This article originally appeared in the Corrales Comment on December 21, 2002
When police found a skull without a skeleton, they figured they might have a match for the headless corpse found in an irrigation ditch at the south end of Corrales this fall.
But then another skull without a body turned up, this time even closer to the corpse that apparently passed through Corrales’s main irrigation ditch.
Investigators are still searching for answers as they match bones and peek into the personal history of the deceased.
At the end of November, police said a skull found in a Santa Fe subdivision matched the corpse found at the Corrales Main Canal’s entrance into the “river walk” park just outside Corrales, south of Cabezon Road in late September.
It was announced that the Santa Fe skull and Corrales corpse were remains of a San Felipe Pueblo man, fifty-five-year-old Steven Aguilar.
Bernalillo County homicide investigator David Gallegos said forensic evidence had proven that the Santa Fe skull and the Corrales corpse both came from Aguilar. “We’re now absolutely certain,” he said.
The fact that the body parts turned up so far away was grounds for suspicions of foul play, he said. An earlier theory held that the corpse could have been that of a homeless man who fell into the ditch and drowned when intoxicated. The head could have been severed when the body was lodged in one of the many irrigation control structures.
But then another skull, at least the top part of it, was discovered in the second week of December in a Conservancy District ditch in Bernalillo, east of the river. Corrales’s irrigation water runs through Bernalillo ditches first before being piped under the river to the Corrales Main Canal.
But the new skull was apparently found in a drainage ditch along the river, not an irrigation ditch.
The second skull has also subsequently been identified, Gallegos said, adding that police are pursuing information that Aguilar and the second man had been seen together this fall.
The homicide investigator said it is likely the case will be turned over to the State Police since it seems to involve two or three jurisdictions.
Initially, investigators said the corpse found in the Corrales Main Canal was that of a tall Caucasian or Asian man.
Sandoval County Commission
In at least one respect, serving as chairman of the Sandoval County Commission is similar to being a rancher, managing a business, or running a household—there is never enough time to accomplish all you set your mind to achieve. That time crunch, however, is compounded by the realization that the job of chairman ends with each passing year.
As chairman, I held office hours in the county courthouse so that anyone could stop by to discuss any topic. I also encouraged anyone—and everyone—to contact me at the courthouse or at home to discuss concerns or suggestions they may offer to the problems we face.
And that offer still holds. I encourage anyone to contact me if they have concerns or ideas to share regarding county government. I can be readily reached at my home, 321-1703, or by contacting the county manager’s office, 867-7500.
Many of the ideas and concerns expressed by county residents have been put to use by the commission as we faced a variety of issues during the past twelve months.
While the county budget is a seemingly “routine” chore, the annual process of balancing growing needs with limited resources, is becoming increasingly difficult. Our current budget, while extremely tight, reflects the commission’s mandate to hold expenditures at reasonable levels. That action has stabilized the county’s portion of property taxes and, in part, has caused total property bills to decline for much of Sandoval County.
For the future, the commission’s actions during 2002 to expand the county landfill and extend its usefulness will provide county residents an efficient and environmentally secure refuse-collection service for many years ahead.
The action we undertook in early 2002 to acquire the fifty-six-acre Del Norte Gun Club shooting range just off Idalia Road and NM 528 in southern Sandoval County assures we will have adequate land for effective government services well into the future. The site will provide an ideal location both for the $7.9 justice complex approved by voters and for the proposed county health and community services center that will create a true one-stop center for residents to obtain medical care and social services.
Voter approval in November of the $7.5 million bond issue to build additional jail cells at the Sandoval County Detention Center also provides a cost-saving approach to the problems of jail overcrowding. That action, too, positions the county for the challenges that growth will bring.
As this is my final County Line column, I want to extend my deepest appreciation to county employees for their dedication and hard work as they serve residents across our growing and diverse area. Their professionalism and unselfish efforts certainly make the job of a county commissioner much easier.
Questions or comments for Commissioner Johnson can be mailed to her in care of Sandoval County Administrative Offices, P.O. Box 40, Bernalillo, NM 87004.
Commissioner Sapien reaffirms commitment
to county employees, constituents
In November county commissioner Bill Sapien was reelected to serve District 1 in Sandoval County. Sapien won the election with 62 percent of the ballots cast. "I was very happy and pleased all my supporters turned out," he said. "We ran on our record. That record was built with the help of a lot of people."
Four years ago, when he was first elected, Sapien had two goals: to become a good public servant and to be a student of county government. When asked if he has a good understanding of county government now, he replied he'd just barely scratched the tip of the iceberg. "There are no simple answers in county government. There is so much to learn, to be insightful about what's coming down the pike."
He says the growth in the county presents new situations for the commission to address. Changes in infrastructure, capital assets, water use, pipeline safety, and DWI enforcement and treatment are all part of the picture. The primary focus of the commission is to set policy around all these issues. He feels an important factor in the effect of growth is that everyone must learn to work together as a team: the commissioners who set policy, and the county employees who implement it.
Sapien says the policies most frequently addressed by the commissioners currently revolve around planning and zoning and labor-management relations in county government.
Sapien was asked to comment about the rapid growth in the county, specifically the mass of new subdivisions west of SR 528 and the frequent traffic congestion between I-25 and SR 528. He explained that they are not county issues. The subdivisions are under the jurisdiction of the town of Rio Rancho, and the stretch of US 550 is under the jurisdiction of the town of Bernalillo. He said the county government gets involved only when the area in question is an unincorporated section of the county.
Sapien did admit that growth has had a big effect on county employees. "We need to look out for our employees, to make sure we have enough resources in place to meet the existing growth," he said. "The thing is, we're having to do more with less. We're going to have to look at that." Sapien considers the county's employees its most valuable assets. Keeping the employees happy and making sure their wages and benefits match their commitment to their work are among his primary concerns.
When asked about a possible staff increase, he said that will be addressed when the commissioners formulate the budget, based on the feedback they get from each department. That work begins sometime in March.
Sapien feels it's important the county function within the existing budget. He is proud Sandoval County is financially solvent. "The county is in great shape," he said. "Our county manager and staff do a great job." During the last four years, he added, the county has not needed to curtail services or lay off employees for financial reasons.
The commissioner also discussed his commitment to his constituents. He is unwavering in his goal to be a good public servant. That means responding to people. He welcomes calls. "I want people to feel free to call me, regardless of what the issue is," he stated. "If it's something the county can legally do, I want to use the offices of the county to get things done." The commissioner can be reached at home (867-2804), his insurance office (867-2353), or the county office (867-7538). He says he does respond to messages and return phone calls.
Sapien feels a big part of his job is to facilitate communication within county government and with residents of the county. He wants people to know nothing gets done without cooperation. In the end, he won't take credit for doing anything by himself. "We need the input of all the commissioners to get anything done," he stresses.
Sapien was not able to comment on two issues that arose in his last term of office; both the variance denial for the Baca Gravel Mine and the zoning issue regarding Gary Miles and the Placitas Animal Rescue are currently under litigation.
Sisneros elected to Bernalillo Town Council
By a considerable majority, voters elected Ronnie Sisneros to the Bernalillo Town Council on December 10. A special election was held to fill the seat left vacant when councilor Jose “Sharkie” Chavez died last March. Sisneros drew 346 votes, Dale Prairie received 196, and John Estrada received 143. A ceremony to swear in Sisneros was held on December 16. He will fill out the current term through March of 2004.
“I’ve been thinking about this for a couple of years,” Sisneros said. “This is something I can do to give back to my community.” This is the second time for the forty-six-year-old Bernalillo native to be elected to a public office. From 1983 to 1986, he served as the Sandoval County assessor for two terms. Then, after working in the private sector for several years, he returned to the county and worked as the personnel director at the county detention center. Later he worked in the county DWI program. Currently his time is spent as the county’s chief appraiser, as a banquet server at the Hyatt Tamaya, and as a referee at high school basketball games.
Through his past political and government experience, Sisneros said he has an understanding of issues that are important in the community. His top priority as a town councilor is to unify the current council members and the mayor to work more closely together. “I feel like I can bring some unification to the council, but it’s not going to happen over night,” he said. “Everyone knows that they have locked horns for several years. What is lacking is better communication. We need to listen more closely to each other; then we can start working on the big issues.”
Mayor Charles Aguilar disagreed. “I’m not at odds with the council. We’ve had a difference of opinion as to who was going to fill the recent vacancy. But this has not hindered the council as it was portrayed in the newspaper.” When asked about what Sisneros will contribute to the council meetings, Aguilar said, “I see him as willing to work to bring about what’s needed for the community. I see him as someone who will analyze situations from within.”
Better existing municipal services and infrastructure are issues that Sisneros says are critically important. “We have always had problems with sewer and drainage and there is room for improvement,” he said. “Bernalillo residents want better law enforcement, EMS services and improved roads.” He suggested one way to improve the tax base would be to incorporate additional outlying areas into the town. The bosque, Llanito, and the western edge of Placitas are areas that Sisneros feels have potential for growth. “The majority of people I’ve talked to in the bosque area want to be incorporated,” Sisneros said.
Another Sisneros concern is economic development in the area. “What can we bring in here to create jobs?” he asked. He says there is potential for accomplishing this goal by working with the surrounding pueblos. Discussion is underway about bringing Wal-Mart, Home Depot, or a theater to the intersection west of Santa Ana Star Casino. “We will have to look and see if it’s feasible and how good it’s going to be for the area,” Sisneros said.