Sheriff’s office clamps down
Sandoval County Sheriff's Office citation statistics for Placitas have been remarkably high for the past two months when compared to other areas of Sandoval County—212 in January, 378 in February, compared to none in Bernalillo, Corrales, Cochiti, or Peña Blanca.
On March 21, sheriff John Paul Trujillo said that these statistics mostly represent traffic violations, many by construction workers passing on the double yellow line. They include stop-sign violations, seat-belt enforcement, school-zone speeding, and S-curves speeding. The sheriff said that since he took office, he has really cracked down on offenders in Placitas. He said he wants "people who are working or visiting that area to obey the law or get out of Placitas."
Trujillo said, "Soon the sheriff’s department will be going into "summer mode," when the burglary rate tends to get higher. We will be aggressively watching seemingly out-of-town vehicles and any indication of criminal behavior.” Trujillo said, “We don’t want individuals prowling around. First, we will issue a warning. Second time, a ticket.”
Forty vacant house trailers—county property used in the Cerro Grande fire and currently parked at the state penitentiary—have been made available to county agencies. At the March 20 Sandoval County Commission meeting, the sheriff's office was authorized to use three of the trailers. “They will provide housing for EMS and police in outlying areas where they haven’t had an opportunity to hire local officers. One will be placed in Cochiti, one in Cuba, and one on State Road 14,” Trujillo said. "This begins a new initiative for better police coverage in these areas. The county will pay $4,600 in pulling and hookup charges, then selected police officers will have the opportunity to live in the trailers rent free. They will pay for their own utilities."
A ten-day blitz was conducted from March 21 through March 31. Further blitzes are planned for April 3 through 9, and April 12 through April 18. Deputies will be saturated throughout the county (at least one in every community). The blitzes are aimed at reducing the number of impaired drivers and underage drinkers in Sandoval County.
Buy a plant, feed a child
Since the holidays, monetary donations have dropped as dramatically as the need for food assistance for unemployed parents of hungry children has risen. Monies are needed to enable Storehouse West to continue serving the poor in Sandoval County communities. During April, Storehouse West will be selling beautiful geraniums (grown at La Paloma Greenhouse) to raise funds for its food and kids’-clothing programs. The large plants in four-and-a-half-inch pots come in fuchsia, red, salmon, pink, orange, and white and cost only $3. Also available are hanging ivy geraniums, verbenas, and pots of Cape daisies in stunning colors. The flowers will be on sale at Storehouse Mondays and Fridays from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., Wednesdays from noon to 5:00 p.m., and on Saturday, April 12, from 10:00 a.m. to noon. For further information, please call 892-2077.
Tip a cop?
That’s right. The Special Olympics of New Mexico, the Range Café, and local law enforcement agencies will hold a special event called "Tip a Cop" on April 17 and April 24 from 4:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at the Range Café. Officers will be busing tables and dropping off envelopes for donations to the Special Olympics.
Range co-owner Tom Fenton said, "These guys are reaching out to the community. It's a nice opportunity to interact with law enforcement and do something for Special Olympics." In the annual Law Enforcement Torch Run, officers start running from the four corners of the state on May 26. On May 30, they converge on the Albuquerque Sport Stadium and light the Olympic torch with the help of Special Olympics participants.
Bernalillo hires new police chief
By a unanimous vote of the town council, the Town of Bernalillo has hired Wayne Wright to fill the vacant position of police chief. Wright has been in law enforcement for thirty-three years, and he has been police chief in Page, Arizona, for the past nineteen years.
The position became vacant in January when the town council declined to renew the contract of Chief William Relyea.
At the same time, several trustees sought to remove town administrator Ron Abousleman by not renewing his contract. Abousleman, a career employee of Bernalillo and former mayor of the town, is taking care of the town's business while the search for his replacement continues. Mayor Charles Aguilar stated, "This is a crucial position that requires municipal and budget experience. We will continue advertising until we find a suitable applicant."
Sewer backup causes courthouse workers to relocate
March roared in like a lion at the Sandoval County Courthouse, when town sewer lines backed up, leaving the first floor ankle-deep in sludge and graywater. The problem started small on Friday, February 28, when water was found coming out of a floor drain near the county receptionist’s desk. Maintenance workers thought they fixed the problem but were called back on Saturday, when an employee discovered water emerging from other drains. By Sunday, the ground floor of the courthouse was covered in wastewater.
County and town workers teamed up with plumbers Saturday to clear the drains. More workers were called in on Sunday, as the problem grew worse. Homes near Calle Barrio Nuevo and Don Tomas were also affected. Commissioner William Sapien was on the scene throughout the weekend, helping to coordinate efforts. Sapien said that the town gave immediate cooperation when notified about the blocked lines.
Manuel Romero, the county maintenance supervisor, said, “Water was coming out everywhere. We couldn’t move fast enough to snake out the drains. On Saturday, we pumped out six hundred gallons and had four Shop-Vacs running.” The courthouse was closed on Monday to allow cleanup efforts to get underway. Rockefeller’s Cleaning Company, specialists in water damage and decontamination, began a weeklong process of tearing out sheetrock, carpeting and tile. Areas were sealed off with six-mil plastic sheeting to prevent the spread of bacteria and mold. Signs were posted on the courthouse doors warning of contamination.
While extensive cleanup took place, county workers were forced to relocate temporarily. Personnel-department employees moved to the EMS-County Fire Marshall office on the east side of town and stayed in contact through cell phones. The county receptionist and Planning and Zoning employees moved upstairs. Three weeks after the nasty spill, the first floor remained empty while county officials waited on lab test results for successful decontamination. Fortunately, the county commission chambers were not damaged and the regular commission meeting was held on March 20.
County manager Debbie Hays said that damage was frustrating and disruptive to employees. Hays felt that the sewage backup was possibly the worst of several courthouse incidents that she has witnessed in the fourteen years she’s worked for the county. “This is an old building and we continue to have problems, but we’re committed to make it last,” she said. “All in all, we’ve done pretty well to make it a pleasant space to work in.” Hays said most problems involve heating and cooling. Other problems in recent years have included pigeon feathers and droppings in the building’s ductwork that caused employees to be ill, bats that found their way into the courthouse and were chased out with badminton rackets, and flooding due to heavy rains.
Hays believes some of the recent problems might be attributed to the old jail that once occupied space on the first floor. Many old drains were not sealed off when remodeling took place. Romero believes that the March backup occurred because “the city street is so high and the courthouse is so low.” Romero said a backflow preventer has now been installed on the drains to keep the problem from happening again.
The good news is that the courthouse will get a well-deserved face-lift once the green light is given for remodeling to begin. “In fact, it will be nicer once we get it completed,” Hays said. The first floor will have new carpet, tile, molding, and fresh paint.
With these improvements, March was expected to go out like a lamb.
Draft environmental statement for NMP Pipeline expected in April
The Albuquerque office of the Bureau of Land Management has announced that the draft environmental impact statement relating to the New Mexico Products Pipeline, also known as the Shell Pipeline Project, will be distributed for public review around April 4. The DEIS will be a very large document and will be posted on the BLM Web site at www.nm.blm.gov.
The controversial project proposes to reactivate a fifty-year-old former crude-oil pipeline that spans the state. Shell seeks to reverse the direction of flow and to transport gasoline and other hazardous refined petroleum products. Population has shifted closer to the pipeline over the years, especially in the East Mountains, Bernalillo, and Placitas.
Public meetings will be held on April 22, 23, and 24 from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. at the Bernalillo High School gymnasium. For more information or to request a copy of the DEIS call Joe Jaramillo, BLM project manager, at 761-8779, or visit www.nm.blm.gov.