Sandoval Signpost


An independent monthly newspaper serving the community since 1988
  Around Town

Placitas Community Library buys time on failing well

Water flows again to Placitas library and fire station

—Signpost Staff

A quick fix restored water service to the Placitas Community Library and neighboring Fire Station 41 as Sandoval County hunts a long-term solution to a failing well.

A consulting hydrologist says cleaning out the silted-up well that quit producing early in December may add two or three years to its life, according to county officials.

“That will give us a short-term solution while we search out a more permanent solution,” county Director of Public Works Tommy Mora Jr. told the Signpost. Cleaning the bottom of the 220-foot well to lower the pump, and adding a one thousand gallon storage tank with two hundred feet of water line was estimated to cost about twenty thousand dollars, he added.

That work was completed in mid January.

“And boy are we relieved,” said Library Director Marian Frear. “Things are a lot more pleasant around here. Everybody’s very happy.”

In the interim, both the library and fire station on State Route 165 relied on bottled water and portable toilets. Initial water for the storage tank was to be trucked in, Mora said.

The county fire department fills its trucks and tankers elsewhere and has just used the well for the firehouse.

“The permanent solution looks like it’s further out, a year or two,” County Commissioner James Dominguez said. “The most important thing right now is to make sure the library has water and the fire department has water.”

During the work, some piping was replaced after breaks were found in the line, he added.

Drilling a new well is often considered a gamble in Placitas, given the fractured geology and uncertain aquifer. Still, the county has talked to a nearby property owner about the possibility of sinking a new well on his land, Dominguez said.

The county also has met with both the Los Ranchos and Placitas village water systems about possibly extending one of their lines, he added.

While the cost of restoring water service to the library and fire station was handled administratively within the current budget, officials said a new well or tapping one of the water systems would cost a lot more and require action by the county commission.

Rio Rancho holds Town Hall meeting

—Peter L. Wells

Rio Rancho Mayor Gregg Hull is holding his next town hall meeting on February 23, from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. at Mountain View Middle School, 4101 Montreal Loop.

The mayor’s February 23 meeting will take place in City Council District 3, and City Councilor Cheryl Everett will participate in the meeting.

“I invite residents to attend this meeting in order to have a dialogue about community issues and those which are unique to District 3,” Mayor Hull said. “My town hall meetings are intended to create venues where citizens and its local government can share information and collaborate in a positive manner.”

Mayor Hull will hold a town hall meeting in each of the six City Council Districts before September, 2015. Mountain View Middle School can be accessed via N.M. 528, Enchanted Hills Boulevard, and Montreal Loop.

Source Water Protection Plan completed for Peña Blanca Water and Sanitation District

—Rob Nikolewski

This fall, the Peña Blanca Water and Sanitation District (PBWSD) and New Mexico Rural Water Association (NMRWA) collaborated with New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) Drinking Water Bureau to develop the first PBWSD Source Water Protection Plan. Access to clean, safe drinking water is a key component to a healthy and viable community. Protecting sources of drinking water from contamination and depletion can prevent adverse human health, and ecological and economic consequences.

The PBWSD Source Water Protection Plan establishes measures to monitor and protect its wellhead and assembles valuable information to serve as a reference about the water. The Peña Blanca Well produces high quality drinking water and received recognition for its water from the NMRWA in 2008, 2009, and 2011.

Development of the Source Water Protection Plan began in March of 2014 and was signed by the PBWSD Board of Directors in September 2014. The Board was very pleased with the result. “The Source Water Protection Plan is a valuable tool for our District,” said Karman Kleinschmidt, Board President. “This document summarizes known facts and sets up future milestones for action. We are very grateful for the work of our partners NMRWA and NMED. We couldn’t have done it without them.”

Peña Blanca, located in the middle Rio Grande Valley between Kewa (Santo Domingo) Pueblo and Pueblo de Cochiti, is a community with about seven hundred residents serving 137 water users. The Peña Blanca Source Water Protection Team included representatives from PBWSD, NMRWA, NMED, and Pueblo de Cochiti. The Source Water Protection Area is a one-mile radius around the Peña Blanca Well and includes Pueblo de Cochiti land.

PBWSD and its Source Water Protection Team will monitor groundwater levels, water quality, and potential sources of contamination within the Protection Area. PBWSD has established a two-hundred-foot radius Wellhead Protection Zone, around the well and will exercise its authority to prevent new potential sources of contamination within this zone. PBWSD will also establish Wellhead Protection Zones around future water supply wells. It has already assessed potential sources of contamination at several possible locations for a second well.

Some residents of the Peña Blanca community are members of the PBWSD; others rely on private wells for their source of drinking water. As part of the PBWSD Source Water Protection Plan, NMED, PBWSD, and NMRWA will organize a Water Fair in 2015 to provide the community with educational materials on topics such as local drinking water sources and how to protect them, abandoned wells, septic tanks, and other potential sources of contamination.

NMRWA’s and NMED’s Source Water Protection Programs work with water systems throughout the state to provide technical assistance for drinking water protection and development and implementation of source water protection plans.

For more information about the PBWSD Source Water Protection Plan, contact Sandra Gutierrez at For information about NMRWA’s Source Water Protection Program, contact Martha Graham For information about NMED’s Source Water Protection Program, contact David Torres at

The Constitution of the United States—A (re)introduction course offered at Placitas Community Library

Remember all you learned in your high school civics class? No? Does the First Amendment’s right of free speech allow you to say any thing, any time? What does it take to get a president impeached? Are persons who are not citizens entitled to equal protection of the laws? The Constitution of the United States, which governs so much of our American way of life, is often misunderstood.

On February 21 and 22, at 2:00 p.m., the Placitas Community Library will present a two-session lecture by Lawrence Robinson entitled An Introduction to the Constitution of the United States. It will cover the entire Constitution, every section of the original Articles ratified in 1789, the 27 Amendments ratified in later years, and, as time permits, explanation of how the Supreme Court of the United States has applied and interpreted some of its provisions. If, after watching the national news, you have ever felt you would like to get a better handle on what is “constitutional” and what is not, here is your chance.

Persons planning to attend this course should have a copy of the Constitution to refer to during the lectures. You can easily find one on the Internet. One good source is The full text of the Constitution, including all the amendments is on their website. Each person attending the lecture will receive a copy of their booklet, The U.S. Constitution and Fascinating Facts About It, which contains the entire Constitution, as supplies last.

Lawrence Robinson moved to New Mexico in 1998 after having been a Florida lawyer since 1952. He was board certified by the Florida Bar both as a civil trial lawyer and as an appellate practice specialist. Over the course of his career, he handled both civil and criminal cases. During the past 11 years, Robinson has been a popular instructor with the Institute for Lifelong Learning for New Mexicans, giving numerous introductory and advanced constitutional law and other courses.

Air ambulance adds to county coverage

—Bill Diven

The Sandoval County Fire Department now has an air force, a medical helicopter based at Santa Ana Pueblo.

The five million dollar twin-engine helicopter entered service on January 16, flying from the Jon Tibbetts Fire Station on Tamaya Boulevard just north of U.S. Highway 550. The county provided the landing pad and office space for the pilot, medic, and flight nurse employed by Tristate CareFlight.

CareFlight is supplying the AgustaWestland AW109 Power helicopter and everything else.

The air ambulance will cover the Interstate 25 and U.S. 550 corridors, rural areas in Sandoval and adjoining counties, and assist with search-and-rescue calls day and night, said Scott Stamper, CareFlight's vice president of business development. It, and the CareFlight helicopter based in Santa Fe County, can cover each other’s turf if necessary, he added.

CareFlight's Santa Fe operation began in 2005, and aircrews now operate from 28 Western and Southwestern sites including two more in New Mexico at Artesia and Truth or Consequences.

"This is our first base near a major metropolitan area," Stamper said. "We moved six thousand patients last year."

The Santa Ana location made staffing the operation easy, as veteran crew living in the metro area quickly volunteered to work within driving distance of their homes. Pilots work 12-hour shifts, seven days on and seven days off, while nurses and medics cover a 24-hour shift every third day.

That translates to a crew base of about a dozen pilots, nurses, and medics plus a mechanic, adding coverage in an area served previously served by air from Farmington and downtown Albuquerque.

"It means a lot to the county," said Ed Rhue, CareFlight's local business-development director, who was staffing the helicopter's first shift as its medic. In his other job, Rhue is a captain with Rio Rancho Fire Department.

"This is another asset here in an area of one million residents," he said.

The interior of the helicopter is roomy enough the stretcher doesn't extend into the front of the cockpit. Stamper said that allows both the nurse and medic to work side-by-side on a patient or for one to turn the co-pilot's seat and work from there.

CareFlight lost a Santa Fe-based helicopter and crew in July when it crashed in Guadalupe County while en route to Tucumcari to pick up a patient. An official cause of the crash has not been released, although weather—specifically, a violent downdraft known as a microburst—is suspected.

The Santa Ana station, formerly known as Station 21, was renamed in 2013 in memory of Jon Tibbetts, the county fire chief from 2004 until his death in a crash on Interstate 25 in July 2012.

In addition to helping establish the county's full-time professional fire service, Tibbetts is credited with writing the grant that funded the station that bears his name. It opened a few months before his death and will soon house Santa Ana tribal police offices as well.

Rio Rancho offers telephone book recycling

—Peter L. Wells, Assistant City Manager, Rio Rancho

Dex, Waste Management, Inc., and the city of Rio Rancho’s Keep Rio Rancho Beautiful Division (KRRB) will collect outdated and unwanted telephone books in Rio Rancho now through March 6, 2015.

Residents who do not have access to Waste Management recycling bins and regular curbside service are encouraged to take advantage of the special collection sites, which will include:

  • Rio Rancho City Hall, 3200 Civic Center Circle (Monday—Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.)
  • Esther Bone Memorial Library, 950 Pinetree Road
  • Loma Colorado Main Library, 755 Loma Colorado Boulevard
  • City of Rio Rancho-Sandoval County Recycling Center, 2700 Iris Road
  • Meadowlark Senior Center, 4330 Meadowlark Lane

Telephone books can be recycled throughout the year by Rio Rancho residents using their Waste Management recycling bins and the regular curbside service that is provided.

For more information, call KRRB at (505) 891-5015 or visit Rio Rancho municipal government at Follow city government on Twitter (, and Facebook (

Puname polychrome jar at the Honolulu Museum of Art
Photo credit: —courtesy Wikimedia Commons

The Keres of Puname Province

—Matthew J. Barbour, Manager, Jemez Historic Site

The Keres of Puname Province include the modern Native American Pueblos of Santa Ana and Zia. Historically, the province included all Keres-speaking peoples located along the lower Jemez River from the present day village of San Ysidro to Bernalillo. The Keres language is unrelated to other Pueblo Languages. However, they share a similar culture to that of their Tiwa-, Tewa-, and Towa-speaking neighbors.

The Keres are Anasazi that migrated into the Northern Rio Grande from the Four Corners region in the 12th and 13th centuries. This time period is known as the Pueblo III, or locally as the Coalition Period. Most archaeologists believe the Keres to be the direct descendants of those Anasazi living in the San Juan Basin. The most famous of their ancestral villages are the ruins in Chaco Canyon and the “Chaco Outliers” dispersed throughout Northwest New Mexico.

Other Keres-speaking pueblos include Acoma, Cochiti, Kewa (Santo Domingo), Laguna, and San Felipe. While all of these pueblos share a common ancestry, their histories diverge quickly after their arrival in the Northern Rio Grande.

The Puname were known as farmers and potters. They situated their pueblos on the relatively low-lying terraces overlooking the Jemez River flood plain. Annual snowmelt would cause flooding that rejuvenated their fields with new sediment. They also invested heavily in grid and mulch gardens on the mesa tops that surrounded their villages.

Their decorated pottery transitioned from black-on-white styles to glazeware and later to mineral painted polychromes. The pottery of Puname province can be distinguished from those of other pueblos due to its use of a distinctive basalt temper, likely collected from in and around Santa Ana Mesa. The pots appear to have been in high-demand and were traded throughout the Rio Grande pueblos.

After colonization of New Mexico by the Spanish, the potters of Puname Province switched to a polychrome design similar to wares, such as Guadalajara Polychrome, produced by the Nahuatl-Speaking Indians of Central Mexico. The people of Santa Ana and Zia quickly cornered the local market, becoming among the primary producers of ceramic goods for the Spanish Colonists. Today, this pottery is known as Puname Polychrome and is often the most common pottery type found in Spanish Villages, such as San Jose de las Huertas in present day Placitas.

While not known as warriors, the Keres of Puname Province participated in numerous military engagements, often serving as auxiliaries among the Spanish. Many of these campaigns were against the Jemez, including the Battle of Astialakawa in 1694 and the punitive expedition to Jemez Province mounted by the Alcalde of Bernalillo in 1696. They also provided supplies to the Spanish during the earlier Tiguex War of 1540 to 1541.

Conflict with the Spanish did occur. Puname Province participated in the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 and resisted initial re-conquest by Governor Otermin in 1681 to 1682. However, these events are overshadowed by the largely collaborative role the Keres of Puname Province played in Spanish Colonization. While this collaboration may be seen as repugnant or even traitorous, it likely spared these Keres people many of the hardships experienced elsewhere and led to economic prosperity.

Today, this prosperity continues. The Keres of Santa Ana and Zia are still widely respected to be among the greatest potters in the pueblo world. Like their pottery, the people of Puname Province continue to respond and change with the circumstances at hand, while maintaining their traditional values and cultural practices.

c. Rudi Klimpert

Sandia Peak Ski Area opens

Sandia Peak is now open with 95 percent of the trails on an 18-inch base. Lifts 1,3,4 and the Mitey Mite will be running to take skiers up the mountain for both skiing and boarding. The recent snowstorm brought ten inches of new snow and crews have been working hard to get the mountain ready.

All facilities are open including the Double Eagle II Cafeteria, Snow Sports School, Cubby Corner Children’s Facility, Rental Shop, and Sandia Peak Sports Shop.

Skiing can be accessed from Highway 536 or on the Sandia Peak Tramway.

Sandia Ski Area is open Thursdays to Sundays and on holidays from 9:00 am to 4:00 p.m. Half day visits are from 9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and from 12:30 to 4:00 p.m. For further information and rates, visit

Capulin Snow Play Area open on snowy weekends

—Sandia Ranger District

There is snow up on Sandia mountain, and you can take your kids sledding. The Capulin Snow Play area will be open from noon to 3:30 p.m. on some weekends. Visitors need to bring their own inner tubes or soft sliding devices that have no metal or wood components. Be aware of the hazards of winter travel before heading up the mountain, as the roads can be icy and treacherous. For additional information, including the status of the snow play area, contact the Sandia Ranger District at 281-3304.

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