It’s a gusher!
Last month, Sandoval County development director Michael Springfield
announced the discovery of a significant supply of brackish water
beneath the Rio Puerco basin. The discovery provided vindication
for county officials who invested $2.5 million of public funding
into the exploration project to sink three wells as deep as nine
thousand feet into the Rio Puerco in hopes of finding enough water
to supply to up to eighty thousand residents of the proposed planned
community Rio West. Sandoval County has a controlling interest in
the water project in partnership with Rio West developer Recorp
Partners of Scottsdale, Arizona.
Springfield said that preliminary testing indicates that there
is potential of more than fifty thousand acre feet per year for
one hundred years discovered at thirty-seven-hundred feet (a considerable
savings from the estimated nine thousand feet.) Water flowed from
the well, pressured possibly by heat or gas pockets. He said that
more testing is required. Another well will be drilled into the
aquifer one mile away, and pump tests are required to confirm these
estimates. One well will be flowed, and drawdown will be measured
on the other well.
Although the county came under some criticism for the bold expenditure
of funds, Springfield said that the exploration was not a shot in
the dark. “Hydrologists provided a very educated guess that
there is a lot of water down there. It is an appropriate function
of local government to supply water to residents,” Springfield
said, adding that most desalination projects are government-funded.
They are looking into a desalination plant and General Electric
water treatment technology.
If these water supplies are confirmed, Recorp Partners will accelerate
its planning process. If not, they will have to start looking into
water transfers. As per the agreement, Rio West will get the first
eighteen thousand acre feet. Any supplies in excess of that will
be “gravy” available to the rest of Sandoval County,
easing the demand for water rights from the surrounding area. Springfield
said that water from such depths may be unappropriated and not under
the jurisdiction of the Office of the State Engineer (OSE). He stressed
that the county has been working with the OSE in “the most
positive way possible.”
Does this mean Sandoval County will be home to the next Phoenix?
Commissioner Jack Thomas said of the discovery, “I think it’s
just tremendous. It’s the best thing that’s happened
around here in twenty-five years and it benefits the entire area.
Water supply is the absolute centerpiece of the puzzle [in sustainable
growth]. Growth is not necessarily a good thing, but working people
keep moving here because it’s affordable and there are jobs.
Available water will help keep it that way. If we have guaranteed
water for one hundred years, I’m convinced that new technology
will find new ways to supply water in the future.”
Sandoval County Commission faces issues
There was only one Sandoval County commission meeting in
July. A crowded agenda took over three hours to complete, but the
main event involved the resurrection of Sandoval Broadband. Commissioners
voted unanimously to invest another $1.1 million into the countywide
wireless Internet system which has almost nothing to show for the
$2.6 million of county funds spent since the bold initiative started
Articles in the Albuquerque Journal and the Signpost have detailed
questionable management of the project by county manager Debbie
Hays, lack of oversight by the county commission, and possible fraudulent
dealings with entrepreneurs and contractors. State Auditor Hector
Balderas announced last week that his ongoing special audit reveals
problems with the project that now require a special forensic audit
to determine if the problems involve criminal activity.
Scott Akrie of Netlogix (a company hired by the county to review
and evaluate the feasibility of the project) presented his company’s
findings to the commission. He said that of $1.2 million paid to
the Dandin Group to build a system “backbone” to provide
a broadband signal from Albuquerque to Cuba, the county had only
a $1,000 radio to show for it. The rest was “vaporware”
and did not exist. That was the bottom line.
The rest of the Netlogix report was more positive. Akrie encouraged
the commission not to “throw the baby out with the bath water.”
He told the commission that building a backbone is “not rocket
science” and uses equipment and technology that been used
for years. He described the project as “very doable”
and “the right thing to do.” He recommended a systematic
approach to the acquisition of towers and radios—installed
within a system of checkpoints and milestones—that would make
the delivery of one hundred megabits of broadband achievable. He
said that the system would cost about $1.1 million to buy and $16,000
a month to operate. Akrie commended the county for creating a demand
for the technology in the fields of education and health care.
Information technology director Michael Hoag said that requisitions
for bids by contractors could be out by September and that a five-person
oversight committee would approve all proposals. Debbie Hays said
that funding could come out of money earmarked for education services,
since the “free connectivity to schools was the best thing
for education.” She said that she also expects to recover
funds from Dandin through insurance coverage and litigation. Hoag
said that he was seeking grants for up to $9.8 million.
Commissioner David Bency commented that it was good to “take
a step back, reevaluate, and admit mistakes.” Commissioner
Joshua Madalena said that it was hard to trust the next person in
line not to deliver more worthless equipment. “I’ve
heard it all before. This is a necessary tool for people in my district
who are suffering. We have failed to supply a need for my constituents.”
In a private executive session, the commissioners agreed to seek
legal specialists and sue the Dandin Group for fraud and breach
In other business, speakers encouraged everyone to come out to
the County Fair held every year in Cuba (see County Line, this Signpost).
Queen’s Court contestants presented the commissioners with
gift baskets and free passes.
Sandia Pueblo Governor Victor Montoya requested a resolution in
support of the exchange of land adjoining and within the National
Forest for land bordering Placitas on the Pueblo’s northern
border. The T’uf Shur Bien Preservation Trust Act authorized
the land exchange in principal with specific properties to be agreed
upon later. Governor Montoya assured the commission that the exchange
would not lead to commercial or residential development and would
not affect recreational use. The Loop Road and all trails into the
forest would remain open.
Sheriff John Paul Trujillo received permission to purchase two
used motorcycles for “highway drug interdiction.”
The commission approved the preliminary plat for Diamond Tail Phase
II, a 142-lot subdivision in Placitas. This in spite of protest
by neighbors Bob Wessely and Mark Rose, and a letter from San Felipe
Pueblo raising concerns about impairment of surface water flow to
springs. County development director Michael Springfield testified
that all subdivision regulations had been met and that approval
of the preliminary plat did not preclude further attention to the
neighbors’ concerns. He said later that the Corps of Engineers
may be funding a study of impacts on the springs.
Sandoval County buses no longer free
Sandoval County Easy Express will begin charging for trips on August
1. The fare structure creates a network of zones along the two rural
• Travel within one zone—for example, between Jemez
Springs and San Ysidro—will cost $1. A trip from Jemez Springs
to Bernalillo—two zones—will be $2. Passengers will
pay the same amount for the return trip.
• The other route runs between the Village of Cochiti Lake
and Bernalillo, passing through Santo Domingo Pueblo, San Felipe
Pueblo, Algodones, and Santa Ana Pueblo.
• A discounted fare of fifty cents per zone is available
to seniors ages sixty and older, mobility-impaired riders, and children
ages six to eighteen. Children five and younger will ride free.
• A monthly zone pass will be available for $32 for adults
and $16 for riders who pay a discounted rate. A monthly pass for
unlimited system-wide travel will be $64 for full fare and $32 for
the discount rate.
Rio Rancho city informs residents via Web
The first video installment of Rio Rancho University is now available.
The video, which focuses on how the city is funded and provides
services to residents, can be accessed online via the city’s
website at www.ci.rio-rancho.nm.us/rioranchouniversity. The ten-minute
video can also be seen on RioVision Cable Channel 15 by Cable One
subscribers. Check local listings for air dates.
Rio Rancho University is a city-funded and sponsored program with
the mission of informing and educating residents about the many
different components of local government in Rio Rancho. Throughout
the year, new topics with an associated video will be added to the
city’s website and RioVision.
Local media production and advertising agency Edit House Productions,
LLC, produced this video in conjunction with staff from the city’s
Cultural Enrichment Department.
Work on Rio Rancho’s new City Hall nearly
City staff is eagerly preparing for the move to their new location
at 3200 Civic Center Circle NE. This facility will be located in
the city’s new Downtown City Center and across the street
from the Santa Ana Star Center.
On Tuesday, July 31 at 5:00 p.m., the current City Hall (located
at 3900 Southern Boulevard SE) will close to the public. The closure
is necessary to ensure public safety while the many elements of
this move take place. The city appreciates the public’s patience
during this process of packing, unpacking, and reinstalling equipment.
The city intends to complete this move in a manner that will ensure
the public is served to the best of its ability following this transition.
On Tuesday, August 7 at 8:00 a.m. the new City Hall, located at
3200 Civic Center Circle NE, will open to the public.
Public meetings will continue to take place during the month of
August at the City Hall location at 3900 Southern Boulevard SE.
To get from the previous City Hall (3900 Southern Boulevard SE)
to the new City Hall (3200 Civic Center Circle NE), you will head
west on Southern Boulevard to Unser Boulevard. Make a right on Unser
Boulevard and you will travel on Unser for several miles until you
reach Main Street. Make a right on Main Street and proceed east
toward City Hall.
For more information, call (505) 891-5000 or visit www.ci.rio-rancho.nm.us;
the city’s website will provide the latest updates and information
regarding the move.
Under the direction of Rick Catanach, young Bernalillo
adults refurbish Bernalillo’s crumbling old historic casket
shop into the new New Mexico Wine Museum. (Top row from left) BJ
Garcia, Ivan Perez, Rick Catanach, Luke Catanach, Mike Sandoval,
Andrea Colbert, Diego Gauna, Jesus Valdez. (Bottom row from left)
Lorraine Colunga, Amor Montoya, Vince Gnodle, Adrian Casillas. (Not
shown: Charles Gurule)
“Casa Funebre” gets a new life as the
New Mexico Wine Museum courtesy of Rick Catanach’s crew of
young Bernalillo adults.
Crew leader Rick Catanach shares an old article
about Abenicio Salazar’s buildings with Lorraine Colunga.
Amor Montoya, great, great-granddaughter of Abenicio
Salazar (architect and builder of El Zócalo) shovels mortar.
Adrian Casillas hands a reclaimed “terrone”
up to Diego Gauna.
Andrea Colbert pours water into Luke Catanach’s
clay-and-sand mixture to make adobe mortar.
Teens join in historic adobe restoration project
It’s hotter than July in Bernalillo today. The humidity
is up there too, but Rick Catanach’s crew of teenagers works
happily away in the sun and the heat. They are rebuilding a crumbling
old adobe casket workshop on the grounds of the town’s wine
festival park. It is the first time many of the dozen or so native
Bernaleños have worked in this once ubiquitous material.
When they are finished, the town will have a home for its new Museum
of New Mexico Wine, and the teens will have attained a new set of
real world skills.
The restoration is being coordinated by Bernalillo Community Development
Director, Maria Rinaldi, through a grant from the Youth Conservation
Corps and in conjunction with Cornerstones Community Partnership,
an architectural preservation nonprofit whose Architectural/Technical
Manager, Francisco Uvina, lives in Bernalillo.
“We are doing much more than just training an earthen architecture
labor force: each worker has received sixty hours of OSHA training
and they are enrolled and earning credits at UNM Los Alamos in preservation.
They have lectures every week on architectural preservation and
community development. So, we feel we are gaining young citizens
with a lot of knowledge who will have a deeper pride in this community.
Plus, it’s a great job and way to make money for them,”
For Rick Catanach, this is a dream come true. A lifelong informal
New Mexican folkways historian, woodworker, and master adobero,
Rick has often bemoaned the loss of the cultural skills and physical
beauty of the dying art of adobe construction.
In recent years, Rick’s son Luke Catanach has become Rick’s
right-hand man with an enthusiasm that leaves hope that these old
ways are moving forward. Luke is the crew chief on this wine museum
job and as such is a perfect bridge to help transport his father’s
knowledge to these teens.
The project has garnered a lot of quiet attention in adobe circles.
Nearly every day an old friend of Rick’s or someone with knowledge
of local history will stop by to see the crew’s progress.
“Orlando Lucero stopped by today and was telling us about
the production of terrones,” Rick says.
This building, as well as many other buildings in Bernalillo, is
made not from hand-formed bricks, but from terrones—squares
of sod with the roots still in.
“There were a lot of marshes around here due to the flooding
and it was explained to us that they would come behind a horse and
plough and cut terrones to size. They were an easier way than making
adobes. But Orlando was telling us a story this morning that if
you didn’t let the terrones sit for at least eight months,
your house could grow. It would kind of heave up. That might’ve
been what happened to this [building]. Look at the difference in
coursing. We’re trying to level it up. We have four courses
to catch up to two. So we’re gonna have to wedge it in there
to get this thing nice and level.”
Some of the crew stands on the scaffolds with Rick eyeing the gap.
They must level and call down to workers on the ground who search
through a pile of reclaimed terrones for pieces the right size to
wedge into the courses. Others fill five-gallon buckets of mud and
use a rope and pulley to lift the mud up the scaffold.
Though none of the kids have worked in adobe before, they are discovering
how satisfyingly simple the building techniques can be. One member
of the crew, Amor Montoya, is the great, great-granddaughter of
Bernalillo’s famed adobero, Abenicio Salazar. Just a stone’s
throw from Salazar’s two-story adobe school (now known as
El Zócalo), Montoya shovels mud from a wheelbarrow and says,
“I think it’s a great opportunity for me to learn his
history and to experience what he did.”
Taking a break from screening the pebbles out of a pile of dirt
in order to prepare it for a smooth mortar mix, Vince Gnodle says,
“It’s more historical to build this way. I like it better
than wood construction.”
Adrian Casillas admires the reporter’s digital camera and
muses that it is payday. The pay is nine dollars an hour, substantially
more than minimum wage. Perhaps for the workers, that is the best
aspect of this job.
Work will continue on this building throughout the summer and into
the early fall. Meanwhile, Maria Rinaldi is working to secure other
grants that will enable this freshly-bonded team to keep working
to stabilize other adobe buildings within the town and to preserve
a great aspect of their cultural inheritance.
County Line—Sandoval County Fair
—DON LEONARD, SANDOVAL COUNTY COMMISSION CHAIRMAN
Take a break from the sweltering heat and attend this year’s
Sandoval County Fair for a refreshing perspective of our area’s
truly unique heritage and programs that help mold the future of
our youth. You won’t go away disappointed. This year’s
fair promises to be the biggest, most diverse, and entertaining
in its thirty-one-year history.
The fair will be held Thursday through Sunday, August 2-5, at the
County Fairgrounds in the cool climate of the Jemez Mountains, just
off US 550 south of Cuba. Admission is only one dollar.
To make traveling more convenient, the County’s newly-launched
Sandoval Easy Express—or SEE—rural transportation system
is offering free round-trip rides to the Fairgrounds on Friday and
Saturday. The buses will travel from the Sandoval County RailRunner
Express station at US 550 and I-25 in Bernalillo, with a stop in
San Ysidro. Call the County Visitor’s Center at 867-7640,
for more information or schedules.
Highlights that entire families can enjoy include rodeo performances
on Friday and Saturday nights, an Indian pow-wow competition, dinner
and dance on Thursday, and a rodeo school that will be held from
9:00 a.m. to noon on Friday and Saturday.
Saturday’s events include an exciting pony express race,
a parade through Cuba, a wild horse race, and a working cow horse
exhibition. Events during the fair’s closing day on Sunday
include a dog show, team roping, animal scramble, a junior rodeo,
and crowning of the 2007-2008 fair queen and court.
Other attractions throughout the four-day event include exhibits
of arts and crafts and baked goods produced by county residents.
My personal favorites are the livestock shows and judging competitions
on Thursday and Friday. On Saturday, the always-popular 4-H Club
auction will give fairgoers the opportunity to bid on poultry and
livestock that have been raised and cared for throughout the year
by the County’s youth. The 4-H Club members’ livestock
projects are a valuable way to instill animal husbandry skills and
first-hand experience raising livestock.
The Sandoval County Fair dates back to 1976. The Rio Puerco Basin
Fair, as it was once called, has evolved over the years into the
highly anticipated fair and rodeo that residents now enjoy.
Sandoval County acquired the sixty-seven-acre fairgrounds site
from the Bureau of Land Management in 2006 and has begun making
extensive improvements. In the past year alone, existing facilities
have been repaired and improved, and new bathrooms and concession
buildings have been constructed, along with modern, covered bleachers
and lighting at the rodeo arena. This spring, the County hired Cuba
resident Mark Hatzenbuhler to manage the fairgrounds property.
Improving the fairgrounds and shaping the annual fair into an event
that is enjoyed by participants and spectators is not an easy task.
It is being accomplished only with tremendous amounts of dedication
and work by committed members of our communities and by the county’s
Tourism and Economic Development staff who oversee the fairgrounds
This year’s fair is organized by the all-volunteer Fair Board,
which includes president Vivienne Vanlandingham, vice president
Timothy Johnson, treasurer Darlene Gurule, secretary Karolyn Schaefer,
and members Hilma Lewis, Paul Enyert, Betty Lou Leeson, Leroy Lovato,
and Michelle Taylor.
The board members and all of the individuals and groups who work
so hard on behalf of our youth and other residents certainly deserve
our deep appreciation.
See you at the fair!
Questions or comments for Commissioner Leonard
can be mailed to him care of Sandoval County Administrative Offices,
P. O. Box 40, Bernalillo 87001.