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Goblin along Oak Canyon Trail, photo by Matthew Barbour


Governor’s vetoes hit projects in Sandoval County

—Bill Diven

When Governor Susana Martinez vetoed $8.1 million dollars in statewide project money for the coming budget year, it left the town of Bernalillo and a group of Jemez Valley irrigators wondering what happened.

On March 9, the governor’s deadline for acting on bills from the 2016 Legislature, she sliced $195,000 dollars that Bernalillo hoped to use in restoring the Roosevelt School property to public uses and ten thousand dollars that acequia and ditch associations say aids their ongoing recovery from fires and floods in the Jemez Mountains.

The money was part of a $166 million dollar package funded by borrowing through bond sales repaid from severance taxes, paid mostly by the oil, gas, and mining industries. After $325,000 dollars in vetoes, Sandoval County will still receive $4.8 million dollars.

Last year the county received $5.5 million dollars from a $285 million dollar package. But revenue is suffering from the crash in oil prices and the sluggish New Mexico economy, which lags behind other states in recovering from the 2008 recession.

“Overall it was a pretty dismal year for money,” Sandoval County’s legislative lobbyist Larry Horan said. Next year looks worse, “so doom and gloom going forward,” he added.

Spending approved by the Legislature and governor includes $1.5 million dollars to buy right-of-way in Sandoval and Bernalillo counties for Paseo del Volcán, the proposed Interstate 40-U.S. Highway 550 connector, and $195,000 dollars for new vehicles for the Sandoval County Sheriff’s Office.

Why Bernalillo’s money was axed isn’t clear since the governor’s veto message listed grievances about how legislators allocate their individual shares of capital money to local projects. Martinez, the nonpartisan research group Think New Mexico, and others complain the current process partially funds numerous projects that take years to actually happen while regional needs go wanting.

A bill to consolidate capital funding under a legislative committee, appointed planning council and a new state division failed during the 2016 session.

“It is frustrating and disappointing to watch how the Legislature squanders critical infrastructure funding, choosing to spend money on local pork projects that often do not create jobs or develop the economy, instead of pooling resources to make long-lasting, impactful infrastructure improvements throughout the state,” Martinez wrote in her veto message to Speaker of the House Don Tripp, R-Socorro. “This happens year after year. It’s irresponsible, and the people of New Mexico pay the price.”

“Pork projects” is slang for a politician directing money to projects in his or her home district regardless of merit to curry favor with voters. Yet one person’s pork is another’s need.

“It’s fine to insult us and say all we get is pork; that really hurts,” said Gilbert Sandoval, president of the Jemez River Basin Coalition of Acequias. “We don’t consider it pork. We don’t request money from the Legislature unless we have a dire need.”

In the case of the coalition’s 13 acequia and ditch associations, that need results from the Las Conchas and Thompson Ridge forest fires, which between them incinerated nearly two hundred thousand acres of forest, range, and watershed in 2011 and 2013. With little to hold the ground in place, flooding rains damaged diversion dams and filled ditches with ash and silt, Sandoval said.

“This was beyond normal maintenance. We’ve always been able to handle our own with our own resources,” he said. The watershed is beginning to recover but would benefit from the U.S. Forest Service doing erosion control to contain sediments, Sandoval added.

Last year, after flooding on the Rio Guadalupe outside the burn scars damaged the Cañon Community Ditch, the coalition used a previous appropriation to rent an excavator for $1,500 dollars to dig out the buried headgate. Another five thousand dollars was reallocated to buy 36-inch culvert to replace a section of open ditch that fills with sediment as a hillside sloughs toward the river.

In vetoing $836,000 dollars for 25 acequias and ditch associations mostly in northern New Mexico, Martinez let stand $94,000 dollars for the Interstate Stream Commission. She urged the local groups to apply to the ISC or the state Water Trust Board under the New Mexico Finance Authority for funding.

As of late March the town of Bernalillo was still waiting to see if the Water Trust Board received enough money to help fund arsenic removal at Well No. 2. The town recently rehabbed the well but is only using the tank to store treated water pumped from west of the Rio Grande as a short-term backup source should the single cross-river line fail.

A separate bill, sponsored by Rep. Jane Powdrell-Culbert, R-Corrales, shifted a 2015 appropriation of $195,000 dollars originally intended for a second line across the river to the arsenic project. The arsenic occurs naturally in local groundwater and is being removed from water using a system of chemicals and pressurized filters.

Work by the Eastern Sandoval County Arroyo and Flood Control Authority covering Bernalillo and Algodones also is on the list of 42 projects approved by the Water Trust Board.

Funding for the Roosevelt campus was proposed by four legislators: Powdrell-Culbert, Rep. James Roger Madalena, D-Jemez Pueblo, Sen. Craig Brandt, R-Rio Rancho and Sen. John Sapien, D-Corrales.

“We certainly had support on both sides of the aisle,” Bernalillo Mayor Jack Torres said. “That’s just another issue that’s sort of mystifying.”

The money would have paid for professional planning on the best uses for the nearly eight-acre former school complex with fifty thousand square feet of space.

The town recently spent $1.2 million dollars to buy the complex across the parking lot west of town hall. The town library likely will move into the 1930s two-story adobe building that once served as Bernalillo’s only school, the mayor said, and two portable buildings are to become training centers for the police and fire departments.

The town developed a questionnaire for interested groups and was asking about any renovation money they might bring to the project.

“We’ve got a real asset we want to put to use and turn it back into a center that’s vibrant and benefits the broader community,” Torres said. “We put up $1.2 million in buying it and will spend more to get it up and running and thought it was reasonable to get $159,000 dollars from the Legislature.”

Other local projects were approved for funding through voter-approved general-obligations bonds, which are repaid from local property taxes. Those will appear on the November 8 ballot, grouped by broad categories and include 19 projects in Sandoval County:

  • Eight million dollars toward the twenty million dollar expansion of the University of New Mexico Rio Rancho campus to begin granting healthcare-related degrees
  • $3.4 million dollars for construction at the Meadowlark Senior Center in Rio Rancho
  • $1.3 million dollars for 19 projects, 18 of them related to senior centers in Bernalillo, Corrales, Cuba, Rio Rancho, Placitas, and Sandia and Santa Ana pueblos. The largest appropriation, $480,000, relates to the new county senior center nearing construction in Bernalillo.

Among the 36 surviving local projects paid from severance-tax bonds, which don’t require voter approval, are:

  • Forty thousand dollars for a concession stand for Coronado Little League at Rotary Park in Bernalillo
  • $345,000 dollars to the Southern Sandoval County Arroyo Flood Control Authority for an arroyo diversion structure and open space off Sheriff’s Posse Road in Bernalillo
  • One hundred thousand dollars toward Bernalillo’s Well No. 2 arsenic-removal work
  • $132,160 dollars for a solid-waste transfer station at Sandia Pueblo
  • $225,000 dollars for the Placitas water system for well, tank, and system improvements
  • Ninety thousand dollars toward damming San Francisco arroyo at San Felipe Pueblo
  • Seventy thousand dollars for Santo Domingo Pueblo to buy a road grader
  • $145,000 dollars toward the first phase of Zia Pueblo’s childhood development center

Complete lists of bond projects approved and vetoed can by found by clicking the Capital Outlay link on the Legislature’s website NMLegis.gov.


Placitas S-curves slowly sinking due to water infiltration

State measures deepening dip on NM165

—Signpost Staff

The almost imperceptible sinking of a section of State Route 165 is in for a fix but not until money, manpower, and materials all become available, according to the New Mexico Department of Transportation.

Until that happens, NMDOT is looking at milling a short stretch of pavement and installing a large patch later this year. The problem area is in the “S curve,” about 3.5 miles east of Interstate 25 where both the eastbound lane and adjacent guardrail have dipped noticeably over the years.

And it’s sunk another .5 to 1 inch since and NMDOT Geotechnical Section began monitoring the surface with laser measuring in late 2013, said NMDOT spokesperson Bernadette Bell.

“Although the movement appears to be relatively slow, it does appear to be moving and settling over the years,” Bell told the Signpost. “Our plan of action is regular crack sealing and pothole patching of the roadway and shoulder areas to prevent further infiltration of water.”

The geotech team bored through the pavement to gather subsurface data in February 2014 initially thinking something in the geology had the highway sliding toward the canyon. Instead it was determined to be water infiltrating from the surface and causing the problem about 14 feet down.

Bell said that whenever the repaving is done, it might include another possible location for water infiltration.


Presiding Election Judge Bill Kiely announces the result of Bernalillo's municipal election after he and Town Clerk Ida Fierro tallied the ballots.

Incumbent Municipal Judge Sharon Torres and Town Councilor Marian Jaramillo celebrate their reelections with Alonzo Lucero, a past judge who ran against Torres in the Bernalillo election.
Photos credit: —Bill Diven

Voters make their picks in municipal elections

—Bill Diven

Bernalillo voters have returned two incumbent town councilors and the municipal judge to office.

Ronnie Cisneros and Marian Jaramillo retained their at-large seats tallying 391 and 297 votes respectively, according to final returns. Mark Lopez finished a close third with 271 votes, while Chris Córdova and James Gill recorded 119 and 88 votes respectively.

In the race for municipal judge, Sharon Torres kept the position gathering 314 votes to 217 for Geoffey Rinaldi and 108 votes for former Judge Alonzo Lucero. Mayor Jack Torres later recommended Rinaldi to be the alternate judge, and the town council approved.

In other municipal elections, on March 1, Cuba voters re-elected village Trustee Cecilia Delgado and elected Monica Olivas to fill a vacancy on the village board. Both ran without opposition.

In Jemez Springs, incumbent village Trustees David Ryan and Pamela Barber-Grider were reelected without opposition by votes of 46 and 53 respectively. Former Trustee Roger Sweet defeated incumbent Suzette Walker 49-14 for a two-year spot on the board.

In Rio Rancho, the District 1 and 6 city council positions are going to runoff after no candidate received fifty percent of the vote. That pits former Mayor Jim Owen against Joshua Hernandez and incumbent Councilor Lonnie Clayton against former Councilor David Bency. The runoff election is scheduled for April 12.

Incumbent Councilor Marlene Feuer retained the District 4 position winning 54 percent of the vote in the three-person race.

In the village of Corrales, incumbent Councilors James Fahey Jr. and Pat Clauser were returned to office while George Wright was elected to fill a council vacancy. Michelle Frechette was elected municipal judge after the incumbent chose not to run again.

 
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