a ruling that dismissed both Sapien and Trujillo’s complaints.

Democrat Heather Balas is running against Nava in the June primary, while Trujillo is the sole Republican. Current State Senator Brenda McKenna (D) announced earlier this year she would not seek re-election. McKenna endorsed Nava as her successor.

Nava’s campaign resumed fundraising on Wednesday.

In a campaign email, Nava said, ” I am not afraid of challenges. There’s a couple of things you should know about me. First —In fact, I’ve faced challenges my entire life, and I’ve overcome every one of them to get to where I am today. Second — I believe strongly in the power of democracy, representation, and ensuring that people’s voices are heard.”

Stansbury hosts roundtable discussion about federal funding, energy transition efforts - By Hannah Grover,New Mexico Political Report

Small entities and communities need help to access federal grants. They may not have the resources to go after federal grants or even know what funding opportunities are available.

That was among the messages that a group of advocates, state officials and academics told U.S. Rep. Melanie Stansbury, a Democrat representing New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District, during a roundtable discussion on Tuesday in Albuquerque.

During the discussion, Stansbury asked the participants what the federal government could do better to support New Mexico’s transition to cleaner energy sources and she asked the participants about the challenges that they are facing in accessing funding.

Federal funding for projects aimed at combating climate change is available through various pieces of legislation including the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act.

But various grants require different types of applications and participants expressed interest in making it easier for organizations and communities to apply for funding by making applications that have more elements in common. During the roundtable discussion, this was referred to as a base application. Participants said it might make it easier for entities to apply for funding from programs that are less familiar to them.

The challenges with accessing funding are especially pronounced in rural areas and tribal communities, including on the Navajo Nation where there is less access to information due to lack of broadband infrastructure and where language can prove a bigger barrier especially for older people.

Wendy Atcitty, a Diné activist who has been involved in energy transition efforts in the Farmington area, said that during an Energy Transition Act Committee meeting community organizations who had submitted proposals for state ETA funding were told that they may need to look for federal funding opportunities.

However, this posed a challenge.

“We reached out to consultants that made a nice, pretty page of all these resources to go down the bullet line list with, but it didn’t mean nothing when you put it in the hands of the community people, because it was just like, what more stuff do we have to get through,” she said.

Eventually, Atcitty said there a council delegate organized a workshop that brought together federal agencies, Navajo Nation officials and grassroots organizations to learn about funding opportunities. That workshop was then followed with a second workshop a few months later.

“At the end, we have at least, I would say, a handful of successful community projects that were able to get support from the tribal government,” she said. “But the thing is, it took a process and actually took people to visit their community to see on the ground what we have to work with.”

Atcitty highlighted some of the challenges including lack of cell service and roads that can become impassable during certain weather conditions.

But, she said, it isn’t enough to simply schedule a workshop.

Extra efforts should be made to let people know about the workshop. Atcitty said one thing that made the three-day event a success was that it was advertised in each of the Navajo agencies, or regions.

The participants also stressed the need for technical support such as grant writing and Stansbury said there is funding available for organizations to offer technical assistance. She gave the example of a $3 million grant that the University of New Mexico’s school of engineering received to provide technical assistance for water projects.

Camilla Feibelman, executive director of the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club, said one thing that her organization would like to see from the federal government is making sure the projects that receive funding are science-backed proposals. She criticized funding for hydrogen and carbon capture projects.

“I just worry that in our rush to find climate solutions, we’re kind of willing to take anything,” she said. “So I feel like it would be helpful…to really make sure that the projects that are ultimately funded, have a real chance of reducing our climate emissions.”

Another topic that the participants discussed was intersectionality and how an effort to address affordable housing might overlap with efforts to combat climate change. Stansbury spoke about the history of the electric grid and how anti-poverty programs led to expanded infrastructure.

She said the energy transition will require a similar type of community-centered effort.

Lawsuit accuses former Boys & Girls Club of Santa Fe employee of child sexual abuseSanta Fe New Mexican, KUNM News

A woman has filed a civil lawsuit against the Boys & Girls Club of Santa Fe and its parent organization, alleging a former employee there sexually abused her as a child.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports the complaint does not name the accuser, who is now 19. She was 6-8 years old at the time of the alleged abuse, according to the lawsuit.

It also doesn’t list the name of the music teacher accused of the abuse during a summer program more than a decade ago, because his identity is unknown. According to the suit, the accuser plans to learn his name through the legal process.

The national Boys & Girls Club and the local chapter are being accused of negligence that enabled the abuse, including a “lack of supervision and proper employee vetting protocols.”

Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Fe Executive Director Sarah Gettler declined to comment on the allegations to the New Mexican.

What to know about the latest bird flu outbreak in the US - By Sean Murphy, Associated Press

A poultry facility in Michigan and an egg producer in Texas both reported outbreaks of avian flu this week. The latest developments on the virus also include infected dairy cows and the first known instance of a human catching bird flu from a mammal.

Although health officials say the risk to the public remains low, there is rising concern, emerging in part from news that the largest producer of fresh eggs in the U.S. reported an outbreak.

Here are some key things to know about the disease.


Dr. Mandy Cohen, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the agency is taking bird flu seriously, but stressed that the virus has already been well studied.

"The fact that it is in cattle now definitely raises our concern level," Cohen said, noting that it means farmworkers who work with cattle — and not just those working with birds — may need to take precautions.

The good news is that "it's not a new strain of the virus," Cohen added. "This is known to us and we've been studying it, and frankly, we've been preparing for avian flu for 20 years."


Some flu viruses mainly affect people, but others chiefly occur in animals. Avian viruses spread naturally in wild aquatic birds like ducks and geese, and then to chickens and other domesticated poultry.

The bird flu virus drawing attention today — Type A H5N1 — was first identified in 1959. Like other viruses, it has evolved over time, spawning newer versions of itself.

Since 2020, the virus has been spreading among more animal species — including dogs, cats, skunks, bears and even seals and porpoises — in scores of countries.

In the U.S., this version of the bird flu has been detected in wild birds in every state, as well as commercial poultry operations and backyard flocks. Nationwide, tens of millions of chickens have died from the virus or been killed to stop outbreaks from spreading.

Last week, U.S. officials said it had been found in livestock. As of Tuesday, it had been discovered in dairy herds in five states — Idaho, Kansas, Michigan, New Mexico and Texas — according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


This bird flu was first identified as a threat to people during a 1997 outbreak in Hong Kong. In the past two decades, nearly 900 people have been diagnosed globally with bird flu and more than 460 people have died, according to the World Health Organization.

There have been only two cases in the U.S., and neither were fatal.

In 2022, a prison inmate in a work program caught it while killing infected birds at a poultry farm in Montrose County, Colorado. His only symptom was fatigue, and he recovered.

This week, Texas health officials announced that a person who had been in contact with cows had been diagnosed with bird flu. Their only reported symptom was eye redness.


Symptoms are similar to that of other flus, including cough, body aches and fever. Some people don't have noticeable symptoms, but others develop severe, life-threatening pneumonia.


The vast majority of infected people have gotten it directly from birds, but scientists are on guard for any sign of spread among people.

There have been a few instances when that apparently happened — most recently in 2007 in Asia. In each cluster, it spread within families from a sick person in the home.

U.S. health officials have stressed that the current public health risk is low and that there is no sign that bird flu is spreading person to person.


While it's too early to quantify the potential economic impact of a bird flu outbreak, many of these latest developments are concerning, particularly the transmission of the virus from one species to another, said Daren Detwiler, a food safety and policy expert at Northeastern University.

"We don't have a magic forcefield, an invisible shield that protects land and water runoff from impacting other species," Detwiler said. "There is a concern in terms of how this might impact other markets, the egg market, the beef market."

If the outbreak is not quickly contained, consumers could ultimately see higher prices, and if it continues to spread, some industries could experience "reputational strain," possibly affecting the export industry, Detwiler added.

The egg industry already is experiencing some tightening of supply following detections of bird flu late in 2023 and in early January, coupled with the busy Easter season, where Americans typically consume an average of 3 billion eggs, said Marc Dresner, a spokesperson for the American Egg Board.

Still, even with the outbreak in Texas and the nearly 2 million birds that were killed there, Dresner said there are an estimated 310 million egg laying hens in the U.S. and wholesale egg prices are down about 25% from a February peak.


Associated Press reporters Jonathan Poet in Philadelphia and Mike Stobbe and videojournalist Sharon Johnson in Atlanta contributed to this report.

$4 million in federal funding awarded to Bernalillo County to reconstruct Atrisco Vista Boulevard- Jeanette DeDios, KUNM News

Bernalillo County has been awarded $4 million in federal funding to support the reconstruction of Atrisco Vista Boulevard from Double Eagle Road to Paseo Del Norte Boulevard.

Representative Gabe Vasquez and Senator Martin Heinrich led the request for the Community Project Funding which was included in the final funding bill for fiscal year 2024.

Bernalillo County is close to completing their design phase of the reconstruction project, according to a press release. The section will be reconstructed to realign the roadway that needs to be brought up to date. Improvements will also include an additional two driving lanes, a bike lane and a multi-use trail.

Representative Vasquez says that the funding will not only bring 13,000 jobs but also improve public safety and infrastructure.

Bernalillo County leaders hope the improvements will allow further economic activity, including the planned I-40 TradePort Corridor, which will be the first-of-its-kind trade port meant to simplify supply chain and ease backup goods from shipping ports to inland cities.

Balloon Fiesta announces free admission day for New Mexico residents - Alice Fordham, KUNM News

The Balloon Fiesta board announced April 3 that New Mexico residents will be able to attend one day of the annual Fiesta for free.

On Monday, October 7, New Mexicans can arrive at the event and go to a ticket booth with a photo ID with a New Mexico address or a utility bill, to receive their ticket.

Board president Judy Nakamura said in a statement that the fiesta is, "so appreciative" of the support the event receives throughout the state, and that allowing residents in for free for a day is a way of saying thank you.

There is, however, still a $20 charge for parking.

Citizen scientist measured Rockies snowfall for 50 years. Two new hips help him keep going - By Brittany Peterson, Associated Press

Four miles from the nearest plowed road high in Colorado's Rocky Mountains, a 73-year-old man with a billowing gray beard and two replaced hips trudged through his front yard to measure fresh snow that fell during one mid-March day.

Billy Barr first began recording snow and weather data more than 50 years ago as a freshly minted Rutgers University environmental science graduate in Gothic, Colorado, near part of the Colorado River's headwaters.

Bored and looking to keep busy, he had rigged rudimentary equipment and each day had jotted the inches of fresh snow, just as he had logged gas station brands as a child on family road trips.

Unpaid but driven by compulsive curiosity and a preference for spending more than half the year on skis rather than on foot, Barr stayed here and kept measuring snowfall day after day, winter after winter.

His faithful measurements revealed something he never expected long ago: snow is arriving later and disappearing earlier as the world warms. That's a concerning sign for millions of people in the drought-stricken Southwest who rely on mountain snowpack to slowly melt throughout spring and summer to provide a steady stream of water for cities, agriculture and ecosystems.

"Snow is a physical form of a water reservoir, and if there's not enough of it, it's gone," Barr said.

So-called "citizen scientists" have long played roles in making observations about plants and counting wildlife to help researchers better understand the environment.

Barr is modest about his own contributions, although the once-handwritten snow data published on his website has informed numerous scientific papers and helped calibrate aerial snow sensing tools. And with each passing year, his data continues to grow.

"Anybody could do it," said the self-deprecating bachelor with a softened Jersey accent. "Being socially inept made me so I could do it for 50 years, but anyone can sit there and watch something like that."

Two winters ago, Barr's legs started buckling with frustrating frequency as he'd ski mellow loops through spruce trees looking for animal tracks — another data point he collects. He feared it might be his last year in Gothic, a former mining town turned into a research facility owned by the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, where he worked full time for decades and is now a part-time accountant.

"I was running out of time to live here," he said. "That's why I went through the hip replacements to prolong it."

Two hip replacement surgeries provided an extended lease on high altitude living. Barr cross-country skied more this past December than he did the entire previous winter.

"Unless something else goes wrong, which it will, but unless it's severe, I think I can last out here a while longer," he said.

A lot could go wrong. As Barr sat on a bench beside at the research lab on an unseasonably warm March day, a heavy slab of snow slid off the roof and launched the bench forward, nearly causing him to fall.

Not all risks are avoidable, but some are. If the ski track is too icy, he'll walk parallel in untracked snow to get better footing. He grows produce in a greenhouse attached to his home, and most of his non-perishable goods — stocked the previous autumn — are organic. He wears a mask when he's around others indoors.

"I can't get a respiratory disease at this altitude," he said.

For Barr, longevity means more time for the quiet mountain lifestyle he enjoys from his rustic two-room house heated by passive solar and a wood stove. He uses a composting toilet and relies on solar panels to heat water, do laundry and enable his nightly movie viewing.

When he eventually retires from the mountains, Barr hopes to continue most of his long-running weather collection remotely.

He has been testing remote tools for five years, trying to calibrate them to his dated but reliable techniques. He figures it will take a few more years of testing before he'll trust the new tools and, even then, fears equipment failure.

For now, he measures snow in his tried and true way:

Around 4 p.m., he hikes uphill from his home to a flat, square board painted white, and sticks a metal ruler into accumulated snow to measure its depth. Next he pushes a clear canister upside down into the snow, uses a sheet of metal to scrape off the rest of the snow, then slides the sheet under the canister to help flip it over. He weighs the snow, subtracting the canister's weight, which lets him calculate the water content.

So far, manual measuring remains the best method, scientists say. Automated snow measurements introduce a degree of uncertainty such as how wind spreads snow unevenly across the landscape, explained Ben Pritchett, senior forecaster at the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

"Nothing replaces observing snow in person to understand how it's changing," Pritchett said.

But Barr's data collection has always been unpaid volunteer work — and that complicates any succession plan when he eventually leaves his home in Gothic.

"If environmental science were funded like the way we fund cancer research or other efforts, we would absolutely continue that research and data collection," said Ian Billick, executive director for the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory. "It would be super valuable."

The lab has winter caretakers who could ski the half mile (.8 kilometer) to Barr's home to manually measure new snow at the same site with his same method, but someone would still need to foot the bill for their time.

Barr is well aware that his humble weather station is just a snapshot of the Colorado River basin, and that satellites, lasers and computer models can now calculate how much snow falls basin-wide and predict resulting runoff. Yet local scientists say some of those models wouldn't be as precise without his work.

Ian Breckheimer, an ecologist with the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, measures snow from space using satellites. Given the distance, Breckheimer needed on-the-ground data to calibrate his model.

"Billy's data provides that ground truth," Breckheimer said. "We know that his data is right. So that means that we can compare all the things that we think we can see to the things that we know are right."

Between measuring the snow and noting animal sightings, Barr created a body of work that no one asked him to assemble and that hasn't brought him a dime.

Although it's helped inspire scientists who work with the nearby mountainside lab, Barr said he started measuring snowfall out of a simple desire to relate to the world around him. He felt out of place in the city and choked by social expectations.

"I didn't fit into anything and it doesn't make me a miscreant," he said. "You have to look for what will work for you. And sometimes that means trying different things and going different places."

Just as he engineered a lifestyle that bucks societal norms, Barr hopes the high-tech water forecasting tools scientists have today will lead to unconventional solutions for rationing the dwindling resource.

"It could lead to things like, well, we really can't have green lawns in the middle of Arizona anymore, because that's not a good use of the limited water resource," Barr said. "And water is more precious than gold."