An Independent Monthly Newsmagazine Serving the Community since 1989


Snow Geese

Snow geese migrate through the Bosque del Apache in southern New Mexico

County copes with snowstorm

—SIGNPOST STAFF
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

—TY BELKNAP
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

—RON BARRON
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 chairman.

Commissioner Joshua Madalena, representing District 5, was elected vice chairman.

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 advisement committee.

Development plan

Town council eyes TIF District

—BEN FORGEY
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 2008.

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 are:
• 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.

Signpost Cartoon c. Rudi Klimpert

State Representative McCoy outlines legislative priorities

—KATHY MCCOY
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 family.

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.

CAPITAL OUTLAY:
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 katrina@swcp.com or (505) 986-4214 (during legislative session only).


County line

—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 Sandoval County.

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 transportation system.

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 Clerk’s Office.

 

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