Sandhill Cranes relax in the Corrales bosque on their way to winter
at the Bosque del Apache Wildlife Preserve near Socorro.
U.S. Forest Service considers land exchange
The November 2005 issue of the Signpost reported that the Forest
Service is presently considering whether lands specified in a proposal
submitted by Sandia Pueblo fall within the appropriate rules and
regulations for such an exchange. USFS property specialist John
Bruin told the Signpost that the exchange process could take up
to three years and will include a period of public comment specified
by the National Environmental Policy Act. Bruin said that the USFS
is trying to consolidate public lands through exchanges such as
The T'uf Shur Bien Preservation Trust Area Act of 2003 directs
the Secretary of Interior to prepare and offer a land exchange of
National Forest lands outside the area and contiguous to the northern
boundary of the pueblo’s reservation within sections 10, 11,
and 14 of T12N, R4E, N.M.P.M., Sandoval County, excluding wilderness
land, for lands owned by the pueblo in the Evergreen Hills subdivision
in Sandoval County contiguous to National Forest land, and the La
Luz tract in Bernalillo County.
The land included in the proposed trade is near a popular hiking
area just south of the S-curves in Placitas. It is bounded by SR
165 and Forest Road 445 and loops around the Bernalillo Watershed
Research Area. The loop road does not appear to be affected by the
On December 21, the Albuquerque Journal quoted Sandia district
ranger Jackie Andrew describing the land included in the trade,
“It is not timbered land, so it’s high desert like most
of the Bernalillo watershed. There are some trails here, one of
which is the Del Agua Trail and it’s just a small portion
of the Del Agua trail. The pueblo requested we reroute the trail
so it’s not in the portion that gets exchanged. We would do
that separately from the exchange itself.”
The proposed exchange promises continued public access to the
Piedra Lisa trail from Placitas to the Juan Tabo picnic area. It
also places a conservation easement on the Piedra Lisa tract, preserving
it from future development.
The Journal article also quotes Sandia Governor Stuwart Paisano,
“In exchange we are asking the forest service to give us land
further east that is not being used by the public. . . The lands
may be in jeopardy of being developed and we want to protect the
Sandia Mountains. The sooner it is done and we clarify ownership,
Ranger Andrew said that the exchange could take up to six years
to complete. The public process should make clear what effect this
exchange will have on public access and future development. There
is a great deal of public interest in this exchange because the
area is heavily used for recreational purposes. Residents can address
their concerns to their county commissioners, state and federal
representatives, and Sandia Pueblo.
Bernalillo votes in March on mayor, trustees,
Bernalillo voters will go to the polls on March 7 to elect a mayor
and two town trustees and to decide whether to tax themselves for
open space and water rights.
The positions currently are held by Mayor Charles Aguilar and
trustees Edward Torres III and Serafín Dominguez, who are
eligible to run for reelection. Candidates’ declarations must
be filed with the town clerk an January10; new voters have until
February 7 to register with the Sandoval County clerk.
The proposed tax of one-eighth percent on most services and goods
except food would be dedicated to buying water rights and purchasing
land to preserve it for agriculture or open space.
January legislative session: a feeding frenzy?
For such a poor state, New Mexico suddenly seems awash in cash as
petrodollars stream into the state treasury.
And with the Legislature convening on January 17, there is no
shortage of ideas on how to spend all this so-called new money.
Estimates of how much money, most of it the result of high prices
for gas and oil produced on state land, started at $300 million
and now creep toward $1 billion.
About the only consensus so far is that the windfall won't last
and can't be relied on for recurring expenses like salaries and
new programs. So while some suggest saving a bit for the future
or restoring money recently taken from the interest-bearing Permanent
Fund and Tobacco Settlement Fund, others, including Governor Bill
Richardson, see an opportunity to address longstanding needs for
capital projects like new roads and school buildings.
Legislators interviewed by the Signpost disagreed, however, on
whether the thirty-day session, whose main purpose is setting the
budget for the 2007 fiscal year, will be an orderly process or a
“The governor has overpromised on every front and has probably
spent the billion dollars a couple of times,” Senator Kent
Cravens said. “When there's not much money, we don't fight
too much, but with all this money, it probably will be a brutal
Cravens, a Republican whose District 21 includes Placitas and
two Bernalillo precincts, is among those wanting first to replenish
the permanent funds and restore agency budgets previously tapped
to support new programs. There are signs the Senate can muster the
same bipartisan will that increased the taxpayer energy rebate from
$90 million to $250 million during the special legislative session
in October, he said.
“My hope is that we have enough common sense stand up to
the governor like we did in special session, at least in the Senate,
and say we need to put some of this money back where it belongs,”
Cravens said. Even then, he added, there would be money for statewide
and local projects like the Placitas Library, an interest he shares
with Representative Kathy McCoy.
“I've earmarked a big chunk for Placitas Library,” said
Republican McCoy, whose House District 22 reaches from Edgewood
and the East Mountains through southeastern Sandoval County and
Placitas. “These folks have been just fabulous.
“They're the kind of people you want to do things for because
you know they're going to follow through.”
McCoy said she can't yet quote a dollar amount although she expects
to have at least as much as the $1.3 million in capital outlay she
received during the 2005 session. While the largest piece of that
money went to the Edgewood sewer system, she allocated $165,000
for the Placitas Senior Center, Las Acequias de Placitas, and the
paving of Camino de San Francisco, she said.
McCoy's Democratic colleague, Representative James Rodger Madalena
of Jemez Pueblo, said he has no major projects in mind and plans
to address as many needs as possible among his diverse constituency.
His House District 65 stretches about 120 miles from Sandia Pueblo
and Bernalillo to the Colorado border, touching four counties, seven
pueblos, four Navajo chapters, and the Jicarilla Apache Reservation.
“Each has needs,” Madalena said. “The monies
are never enough, you know.”
Senator Steve Komadina, a Corrales Republican, said his top goal
is addressing arsenic in drinking water and wastewater problems
along the Rio Grande, issues of particular importance to the town
of Bernalillo, which is upgrading its wastewater plant under threat
of federal fines. Rio Rancho's crowded schools also need help since
the town is booming while the school district has maxed out its
bonding capacity, he said.
Senators are adamant the capital money be spent on long-term projects
like bridges, roads and college and school buildings, he added.
“It's an opportunity to take care of things that will last
for fifty years,” Komadina said. “I think this will
be a really good session for people of New Mexico.
“I think we will rise above politics.”
All four legislators said they welcome comments and ideas from
their constituents on capital spending and any other issues.
Sandoval County prepares wish list for Legislature
When the Legislature convenes January 17, the fourteen legislators
representing portions of Sandoval County and its local governments
will have shopping lists in hand.
“We try to meet all fourteen legislators and others as often
as possible so they are fully aware of what we're going for and,
more importantly, why,” said Gayland Bryant, the county's
director of public affairs and its registered legislative lobbyist.
“Working with the legislators, we try to have everything drafted
and ready to drop in the hopper on the first day.
The county lists fifteen capital and road projects for funding,
starting with $1.9 million to start up a transit system tied to
the new commuter railroad. The county already has $3.3 million of
its own committed to the project.
For the town of Bernalillo, water and wastewater remain the top
issue, with a request for $6.8 million to upgrade the wastewater
plant and to remove naturally occurring arsenic from the water system.
The town is under threat of federal fines if it doesn't meet new
standards for sewage effluent flowing into the Rio Grande and must
meet a new national standard for arsenic in drinking water.
Other county priorities include:
• El Zócalo complex: $1.5 million toward turning the
historic Bernalillo complex into a multiuse business-development
• I-25 fire station: $1.1 million, plus county funds, to build
and furnish a fire station with twenty-four-hour staff. County officials
have said one likely location is in Placitas, near I-25 and NM 165.
• Placitas Community Library phase one: $400,000 to design
and construct the first phase of the proposed $2 million, ten-thousand-square-foot
library and multiuse center.
In addition to its water and wastewater projects, the town lists
three other priorities:
• NM 313/Main Street Streetscape: $2.4 million to improve
the appearance, safety, and economy of Camino del Pueblo while making
it more pedestrian friendly.
• Transportation center: $1.2 million for the downtown commuter
rail station and a landscaped walkway to Camino del Pueblo near
the town hall.
• Maglev study: $500,000 for what is dubbed an Innovative
Non-vehicular Transit Linkage Study, to analyze a possible eight-mile
system of magnetic-levitation trains running from Rio Rancho's new
city center through the county's judicial and health complex on
NM 528 and across the Rio Grande to the Bernalillo rail station.
The county also has endorsed the five priorities of the New Mexico
Association of Counties:
• Require the state to pay counties the cost of housing
state prisoners: about $25 million
• Increase funding for DWI programs
• Return to local fire departments the $25 million of state
fire taxes now diverted to other uses
• Fund county compliance with new state and federal election
• Increase salaries for county elected officials
Guest column: 2006 legislative session
—STATE REPRESENTATIVE KATHY MCCOY
I'll start by wishing you all the best for 2006. By the time you
receive this, we'll be gearing up for the “short” (thirty
days) session of the legislature. This is when we craft the state's
budget, arguably the most important work we do.
Gas and oil revenues have generated unprecedented funds for the
state coffers. The good news is that New Mexico has critical needs
that will likely be addressed; the bad news is that these revenues
will not last forever. It is crucial that we do not create expensive
programs that will face deep cuts in the future. This will likely
be the greatest challenge we face in the upcoming session.
The majority of introduced legislation will revolve around budget
issues, but the Governor can put any unrelated bills on his “call”
for legislators to consider. New Mexico has always been a strong
“property rights” state. For that reason, eminent domain
issues will be debated and probably firmed up to avoid the legal
problems we recently saw in Connecticut. On this issue, I believe
we'll see strong support on both sides of the aisle.
Other issues we expect to see on the call are price gouging, minimum
wage, and possibly a vote on whether to change the state treasurer's
office from an elected to an appointed position.
As a member of the committee that grappled with the treasurer's
possible impeachment, I can only say that I hope it's a process
we never have to repeat. Because the treasurer ultimately resigned,
the impeachment process was cut short, but our good state suffered
much damage, not only in the investment community, but also in government
The interim treasurer has been “cleaning house,” and
we will be considering a number of proposals to change the way the
treasurer's office operates.
We'll probably also be dealing with trains, planes, and rocket
ships: we clearly have a Governor who plans on going places-and
At the end of the first year of my first term, I am still digesting
details of the issues that most impact our state. Probably the most
difficult transition for me has been to look at what's important
for the state, rather than just my district. Urban and rural interests
often collide, so it's a precarious balancing act.
To say that I've been busy this year is an understatement. I sat
on five interim committees this year: Water and Natural Resources,
Economic and Rural Development, the State Permanent Fund, Election
and Voter Reform, and Ethics. Because it's important for legislators
to understand the needs of the entire state, some of these committees
met in distant locales.
I also traveled to Washington, D.C., to testify in front of a
U.S. Senate committee in support of a nationwide law to add a bittering
agent to antifreeze. We were able to pass this law in New Mexico,
but we are only one of three states to do so. For anyone who has
ever lost a pet to antifreeze poisoning, my motivation requires
no explanation. The antifreeze industry also supports this action
to establish consistency among the states.
Because of my interest in conservation issues, I was invited to
a White House conference aptly named Cooperative Conservation. We
heard optimistic speeches from top Washington officials—Gail
Norton, Mike Johanns, Donald Rumsfeld, and others—who were
advocating more cooperation among stakeholders and less polarization
and litigation. Many success stories across the country were highlighted.
About twenty case studies in New Mexico cited joint efforts in some
of the following areas: watershed improvement, range restoration,
forest health and safety, cultural resources, and water quality
and quantity. Given the stakes, I am hopeful that some of these
contentious issues can be resolved with more compromise and less
During this interim period, I've also had the opportunity to hear
from lots of you. I believe I have one of the most interactive districts
in the state. Not a day goes by that I don't get a call for information
or help, so I've learned much about your concerns and needs.
I hope that you will continue to keep in touch with me. I especially
hope that you'll take the time to come visit me in Santa Fe during
the upcoming session. There's nothing like firsthand experience
to understand how we work in the Capitol. It's not always pretty,
but the knowledge you gain will be worth the effort.
Removal of the barber shop and the restrooms exposes
adobes on the south wall of the Salazar building at El Zócalo
Remember El Zócalo?
Seen from Terry Lamm’s world view, the simultaneous invasion
of Iraq and the Sandoval County’s acquisition of the El Zócalo
complex in 2003 represents a serendipitous coincidence. Both events
blend positive beginnings with lost civic opportunities—architecturally
speaking that is. Terry says that New Mexico craftsmen could be
instrumental in reconstruction and preservation efforts in Iraq.
New Mexico and Iraq share common architecture and building techniques.
“After a conquest, Ghengis Khan always ordered his troops
to protect local craftsmen before every one else,” Terry explains.
“The same thing should have been done for Iraqi craftsmen
to protect ancient buildings that are an important part of our world
He fears that a similar loss may occur at El Zócalo if
the county doesn’t put some effort into restoration pretty
soon. While the old orchard, several outbuildings, and the add-on
barber shop and restrooms have been demolished, reconstruction efforts
are still out for bid.
Lamm’s thirty-years of restoration and day-to-day maintenance
of historic structures at the complex ended when he sold the place
to Sandoval County. His efforts were inspired by the writings of
early twentieth century visionary Patrick Geddes (google him or
see the murals by Edward Gonzales in the Zócalo entryway),
the father of city planning. He renamed the complex El Zócalo
because he hoped it would become a public gathering place and source
of civic pride. He is concerned with the importance of civic spaces
in the creation of public squares, plazas, and architecture that
reflect a town’s character and community spirit.
Sandoval County bought the complex with the help of a $1.4 million
federal grant. The plan was to use the space for an economic development
and training center. Last fall the project was portrayed by several
county commissioners as an overpriced boondoggle of questionable
value when bids far exceeding the $1.7 million cost of reconstruction
If and when a bid is accepted, modern building code enforcement
will threaten the unique sloping brick floors, low doorways, and
period doors and windows. Those of us who enjoyed Zócalo
office space during the “Lamm Era” witnessed an ongoing
battle against leaking roofs, plumbing and heating problems, crumbling
stucco, peeling paint, flooded parking lots, and skunks under the
steps. The idea that our government can finally fix all the problems
with lots of money is similar to fixes like the War on Drugs, the
War on Terror, the War on Poverty, and problems with the infrastructure
which are ongoing processes, not just something to be fixed or killed
once and for all. They need to hire somebody to keep the old place
from falling apart.
Local craftsman Rick Catanach, who did most of the hands on preservation
of El Zocalo says, “I worry about the place every day. When
I drive past and see those rain gutters dangling above the south
wall I know what a hard rain could do to exposed adobes. Back in
the early nineties a similar thing happened to Our Lady of Sorrows
Church and forty-four courses of forty-inch-thick wall were washed
away. They almost decided to tear the church down before the community
got together on a restoration project.”
El Zócalo is the heart of Bernalillo’s Historic District.
The old convent is on the National Registry of Historic Places.
Quite a few old-timers who attended school in two-story adobe Salazar
Building are still around. A lot of us relative newcomers saw Terry
Lamm’s vision of a civic center almost come into fruition.
A memorable Signpost Christmas party in 2003 was the last public
function in a place that had provided an irreplaceable setting for
so many community events.
For more information, contact your county commissioner.
William “Bill” Sapien
Sandoval County Line—the year in review
—WILLIAM SAPIEN, CHAIRMAN,
SANDOVAL COUNTY COMMISSION
When I was elected chairman of the Sandoval County Commission, I
outlined ambitious goals for 2005. Many of those goals have been
met and still others are moving forward to fruition with our team
approach that involves residents, elected officials, and county
County taxpayers are receiving great value and services for their
tax dollars. As a commission, our prudent fiscal policies and plans
are preparing our county for the exceptional growth we confront.
This past year, we have improved our buildings and infrastructure,
senior centers, health programs, investment policy, employee compensation
and retirement programs, and fire and public safety. We have created
long-lasting partnerships that will serve our residents for decades
We have, in brief, reached our goals and expectations without
raising county property-tax rates and with a minimum of inconvenience
to all who were part of our many plans and programs.
Some of our accomplishments during the past year include the completion
of the most technologically advanced judicial complex in New Mexico;
an improved facility to house our overcrowded magistrate courts;
and the creation of a county fire department.
Other achievements are a broadband network that, when operational,
in the very near future, will promote economic and personal growth
for county residents.
Our composting plant is operating now and a full recycling program
will be ready by March of 2006. We have completed the first phase
of our Health Commons and we doubled the size of our detention center
in a project that was completed ahead of schedule and within the
dollar amount approved by voters.
Other recent capital improvements include a shade structure at
the county fairgrounds, a new building for the Bureau of Elections,
and numerous improvements to our senior centers. Portions of the
county courthouse, too, have been remodeled and other renovations
are in the works to provide much needed space for several county
We have developed more complete policies and procedures to assure
prudent management of our financial resources.
Our investment advisory committee will provide oversight of our
investments and our investment policies. Additionally, our facilities
advisory committee is firmly established to address our capital
projects in an orderly fashion and help us to calculate future costs
of operating county facilities.
For our permanent funds, we are developing an investment policy
and disbursement guidelines. This will lead to further partnerships
with our communities to fund critically needed local projects far
into the future.
Finally, our greatest challenge for the years ahead is transportation
and the increasing traffic we all confront, particularly along NM
528 and US 550. We are working in a myriad of ways to ease commuting
time, improve traffic safety, and alleviate traffic congestion.
Our county was among the first to join the regional transit authority,
with the mission of improving travel throughout our area. We have
formally supported rural transportation solutions. We were the first
local government to participate in the state's commuter-rail project
that will begin serving our residents in the very near future. Meanwhile,
work is progressing on creating the county's transit system.
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.
While 2005 has been a year of great achievements, I am sure 2006
will see even greater progress, with the completion of current projects
and the commencement of new endeavors.
For all of this, I acknowledge the dedication and exceptional
work of our elected officials, county manager, division directors,
and each and every employee.
Questions or comments for Commissioner Sapien can be sent to him
at Sandoval County Administrative offices, P.O. Box 40, Bernalillo,