An Independent Monthly Newsmagazine Serving the Community since 1989

Community Calendar

Sandoval County Commission endorses installation of air monitors in Corrales

On June 6, the Sandoval County Commission voted 4-to-1 to endorse installation of air monitors in Corrales. The Corrales Comment hailed the vote as “a major political breakthrough since, for more than a decade, the commission has been heavily influenced by Intel’s clout. Sandoval County is legal and titular owner of the Rio Rancho Intel plant through the highly controversial $8 billion industrial revenue bond which the County approved for Intel in the mid-1990’s.”

The pro-monitoring resolution was sponsored by the County commissioner from Corrales, Damon Ely. Commissioner Elizabeth Johnson cast the dissenting vote. [See County Line.]

For years, the Southwest Organizing Project and Corrales Residents for Clean Air have demanded that Intel pay for installation of one or more FTIR monitors in Corrales and Rio Rancho neighborhoods, because of the many allegations of emission related health problems. The computer chip maker has steadfastly refused to do so.

Commissioner Bill Sapien stated, “I feel it is the commission’s duty and responsibility to look after the health and welfare of the county, therefore I support the resolution requiring monitoring. This monitoring done in a scientific manner will yield results that will guide other decisions regarding air quality. It is also possible that the results may exonerate Intel of the allegations of air pollution.”

SWOP recently mailed out flyers seeking donations to raise the remaining $35,000 to buy a $100,000 FTIR monitor because they say that foot dragging by the New Mexico Environment Department will delay monitoring by as much as three years.


Bernalillo police training to use defibrillators

Bernalillo Chief of Police William Relyea’s department has received two automated external defibrillators, thanks to a grant from the American Heart Association.

According to Relyea, the Bernalillo police officers are the first responders to all major incidents in the Bernalillo area. He said, “After being dispatched, the officers can be on the scene in generally between one and two minutes, 90 percent of the time. Since time is critical in sudden cardiac arrest, having AEDs in our police units will clearly save lives in our small community.”

Sudden-cardiac-arrest victims must receive defibrillation (an electric shock to restore the heart’s normal rhythm) quickly, or they will die. An AED is a computerized medical device that can be used to evaluate a cardiac-arrest victim’s heart rhythm, determine if shock is needed, and deliver an electric shock through the chest wall to the heart. Audible and visual prompts guide the user through the process.

Fourteen Bernalillo officers have been trained on the use of the AEDs, which will be carried in patrol cars during all shifts. In addition, six town officials have received AED training.


July’s web poll question (yes or no):

Do you feel that wild or feral horses should be allowed to range freely in and around Placitas? Click here to go to the On-Line Survey.


White strobes disturb western sky

The operators of the 1,100-foot television tower west of Bernalillo has recently been leaving white strobes on all night instead of switching to the less obtrusive red. Complaints and inquiries can be addressed to KWBQ-WB-19 at 797-1919, or by calling Roberts Communications at 314-367-4600.


Drought impacts Placitas horses

Ty Belknap

    I See the Horses

I see the horses running free

I wish that one could be for me

I wish that folks would let them be

I wish they won’t get tied to a tree

I wish they leave grass on the ground

And go somewhere they won’t be found

—Marita, Placitas

Marita wrote this masterpiece of ambiguity a couple of years ago after the tragic death of one of the free-range horses that had roamed the northern hills of Placitas. The mare died as a result of cruelty or a clumsy attempt at rustling after she was left tied to a tree near Las Huertas Creek. The incident inspired not only the poem but several letters of outrage to the Signpost over the ensuing months. The horses are a very emotional issue around here, and one about which most people have opinions and concerns.

Last month Marita’s wishes came true, sort of, except for the “grass on the ground” part. She opened her bedroom curtains one morning to find eight horses just inches away, munching on her xeriscaping and pathetic little patch of grass.

Cedar Creek subdivision on Camino de las Huertas was home in June to one of the herds of feral horses that some say have migrated through the fence from San Felipe Pueblo (the governor’s office at San Felipe did not return our call). The horses have been around Placitas for many years and generations of them have probably never seen the inside of a corral. They used to spend a lot of time up Las Huertas Creek, trampling Lynn Montgomery’s acequia and orchards. As the drought got worse, the horses moved down to Cedar Creek. The creek at that subdivision dried up years ago, but sympathetic horse owners now provide water and feed. For the most part, the herd consists of good-looking, healthy animals.

The novelty has worn thin for several homeowners who see little qualitative difference between stray horses and stray cattle. There was even a move afoot last year in Cedar Creek to change the covenants to restrict domestic horses. Now, free-range horses wander from house to house drinking from bird feeders and enjoying the xeriscaping until feeding time at the corral. The restrictive covenants do not deal with this unforeseen development.

The resident who is providing the feed says that he doesn’t particularly want the herd around either—not to mention the considerable expense of feeding them. He says that if they stay around, he will quit feeding the horses when the monsoons come, but until then he refuses to let them starve or die of thirst. Horse lovers are like that.

Carlos LoPopolo of the New Mexico Horse Project came out take a look at the herd and met with several other community members. LoPopolo has been instrumental in DNA identification and setting up preserves for wild horses descended from the lost mounts of Spanish conquistadors. LoPopolo said that the herd looked like quarter horses, but if somebody wanted to corral them, he could have them tested. If the horses test positive, they could be legally protected and provided with a habitat such as the ten-thousand-acre preserve in the East Mountains.

LoPopolo suggested that people form committees to create a preserve in the Placitas Open Space. All they’d have to do is find funding to drill a well, occasionally provide feed and veterinary care, and fence the entire perimeter. The main impediment to such a plan would be arriving at a consensus with the people who have worked so hard to restore riparian areas that the horses would damage.

LoPopolo said that a number of the Placitas horses had been rounded up and sold at an auction. He warned that all the horses—whether wild, feral, or just lost—would soon be gone if something wasn’t done to protect them. When the Placitas-based Wild Horse Observers Association heard of the auction, they went ballistic. Their investigation revealed that, sure enough, five horses had been corralled by longtime San Francisco Ranch Road resident Dick Johnsonbaugh. Johnsonbaugh had turned the horses over to the New Mexico Livestock Board after reporting that they were destroying the springs and severely depleting his grazing land.

Johnsonbaugh, a horseman himself, has admired three generations of these horses and is still tormented about his decision. He said that he was paid $8.30 from the proceeds of the auction to cover his expenses for hay while the horses were in his corral. “They just looked so bad, I felt something had to be done,” he explained. “If I had known about WHOA, I would have called them.” Johnsonbaugh doesn’t feel that the environment can tolerate expanding herds of free range horses, though, and doesn’t see the wisdom in feeding wild animals. He said that he is protective of the the riparian area around his springs, but has found that it is illegal to fence them off. Johnsonbaugh also said that since the auction, he has seen thirty-eight or thirty-nine horses while riding near his home.

John Wortman, director of the livestock board, said, “Wild horses are protected under the Wild and Free Roaming horses and Burros Act of 1971. To my knowledge, and I say this with a 99-percent certainty, the horses around Placitas are not protected. They strayed off the reservation and the res said they don’t want them back. The BLM said they weren’t protected and were causing problems. They told us to take them.”

Cindy King said that WHOA claims ownership of the horses and that they were captured and auctioned illegally. She has vowed to purchase the horses back and return them to the wilds of Placitas before they are slaughtered for dog food [See King’s letter in The Gauntlet, page 33.].

Tommy Gow of the BLM held an open meeting last fall hoping to establish a consensus about whether the herds should be impounded or allowed to roam. He said that he is willing to hold another meeting at any time. He pointed out that the livestock is wandering in search of food and water in drought conditions. They are not permitted by the BLM and as such are regarded as trespassing stray animals. Gow says that the proper procedure for impounding horses or other livestock is to corral them and contact the livestock board, which will either identify and contact the owner or put the animals up for auction. He added that he doubted if any horses would end up as dog food.

Basically, there are only two choices: impoundment, or allowing the horses to continue to cohabit with humans in the increasingly diminished and depleted habitat. It is a simple issue to some, but to others the “wild” horses represent the spirit of the Old West or maybe a last stand against the sprawl of residential development that is changing rural lifestyles.


Billboards to redirect traffic to Bernalillo
during Exit 240 reconstruction

Local and state government made a significant contribution to Bernalillo business and tourism last month by funding billboard advertising. The Town of Bernalillo contributed $13,500, the Sandoval County Department of Tourism lodger’s tax added $1,500, and the New Mexico State Department of Tourism kicked in another $2,000 toward signs aimed at encouraging travelers and local traffic to drive through Bernalillo. The five-month closure of Exit 240 on I-25 has raised concerns about hardships to businesses, along with the possible loss of gross-receipts taxes that the town relies upon.

The billboards will be placed on I-25 southbound just before Exit 242 and northbound on I-25 just before the Tramway exit. They will tell people that there are alternative routes to access the historic, quaint shops on the south end of town. They are an attempt to lessen the effect of the loss of Exit 240 and at the same time try to capture a new market. The advertising will encourage tourists to take the scenic drive on Camino del Pueblo.

Maria Rinaldi, Bernalillo community development director, said, ”I usually feel that billboards are like litter on a stick, but in this case they really are effective. Visitation to the Bernalillo tourist center has dramatically increased since we put one up on US 550. The town won’t use billboards except for special events, but to deal with the exit closure we will use every tool we can. We have also coordinated with the state highway department to improve signage throughout the construction of the new bridge. We have asked them to use street names instead of highway designation numbers to get traffic to flow better.”

Rinaldi added that the town is working to improve its appearance, providing guidelines on building materials (no more metal buildings), parking areas, building height, and setbacks form the road. She added, “We are currently in in the planning stage of developing a grant or a loan program for facade improvement which may offer new building owners up to $5,000. It’s not very much, but could definitely make a difference in the look of Bernalillo.”

The old auto-parts store across from the town hall will soon be home to three new businesses, and the facade of the building will be redone according to the new guidelines. Rinaldi also noted that the town worked with the Family Dollar Store of Texarkana to change their existing plan for a proposed store on Camino del Pueblo from a metal building with no architectural details to a building that will reflect “historic Bernalillo architecture.”

The billboards are under a six-month contract. Local businesses and the Chamber of Commerce will track the effectiveness of the advertising campaign and a decision will be made about whether to continue the campaign after the new bridge is completed.


Town supports Pueblo of Sandia’s land claim

The Bernalillo Town Council unanimously passed a resolution on June 10 in support of the Pueblo of Sandia’s efforts to settle the pueblo’s legal claim to the west face of Sandia Mountain.

Pueblo governor Stuwart Paisano provided the council with an update on the issues and negotiations surrounding the claim. He noted that federal legislation currently pending in Congress could end years of legal wrangling and recognize the pueblo’s historic property rights and traditional cultural interests in Sandia Mountain, while fully protecting public access.

A temporary settlement agreement that withdrew the dispute from the federal court system after several legal victories by the pueblo expires on November 15, and unless Congress enacts a permanent settlement, the claim could end up back in the courts. The Town of Bernalillo’s unanimous resolution expresses support for the pueblo’s position and “urges Congress to either ratify the settlement agreement or to pass the alternative agreement supported by the pueblo.”