Airline Nixes Planned Albuquerque-Mexico Flights, Fire Restrictions Start In Gallinas Mountains

Jul 2, 2019

Albuquerque To Chihuahua Direct Volaris Flight ScrappedAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

A new direct flight between Albuquerque and the city of Chihuahua, Mexico, has been scrapped less than two weeks after it was to have begun.

Albuquerque International Sunport marketing manager Jonathan Small told the Albuquerque Journal on Monday the route was scrapped after the low-cost discount airline Volaris wanted both cities to cough up an additional $32,000 per roundtrip flight.

Small says the two cities opted not to pay after officials consulted each other. He says the city of Albuquerque is considering legal action.

The new international route was announced in February after Volaris began twice-weekly, non-stop service from Albuquerque to Guadalajara, Mexico. But that route, too, appears to be canceled.

Albuquerque has struggled to attract and retain direct flights to Mexico.

New Mexico Governor Reaches Out To Nike Amid Arizona FlapArizona Republic, Wall Street Journal, Associated Press

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has reached out to Nike to "explore whether there's a potential fit" after the governor in neighboring Arizona withdrew financial incentives for a factory amid a flap about an American flag-themed shoe.

Lujan Grisham spokesman Tripp Stelnicki said today the Democratic governor contacted Nike because she wants the jobs in New Mexico that would go to a planned $185 million factory in Goodyear, Arizona.

The Arizona Republic reported Gov. Doug Ducey called Nike’s decision a “shameful retreat” on Twitter and he pulled a financial incentive package for the plant. It's not clear whether the move would derail Nike's plans for the Arizona factory.

The Wall Street Journal reported Nike pulled the colonial-era American flag shoe after former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick complained.

Stelnicki says New Mexico in recent months has attracted employers like Netflix and NBC Universal. He says Nike would find a friendly business climate in the state.

US Election Security Official Highlights Email Threat - By Morgan Lee Associated Press

Beware the phishing attempts.

An election security official with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday warned top state election officials nationwide to safeguard against fraudulent emails targeting state and local election workers.

The emails appear as if they come from a legitimate source and contain links that, if opened, can open up election data systems to manipulation or attacks.

Geoff Hale, director of the department's Election Security Initiative, told a gathering of secretaries of state in Santa Fe that the nation's decentralized voting systems remain especially vulnerable to emails that can trick unsuspecting workers into providing access to elections databases.

Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate, a Republican, calls phishing the No. 1 concern when it comes to securing election-related computer systems in his state.

Albuquerque Driver Charged In Uber Passenger's DeathAssociated Press

Prosecutors have charged a driver in the St. Patrick's Day shooting death of an Uber passenger in Albuquerque.

Court records show Bernalillo County prosecutors charged Clayton Benedict on Monday afternoon — more than three months after the shooting death of 27-year-old James Porter occurred.

A spokesman for the district attorney did not immediately respond to a message seeking further explanation on timing of the charges.

A voicemail left at the local public defenders' office seeking comment on Benedict's behalf was not immediately returned Tuesday.

Authorities say Benedict opened fire after he picked up Porter and a friend, and an argument broke out along Interstate 25.

Ride-sharing giants Uber and Lyft have policies that prohibit the presence of weapons inside vehicles when they are used for transporting clients.

Santa Fe Golf Courses Temporarily Close After Water ProblemAssociated Press

Santa Fe golf courses and athletic fields have temporarily closed after the treated wastewater used for irrigation was found unsafe for public watering.

The Santa Fe City Council voted Monday to spend between $60,000 and $110,000 on irrigating the turf with drinking water.

The city-owned Marty Sanchez Links de Santa Fe golf course and the athletic fields at the Municipal Recreation Complex closed last week, as well as the privately-owned Santa Fe Country Club.

The city stopped delivery of all treated effluent after a test showed the water contained levels of biological matter, including contaminants like E. coli, above state limits.

City Public Utilities Department Director Shannon Jones says the treatment plant experienced an "upset" sometime between June 19 and June 22 that disrupted the treatment process.

New Mexico Land Office Has Bidder For New Wind FarmAssociated Press

A subsidiary of Colorado-based Scout Clean Energy is moving ahead with plans for a wind farm after winning a bid for more than 25 square miles of state trust land in New Mexico.

The State Land Office says Great Divide Wind Farm was the sole applicant for the Grant County parcel and has plans to acquire more property from surrounding landowners.

The 250-megawatt project would have the capacity to power about 250,000 households. Construction could take up to two years.

Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard says the wind farm is projected to bring in $16 million for public schools and other beneficiaries over the term of the lease.

Garcia Richard says her goal is to triple the amount of wind and solar generation on state trust land.

US Underground Nuclear Waste Dump Receives 12,500th ShipmentAssociated Press

The federal government's underground nuclear waste repository in New Mexico has received its 12,500th shipment since operations began two decades ago.

The U.S. Energy Department made the announcement Tuesday, saying the shipment arrived at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant just before midnight on June 27.

The shipment originated at Idaho National Laboratory.

The repository is licensed to take Cold War-era waste generated by decades of bomb-making and defense-related nuclear research. The waste includes gloves, clothing, tools and other materials contaminated with radioactive elements.

In all, more than 178,500 containers have been trucked over 14.9 million miles to the repository from sites around the country since 1999. The waste is entombed in disposal rooms carved out of an ancient salt formation about half a mile down.

New Mexico Utility Charts Closure For Coal-Fired Power Plant - By Susan Montoya Bryan Associated Press

New Mexico's largest electric utility is submitting to regulators its plan for shutting down the coal-fired San Juan Generating Station, how it intends to replace the lost power and what it's going to cost customers.

The filing with the Public Regulation Commission comes as a new state law dictates more aggressive renewable energy requirements while allowing Public Service Co. of New Mexico to recoup from customers some of the costs.

The application for abandonment of the plant and the building of replacement power includes the utility's preferred option, which it describes as the most cost-effective plan, as well as three alternatives.

The preferred option would save customers about $7 a month in the first year. Utility executives couldn't say what the savings, if any, would be beyond that.

They say the goal is to be emissions-free by 2040.

Creditors Group Seeks Info On Church Foundation's Assets - Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

It will be up to a U.S. bankruptcy judge whether to order the Catholic Foundation of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe to produce records related to $48 million in assets.

A creditors committee of clergy sex abuse survivors filed a motion last week in the ongoing bankruptcy case involving the archdiocese. The Albuquerque Journal reports the panel wants to determine whether the foundation's assets are property of the archdiocese's estate.

The archdiocese filed for reorganization last December, citing the financial strain of the abuse scandal.

In its bankruptcy petition, the archdiocese claimed nearly $50 million in assets. The filing also said more than $57 million in property was being held in trust for numerous parishes and property transfers worth an additional $34 million were done over the past couple years.

'Are You Serious?' Police Describe Senator's DWI Arrest

Police say a New Mexico state senator expressed surprise when he was told he was being arrested on a drunken driving charge, saying to officers, "Are you serious? Jesus Christ."

A court official says Sen. Richard Martinez, D-Española, has five days to appear in court on charges of aggravated DWI and reckless driving.

The former Rio Arriba County magistrate judge is the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

He was arrested Friday night after a collision at an intersection in Española, and booked into jail before being released the following day.

No one answered The Associated Press' calls at a number listed for Martinez.

Senate Democrats said in a statement that Martinez, 66, is "a valued member of our caucus" entitled to due process.

Deming School Board To Sue Ex-Employee Over Missing Funds - Deming Headlight, Associated Press

The Deming school board has voted to file a lawsuit against a former high school secretary suspected of embezzlement.

The Deming Headlight reports the board voted last week to file a civil lawsuit against a former Deming High School secretary accused of misusing funds.

A 63-page forensic audit by the Jaramillo Accounting Group in December 2017 details the former employee's misuse of a district purchase card, activity funds, purchase orders and receipts.

Officials say as much as $145,000 remains unaccounted for over a four-year period. The district was able to recoup most of the lost funds through its liability insurance.

Superintendent Arsenio Romero says the district needs to still recover some of those funds.

Southeastern New Mexico Courthouse Project Facing Delays - Hobbs News-Sun, Associated Press

Construction of a courthouse in southeastern New Mexico is a year behind schedule and more delays are expected.

Documents obtained by the Hobbs News-Sun show there remained 101 non-conforming issues as of May 2 for the planned Lea County Judicial Complex. The five-story structure in Lovington, New Mexico, was supposed to be occupied in August 2018.

Lea County Chairwoman Rebecca Long says many issues with the project haven't been addressed yet. For example, she says one of the main drains is cemented in and there are possible leaks in the roof.

County officials contracted Albuquerque-based HB Construction, Inc., in December 2016 to build the facility for around $30 million.

HB Construction President Matthew Mulligan says all parties are working actively to get the project to the finish line.

Fire Restrictions Start In Central New Mexico Mountains - Associated Press

The first fire restrictions of the year on national forest land in New Mexico now are in effect.

They started Monday on the Gallinas Mountains southeast of Albuquerque near Corona. That's in the Cibola National Forest's Mountainair Ranger District.

Forest officials say the abundant grass that grew as a result of a fairly wet winter has dried out and now is a wildfire risk.

Visitors won't be allowed to build campfires except within designated areas. Smoking also is prohibited except in vehicles, enclosed buildings or developed recreation sites.

Anyone found guilty of violating fire restrictions can be fined up to $5,000 and spend up to six months in jail.

Treasure Hunting Film Begins Production In New Mexico - Associated Press

An independent film about two sisters searching for pirate treasure will be filmed in New Mexico.

The New Mexico Film Office made the announcement Monday.

"Sierra Sisters The Hunt for Blackbeard's Treasure" will film starting in mid-June through July in Albuquerque, Los Lunas and Zia Pueblo.

Josh Relic is directing the film. It's being produced by Spanish Broom Productions and Dream Catcher Productions, LLC.

About 45 people in New Mexico will work on the film as crew members, actors and background talent.

The film follows sisters Hera and Athena as they go treasure hunting and try to outsmart their rivals.