An Independent Monthly Newsmagazine Serving the Community since 1989


Roosevelt Elementary School second-gradersBook-toting second graders connect the Martha Liebert Library housed at Roosevelt Elementary School to its newly built home across the street on Calle Malinche in Bernalillo. The ceremonial moving of books marked the end of construction for the 2,236-square-foot library on a site behind Bernalillo Town Hall. The town and Sandoval County paid for the $235,000 project which late in March was awaiting its final inspection. The community library, renamed 20 years ago for its founding librarian, tentatively is set to open April 15.

P&Z addresses development issues

—SIGNPOST STAFF
On February 2 the Sandoval County Board of County Commissioners adopted a 120-day moratorium on approvals of summary subdivisions and family-transfer exemptions in the Placitas area. This was to allow the county development staff and the planning-and-zoning commission time to develop revisions to the Sandoval County Subdivision Regulations to address those two issues.

Development Service director Michael Springfield told the commissioners at the February 2 meeting that the relaxed provisions of summary subdivisions and family exemptions allow loopholes through which developers can avoid the more stringent provisions of the subdivision ordinance that are designed to protect residents and new home buyers.

Development has proceeded at a rapid pace over the last several years with little or no investment in infrastructure. Well tests are required to assess available water supply, but receive no expert evaluation. Lack of public oversight on drainage issues leaves water wells vulnerable to pollution from septic systems.

Subdividers are not required to notify adjoining property owners.

At the February 28 meeting of the P&Z commission, Springfield presented recommended revisions to those portions of the ordinance as they apply to the Placitas area.

These are the proposed revisions for summary subdivisions:
(1) Require summary subdivisions to be approved at a public hearing at the P&Z commission. The same notice would be provided to adjoining property owners as is now given for hearings held under the Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance. The Board of County Commissioners would hear any appeals of P&Z commission decisions on summary plats.

(2) A terrain-management plan for the subdivision would be prepared for review by the county engineer.

(3) For subdivisions not served by a community water system, a water-availability assessment for the subdivision, in conformance with Appendix A, would be prepared for review by the Office of the State Engineer

(4) The county would continue to require that all improvements necessary for the subdivision be built or financially guaranteed to the county prior to approval of the summary subdivision.

Family-transfer exemptions are designed to allow for the traditional division of land within families. The following proposed revisions are designed to tighten up another loophole:

(1) Require family-transfer exemptions to be approved at a public hearing held by the P&Z commission. The same notice would be provided to adjoining property owners as is now given for hearings held under the Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance. The Board of County Commissioners would hear any appeals of P&Z decisions on family transfer exemptions.

(2) At the P&Z commission hearing, the applicant would, while under oath, be asked to answer a series of questions about the proposed transfer, including future intentions concerning the land, discussions or agreements with parties outside the family, past subdivisions or attempts at subdivision of the land, and past exemptions filed on the property.

(3) A deed conveying a parcel under this exemption would have to contain language stating that under no circumstances would the parcel in question be conveyed back to the original grantor. That deed would also contain language stating that no water-availability assessment was performed on the subject property and that there is therefore no way to assure water availability on the parcel.

(4) Family-transfer exemptions would be required to fit certain categories, for example probates, gifts under applicable IRS provisions, or a parcel for a family member to build a home. In the case of construction of a home for a family member, construction would need to begin within one year of approval of the plat. In the event that that did not take place, The Board of County Commissioners could vacate the plat under Section 10.3 of the Sandoval County Subdivision Regulations.

Public comment at the two February meetings was contributed mostly by builders, land developers, and realtors who were opposed to the proposed changes. Also opposed were several owners of relatively small parcels of land—people whom the relaxed provisions were meant to benefit. They complained that they were being unfairly singled out in Placitas, and that the proposed changes would make small subdivisions prohibitively expensive—for both the subdivider and the consumer. Several said that they should be allowed to consolidate their investments before the new regulations went into effect. (This, of course, is exactly what the moratorium was intended to prevent.)

P&Z commissioner Ann Rustebakke said that public comment is sought from all residents who have an opinion about what is fair and legal. She said that public comment will affect the recommendation that will ultimately be made by P&Z. “This is your chance to hear what both sides of the issue are saying and to voice your own opinion,” she stated.

The final opportunity for for public comment to the P&Z commission on this issue will be on March 28 at 6:00 at the county commission chambers.


County survives governor’s veto pen

—BILL DIVEN
The heavy hand with Governor Bill Richardson's veto pen fell lightly on Sandoval County, according to local government officials.

The two legislators representing most of Placitas, however, say their districts suffered the same disproportionate spending cuts as befell all Republicans contending with the Democrat governor. Overall the governor cut $268 million from $1.1 billion in three spending bills, saying the state needed to balance the budget and increase its reserves.

“I think Sandoval County did extremely well,” said Gayland Bryant, the county's public information officer and registered lobbyist. “We did take some hits.”

Those hits included a study intended to lead to a regional water-and-sanitation district in the Jemez Valley corridor, part of the money to renovate El Zócalo in Bernalillo, and paving, sidewalks, and playground equipment in Rio Rancho.

Among the big-ticket items receiving funding are $925,000 toward the fire-and-rescue station to be built near the junction of I-25, US 550 and NM 165 and $1 million for the countywide broadband communication project. Depending on the sources of funds, state money becomes available immediately, with the start of the fiscal year on July 1 and whenever bonds are sold after that.

Legislators during the session ended February 16 approved nearly $28 million for capital projects for the county and its municipalities and Indian nations. Richardson vetoed $2.8 million of that, ranging from $20,000 to buy conservation easements in Corrales to $200,000 of $360,000 appropriated for a multipurpose center at Santa Ana Pueblo.

The town of Bernalillo escaped cuts entirely, according to community development director Maria Rinaldi. That includes $385,000 for an X-ray suite at the El Pueblo Health Center, she added.

“Our stuff made it through,” Rinaldi said. “God bless the governor.”

The town already took its hits during the legislative session when $2 million to improve the aesthetics and walkways on Camino del Pueblo and additional funds for water and wastewater improvements failed to pass before adjournment.
Senator Kent Cravens, R-Albuquerque, said money for the Sandoval County side of his district, including the Placitas Community Library, the I-25 fire station, and El Zócalo survived intact. The veto of a quarter of his funding fell on the Bernalillo County side, he said.

“He was very unkind to my Little Leagues,” Cravens said. “He's not hurting me. It's the people of my district he disassociates me from.”

Earlier Cravens joined the Republican legislative leadership in a news conference accusing Richardson of deciding his vetoes on partisan politics rather than the needs of the people.

Varying analyses show the governor vetoing from 8 to 15 percent of projects in Democrat districts and 21 to 33 percent in Republican ones, with particularly irksome legislators seeing the projects cut by almost half. The governor trimmed his own $416 million spending package by less than 1 percent, according to Republican leaders.

The Richardson administration argued the Legislature overspent available funds and that even with the vetoes, the capital budget still is up $388 million over last year. One cabinet secretary said the 10 percent reserve—$500 million—is prudent, given the uncertain economy and the potential for an expensive fire season.

Representative Kathy McCoy, R-Cedar Crest, said Richardson left intact her funding for the Placitas library and a paved road to the La Madera fire station, but cut $100,000 for El Zócalo, the historic convent-and-school complex being renovated by Sandoval County for public uses. Vetoes cut another $400,000 for her district projects in Bernalillo and Santa Fe counties, she said.

“The interesting thing to me is the governor saying the Legislature overspent,” McCoy said. “I just about fell out of my chair. His spending is far and above what the House and the Senate did together.”


Fire ban strictly enforced

Sandoval County fire marshal James Maxon said fire- and law-enforcement personnel would strictly enforce an emergency ordinance limiting open burning and fireworks throughout the county's unincorporated areas.

“Current weather patterns, such as low humidity, winds, and severe drought conditions are making the likelihood of fires extremely high, especially in our grasslands and forested areas,” Maxon said.

“We're already seeing a significant increase in the number of wildland fires that the county's nine fire districts are responding to,” he said. “The danger of fire increases even more as we enter the traditional windy spring season.”

Maxon said the county's paid and volunteer fire-department staff, public-works crews, law-enforcement personnel, and other employees are being “especially watchful” to enforce the emergency ordinance passed by the county commission on February 2.

The fire-ban law prohibits open burning unless a permit is first obtained from Maxon's office. Included in the ban are agricultural or controlled weed burning, campfires, open cooking fires, and charcoal grills used out-of-doors.

Violators could face penalties of up to $300 in fines and ninety days in jail.

Exceptions to the ban include gas-fired grills, indoor fireplaces, and other in-home heating devices.

The ordinance also imposes a county-wide ban on fireworks, defined as “any device that produces a visible or audible effect by combustion, deflagration or detonation.”

Maxon said fire danger in Sandoval County is so elevated that his office currently is not issuing any open-burning permits, but “we may begin issuing permits once weather conditions improve and the danger is lowered.”

Updated information on fire conditions, burning restrictions, and burning permits can be obtained by contacting the Sandoval County fire marshal, 867-0245.


Sally Padilla

Sandoval County clerk Sally Padilla draws random numbers to determine ballot positions for candidates who filed on March 21 for the June 6 primary election. Candidates in attendance picked their own numbered slips while Padilla and former Bernalillo town councilor Helen Sandoval selected the rest.

Who’s who in the primaries

—BILL DIVEN
Look for only one new face on the Sandoval County Commission despite two seats being on the November 7 ballot.

Placitas voters, however, will have multiple choices for their commissioner in the June 6 primary election and a contested race for its state House seat, which two years ago saw only the Republican Party fielding candidates.

Incumbent county commissioner David Bency, a Republican, was the only candidate to file from District 3, encompassing northern Rio Rancho. Bency served six years on the Rio Rancho City Council before being elected to a four-year term on the commission, in 2002.

Division 1 magistrate judge Mary Humphrey-Chavez, a Republican, also filed for reelection without primary opposition from within her own party or a November challenge from the Democrats.

Six candidates filed on March 21 to succeed District 1 commissioner William Sapien, who is completing his second term and is not eligible for reelection. His district takes in most of the county east of the Rio Grande, including Placitas, Bernalillo, La Madera, Algodones, Peña Blanca and three pueblos.
Democrat voters in the June primary can choose among Margaret Palumbo, Orlando J. Lucero, Jean Eichberger, and Patrick G. Baca for the District 1 seat. Filing on the Republican side were Gary Miles and Pete Salazar.

Other contested primary races include probate judge, where three Democrats—Jerard Misquez, Stevan Schoen, and Charles Aguilar–will compete to face Republican Judy Kwapich Madril in November, and the Magistrate Division 3 race, where Democrat primary voters will select William Mast, Delilah Montaño-Baca, or incumbent judge Richard Zanotti to oppose Republican Mary O. Kwapich in the general election.

First-term state representative Kathy McCoy, of Cedar Crest, drew no opposition in the District 22 Republican primary, nor did Democrat Janice M. Saxton, of Placitas. In 2002, McCoy succeeded Representative Ron Godbey, after defeating two opponents in the primary and running unopposed in November.

District 22 wraps around the Sandia Mountains, taking in portions of Bernalillo and Santa Fe counties and from La Madera to Placitas in Sandoval County.

Incumbent representative James Roger Madalena, of Jemez Pueblo, a Democrat, filed for reelection without opposition in the primary or general elections for House District 65.

County offices without primary contests are:

• Sheriff: Incumbent John Paul Trujillo, Democrat; Doug Wood, Republican.
• Assessor: Incumbent Rudy Casaus, Democrat; Judy Vanderstar Russell, Republican.
• Magistrate Division 2: Incumbent F. Kenneth Eichwald, Democrat; Dwight Thompson, Republican.


Former Sandia Pueblo governor takes on assistant general manager position at resort-casino.

As Governor of the Pueblo of Sandia for the past six years, Stuwart Paisano carried out the decisions of tribal members in establishing business enterprises to ensure the health and welfare of their community for generations to come.

As of February 1, Paisano is utilizing his leadership experience in a new role as assistant general manager of operations for the Sandia Resort and Casino. Mr. Paisano reports directly to Rick Charles, chief operating officer for the establishment and assumes direct responsibility for the oversight of the resort and convention center, golf course, Green Reed Spa, food and beverage operations, facilities, and maintenance departments.

The casino is happy to have him. “Through Mr. Paisano's previous leadership role as governor of the Pueblo of Sandia, he brings a wealth of history, knowledge, and experience to the operation which will assist the resort and casino in achieving performance levels never before achieved,” said Charles.


County Line

—JACK THOMAS, CHAIRMAN, SANDOVAL COUNTY COMMISSION CHAIRMAN
While Sandoval County provides a wide array of valuable programs and services to residents of all ages, few offer the life-long benefits that are learned through the Summer Youth Employment Program.

The program is a highly effective and efficient way to match needed workers for government, schools and community agencies across the county while also offering the young employees the real-life, on-the-job lessons—in addition to needed salaries—that can only be found at the work site. It helps create the memories and work standards that the youth workers will carry through their entire lives, long after the salaries are gone and forgotten.

The county commission is allocating funds so that about a hundred young adults ages fourteen to seventeen can be hired into the program this summer. Participants will fill needed positions for twenty hours a week and will earn $5.25 an hour.
But, it's an offer that won't last long. The deadline to apply is April 14.

Applications are available at the Sandoval County Courthouse in Bernalillo and at community/senior centers in Rio Rancho, Cañon, Cuba, and Peña Blanca. The forms must be completed and returned to the county courthouse by the April 14 cutoff date. Students under age 16 also must provide a work permit form, available from schools throughout the county and the Department of Labor in Rio Rancho.

Applicants will be reviewed and participants will be notified of selections by May 19.

Once selected, participants will be assigned jobs with Sandoval County or other government agencies. Duties may include typing, filing and other office tasks, washing dishes at a senior center, performing lawn work or building maintenance, or working with the county's young or elderly residents. While the work will vary, each job is important and necessary.

The first workday is June 5, when participants will attend a mandatory orientation session to help employees and employers understand expectations and requirements of the program. At the end of the program, on July 28, supervisors will provide the young workers with a written job evaluation and discuss their performance with them.

The adult supervisors are key to the success of the county's program and will undergo a separate employer training and orientation session on May 24.

Supervisors are responsible for training the younger employees and providing on-the-job direction. They also need to set flexible work schedules to accommodate the youth employees during summer school, vacations, and medical appointments.

The paychecks, too, are important for program participants. In past years, the summer youth workers have earmarked their salaries for college or school, clothing, or to help purchase automobiles. But, regardless of how their wages are spent, the self-esteem, work habits, and job experiences they learn will last far longer than the money they earn.

Our nation's economy, the job market, and opportunities for young workers have changed considerably in the fifty-plus years since I first entered the workplace and earned sporadic pay shining shoes in a neighborhood barbershop, or when I landed my first steady paycheck at age ten delivering newspapers for about $4 a week.

Yet the lasting value of those first jobs, as the participants in the county summer job program will learn firsthand, is the experiences and work habits that they will carry throughout their working lives.

Questions or comments for Commissioner Thomas can be mailed to him in care of Sandoval County Administrative Offices, P.O. Box 40, Bernalillo, NM 87048.


“Roots of Albuquerque” runs through May

Albuquerque's history is rooted in the documents that made it first an official Spanish villa and later the leading city of the Southwest. “Roots of Albuqueruqe,” a colorful range of artifacts and documents tracing the city's history since its founding, in 1706, is on display at the Center for Southwest Research, in the Zimmerman Library, on the UNM main campus.

Would you like to take a look at the first maps of the new settlement or see a photo of the man who may have been the first to misspell “Alburquerque”? Or take a look at life in Albuquerque a hundred years ago and see how historic downtown buildings have changed through the decades? Go backward in time with the first U.S. explorer, whose map labels the wide open spaces east of the Sandia Mountains simply as “immense herds of wild horses”?

This free exhibit is open from 7:30. to noon Mondays through Thursdays; 7:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. on Fridays; and 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. For further information, contact Karen Wentworth, at 277-5627 or kwent@unm.edu.

“Roots of Albuqueruqe” is part of Albuquerque’s Tricentennial Celebration, which culminates on Albuquerque’s three-hundredth birthday: April 21 through 23. For more tricentennial information, go to www.albuquerque300.org.

Railrunner construction begins

Within hours of the state’s taking over the BNSF Railway tracks in Bernalillo, workers were on the right-of-way beginning construction of the station platform. Work on the parking lot off US 550 began last fall, but the trackside platform and a second station in downtown Bernalillo were delayed while the state contract to buy the tracks and additional property underwent a legal review.

Rail Runner starts training in Bernalillo

—BILL DIVEN
Within hours of the state’s taking over fifty miles of BNSF Railway track, the first New Mexico Rail Runner Express train arrived in Bernalillo.

It was only the first of many training runs for crew people who by summer will be running fourteen trains a day between Bernalillo and Belen through Albuquerque. The actual date for beginning commuter service has not been set, although it is expected to be in June, according to Augusta Meyers, Rail Runner communications manager.

Progress has been slow in recent months despite a contract-signing ceremony in early December selling the track from Belen through Las Vegas and Raton to Trinidad, Colorado, in three phases beginning in January. Closing the $75 million deal was held up, however, until New Mexico attorney general Patricia Madrid issued a ruling last month saying the contract was legal.

The first transfer of track took effect at midnight Sunday, March 19, and by 10:00 a.m. Monday the first test train—an engine, coach, and cab car—was in Bernalillo. State contractor Twin Mountain Construction also was on the tracks beginning work on the three-hundred-foot-long trackside platform at the US 550 station stop.

Work on a second station, in downtown Bernalillo, also had been held up until the state took control of the track.

The training, run under engineers with local experience, will qualify a dozen engineers and conductors to work the line on their own. Sometime early this month Rail Runner will start simulated commuter runs to certify that all locomotives and cars are ready for service.

Typical of commuter trains, Rail Runner wastes little time accelerating and blasts out of Bernalillo at or near its speed limit of seventy-nine miles per hour. Each train runs in push-pull mode, running one direction with the locomotive in front, then reversing direction with the pushing locomotive controlled from a cab compartment in the lead coach.

A draft schedule shows trains departing Bernalillo starting at 6:00 a.m. and taking twenty-five minutes to reach downtown Albuquerque after stops at Sandia Pueblo and Los Ranchos-Journal Center.

Once commuter trains start, rides will be free for three months to familiarize people with the service, according to the Mid-Region Council of Governments, lead agency on the project. MRCOG has announced fares then will be discounted for the rest of the year, at $2 a ticket, with daily and monthly passes available.

A permanent fare structure will take effect on January 1.


Patricia Chavez

Newly elected Bernalillo mayor, Patricia A. Chavez

 

 

 

 

 

 

Danny Grunstead, wastewater operator

Certified wastewater operator Danny Grunstead monitors the recently installed "sludge dewatering" trailer at the Bernalillo wastewater plant. Plumbing and compressor belts separate water from treated sewage, leaving a sludge that dries quicker before being hauled to the landfill. The temporary system is expected to reduce warm-weather odors, a long-standing source of citizen complaints, until an enclosed, odor-free structure is built during the pending plant overhaul.

New Bernalillo mayor gets right to work

—BILL DIVEN
Newly installed Bernalillo Mayor Patricia Chavez wasted no time in asserting her authority and launching rumors of a purge among top administrators at town hall.

Details remained sparse, however, pending a town council meeting scheduled for March 27, after the Signpost deadline. Chavez declined to discuss her intentions in advance of the meeting other than to say they involved personnel.

“These are sensitive issues involving personnel that I'm not at liberty to discuss,” she told the Signpost. “I'm not at liberty to discuss anything involving personnel.”

A directive issued by Chavez three days after taking office and obtained by the Signpost orders town administrator Lester Swindle “to cease taking any action in your capacity as an employee of the Town of Bernalillo” other than drawing up a list of all current town projects. The directive also indicates town department heads who normally work through Swindle will instead answer directly with the mayor.

The usually talkative Swindle declined to discuss his future other than to say, “I'm supposed to refer you to the mayor.”

Reports circulating in the community also suggested the jobs of police chief Fred Radosevich and finance director Ida Fierro might be at risk. Fierro also referred questions to Chavez; Radosevich was out of town and not immediately available to comment.

The mayor's powers to effect personnel changes are limited, however, as shown during the turmoil over the town's previous police chief, who was suspended twice before being fired in 2004. At that time, Mayor Charles Aguilar was able to suspend the chief, but it took a vote of the town council to actually dismiss the officer.

Councilor Marian Jaramillo said she is willing to hear Chavez's recommendations but is concerned about changing managers at a critical point in funding the overhaul of the town wastewater plant under threat of federal Environmental Improvement Agency sanctions.

“If we don't meet those EPA permits, the town of Bernalillo can be fined $10,000 a day,” she said. “Foremost to me is the interest of the community.”

Radosevich has done a “wonderful job” improving law enforcement in the town, she added.

Chavez, sworn into office on March 13, outpolled Aguilar in the March 7 election 486 to 308, with M. Helen Sandoval receiving 119 votes and Cecilia “Kiki” Trujillo 78. Councilor Edward W. Torres III was reelected to his at-large council seat, with Santiago Montoya winning the second spot replacing incumbent Serafín Dominguez.

Town voters also approved 637-178 a one-eighth percent gross-receipts tax to buy water rights and open space.

Aguilar had served two four-year terms as mayor, plus four years on the council before that, and now has filed as a Democrat candidate for probate judge in the June primary election.

“I enjoyed my tenure of twelve years, and I think a lot was done for the youth of the community,” Aguilar said while thanking councilors and townspeople for supporting the projects. “We built the youth center, the recreation center, the weight room, and there have been a lot of kids involved in the summer program.”

Aguilar also cited acquiring police and ambulance buildings, constructing a new library, upgrading town hall, and the start of rebuilding the wastewater plant as significant accomplishments.
“I have no regrets,” he said. “We did a lot of things needed by the community.”

Aguilar declined to comment on any projects or personnel actions his successor might be planning. The past and current mayors agree, however, that the town still must contend with bringing water and wastewater up to new federal standards.

“The big looming issue before us is water and wastewater compliance by 2007,” Chavez said. The town will continue to pursue funds to rebuild the wastewater plant and to remove naturally occurring arsenic from its water supply, she added.

Infrastructure and service improvements also will continue, as will cooperation with town neighbors on traffic and other issues, she added. And there likely will be new cleanup and town-beautification initiatives and a “different approach to doing business,” Chavez said.

“There certainly are some systems and process issues in the way we do business,” she said.


Legislature allocates generous funding to Thirteenth Judicial District

Thanks to state representatives and senators in the counties of Cibola, Sandoval and Valencia, the Thirteenth Judicial District Court did well securing funds for the next fiscal year.

In Valencia County, $1.7 million was approved for building a new district courthouse. The current courthouse, built in 1963, houses the courtrooms and offices of Judges Violet Otero and William Sanchez, as well as county offices and the sheriff's department. Judge John Pope's courtroom and office are contained in a portable building in the north parking lot. The new courthouse will be three stories high and house all the district judges under one roof, with an additional courtroom for visiting judges. The new building will be at the southwest corner of Highway 313 and Morris Road, in Los Lunas.

The district also received funds for additional personnel. A new judgeship in Sandoval County was approved by Governor Richardson. The two current district judges in Sandoval County, Louis McDonald and George Eichwald, have heavy caseloads due to the continuing tremendous growth of the county. It is hoped that the addition of a third judge will alleviate their caseload burden and help process cases more quickly. The court also received funds for support staff: two full-time court clerks will be hired in Sandoval County and one in Valencia County.

The juvenile drug courts in all three counties of the judicial district and the adult drug court, in Sandoval County, received generous funding to continue their programs. Whether it is an adult or a juvenile in the drug court, the goal of these programs is the same: stop drug use, stop recidivism, and provide the participants with life skills that make them productive members of the community.

In Cibola County $250,000 was alllocated for renovations to the courthouse, where Judge Camille Martinez-Olguin is located. $50,000 also was allotted to Cibola County for a document-imaging pilot project. Since the courts are paper-document-intensive, document imaging is the technological future of all courts. It allows the paperwork filed in a case to be scanned and archived for use by computer, ending document-storage problems and increasing access to case files. This technology is new to New Mexico courts. Only the Thirteenth and the Second Judicial District are currently conducting pilot projects in document imaging.

Chief Judge Louis McDonald is happy with the funds allotted to the Thirteenth Judicial District for the next fiscal year. “This is the fastest growing judicial district in the state. I thank our state legislators and the governor for recognizing this and appropriately funding our courts to meet this growth,” he commented.

 

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