An Independent Monthly Newsmagazine Serving the Community since 1989


Cynthia Dimas and Ted Jorge Montoya polish the marble before the dedication ceremony begins.

Cynthia Dimas and Ted Jorge Montoya polish the marble before the dedication ceremony begins.

Ricky Sisneros plays "Taps" to honor those killed in action.

Ricky Sisneros plays "Taps" to honor those killed in action.

Sandoval County Vietnam Veterans Memorial dedicated

Ceremonies were held in Bernailllo on Veterans Day, November 11, to dedicate Sandoval County's Vietnam Veterans Memorial, commemorating residents who were killed in the war and honoring those who served and returned home. Seven hundred and fifty to a thousand people attended.

“The memorial has been built to remember the county's residents who were killed in action and missing in action, and to recognize the sacrifices of those who risked their lives in Vietnam and returned,” said Larry Hurtado, a Peña Blanca resident who spearheaded a public-private effort to build the memorial. Hurtado, a Vietnam veteran, originally conceived the memorial as a way to honor a Bernalillo classmate who was killed in Vietnam.

The memorial consists of a twenty-foot-long curved wall, stepping up from six feet at the south end to eight feet high at the north, and was built by volunteers, headed by Fred and Cindy Dimas of Rio Rancho. The wall will be lighted and includes poles for national, state, and MIA flags. A bronze sculpture is in the planning stages and will be installed by Memorial Day, Hurtado said.

The wall includes a series of granite plaques engraved with the names of men and women who entered the armed services from Sandoval County and served in Vietnam. Special plaques will include the names of county residents who were killed or missing in action in the war.

“A key event of Saturday's dedication will be when Vietnam veterans are given ribbons to place next to their names on the plaques,” said Sandoval County commissioner William Sapien. “Relatives of the county veterans who were killed or missing in action will be asked to place ribbons next to the names of our veterans who never returned.”

Sapien, who retired with the rank of major after serving twenty-eight years in the Army National Guard, said the memorial and dedication ceremonies would serve as a belated homecoming for the county's Vietnam veterans.

“Vietnam was an uncommon war where valor was a common occurrence,” Sapien said. “The memorial will stand to honor the county's Vietnam veterans. It will serve to welcome home our veterans who never had a homecoming after serving our country in the Vietnam War,” he added.

Funds for the memorial's construction include $35,000 allocated by the Sandoval County Commission and about $6,500 from donations and fund-raising events.

Signpost Cartoon c. Rudi Klimpert
County lists legislative priorities for 2007

—SIGNPOST STAFF
On November 2, the Sandoval County Commission passed a resolution seeking assistance from the New Mexico State Legislature in its upcoming session.
The resolution gives county lobbyist Gayland Bryant the following list of legislative priorities regarding state and regional legislative initiatives:

• Support passage of GRIP II (Governor Richardson’s Investment Partnership), which provides critical funding for public projects statewide. Included in the legislation is $2.8 million to match county funding to plan, design, construct and equip a transit center and transit system. The project will help meet transportation needs of commuters in Sandoval County and the metropolitan region, including existing users of publicly funded services, such as seniors, people with disabilities, Native Americans, Medicaid recipients, and low-income job seekers. The high-capacity fixed-route transit system will support state and regional efforts to provide transportation alternatives and greatly relieve traffic congestion throughout Sandoval County, especially along the NM 528 and US 550 corridors. Fixed routes would serve Cuba, the Jemez corridor, and Cochiti. Bryant told the Signpost that future routes could include Placitas.
• Support the New Mexico Association of Counties in gaining legislation to reimburse Sandoval and other counties for the costs of housing state felony offenders in county facilities. Sandoval County averages seventy-one felony inmates daily who are being held for the state, or 18 percent of the detention center's 386-bed capacity. Bryant said that these inmates are awaiting transport to state custody or are felony parole violators. The fiscal impact to Sandoval County for housing state inmates is approximately $1.3 million annually.
• Support for the State Agency on Aging's legislative funding request, which includes $345,435 for Sandoval County's Senior Program. The county's request includes $231,000 for specialized vehicles, $66,245 for meal equipment, $15,400 for other equipment at county centers, and $32,790 for code-required improvements and renovations at centers in Bernalillo, Jemez, and Peña Blanca.
• Obtain increased funding for local DWI programs from the state DWI fund to offset increased costs for DWI prevention, treatment, probation supervision, and other alcohol-related services.
• Secure legislation to expand the boundaries of the Southern Sandoval County Arroyo Flood Control Authority to include the greater town of Bernalillo and Placitas areas. SSCAFCA has demonstrated consistent expertise in flood-control planning and execution. Expansion of the authority's boundaries is the most cost-effective approach to solving flood-control issues and preventing damage to private and public property in the watershed east of Bernalillo, including the Placitas area.
• Support the soccer community's funding request to complete improvements at the highly successful New Mexico Soccer Tournament Complex, a regional economic enterprise that attracts world-class competitions. Additional funding of $2.55 million is needed to complete the complex's master-planned facilities, including construction of bleachers and concessions, sewer lines, lighting, parking-lot paving and drainage, maintenance facility, media facilities, and needed equipment. Construction of the complex is a joint undertaking by the state, the counties of Sandoval and Bernalillo, the cities of Rio Rancho, Bernalillo, and Albuquerque, and the pueblo of Santa Ana. The complex is operated by New Mexico Youth Soccer, representing soccer organizations statewide.

The resolution supports the following Sandoval County capital outlay projects:

• Funding of $3 million is requested to design and construct the Northwest Loop Road as a major transportation and economic-development corridor connecting I-40 and I-25 via US 550 around Albuquerque and Rio Rancho. Sandoval County will provide a match of $2 million in county funds and in-kind services. The road opens access to large tracts of affordable land near population centers—a major requirement for successful economic development and job creation. It offers development opportunities similar to those of loop roads in other metropolitan areas, most notably the 101 Loop in the Phoenix area. Funding will protect acquired rights-of-way and construct drainage improvements and a gravel roadway along twenty-seven miles of the project in Sandoval County. Future phases would include paving the roadway, with funding expected to be obtained from private sources. Bryant said that support is growing to extend the corridor all the way to Los Lunas.
• $1.5 million is requested to match Sandoval County funds and in-kind services to construct and equip the $3 million Phase II of the Waste Conversion/Composting Facility. Phase II will allow Sandoval County to accept sewer sludge from municipalities and pueblos and process the waste in a economical and environmentally friendly manner.
The plant—the first of its kind in New Mexico—uses proven technology and a closed-vessel system to process green waste, construction waste, and manure into fertilizer and soil-enhancement products. The system is neighborhood friendly and uses vacuum dryers and mist processors to contain all odors and dust. Phase II will allow Sandoval County to accept and process sewer sludge and wastewater from municipalities and pueblos. The waste will be processed along with green and construction waste into compost, fertilizer, and soil-enhancement products for applications on parks, recreational fields, and other areas.
• Funding is requested to complete renovations and improvements of the historic multipurpose El Zócalo Business Development Complex. Additional funds will match $1.475 million in federal funds (Economic Development Administration), $1.8 million in county funds, $500,000 in county in-kind services, and $1.775 million approved for the project by the 2006 Legislature. The El Zócalo Complex will create new economic-based jobs by increasing successful development of new businesses, thus enhancing the overall economy and standards of living for the county's culturally diverse communities and citizens. The facility represents a multiuse, multipurpose development in partnership with the Town of Bernalillo, Small Business Development Corp., and UNM/Los Alamos. Bryant said that with additional funding, the restoration of the complex, including landscaping and outdoor public gathering places, could be completed by next fall.
• $550,000 is requested to design, construct, and equip a scale plaza at the county's regional landfill to accurately and efficiently weigh and monitor landfill disposal loads and vehicle counts. The facility and associated roadwork will bring the county's landfill into compliance with federal regulations requiring production and submission of routine volume and traffic reports and will allow the county to more efficiently charge haulers for landfill use based on accurate tonnage weights.
• Additional legislative funding of $300,000 is requested to design and construct a 16,425-square-foot, three-sided covered building so residents can safely and conveniently dispose of residential trash at the Sandoval County Landfill. The $625,000 facility is a critical part of the landfill's $3 million expansion and will help alleviate illegal trash dumping. It will satisfy state environment requirements and meet Americans with Disabilities Act and safety standards for both employees and landfill users.
• $102,890 is requested to plan, design, and remodel the county-owned building used by the magistrate court in Bernalillo to provide additional space and enhanced security for the court. The project will provide 1,248 square feet of additional space for use by the magistrate court, which currently occupies 9,140 square feet of the building. The court added a new judgeship in 2005, and with an increasing annual caseload exceeding seventy-five hundred—the highest caseload per judge in New Mexico—projections indicate the need for a third judge within three to five years.
• $350,509 is requested to design, purchase, and install emergency-power systems to back up electrical service for critical communications and health systems essential for public safety when normal power fails.
• An appropriation of $91,000 is requested to design and build an emergency supply station to serve all of Sandoval County.
• Funding is requested to design and rebuild Camino de las Huertas where it crosses Las Huertas Creek, in the Placitas area. Camino de Las Huertas is a major collector road and school-bus route that serves as the only direct road for a large number of residents in the rapidly growing area. The road crossing at Las Huertas Creek currently experiences washouts that make the road impassable during heavy rainfall in the Sandia Mountain watershed. High water flow in the creek during summer 2006 caused the road at the Las Huertas Creek to wash out on four separate occasions, resulting in the road's complete closure, until county crews could make repairs. Bryant said that the crossing would be reinforced with concrete headwalls, aprons, and wingwalls, and would include riprap structures upstream and downstream.
• $300,000 is requested to supplement county funds and in-kind services to pave, resurface, and restore drainage along County Road 11 in the Cuba area.
• $150,000 is requested for design, engineering, drainage, and construction of Lincoln Avenue, in Rio Rancho.
• Legislative funding of $136,131 is requested to purchase and install needed furniture and equipment for the Placitas Community Library and Multi-Use Center being constructed on county-owned property adjacent to NM 165. The new library and multiuse center is scheduled to open in late 2007. The full-service library is operated by the nonprofit Placitas Community Library Board and will serve residents of the Placitas area plus surrounding communities. The library is the result of a grassroots effort that began serving the community in 2004 in a rented building pending construction of the permanent facility.
• The county is requesting $176,225 to design and construct a skateboard facility, basketball court, playground equipment, shade structure, and drinking fountain at the Sierra Norte II Park, in Rio Rancho.
• Sandoval County is requesting $250,000 to supplement funds allocated by the 2006 Legislature to design and construct curbing and concrete sidewalks along a twenty-seven-hundred-foot corridor in western Rio Rancho.

FAA promises funds for county airport study

Sandoval County spokesman Gayland Bryant announced in November that the Federal Aviation Administration has promised $100,000 to fund a study of site selection and feasibility for a general-aviation airport in Sandoval County. He said that in addition to the airport in the proposed Rio West planned community, there are four or five other sites under consideration. Most are adjacent to the proposed northwest corridor. Bryant said that an airport is needed in the county’s quest for economic expansion. “Airports are major criteria that business and industry look for when considering a move to a new area,” he explained.


Public Regulation Commission approves geographic split of area codes 505 and 575

The Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce has commended the Public Regulation Commission for its three-to-two approval of a plan that will allow Zone B, comprised of a central and northwest portion of New Mexico, to keep the 505 area code, while a new 575 area code is assigned to the rest of the state.

In July the chamber approved a position stating its recommendations for a geographic area-code split and testified before the PRC during a series of meetings held by the commission to get feedback from communities statewide.
The geographic split approved by the commission was reflective of the sentiment suggested by the chamber in its formal position and through the organization’s testimony before the commission.

“We are pleased with the PRC’s decision,” said Terri L. Cole, chamber president and CEO. We have advocated that the five-county region, including Bernalillo, Sandoval, Torrance, Valencia, and Santa Fe counties, retain the 505 area code, simply because it makes the most economic sense for the greatest number of residents and businesses.”

According to year 2000 population estimates provided by the University of New Mexico’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research, approximately 47 percent of the state’s population resides in this comparatively small area.

In its July position paper, the chamber noted that “New Mexicans have long been accustomed to having only one area code for the State. Our considerable growth rate presents certain challenges, and the area code exhaustion is among the difficulties that correlate with our progress. The choice confronting the Commission is obviously very consequential, and we emphasize the commercial implications are enormous and will be enduring. Given such, we recommend the retention of the 505 area code in the five-county region as an efficient course that minimizes statewide economic disruption and, we believe, provides the most convenience for the greatest number of our citizens.”

Signpost Cartoon c. Rudi Klimpert
County line—Easing traffic congestion

—JACK THOMAS, CHAIRMAN, SANDOVAL COUNTY COMMISSION
For most drivers these days, turning onto US 550 and looking ahead at the long line of cars crawling through Bernalillo sparks anxiety, stress, and other unpleasant feelings.

US 550 through Bernalillo becomes little more than a parking lot during both morning and afternoon rush hours and can be sluggishly slow at all other times throughout the day. As our county continues to grow, traffic congestion will likewise increase—but, hopefully, not for too much longer.

Sandoval County is seeking a fix for US 550 motorists on several fronts.

To devise workable solutions, the county has brainstormed options with the City of Rio Rancho, Town of Bernalillo, the Mid-Region Council of Governments, and State Transportation.
There are no fast “right-now” fixes to quickly ease traffic congestion along the vital corridor.

One option the county has proposed is to remove medians along US 550 from the intersection at NM 528 east to the Interstate 25 interchange. The highway would be restriped to create six ten-foot-wide lanes, with three lanes for use by motorists traveling both east and west.

That undertaking could be completed relatively easily and would immediately increase the road's vehicle movement capacity by 50 percent. It's a solution that would ease vehicle congestion for about five years and allow for projected growth in the booming area.

In addition, one lane in each direction of US 550 through Bernalillo could be restricted to use by high-occupancy vehicles. Restricting an east- and westbound lane to use only by commuter vans, buses, and private vehicles carrying multiple passengers would also promote the appeal of mass transportation alternatives and further cut commuter congestion.
The county's transit system, Railrunner Express, and area park-and-rides already are being used to help discourage some motorists from driving the US 550 corridor. Widening that appeal to more commuters will further reduce traffic and ease rush-hour snarls.

The six-lane scenario also offers a longer-term option. As traffic continues to increase, signals could be installed to create a reversible lane that would be used during morning and afternoon rush hours. Under that option, four of the six lanes would be used to carry eastbound traffic during morning rush hours, reversing to four lanes going west during the afternoon commute.

The reversible lane option, we estimate, could help relieve traffic along US 550 for as long as fifteen years.

Longer-term solutions being studied include additional river crossings both north and south of Bernalillo, and the proposed Northwest Loop that would bypass the metropolitan area and become a major transportation and economic-development corridor.

In that regard, Sandoval County has approached the Pueblo of Santa Ana regarding possible access across pueblo land. If those discussions are successful, the Northwest Loop would connect with I-25 north of Bernalillo.

The new road would provide tremendous economic-development opportunities for the pueblo and ease heavy traffic congestion on US 550, NM 528, and throughout the entire metropolitan region, including the Big I in Albuquerque, for decades to come.

Questions or comments for Commissioner Thomas may be mailed to him in care of Sandoval County Administrative Offices, P.O. Box 40, Bernalillo, NM 87004.


Broadband project holds promise for the future

—TY BELKNAP
Commissioner Jack Thomas was so impressed by what he heard during the ninety-minute presentation by Sandoval Broadband that he gushed, "With this program, it's jobs, it's health care, it's everything we need to be one of the greatest states in the union overnight."

Since Sandoval County set aside $2 million for a county-wide broadband initiative to provide wireless high-speed Internet two years ago, a lot of residents still don’t understand the concept—and no individual or organization is currently using the system.

Dewayne Hendricks, Sandoval Broadband Project CEO, said the connection to the Lambda Rail could be set up within a month. Hendricks told the Signpost that the Lambda Rail is a high-capacity nationwide research and educational fiber-optic network. The state pays $1 million per year for access; it “touches down” at UNM, and access will soon be available to Sandoval Broadband.

Hendricks said that the county serves as the network service provider. It is up to Internet service providers in the public sector to install the proper equipment, such as a wireless tower, prior to making the wireless service available to residents. After the system is up and running, Sandoval Broadband will be sold to the private sector.

Hendricks said that the ISP must deal with the technical challenges of getting the line-of-sight signal from tower to user, market their own services, and set their own timetables. He said that it is not appropriate for Sandoval Broadband, as the NSP, to comment on how and when these services might become available. However, several ISPs are currently working on it, and residents will soon be hearing from them.

“Sandoval County invested in broadband technology to correct market imbalances and to promote economic development.” Hendricks explained. “The Internet is the highway of the future and the market has failed to provide service to many places.”

For more information (if you have a connection), visit www.sandovalbroadband.com or read about the Lambda Rail at www.nlr.net.


Enterprise Pipeline loop nears completion

—J. PATTERSON
Placitas residents can look forward to less pipeline activity by the beginning of next year because Enterprise Products Operating LP's Mid-America Pipeline Western Expansion Project is finally nearing completion. The pipeline is about to start carrying liquid petroleum gas from Wyoming to Hobbs, New Mexico. The loop segment in Placitas brings three lines down to two to boost pressure as the pipeline goes over the mountain. The company is currently placing seed mats on the affected areas and will be painting and fencing the valves for the next two to four weeks. No word yet on the progress of the Las Huertas Creek repair.

Crews expect to be meet their deadline on schedule and be finished in December. According to a company representative, the construction of the sixteen-inch line was finished on November 18 and was pressure-tested with nitrogen on November 19. This comes as a welcome relief for local residents who have had to endure the near-constant activity of backhoes and bulldozers, even at night and on Saturdays. Recreational use of the Placitas Open Space has also been impacted, especially for horseback riders.

The pipeline will carry LPG from Wyoming to the southern part of the state. The project consisted of placing twelve separate pipeline looping segments, six in Wyoming and six in New Mexico. The segments parallel MAPL's existing natural-gas pipeline. Crews were delayed when they accidentally hit the Kinder Morgan carbon-dioxide pipeline on November 10 and had to put a bend in the line to accommodate it. Pump stations in New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming were modified or upgraded to deal with the increased volume. In addition to the valve construction, there were other above-ground modifications, including markers, fences, signs and the addition of new pig launchers and receivers. (“Pigs” are mechanical devices that move with the product to inspect and clean lines.)

“They seem to have done a decent job,” said Carol Parker, longtime pipeline-safety advocate. The company had archaeologists present during construction, stayed within their right-of-way, and reclaimed the area by planting seed-mats. The only problems were dust raised from the loose dirt by the heavy winds in November and traffic on the small roads in Placitas. By the end of December, the pipeline expects to have the valves repainted and the six-foot chain-link fences surrounding the valves repaired.

Major waterways have been protected by placing valves nearby or by diverting the pipelines around them. After the heavy flooding this summer, residents are concerned the pipeline companies have not given Las Huertas Creek proper consideration. According to the pipeline study, Las Huertas is an intermittent drainage, when in fact the creek runs all year in some areas and floods several times a year in all areas.

Longtime residents who have witnessed what Las Huertas can really do worry that active lines are not safe in a creek that can run at more than five thousand cubic feet per second when it floods. Pipeline representatives have as yet been unwilling to comment.


$3.3 million in federal funding granted to Laguna Pueblo to access the World Wide Web

Even though it seems as though every part of the nation has Internet access, there are still many rural communities that are not connected to the World Wide Web. Here in New Mexico, Laguna Pueblo is one of those places where access to the Internet is spotty at best.

But according to USDA Rural Development state director Ryan Gleason those days without high-speed communication for Laguna Pueblo are about to end. The pueblo has qualified for a $3.3 million grant that will pay for a new broadband system through Rural Development’s community-connect program.

In making the announcement Gleason said, “Funding this project will allow essential communication opportunities in an area of New Mexico where no broadband service currently exists." He added, “This administration’s goal is to make sure all rural communities have an opportunity to improve public safety and provide better educational choices through technology. And that’s exactly what we are doing with the funding we are providing."

The community-connect program augments USDA Rural Development's standard high-speed-telecommunications loan program. Under the terms of this grant, over 660 tribal residences and the community centers in the towns of Paguate, Seama, Encinal, Mesita, Paraje, and Laguna will be connected. Each of the community centers will house ten computers that will be made available to those living at Laguna Pueblo.

 

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