Snow geese migrate through the Bosque del Apache
in southern New Mexico
County copes with snowstorm
Nobody was fully prepared for the record-breaking storm that came
at the tail end of 2006, but the Sandoval County Sheriff’s
Office, Fire Department, and Public Works all seem to be coping
well with the challenges presented by this winter’s snowstorms.
Some residents, particularly in Placitas, found themselves snowed
in and on their own when it came to clearing private roads and accessing
paved roads via gravel roads (see letter in Gauntlet). Public-works
director Phil Rios told the Signpost that during snowstorms the
first priority for road crews is to help get people home from work
and school. “We get started right away plowing and spreading
salt cinders on the main roads,” he said. “We don’t
want people to be stranded on the highway.” Rios said that
they concentrate on the main traffic arteries through Cuba and the
Jemez corridor. In Placitas they try to get a jump on Highway 165
and paved roads like Camino de las Huertas and Camino de San Francisco
so that residents can get out and public services can at least get
close. Usually its not so critical because the snow melts in a day
or two anyway. During this storm, road crews were as surprised as
anyone at the amount of snow that fell over several days.
Rios said that gravel roads are plowed after the paved roads because
these surfaces don’t get as icy and melt quicker. He said
that his crews were working twelve-hour shifts for over a week after
the storm, and that they still had not cleared all fifteen hundred
miles of county road. They help get feed into cattle in rural areas,
but don’t plow private roads. “Unless we get a request
from the sheriff or the fire department in the event of a medical
emergency, we just don’t have enough equipment and manpower
to work on private roads,” Rios explained. “People make
a choice to live on private roads and should accept the consequences
when something like this happens.”
Sheriff John Paul Trujillo said that his department did really
well in responding to the emergency. “We were lucky to be
equipped with Ford Expeditions. None of our deputies got stuck.
We also have some other off-road vehicles to get into remote areas,
but didn’t need them this time,” he said. “This
kind of storm doesn’t happen here very often and we responded
the best we could. The unexpected is good training.”
“We were very lucky,” said Sandoval County fire chief
Jon Tibbetts. “There were a couple of structure fires, but
the roads didn’t stop our response. This was a wake-up call
for some residents who found themselves snowed in on private roads.”
He said that no medical calls were impeded by the snow. “If
necessary, we would hike in for rescues.”
After the storm, schools and businesses were closed, usually because
they were not equipped to clear parking lots. Front-end loaders
were in huge demand, with many operators working practically around
the clock for people lucky enough to find them.
Sandia Pueblo appoints 2007 leaders
Sandia tribal leaders have appointed Victor Montoya as governor
of Sandia Pueblo for 2007. Scott Paisano has been named lieutenant
governor for a second consecutive term. Alex Lujan has been appointed
to serve as war chief for the tribe, and Stuart Paisano has been
selected as lieutenant war chief.
CSWCD offers resources to landowners
Since being elected chairman of the Coronado Soil and Water Conservation
District last spring, Will Ouellette has sought to define the responsibilities
of his organization and to raise public awareness of the the services
provided by the CSWCD.
He lists the objectives of CSWCD as follows:
• Improve water quality and quantity
• Reduce water usage
• Increase plant cover
• Improve wildlife habitat
• Enhance watershed function
New Mexico has forty-seven soil-and-water conservation districts,
which are financed by federal, state, and county funding, as well
as grants. Ouellette says, “We are here to help farmers, ranchers,
acequias, and private property owners to promote better use of water
and soil, and to prevent erosion. We coordinate technical, financial,
and educational resources and help make them available to the public.”
CSWCD has several ongoing projects, including work on the Piedra
Lisa Dam to bring it up to new standards requiring a concrete spillway.
The dam, just south off Highway 165, east of I-25, was built to
control flooding in 1955. For the last two and a half years, CSWCD
has been working on this $2.6 million project with the Town of Bernalillo
and Sandoval County. Funding will come from the National Resource
Conservation Service, the state of New Mexico, and other grants.
A certain urgency and controversy have been added to this project
by a proposed retail mall directly below the spillway. The mall
could include an eighty-seven-thousand-square-foot grocery, three
large restaurants, a three-story office building, an urgent-care
center, several retail outlets, and one thousand parking spaces.
Bernalillo is considering the annexation of the property, which
promises a windfall in sales-tax revenue. The property is currently
under the jurisdiction of county planning and zoning. The county
is required to seek a review from the CSWCD on subdivisions and
other developments which will include recommendations and comments.
Since the CSWCD has the easement and is in effect the owner of the
dam, it has obvious concerns over access and liability issues. Although
flooding has never filled a lake behind the dam, it is estimated
that if the dam failed at high water, resulting flooding could be
as deep as one and a half feet all the way to the Rio Grande.
This project is under focus right now, but CSWCD has a number
of other projects in progress. It publishes a quarterly newsletter
and is looking into starting a Web site, as well as work on salt-cedar
and Russian-olive control in the Rio Grande bosque; CSWCD has secured
funding for the Placitas Recycling Center, and has an ongoing conservation
and education program at Placitas Elementary School.
CSWCD is working with the U.S. Forest Service and the Las Placitas
Association on a fire-prevention and wildland-interface project.
They plan to present a program to the public on March 24.
Ouellette said that he hopes that the general public will seek
the service and grants available through CSWCD in this “Year
of Water.” CSWCD meets every third Thursday at 9:00 a.m. at
the First Community Bank in Bernalillo. The public is encouraged
to attend. For more information, contact Will Ouellette at 867-2440.
County commission elects new officers
New Sandoval County Commission officers were elected during the
first regular meeting of the calendar year, on January 4. The presiding
chairman, Commissioner Jack Thomas, representing District 4, relinquished
the gavel to Commissioner Don Leonard, representing District 2 (Corrales
and southeastern Rio Rancho). Commissioner Leonard served as the
vice chairman this past year. There were no other nominations for
Commissioner Joshua Madalena, representing District 5, was elected
Freshman Commissioner Robert Lucero, representing District 1,
who was originally sworn in during the ceremonies held December
22 at the Sandoval County Courthouse, was introduced. He replaces
William Sapien, who did not seek reelection.
The only real item on the agenda for this meeting was a $10,000
seed grant to the Rio Rancho Chamber of Commerce for a new youth-leadership
program, which will begin this summer for Sandoval County high-school
juniors. The Youth Leadership Sandoval Program is designed to inspire
leadership and encourage community involvement by allowing participants
to take part in a variety of community-related programs.
Areas such as the workings of government, volunteerism, economic
development, and a host of target-specific interactive classes are
planned so that the program will “help promote a nucleus of
young community leaders who could possibly become the architects
of Sandoval County’s future,” according to the Rio Rancho
Chamber of Commerce, whose presentation included an impressive overview
of the program. Students from high schools throughout Sandoval County
will be selected to submit an application to a panel comprised of
alumni, school personnel, and members of the Sandoval County business
community. The final selection will be made from the applications
and a series of personal interviews. The program will run for five
weeks, commencing with a kickoff retreat on June 1 and concluding
with a graduation ceremony on June 28. More information may be obtained
by contacting the Rio Rancho Chamber of Commerce.
The commission meeting of January 18 also had a light agenda.
The meeting consisted almost entirely of approving commissioner
appointments to various committees and boards. Commissioner Leonard
was elected to the Mid-Regional Council of Governments Executive
Board and Board of Directors. He will also serve as cochair of the
Sandoval County Juvenile Justice Board. Commissioner Thomas was
also elected to the board of directors of the Mid-Regional Council
of Governments and the county’s transit-district board. Commissioner
Lucero was appointed to the Metropolitan Transportation Board and
will represent Sandoval County on the New Mexico Association of
Counties Board of Directors. Phil Rios, director of public works,
heads up the transportation coordinating committee as well as the
rural-transportation advisory committee. Commissioner Madalena will
head up the water resources board, with Commissioner David Bency
retaining his position on the county’s financial-investment
Town council eyes TIF District
The Bernalillo Town Council unanimously approved a contract for
engineering services for arsenic treatment of two town wells. The
$435,946 cost of the contract with water-treatment engineer Ramesh
Narasimhan is in addition to the $2.5 million contract for construction
of the treatment facilities. The system should be complete by February
In other actions at the January 22 meeting, the council approved
a contract to accept sponsorship of the Piedra Lisa Dam. This earthen
flood-control dam lies across an arroyo just south of NM 165, near
I-25. The other entities entering into the contract are Sandoval
County and the Coronado Soil and Water Conservation District, which
also owns the dam. The three sponsors will share equally in the
annual upkeep of the dam.
Built in the 1950s, the Piedra Lisa Dam will under go a $2.8 million
refurbishment this spring.
The council also heard a presentation from its financial advisors
concerning the advantages of creating a tax-increment financing
district. As presented, a TIF district would be a separate political
entity controlled by the town for the purpose of increasing the
area’s capacity for collecting property and gross-receipts
taxes. The town would be able to issue a bond on the district to
develop infrastructure (roads, sidewalks, signage, etc.) to attract
private development of stores, restaurants, and other concerns that
would contribute to town revenues. Such a development has been considered
on the property adjacent to the Piedra Lisa Dam.
Police chief Fred Radosevich also presented to the council the
police department’s annual report for 2006.
All Indian Pueblo Council elects new leadership
The All Indian Pueblo Council, the oldest tribal-advocacy organization
in the country, has elected new leaders for 2007-2011. The new leaders
• Chairman: Joe Garcia, of Ohkay Owingeh
• Vice Chairman: Amadeo Shije, of Zia Pueblo
• Secretary-Treasurer: John Gonzales, of San Ildefonso Pueblo
Amadeo Shije has served as AIPC chairman for the past six years
and is a former governor of the Pueblo of Zia
John Gonzales is the executive director of Eight Northern Indian
Pueblo Council, Inc., and a former governor of San Ildefonso.
Joe Garcia is president of the National Congress of American Indians.
“The new leadership team brings a tremendous amount of experience
both locally and nationally,” said chairman-elect Garcia.
“Together we can protect the common interests of the pueblos
and provide a united voice on national and statewide issues of concern.”
The All Indian Pueblo Council represents the governors of the
nineteen pueblos of New Mexico—Acoma, Cochiti, Isleta, Jemez,
Laguna, Nambe, Ohkay Owingeh, Picuris, Pojoaque, Sandia, San Felipe,
San Ildefonso, Santa Ana, Santa Clara, Santo Domingo, Taos, Tesuque,
Zia, and Zuni.
State Representative McCoy outlines legislative
Kathy McCoy represents Placitas and the East Mountains (House District
22) in the state legislature. Here she provides a summary of bills
she plans to sponsor and capital outlay priorities.
1) Unfortunately, we have many grandparents caring for their grandchildren
in New Mexico. There are a number of reasons, but the primary one
is that the biological parents (one or both) are drug users and/or
are incarcerated. When the grandparents take on this challenge,
they are often not financially well-off, but if they become legal
guardians of their grandchildren, their income is counted in determining
TANF (welfare) eligibility. My bill will exempt the income of low-income
grandparents so that they are better able to provide financially
for their grandchildren. An added benefit is that the children probably
will not become wards of the state and will remain with their own
2) As a member of the Governor's Ethics Task Force, I've spent
a lot of time discussing and thinking about all the proposals that
were put on the table. It's important to know that there is a direct
link to campaign finance, legislative salaries, and ethics reform.
Campaign finance was one of the biggest issues, so here's a little
background. Legislators are unpaid except for per diem when we are
in session and when we attend interim committees—that's $144
per day. Therefore, when we raise campaign funds, it's not only
to pay for campaigns, but also to defray uncompensated costs. Several
legislators estimate we pay out-of-pocket expenses of around $10,000
annually to do this job (that would be give or take, depending on
how rural your area is). Some examples of costs would be postage,
gas, and phone charges. I personally don't mind doing the job for
free, but I get a little uncomfortable when I have to use personal
funds to do it effectively. During the task-force meetings, it was
brought up that legislative salaries would allow the state to reduce
our campaign contributions which are now unlimited. But I understand
that the Governor's ethics package is not including salaries. At
the risk of sounding like I'm arguing against my own point, I would
rather have year-round staff, a central place to meet constituents,
and possibly a small stipend for certain costs. For those legislators
who have real jobs outside of the legislature, it would free up
more time for them and not cut into their paying jobs.
Now to my real point(s): first of all, I do think there's a certain
"freedom of speech" issue when we limit campaign contributions;
secondly, rather than limit contributions, let's put them on a state
Web site that is done in real-time and is easily searchable. Currently,
we only report three or four times a year, and it's rarely posted
in a timely fashion. My bill would allow anyone to immediately see
who's getting what and from whom and then connect the dots. This
would give full transparency to campaign finance, and people in
the district could hold their legislator accountable.
So, to wrap it up, my approach is not to squelch freedom of speech
by limiting campaign contributions, but to make the process so transparent
that all potential temptation is removed. My bill will request real-time
reporting on a searchable Web site.
One final thought on ethics reform: no amount of legislation will
make a dishonest person honest—the reality is that there are
those who will always find a loophole, no matter what we pass.
3) The third bill I'm sponsoring is a budget bill requesting an
assessment of the archaeological sites in the Galisteo Basin.
In general, I'm trying to complete as many infrastructure projects
as possible. We're already seeing a flattening of the oil-and-gas
industry and although this "up" cycle will likely last
at least a couple more years, I'm being very careful in how I'm
allocating capital funds.
Because my district is quasi-rural, I have to focus on "need"
first. It seems as if there are unlimited roads to be paved, water
systems that need repair, and sewer systems that need to be built.
These projects all cost huge amounts of money. As much as I might
like to do a lot of the "amenities," most will take a
back seat to infrastructure.
Kathy McCoy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
or (505) 986-4214 (during legislative session only).
—DON LEONARD, CHAIRMAN, SANDOVAL COUNTY COMMISSION
The first critical lessons you learn to be successful in business
are to listen to needs and concerns and, then, to treat customers
and employees honestly and fairly.
The commitment to deliver quality, respectful, and responsive
service has been the philosophy that my family’s business
has stressed for the past seventy-three years. And it certainly
applies to my view of government services.
A promise to make each transaction with county government as convenient
and successful as possible is a pledge I make to county residents.
I want to thank my fellow commissioners for unanimously electing
me to chair the commission this year. I also congratulate Joshua
Madalena on being elected this year’s vice chairman, and I
welcome Orlando Lucero as a newly elected member of the board.
The morning after my election as chairman, a resident asked which
district I represented. My response was that while each of the five
commissioners is selected by district, and my district includes
Corrales and portions of Rio Rancho, the five county commissioners
work on behalf of all residents.
As chairman, I will focus on critical issues affecting all county
residents, regardless of where they may live.
The coming year will continue to offer the tremendous challenges
that growth is bringing to our communities and neighborhoods across
County government, in turn, will continue improving our roadways
and transportation systems. We will continue improving the effectiveness
of our emergency services and our senior and health programs. We
will refine measures to assure fair and effective land use and water
planning. And we will pursue such developing technologies as desalination
as a way to provide adequate water supplies, and broadband communications
to enhance educational, medical, and economic-development opportunities
across all of Sandoval County.
An immediate task we face is to gain support from the state legislature
for a couple of needed proposals. Along those lines, our county
is fortunate to have seven senators and seven representatives in
Santa Fe who are strong, qualified advocates for residents.
Our top priority for the 2007 legislative session is to support
passage of GRIP 2 [Governor Richardson's Investment Partnership]
to provide critical funding for public projects statewide—including
$2.8 million to build and equip our transit center and fixed-route
That system will help meet needs of commuters throughout our area
and support state and regional efforts to provide transportation
alternatives that will significantly relieve traffic congestion
throughout the county, especially along NM 528 and US 550.
Another immediate need is to secure funding to reimburse Sandoval
and other counties for the cost of housing State prisoners. We currently
average seventy-one felony inmates daily in our detention center,
who are being held for the state. That burden is costing taxpayers
in Sandoval County $1.3 million annually.
State funding also is required to begin developing the north-south
corridor as a major economic development and transportation corridor
linking US 550 and Interstate 40 and ultimately continuing south
to I-25 near Los Lunas.
We also will seek needed legislative support for our senior programs,
including money for specialized vehicles, meal equipment, and improvements
at centers across Sandoval County, and for funds to offset our increasing
costs for DWI prevention, treatment, and supervision.
The coming year promises challenges requiring considerable time
by staff and residents alike as we develop solutions that will serve
us well into the future. The commission, meanwhile, is dedicated
to assuring county government is receptive, responsive, and dependable.
Questions or comments for Commissioner Leonard
can be mailed to him in care of Sandoval County Administrative Offices,
P.O. Box 40, Bernalillo, NM 87004.
BPS school bond, mill levy, school-board elections
—STEPHANIE COLEMAN, BERNALILLO PUBLIC SCHOOLS
To meet priority needs, the BPS district is depending on the community
to show up at the polls on February 6 to vote Yes on the school
bond and two-mill levy.
“I urge all voters to exercise your right on February 6,”
said BPS superintendent Barbara Vigil-Lowder. “Passage of
the bond and two-mill levy will allow us to continue to maintain
our buildings and grounds, put computers in the classrooms, and
make necessary capital improvements at our schools.”
The BPS school-bond issuance would help supply computer software
and hardware for students in the classroom. It will also be used
to help erect, remodel, add to and furnish school buildings, improve
school grounds, and provide matching funds for capital-outlay projects.
The bonds would be payable from general (ad valorem) taxes. However,
because of reduced principal and interest payments on previously
issued bonds, the new bonds will be sold without any tax-rate increase
to the community. The issuance will be for $22 million.
Reapproval of the two-mill levy will not raise the tax rate, since
it is a continuation of an existing tax. Approval of the levy will
generate funds over the next six years that will be used to maintain
school property throughout the district. This year, BPS is budgeted
to receive over $800,000 from local efforts, due to the willingness
of taxpayers in the district to approve the mill levy.
BPS is putting current bonds and tax-levy money to good use.
Where to Vote (Polling Place, Precinct):
• DISTRICT 1
Cochiti Pueblo Community Center, 8
San Felipe Pueblo Community Center, 9, Part 14 & 19
Cochiti Lake Library, 10, Part 15, 16 & 18
Placitas Elementary Library, 28, 28B
• DISTRICT 2
Peña Blanca Community Center, 7
Santo Domingo Community Center, 20
• DISTRICT 3
Placitas Elementary School, 5, 55 & 56
Algodones Elementary School, 6
• DISTRICT 4
Bernalillo Auxiliary Gym, 2, Part 2, 50 & 64
Sandia Pueblo Community Center, 29
• DISTRICT 5
Bernalillo Auxiliary Gym, 3, 4, Part 1
Santa Ana Pueblo Community Center, Part 19
Polls Open 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
TO VOTE ABSENTEE:
Absentee voting will be conducted in the Sandoval County Clerk’s
Office. The deadline for voting absentee in person is Friday, February
2, at 5:00 p.m. Applications may be obtained from the Sandoval County