An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988

Signpost cartoon c. Rudi KlimpertCounty begins planning northeast loop road


The Sandoval County Development Division 2007 Annual Report lists a northeast loop road as an upcoming project. The report includes a rough map showing a line labeled “Northeast Corridor” running from north of the NM 165/I-25 interchange to NM 14. The loop road issue stirred a great deal of local opposition when it was raised in 1993 and 2000. (Remember the “One Plague at a Time” bumper stickers?)

A public meeting, sponsored by the Wild Horse Observers Association and a new group called the Placitas Coalition, has been scheduled for April 5 at 1:00 p.m. at Las Placitas Presbyterian Church to discuss the loop road issue, along with the upcoming Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Rio Puerco District Resource Management Plan (RMP), which includes the five thousand acres of BLM land near Placitas. [See related article, below.]

County Development Director Michael Springfield told the Signpost that county officials have been discussing the possibility of a northeast loop road for about a year, and that it is coincidental that the RMP planning process is also starting. He said that the County Commission will discuss the proposed road at the budget hearings scheduled for March 27 at 9:00 a.m.

Springfield said that responsible planning requires that his division start planning for a much-needed second road—or at least secure right-of-way—into Placitas before more development occurs. The only way out of the north side of Placitas is via two narrow, winding roads to NM 165 and on down to the gridlock at I-25. He said that it would be a county road—not a freeway—that would also connect I-25 to NM 14 and several residential areas of Sandoval County. He also said that neither NM 165 nor the Las Huertas wash will be under consideration. He thought NM 22 would be too far north.

This would appear to narrow the options down to the BLM land or the Baca gravel mine north of Placitas. This land is already sought by gravel miners, wild horse advocates, residential developers, animal corridor advocates, and the West-wide energy corridor. Some residents who oppose—for ecological and lifestyle reasons—the rapid development that has occurred in the area want to leave it as open space.

The head planner for the New Mexico State Highway and Transportation Department said at the conclusion of the 2001 northeast corridor study that he did not anticipate the resumption of the study for at least twenty years or until significant changes occur.

Ed Singleton, BLM field manager, stated in 2001 that the BLM and both tribes (Santo Domingo and San Felipe) were in favor of the use of Highway 22 as the connecting road. “We can’t see any public interest in disturbing a corridor through any of the other alternatives. The area [BLM land north of Placitas] has erosive soils and a difficult topography that would make road building an engineering nightmare.”

The area also contains a wealth of environmentally sensitive wetlands and archeological sites. There is no existing road of any kind across the BLM land in question.

The project is one of two road proposals for fiscal year 2009—the other being a road connecting a northwest loop road to US 550 near San Ysidro. Springfield said that after planners have had a chance to study possible road corridors, there will be a public process that starts with the Planning and Zoning Commission.

BLM map

BLM to update local land-use plan


As noted elsewhere in this issue of the Signpost, the Rio Puerco Field Office of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has recently begun the process of inviting public input on the revision of its Resource Management Plan (RMP). The RMP is the document that specifies allowed and disallowed land uses for various parts of the management district. Three major parcels of land under BLM ownership located within and adjacent to the Placitas area fall within this Field Office jurisdiction: the approximately five thousand acres of BLM land north of the Placitas Open Space, a two-hundred-acre parcel located north of the Overlook subdivision, and the Crest of Montezuma, immediately northeast of the old village of Placitas. These RMPs are updated periodically to accommodate changes in resource demand, demographics, and public land use preferences. The RMP now in place was prepared in the 1980s. The current plan revision could similarly affect land uses in our district decades into the future.

The current revision will be formulated in an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), prepared under the regulations of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). This process goes through various stages, including “public scoping,” “analysis of alternatives,” preparation of a draft document, and ultimately issuing of a final plan for implementation. The entire process will take approximately four years (ending in spring 2012). The recent announcement by BLM pertains to the initial public scoping phase, in which BLM invites the public to express its preferences for specific land uses in specific areas. The BLM is accepting public comments for this phase up until May 31, 2008. The project website link is: details this process and the official schedule. BLM will supposedly synthesize the information received during the public scoping and use it to formulate “management alternatives” in the draft EIS. It’s important to note that, although the entire process spans four years, opportunities for public input are few and far between. After May 31, 2008, public comment will not be invited again until October 2010, after BLM publishes the draft EIS, according to the posted BLM schedule. A final opportunity for public comment occurs in early 2011, when BLM publishes the final EIS.

This website also features maps of the different units managed by the Rio Puerco Field Office. The Placitas area is the smallest of the five units, named Unit 5. The website announces BLM-hosted public meetings scheduled for April 2, 2008 in Albuquerque and April 8, 2008 in Bernalillo (see website for details). As of March 20, 2008, BLM indicated that these meetings will be an informal open house format, in which participants can freely gather information and hold discussions with various BLM project staff, and provide formal written comments to BLM.

The RMP revision throws open the entire range of potential uses of these tracts of BLM land in Unit 5 for discussion, evaluation, and ultimately management recommendations. Potential uses for this land could include:

Continued or expanded gravel mining operations;

Trade or sale of lands for expanded residential development and/or commercial uses;

Preservation of the lands for a range of managed conservation uses, including but not limited to: public open space, low-impact recreational use, cultural resource protection area, scenic area, wild horse preserve, or wildlife corridor, to name some of the more popular choices.

Large-scale energy transmission corridor, under the current West-wide energy corridor plan (see previous two Signpost issues).

In November 2007, Las Placitas Association widely circulated a community survey regarding community preferences for potential uses for the five-thousand-acre BLM lands north of Placitas. The survey findings clearly indicate that the community overwhelmingly favors conservation uses.

By visiting the BLM website at, attending the scheduled BLM public meetings, and, above all, registering land-use preferences via the public-comment process, public input can influence the use of neighboring BLM land for years to come.

For more information, visit the Las Placitas Association website at:, or call Reid Bandeen at 867-5477.

Placitas wild horses

Wild horse herd in Placitas

Senate memorial calls for 5,000 acre Wild Horse State Park near Placitas


During the Legislative session of 2008, the state senate passed a memorial sponsored by Senator Steve Komadina requesting the State Parks Division (SPD) to study the feasibility of acquiring five thousand acres from the Bureau of Land Management for a wild horse state park in Sandoval County near Placitas.

The memorial states:

• Wild horses are part of New Mexico’s living heritage and history, but they are endangered and may become extinct in New Mexico.

• Like the buffalo, wild horses are emblematic of the old west, and it is the image of wild horses running free across the plains of the west that lives in the hearts and minds of Americans.

• The wild horse is part of New Mexico’s enchantment and essence and is an integral part of the Indian, Hispanic, ranching, and farming cultures of New Mexico.

• There are several herds of wild horses reintroduced into New Mexico that range freely on lands owned by the federal Bureau of Land Management in Sandoval County near the village of Placitas.

• Although tourism is the second-largest industry in the state, tourism in New Mexico could increase by attracting thousands of tourists from all over the world who are intrigued by the history, culture, and art of the American west.

• A wild horse state park could prompt local economic development by drawing tourists into a region to see non-domesticated horses in a natural setting.

• The federal Bureau of Land Management will be updating the resource management plan for five thousand acres under its jurisdiction located in Sandoval County, which may provide a unique opportunity for the creation of a wild horse state park.

Komadina’s memorial calls for access through the village of Placitas.

The state’s own fiscal impact report pointed out that a typical state park feasibility study costs SPD around $25,000 in personnel and other costs (salary, travel, per diem, printing, etc.). This particular requested study would require at least this amount, if not more, since the management of a wild horse park would be a new concept with which SPD does not have familiarity or direct experience. SPD would likely have to engage a consultant to collect data regarding potential visitation, research existing literature regarding wild horse preserves in New Mexico and other locations, and determine management approaches and resource needs for such a park.

Further, SPD does not have the available budget in FY08 to begin the study; SPD has not requested any funding in the FY09 budget to perform the requested study; and the resolution does not include any appropriations to SPD in order to conduct the study. Study costs would have to come out of the FY08 and FY09 operating budgets for SPD.

SPD has no prior experience or expertise in the management of wild horses, which can be a resource-intensive and highly complex responsibility for a land management agency. Developing the new management capacity within SPD to handle this project would be a challenge and would likely involve significant cost. Four months from the beginning of FY09 until the report is due to the legislature is inadequate time to prepare a thorough feasibility study so that the legislature can have solid information from which to make decisions regarding this proposed new state park. In order to complete the study, SPD would have to divert resources from other high-priority projects already underway.

The memorial passed by a vote of 35 to zero.

Legislative funding for county projects limited


Tight money limited Sandoval County lobbyist Gayland Bryant’s usual success at getting state legislative funding for county projects in 2008. Slower revenue growth, blamed mostly on a dramatic drop in oil natural gas exploration, limited available funding. Bryant said that in recent years, the county has received $23 million to $27 million in capital outlay from the legislature. This year the county received only $9.1 million.

Here’s a breakdown of funding for legislative initiatives supported by Sandoval County:

• Supported $2.116 million funding for regional fire station on the Pueblo of Santa Ana—received $365,000

• Supported $432,000 for Senior Program—Received $100,000

• Supported $1.2 million in funding to expand and renovate facilities for Haven House, the only domestic violence shelter in Sandoval County—received $235,000. Bryant said that a community development block grant should make up the difference.

• Supported $2 million funding to complete improvements and purchase equipment at the New Mexico Soccer Tournament Complex—received $310,000

• Supported $50,000 funding for Sandoval County’s Native American Election Information Program that provides translation of ballots and prepares audio interpretations of ballots—received $25,000

• Supported legislation appropriating $3.45 million from the State General Fund to retire or forgive debts incurred by counties for lease-purchase of voting machines rendered unusable with the state’s shift to paper ballots—Vetoed

Sandoval County sought legislative funding for the following capital outlay projects:

• Sought $5.1 million to match County funds to plan, design, and construct the $12.6 million first phase of a desalination project in the Rio Puerco Valley west of Rio Rancho—received $786,000.

• The county dropped request for $1.3 million for construction and installation of master-planned drainage systems, water retention ponds, roadways and landscaping of La Plazuela de Sandoval.

• Sought $2 million for Northwest Loop Road around Rio Rancho—received $260,000

• Sought an additional $500,000 to complete renovations and improvements of El Zócalo Business Development Complex.—received $263,000.

• The county withdrew requests for $1 million for Phase II of the Waste Conversion/Composting Facility.and $200,000 to design and construct a 16,425-square-foot, three-sided covered building so residents can safely and conveniently dispose of residential trash at the Sandoval County Landfill.

• Sought $500,000 to match County funds and significant in-kind services to provide drainage and pave roadways necessary to provide year-round use of the County Fairgrounds and special events center near Cuba—got nothing.

• Sought $185,000 is to complete a rebuild of Camino de Las Huertas where it crosses Las Huertas Creek in the Placitas area. Camino de Las Huertas is a major collector road and school bus route that serves as the only direct road for a large number of residents in the rapidly growing area. Heavy rainfall and high water flow in the Creek caused the road to wash out on four separate occasions in 2006, resulting in the road’s complete closure until County crews could make partial repairs. The 2007 Legislature approved $75,000 as partial funding for the project. Although the 2008 Legislature approve no funding, Bryant said that county funding will complete the project this year.

• Sought $300,000 is requested to supplement County funds and in-kind services to pave, resurface and restore drainage along County Road 11 in the Cuba area.—received nothing.

• Sought $243,000 to remove and replace a crumbling concrete span bridge on Horseshoe Springs Road over the San Antonio River in the La Cueva area of the Jemez Mountains—received $100,000.

• $243,800 to design, realign, and construct an intersection on NM 165 to provide safe entry and turn-outs by motorists to and from the County-owned property that will serve as site of the Placitas Community Library and Multi-Use Center— received $50,000.

• The county also received $75,000 for a county-wide spay/neuter program to be administered by Placitas Animal Rescue and $21,000 for the thirteenth Judicial District drug court program.

Placitas Library seeks input for building project


Residents of Placitas are invited to provide their collective and individual visions and preferences for the design and functions of the new Placitas Community Library (PCL) during two separate public meetings with the architects. These meetings will be held on Saturday, April 5 from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. and Saturday, April 19 from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. at the Placitas Elementary School gymnasium. The architects will provide updates on the design concepts and construction timeline. They expect to break ground by the end of 2008, with completion of Phase I by July 2009. Design plans created by Placitas Elementary school children will be on display. This is your opportunity to have a say in the design and building of the new library. A design schematic is expected to be completed by June 4, 2008.

Funds have been raised for Phase I construction of an approximately thirty-five-hundred- square-foot building to house collections and allow a small meeting space at the location just west of the Placitas Volunteer Fire Station on Highway 165 in Placitas. SMPC Architects of Albuquerque were selected for the design and build of an environmentally “green” facility that embraces sustainable building practices and can be a regional model for green architecture. Fundraising is underway to raise an additional $1million-plus for Phase II construction of an additional thirty-five-hundred-square-feet of space. The library is already storing books and materials off-site because they don’t have the capacity to shelve the current collection.

The planned building will be designed with the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Standards at the core. Dr. Rebecca Watson-Boone hopes to establish a Placitas Community Library “Green Living Resource Center” which will be a repository for resources and information about current and future green building practices for community residents, builders, and leaders. This is an opportunity to share state-of-the-art building and design practices for environmental stewardship projects that protect the ecosystem in Placitas and beyond.

Structural elements considered for the planned seven-thousand-square-foot building (phase I and II) include a large community room that will hold fifty or more people, a technology center with computers for community use, a gift shop and information center with resources on Placitas, the possibility of a coffee shop/reading room, an outdoor garden area for programs, and quiet reading spaces.

Another strand of collections development being considered is the creation of a Community Heritage Center within the new library for sharing local history and culture. Newcomers to the area may find resources in the Bernalillo Public Library’s Southwest Collection and at the Sandoval County Historical Society, but neither focuses on the Placitas area’s rich history as both a land grant community and part of the trading route for Native Americans in generations past.

If you are unable to attend either of the meetings, but wish to share your thoughts, send your suggestions to Gail Della Pelle at

The Placitas Community Library is run by volunteers—more than thirty-two of them. There is no shortage of expertise as four of those people have degrees, even doctorates, in library science. PCL opened on March 1, 2004, in its current twelve-hundred-square-foot location on Tierra Madre Road, just west of the Homestead Shopping Center. Donated local talent, skills, and materials transformed this former machine shop into a workable library. Furniture and books were donated by libraries in Roswell and Los Alamos. PCL is a 501(c) 3 non-profit which operates with “developing library” status from the New Mexico State Library system. Since Placitas is an unincorporated village with no tax base, Friends of the Placitas Library have raised the operating funds. The library provides important services, including Internet access, interlibrary loan, and copier/fax use. Patronage has doubled in the past year. The collection has rapidly expanded, now exceeding fourteen thousand items and one thousand CDs, DVDs, audiotapes, large print, and Spanish-language books.

The library leadership team’s approach is one of inclusion of ideas, philosophies, and dreams. They operate an impressive array of children’s and adult programming. Visit the website at for detailed information. There is currently no paid staff at the library due to the fact that there is no tax base in Placitas to support operational costs. However, ideas have been generated to support staffing, including an application for AmeriCorps personnel. The fundraiser in 2007 generated $35,000 for rent, utilities, and other required expenses. The goal for the upcoming October 20, 2008 “Books on the Bosque” event is to raise $75,000, which is earmarked for the capital campaign.

Grant writing and fundraising are continual efforts of the all-volunteer team. Over the past three years, fundraising has netted $1,345,805, including four acres of land for the permanent facility. Monies to date include:

• U.S. Congressional allocations—$346,500

• New Mexico state legislative appropriation—$550,000

• New Mexico General Obligation Bond—$16,000*

• County General Obligation Bond—$129,000*

• NM State Library Development Grant—$1,305*

• A 2:1 Challenge Grant from the Kerr Foundation—$10,000

• The Kerr Foundation Challenge Grant was matched by two donors:

• Fidelity National Title Company—$2,000

• The Karakin Foundation—$18,000

• The American Library Association*—“We The People” books and materials.

• Sandoval County—$80,000 for purchase of four acres of land for the permanent building

• State of New Mexico—$145,000 for furniture and equipment for the new library.*

• Friends of the Placitas Library—$48,000 for operational costs, generated from the 2007 “Books on the Bosque” event and private donors

(*These funds cannot be used for construction of a building.)

Legislative appropriations in 2008


Having now completed the 2008 legislative session, I’d like to bring you up to date on what occurred. The primary goal of the “short” session is to complete the budget. Those of us on the Appropriations and Finance Committee arrive a week early to start hearing agency requests and to set the groundwork for the final budget.

The $6.2 billion budget represents a 6.7% ($384 million) increase over last year. Revenues from last year grew only 2.4%, and 4.3% was taken from reserves, so we are in a deficit spending position. As I’ve stated previously, the oil and gas industry—the state’s “cash cow”—is cyclical and when we rely on those funds for recurring expenses, we put the state at significant risk. Although oil has stayed steady, gas has flattened out, which helps explain lower revenues this year.

As always, education received the lion’s share. Public schools were increased by $125 million and higher education received $38 million. I remain disappointed that given the amount of funding that goes to our schools, our performance record is less than stellar. Our teachers have a tough job teaching to our diverse populations; for that reason, it seems fundamental change should be considered. Parents are also a huge factor in student success and should be part of the solution.

The next largest budget item was Medicaid, which was increased by $91 million and includes a $10 million loss in federal funds. Other notable increases were for the Corrections Department ($17 million), Public Safety ($6 million), and Aging and Long Term services ($3 million).

As you may have heard, the Department of Transportation is currently unable to meet the goals of GRIP (Governor Richardson’s Investment Partnership). The cost of the Rail Runner, combined with the loss of federal funding and increased construction costs have seriously stunted the state’s ability to start a number of major highway projects. A task force to address this shortfall proposed a number of solutions, but none have yet been implemented. In fact, we had to “find” an additional $47 million for simple road maintenance.

A few more appropriations of interest include the following: $9 million for university scholarships and endowments, $7 million for job training, $2.6 million for supercomputer operations, $3.5 million for elections, $4 million to develop tests to comply with No Child Left Behind requirements, $5 million for equipment for UNM’s Health Sciences Center, and $2 million for LIHEAP (a low-income heating program). One that gives me heartburn though, is a public school grant that was improperly administered, resulting in the state having to pay back $15 million to the federal government.

The amount of legislation was somewhat less this session. In a budget session, legislators are restricted to introducing bills only related to the budget, unless they get a “message” from the Governor. We successfully completed a reasonable budget this year, but significant legislation stalled, mostly because of unanswered questions. Two bills consumed much of our attention this year: the Governor’s universal health plan proposal and a bill to change the school funding formula.

I recognize that our health care system needs reform, but the proposed plan would have put a burden on small business, would possibly have driven more doctors from the state, and would have negatively affected those who are content with their coverage. As we now know, mandates are failing in Massachusetts, so I am skeptical about whether they’d work here. Some of us also felt uncomfortable with the unverified cost of the program, especially given the revenue predictions over the next few years. We’ve heard that we may be called back for a special session to reconsider healthcare, so you’ll likely be hearing more about it during the summer.

How statewide schools receive their funding is currently based on a complicated formula. The newly proposed formula has some genuinely good aspects to it, e.g., better funding for poorer schools or those losing students, and a simplified formula. However, at a cost of $350 million to possibly $550 million additional, I felt that we needed to be better educated about its details. I received a lot of mail regarding a different method of administering the “gifted program,” which also gave me pause. I think it’s critical to encourage those students who show special promise, and the new formula didn’t specifically earmark that funding. And one final thought on school funding—I believe putting more money into schools without tying it to performance measures will produce much the same results we’ve seen over the years.

Finally, diminished revenues this year also affected capital outlay funding that legislators received for projects in their districts. House members received about half what we brought home last year, so spreading it out among the many worthy requests was a painful process.

Below are some projects into which I put funding:

• Libraries in Edgewood and


• NM 165 intersection construc-

tion in Placitas

• Frost Road trail system

• Haven House Shelter in

Sandoval County

• Edgewood Regional Animal Shelter

• Sierra Vista Mutual Domestic

• East Mountain Sheriff’s Operating Center

• Tijeras sewer system

• Sandia Heights road improvements

• Cedar Crest Mutual Domestic (lines for hydrants)

• East Mountain Charter High School

• Edgewood Recreational Fields

• Roosevelt School Track

• All APS schools received special project funding

• Senior centers in Edgewood and Tijeras

Please contact me regarding any questions or concerns you have. And a special thanks to those of you who contacted me during session—your comments are always welcome.

Report on March County Commission meetings


At the March 6 Sandoval County Commission meeting, Bernalillo Town Administrator Stephen Jerge requested another $125,000 in funding for a pre-treatment facility for the Sandoval County Detention Center. Jerge said that screening equipment is required to remove plastics and other solid litter that inmates flush down the toilets. Late last year, the commission agreed to pay an engineer’s estimate of $87,000 for the screen, but Jerge said that the lowest bid ended up being $212,000.

Commissioner Thomas pointed out that the county had already contributed $2 million to the waste water treatment facility. Commissioner Bency suggested that the town borrow the money and pay for the screen with gross receipt taxes from the new Wal-Mart. Jerge questioned the $2 million figure, but said whatever the cost, “We’ll all have a problem if we don’t meet the deadlines set by the EPA for completion of the project.”

County Manager Hays said that the general fund was fully budgeted. Commissioner Leonard said that he would not approve the full $125,000, but offered $5,000 from his district’s discretionary fund if Commissioner Lucero would chip in $14,000. Lucero, whose district includes Bernalillo, agreed, and the commission moved on to other agenda items, leaving the Town $106,000 short.

The commission approved a request by Mike Good, new director of the Division of Information Technology, to revise his department’s organizational structure, positions, job titles, and job descriptions. The commission agreed after Good assured them that this action would not cost more money.

The commission approved a joint funding agreement between Sandoval County and the U.S. Geological Survey for long-term hydrologic data collection in the Placitas area to end September 30, 2008 ($18,890 District 1 Funds). This project has been going on for several years and has not yet released any data to the public. They also approved a resolution regarding funding from the NM Environment Department for a water regionalization project in the Jemez Valley Area ($16,500).

The commission agreed to vacate portions of two existing floodplain easements located within the Anasazi Meadows Subdivision in Placitas to adjust the floodplain easements within the subdivision to comply with a smaller floodplain as approved by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Finally, they granted approval to publish title and general summary for the Sandoval County Flood Damage Prevention Ordinance. Development Division Director Michael Springfield told the commission that this action would allow residents of the bosque areas near the Rio Grande to get flood insurance through FEMA.

At the March 20 meeting, Commissioner Orlando Lucero presented a resolution supporting the expansion of the proposed open space lands contiguous to the Crest of Montezuma in Placitas. The open space still hinges on a complex transfer of lands to the Bureau of Land Management. The expansion of this open space would be accomplished through the acquisition of private land.

Tony Lucero, president of the San Antonio de las Huertas Land Grant, pointed out to the commission that, while the open space is a fine idea, the expansion in question contains historical sites and a land grant cemetery that should be protected. He also questioned the wisdom of putting more land in federal hands that could be taken for the West-wide energy corridor. The commission passed the resolution with the proviso that the historic sites should be preserved.

In other business, the commission heard a presentation and discussion of a cinematic arts and literacy program to promote multimedia literacy and development of local talent for New Mexico’s growing cinematic arts industry. This would include collaboration among Sandoval County school districts, the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts, the University of New Mexico, Central New Mexico Community College, and media-related entities. They granted a request for funding in the amount of $200,000 to provide seed monies necessary to launch the program.

The commission approved a professional services agreement between Sandoval County and A New Day, expanding the reception and assessment center in partnership with Bernalillo High School (BHS). This agreement provides for intake, assessment, and thirty-day case management services for at-risk students on campus and alternative academics for suspended students in the Learning Lab, with funding from the CYFD Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee ($49,000).

The commission approved of a proclamation designating the months of April and May as Sandoval County Health Awareness Months.

The commission approved the Division of Information Technology request to negotiate and finalize a contract with CH2M Hill for the completion of Sandoval Broadband infrastructure construction.






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