Renovations At Sunport Behind Schedule, Santa Fe Chicano Mural Slated For Destruction

Jan 2, 2020

Renovations At New Mexico's Largest Airport Behind Schedule Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

Renovations at New Mexico's largest airport are scheduled to wrap up in February, but officials acknowledge that the project is 18 months behind schedule and about $2.5 million over the initial budget.

Albuquerque's aviation director tells the Albuquerque Journal that the delays are due in part to inadequate scoping of the project and problems with an electrical subcontractor. Officials say that while crews have become a familiar site at the airport, the work has had little effect on travelers.

The work began in 2017, with the objective being to refurbish and upgrade the terminal's ticketing, baggage claim and exterior areas.

New Mexico Power Plant The Focus Of New Public MeetingAssociated Press

Residents in northwestern New Mexico will have an opportunity to weigh in on the future of a coal-fired power plant slated for closure in 2022.

Public Regulation Commission Chairwoman Theresa Becenti-Aguilar has scheduled a hearing Monday in Farmington. The commission is considering Public Service Co. of New Mexico's application to shutter the plant and replace the lost capacity with a mix of natural gas, renewables and battery storage.

At issue is whether the state's energy transition law applies and if the plant's owners can recover investments by selling bonds that would be paid off by utility customers. The plan also includes $40 million in economic aid for the area.

Leader Of Armed Border Group Pleads Guilty To Gun ChargeAssociated Press

The leader of an armed group that detained asylum-seeking families near the U.S.-Mexico border has pleaded guilty in New Mexico to a firearms charge.

Larry Mitchell Hopkins pleaded guilty to a charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm. The conviction stems from a 2017 visit by an FBI agent to Hopkins' home. Hopkins was arrested April 20 in Sunland Park, New Mexico, near the U.S. border with Mexico where his group has been stopping migrants and ordering them to wait as they alerted Border Patrol.

He acknowledged possessing nine guns. Hopkins faces a maximum of 10 years in prison.

$8B Needed In Transportation Repairs On Navajo NationGallup Independent, Associated Press

Transportation officials for the Navajo Nation have reported it would take 116 years and $7.9 billion to meet current infrastructure needs.  

The Gallup Independent reported Tuesday that officials from the Navajo Nation Division of Transportation reported the figures as part of a $320 million bonding plan drafted to fund bridges, pavement preservation projects and earth road improvements.

Officials say the Navajo Nation Council's Budget and Finance Committee unanimously accepted the plan in early December. They say the plan identified $1.4 billion in needs to address pavement deficiencies and $6.5 billion for upgrades to the existing roadway system.

More Cities, Counties Join Lawsuit Over New Mexico Taxes -Associated Press

More New Mexico cities and counties are claiming that the state tax agency has failed to accurately collect and distribute tax revenue.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that 44 municipalities, counties and other local agencies have signed on to a lawsuit that began with just a few local governments a year ago. 

The complaint alleges violations in the state's handling of potentially tens of millions of dollars in gross receipts tax revenue. 

The Taxation and Revenue Department in court documents has denied the allegations. 

The agency has appointed a liaison to answer questions and concerns about the tax distribution.

Santa Fe Chicano Mural Slated For Destruction For New Museum -Associated Press

An iconic Chicano mural in Santa Fe painted by Mexican American artists is scheduled for destruction to make way for a new contemporary museum. 

The New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs said last month state officials have determined the mural is "unstable with extensive cracking" and, therefore, beyond repair. 

But writer Alicia Inez Guzman says the destruction of the mural is evidence of gentrification and the erasure of Mexican American culture in the capital city of the nation's most Hispanic state. 

The mural is slated for removal to make way for the planned New Mexico Museum of Art Vladem Contemporary.

Embattled Democratic Senator To Get Primary Challenger -Associated Press

A New Mexico state senator who last month was found guilty of aggravated drunken driving and reckless driving will face a primary challenge. 

Rio Arriba County Commissioner Leo Jaramillo says he will seek to unseat embattled state Sen. Richard Martinez in the Democratic primary. Jaramillo is a former journalist and public-school teacher. 

The 43-year-old says he is running to "restore credibility" to the northern New Mexico seat. 

Martinez was found guilty of aggravated drunken driving and reckless driving in connection with a June car crash. 

He has stepped down from Senate leadership roles but has refused to resign from his seat.

New Mexico Now Considering Energy Efficiency Of Office Space -Associated Press

The state of New Mexico says it's now considering the energy efficiency of buildings when leasing office space. 

The state General Services Department made the announcement Tuesday, saying it also will take into account other measures by building owners to reduce environmental effects, such as recycling programs, eco-friendly cleaning products or the installation of solar power. 

The state's facilities management division recently issued a request for proposals for temporary office space for the Department of Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department. 

The department's current home is up for a major renovation that will include solar.

Northern New Mexico State Park Open To Ice Fishing -Associated Press

Officials with the New Mexico State Parks Division say Eagle Nest is now open to ice fishing. 

Current measurements indicate that ice thickness at the northern New Mexico lake exceeds minimum standards and can accommodate walk-in or snowmobile access. 

The State Parks Division has the authority to close or restrict access to areas of parks, as well as to restrict, limit or prohibit activities such as ice fishing, as conditions require. 

Officials say such actions are taken in the interest of public safety and resource protection. 

Officials also are warning visitors not to fish alone and to be prepared for weather conditions.

Construction Jobs On The Rise In New Mexico -Associated Press

The construction industry is booming in New Mexico. 

The Associated General Contractors of America says the state was ranked No. 2 in the nation in October and November for construction job growth. 

Both months marked more than 11% year-over-year gains. The only other state with better numbers was Nevada. 

A dominant share of New Mexico's increased construction is in oil-rich Eddy and Lea counties in southeastern New Mexico, where economic development officials expect even more activity in 2020. 

Officials say the shortage of qualified construction workers in southeastern New Mexico is the only thing holding the Carlsbad and Hobbs areas from even more construction.

New Mexico Governor Gives State Workers Paid Parental Leave -Associated Press

The Democratic governor of New Mexico is ordering paid family leave of 12 weeks for the parents of newborn and adopted children at all agencies under her authority. 

The policy was announced Tuesday by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and takes effect on New Year's Day. 

Until now, the state did not provide any paid maternity or paternity leave. 

The annual cost to taxpayers is estimated at roughly $5 million. 

The first-term governor has been rapidly expanding the ranks of state government amid a surge in government income.

New Mexico Governor Done With Leadership On Wildlife Panel -Associated Press

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has decided not to reappoint one of her own picks to a panel that oversees hunting, fishing and wildlife management across the state. The Democratic governor had appointed Joanna Prukop to the Game Commission in May. 

After a long career in wildlife and natural resources management, Prukop became the first woman to chair the commission. 

Her term expires Jan. 1, but the governor's office said she would not be reappointed, citing policy disagreements. 

Hunting, angling and wildlife advocates voiced concerns about the move, saying the panel had done a good job in recent months with Prukop at the helm.