Local news and weather for Las Cruces, El Paso, Alamogordo, Silver City, Ruidoso, Anthony, Cloudcroft, Deming, Truth or Consequences, Elephant Butte, and all of Southern New Mexico and Far West Texas.

New Mexico Unemployment Rate Rises To 6.5 Percent In July

Aug 21, 2015

New Mexico's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose to 6.5 percent in July, up from 6.4 percent in June but unchanged from a year earlier.

The state Department of Workforce Solutions said Friday the state added 9,600 over the year, a 1.2 percent increase since July 2014 and the strongest over-the-year increase in July since 2007.

Officials say July was New Mexico's 35th consecutive month of over-the-year job growth.

Tracking New Mexico Capital Outlay Spending: The Numbers Don't Always Add Up

Aug 21, 2015

  The numbers don’t always add up when examining the Department of Finance and Administration’s capital outlay project data.

That’s just one early revelation from New Mexico In Depth’s examination of the data provided in late June by the DFA.

A federal judge has scheduled a hearing Friday in Fargo on an effort by 13 states to block a new rule that gives federal authorities jurisdiction over some state waters.

The states, led by North Dakota, argue that the rules from the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers illegally expand those agencies' powers under the federal Clean Water Act.

The law goes into effect next week. The states want the judge to order an injunction to suspend the new rules.

Many landowners are worried even a ditch or puddle could fall under the new federal regulations.

Bandelier National Monument Begins Flood Repairs

Aug 21, 2015

Officials at Bandelier National Monument say work has started to repair damage near the visitor center caused by flash flooding in the wake of a wildfire that charred more than 230 square miles in northern New Mexico in 2011.

The monument is using emergency relief funds from the Federal Highway Administration to get the work done.

Contractors plan to build a new vehicle access route, clean up flood debris and re-establish the picnic area and overflow parking areas at the bottom of Frijoles Canyon.

Student Enrollment Jumps Again In Hobbs

Aug 21, 2015

A school district in the heart of New Mexico's oil boom region is reporting another record student enrollment.

The Hobbs News-Sun reports that Hobbs Municipal Schools has started the academic year with more than 9,900 students. And officials say that number is still expected to grow and may exceed 10,000.

Last year, the southeastern New Mexico school district saw an enrollment of 9,833.

The jump comes as Lea County continues to see an economic boom for oil and gas.

Toddler Tests Positive For Cocaine

Aug 21, 2015

Authorities say a 2-year-old boy has tested positive for cocaine after being found unconscious in a car with two adults.

The Albuquerque Journal reports 25-year-old Brittany Christy was arrested Monday on several charges, including child abuse and controlled substance violation.

Officers found Christy in the driver's seat of a car parked in the middle of an Albuquerque sidewalk. A man and a 2-year-old boy were also in the vehicle. All three were unconscious.

Police say they found heroin and an open container of alcohol in the vehicle.

Charges Thrown Out In Dave Chappelle Banana Peel Case

Aug 21, 2015

The charges have been tossed in the case of a man accused of throwing a banana peel at Dave Chappelle during a performance in New Mexico.

The Albuquerque Journal reports prosecutors dismissed two petty misdemeanor charges against 31-year-old Christian Englander after Chappelle was unresponsive to requests for testimony.

Chappelle had said the March incident at the Lensic Performing Arts Center in Santa Fe was a racist act, while Englander has acknowledged he threw the banana peel because Chappelle was making jokes about his friend.

EPA Downplays Dangers Of Mine Spill, But Concerns Linger

Aug 20, 2015

More than two weeks after a mine spill fouled waterways in several Western states, officials are expressing concern over the long-term effects of contaminated river bottoms as the federal agency that triggered the accident downplayed the dangers.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency workers released more than 3 million gallons of contaminated water Aug. 5 while working at an inactive mine site near Silverton, Colorado.

  The New Mexico State University Art Gallery invites the public to trade their art for works crafted by artists from all over the country, as “Your General Store,” an interactive installation, is unveiled Sept. 3.

Created by artist Jason Middlebrook, the reconditioned shipping container-turned general store will arrive to campus from SITE Santa Fe, where it made its debut earlier this summer. The store is filled with inventory and art by hundreds of artists from across the world who have exchanged their artwork for pieces created specifically for “Your General Store.”

The New Mexico Supreme Court says any district judge who fills a midterm vacancy must stand for a nonpartisan retention election in the sixth year of what would have been the predecessor's term.

The court issued its opinion Thursday, saying its finding is consistent with the intent of the state Constitution.

The question stems from the case of former District Judge Sheri Raphaelson, who was ordered by the court to step down last year after losing a retention election.

Severe Drought Fades Away In New Mexico

Aug 20, 2015

It's been more than four years since New Mexico's drought picture has looked this good, and parts of the state are gearing up for more moisture-bearing storms this weekend.

The U.S. Drought Monitor released Thursday shows severe drought has disappeared from the state, leaving behind lesser levels of dryness in the western half of New Mexico.

The last time drought levels were this low was in January 2011. Just one year ago, severe and extreme drought conditions covered more than two-fifths of the state.

Man Who Caused Las Cruces Bomb Scare Facing Felony Charge

Aug 20, 2015

A man who Las Cruces police say walked into an office supplies store and purported to have a bag with explosives is facing charges.

Las Cruces police said Thursday that 44-year-old Robert Schaffer has been charged with a felony count of intentionally delivering a facsimile or hoax bomb.

Schaffer is being held in Dona Ana County Detention Center without bond.

It was not immediately known if he had attorney.

Police say Schaffer allegedly entered a Staples store Wednesday evening and handed a bag to an employee, indicating there was a bomb inside.

APS Staff To Receive Paid Leave While Serving In Legislature

Aug 20, 2015

The Board of Education has approved a policy that will allow Albuquerque Public Schools employees who are state lawmakers to receive paid "political leave" while they work in the Legislature.

The plan approved Wednesday comes after years of debate over the merits of such pay.

Board member Barbara Petersen tells the Albuquerque Journal the new policy could inspire more APS employees to become lawmakers, which would serve as a benefit to school districts.

  Las Cruces Crime Stoppers has increased its reward for information that leads to an arrest in the Aug. 2 explosions outside a pair of local churches.

The reward Las Cruces Crime Stoppers is offering now stands at $15,000, but that amount is good only through Sept. 18, 2015. The deadline to claim the $15,000 reward was set to preserve the integrity of the investigation, and prevent any tips or leads from going cold.

Suspect In Wednesday Evening Bomb Scare Arrested

Aug 20, 2015

  The man believed to be responsible for the evacuation of several businesses after walking into Staples with a bag he claimed held explosives has been charged with a felony and is currently being held without bond.

Robert Schaffer, 44, who is believed to be homeless, is charged with one count of intentionally delivering a facsimile or hoax bomb. The offense is a fourth-degree felony.

Agents from the FBI and ATF responded to last night’s incident and will continue to assist with the investigations of all such threats.

New Mexico To Create Database For Medical Claims

Aug 20, 2015

In hopes of making choosing health care easier, New Mexico is creating a database with detailed information for all types of medical claims.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that the State Human Services Department is expected to award a contract next month for a consultant to help the agency plan the database, which will have information on payment claims from private insurance companies and public payers, such as Medicare and Medicaid.

  KRWG-TV presents a local special tonight on the declining middle class.

In the last 15 years, every state has seen a decline in the middle class. That’s according to a Pew Charitable trust study based on Census Bureau data.  New Mexico and a number of other states saw about a five percent decline in middle class households.  Only Wisconsin did worse with a decline of about six percent.

Art is an important part of the Las Cruces Community, and the city art board is working to make art a larger part of the public community.

Chair of the Las Cruces city art board George Griffin says the strategic plan is meant to coordinate how art can be used to improve both quality of life and economic development.

PNM Seeks Secrecy Order For Certain Documents

Aug 19, 2015

Public Service Company of New Mexico is asking the Public Regulation Commission for a protective order declaring certain documents confidential even before it files its latest request to increase electricity rates.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports a PNM spokeswoman said in a statement Tuesday that the utility isn't trying to keep any documents secret, but wants the order in place to ensure that the discovery process runs smoothly as parties seek information related to the rate proposal.

El Paso Abortion Clinic Set To Become Texas' First To Reopen

Aug 19, 2015

An El Paso clinic closed by Texas' tough abortion laws is set to become the state's first to reopen since the U.S. Supreme Court temporarily blocked enforcement of key restrictions.

The reopening of the Reproductive Services facility would bring to 20 the number of abortion clinics in Texas, down from 41 in 2012.

An attorney for a group representing the Reproductive Services clinic said Wednesday it was only waiting on a state license.

Police: Pilot Of Plane That Crashed Near Las Cruces Has Died

Aug 19, 2015

The pilot of T-28 vintage Navy plane that crashed last week near the Las Cruces International Airport has died.

New Mexico State Police say 64-year-old David Tokoph of El Paso, Texas died Tuesday night of injuries suffered in last Friday morning's crash.

Tokoph had been hospitalized at University Medical Center in El Paso.

Police say the passenger has been identified as Angelo Edgard Cossi Sedjiro, from France.

Former Dona Ana County Worker Files Suit Over Termination

Aug 19, 2015

A former employee in the Dona Ana County Clerk's Office who was fired after alerting authorities to alleged wrongdoing within the office has sued the county.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports Robert Hernandez alleges in his 19-page lawsuit that he was subjected to cronyism, harassment, retaliation, creation of a hostile work environment and outrageous conduct that adversely affected his employment at the county.

Hernandez worked as a temporary employee at the county office.

Expert: Convicting New Mexico Officers Of Murder A Challenge

Aug 19, 2015

Experts say it will be a challenge for prosecutors to convict an Albuquerque police officer and a retired detective of murder after they were ordered to stand trial in the fatal shooting of a homeless man.

Michael Benza of Case Western Reserve University School of Law says officers are rarely sent to prison for on-duty shootings because the law gives them protection based on their perceptions during dangerous encounters.

Benza says that if defense lawyers convince jurors that the officers felt afraid, it will be difficult to get convictions.

Hobbs Woman Facing 5 years In Prison For Drug Trafficking

Aug 19, 2015

A Hobbs woman has pleaded guilty to violating federal narcotics trafficking laws and is facing a five-year prison sentence.

Prosecutors say 46-year-old Ida Rodriguez entered her plea Wednesday in federal court in Las Cruces.

Under the terms of her plea agreement, Rodriguez will be sentenced to 60 months in prison followed by a term of supervised release to be determined by the court.

Rodriguez was arrested in June on a criminal complaint charging her with possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine in Lea and Dona Ana counties.

New York Times Covers Las Cruces Church Bombing Story

Aug 19, 2015

The New York Times posted an in-depth piece on the Las Cruces church bombings investigation Wednesday.

Resolution Reached On Silver City Museum Trees

Aug 19, 2015
The Town of Silver City

The Town of Silver City has reached an agreement with the Lloyds, whose property is adjacent to the Silver City Museum. The agreement calls for the preservation of the large Silver Poplar tree in the Town of Silver City Museum courtyard. The Siberian Elm tree will be removed from the courtyard. The elm tree was examined by the Extension Service and determined to be infected with “slime flux” disease, which will eventually kill the tree and make it a public hazard.

Cause Sought In Deadly New Mexico Scaffold Collapse

Aug 19, 2015

Investigators are trying to determine what led to the collapse of a six-story scaffold outside a New Mexico hospital that killed one construction worker and injured seven others.

New Mexico Occupational Safety and Health Administration officials were at the Rio Rancho site Wednesday, a day after 21 feet of scaffolding buckled and collapsed from the top down.

Work on a second patient tower at Presbyterian Rust Medical Center has been going on since last year.

Economic Impact Of Kirtland Base Dips As Jobs Increase

Aug 19, 2015

Jobs are up even as local economic impacts dip by $500 million for Albuquerque's Kirtland Air Force Base.

The Albuquerque Journal reports 2014 impact data from the financial analysis office of the 377th Comptroller Squadron shows the base contributed $7.6 billion to the Albuquerque economy, about 3.1 percent less than predicted.

Base commander Col. Eric Froehlich said during a meeting of community leaders Tuesday that the base is up by 774 jobs, mostly at federally contracted Sandia National Labs.

Finance Chief Optimistic About New Mexico's Recovery

Aug 19, 2015

New Mexico's top finance official says declining oil and gas prices will continue to cut into revenues but the state has enough money to follow through with education reforms and public safety mandates.

The head of the Department of Finance and Administration, Tom Clifford, updated members of the Legislative Finance Committee on the latest revenue outlook during a meeting Wednesday in Taos.

Clifford's agency says revenues from oil and gas are expected to be around $840 million for the 2016 fiscal year. That's more than 16 percent less than the last fiscal year.

New NMSU College Of Education Associate Dean

Aug 19, 2015

  Enedina García Vázquez, a professor in the Counseling & Educational Psychology Department of New Mexico State University’s College of Education, has been named the college’s associate dean of academic affairs.

“I’m very excited to be working with our new dean, Donald Pope-Davis,” Vázquez said. “I look forward to working with students and faculty to develop new programs and new initiatives to advance the mission of the College of Education.”