Monday News Roundup: National Solar Testing Site Being Launched In Vermont

Nov 4, 2013

Military Wants To Keep Using Forest For Training - Associated Press and The Albuquerque Journal

Kirtland Air Force Base's request to renew a decades-old agreement that allows military training in portions of a national forest in central New Mexico is stirring controversy.

Kirtland has had an agreement since 1977 to use parts of the Cibola National Forest for training. That training includes establishment of helicopter landing zones, high-altitude training for aircraft and remote deployment of ground teams.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that some conservation groups and at least one private landowner call the military activity noisy and harmful to wildlife habitat. They suggest that the training be conducted on military installations such as Holloman Air Force Base and White Sands Missile Range.

Military officials say units already use those facilities and that the forest land provides more realistic locations for some types of training.

National Solar Testing Site Being Launched In Vt. - Associated Press

A new center in Vermont will be researching ways to cut the cost of solar power and integrate solar energy into the state.

The center, opening Monday, is one of five in the United States.

The state entered into a partnership with Sandia National Laboratories and other institutions several years ago to conduct energy research.

Representatives from Sandia, IBM, and the U.S. Department of Energy are joining Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders to launch the test center at 10 a.m. Monday.

Lawsuits Could Be Costly For NM Electric Co-op - Associated Press and The Santa Fe New Mexican

Lawsuits filed over the 2011 Las Conchas Fire could end up costing the Jemez Mountains Electric Cooperative millions of dollars.

But General Manager Ernest Gonzales tells The Santa Fe New Mexican  it's too soon to know how much the co-op will have to pay and how the costs will affect its members.

The co-op, Tri-State Generation and an Espanola tree service are being sued by more than 50 property owners and insurance companies over damage caused by the fire.

The pueblos of Cochiti and Jemez also have filed claims against the co-op and the U.S. Forest Service.

The fire was started by a downed power line, and plaintiffs blame the co-op for not keeping the power line easement clear of trees. They also blame the Forest Service for not granting the co-op a wide enough easement.

NM Governor Receives Arts, Sciences Award - Associated Press and The Las Cruces Sun News

Gov. Susana Martinez is among four women who have been recognized for their contributions to the arts and sciences.

Martinez attended a dinner at New Mexico State University on Saturday night and was named this year's "Star of Art and Science." She has promoted a state effort that gives a $5,000 boost in pay to help recruit and retrain science and math teachers.

The governor tells the Las Cruces Sun-News she'll continue to seek funding for that effort to fill a gap in the availability of science, technology, engineering and math classes in some areas of the state.

Las Cruces arts advocate Heather Pollard, NMSU alum and arts promoter Ammu Devasthali and Pat Sisbarro, co-chair of the Aggies are Tough Enough to Wear Pink campaign, were also honored.

NM City Faces $5M Payment Due To Tax Changes - Associated Press

Farmington City Manager Rob Mayes says some hard financial choices are ahead for the city.

Mayes tells The Daily Times that Farmington will have to find $5 million or make cuts from services such as street maintenance and firefighter response once the state lifts its "hold harmless" clause, which has funded cities and counties in lieu of tax money they previously received from food and medicine.

He says Farmington will begin paying the state in 2015.

Mayes doesn't think raising taxes will be necessary during the next budget process, but he says the city needs to think of something.

This fiscal year, the city trimmed $3 million in programs and used $3.5 million from cash reserves to deal with a deficit. The city's revenues are also about 10 percent less than in 2009.