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
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
(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
(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
(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
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
County survives governor’s veto pen
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
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 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
“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,”
“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.
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
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
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
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
• Assessor: Incumbent Rudy Casaus, Democrat; Judy Vanderstar
• 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.
—JACK THOMAS, CHAIRMAN, SANDOVAL COUNTY COMMISSION
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
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
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 email@example.com.
“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.
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
Rail Runner starts training in Bernalillo
Within hours of the state’s taking over fifty miles of BNSF
Railway track, the first New Mexico Rail Runner Express train arrived
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
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
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
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.
Newly elected Bernalillo mayor, Patricia A. Chavez
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
New Bernalillo mayor gets right to work
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
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,”
“There certainly are some systems and process issues in
the way we do business,” she said.
Legislature allocates generous funding to Thirteenth
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.