Sandoval Signpost


An independent monthly newspaper serving the community since 1988
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Oregon Junco


Curve-billed thrasher

Sandoval County birds of winter: Oregon Junco, Northern Flicker, Curve-billed Thrasher
All photos credit: Zane Dohner

Se. John Sapien in PLacitas

State Senator Sapien meets Placitas residents

—Ty Belknap

State Senator John Sapien notified Eastern Sandoval Citizens Association (ES-CA) shortly after the first of the year, asking ES-CA to spread the word about a January 9 meeting at the Placitas Community Center. Sapien said about the meeting, “I do not have a complete email list of all of Placitas. I am hoping [Placitans] will forward this information on to [their] memberships and friends so we can get broad input as to where my advocacy is needed regarding the infrastructure of Placitas.”

Second-term Senator Sapien narrowly defeated, by less than one hundred votes, the Republican candidate, David Doyle in a hotly contested and negative campaign. District 9 was formed by the redistricting process last year. It includes the communities of Algodones, Bernalillo, Corrales, Placitas, portions of the North Valley of Albuquerque, the Pueblo of Sandia, and parts of Rio Rancho. Placitas was formerly split between two senate districts with bulk of constituency living elsewhere. Placitas residents have traditionally lacked representation both at local and state level. Recent list of Sandoval County legislative priorities contained nothing specifically about Placitas.

Sapien introduced the meeting by saying, “With the 2013 Legislative Session around the corner, I would like to bring together community members of Placitas to provide me with some direction of the infrastructure needs of Placitas. This being the first session in which I have the opportunity to directly serve our community, it is important to me to hear from the community on what our capital project needs are.”

Sapien told the audience of about fifty that he was not there to debate the value of projects, rather, he wanted to use the time wisely to discuss capital outlay needs, such as roads and water projects. He said, “This is not a political time, but a time to govern.” Since Sandoval County is the fiscal agent for Placitas, he promised to present the ideas from this meeting to Sandoval County for approval, and to get the county to list the projects suggested at the Placitas meeting in order of priority as required by Governor Martinez. He also said that Commissioner Orlando Lucero, who represents Placitas as part of his county district, was unable to attend this meeting due to a scheduling conflict.

Bert DeLara requested $1.25 to $1.5 million dollars for the Village of Placitas water system, which he said had only been maintained in a piecemeal fashion over the years.

Orin Safier asked to what degree the state was involved in road maintenance. Sapien answered, “No state money will be spent on private roads,” however, if the county is not responding to requests for road maintenance, residents could call him and he would contact Commissioner Lucero.

Jon Couch requested funding of $25,000 to $30,000 for restoration of the reservoirs used by all three acequia systems in the Placitas area. He said that the water in the reservoirs could also be used for wildland fire suppression in cooperation with the state.

Lynn Montgomery seconded Couch’s request and also pointed out the need for water conservation efforts.

Patience O’Dowd said that kids in Placitas need a playground and suggested expanding the community center property. She asked, “Why is it all militarized with barbed wire and locked up all the time? What happened to the “community” in “community center?” She suggested that the playground could also be at the library. She said that Placitas needs effective animal control and an animal shelter.

Doris Fields voiced that we need public transportation. She’d like to see the Sandoval County commuter system expanded to Placitas. Sapien asked if that was just for commuters or for all day. Fields replied, “All day.”

Don Booth, chairman of the Sandoval Senior Center Advisory Board said that the Senior Center transports seniors for medical treatment, and that they need a four-wheel drive vehicle. He said that the Center is growing by leaps and bounds and that some sort of plan for expansion should be in the works.

Mike Neas said the Placitas Open Space (POS) needs $10,000 to complete the fencing project. He said, “Historically, the 560-acre POS, owned by Albuquerque from BLM, has been basically forgotten and funding is a problem.” He said that LaFarge Inc. had reneged on the 2,000 Master Plan Agreement to furnish the City with $30,000 per year. Sapien asked if there had been any discussion with the County about the County taking ownership. Mike Neas said that it couldn’t be transferred. Neas also said, “There is a real bad horse problem. The horses are destroying the POS. It’s supposed to be for low-impact recreation and that grazing is not permitted. Because of this, it could revert to the BLM and present a mining threat. We need to keep the horses out of it.” Sapien said he has contact with the Albuquerque Open Space (AOS) Division and will contact them to look into the possibility of converting it to a Community Trust and figure out more options.

Las Placitas Association (LPA) President, Sandy Johnson, said that LPA had a long-standing relationship with the AOS and that she had set up a meeting with them for later this January. She said that WHOA spent $13,000 to fence the southern boundary. Sapien asked to be included in the meeting with the AOS.

Patience O’Dowd said that the POS is supposed to be a habitat for birds and mammals and other wildlife, and that the horses are wildlife, not livestock. Sapien promised to discuss the whole issue later because all he knew were bits and pieces of the problem.

A local restaurant owner asked why we couldn’t get mimosas (champagne and orange juice) on Sunday afternoons in Placitas restaurants. Sapien said that that requires a longer discussion on liquor laws.

Doris Fields also talked about expanding Highway 165 to include bike paths. Sapien asked if she was talking about road bikes or mountain bikes. She was talking about road bikes. Sapien said he’d work with the County to form a committee to see about getting a designated lane for biking.

Marty Clifton said that the Recreation and Public Purposes Act (RPP) which enabled the POS, also enables the purchase of federal land by county or state and asked for a combination recreation and horse sanctuary on the BLM land, which could be purchased for $10 per acre, where they could graze thirty to forty horses. Furthermore, he said that a small group of Placitas residents was prepared to help with a solution to the horse problem—that they need a place to put the horses that’s official, and also they need to own the horses, so that the herds could be managed and enjoyed.

Mike Neas said that Placitas doesn’t get anywhere near the state capital outlays as other areas. Sapien said, “We’ll start now.”

Sapien agreed that some communities do get a bigger percentage of state funds, especially tribal areas. Now he is the only senator representing Placitas and Algodones. The goal is to look at needs for funding, not percentage of population. That funding would be need-based, not just based on the population of the areas. “We need a game plan and a prudent strategy,” Sapien said. “We have until mid-February to get bills introduced. I always ask the tough questions so that when I bring a bill, there won’t be any BS. I won’t put up a bill with too many holes to get through.”

Some guy (as proxy for John Wills) suggested tennis courts and swimming pools. Sapien asked him, “Would just one pool be alright?”

Orin Safier (as proxy for Floyd Cotton) said the open space around us and the preservation of our land is the deepest infrastructure need that we have here—not buildings. Sapien said this entire area is “close to my heart, and it kills me to see all the gravel mining next to I-25. I told the BLM that I didn’t want any expansion of gravel mining because this is a pristine area, and I will fight tooth and nail.” He doesn’t want the Town of Bernalillo to annex the Fisher Gravel Mine.

In closing, Sapien said, “Know that you have a voice.” The senator can be reached at 400-3153. Leave a voicemail message.

c. Rudi Klimpert

Jemez Pueblo claims Valles Caldera

Signpost Staff

Last July, attorney Thomas Luebben filed a complaint in federal court on behalf of Jemez Pueblo to obtain all of the lands in Valles Caldera National Preserve. The complaint states, “Since at least the 12th Century A.D., the ancestral Jemez people used and occupied the lands of the Valles Caldera National Preserve and surrounding areas in the Jemez Mountains . . . thereby establishing federal common law aboriginal Indian title . . . based on exclusive use and occupancy.”

The complaint goes on to state that in 1860, Congress authorized the Baca heirs to select 496,447 acres of so-called “public domain” lands anywhere in the Territory of New Mexico. This America land grant was provided as settlement of a Mexican land grant claim in the area of Las Vegas that conflicted with the Town of Las Vegas Community Grant. One of the parcels selected by the Baca heirs included approximately 99,000 acres including the Valles Caldera. The complaint contends that land purchased by the United States in 2000, which became the National Preserve remains subject to the aboriginal Indian title of Jemez Pueblo.

Jemez Pueblo has not issued a press release regarding the lawsuit. The Signpost has been unable to get comments from Jemez Pueblo and affected parties.

ESCAFCA projects pick up the pace

—Town of Bernalillo

After the holiday slowdown, two ESCAFCA construction projects are moving forward once again.

Athena Pond is nearly excavated. Most of the dirt has been removed, and one can get a good idea of how big it will be. Final grading will have to be done, and the area will need to be prepared for seeding. Access roads also need to be graded and graveled.

Salls Brothers contractors will be installing storm drains in nearby streets. When this happens, half of the street will be torn up, so traffic control will be important, and everyone is cautioned to be alert, careful, and patient. After the storm drains are installed, the streets will be repaved. Concrete driveway entrances will also be replaced, one-half at a time, so homeowners will still have access.

Five new streetlights will be installed in front of the fire station and at intersections along Athena Avenue. Nearby homeowners will be consulted about the best locations for the lights.

South Hill Pond is nearing completion. Most of the earthwork is done. Huge chunks of concrete found on site were moved and buried to add protection against high flows from the big culverts under I-25. After final grading, areas will be mulched and reseeded. Fences will also be installed.

Rock riprap is being placed where water will flow into the pond. This will help control erosion. Concrete intake structures and an outlet pipe are being built that will release water into the ditch along South Hill Road at a low rate, whenever the pond fills.

Drilling and testing of the Rio Grande levee is complete, and a report is expected in a couple months to tell of the condition of the existing levee and help determine what action is needed.

State agencies deal with horse problems

—Ty Belknap

On January 18, the New Mexico Livestock Board, along with the NM Department on Agriculture, hosted the fourth in a series of informal working groups to try to find a way to deal with a statewide problem of abused, neglected, and abandoned horses. Agriculture Secretary Jeff Witte reminded the participants that this was “an unofficial gathering of smart people coming together to solve important issues. You couldn’t really call it a task force, but a lot of good things are coming out of it.”

Participants included representatives of the Equine Protection Fund, Wild Horse Observers Association (WHOA), NM Department of Corrections, Santa Fe County Extension Service, Walkn N Circles Ranch, and The Horse Shelter.

Patience O’Dowd of WHOA urged the Department of Agriculture to expedite official authorization for the Humane Society to dart wild horses with the contraceptive PZP. A representative of the DOA explained that they had heard nothing from the Humane Society in four months since informing them of the required application procedures. The working group did not deal directly with free-roaming herds of feral horses like those in Placitas.

Secretary Witte said that herds of Placitas horses were in a different category from other abused, neglected, and abandoned horses targeted by the working group. Results of the work group would spill over into issues such as finding care and shelter for this “other category.”

If the group’s common goal of equine protection produces results, it will mean that problem horses—call them neglected, abandoned, free-roaming, or wild—will not necessarily end up in slaughterhouses if they are corralled by the state. Placitas residents who feed horses could adopt stray horses and provide humane care. Placitas participant Marty Clifton is working with state representatives and the Bureau of Land Management toward a sanctuary for the Placitas horses. A Homeless Horse Fund Bill is being introduced at this year’s state legislature.

Representatives of existing sanctuaries said that they continue to rescue, rehabilitate, and retrain unwanted horses. Charles Graham, chairman of the horse rescue at Walkin N Circles Ranch stressed that part of the solution involves humane euthanasia designed specifically for horses in the United States. He graphically described slaughterhouses in Mexico where over 100,000 horses were shipped last year as anything but humane.

The group discussed the creation of a comprehensive database of facilities and private individuals available to provide shelter and foster care for unwanted horses. They are also creating a network of veterinarians to triage and make decisions regarding euthanasia.

Representatives of the Department of Corrections talked about their Heroes for Horses program designed train military veteran inmates in equine care at a horse sanctuary, which is currently in the works at the former Springer Boy’s School.

The Santa Fe County Extension Service is preparing an informational brochure detailing the expenses and responsibilities of horse ownership, as well as the definitions and penalties for equine abuse. They promised that the brochure would be available in the coming months, although a source of funding is yet to be found.

Witte encouraged working groups to continue to meet on their own. Another general meeting is tentatively planned for April.

Bernalillo School District Bond Election

There will be a Bernalillo Municipal School District (BMSD) and Bond Election on February 5, 2013. It will include three ballot items: 1) election of two school board members; 2) a ballot measure for a 2.0 mill property tax for capital improvements; and 3) a ballot measure to issue general obligation bonds not to exceed $20 million.

All registered voters residing within the boundaries of the Bernalillo Municipal School District are allowed to vote. You need not be a property owner or have students attending Bernalillo Public Schools. Among the voting locations will be the Bernalillo Auxiliary Gym for residents of Bernalillo, the Placitas Elementary School for residents of Placitas, Peña Blanca Community Center, Cochiti Lake Fire/EMS, and community centers on the pueblos. Absentee voting will also be conducted in the Sandoval County Clerk’s office.

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