Sandoval Signpost


An independent monthly newspaper serving the community since 1988

The Fisher Mine is located just east of I-25 between Exits 240 and 242 at the end of the dirt frontage road that runs south of NM 165. Photo credit: —Bill Diven

Fisher Mine annexation stalls

—Bill Diven

Despite praise for a commercial development proposed by Fisher Sand and Gravel, questions and distrust surrounding the company’s intentions again stalled its annexation into the town of Bernalillo.

Even critics liked the idea of turning 43 acres into a mix of commercial and industrial development with park space and a ponding area to help protect the town from storm flooding. Skepticism, however, focused on whether the real goal was just to open a quarry and potentially extract six million dollars in materials.

Initially, Fisher wanted 15 years to level the hilly site and complete the development immediately east of Interstate 25 north of the Avenida Bernalillo exit. By the time the company came before the Bernalillo Town Council in late February, the timeline was down to five years, padded to seven to allow for unforeseen delays.

“We’re not trying to hide from you that sand and gravel is a valuable resource,” Fisher’s attorney Matt Spangler told councilors. “It only makes sense to use the resource while it’s there. “We will get it out as quickly as we can.”

Fisher Vice President Dave Olson cited the high-profile commercial location, taxes from quarry sales and the end project, and better flood control as wins for the city. Fisher also would cover the cost of extending utilities to the site, he added.

Olson estimated construction materials valued at six million dollars could be removed from the site while it is being leveled.

Still, that wasn’t enough for the 16 Placitas and Bernalillo residents who urged the council to proceed slowly, shorten even more the time for the project and insist on more completion guarantees from Fisher. Several residents also cited Fisher’s legal problems in New Mexico and other states and mentioned that Fisher’s previous work, outside Bernalillo, went beyond what was allowed.

“My biggest concern is one word: trust,” Ed Majka of Placitas told commissioners. “I don’t trust Fisher Sand and Gravel. They have a culture of operating outside their permits.”

County Commissioner Orlando Lucero, who represents Bernalillo and Placitas, also called for a strict time limit and enforceable penalties. “In the past we made decisions in good faith, and good faith was not kept by the companies,” he said.

Fisher began quarrying the site under a terrain-management plan administratively issued by Sandoval County in April of 2010. Fisher soon submitted, and then withdrew, an application to operate an asphalt plant on the site. Nearly two years later, after complaints from area residents, the county notified Fisher its work exceeded that allowed by its permit. The site is currently idle.

The town council twice previously tabled the annexation request asking for more study and details. “I’m concerned about how we hold the company responsible and how to make sure the project happens,” Councilor Marian Jaramillo said. She later moved to table the annexation request for a third time, and the motion passed 4-0.

Other action at recent Bernalillo Town Council meetings:

Councilors approved an agreement with the Mid-Region Council of Governments for designing safety measures to limit pedestrian access to the railroad tracks running through town.

Public Works Director Andy Edmonson discussed a plan to divide Water Department staff into two crews to provide seven-day-a-week coverage, while reducing the budget hit from overtime—much of it paid for responses to weekend emergencies.

Mayor Jack Torres reported the town received 19 applications for the position of police chief vacant since Chief Julian Gonzales retired at the end of 2013. Applicants are being screened and background checked.

Torres reappointed Town Clerk Ida Fierro and Community Development Director Maria Rinaldi as interim town managers. They have been serving in those positions without additional pay. At the suggestion of newly elected Councilor Ernestina Dominguez, the town will look into additional pay as the new budget is prepared.

Councilors accepted the town’s 2013 audit and heard audit issues, some dating to 1991, from years past may be close to resolution. Town Treasurer Juan Torres said plans to clean up inventories and accounting issues are in place, but some still require agreements with two state agencies.

Councilors recognized police Officers Jeffery McGinnis and Andy Chapa [See photo, page 1, this Signpost] for their response and investigation of a home invasion burglary in which stolen items were recovered within hours. The woman held at knifepoint during the burglary wrote a two-page letter to the town thanking the officers for making her feel safe. Interim police chief Lt. Chris Stoyell said the officers’ knowledge of the community allowed them to identify the suspects.

Appointments fill out Coronado Soil and Water board

Signpost Staff

The Coronado Soil and Water Conservation District board is up to its new reduced strength after the appointment of members from Bernalillo and Algodones.

Former Bernalillo Town Councilor Santiago Montoya and Algodones rancher Al Baca were named to the board when the state Soil and Water Conservation Commission met in Albuquerque on March 4. The commission had delayed filling the vacancies in February after the only applicants came from Placitas, which would have filled the five-member board with Placitas residents.

The formerly seven-seat board had been in disarray following the resignation of three members in January. The three cited problems in resolving issues with the district’s Piedra Liza dam and concerns they might be held personally liable should the dam protecting parts of Bernalillo were to fail.

The board also has split over the handling of free-roaming horses in Placitas, which some members argue are damaging the watershed that soil and water districts are supposed to protect.

“You need to stabilize yourself a little bit and get a little bit of traction,” Commissioner Charlie Sanchez Jr. said after the appointments were approved.

At the February meeting, the commission cut the Coronado board to five members with plans to expand it back to seven members in the future.

Baca served on the district board in the early 1980s, as did his father in the 1970s. He said two of his concerns are erosion worsening as more development occurs and the horse issue.

In 2011, the Placitas-based Wild Horse Observers Association filed a lawsuit against Baca, the secretary of the interior, and the Bureau of Land Management, alleging they planned to round up “wild horses” in violation of federal law. In December, the federal 10th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower-court ruling dismissing the lawsuit.

Coronado is one of 48 SWCDs in the state and is part of a federal program dating to Dust Bowl days of the 1930s. The district is a government agency working with landowners to protect resources and collaborating with other agencies on projects such as reducing wildfire threats.

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