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Fifteen members of the newly reconstituted Placitas Chamber of Commerce turned out to collect and bag trash tossed or blown onto the shoulders of State Road 165 at the west entrance to the community. From left to right are Chamber President Jennise Phillips, Vice President Mindy Prokos, Secretary Sandy Poling, and member Leslie Schwartz.
Photo credit: —Bill Diven

Placitas Chamber of Commerce back in business

Signpost Staff

A revived Placitas Chamber of Commerce is out to support the community and its businesses, but first it’s time to pick up the trash. The chamber board and a few more volunteers from its forty members turned out in orange vests on a brisk November day to walk up the second mile of State Road 165, bagging whatever the winds blew in, or people pitched or let fly from their vehicles.

J & J Utilities of Placitas put up road signs alerting motorists to the work on the highway shoulders, and a New Mexico Department of Transportation maintenance patrol later picked up the bags. The cleanup crews from Blade’s Bistro and Jardineros de Placitas were out as well working the third mile in front of Homestead Village shopping center and the sixth mile into Placitas village respectively.

“Next year we’d like to coordinate the whole six miles,” said chamber President Jennise Phillips. The target for that is around Earth Day in April, she added.

The chamber crew also collated data from their nine bags of litter. More on that below.

The original Placitas chamber formed in 2001 led by business owners Tom Ashe, Orville McCallister, and Bob Poling, according to the files Phillips inherited. It lasted nine years as a formal corporation, although its principals remain active in the community, it preserved the corporate records and continued the annual Placitas Appreciation Day events at Homestead Village.

“We’re really fortunate in not having to reinvent the wheel,” Phillips said. “We did have to reincorporate. That was the hard part.”

The new chamber came into corporate being in July but only recently received its formal nonprofit status. At its first meet-and-greet on the patio at La Puerta Real Estate Services in October, Phillips said she stopped counting the crowd when she got to 65.

The next meet-and-greet is scheduled for 5:00 to 7:00 p.m., on January 21, at a location still to be decided. Notice of the event will appear on the chamber website (PlacitasChamber.com) and at the chamber office at 1 Ridge Court in the La Puerta building.

“It’s been so much fun talking to people and planning events,” she added. “I’ve got a great board backing me up and more people signing up from the community.”

The chamber’s mission statement describes fostering positive partnerships among Placitas businesses and serving as a resource for the community as a whole. It also states the chamber is independent, generally apolitical, and not affiliated with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, one of the largest groups lobbying Congress.

Phillips said she wanted to reduce the mission statement to “The chamber is fun,” but was outvoted.

The online member directory lists 33 categories of businesses from Appraisals to Woodworking and includes services in Bernalillo and an Albuquerque business owned by a Placitas resident.

“Placitans are so supportive of other Placitans,” Phillips said. “I think they just like the idea of doing business with people they know and trust and that have the similar values of living in this wonderful community.”

Future events under discussion include a balloon glow and possibly a chile cook-off. An annual membership for the fiscal year, beginning October 1, costs one hundred dollars or fifty dollars for nonprofits.

Results of the survey of collected litter released by the chamber:

  • Being afraid of being hit by a car
  • Bud Light is the number one littered beer can
  • Bud Light Lime is number two
  • Of the vodkas found, Skye drinkers litter more than others and the most expensive bottle was Ketel
  • One Smirnoff bottle found three quarters full. Hmmm, red lights in the rearview mirror when that went out the window?
  • More littering is being done leaving Placitas than entering.
  • Two golf balls
  • One toothbrush

Oil drillers plan test well near Rio Rancho

—Bill Diven

Oil and gas prices may be depressed, but that’s not stopping one energy company from drilling a 10,500-foot well near Rio Rancho.

Early in November, SandRidge Exploration and Production, LLC of Oklahoma City applied to Sandoval County for special-use zoning for the well about four miles west of the Rio Rancho city limits. The site is in Rio Rancho Estates northwest of Northern Boulevard and Encino Road in an area bladed for residential streets but not developed.

The state Oil Conservation Division in October issued a permit for the well within a forty-acre site. Documents SandRidge submitted to the county say it plans to utilize parts of three lots, totaling two acres platted as the corner of 46th Street and 24th Avenue.

Unlike many New Mexico wells drilled on state and federal land, this one is on private property, dating to the founding years of Rio Rancho.

The company also has asked the county to waive the requirement for a pre-application public meeting since there is no existing community around the site. The application is scheduled to make its first appearance on the Sandoval County Planning and Zoning Commission agenda on December 10.

While abundant supplies and dropping prices are causing disruptions, including layoffs in the oil fields of New Mexico, Sand-Ridge spotted an investment opportunity as it was pursuing new ventures, according to Duane Grubert, SandRidge executive vice president for investor relations and strategy.

“Our geologic view of the area suggests a good fit of our operating abilities with the type of development that might emerge,” Grubert said in an email response to questions from the Signpost. “While prices are depressed, service costs are lower and there is less competition for attractive projects, making this a good time to embark on appraising the area through drilling activity.”

Whether this leads to additional exploration or commercial production depends on the results of the first well, marketing conditions and the operating environment, he added.

The project came up during the November 20 Sandoval County Commission meeting when Mike Neas of Placitas raised concerns about protecting water quality.

“We need to be very careful of gas and oil wells close to water,” Neas said during the public-comment part of the meeting. “I’m not necessarily against fracking in a far-away area that doesn’t address our drinking water.”

“Fracking” would be hydraulic fracturing, the injection of a solution of chemicals, sand, and water under high pressure that fractures rock and stimulates oil and gas production. The practice, combined with horizontal drilling that extends from the main well, is largely responsible for the boom in production and drop in wellhead prices in recent years.

Grubert told the Signpost that hydraulic fracturing likely would be used in developing the Rio Rancho well. The state permit requires SandRidge, when it reaches any fresh-water zones, to drill through without interruption and then cement in place a water-protection casing.

The city has two of its wells about two and three miles from the proposed well drilled to depths of 1,922 feet and 1,475 feet respectively.

SandRidge also is in discussion with the city of Rio Rancho to buy the estimated 282,500 gallons of water needed during 16 days of drilling and for cementing the well casing. A similar volume or more will be needed during the two to three months it takes to complete operations at the site, according to a November 10 letter from the company to the city.

The water will be trucked in and wastewater trucked out to a disposal facility and kept within a closed-loop system during use, according to the company.

The property is controlled by Outer Rim Investments, Inc., a subsidiary of AMREP Southwest, both of Rio Rancho. AMREP Southwest is itself a subsidiary of AMREP Corporation, the New Jersey company that founded and developed Rio Rancho.

The property is part of 54,793 acres of subsurface mineral rights AMREP Southwest and Outer Rim leased to Thrust Energy Inc. of Roswell and Cebolla Roja, LLC of Ruidoso in 2014. SandRidge said it’s collaborating with the companies in the exploration.

There are active oil and gas wells in Sandoval County located in the northwest in the San Juan Basin, which, along with southeastern counties, help make New Mexico among the larger oil-and-gas-producing states. The Rio Rancho, Bernalillo, and Placitas area falls within the Albuquerque Basin where decades of exploration found oil and gas but not in quantities that could be recovered profitably under the economics and technology of the times.


The forecast called for rain on November 16, but Placitas would end up with an official six inches of heavy, wet snow by the time the day was done. Here a driver braves slushy Camino de las Huertas on the climb to State Road 165.


The Village in the Bosque is opening as modern and efficient homes in a neighborhood setting replace the block buildings built in the 1970s to provide public housing in Bernalillo.
Photo credit: —Bill Diven

Project transforms “incoherent” housing into neighborhood

—Bill Diven

A little more than a year after relocation and demolition disrupted public housing in Bernalillo, residents are ready to move back in. Town officials, tenants, and the nonprofit behind the project couldn’t be happier. “You would be astounded to see the before and after,” Mayor Jack Torres said during the grand opening of Village in the Bosque on November 7. “This is now a beautiful neighborhood.”

While the original homes were built in 1971, it was considered a big deal that met a serious need for affordable housing in the town, he added.

Now it’s a big deal for Amy Quiroz and her son and daughter. “It’s an opportunity of a lifetime for me,” she told the Signpost. “It’s a way to get my life as a single mom back on track… It makes me cry every time I think about it.”

Quiroz, a native of Peña Blanca, is a graduate of Bernalillo High School as was her late husband Robert Quiroz. She had been living in Albuquerque and recently with a friend in Bernalillo but now is moving into one of the three-bedroom homes.

Being settled and back in Bernalillo will allow her to begin job hunting, she added.

In its earlier incarnation, the site off Camino Don Tomas near Rotary Park consisted of one-story homes built of masonry blocks with minimal insulation. They were arranged in inward-facing grids around dead-end parking lots giving residents little connection to the town or each other.

An early project description gave the 1971 plan credit for building single-family homes and duplexes rather than large apartment buildings but described the homes as “stark” and the site layout as “incoherent.”

Now it feels like part of the community, said Maria Rinaldi, the town’s director of community development and planning and a past director of the public housing program.

“This is just a dream we started talking about way back when,” she said. The earlier homes had become totally inadequate, she added.

While “Village in the Bosque” is on town property, title to the homes and administrative responsibilities belong to the Santa Fe Civic Housing Authority. An agency of the Santa Fe County government, Santa Fe civic also handles projects there and elsewhere.

The original plan for Bernalillo was to rehab 68 of the 76 units, demolish eight, and build thirty new ones. But that was before asbestos was found in the buildings and much of the property fell into a federally designated flood zone requiring as much as six feet of fill.

“It had many problems early on, but we had lots of help,” Santa Fe Civic executive director Ed Romero said citing among others US Bank. “Without their investment in this community, it wouldn’t have happened.”

So the plan changed to upgrading 24 of the homes and building 74 new ones at an overall cost of $23 million dollars.

“We tried to take a chain-link-fenced area and make it a neighborhood, make it part of the community,” Romero said.

The homes are all electric but will draw sixty to eighty percent of their power from solar panels. The homes also received the top-level LEED rating from the U.S. Green Building Council for its energy efficiency, indoor environmental quality, walkable neighborhood, and use of sustainable materials among other requirements.

“I think these units will last,” Romero said. “The other ones were like living outdoors.”

During construction, tenants were relocated with the assistance of Santa Fe Civic, provided rent vouchers and given claim on the new homes, all of which are now spoken for.

 
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