Latest New Mexico news, sports, business and entertainment at 11:20 a.m. MST
- NMSU PRESIDENT
LAS CRUCES, N.M, (AP) — New Mexico State University President John Floros is stepping down and Chancellor Dan Arvizu is becoming the leader of the university's main campus in Las Cruces and the NMSU system. Floros and Arvizu said Friday in separate letters to the university community that Arvizu decided to reduce what has been their separate posts to one position. The Las Cruces Sun-News repors that Arvizu said it's time for the university "to return to a more common leadership structure." Arvizu said the NMSU Board of Regents were "aware and support this move." Floros said he would help with the transition and then take a yearlong sabbatical.
- FARMINGTON OFFICER SHOT
FARMINGTON, N.M. (AP) — The Farmington Police Department says an officer was shot and wounded Friday night by a DWI suspect who remains at large. The Farmington Daily Times reports that law enforcement officers from several agencies, including police department and San Juan County Sheriff's Office SWAT teams, set up a perimeter and conducted a search but not immediate arrest was made. Police Chief Steve Hebbe said the officer was hospitalized in good condition and in good spirits. Police didn't release details of the encounter that led to the shooting but Hebbe said the suspect produced a gun and fired at the officer. No identities were released.
- EDUCATION FUNDING-NEW MEXICO
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham wants to make New Mexico teacher salaries the highest among neighboring states. Tapping into a glut of oil and gas tax revenue, she's proposing raising educator salaries anywhere from 7% to 20%, depending on their role and level of experience. The cost would be around $275 million. Minimum salaries for entry-level teachers would increase from $41,000 to $50,000. In Texas, starting salaries average around $44,500. However, New Mexico legislators worry that Lujan Grisham's proposal won't be enough to stem the state's teacher shortage.
- VIRUS OUTBREAK-NEW MEXICO
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The New Mexico Department of Health has extended COVID-related orders that include a mask mandate for public indoor spaces. The orders also require health care workers and certain other employees to be up to date on their vaccinations. The extension comes as the omicron variant drives up the case count. Many of the recent positive cases from the highly transmissible variant have been mild infections that haven't required hospitalization. Still, New Mexico's hospitals are operating under standards that prioritize immediate medical emergencies. The state also confirmed that New Mexico is following federal guidelines that lessen the isolation and quarantine timeline.
RIO RANCHO, N.M. (AP) — Computer chip maker Intel plans to pay one of New Mexico's largest water utilities $32 million to build a pipeline to supply its factory with the much needed resource. Millions of gallons are needed at the plant in Rio Rancho each day to produce tiny semiconductors and demands will likely increase as part of a $3.5 billion retrofit that will boost production capacity of Intel's chip-packaging technology. The 6-mile pipeline will connect two wells to the plant just north of Albuquerque. The Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority says construction is expected to begin in April.
- VIRUS OUTBREAK-NAVAJO NATION
WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. (AP) — The Navajo Nation reported 270 new confirmed COVID-19 cases Friday and one death related to the virus. Tribal officials say the number of cases on the reservation now total 42,622 since the pandemic began. The death roll stands at 1,593. The Navajo Nation Office of the President and Vice President held a special online town hall Friday to update residents on the pandemic as the omicron variant pushes case numbers higher. Frontline workers said during the meeting that they are seeing less severe symptoms in patients who have been vaccinated.
- COLORADO RIVER-DROUGHT
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — The city of Phoenix has outlined what it will contribute voluntarily to a regional plan to shore up a reservoir that delivers Colorado River water to three states and Mexico. The river already can't provide seven Western states what they were promised a century ago. Phoenix, the nation's fifth largest city, is among entities that will pitch in to fulfill the so-called 500+ Plan. City officials say they'll leave some water in Lake Mead that straddles the Arizona-Nevada border instead of storing it underground as planned. The plan will be implemented as Arizona, Nevada and Mexico are forced to endure their first-ever mandatory cuts from the river.
- NUCLEAR LAB-CLEANUP
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Officials at one of the nation's top nuclear weapons laboratories are reiterating their promise to focus on cleaning up Cold War-era contamination left by decades of research and bomb-making. But New Mexico environment officials and watchdog groups remain concerned about the pace and the likelihood that the federal government has significantly understated its environmental liability at Los Alamos National Laboratory. The U.S. Department of Energy has said it will be 2036 before cleanup is complete. Federal officials acknowledged during a meeting Thursday night that they are reviewing whether new risks will boost the need for more funding and more time.