Village Of Placitas water system gets help from legislature
On April 5, Governor Susanna Martinez signed off on a $250,000 capital outlay bill sponsored by Senator John Sapien and passed by the 2013 New Mexico State Legislature for improvements required by Las Acequias de Placitas—the Village water system. Las Acequias president Burt DeLara told the Signpost that it would take over a million dollars to completely repair and upgrade the system, but the $250,000 would be used for the first phase—the ongoing replacement of old leaking pipes and installation of meters.
DeLara said that the funds will become available at the start of the fiscal year in July, at which time they will be assigned a fiscal agent and advertise for bids to complete the work. “We have about three miles of pipe to go,” DeLara said. “Some of it is galvanized pipe that was installed in 1943. When we find a leak, we’ve been replacing it with industrial grade PVC. Now we can fix the whole system.” Meters will enable Las Acequias to locate leaks, identify where water is being wasted, and charge for the amount used.
Once pipes are in place that hold water, Las Acequias can address the problem finding enough water to keep the system full. DeLara said that even in this season that normally provides adequate spring flow, the levels keep dropping, “Usually we measure sixty to seventy gallons per minute flowing into the tanks. The other day it was only 19 gallons per minute. If we don’t get rain over the next couple of months, the situation will get worse. We might have to truck in water. So we have to conserve to keep consumption down.”
Las Acequias prohibits the use of garden hoses that use domestic water for any purpose outside of the house—a difficult regulation to enforce. DeLara said, “Outside users can empty the tank in a day. We sent out a newsletter explaining the problem and telling people that if they see neighbors using a hose, they should tell them, ‘that’s my water your putting on that tree!’ Sometimes we shut off the water at nine in the evening and turn it back on at four in the morning to allow the system to recharge. People get upset, but there nothing else we can do.”
Once the pipe is replaced and meters are installed, Las Acequias will look for grants or state funding for a deep well. It will be very expensive to convert a system that has always been supplied by spring flow. The most definitive hydrogeological study of the Placitas area indicates that shallow and isolated aquifers near Sandia Mountain require yearly recharge more than a larger aquifer that supplies water for other areas.
According to DeLara, a test well was drilled above the Village several years ago that produced a lot of water, but a flow test affected spring flow, so the Office of the State Engineer did not allow it to be used. Getting power and pipe over rough terrain to the well would also be a problem, but DeLara said that they might look into getting permission to use the well in a crisis. DeLara said, “We’re looking into all our options.”
There is even less water flowing into the Village irrigation system. Las Huertas Creek is barely trickling in the canyon past Sandia Man Cave—well above the area that is believed to recharge El Oso Spring in the village. “There might not be any irrigation this year,” said DeLara. “We’ll just have to wait and see.” The all-volunteer board of directors is under a lot of pressure to resolve the situation, but so far, they have not been able to end the drought.
Town of Bernalillo receives funding for projects
The Town of Bernalillo received appropriations for several projects during the 2013 legislative session.
• $310,000 will help pay for planning and construction of a safe pedestrian railroad crossing. The recent death of a Bernalillo High School student brought renewed attention to the fact that—like it has always been—there are about two miles of train track running through the town with no official pedestrian crossings. Mayor Jack Torres said that the town has been meeting with the Department of Transportation in hopes of partnering with the state on what could be a very expensive solution to the problem. Overpasses are considered the safest crossing, but they cost $2 million each. Torres says, “I realize that there can’t be one-hundred-percent safety, but we need to improve and also improve the appearance along the tracks.” The funding will be available in July.
• $250,000 was allocated to plan and design a new senior center, in partnership with Sandoval County. The new center could be located near the recreation center and Rotary Park.
• $25,000 was allocated to overhaul building, concessions stands, and batting cages at Coronado Little League ballpark.
Mayor Torres said, “We are feeling fortunate, and we look forward to moving ahead on these projects.”
Horse killed on road near village of Placitas
On Thursday, April 19, at approximately 10:00 p.m., Sandoval County Sheriff’s Deputy S. Holt was dispatched to Highway 165, Milepost 5, in reference to a crash involving a wild horse.
The incident report stated:
Upon my arrival, I located the crash at Highway 165 and Valle Escondido Road, and a deceased horse lying partially in the westbound lane of Highway 165. l spoke with the reporting party Thomas Stueber. Thomas stated he was traveling eastbound on Highway 165 when he noticed a horse in the westbound lane of traffic with broken legs. Thomas advised me while waiting for my arrival, the horse died. Thomas stated the vehicle that struck the horse left prior to his arrival.
Upon further investigation, I observed skidmarks indicating abrupt braking prior to Vehicle 1 striking the horse. Vehicle 1 continued to brake past the point of impact, and came to rest in the westbound lane of traffic of Highway 165 after crossing over the double-yellow, no passing lines.
Debris from Vehicle 1 was left on scene. The grill of a white Jeep was left on scene, and no one was located who witnessed the crash. Nothing else of evidentiary value was located on scene.
A message was left for the Livestock Board through dispatch in reference to the deceased horse. Placitas Fire was dispatched to scene to assist in removing the horse from the roadway. Placitas Fire dragged the horse off of the north side of the roadway by the use or their winch. Placitas Fire also assisted in removing debris and cleaning the scene. The horse rescue was contacted, and they advised they will remove the horse from the roadway. I was unable to locate Vehicle 1. Nothing further is known at this time.
Members of the Wild Horse Observer’s Association reportedly removed two dead horses from the scene.
County Commissioner Orlando Lucero commented on the stray horses to the Albuquerque Journal, “They’re roaming the town and people have been calling me—they’re upset. At first I think they thought it was sort of cute. Now it’s become a major problem.”
Lucero said that he was trying to set up a meeting with community members, tribal leaders, the New Mexico Livestock Board, and the Bureau of Land Management to resolve the horse problem. Sandoval County officials have said that they have neither the authority, funding, or expertise to deal with the controversial issue.
The Bernalillo Spartan Basketball team receives recognition from the Town of Bernalillo.
Photo credit: Karen Lermuseaux
Bernalillo Town Council notes
March 25, 2013—All town council members were present at the meeting.
The Bernalillo Spartan Basketball team was present at the meeting, along with some of their family members. Mayor Torres recognized each team member and the coaches for their sportsmanship and hard work during the playoffs, both in Bernalillo and at the Pit. Every council member commented on the teams’ effort and positive attitude and Mayor Torres stated, “What a thrill they gave the whole community.”
There was unanimous adoption of an ordinance to disposal of public property, resolution 03/25/13, which allows for the sale of x-ray equipment that El Pueblo Health no longer uses. The merchandise was originally purchased from a capital outlay request to the NM Legislature by the Town of Bernalillo on behalf of El Pueblo Health.
The end of month report by Juan Torres shows Bernalillo’s general fund at 61 percent and revenues at 63.9 percent, as of February 28, 2013. The campground budget is very tight but still in the red, and it is expected to improve as the spring and summer campers arrive.
Mayor Torres advised that, at the last minute, the NM legislature had passed a “Breaking Bad” bill, to which many items had been attached, including a $140 million tax break for corporations. The money for this particular tax break will come from the money set aside in the Hold Harmless fund, and Bernalillo could have to come up with approximately $1.4 million. The bill has been sent to Governor Martinez for her signature, and if she signs it, the Town of Bernalillo will have two years before it takes effect. The Hold Harmless fund was established when legislation took away communities ability to tax food and medications, and this fund was to replace some of those monies since every bit of tax collected is essential to a community, especially a small one like the town of Bernalillo.
April 8, 2013—All town council members were present at the meeting.
There was an update from Ed Olona of the Sandoval County Assessor’s office, regarding the ongoing reappraisals in the town of Bernalillo. Ed advised that there will be four teams of two people each that will be going door-to-door. They have already been visiting the west side of the river and meeting each homeowner to update the county records. The staff will wear blue polo shirts and have county badges, so do not hesitate to ask to see identification. They will be taking pictures as well, and those will be kept with the county assessors records. They are interested in improvements to the property, including additions, carports, and other structures—but not landscaping. Commercial buildings, mobile homes, and modular homes are included in this reappraisal.
Tom Garcia, the county assessor, has advised his staff that he expects the property values to meet a target of ninety percent of market value. The new assessments will be available next year and owners will have the 30-day period after mailout of the property tax assessments in which to protest. It is expected that no property tax bill will rise more than the three percent allowed by NM legislation, so that it could potentially take several years for a homeowner to reach the appropriate tax level.
Governor signs property tax bills championed by county officials
New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez has signed two bills that will help New Mexico property owners; Sandoval County elected officials played a large role in getting the measures passed.
One bill, SB 289, makes it easier for low-income elderly and disabled citizens to retain a freeze on the valuation of their property for the purposes of property taxes. Under this law, any senior citizen or disabled person who qualifies for a valuation freeze on their primary residence for three consecutive years would no longer have the make the annual trek to a county assessor’s office to prove they were eligible for that freeze.
To qualify for the freeze, a taxpayer would have to be at least 65 years of age, or disabled, with an annual income of $32,000 or less. After the three-year validation period, the freeze would stay in effect until the taxpayer’s situation changes, either through an increase in yearly income or a change in disability status.
That same level of support helped win passage of Senate Bill 406 which eliminates a loophole that allowed developers to evade property tax. The bill requires property owners to pay upfront all taxes due as of the date they divide or combine property.
Placitas library celebrates ten years
—Ann Grey Frost, Placitas Community Library
It has been ten years since Placitas started dreaming and planning for its first public library since the early 1960s. In 2003, a group answered Sue Strasia’s Signpost ad and came together to write the original incorporation papers and by-laws. By the end of that year, thanks to Realtor Pepi Strahl, Placitas Community Library had found its first home.... rent free for the first year.
During the next five years the all-volunteer Library grew by leaps and bounds. As PCL’s professionalism and programming increased, more and more Placiteños came to rely on the Library for books, videos, computers, children’s and adult programs. The space became less and less functional for our needs. Sandoval County Commissioner, Bill Sapien, NM State Representative, Kathy McCoy, and US Representative Heather Wilson saw the potential and earmarked funds for a new building. The Friends of PCL, under the leadership of Pam Buethe, began to fundraise in the community, holding the first Books on the Bosque in 2006.
The handsome new building on Hwy 165 opened in 2010 with another massive community effort to move (and keep in order) over 20,000 volumes from the old Library. Library usage virtually doubled, and it continues to increase steadily. The first events held in the new Collin Meeting Room overflowed the space. Already, we needed the much larger community room planned for Phase II of the building to the west of the red wall.
On May 4, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., the Placitas Community Library will celebrate its ten-year anniversary with the opening of the Picture Placitas 2013 exhibit. The exhibit is a community celebration of Placitas with words and images provided by Placitas residents. Mary O’Nette will make balloon art. Chris Enright will juggle and cycle. There will be pet adoptions and cake, and during the party, people can register for adult and children’s summer reading programs. For further information, visit: www.placitaslibrary.com.