Sandoval Signpost


An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988
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Wild Horse
Photo credit: —Steff Chanat

Foal forages for food in a Placitas neighborhood

Too many horses?

—Ty Belknap

Springtime in Placitas means more free-range horses. Many mares appear to be pregnant and there are a number of new foals. This delights the people in subdivisions who contribute to this proliferation by feeding and watering the horses. Even though this is discouraged, many people have a problem with denying sustenance to the horses, especially during a drought.

The growing herds move in and out of the open spaces, into the village, into practically every yard east of the S-curves without a fence, and onto the roads. Because of environmental degradation, some people are privately questioning the practice of allowing free range to an unlimited number of horses. Some see it as a form of animal cruelty.

Safety is also an issue. Sandoval County Sheriff Doug Wood told the Signpost that his office has received very few calls about the horses. He says that his office tries to keep driving safe, and can help herd horses out of the roads, but ultimately it is the driver’s responsibility. He said, “Feral horses in roads are no different from elk, deer, or coyotes. People need to be cognizant of all road hazards, including animals. We can no more round up all the horses because somebody hits one than we could round up all the elk—and there are plenty of elk in the roads up in the Jemez.”

Wood said that private property owners are free to chase the horses off their land or to fence them out.

Birth control might help keep the numbers down, but no one is sufficiently motivated, funded, or authorized to administer contraceptives.

In 2010, the Placitas-based Wild Horse Observers Association (WHOA) sued the Bureau of Land Management in Federal Court to prevent them from rounding up horses in the BLM land in the northern part of Placitas. WHOA contends that the horses are protected, because they are wild. The BLM calls them “unauthorized livestock escaped from San Felipe pueblo.”

Last fall, WHOA rounded up eight free-range horses that they deemed “livestock” and moved them to a wild horse sanctuary. It’s a blurry line.

A decision from the courts is expected soon, but it is not clear if the outcome of this case will affect horses that have moved to private land.

Feds pull inmates from Sandoval County jail

—Signpost Staff

Three recent suicides prompted the United States Marshal Service to pull all federal prisoners out of the Sandoval County Detention Center (SCDC) in March. Two inmates hanged themselves in December of 2011. SCDC initiated new suicide prevention policies—regarding shoelaces in particular—in February, but on March 4, nineteen-year-old Dario Panteh, of Zuni Pueblo, died after hanging himself with a bedsheet. Two of the deaths involved federal prisoners.

Hanging is one of the most commonly used suicide methods, the materials are readily available, unconsciousness comes quickly, and the mortality rate is high. Many prisoners are anxious and depressed. Hanging is difficult to prevent.

In a March 7 press release, the Marshals Service announced that they began transferring all federal prisoners out of the SCDC. “Currently 190 are being transferred to other detention facilities throughout the state,” said Chief Deputy Michael Ferstl.

“The United States Marshals Service, in coordination with the Department of Justice and the Office of Federal Detention Trustee, is currently reviewing policies, practices, and procedures of the Sandoval County Detention Center. Upon the outcome of that review, a decision will be rendered as to any future consideration of returning prisoners to that facility,” said U.S. Marshal Conrad Candelaria.

The press release went on to say that Marshals Service District of New Mexico is committed to ensuring the secure care and custody of detained individuals; protecting individual civil rights throughout the judicial process; implementing cost savings methods for housing and transporting those in custody; and providing quick and safe responses to emergency situations.

On March 20, Sandoval County Public Information Sidney Hill told the Signpost that SCDC is taking steps to make sure they are in compliance with U.S. Marshal Service standards, and that an inspection was being scheduled to resolve the issues that led to the removal of federal prisoners. The 190 federal prisoners represented over half of the SCDC population when they were removed.

Hill confirmed that SCDC receives $67 per day per federal prisoner, averaging four million dollars per year. This represents a big chunk of the $8.6 million annual budget. He said that county officials had not yet discussed the potential budget crisis and that SCDC was doing what needed to be done to get the prisoners back.

The Sandoval County Board of Commissioners will convene as a committee of the whole for a special meeting to consider the SCDC contract and policies. The meeting will be at 6:00 p.m., March 29 in the Commission Chambers of the County Administration Building.

Town of Bernalillo to host events

Registration has begun at the Town of Bernalillo Recreation Department for Camp Coronado summer day camp for children age five through fourteen. A fixed fee covers field trips, lunch, breakfast, materials, and activities. Bernalillo and area residents are welcome. Space is limited to the first 150 to register. For more information, call 771-2078.

The thirteenth annual Bernalillo Eggstravaganza will begin at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday April 7. Children age one through twelve are will be treated to an egg hunt, prizes, fun jumps, and even bikes. Bring your own basket. For more information, call Jason at 238-0689.

On April 14 at 10:00 a.m., area quilters are invited to an informational meeting at the Martha Liebert Public Library to assess interest in classes with quilter Mary Oberg.

Throughout the month, the library will celebrate National Poetry Month. The goal of this program is “put a poem in every visitor’s pocket.” Every day, a new poem will be posted at the library with copies available for the taking.

On April 20, from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., the Town will celebrate Earth Day and earthen architecture. There will be a tree and native plant sale at the Molino at the downtown Railrunner Station. Adobe workshop will also be at the Molino, and a mud plaster workshop at the Coronado State Monument. There will also be site visits at the New Mexico Wine Museum, and the Graber House behind the Town Hall.

For further information, call the Town of Bernalillo at 867-3311.

New Mexico State Engineer’s Office (OSE) approves comprehensive water rights permit for Town of Bernalillo

—Town of Bernailllo

On March 26, Mayor Jack Torres announced that the State Engineer has approved a permit authorizing the diversion of up to 3,000 acre feet of water per year (AFY) from the municipal drinking water wells. This permit also allows the Town to offset pumping with return flow credits from its use of 400 AFY of San Juan Chama Project water rights that the Town began to lease annually in 1988. 

In the application process, the Town was required to ensure that its water rights file was up-to-date, including an addendum to the Forty Year Water Rights Plan, that computation of per capita water use was consistently accurate, and that a Water System Audit was completed. Bernalillo is one of the first communities in the State to have completed these tasks.

According to Mayor Torres, the OSE has found that it is in the public interest to allow Bernalillo’s diversion of drinking water and to protect these rights by ensuring that future water rights applications will not affect the Town’s ability to divert 3,000 AFY. This is particularly important as the community is situated near Rio Rancho, the City of Albuquerque, and a number of small mutual domestic water associations.

The Town currently uses 1,333 AFY for drinking water purposes. The consolidated permit application has been pending for almost thirteen years. The approval of the application became a priority of Mayor Torres’ administration in 2011. “The approval of the Town’s permit positions us to provide adequate drinking water for at least the next thirty-five years, perhaps longer,” said Mayor Torres.

Governor vetoes Sandoval “pork”

Signpost staff

Two out of three of the items in the 2012 capital outlay budget, all meant to benefit Sandoval County projects, were vetoed by New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez. These included $175,000 for El Zócalo Historic Renovation and the $640,000 for the regional dispatch center.

The governor approved $240,000 for the Torreon Road Rehabilitation—$13 million was requested for the project.

Sandoval County Public information officer Sidney Hill said that the $240,000 would not go far. He said that the county would continue to seek funding for the projects—that the dispatch center upgrades would become more critical as the county grows.

County Assessor mails property value notices, urges owners to review them

—Sidney Hill

On March 5, the Sandoval County Assessor mailed a 2012 Notice of Value to all property owners within the county.

“This document—which many taxpayers fail to review—is an important part of the property tax process,” advises Sandoval County Assessor Tom Garcia. “Every property owner should carefully read their Notice of Value and follow the instructions printed on the back.”

Those instructions include the process of applying for exemptions or other benefits that could lower the taxable value of your property. For instance, a Head of Family exemption reduces the taxable value of a primary residence by $2,000, while a Veteran’s Exemption reduces it by $4,000.  

The Notice of Value also contains information on what to do if you believe your property has been classified or valued improperly. A misclassification, such as a residential property being identified as commercial, or an incorrect valuation could lead to a property owner paying more taxes than they should.

“Property owners have thirty days after the Notice of Value is mailed to protest their valuation, but they may not know that if they don’t review the notice,” Garcia says. “The Notice of Value is not a tax bill, but the value on the notice is used to calculate the tax bill for a particular piece of property. So, it’s extremely important for property owners to review the notice to make sure it has the correct value.”

For more information regarding the valuation process, property owners can go the website at and click on the Helpful Tips button.

For more information, call the Assessor at 505-867-7562, or visit the office at 1500 Idalia Road, Building D, in Bernalillo.

Spaceport planned

—Town of Bernalillo, April 2012 newsletter

On April 2, the Town of Bernalillo will move forward with a plan to annex a large chunk of Sandoval County (Placitas). The plan to annex an additional five square miles of land on the east side of I-25 will proceed with a final go-ahead from the Town Council. Plans for usage of the land are not yet finalized, but the Town is pursuing a partnership with NASA and the Spaceport in T or C to put a Stargate on the land. While teleportation is still not yet a viable form of transportation, when it does become viable, the Town will be well-positioned to take advantage of the opportunities that come with it.

Additionally, the Stargate will fit very nicely into the Regional Metropolitan Transportation Plan.

Happy April Fools Day!
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