(Deming) – Luna County's unemployment jumped last month.
Preliminary figures from the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions show Luna County with a November unemployment rate of 16.2%, up from the revised October rate of 11.3%, but down slightly from the November 2013 rate of 16.3%.
Luna and Mora were the only two counties in the state with double-digit unemployment last month. Mora County’s November unemployment rate was 13.2%.
Other counties with high unemployment rates in New Mexico in November were McKinley at 8.8%, Taos at 8.4%, and Torrance and Guadalupe, both at 7.9%.
In our area, Grant County had 6.7% unemployment in November, Hidalgo County had 5.6% and the Las Cruces area had 6.7%.
The county with the least unemployment was Eddy with 3.6%.
Unemployment statewide was 6.4% in November – down slightly from October.
The New Mexico labor force estimates show Luna County with a labor force of 12,372 – with 10,373 employed and 1,999 unemployed.
(Deming) – President Obama has signed legislation that fully funds the Payment in Lieu of Taxes – or PILT – program for 2015.
Counties like Luna rely on PILT to provide services, including schools, roads, and public safety.
New Mexico Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich reportedly have worked to ensure funding would be available in the so-called "omnibus" appropriations bill, which funds federal government programs through September 2015, the end of the fiscal year.
Passage of the bill means individual counties will receive PILT payments, on schedule, in June.
Luna County this year received just over $1.9 million in compensation for non-taxable federal lands.
The amount was an increase from the previous year’s compensation, which was just under $1.8 million.
PILT is administered through the Department of the Interior and compensates rural counties for hosting federal lands, which cannot be developed, including Bureau of Land Management land, national parks and forests and some military bases
Funding for each county is determined by a formula and is based on the number of acres of federal entitlement land within each county or jurisdiction and the population of that county or jurisdiction.
Funding for PILT has been uncertain for several years, with Udall and Heinrich reportedly helping lead efforts to include it in bigger legislation.
Last year it was funded through the Farm Bill, and prior to that, PILT funding was included in a transportation bill.
(Deming) – A Stars-N-Parks astronomy program will take place this Saturday at City of Rocks State Park.
City of Rocks is located between Deming and Silver City.
Attendees will observe highlights of the December sky, including Mars low in the west. Also, the Andromeda Galaxy is in the northeast, and the Summer Milky Way runs from the southwest to the northeast in the evening sky. Orion will rise before the program’s end.
The event begins with a night sky tour, followed by views of deep sky objects through a high-powered telescope.
Matt Wilson will be the presenter.
The program is viewed in a dark sky setting beginning at 6:35 p.m., and attendees should arrive at the park at sunset, which is at about 5:05 p.m., so they can become familiar with their surroundings before nightfall.
The program will end at about 8:05 p.m.
Stars-N-Parks is sponsored by the National Public Observatory, a non-profit membership organization that sponsors astronomy programs for all. More information is available at www.Astro-NPO.org.
(Deming) – The county’s refinancing of the bonds used to build the Starmax entertainment facility is affecting more than just the bonds.
County Manager Charles “Tink” Jackson said beginning January 1st, 2015, all employees of Starmax will become Luna County employees as part of the restructuring and refinancing of the bonds for the facility.
Previously, the employees were hired under and paid through Starmax, LLC, and only the general manager was a county employee.
Jackson said all Starmax employees completed pre-employment drug screening this past week.
Additionally, Jackson said, Starmax will now become a full department of Luna County government, including purchasing and tracking of revenues and expenditures.
In October, the county commissioners voted to refinance the bonds used to fund the construction of Starmax – a move Jackson said could save taxpayers $460,000.
The initial idea of the entertainment complex was that the county would build a facility, using taxable bonds, that would attract an operator to lease it. The county, then, would simply be a landlord.
But because the county took over the operation of Starmax in 2012, the commissioners could refinance the bonds to cut the interest rate on the repayments as long as the facility became a county department, as opposed to being operated as an LLC.
The balance on the loan is approximately $7.5 million.
(Deming) – Here’s the area crime report:
Osbaldo Montes, age 22, was arrested on a District Court warrant for aggravated battery and conspiracy… Rene Sainz, age 19, was arrested on a Magistrate warrant for larceny and identity theft… David Medrano, age 24, was arrested on a Magistrate warrant for causing criminal damage to property… Benjamin Gutierrez, age 18, was arrested for speeding and no driver’s license… Carlos Teran, age 31, was arrested on a Magistrate warrant for negligent use of a firearm…
Joseph Myers, age 37, of Las Cruces, was arrested for prowling and interfering with officers… Guadalupe Sandoval, age 35, was arrested for failing to properly display registration and on a safety-belt violation… Dustin Ellis, age 20, was arrested on a District Court warrant for a probation violation… and Fernando Garcia, age 49, was arrested on a District Court arrest warrant.
Robert Dean Loflin, age 34, was arrested on a Magistrate warrant for failure to appear… Josephine Lucero, age 34, of Fort Worth, Texas, was arrested on a Magistrate warrant for failure to appear… Gary Zumwalt, age 52, was arrested on a Municipal warrant for failure to appear… and Gerald Fiorentino, age 38, was cited for shoplifting at Walmart.
Also… a rear window valued at $500 was shattered on a car parked off South Platinum.
(Deming) – If you’re already looking ahead to New Year’s Day, this will be of interest to you: New Mexico State Parks will sponsor free, guided hikes in 19 state parks on New Year’s Day as part of America's State Parks First Day Hikes initiative in all 50 states.
Organizers say First Day Hikes offer individuals and families the opportunity to begin the New Year rejuvenating and connecting with the outdoors by taking a healthy hike on January 1st, 2015, at a state park close to home.
Rockhound State Park east of Deming will have an organized hike on January 1st beginning at 8:30 a.m. which organizers describe as a “moderate” hike level, and City of Rocks State Park between Deming and Silver City will have an organized hike on January 1st beginning at 9 a.m. which officials categorize as “moderate-to-strenuous.”
The historic First Day Hike at Elephant Butte Lake State Park will be the only opportunity during the year for visitors to walk across the dam. Hikes there are planned for 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. and are listed as “moderate.”
Regardless of the park selected, promoters say hikers can expect to be surrounded by the quiet beauty of nature in winter, experience spectacular views and vistas and benefit from the company of a knowledgeable state park guide.
State Parks Director Tommy Mutz said First Day Hikes are a great way to cure cabin fever and burn off extra holiday calories.
He added that getting out into nature can recharge your mind, body and spirit after the hectic holiday season.
(Deming) – The Deming School Board will meet in regular session Thursday in Columbus.
Included on the agenda is a contract extension for Deming Coca-Cola… a revised fleet service contract… a Memorandum of Understanding with Tierra Blanca Ranch… and a new professional growth plan policy.
Also, Superintendent Dr. Dan Lere will update the board on the Bell Elementary Tri-Annual Review and will report on an Instruction Time Study Group.
The meeting is set to begin at 5 p.m. Thursday at Columbus Elementary.
The meeting will be open to the public.
A closed session to discuss limited personnel, pending or threatened litigation and the acquisition or disposal of real property will precede the open meeting at 4 p.m.
(Deming) – Two people will be vying for an open seat on the Deming Public School Board, while two incumbents have both drawn opponents in the other seats up for election.
Declarations of candidacy for the Deming Public School Board had to have been filed by 5 p.m. Tuesday.
In district three, Matthew Robinson and John Staehle are running for the seat being vacated by Dr. Andy Hernandez.
In district four, incumbent William Bayne Anderson is being challenged by Fred Williams.
And in district five, incumbent Ruben Torres is being challenged by Don Heacox and Francine Jacobs.
The election will be held Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015.
County Clerk Andrea Rodriguez said it will be a districted election with only the election of the three school board seats on the respective districts’ ballots.
Voter registration closes Tuesday, January 6th.
(Deming) – More than 60 local youth were treated to a Christmas Party Sunday at the Deming Elks Lodge.
The afternoon started with a picnic lunch of hot dogs and chips, followed by bingo for the school-age kids. The party was open to the public, and prizes included toys and other goodies.
After bingo, those attending had a chance to visit with Santa and received bags with fruits, nuts and other treats.
The event was funded with lodge charity funds.
Exalted Ruler George Torres called the event "a big success.” Torres said they plan to make the party an annual tradition.
This is the second year the lodge has hosted local youth for a Christmas party.