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An independent monthly newspaper serving the community since 1988
  Public Safety
 

Car burglaries rattle residents

—Allen Mills

The Sandoval County Sheriff’s Office is currently investigating a rash of vehicle burglaries that occurred in the Ranchos de Placitas area on the night of March 4 and 5. Miscellaneous property was taken from several of the vehicles. Thieves broke several windows to get inside of locked vehicles. Unlocked vehicles were not damaged.

Please note vehicle security tips:

  • Auto burglary is a crime of opportunity
  • Most thefts occur when valuables are left unattended. The thief normally seeks privacy to commit his/her act. Virtually any article left in plain view is at risk of being stolen.
  • Thieves seek cash or loose change left on the console or ashtray of the vehicle. They also like CDs, wallets, purses, cellular phones, radar detectors, radios, speakers, and cassette tapes.
  • Most auto burglaries occur at night while the vehicle is parked outside the victim’s residence.

To avoid theft, park your car in the garage if possible, or else in well-lit, visible areas. Take your valuables with you when you leave your car.

Residents should call the Sandoval County Sheriff’s non-emergency telephone number—867-4581—to report the presence of any suspicious vehicle in one’s neighborhood. They should provide a description, and the vehicle make and license number—if they are attainable without coming into contact with suspicious people.

Do not worry about being labeled an “alarmist.” It is the Sheriff’s Office’s job to check it out, and any help could help prevent in-process crimes or solve existing cases.

It is not appropriate for civilians to confront suspected criminals or anyone walking or driving through our neighborhoods. Residents must not act as vigilantes. Suspicious activity should be reported to the Sheriff’s Dispatcher to be dealt with.

Residents should call 911 to report a crime in progress or any other emergency.


County commissioners honor community heroes

—Sidney Hill

One has a passion for stopping illegal dumping of trash; the other wants to make sure all her fellow citizens always have enough to eat. These are the first recipients of the Sandoval County Community Heroes Award. The Sandoval County Commission recently instituted this program to recognize citizens who take extraordinary measures to improve the quality of life in and around Sandoval County. The commissioners plan to recognize such citizens once each quarter.

Byron L. Waxler of Rio Rancho and Pamela “Penny” Davis of Corrales were presented with Community Hero medals at the February 21 County Commission meeting. Waxler was tabbed for the award by District 4 Commissioner Glenn Walters who said, that for the past five years, Waxler has waged a one-man war against illegal dumping on the mesa west of the Rio Rancho city limits.

“Byron has dedicated numerous hours over the past five years to personally clean up illegal dump sites on this mesa,” Commissioner Walters said. “During one year alone, he loaded his four-by-seven trailer 47 times with appliances—normally three appliances per load—and disposed of them legally.”

Waxler also has transported hundreds of tires, box springs, and other items from the mesa to the county landfill. “His selfless, sustained effort to personally keep the mesa clean is truly deserving of being recognized as a Sandoval County Community Hero,” Commissioner Walters concluded. 

District 2 Commissioner Nora Manierre Scherzinger had similar praise for Davis, who, in essence, launched Seed2Need, a non-profit program that raises fresh produce for distribution to local food pantries. Commissioner Scherzinger noted that between 2010 and 2012, Seed2Need donated 141,000 pounds of produce to 15 different food pantries in Sandoval and Bernalillo Counties. The program also won the 2011 International Master Gardener Search for Excellence Award.

Davis started gardening in earnest after retiring from a 27-year career as an accountant, systems analyst, and manager for the Public Service Company of New Mexico. She earned the Master Gardener designation through a program offered by the Sandoval County Cooperative Extension Service. That program required fulfilling a certain number of volunteer hours, which Davis did by renovating the rose garden at the Meadowlark Senior Center in Rio Rancho and helping to maintain a clay soil demonstration garden in front of the Corrales Town Hall.

In 2008, during what has been called the Great Recession, Davis started her own small garden and began donating produce to Storehouse West in Rio Rancho. The next year, she began looking for a larger site and got permission to grow produce on property own by Commissioner Scherzinger and her husband Victor. At the time, Commissioner Scherzinger was a private citizen.

The garden on the Scherzingers’ property produced so many tomatoes, green beans, and squash that donations were made to both Storehouse West and St. Felix Pantry. As word spread, other Sandoval County residents began making land available for the project, and Seed2Need was born. Seed2Need was incorporated in 2012. When accepting the Community Heroes award, Davis said the organization’s greatest need currently is for volunteers who want to help tend the crops.

Anyone wishing to help can contact Seed2Need at 385-4864.


Website launched for fire restriction and closure information

 This fire season, local, state, and federal land management agencies within the Southwest Area will use a new interagency website (Firerestrictions.us) and other tools to communicate fire restriction and closure information.

The purpose of restrictions and closures is to reduce the risk of human-caused fires during periods of unusually high fire danger and/or burning conditions. Weather, moisture in the vegetation, number of human-caused and natural fire starts, firefighting resource availability, and other factors are considered in determining if wildland fire restrictions or closures are needed.


A U.S. Forest Service Google Earth projection on a tabletop sandbox contoured to represent the Sandia mountain area and property along Highway 165 in Placitas illuminates how wildfire can spread.

Firewise Placitas offers education and chipper

In order to promote community-wide participation in the use of practices, technology, and policy that minimize the loss of life and property to wildfire, independent of firefighting efforts, a small group of concerned citizens representing several local organizations—Coronado Soil and Water Conservation District (Coronado), Las Placitas Association (LPA), Las Huertas Community Ditch (LHCD), the Earth Care Fellowship (ECF) of Las Placitas Presbyterian Church, as well as individuals with backgrounds in firefighting, nursing, and ecology—has been working toward official recognition for Placitas as a Firewise® community through education and awareness.

Last month, the ECF hosted an event that drew over sixty residents. A rapt audience crowded around the Google Earth projection on a tabletop sandbox contoured to represent the Sandia mountain area and property along Highway 165. Three US Forest Service staff fielded requests to vary wind speeds and ignition points to show how wildfire could spread to Placitas, which ignited questions from those curious to learn more. One of the rangers made it clear that firefighters must assign low priority and may pass by homes and properties where the owners have not created defensible space at least two hundred feet around their home. To increase the potential of a home surviving a wildfire, flammable items, such as dead vegetation, can be removed and the volume of live vegetation, especially evergreens, can be reduced. Also, property owners can make sure there is sufficient access and turnaround space for fire equipment.

Featured speaker George Duda, retired forester and Firewise assessor, shared his passion for forest and watershed health with his presentation “Trees Are Killing Our Forests.” He repeatedly stressed that policies over the last century have made any wildfire the enemy to be extinguished ASAP at all costs. The result is forests thick with vegetative litter that ignites and sustains fire easily and too many smaller trees that compete for limited water, provide fuel that burns more easily and block sunlight from reaching and nourishing watersheds. He made the distinction between a watershed, where the water actually comes from, and a water carrier like the Rio Grande.

By reducing the number of trees drawing on available moisture, remaining trees become healthier. Mr. Duda cited areas where thinning had restored springs. A similar thinning approach, coupled with pruning about one third of a tree’s lower branches, can make homes and property less vulnerable to wildfire. This became abundantly clear when 15 people joined Mr. Duda on a four-acre property in the southwest part of the Village for a more hands-on, specific tutorial. They learned that at least three feet immediately surrounding a home or outbuilding should be completely covered by cement, gravel, or other inflammable substance, in order to make it as safe from fire damage as possible.

Consider having a neighborhood Firewise clean-up. Prune. Thin. Bring branches and small trees—no more than six-inches diameter, ends aligned and facing the same way—to a Chipper Day, sponsored by the Coronado Soil and Water Conservation District. This will be held on April 27, from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., at the Placitas Community Library, 453 Hwy 165. A donation of $15 per pickup is suggested. Wood chips can be kept for landscaping by people bringing wood slash for chipping or left for other residents to pick up with the following caveats: spread chips no deeper than 2 inches, at least 3 feet from any structure, and outside any tree drip lines.

For more information, contact Vicki Gottlieb at 404-8022 or placitasfirewise@gmail.com. Firewise Placitas meets on Thursday mornings, April 4 and 14, from 10:00 a.m. to noon in the Placitas Community Library Collin Meeting Room. The public is welcome.

 
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