The Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newsmagazine Serving the Community since 1989


Rep. Heather Wilson announces funds for Placitas Library

Representative Heather Wilson announces to Placitas residents that $350,000 in federal funds will be made available to help in the construction of a new Placitas library building.

Placitas library opens a new chapter with federal dollars

Representative Heather Wilson announced on December 12 that she had secured $350,000 to help build a community library in Placitas. The funding will be used to build a library that is open to the public in Placitas. It was included in this year’s Housing and Urban Development funding bill, which passed Congress on November 18, and was signed soon thereafter by the President.

Representative Kathy McCoy and Senator Kent Cravens have already secured $50,000 in state funds to support the library and have vowed to secure further funding to supplement the federal dollars announced.

“Libraries bring people together and are often the heart of small communities. I am delighted that we can all help to reward the hard work of the folks who initiated this project,” said McCoy.

The new facility, planners say, will provide a student learning/research center with Internet connection, recreational reading areas, and meeting rooms for seminars and community meetings. Additionally, it may include a museum area dedicated to local history and housing archival documents, primarily from the Las Huertas Land Grant.

The total project cost is projected to be $650,000, based on a recent library project in neighboring Rio Rancho.

In anticipation of the renewed interest in C. S. Lewis’s classic stories, Wilson donated a set of the seven-book The Chronicles of Narnia to the library.

What’s happening at the Placitas Library

We are most grateful for your enthusiastic response to our fund-raising letter this year. Your donations are what keep the doors open and the heat on in our own little library. We are able to find grants for computers, buildings, and even books, but without your generosity we could not operate.

In honor of Benjamin Franklin's three-hundredth birthday, the library has received a copy of his brand-new biography. Ben Franklin: In Search of a Better World, compiled by Page Talbott, features essays by ten prominent scholars who give an overview of his life, interests, and achievements. In addition to the essays, the book has 265 color images highlighting this remarkable man's inventions, philosophy, and accomplishments. Did you know he invented swim fins? There's a lot more to learn in this wonderful book donated by the John Templeton Foundation.

Have you read The Belen Hitch, by Pari Noskin Taichert, a murder mystery featuring a PR consultant named Sasha Solomon? Sasha is hired by Belen, New Mexico, to work on their economic revival but has to deal with the dueling factions of the train enthusiasts and the gallery promoters. Pari is considering setting her next mystery in Bernalillo or Placitas.

Kids, try reading the books in A Series of Unfortunate Events, by Lemony Snickett. A little strange but always entertaining, these books are very enjoyable and easy and fast to read.

The next library meeting will be on January 11. The agenda will be posted at the library and the post office. If you would like to volunteer, please call 867-3355.

See the Signpost Community Calendar in this issue for upcoming events and hours of operation.

Signpost Cartoon c. Rudi Klimpert

Commuter rail service delayed until March

The start-up of commuter rail service from Bernalillo to Albuquerque has been pushed back to March, according to the Mid-Region Council of Governments.

Service was to start this month, but lack of access to the track and right-of-way has stalled crew training and construction of station platforms.

On December 5, the New Mexico Department of Transportation signed an agreement with the BNSF Railway to buy the track from Belen to Bernalillo effective January 10. The $75 million deal also includes purchase of the track from Bernalillo to Lamy in 2007 and from Lamy to Trinidad, Colorado, in 2008.

The track north of Bernalillo would be part of a commuter link to Santa Fe touted for opening in 2008, while the track beyond Lamy fits into future plans, including service to Denver, according to NMDOT.

BNSF will continue to use the track by paying user fees. Governor Bill Richardson said the state is still negotiating with Amtrak for use of the route.

Heard in the West

A deliciously funny film called The Lost People of Mountain Village wowed audiences at Telluride’s Mountainfilm festival and other venues around western Colorado. In deadpan style, the 15-minute pseudo-documentary explores what happened to the overlords who once lived above high-altitude Telluride. The joke for locals: The "town" of Mountain Village always feels abandoned by its absentee owners. Filmmakers Carol Black and Neal Martens spotlight some monumental estates: A stone chalet sporting 19 bathrooms, and a log mansion with a gargantuan chandelier made of cowboy boots. This inspires thoughtful-looking experts to pose the really big questions: Were the lost inhabitants so wealthy they believed themselves deities? Did the fur-coated denizens die out because harsh winters prevented commuting servants from attending them? Or—with no gas station to fuel their Humvees or grocery store to buy provisions—did these hapless folk become cannibals? A promotional blurb from the Colorado Board of Real Estate Professionals adds to the joke. It warns: "This film is not funny."

Bernalillo Library Workers

Preferred Building Systems foreman Carlos Lares hoists framing up to his colleagues building the portal for the new Bernalillo public library. The other workers are (left to right) Pedro Herrera, Victor Garcia, Ismael Herrera, and Alberto Lopez. The manufactured building on Calle Malinche behind town hall will eventually be connected to an unoccupied building yet to be renovated on the same property. The town is planning an open house on January 9 to show off the new library, recent improvements to town hall, and the renovation and expansion of the police station. Town officials said the library is the first new public building erected in Bernalillo in twenty years.

Court rules in favor of new Piñon Ridge subdivision in Placitas

The long road to Piñon Ridge appears to be open, now that a judge has ruled Sandoval County acted properly in approving the Placitas subdivision.

The attorney representing residents of the adjoining Puesta del Sol development said his clients won't appeal further, so Placitas developer Jack Hostetler will be free to move ahead with the five-lot project. Sandoval County commissioners first approved Piñon Ridge in July 2004, but six Puesta del Sol residents appealed that decision, based on water and procedural issues.

Both subdivisions sit above NM 165 opposite the Placitas Fire Brigade main station.

District Judge Louis McDonald, at the end of a November 29 hearing, immediately denied the appeal, ruling an adequate record of documents, hearings, and statements supported the county decision. By law McDonald could not rehear the merits of the subdivision itself but only examine whether the county followed proper procedures.

“I think we presented a very compelling argument,” Puesta del Sol attorney David Campbell said. “We have fought the battle not only for the existing residents who are supposed to be protected by local ordinance and state law but also for future residents who have no voice in the approval of this subdivision.”

Both Hostetler and his attorney, Catherine Davis, declined comment after the hearing.
Campbell's clients contended the county erred in accepting a hydrologist's report on the quantity and quality of water available in the subdivision. The report was based on the first well, mistakenly drilled on the NM 165 state right-of-way, instead of the third well, which will supply the subdivision.

The second well came up dry.

During the hearing Davis argued the report did address the third well. She also denied that Hostetler manipulated the state subdivision law and cited a legal exemption allowing certain parcels to be split in five lots administratively without a formal hearing.

Hostetler's plan creates four lots on eight acres while retaining the other eight acres for future development. The subdivision law requires the formal hearing process if he develops the reserved acreage within the seven years.

County commissioners ultimately held a hearing after the Puesta del Sol residents protested. At that hearing, Hostetler said the neighbors' real concern was protecting their view from additional development, a claim rejected by lead plaintiff John McGraw.

“It doesn't take long living in New Mexico to realize water is our lifeblood,” he said after the November 29 hearing. “Water in general, and more importantly, not recognizing the importance of water.

“That was our prime motivation.”

Hostetler tried twice before to develop the land, first as affordable detached town houses clustered to preserve open space and then as eleven homes on the sixteen acres. Installation of roads and utilities has continued during the appeal process, and a home currently under construction on the ridgetop is to be Hostetler's personal residence.

Vietnam Veterans Memorial State Park dedicated in Angel Fire

On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of November, Veterans Day, New Mexico gained a new state park: Vietnam Veterans Memorial State Park, in Angel Fire.

“A grateful nation can never do enough for America's veterans,” said Governor Richardson. “I've kept my promise that a state park will be here perpetually as a place to honor veterans’ sacrifices and to heal the pain of war.”

Victor and Jeanne Westphall established the memorial in honor of their son, Lieutenant David Westphall, who was killed in Vietnam in May 1968. When it opened in 1971, it was the first memorial of its kind in the United States, dedicated solely to Vietnam veterans, even while the war was still underway. Now, it is the only state park in the country dedicated solely as a Vietnam Veterans memorial.

New Mexico State Parks worked with the David Westphall Veterans Foundation to finalize all details of the transfer, and the foundation donated the twenty-five-acre site to the state of New Mexico. The foundation will continue to partner with State Parks by running the memorial's bookstore and raising funds to help operate the memorial.

State Parks wants to invest approximately $1.8 million to repair and improve the Vietnam Veterans Memorial State Park over the next few years, budget permitting.

For more information, call (505) 827-1473 or e-mail

El rinconcito español

Más vale muchos pocos que pocos muchos. = Many fews are worth more than few manys.
Aramos, dijo la mosca al buey. = Let’s plow, said the fly to the ox.
Algo es algo, dijo el calvo, cuando un pelo le salió. = Something is something (better than nothing), said the bald man when he grew a hair.

Submitted by SOS-panyol, Placitas—Spanish instruction that focuses on oral communication skills,

Town staff brings Christmas to Bernalillo families

The Bernalillo town staff acted as Santa's elves for scores of families and children during the Christmas season.

Supported by donations from residents and businesses, the municipal workers over the course of two weeks packaged and distributed more than twenty bicycles, about twenty-five Christmas trees and family gift bundles and the fixings for more than thirty complete Christmas meals.

Town officials said volunteers distributed wrapped educational toys to 280 local children. On December 21, the town hosted an annual party at its recreation center, with an appearance by Santa and goodies bags for all children in attendance.

Historical society present antique clothing exhibit at monthly meeting

Sandoval County Historical Society meets Sunday, January 8, at 2:00 p.m. at Delavy House Museum. This will be the annual general meeting with committee reports and election of officers. There will be discussion of future plans and programs. The exhibit featured will be “Antique Clothing of All Cultures.”

Refreshments will be served. The program is free and open to the public. For further information, contact Martha Liebert at 867-2755. The Museum is located off of Highway 550, west of Bernalillo, between Coronado State Monument and the Star Casino.

Placitas Community Library history project

Over the last several weeks the Placitas Community Library History Project has moved forward in its efforts to record—in writing and on audio and video media—the people and events that are the fabric of our community. Three interviews of longtime residents of Placitas were conducted.

The first interview was at the Hacienda de Placitas Bed & Breakfast, on Highway 165. Max Vasher, son of the owner, Caroline Dinsmore McKinley, told of his mother’s move from Chicago to open the bed-and-breakfast. He related that the hundred-year-old sheepherder’s house that would eventually became the bed-and-breakfast had been purchased and remodeled by Bob Klein, an interior designer and theatrical set designer, who added a large salon with an 1800s French fireplace and columns from a building in St. Louis, and connected outbuildings to the main house.

Over the years, Dinsmore, a noted chef and caterer who wrote cooking columns for the Signpost, often played hostess to celebrities. Two of her favorite guests were actresses Goldie Hawn and Kirsty Ally. She also hosted several Hollywood movie crews while they worked on films in the Placitas area. Vasher spoke of the sheepherding and coal-mining operations that had taken place on the property in the past. On a walking tour of the property he pointed out where the entrances to mineshafts had been located along an arroyo and the remains of a stone structure that may have been used to hold Indian captives during the Spanish period. A rancher’s log cabin, moved piece by piece from the Pecos area and now serving as one of the establishment’s suites, looks to the west—Cabezon in the sunset. Vasher provided several archival photos of the coal-mining operation on the property.

In another interview, Chuck Scott, a Placitas resident for over twenty-eight years, recalled his lifelong friendship with United States Army General Kenner Hertford, who headed the Atomic Energy Commission office at Sandia Base, Albuquerque. General Hertford had purchased a ranch just east of Tunnel Springs from Emilano Baldanado in the mid-to-late ‘40s. He and his wife, Anne, who worked for the Smithsonian Institution, usually spent weekends at the ranch and often invited friends to join them. Chuck Scott and many of the Hertfords’ military coworkers at the AEC spent time in Placitas. Scott recalled how Hertford had converted a building on the ranch to a bomb shelter during the Cuban Missile Crisis. With several inches of dirt over the viga-and-latilla roof, bunks and supplies for twenty people to last up to thirty days, and a makeshift communication system for contact with Sandia Base, where America‘s atomic warheads were stored, Hertford set up a plan for essential personnel to move to Placitas should President Kennedy make the decision to take action against Cuba and the Russians.

Scott provided the library project with several photos of General Hertford and his wife, Emilano Baldonado, the original Tunnel Springs mineshaft entrance, and the ranch and its environs. In addition to this interview Scott gave the history project a tour of the ranch and buildings and an introduction to his longtime neighbor, Katy Kallestad, who also was a friend to the Hertfords and who inherited Anne Hertford’s collection of A.D. 1300 to A.D. 1600 pottery shards found at the ranch. Kallestad subsequently provided a recording of the General talking about acquiring the ranch and working there. This interview was recorded by Placitas videographer Tim Nadeau.

The third interview conducted by the history project during recent weeks was with lifelong Placitas resident Mary Gurulé. With the help of Vivian De Lara, also a longtime Placitan, Gurulé, who recently celebrated her ninety-third birthday, recalled growing up in the village, the mission fiestas, the several small stores and post offices, and families and friends. She expressed great pride in her children and grandchildren, some of whom are still in the area. The humor and exuberance of this true “treasure” of Placitas should be experienced by all. This interview also was recorded on video by Tim Nadeau.

These interviews and, hopefully, many more will become a part of the Placitas Community Library History Project collection and will be available for reading, listening, or viewing in the near future.

In the new year the history project will pursue many other subjects (General/President Dwight Eisenhower in Placitas; the “earthships” of Placitas; San José de las Huertas; “Ulysses S. Grant,” and many more). If you have information about these or any other subject that should be part of the record of Placitas’s history or would like to participate in the history project, contact Bob Gajkowski through the library, at 867-3355.

Meanwhile, visit your library and see what it offers. Books, both printed and recorded, videos, CDs, free Internet access, a public copy machine, and the best small Southwest history selection around.





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