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Chaves County CASA CEO to attend State of the Union

U.S. Rep. Teresa Leger-Fernandez, D-NM, has invited a Roswell resident and longtime advocate for abused and neglected children, Chaves County CASA CEO Carrie-Leigh Cloutier, to tonight's State of the Union address in Washington, D.C.

“Carrie-Leigh is an inspirational example of leadership, compassion, community and collaboration. Her work to serve abused and neglected kids makes a powerful difference for families in Roswell and across southeastern New Mexico. Carrie-Leigh is a hero and I am proud to share her story with others in Congress,” Leger Fernandez said in a press release.

Cloutier has worked for Chaves County Court Appointed Special Advocates, also known as Chaves County CASA, for 35 years. The organization, which serves children in Chaves County and northern Eddy County, has 27 different programs meant to assist children that include juvenile advocacy and trauma intervention, while also aiding homeless youth through job training and a drop-in center for young people.

“I am deeply grateful to Congresswoman Leger Fernandez for her passionate support and invitation to be her guest at the State of the Union address. She and her enthusiastic staff have welcomed me so graciously with honor. I am looking forward to a future partnership with them to bring more healing to many more children in New Mexico,” Cloutier said in the release.

The State of the Union address by President Joe Biden is scheduled for 9 p.m. Eastern time and 7 p.m. Mountain time at the U.S. Capitol.

Nairka Trevino Muller, a spokesperson for Leger Fernandez, said most members of Congress are allowed to invite one person to accompany them to the State of the Union, though those members in leadership positions may be allowed to bring more.

The invite provides Cloutier with the chance to make connections with Leger Fernandez's staff.

“The Congresswoman wants staff to meet with Carrie-Leigh, mainly because she wants staff to get to know the work Carrie-Leigh does, particularly in Roswell,” Muller said.

U.S. Rep. Melanie Stansbury announced that she will be attending the State of the Union with Dr. Liudmyala Yakovenko, a 45-year-old gynecologist forced to flee her hometown in Ukraine last year when Russia began its invasion of the country.

Stansbury's Office said after they were contacted by Yakovenko's husband, they helped bring Yakovenko back to the United States, reuniting the couple.

The offices of U.S. Rep Gabe Vasquez and Senators Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Lujan did not disclose to the Roswell Daily Record information on who they will bring to the State of the Union before press time Monday.

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be contacted at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or

Authorities look for vehicle in crash

Authorities are searching for a vehicle involved in one of three crashes that occurred over the weekend in Chaves County.

New Mexico State Police Spokesperson Ray Wilson said Monday that law enforcement is continuing to search for a yellow or green Volkswagen Beetle that reportedly collided with a 2008 Santa Fe Hyundai at about 5:30 p.m. Sunday at the intersection of the Roswell Relief Route and South Sunset Avenue.

State Police say the Volkswagen left the scene before police arrived.

Occupants of the Hyundai, both women, were injured. The 54-year-old driver sustained minor injuries, while the 78-year-old passenger was taken to a local hospital with injuries not believed to be life-threatening.

The crash is believed to have happened after the Volkswagen ran a stop sign at the intersection.

Chaves County Undersheriff Charles Yslas said the Volkswagen likely received front-end damage from the collision. Anyone with information about the whereabouts of the Volkswagen is asked to contact New Mexico State Police.

The crash on the Relief Route happened around the same time as a single-vehicle accident was reported in the area of Vista Largo Road and State Road 2, involving a white Grand AM.

When deputies arrived, Yslas said a woman was found pinned underneath the vehicle.

“She was subsequently extracted from under the vehicle and was transported to the hospital with unknown injuries,” he said.

The cause of the accident is not yet known, but alcohol has been ruled out as a factor.

Both crashes happened a day after deputies responded to another single-vehicle rollover in the area of Old Dexter Highway and Felix Ranch Road Saturday evening.

The accident occurred when a pickup truck veered off the roadway into a nearby field before rolling over.

Yslas stated the driver of the pickup, identified as Rosalio Armendariz, was taken to a hospital with a head injury and alcohol is believed to have been a factor.

“Upon arrival, deputies detected the odor of intoxicants,” Yslas said.

After refusing to submit to field sobriety tests, Yslas said Armendariz was charged with one count of aggravated driving while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs.

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be contacted at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or

NMMI legislative requests pass committees

The New Mexico Military Institute is making a couple of legislative requests specifically for the school this year, with Maj. Gen. Jerry Grizzle, NMMI president and superintendent, talking with legislators Friday about a capital project.

Grizzle asked for money for the ongoing renovation of the school's 45 barrack bathrooms, or sink rooms. He called the renovations a necessary “quality of life” project for NMMI cadets.

“We have finished renovation of 15,” he told members of the House Appropriations Committee.

According to the New Mexico Department of Finance and Administration and a NMMI project sheet, the school received $3.75 million for the first phase of the 15 bathroom renovations from general obligations bonds approved by legislators and voters in 2018. The Institute funded the other $4 million itself. Now the school is asking for an unspecified portion of the remaining costs to complete another phase. Total costs for the remaining 30 bathrooms have been estimated at about $10.46 million.

“Even if we had all the remaining money at once, because of all the backlog of materials and contractors, I couldn't jump on them and finish them,” Grizzle said. “So we are looking forward to receiving some assistance this legislative session and maybe once more to finish the project.”

The House Appropriation and Finance Committee members voted to approve the Legislative Finance Committee (LFC) recommendations for the school. In addition to the bathroom project, the LFC also has recommended a 6% increase for FY 2024 for the Institute to support the instructional and general fund to bring the amount to $2.6 million. Another $328,000 has been recommended for athletics, including transportation. In addition, $1.35 million has been budgeted for the Knowles Scholarship, the same amount received in fiscal year 2023.

Another bill before the legislature seeks to extend the Gen. Richard T. Knowles Legislative Scholarship from a maximum of four years to a maximum of six years so that it could be used by cadets attending the Institute for four years of high school and two years of junior college. The bill also would eliminate a July 1 deadline for scholarship nominations.

Col. David West, chief of staff, estimated that about 10% of scholarship recipients stay six years.

“We submitted a fiscal analysis which stated there to be no financial impact as some cadets who receive it leave, and thus funds are available for those who stay,” West said.

Each of the 112 state legislators can nominate cadets from their districts each year, with NMMI choosing recipients based on its selection criteria. If no eligible cadets are in their district, legislators can nominate cadets from other parts of the state. Since established in 1989, the scholarship fund has grown to about $16 million, and NMMI uses a portion each year to cover about 40% to 50% of tuition and fees for eligible cadets.

House Bill 145 is co-sponsored by Reps. Greg Nibert and Candy Spence Ezzell of Roswell and Rep. Randall Pettigrew of Hobbs, all Republicans.

Nibert and Grizzle spoke at the House Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee hearing on Jan. 30.

“Today on average we have 200 students from the state of New Mexico every year that are taking advantage of the scholarship,” Grizzle said.

He added that he thinks that the suggested changes will help significantly with retention.

“Right now we only have about a 35% rollover from our high school to our junior college,” he said. “I think this will have a positive, a tremendous positive, impact on that.”

He also said, in response to a question, that the Knowles Scholarship can help relieve some of the financial pressure on the state's Opportunity Scholarship, which goes to New Mexico residents attending college in the state.

No public or committee opposition against the bill was made, and the committee gave it a “do pass” recommendation by a 9-0 vote. HB 145 heads next to the House Education Committee.

Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or

Nibert sponsoring bill to test high-tech security software in schools

House Minority Whip Greg Nibert, R-Roswell, is sponsoring legislation that would create and fund a regional pilot program for the use of software that can detect the potential presence of firearms on school property with security cameras.

Firearms on School Property Software, House Bill 295, would provide $2.5 million from the state’s general fund to provide schools in Chaves and other counties in the southeast region of the state — including Quay and Guadalupe — with software that would enhance the effectiveness of security cameras.

“It is our intent to see how it will work with a variety of school districts of different sizes,” Nibert said Monday.

Nibert said that he wants to try to bring more modern technology to these schools after attending a meeting of school district superintendents late last year.

The superintendents were all receptive and willing to be part of the program,” Nibert said.

His bill is based on Artificial Intelligence (AI) gun detection technology by ZeroEyes, which is human-verified and can work with existing security cameras, the Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, company explains on its website.

This product uses video analytics to look for firearms that show up in surveillance video. Humans verify whether the object is a firearm and immediately contact local security and first responders to alert them to what was seen and provide a location.

Nibert has met with several vendors and has been walked through demonstrations.

“The technology is amazing,” Nibert said. The technology provides local authorities with “instant access” to where the person possibly carrying a firearm is at any moment. That heads-up can save time, and possibly lives, ZeroEyes stresses.

School districts in Hobbs, Artesia and Clovis are among districts that have included this type of technology into their security systems. Nibert hopes the pilot program will be successful and, as the state’s resources allow, that it could eventually be used in all New Mexico schools.

He noted that schools in New Mexico are in a variety of stages with their security. Some don’t have cameras and would require additional funding for that purchase. They might need to buy a specific brand of camera as well.

The state’s Public Education Department would contract with a private entity for the software that becomes aware of “visible firearms on school property and alerts school personnel and first responders of that presence,” HB 295 states.

The contractor would be required to develop the software in the United States without the use of any third-party or open-source data. It would also need to be patented by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and qualify as anti-terrorism technology according to U.S. Code Title 6, Section 441, which spells out the designation process.

The software would need to be managed directly by the contractor with an operations center running every day and around the clock with highly trained analysts able to “rapidly communicate potential threats to end-users,” the bill states.

HB 295 also asks that this technology be able to integrate with existing security camera infrastructure and that the contractor provides a sophisticated training database with video frames of firearms “detected in relevant environments across diverse industries.”

The pilot program would be in effect from fiscal years 2024 to 2026.

This bill has been referred to the House Education Committee.

Roswell Independent School District has been in the process of updating its security. Supt. Brian Luck declined Monday to discuss whether the district has been considering the use of this type of technology, however.

A message left by the Daily Record left at Hobbs Municipal Schools for Supt. Gene Strickland wasn’t returned Monday. Hobbs started operating its ZeroEyes system in June 2021, according to the News-Sun.

Reporter Terri Harber can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 308, or