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Adobe master Rick Catanach and Youth Conservation Corps graduate Joe Jaramillo lay bricks for the new welcome sign to greet travelers coming off of Interstate 25 at Avenida Bernalillo.
Photo credit: —Bill Diven

The crumbling Putney Mill (above top) in Bernalillo in 2004 gets a transformation (directly above) from the Youth Conservation Corps. Photo credit: (newer photo) —Bill Diven

Bernalillo looks for funding to revive YCC program

—Bill Diven

A cold wind kicks up dust along Avenida Bernalillo as adobe master Rick Catanach and Joe Jaramillo put down mortar and mud bricks, building a friendly greeting to welcome visitors to the town.

On this day, they’re working on the sixth of 24 low walls. When done, in early April, trees, rock and brick, landscaping, and a sign proclaiming Bernalillo “The Town of Coronado” will greet travelers exiting Interstate 25 at exit 240.

Missing from the project, however, are the young people initially expected to join Catanach and Jaramillo and apply the skills they learned in the town’s Youth Conservation Corps program. After more than seven years of educating and training young men and women and brightening the town, the New Mexico YCC committee unexpectedly rejected the town’s latest grant application.

“We protested and were told based on the number of projects and needs, we were not funded,” Town Community Development Director Maria Rinaldi said.

Now Bernalillo is scrambling for other funding sources to revive the program that has helped young people, many of which, for one reason or another, have dropped out of high school.

When the local program shut down in September, it employed 22 at-risk teens and young adults providing skill training in adobe restoration and helping those who needed it to graduate high school or pass the test for a general-equivalency diploma.

More than one hundred youth went through the program with many moving on to construction and other jobs, six to college, one to barber school, some into the military, and, in three cases, becoming home owners.

“We had to do what the public schools couldn’t do, unfortunately,” Catanach said. “We had kids who couldn’t add 17 and 22 in their heads, much less the decimals and fractions you need in carpentry… I’m grateful I was part of it. In other circumstances, we might not have been able to do as much for the city.”

Jaramillo, 19, is among the YCC graduates, and like Catanach, YCC’s master builder and one of its instructors, was hired to work on the Avenida Bernalillo project. Jaramillo’s older brother already had gone through the program and obtained his GED.

“I saw what it did for him,” Jaramillo said. “It turned out great for me. I didn’t really click well in school.”

Jaramillo spent half a day learning building skills and the other half in the classroom where he recognized teacher Susan Rinaldi from when he was a student at Carroll Elementary School.

Rinaldi, Maria’s mother, said her students represented a cross section of the issues facing public school students. Some had recently dropped out of school and came in motivated and well enough prepared to pass the GED test in a couple of months. Others needed a year or two to catch up.

“When you can’t read at a high school level, you’re not going to succeed,” Rinaldi, who retired after thirty years in education, said. “We have a lot of kids who are just thrown away, and now there will be more. It’s not just a high school problem, it starts in elementary school.”

Working with classes of eight or fewer, she was able to give the students the individual attention they needed, she added. A few young people heard about the classes, agreed to abide by the rules and sat in on classes other than their own to obtain a high school diploma, she added.

“The GED test is a very difficult test, and you can’t pass it unless you have a wide range of information,” Rinaldi said.

Maria Rinaldi, town councilors and staff designed the YCC program around the history and culture of Bernalillo focusing on projects that combined education with conserving the town’s heritage. Among the projects were:

  • Building handcrafted signs and furniture made from reclaimed lumber and library bookcases
  • Working on the Sena barn
  • Working on the historic Graber home next to the Bernalillo Fire Department, which now provides quarters for firefighters and medics on 24-hour shifts
  • Working on the three-story L. B. Putney Flour Mill

“I’ve been in adobe all my life, and the amount of good adobe people is scarce,” Catanach said. “It’s not passed down as much. Bernalillo has some of the best adobe buildings in the state on account of Abenicio Salazar.

“Salazar was Bernalillo’s master adobero from about 1915 and 30s, and the town’s historic district is named for him. He is credited with building the Putney mill, the Catholic school that is now El Zócalo, the Sena barn, and possibly the Graber house among others.

“It’s not a lost art, but when the time is right, we’ll have people knowing what the hell they’re doing,” Catanach said.

For Maria Rinaldi, the YCC program has been the most important project of her many years with the town government.

“This is an investment in the human capital of our community,” she said. “This is working in the past, the present, and the future. You don’t often get to do that in community development.”

Support for the program came not just from the town council, staff, contract architect Phil Gallegos and Catanach, but from builder-architect-educator Francisco Uviña of Bernalillo and supporters around the country. Rinaldi said the University of Notre Dame School of Architecture joined in one project, and YCC participants were invited to work on the Hanging Gardens of Babylon but couldn’t arrange going to Iraq.

While the town works to provide more recreational opportunities for Bernalillo’s young people, the YCC was something special, Councilor Marian Jaramillo said. It takes the entire community to raise a child, she added.

“It’s the pride, history, and culture of Bernalillo,” she said. “It’s more than just working on a building. I feel just heartbroken we weren’t funded this year, but grateful we’ve been funded all these years.”

Since the first grant in 2006, the town has received more than $1.1 million dollars from the state YCC program, committed more than $2.5 million dollars of its own money and services, and added $22,000 dollars from Sandoval County.

Rinaldi said recent grant possibilities from other sources have either been rejected or turned out either not to be appropriate or carried extra expense the town can’t afford. The hunt for money continues, she added.


Free-roaming horses of Placitas Photo credit: —Jim Harris

Public forum to present task force report on free-roaming horses of Placitas

—Heather Balas, President, New Mexico First

A public forum to present a report and recommendations produced by the Free-Roaming Horses of Placitas Task Force will take place in Placitas on May 3.

The task force is comprised of Placitas residents and stakeholders, including governmental entities (Federal, state, and tribal), community boards and organizations, homeowner associations, horse advocacy organizations, and others. Their input has been collected through meetings, interviews, and emails.  

All community members are invited to participate in the three-hour event, in which attendees will have a chance to reflect, discuss, and indicate their level of support for recommendations that may influence the future of the community’s engagement with the free-roaming horses in the Placitas area.

The task force report will be posted at www.nmfirst.org seven-to-ten days before the event.

All community members are welcome to attend, including residents, community association and organization members, tribal members, government professionals, land grant members, business people, elected officials, students, parents, and youth.

The Free-Roaming Horses of Placitas Task Force Public Forum will take place from 9:00 a.m. to noon, on May 3, at Las Placitas Presbyterian Church, 7 Paseo de San Antonio, in Placitas. Participation will be limited to the size of the church sanctuary, and community members will be seated on a first-come, first-served basis the day of the event. The event is free.

New Mexico First engages people in important issues facing their state or community. Established in 1986, the public policy organization offers unique town halls and forums that bring people together to develop recommendations for policymakers and the public. New Mexico First also produces nonpartisan reports on critical issues facing the state. These reports—on topics like water, education, healthcare, the economy, and energy—are available at nmfirst.org.


Karen McCalpin

NC wild horse management: model for Placitas?

—Joan Fenicle

While some think we face an intractable situation concerning the free-roaming horses of Placitas, several members of the Sandoval County sponsored Free Roaming Horse Task Force are looking at other communities in which public-private partnerships have enabled horses and people to coexist and thrive. One such example is North Carolina’s Corolla Wild Horse Fund. Recognizing that there are specific circumstances peculiar to each community, we are finding that there is substantial common experience, and a basis that we can use in Placitas to bring our community together for effective and humane treatment of the horses and the preservation of their domain.

Karen McCalpin, Director of The Corolla Wild Horse Fund and recognized expert on wild horse management, will give a presentation at Las Placitas Presbyterian Church on April 11, from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. On two occasions, she has been called upon by the United States Congress to give expert testimony on wild horses. Doors of the church will open at 6:45 p.m. We hope to find answers to our horse questions, and seek a free-range horse management plan that will bring together community, county, state, and federal government.

Ms. McCalpin will describe how the Corolla Wild Horse Fund (a 501c3 nonprofit corporation) was formed out of concern over a serious and heated situation where a large number of horse-vehicle collisions had occurred. Between 1985 and 1996, twenty horses were killed by vehicles on a 17-mile stretch of road in their community. Part of the solution was to move the horses north of the paved road into an area that became known as a horse sanctuary, although it is actually 7,544 acres of land that is one third public land and two thirds private land with over seven hundred houses. Today, the Fund protects, conserves and manages a herd of Colonial Spanish Mustangs roaming freely on the northernmost Currituck Outer Banks. It employs four full-time staff with the Executive Director and Herd Manager on call 24 hours a day to respond to emergencies.

We plan to film the presentation and post on-line for anyone who cannot attend in person. Questions from all positions will be accepted, in writing only, before and during the presentation.


Fix in the works for NM165 dip

Signpost Staff

Much to the relief of the New Mexico Department of Transportation, State Route 165 isn’t sliding into the canyon as it winds through the S curves in Placitas.

“It turns out it’s not doing that,” NMDOT spokesman Phil Gallegos said. “It’s more of an erosion issue. That’s good. We can fix that.”

Late in February, a DOT geotechnical team drilled into the pavement collecting soil samples in an area between the three-and-four-mile markers where a previously patched dip had returned to the pavement. At the time, it was feared a clay layer might be slipping, taking the hillside and highway with it.

Gallegos said a similar issue a short distance up NM165 was resolved some years ago in part by improving drainage. A similar fix is in the works for the current problem, although details still are being worked out, he said.

He added that NMDOT crews, rather than a contactor, will likely do the repairs sometime this spring or in the summer.

 
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