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Local News

  • Fries receives big raise

    The Highlands University Board of Regents voted unanimously last week to hike President Jim Fries’ pay from $175,874 to $232,000 a year.

    For his part, Fries seemed almost taken aback by the amount of the increase.

    “I’m both humbled and extremely appreciative of the vote of confidence from the board that this represents. I plan to do everything I possibly can to make us a better university at which students create their own futures,” Fries told the Optic.

  • Grand project to start in 2009

    The state hopes to start the Grand Avenue improvement project in 2009 and get it done a year later.

    Paul Gray, district engineer for the state Transportation Department, said the project already has $4.7 million, including $1.2 million in federal economic development funds, enough to make the project a go.

    Transportation officials recently promoted the project shortly before a session of the state Transportation Commission, which met for a couple of days in Las Vegas.

  • Suspect fought with girl's uncle

    David Levi Chavez, who is accused of killing a 6-year-old girl, apparently had something against her uncle.

    In early May, a little more than a month before the girl’s death, Chavez, 20, allegedly got into a fight with the uncle, Jeffrey Sanchez, in the Gallinas Canyon. It resulted in Chavez’s arrest.

    In the early morning hours on June 15, Chavez asked for a ride to the 300 block of Union Street, where Sanchez lived. And then he fired his shotgun, according to a criminal complaint filed in Magistrate Court this week.

  • Lawsuit alleges bias at hospital

    An employee of Alta Vista Regional Hospital has sued his employer over what he calls a pattern of bias against northern New Mexican Hispanics.

    Carlos Coca, who has held a number of supervisory positions at the hospital over the years, filed the lawsuit earlier this month in state District Court.

    His attorney, Dennis Montoya of Albuquerque, states in the lawsuit that Coca has been a target of discrimination in the years since Tennessee-based Community Health Systems Corp. bought the formerly nonprofit hospital in 2000.

  • Attorney: Don't leak private information

    The City Council voted unanimously to close the doors to discuss personnel and litigation matters at a meeting last week. But the city attorney issued the governing body a public warning.

    Carlos Quiones noted that a “code of ethics” used to be posted on a wall in the council’s chambers, now removed because of a planned renovation. He said the code requires council members to honor the confidentiality of closed sessions.

  • Embezzling alleged in city utilities

    A city of Las Vegas accountant has been charged with embezzlement in the utilities department.

    Margaret Cordova, 39, an accountant and a supervisor with city utilities, was charged last week with embezzlement and tampering with evidence.

    On July 18, Cordova stole $1,104 from a money bag that another employee took to City Hall, according to a criminal complaint filed in Magistrate Court.

    The complaint states that Cordova admitted to taking the money. She told a city police investigator that she needed money to make a house payment, according to documents.

  • City hikes trash rates

    The city is planning to increase garbage rates by 10 percent over the next three months because of a jump in fuel costs.

    The city administration is allowed to adjust rates without the approval of the City Council for up to three months. After that, the council must give its blessing.

    The increase will mean an increase of $1.75 a month for homeowners and $3.15 for commercial customers.

    Besides fuel prices, the city is also seeing an increase in the cost of a rollout container — from $42 to $78.

  • General says he helps soldiers

    By his account, the head of the New Mexico National Guard aims to protect the welfare of his citizen soldiers, even if it risks upsetting higher-ups.

    Major Gen. Kenny Montoya, adjutant general of the New Mexico National Guard, speaks of his soldiers’ accomplishments at every opportunity. He said he is sometimes amazed that he was promoted to general in the first place.

    As the American public is well aware, the troops who have served in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan are often on a short rotation schedule, many on their third, fourth or more tours of duty.

  • State may investigate Block

    The state is considering whether to seek an investigation into Jerome Block, a candidate for the state Public Regulation Commission, who acknowledged Wednesday that he lied that a Las Vegas band performed at his campaign rally in May.

    His statements followed shortly after one of his key local supporters, Paul Maez, the San Miguel County Clerk, told the Optic that Block gave the newspaper false information.

  • Man arrested in girl's death

    City police this week arrested a man in connection with the killing of a 6-year-old girl in June.

    David Levi Chavez, 20, 507 New Mexico Ave., faces charges of an open count of murder, shooting at an occupied dwelling, conspiracy and tampering with evidence. He was arrested Tuesday night.

    Jasmine Garcia, who had just completed her kindergarten year, was sleeping in her mother’s bed during the early morning of June 15 when a shot ripped through the outside wall facing the street.