On February 12, 1908, seventeen men set off from New York City on the first around-the-world automobile race in hopes of proving that the newly invented automobile was a practical, durable machine that could endure the demands of the future. This race was the inspiration for Hollywood movies and modern day ‘great races.’ In the picture above, is the 1917 Marmon that won the Great Race of 1995. Margaret Nava shows us this and many other nostalgic cars in Rio Rancho. See the Real People Section of the Signpost on-line.
The holidays at Casa Rosa A true community effort
—Charlotte Lough, Chair Casa Rosa Food Bank
The weekend before Thanksgiving, when Placitas had its Annual Holiday Sale, Casa Rosa Food Bank was open special hours on Saturday from 8:00 am. to 10:00 am., so that consumers could get their weekly shopping completed early and avoid the parking issues that always surround the church, Casa Rosa, and the big white tent for this event.
Both Saturday and Sunday Casa Rosa had the “Adobe House” pins and a limited number of “Women” pins for sale from Designs by Lucinda. This is Casa Rosa’s fundraising project for the year and the pins were available in the big white tent as well as in the Fellowship Hall of Las Placitas Presbyterian Church (LPCC) outside the Chili Pepper Café. All those who purchased the pins bought “the gift that gives twice.” Casa Rosa staff has determined that the profit from each pin provides approximately thirteen meals for Casa Rosa clients. It’s amazing that such a small amount can provide so much.
Prior to Thanksgiving, Casa Rosa was triply blessed. Bruce and Grayce Schorr donated fifty-two turkeys for Placitans, and LPPC members and La Puerta Realty agents donated canned goods, stuffing, gravy, pies, and other holiday goods to complete the Thanksgiving baskets. The Deacon’s fund was utilized to finish out any incomplete baskets. Many Casa Rosa clients as well as others in the area participated in this Thanksgiving basket project.
John Sapien State Farm Agency presented a Thanksgiving Day Turkey Feast Giveaway, in conjunction with community partners Southwest Ice Cream of New Mexico, Wal-Mart, and PB&J Family Services. Twenty-five complete Thanksgiving baskets were provided for Casa Rosa clients.
The blessings continue to flow as La Bonne Vie Beauty Shop and Spa has offered to hold a food and beauty product drive for Casa Rosa. Deborah at Yogacrossroads, a small business in Placitas, has offered to hold a drive to collect nonperishable goods and toiletries at her place of business in January.
She will be offering free yoga lessons for the price of five nonperishable food or toiletry items to be donated to the food bank. A list of needed items is available at Casa Rosa. In addition, La Puerta Realty decided to help Casa Rosa instead of exchanging Christmas gifts this year, using the money that would be spent on gift exchanges to assist with the Thanksgiving baskets.
The next Mobile Food Pantry sponsored by Casa Rosa and funded by a couple who are residents of Placitas, is scheduled for Wednesday, December 9, with distribution from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon in the Fellowship Hall of LPCC. These Mobile Food Pantries, held every other month, are open to all Sandoval County residents who qualify, whereas the Saturday morning Food Bank in the “pink house” is open to Placitas residents only. All participants are required to fill out The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) forms indicating need, if they have not completed one this fiscal year.
The Mobile Food Pantry (MFP) Project was started by Roadrunner about fifteen months ago to serve rural and outlying areas of New Mexico. For one hundred dollars, a Roadrunner truck delivers 2,500 pounds of nonperishable food, cereals, breads, and produce, providing approximately fifty pounds of food for each consumer. If you are interested in funding one of these MFPs, please contact Charlotte Lough at email@example.com or the church office at 867-5718.
The Volunteer Coordinator for Casa Rosa, Ginny Ricciardelli, is always looking for volunteers, especially during this busy holiday period. Her contact information is firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also contact Charlotte Lough at email@example.com. Volunteers are needed for Friday morning to help unload, organize, and shelve the goods that Roadrunner delivers. There is always plenty to do before the truck comes, but it arrives between 8:30 a.m. and 9:15 a.m. and we are usually finished by 11:00 a.m. Roadrunner will not be delivering on Friday, December 25 or Friday, January 1, so on those dates delivery will be scheduled for earlier in the week.
Volunteers are also needed for Saturday mornings from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. There are two shifts, 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., and 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., with the earlier shift being the busiest and needing the most volunteers. Casa Rosa will be open Saturday, December 26 and Saturday, January 2.
There are positions for receptionists to sign the clients in and check paperwork, food handlers to help re-stock shelves and bring frozen meat from the back freezer to replenish the kitchen refrigerator/freezer, a volunteer to distribute the meat to clients from the kitchen freezer, volunteers to assist clients in carrying bags to their vehicles as needed, and a traffic control person to keep the appropriate number of clients moving through the shopping area. A limit of three shoppers are directed into the shopping area at a time to give everyone equal opportunity to shop. Consumers shop in the order that they sign in on the weekly sign-in sheet. Don’t worry if you haven’t volunteered before. Orientation will be provided and there are typed lists of duties for each job at Casa Rosa.
Each household shopping for a family of one to three has one brown bag for non-perishables and one plastic bag for frozen meat and produce. For a family of four or more, clients are allowed two brown bags and two plastic bags for shopping.
In January 2009, an average of twenty-five households shopped at the food bank. In October 2009, nine months later, an average of fifty-three households was served. One week sixty-one households participated and another week sixty-four households participated.
The Coats for Casa Rosa project continues into the winter months. At least twenty coats and sweaters are given out every Saturday at Casa Rosa, so ongoing donations continue to be needed. If you have gently used coats, sweaters, hats, gloves, or scarves that are in good repair and are hanging in your closet not being used, bring them to Casa Rosa and they will be used. Thank you to all who have already contributed. Your assistance is what helps Casa Rosa remain sustainable and continue offering a helping hand to Placitas.
Property tax increase shocks county residents
When Sandoval County residents received their 2009 property tax bills, many were shocked by increases of up to fifty percent from 2008. Well-informed voters saw a tax hike coming, but the amounts were considerably higher than they expected, especially in Bernalillo, Placitas, and Algodones. A questionable three-percent increase in appraised value was partially responsible, but most of the increase was due to mill levies which were narrowly passed by voters in the November 2008 election.
County Public Information Officer Gayland Bryant told the Signpost that the offices of the County Treasurer and Auditor have been swamped by unhappy taxpayers. He said that he understands their frustration, especially during the current recession, but pointed out that these new taxes were imposed by voters who were adequately informed by fifteen articles that appeared in local media about the costs prior to the election. Once the mill levies were passed, the county was obligated to automatically impose the increase on the next property tax bill.
While it is true that the tax increase is voter-imposed, the Sandoval County Commission is directly responsible for its appearance on the ballot.
A 4.25 percent mill levy was imposed county-wide to pay for two new hospitals in Rio Rancho. The County Commission voted unanimously to place the initiative on the ballot in August of 2008 at the request of former county manager Debbie Hays. County staff joined the University of New Mexico and Presbyterian Hospitals in encouraging voters to approve the bill in the November election.
In 2007, Sandoval County lobbied the state legislature to pass House Bill 939, which allows creation of the Eastern Sandoval County Arroyo Flood Control Authority (ESCAFCA) for the watershed that includes Placitas, Bernalillo (east of I-25), and Algodones. HB 939 was emergency legislation prompted by flooding in 2006, and went into effect as soon as the governor approved it. He appointed a five-member flood control board, selected from a list of residents submitted by County Commissioner Orlando Lucero. The board included members from Placitas, Bernalillo, and Algodones, and was charged with the responsibility to develop a flood-control plan that was submitted to the voters in November 2008. At the time, the cost was projected to be as low as a half mill levy or $15 per $100,000 appraised value of properties.
Just before the election in 2008, the November Signpost ran a front-page article entitled “Bond Issues Carry Price Tag,” which advised readers that the combined price tag on the flood control bond question and the hospital tax question was about $208 per year per $100,000 assessed value of a home.
Of that, $141.66 would pay contracting hospitals in accordance with health care facilities’ contracts for not less than four and not more than eight years. According to ESCAFCA, the flood control bond would cost about $67 per $100,000 for four years, a number that still remains on the website prepared by the public relations firm hired to promote the bond issue. Neither of the questions as they appeared on the ballot mentioned a dollar amount. The ESCAFCA did not mention property tax at all.
The “County Line,” written by commission chairman Joshua Madelena and published in the same pre-election Signpost issue, proclaimed, “While property assessments have risen in step with market values, the County Commission has not increased property tax rates since 1995. Again this year, tax rates are lower for homeowners across Sandoval County.” Madelena did not mention the new bond issues that were about to increase taxes by fifty percent.
The tax for the hospital levy was as projected, but the tax for ESCAFCA, as billed, totaled $115 per $100,000—not $67 as advertised. Bryant blames the discrepancy on ESCAFCA. ESCAFCA blames the bonding company they hired to figure the amount. Taxpayers are furious because this false advertising might have swayed some “for” voters who might have voted “against,” if they had known the real cost.
UNMH announced in November of 2009 that they have postponed plans to start building the hospital in Rio Rancho. Presbyterian Hospital announced that they will break ground on November 24, 2009. Construction is supposed to take about two years. No one denies the need for hospitals and flood control, but the timing, amounts, and questionable presentation of the taxes is problematic for many property owners.
Realtor Lynn Koch says that she has been deluged with calls from homeowners who fear that they won’t be able to afford their mortgage payments when the new taxes are tacked on. She says that the tax could result in a new round of foreclosures and have a devesting effect on the real estate market. This could put more people in the construction industry out of work and have a negative effect on the local economy which is already reeling from the recession.
Koch is circulating a petition that reads in part: “We request that Sandoval County hold a special election with very clear financial examples to ask Sandoval County taxpayers if they truly did want these levies to be voted in. At the very least we are requesting that until the issue is resolved, there be a temporary suspension of payments for these two levies by the Sandoval County taxpayer. In addition, beginning in 2010, we request that Sandoval County mail tax bills to Sandoval County residents no later than October 1, 2010, instead of less than one week before taxes are due.”
Koch says that Bryant has explained that the tax bills are mailed on November 1 as required by state law and that the county can do nothing to comply with the requests listed. Hospital contracts have been made and ESCAFCA projects are well under way. Koch plans to continue to organize on a local level and to present the petition to state and federal elected officials. Copies of the petition can be obtained by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or stopping by La Puerta Real Estate Services in Placitas.
—Don E. Leonard, Sandoval County Commission Chairman
Rather than reflecting backward as the end of the year draws near, I want to instead look ahead. Our future, as noted in the opening of the County Residents’ Guide, is indeed as bright as our vivid sunrises.
The optimism of our region that has drawn residents for centuries remains strong across all areas of County government. Even with the economic slowdown and daily news reports of job losses nationwide, our County continues to rank as one of the nation’s fastest growing, most desirable areas.
County government—in a wide variety of inter-related partnerships with other governments, agencies, and the all-important private sector—has made considerable progress on numerous projects to assure that our economy will prosper now and in the years ahead.
The County’s desalination project to convert brackish water from the Rio Puerco basin to potable water holds tremendous promise for our entire region. Results from the deep-aquifer test wells we began drilling in 2007 have clearly demonstrated that enough water exists to help meet our region’s water needs far into the future.
The challenges of that project are formidable. The brackish water is more than 3,500 feet underground and contains high levels of dissolved salts and minerals.
We’re now awaiting results of a six-month pilot test program we began last spring to determine the most efficient and effective way to clean the water to drinking standards and then deliver that potable water to suppliers in Sandoval County. Our initial plan is to produce five million gallons of water daily, expanding up to thirty million gallons a day.
Rather than enabling more urban sprawl, the County’s intent with the desalinization project is to help meet present and future needs of County residents and also spur job development on the metropolitan area’s growing west side.
In that regard, the desalinization plant about twelve miles west of Rio Rancho is just one of many planned components that, in tandem, will stimulate economic development and assure jobs for future generations of County residents.
Other inter-related endeavors the County is actively pursuing to secure our economic future include the Northwest Loop road that will connect US 550 and I-40, the Alice King Way road that will access the Rio Puerco Valley from Rio Rancho and a new regional general aviation airport. We also are closely working with Rio Rancho Economic Development to establish a 640-acre industrial development complex in Southern Sandoval County.
By reversing the west-to-east commute of workers traveling to jobs in Albuquerque, we can also ease the traffic burden and vehicle congestion on such critical corridors as NM 528, US 550, Paseo del Norte, and others.
Our economic development efforts are not limited to Southern Sandoval County. To help stimulate job growth in Cuba, one of the County’s most impoverished areas, we are working with a private organization that may provide about thirty-five jobs at a facility to serve at-risk youth. The project is proposed for the County Fairgrounds property and is heavily supported by area judges and juvenile service providers. The non-profit AMIkids is awaiting approval of the project by the U.S. Department of Justice.
The County also has pulled together a team of local legislators, government officials, and business leaders into a brainstorming group to find ways to improve economic growth throughout our region, both now and in the future. As the group agreed during its initial meeting this fall, new and innovative strategies must be identified and then implemented to grow our economy.
On behalf of my fellow Commissioners—Orlando Lucero, David Bency, Glenn Walters, and Darryl Madalena—we wish all residents the very best for the holiday season and coming year.
Questions or comments for Commissioner Leonard can be mailed to him in care of Sandoval County Administrative Offices, PO Box 40, Bernalillo, NM 87004.