Sandoval Signpost


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  Up Front

The Town of Bernalillo recognized the work of police officers Andy Chapa (left) and Jeffery McGinnis for their recent awork in comforting the victim of a home-invasion burglary and quick identification of the suspects. Photo credit: —Bill Diven

ES-CA members gather with construction managers and local authorities to discuss the elimination of an approved acceleration lane and other concerns in the recent reconstruction of Exit 242 eastbound.

ES-CA members and others from the roadside meeting convene in a nearby meeting room to further discuss the reconstruction. Photo credit: —Photos by Evan Belknap

I-25/US 550 interchange construction examined

Signpost Staff

Nearly five months past its initial completion date, the overhaul of the I-25/US 550 interchange is wrapping up, save a last finishing layer of asphalt.

Through March, contractor FNF Construction has been doing corrective work and checking off the punch list of items found by New Mexico Department of Transportation inspectors. That work was expected to by completed during the first week of April, NMDOT spokesman Phil Gallegos said.

That leaves two issues: laying the top layer of asphalt across the entire job and settling how much FNF owes the state for failing to complete the project on time.

The protective asphalt, which creates a tougher surface and better grip in wet conditions, requires warm temperatures for paving. Gallegos said discussions now underway involve doing the work sooner, which requires lane closures during the day, or waiting until May when the work can be done at night.

The contentious issue of damages begins with the give-and-take of how many days of delay were caused by weather or other issues beyond the control of FNF. “There will be a lot of discussion about that,” Gallegos said while adding that those debates in the past have occasionally ended up in court.

The $19 million project widened U.S. 550 and its I-25 overpass to six lanes and created a single-point, urban intersection within the overpass for through traffic to and from Bernalillo and Placitas and traffic entering and exiting I-25. The widening extended west to Avenida Bernalillo where the roadway still constricts into four lanes.

On March 17, the Eastern Sandoval Citizen’s Association (ES-CA) met with NMDOT, members of the Bernalillo Police Department, a Signpost reporter, and others to discuss safety issues they saw in the intersection. These concerns included: the exit ramp onto 165 being “more difficult and unsafe to maneuver,” due to a more acute traffic observation angle; concerns about merging with trucks for commuters heading south on I-25; traffic patterns being uneven and confusing; and lack of signage for Placitas.

ES-CA was aggravated that the original, approved design, which included an acceleration lane off of I-25 and into Placitas, was left out at the last minute. Head chair of ES-CA Robert A. Gorrell inquired about how much was saved by not putting in the acceleration lane, and where that money had gone instead.

DOT engineer Timothy Parker said that the proposed acceleration lane was eliminated to make the intersection easier and safer for gravel trucks to make the left turn onto the frontage road northbound—that it was safer for everyone if the trucks only had to move one lane, instead of two. Mr. Parker stated that the NM DOT would engage a traffic engineer to review this issue once construction was finished and striping installed, but he did not provide a timeframe for this review.

Parties field candidates for June primary

—Bill Diven

At least one new face will appear on the Sandoval County Commission after this year’s elections, as numerous challengers line up against the current county sheriff, assessor, and judges.

With Commissioner Orlando Lucero’s term limited and aiming for the state Legislature, James Dominguez of Bernalillo and Gary Miles of Placitas have filed to be his successor in District 1. Dominguez, retired after 27 years with PNM, is the sole Democrat running in the June 3 primary while Miles, a member of the Coronado Soil and Water Conservation District Board, is the lone Republican candidate.

The District 3 commission election is set to be decided in the Republican primary with incumbent Commissioner Donald Chapman drawing Michael MacDonald as an opponent. Both men live in Rio Rancho. The Democrats didn’t field a candidate for the position.

The general election will be held on November 4.

Sheriff Doug Wood is running unopposed on the Republican primary ticket and will face one of the three men who filed on the Democratic side. They are former Sheriff John Paul Trujillo of Rio Rancho, current Deputy Sheriff Jesse James Casaus of Placitas, and Steve Reynolds of Rio Rancho, a captain at the Sandoval County Detention Center.

Republican County Assessor Tom Garcia of Rio Rancho drew two opponents in his party’s primary: Leroy Joseph Lovato of Bernalillo and Pete David Salazar of Placitas. On the Democratic side, Antonio F. Montoya of Rio Rancho is running without opposition.

Incumbent Probate Judge Charles Aguilar filed for reelection in the Democratic primary and will face Lawrence D. McClain, who is running unopposed as a Republican.

The Magistrate Court contests all three races are being decided within the Democratic primaries as no Republicans filed for the offices. Division 1 Judge Richard Zanotti squares off against fellow Democrat Daniel Tallon, while Division 3 Judge Delilah Montaño-Baca is running unopposed.

In Cuba-based Division 2, where Judge Kenneth Eichwald is stepping down, Democrats Bill Mast, Benito Aragon, Joseph Ramirez, and Timothy Herrera are running to succeed him.

Ernestina Dominguez and her brother Santiago Montoya are all smiles on election night at Bernalillo Town Hall. Dominguez had just won the council seat Montoya was giving up after eight years on the council. Photo credit: —Bill Diven

Town elections take off

—Bill Diven

For the first time after decades of working elections from inside municipal government, Ernestina “Tina” Dominguez took on the role of candidate and won a seat on the Bernalillo Town Council.

“I was so nervous being on the other side,” Dominguez said just after the vote totals were announced on March 4.

And now?

“Just dive in and do the best I can for the whole community,” she said. “It takes a lot of communication with the community.”

Dominguez finished second among the three candidates vying for two at-large seats on the council collecting 404 votes. Incumbent Councilor Dale Prairie returned to office with 423 votes while former Bernalillo Fire Chief John Estrada received 252 votes. Mayor Jack Torres, running unopposed for reelection, won 533 of the 613 votes cast.

Dominguez takes the seat occupied by her brother, Councilor Santiago Montoya, who chose not to run for a third four-year term. Their father, the late Seferino Montoya, served on both the town council and Sandoval County Commission. Over the last 21 years, he has been an administrative assistant at town hall, village clerk and acting administrator in Corrales, and assistant city clerk in Santa Fe.

Elsewhere in Sandoval County the mayor’s race in Rio Rancho is going to a runoff on April 15, after neither Greggory Hull nor Michael Williams captured more than fifty percent of the vote in the four-candidate race. Voters ousted councilor Tamara Gutierrez, who lost the District 3 seat by twenty votes to Cheryl Ann Everett, and District 5 Councilor Timothy Crum, who came in third in a four-way race. Shelby Smith and Thomas Buckner, who finished first and second in District 5, also will be on the runoff ballot.

Dawnn Robinson won the District 2 seat, handily defeating two opponents, and incumbent Municipal Judge G. Robert Cook returned to office. Barely 12 percent of the city’s 57,601 registered voters turned out for the election. The runoff election will be held on April 15.

In Corrales, voters chose Scott Kominiak as mayor over Christina Allen by 1,194 votes to 989. Incumbent Councilors Ennio Andres Garcia-Miera and John Aslobrook II were returned to the council, and outgoing Mayor Phil Gasteyer ran unopposed for an open council seat.

Corrales voters also shot down two ballot questions related to a new sewer system that just began small-scale operations. One would have sold tax-backed bonds to set up a loan fund to help lower-income residents in the business district connect to the system; the other would have extended sewer lines into some neighborhoods. The village is currently at odds with the state Environment Department over the village sewer ordinance not making connection to the system mandatory.

In Cuba, Mark Hatzenbuhler won the mayor’s race with 91 votes, ten more than incumbent Mayor Richard Velarde, and well ahead of Anna Messer and Richard Montoya. Councilors Gilbert Dominguez and Brian Velarde were reelected to two at-large seats on the village council without opposition, and William Eaton ran unopposed for municipal judge.

In Jemez Springs, voters elected Trustee Robert Wilson to be mayor, Manolito Sanchez to Wilson’s vacant seat on the village council, and Julia Ana Patterson as municipal judge. All three ran unopposed.

Candidate filings set stage for primary

—Bill Diven

Two particularly interesting state House races are already shaping up in Sandoval County as incumbents who got free rides into office in 2012 face challengers this go-round, one from within his own party.

In the 2012 election, Republican Rep. James Smith of Sandia Park skated back into office, drawing no opposition in his party’s primary or from Democrats in November. This time around, John Wallace, a Democrat from Placitas, signed up for the race on the March 11 filing day.

Smith, a retired teacher, is seeking his third term representing District 22, spreading from Albuquerque’s East Mountains into southeastern Sandoval County, taking in Placitas and Algodones. Wallace, also a former educator, is making his first run for elective office.

Neither Smith nor Wallace faces opposition in the June 3 primary. All House seats are up for election this year with no Senate seats on the ballot until 2016.

Across central Sandoval County, Rep. James Roger Madalena of Jemez Pueblo, first elected in 1984, has drawn fellow Democrat and County Commissioner Orlando Lucero of Bernalillo as an opponent in the primary. With no Republicans filing, and absent a successful write-in or third-party candidate in November, the winner of the primary takes all.

Their District 65 winds from Sandia Pueblo on the south through Bernalillo and east-central and western Sandoval County and includes Zia, Jemez, San Felipe, Sandia, Santa Ana, and Santo Domingo pueblos before jumping into western Rio Arriba County.

In District 23, covering most of Corrales and part of northwest Albuquerque, Republican Rep. Paul Pacheco and Democrat Catherine Begaye drew no opposition in their parties’ primaries. Both are residents of Albuquerque.

In District 43, Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard, a Los Alamos Democrat, faces no primary opposition. Republican Geoff Rodgers of Los Alamos also is unopposed in the district that runs from Los Alamos County through Jemez Springs, Cuba, and La Jara into south-central Rio Arriba County.

Rep. Jane Powdrell-Culbert, a Republican first elected in 2002, drew no primary opposition from either party. The Corrales resident’s District 44 encompasses northeast Rio Rancho, northwest Corrales and Bernalillo west of the Rio Grande.

Four Rio Rancho residents appear headed for November face-offs after filing without opposition in the primaries there. Democrat Donna Tillman is challenging Republican Rep. Jason Harper in District 57 in north and western Rio Rancho. Running to represent District 60, southwest Rio Rancho and Sandoval County, are Republican Rep. Tim Lewis Rio Rancho and Democrat Linda Sanchez Allison.

Communities tally legislative wins, losses

Signpost Staff

Every year, local governments draft funding wish lists that are then dropped by legislators into the Capitol money grinder with no certainty of the outcome for weeks, in some cases months, after the Legislature goes home.

“Our local legislators really stepped up for us,” Bernalillo Mayor Jack Torres said. “They had a lot of competing demands. They did well by our community, and we appreciate that.”

“Sandoval County was well-protected,” Sen. John Sapien, D-Corrales, said. Capital requests come from both local governments and from constituents in groups and individually with projects always exceeding available funding, he added.

Overall the Legislature approved about $230 million dollars for capital projects and another $130 million dollars subject to voter approval in November.

Bernalillo came away with funding for four big projects:

  • $100,000 dollars for improvements to Coronado Little League fields and facilities
  • $65,000 dollars for improvements to Rotary Park
  • $353,000 dollars for upgrades to town streets
  • $195,000 dollars to rehabilitate town wells and replace water lines

“We continue to update and upgrade the (water) system that didn’t get a whole lot of attention for decades, actually,” Torres said. The recent replacement of aging water lines in the Las Cocinitas area has dramatically reduced maintenance costs and calls, he added.

The main goal of the thirty-day short sessions in even-number years is to produce the annual budget, although governors can add, and usually do add, other issues of their own or by request of legislators. Prior to the 2014 session Gov. Susana Martinez referred to it as the “ear of water” with funding for special projects.

While Bernalillo is working toward reopening its Well No. 2 on the east side of the Rio Grande, town leaders remain nervous about having only a single water line connecting to the west side of the town.

Torres and his counterparts in Sandoval County are now waiting for the outcome of bond questions on the November ballot to find out if $1.2 million dollars will be forthcoming to build a new senior center in Bernalillo. The current facility is in a former convent and uses its kitchen to provide meals for other centers.

County Commission Chairman Darryl Madalena expressed his frustration over once again losing out on funding to plan an expansion of the Judicial Complex, which currently houses the sheriff’s office, plus a new building for the sheriff, fire department, and emergency communications center.

“The last four years the Martinez administration has lacked foresight,” he said. “Public safety is such a big issue, and our joint city-county fire and EMS dispatch went nowhere… If she’s more interested in making a name for herself, she should sign up for reality TV instead of trying to run a state.”

The county did get capital money for two projects: $125,000 dollars for a business-innovation center in El Zócolo and $132,000 dollars toward reroofing the Magistrate Court Building (both in Bernalillo). But the governor vetoed $50,000 dollars to reroof the former county courthouse, now home to the District Attorney’s Office and the DWI Prevention Program.

Elsewhere around the county a sampling of funded projects includes:

  • $650,000 dollars for an arsenic water-treatment system in Algodones, plus money to install a silent railroad grade crossing at the south end of the community
  • $1.4 million dollars for water system improvements in Rio Rancho
  • $100,000 dollars for fire-suppression improvements at the Casa San Ysidro Museum in Corrales, plus $75,000 dollars for infrastructure and other upgrades at La Entrada Park.
  • $80,000 dollars for police and court building in Jemez Springs and $80,000 dollars for a juvenile parks and recreation center in Cuba
  • $100,000 dollars for Sandia Pueblo to purchase buses and $110,000 dollars for Jemez Pueblo to buy an earth-block machine and equipment
  • $160,000 dollars for a multi-use facility and $50,000 dollars to renovate and equip a library and cultural building at Cochiti Pueblo.
  • $140,000 dollars for a regional police substation and holding facility at Santa Ana Pueblo
  • $165,000 dollars for a loader and grader at Zia Pueblo plus $150,000 dollars for an ambulance at Santo Domingo Pueblo.
  • $344,000 dollars for right-of-way and other costs for the Paseo del Volcán loop extension from Sandoval County to Interstate 40 in Bernalillo County.
  • $400,000 dollars for flood control on Alberta Road and $965,000 dollars for improvements to Westside Boulevard in Rio Rancho.

The governor also vetoed a $10,000 dollars appropriation to upgrade the farm services yard at San Felipe Pueblo.

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