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FRI: Albuquerque's budget planning is in full swing as city council fields concerns about libraries, + More

Albuquerque city hall
Roberto E. Rosales
City Desk ABQ
Albuquerque city hall

Budget planning in full swing as council fields concerns about libraries, museums - Carolyn Carlson, City Desk ABQ

On Thursday, Albuquerque City Councilors held their first meeting to discuss and hear from constituents about the mayor’s $1.4 billion proposed budget for the next fiscal year.


Concerns about funding for the public library and the Explora Science Center and Children’s Museum drew the top comments from the handful of residents who attended the May 2 Committee of the Whole meeting. The COW is made up of all nine councilors who are acting as a committee to discuss city budget issues and the capital improvement program.

This meeting is one of two meetings where the Council will hear public input on the proposed budget for fiscal year 2025.

The mayor’s proposed FY 25 budget did not include an anticipated $400,000 in revenue for the library’s IT infrastructure, an omission that generated the most public comment.

Angela Mihm, president of Friends of the Public Library, stressed the importance of the funding, saying that the “library system is one of the most loved, most democratic and educational services that the city provides.”

“The library’s computer system is a surprisingly sophisticated system that has to connect all 19 branches that are in the city and county,” Mihm said. “It’s the way that we check out our books, it’s the way that we track and get educational and work information. It provides Internet access to our citizens who don’t have access otherwise.”

City administrators said at the meeting it was not intended to shortchange the library system and there is a plan in place to fill the gap.

Other comments addressed Explora, which also did not get $250,000 in expected funding.

“Explora welcomed over 400,000 people into the museum last year and over 5,000 of those were toddlers coming for the exclusive toddler time,” said Kathleen Larese, president-elect of Explora’s board of directors. “The importance of Explora to our community is really around improving outcomes.”

This first meeting targeted what the city considers to besocial goals, including funding for community safety, police, civilian police oversight, arts and culture, library services, family and community services, fire and rescue, senior services and more.

The next committee meeting will take place on May 9 and will focus onphysical goals, including appropriations to animal welfare, transit, environmental health, finance and administration, human services, legal, planning and other departments.


In addition, councilors will hold their regularly scheduled meeting on Monday to consider approving the sale of tax improvement revenue bonds to purchase a new law enforcement helicopter and other projects. The $22 million in bonds will finance the new helicopter, as well as improvements to the city youth shelters, Southwest Public Safety Center, Cibola Loop Multigenerational Center, Gibson Health Hub, Westside Emergency Housing Shelter and the Albuquerque Railyards.

Other business councilors will consider Monday include:

  •  A grant application for violence intervention funds with the New Mexico Department of Health Office of Gun Violence Prevention.
  • Accepting grant funds from the New Mexico State Library.
  • The filing of an application for a Federal Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership Program Grant for the renovation of Mesa Verde Park 
  • Adopting an updated Albuquerque/Bernalillo County Comprehensive Plan.
  • An appeal of an Environment Planning Commission approval of a site plan for cannabis retail use near the intersection of Coors Boulevard and 7 Bar Loop on the city’s West Side.

23-year-old dies at the Bernalillo County jail - KUNM News, KRQE-TV

Bernalillo County’s Metropolitan Detention Center announced Friday that 23-year-old Marcella Montelongo died while in the jail’s custody Thursday.

In a statement, a spokesperson for MDC said the University of New Mexico Hospital medical team responded to notice of a medical emergency and attempted to save Montelongo’s life. The jail says Albuquerque Ambulance and Bernalillo County Fire and Rescue arrived at 2:30 p.m. to assist. Montelongo was pronounced dead about 10 minutes later.

According to the statement, the Bernalillo County Sheriff's Office and the jail’s Office of Professional Standards are investigating the death and the Office of the Medical Investigator is investigating the cause.

KRQE reports Montelongo was in jail awaiting trial for charges related to the death of her 5-year-old son with disabilities last summer. The child died from starvation and dehydration, according to an autopsy.

Motelongo’s death follows a lawsuit against the jail for the overdose death of 41-year-old April Peterson. The suit alleges a guard did not check on the inmate because he was playing computer games and watching videos.

The facility saw its first deaths since UNMH took over as the jail’s health care provider in September when two inmates died in one week. More than 20 people have died while in MDC custody since 2020.

NM to receive over $28 million in federal fund to replace lead pipes - By Nash Jones, KUNM News

New Mexico’s congressional delegation announced Thursday that the state will receive more than $28 million in federal funding to replace lead pipes across the state.

Senior U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich said New Mexicans deserve “the right to a clean and reliable supply of safe drinking water.”

"Because of the investments that we made in the Infrastructure Law, our state will finally be able to replace lead pipes, using American-made materials installed by American plumbers and pipefitters," he said.

Specifically, the funds come from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, a provision of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, according to the announcement.

New Mexico’s allotment represents 1% of the more than $2.8 billion available to states, which was set using the Drinking Water Infrastructure Needs Survey and Assessment according to the EPA. Illinois will receive the biggest infusion, at more than $240 million.

The agency said it will prioritize replacing “known sources” of lead in the drinking water.

Representative Gabe Vasquez said the funding is not only an investment in infrastructure, but also “the health, well-being and prosperity of every New Mexican.”

Camino Real Regional Utility Authority asks people to cut all outdoor water use due to shortage - Danielle Prokop, Source New Mexico 

The Camino Real Regional Utility Authority is urging no outdoor water use for the 19,000 residents in southern Doña Ana County, Sunland Park and Santa Teresa, citing low water supplies in a public announcement sent late afternoon Thursday.

The utility said they are experiencing “extremely low water levels” caused by a combination of high water use and two offline water wells undergoing repairs and maintenance.

Camino Real is asking people to cut outdoor water use until Wednesday, May 8 due to public safety concerns.

“This is not an emergency declaration,” said the utility’s executive director Juan Carlos Crosby.

“We need to ensure that fire officials in the city of Sunland Park and Doña Ana County have the water reserves they require for fire suppression.”

There are no fines or citations, as the measure is strictly voluntary, said Udell Vigil, a spokesperson for the water utility.

“We want customers to take the situation seriously, that’s the reason for the public notice,” Vigil said.

The area is in the midst of fire season. Wildfire conditions are already elevated due to ongoing drought conditions. The lack of moisture is going to combine with faster winds over the weekend, said Connor Dennhardt, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service El Paso office.

“The combination of those two things will lead to critical to extreme fire danger for much of southwest New Mexico on Sunday,” he said. “I would not be surprised if we have red flag warnings out on Sunday.”

Sunday could see wind-speeds between 25-30 miles per hour, he said.

Sunland Park Fire Chief Danny Medrano could not be reached by phone for comment Tuesday.

The public notice prohibits water use for irrigation, washing cars, patios, driveways, sidewalks and any commercial construction use of water hydrants. The notice applies to public parks and school grounds.

This comes as the utility is attempting to assuage concerns about its operations and rebuild trust with customers after a series of water quality issues – including sending drinking water with “high levels of arsenic” to customers, without notifying the public last year.

The latest three tests from New Mexico Environment Department show the utility is now in compliance, with arsenic levels in the utility’s water measuring below the federal limit of 10 parts per billion.

Federal agencies release operating plans for Rio Grande and Pecos River KUNM News, New Mexico Political Report

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the Army Corps of Engineers have released their annual operating plans for the Rio Grande and Pecos rivers.

New Mexico Political Report’s Hannah Groverreports the two agencies say Elephant Butte Reservoir likely already reached its peak elevation for this year in February, and with limited upstream storage “conditions will likely be challenging in the late summer into the fall.”

Because of ongoing construction on the El Vado dam, storing Rio Grande waters will again be limited this year. Officials said if flows from El Vado aren’t sufficient, weekday flows will be reduced to support a 500 cubic feet per second weekend release.

Snowpack was at or above average for the year, and runoff has been about average, but river flows have been shown to be slightly below average. The only exception being the Jemez river which is flowing at about 134% of average.

How Albuquerque’s climate progress stacks up against other cities KUNM News, New Mexico Political Report

A new report ranks Albuquerque second amongst mid-sized cities for taking action to fight climate change.

The American Council for Energy-Efficient Economy released their2024 City Clean Energy Scorecard Tuesday.

New Mexico Political Report’s Hannah Groverreports the council ranks 75 cities based on a range of factors including local and community initiatives, Energy Efficiency, and even building policies and codes.

The report tracks progress made from July of 2021 until the end of September last year, and the cities included all have a population of at least 100,000.

The report marks Albuquerque as a model city for encouraging and incentivizing energy efficient building retrofits in mid-size metros. Duke City scored highest in community energy infrastructure, and has the most room to improve in the transportation sector.

San Francisco topped the rankings overall, and Akron, Ohio came in with the lowest rank. Albuquerque ranked 43rd overall, and second out of eighteen mid-sized metro areas.

Group of Five conference football tournament that interferes with playoff would be hard to sell - By Ralph D. Russo, AP College Football Writer

A postseason football tournament involving only schools from outside the Power Four conferences could only work if it doesn't interfere with the 12-team College Football Playoff, the commissioner of the Mountain West said.

Gloria Nevarez told the AP she has seen the presentation that has been making the rounds among Group of Five administrators about a G5 playoff of sorts that would be funded by private equity, but she has not personally been pitched on the idea.

"Certainly real. Certainly intriguing," Nevarez said Wednesday night after the Mountain West spring meetings wrapped up in Scottsdale. "We are committed to the CFP. Anything would have to be significant enough to even think about stepping away from the CFP."

The nine Bowl Subdivision conferences and Notre Dame locked in an agreement on the College Football Playoff earlier this year that runs through the 2031 season. The next two years the playoff will be a 12-team event and it could expand to 14 as soon as 2026.

The deal guarantees the five highest-ranked conference champions, regardless of league, will have a spot in the field. That should lock in the winners of the Power Four conferences, plus the best champ from Conference USA, the Mountain West, Sun Belt, Mid-American and American Athletic conferences.

"The piece that's really most important to us is that access piece. The five and seven," Nevarez said, referring to the seven automatic bids and five conference champions that will make up the field.

The Mountain West was not as happy with the revenue distribution agreement for the new CFP deal, which leaves her schools making about the same amount (around $1.8 million) per year as they were in the previous four-team CFP, despite the total value of the system more than doubling to $1.3 billion annually.

"We were all disappointed in the financial outcome of the CFP, no doubt," Nevarez said. "But that aside, we're very excited collectively as a league that the enterprise stayed together, that we have the access."

San Diego State athletic director J.D. Wicker, whose team has played for three Mountain West titles and won two since 2015, said with two years left on the current CFP agreement there are too many other issues facing college sports to consider a new postseason model.

"We feel like we can go and be competitive. Are we going to win a national title in football? Probably not. But can we get into the playoffs and win a game or two? Yeah, absolutely," he said Thursday.

A G5 tournament might not replace access to the CFP, but could become a new element to the postseason that gives the conference champions that don't make the 12- or 14-team field the football equivalent to the college basketball's NIT. It could possibly even incorporate some lower-tier bowl games.

Incoming AAC Commissioner Tim Pernetti said last month at his introductory news conference he was interested in exploring new postseason opportunities.

But anything that totally separates the G5 from the P4 will be a hard sell.

"I think any new idea, that can enhance the excitement around college football's postseason is worth discussing. The idea of a G5 (playoff) is something that at this point, I don't sense a lot of enthusiasm for from the leadership of those conferences," said Nick Carparelli, the executive director of Bowl Season. "I'm not going to speak for them, but, what I've heard is there is there's one playoff and it's the CFP, and that's what they're aspiring to be a part of."