New bus stop links area to Abq, Santa Fe, Los Alamos
Commuter bus service with stops in Bernalillo now links Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and Los Alamos. However, schedules and services in place since December 1 will change on January 5 to take some commuters to government centers in downtown Santa Fe.
Currently four northbound buses depart Albuquerque Monday through Friday mornings, at 4:30, 5:30, 6:30 and 7:30 a.m. stopping at the Bernalillo Park & Ride on South Hill Road south of U.S. 550 fifteen minutes later. Afternoon buses returning from the north arrive in Bernalillo at 3:45, 4:45, 5:45 and 6:45 p.m. Seating is limited, and the fare is $2 each way plus an additional $1 for commuters on buses continuing to Los Alamos.
In Santa Fe, all buses now stop at the Villa Linda Mall at Cerrillos and Rodeo Roads for connection to local municipal and shuttle buses.
Beginning January 5, the 7:30 a.m. Albuquerque departure will be eliminated, and the 5:30 and 6:30 a.m. buses will depart fifteen minutes later and run from Bernalillo to downtown Santa Fe.
Morning buses from Santa Fe to Albuquerque and the return buses in the afternoon also stop in Bernalillo. However, the Albuquerque Park & Ride lot at 7500 Pan American Freeway NE, the I-25 frontage road, lacks connecting shuttles.
For more information and schedules, visit the New Mexico Department of Transportation at www.nmshtd.state.nm.us or bus contractor All Aboard America at www.allaboardamerica.com, or call 1-866-551-RIDE or 505-424-1110.
Placitas County resolution dies in Sandoval County commission
On December 4, the Sandoval County commissioners listened to a presentation by Placitas resident Charles Mellon urging a resolution to place a referendum on the November 2004 general election ballot regarding the creation of a new county from the area in Sandoval County east of Interstate 25. After the commissioners questioned Dr. Mellon and listened to public comment mostly opposing the creation of “Placitas County,” they sat silently as the resolution died for lack of a motion.
Mellon told the commissioners at the outset of his presentation that he was not going to argue the merits of Placitas County, but was only asking that Sandoval County allow the residents of the affected area to voice their opinion. He said that placing the referendum on the ballot would generate a vigorous debate that would answer questions that are presently unanswered. He said that the issue was about self-determination and that there would be no political impact in a partisan sense, either statewide of locally. Mellon offered no signed petition, but said that support for Placitas County was strong among people he had talked to.
Commissioner Bill Sapien, who represents the area in question, stated that a referendum was premature in the political process and that, “The referendum raises more questions that it answers. It puts the cart ahead of the horse. Public debate should take place first.”
Placitas activist Gary Miles was back with his video camera to document the proceedings. He stated from the podium that he was 110 percent in favor of the referendum and made comments from his seat on several occasions. At one point Sheriff Trujillo stood up and told Miles that he had better follow the rules of order. It was just like old times.
Commission chairman Jack Thomas referred to a budget study prepared by county staff and pointed out that Placitas residents enjoy approximately $2 million of services over and above the $900,000 they pay in property taxes. “We’d be doing the people of Placitas a disservice because they would pay more taxes and get less services.” He said that Placitas would stand to lose 24/7 coverage by sheriff’s deputies, as well as the senior center.
Commissioner Ely suggested that Placitas should incorporate like Corrales if the people want more services. He was told by several Placitans that such a course of action is unwanted, and that establishing another layer of government was not really the point.
Several other Placitas residents provided public input. Dr. Paul Carpenter called the idea “asinine, absurd, and premature.” He said that everybody he talked to in Placitas Village was opposed. (See his letter in The Gauntlet, this Signpost.) Ted Morse suggested that Mellon should circulate a petition to establish public support for his idea. Cindy King said that the referendum was the best way to get a consensus. Tony Lucero suggested that it might be better to redistrict so that a Placitas resident would have a seat on the Sandoval County Commission.
Local economist Bill Patterson said he was undecided on the issue but was skeptical about the alleged $2 million in free county services. He said, “The community is not polarized on this issue, but we need a date to drive the debate. There is a deep current of unrest for many reasons, and lot of it could be taken care of by self-government.”
Now that the commission has refused to act on the proposed referendum, Mellon vows to continue pressing the issue through professional polling to establish local support for Placitas County. (See his letter in The Gauntlet, this Signpost.)
More stoplights for Bernalillo
Expect a little more stop-and-go in Bernalillo later this year as traffic signals sprout at two of the town's troublesome intersections.
The New Mexico Department of Transportation plans first to install signals at US 550 and Hill Road near I-25 with contractor bids expected to be opened in May, according to DOT traffic engineer Kathleen Garcia. The bid letting for lights at Camino del Pueblo and Calle Presidente near the Sandoval County courthouse tentatively is scheduled for September, she said.
“There was no funding a couple of months back for these projects, but we do have federal safety money now,” Garcia said.
Money for the project became available late in November, and by early December the long-talked-about work had won green lights from both the Mid-Region Council of Governments and the state Transportation Commission. The signal systems currently are in the design phase and are expected to cost about $300,000 apiece.
County approves issuance of $75 million in bonds by Santa Ana Pueblo
Santa Ana Pueblo has won approval from Sandoval County to move forward on issuing up to $75 million in bonds to refinance its debt.
County bond counsel Tommy Hughes described the bonds as “conduit financing” with the county lending its name to the process without incurring any financial liability. The debt is related to construction of the Hyatt Tamaya resort, the golf course, and other facilities, he said.
Santa Ana has been trying for months to refinance its debt including a $62 million balloon payment due to Wells Fargo in 2006. The pueblo spent an estimated $100 million on its casino and resort facilities but said bookings fell off with the recession and the 2001 terrorist attacks.
An investment in China also soured and questions have been raised recently about the cost and structure of a ranch purchase in Lincoln County. An attempt in August to refinance the debt through the New Mexico Finance Authority stalled when Governor Richardson questioned whether the state would end up in the gambling business if Santa Ana defaulted and the state foreclosed on tribal property put up as collateral.
The commission is scheduled to vote on the bond ordinance at its January 22 meeting.
—Jack E. Thomas
Sandoval County Commission
While being chairman of some governing bodies may be like herding dachshunds in a sandstorm, quality results are readily achieved with a county as vibrant and forward looking as Sandoval County—especially with the support of dedicated, motivated people.
The county commission elects a new chair each January. Even though I will step down as chairman, I will continue working as a commissioner to serve my constituents and our county's surging population. I thank my fellow commissioners for unanimously electing me to chair the commission for the past year. Even more, I wish to extend my deep appreciation for the assistance that they, county residents, and all county employees continue to bring to the table year after year.
That constant stream of ideas, creative solutions, and just plain hard work has enabled Sandoval County to set new levels of service for residents.
More and more counties nationally and locally are dealing with a revolving-door litany of budget woes, tax hikes, service reductions, and layoffs. By comparison, Sandoval County residents are doing things the right way. With the help of county residents and employees, the commission is continuing to establish valuable programs in our communities and move needed projects off drawing boards and into reality.
A bottom-line measure for taxpayers is that the commission has increased Sandoval County's portion of property taxes only once since the mid 1980s. That increase—nine years ago—amounted to $16.66 on a home valued at $100,000.
We have been able to keep pace with Sandoval County's phenomenal growth while holding costs of government in check by forming partnerships with private enterprises and other governments. More recently, we have taken advantage of record low interest rates to refinance the County's long-term bonds. That has lowered our cost of debt while providing revenues to pursue many of the innovative endeavors that will benefit residents well into the future.
Just a few weeks ago, we began construction on two much-needed facilities—the $7.9 million Justice Complex and the $1.2 million Health Commons. The justice complex, which will house the district court, the county sheriff, and the county district attorney, is being funded by forward-thinking voters who approved a countywide bond issue. The Health Commons is being funded through a partnership with the county's legislators and by state and federal grants.
Those two centers are the first to be built at La Plazuela de Sandoval, the fifty-six-acre site the county is developing for joint use northwest of Idalia and NM 528. Even the acquisition of that property was done in a cost-saving, innovative partnership among the county, the Del Norte Gun Club, BLM, and our congressional delegation.
In just a matter of days, Sandoval County will begin construction on desperately needed traffic lights and improvements at the intersection of Idalia and NM 528, to be followed by similar improvements at the Iris/Riverside and NM 528 intersection. The projects are being paid for by partnerships we formed with the county, the state transportation department, our legislative delegation, and the City of Rio Rancho. And we are just weeks away from beginning an expansion of the Sandoval County Detention Center that will add much needed cells to the facility, which itself is recognized as a model for other secure facilities to follow.
To accommodate future growth, Sandoval County is planning now to establish a technologically advanced, environmentally friendly composting facility that will allow us to convert green waste and wastewater sludge into market-ready fertilizer and soil-enhancement products while greatly extending the life of the county landfill.
We also are working to renovate the historic El Zócalo compound in Bernalillo as a $2.2 million economic-development center that will provide residents with career and vocational training, job placement, and other services related to welfare-to-work and workforce development. Once renovated, the historic El Zócalo will house a training facility, private sector businesses, and the county visitors’ center.
The past year was a very good one for Sandoval County. Thanks to the support and creative, hard work of residents and employees, the coming year looks even brighter.
Questions or comments for Commissioner Thomas can be mailed to him in care of Sandoval County Administrative Offices, P.O. Box 40, Bernalillo, NM 87004.
On-line property-tax payments not yet available
Instead of collecting on-line tax payments, Sandoval County treasurer James Truscio and his chief deputy, Larry Polanis, have spent a lot of time apologizing to taxpayers.
Notices included with tax bills told property owners they could go to the county Web site, www.sandovalcounty.com, to pay taxes by credit or debit card or electronic fund transfers. More than two months later, the contractor, EPOS Corporation, still does not have the system up and running, Polanis told the county commissioners, who were meeting as the county board of finance.
“We definitely heard from the citizens of Sandoval County on this one,” Polanis said.
Truscio said Alabama-based EPOS was dodging its responsibility until a strongly worded letter to its chief executive officer “got them jumping.” Truscio added, “They were trying to blame everybody from VISA to one of their employees who went on vacation, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.”
At the last minute, EPOS also tried to shift the credit-card processing away from the county’s bank, he said. Meanwhile, county information specialists had the Web site ready to go well in advance of the deadline.
Polanis said the problem has not cost the county any money, just goodwill, since EPOS is to be paid from the 2.5 percent convenience fee on credit-card charges and the $3 fee for fund transfers. The system now is supposed to be operational in the next few weeks or the county will seek “other remedies,” Polanis said.
By Signpost deadline, EPOS had not responded to a request for comment.
Sandia Pueblo breaks ground for hotel, golf course project
In late December, the Pueblo of Sandia hosted a groundbreaking ceremony to celebrate the construction of a new hotel and golf course project adjacent to Sandia Casino. The Pueblo of Sandia tribal council has officially authorized the construction of a 228-room hotel to include an area for special events, conference rooms, and an eighteen-hole golf course.