The Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newsmagazine Serving the Community since 1989


PGA plays at Santa Ana golf course

Last month the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort and Spa Twin Warrior’s Golf Club on the Santa Ana Pueblo reservation became the first course to host the PGA Club Professional Championship in New Mexico. The championship has not been held in any Southwest U.S. location in over thirty years.

Known for its long fairways, Twin Warrior’s course for the CPC was played at 7,624 yards, longer than any PGA of America event in history and longer than any major championship through this season.

The thirty-sixth CPC features a field of 156 professionals from around the country, including 1983 champion Larry Webb of Rociada, New Mexico, who was returning to the championship for the first time since 1998.

“Generations of legend and history have taken flight on this sacred land,” said Roger Martinez, director of golf operations for Santa Ana Corporation. “Many will remember the day PGA Professional came to play Twin Warriors.”


Tight county budget retains "pork"

Signpost staff

Money for Sandoval County is tight these days. A large part of the June 19 county commission meeting was spent on trying to get back funding that was cut earlier in the month. County Clerk Victoria Dunlap sparred with the commission to get back her overtime budget which she said was inappropriately cut by the administration. County Manager Debbie Hays said that she cut the overtime because the commission increased the clerk's staff because Dunlap said she needed more staff to cut out the overtime. No action was taken.

Later, the commission reversed a unanimous decision from the previous meeting to eliminate the county's $250,000 fund used for anything from donations to non-profit organizations to road projects. Commissission chair Jack Thomas said that the commisson had taken away funding that benefits the poorest segment of the population, and that, "this has been called the pork fund in the press, but I think it's important to know that we support the Senior Olympics, Special Olympics, the Boys and Girls Clubs, and Watermelon Mountain Ranch, to name a few."

Commissioner Damon Ely and David Bency voted against the reversal, saying that the funds were needed for basic services and public safety. Bency said he is asking the state Attorney General's office to investigate possible anti-donation laws regarding what he called the pork fund.


Skeeter eaters

Bill Diven

The skeeter eaters swimming in Sandoval County waterways won’t stop West Nile virus from reappearing, according to the county contractor attacking the mosquito population.

“It’s probably here, but I just have not captured a mosquito with it yet,” said Paul Sandoval, owner of Roadrunner Pest Control. “West Nile does not go away. Once it’s here, it’s here.”

Last year a horse in Peña Blanca was infected with the virus, although no human cases were reported in the state. Nationwide, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracked 4,156 human cases, mostly in the East, South, and Midwest, that resulted in 284 deaths.

Sandoval, who holds a public-health license, is completing a three-year contract that includes responding to reports of plague and hantavirus. In June, the Sandoval County Commission awarded a new contract paying the firm $30,000 for the next six months.

Sandoval attacks mosquitoes in their infancy by releasing gambusia, a larva-eating fish, and natural bacterial pesticides into rivers and ditches. A fogger truck spraying a short-duration synthetic pesticide goes after flying adults, especially in problem areas like Corrales and San Ysidro.

But that’s just on public property. The bigger problem, according to Sandoval, is home owners like the one who let rainwater stand on a pool cover until it was black with larvae.

“Remove anything that might hold standing water—from a coffee cup to a broken flower pot,” he said. Small puddles are great breeding grounds for the 115 mosquito species that hatch in Sandoval County from early May to as late as mid-October.

Other precautions include spraying insect repellent on clothing, wearing lighter colors, cutting grass low, and using commercial yard foggers, which provide a few hours of protection.

According to the CDC, most people infected with West Nile virus suffer no illness while about 20 percent will develop West Nile fever with mild symptoms lasting a few days, including fever, headache, body aches, and possibly a skin rash and swollen lymph glands. The CDC estimates 0.5 percent, or one person out of 150 infected, may contract West Nile encephalitis or meningitis producing headaches, high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, and paralysis.

In other health and safety actions, the county commission in June banned shooting in a large swath of the county west of Rio Rancho after numerous complaints from residents. The area extends from Rio Rancho to the Rio Puerco and is bound on the north by US 550 and on the south by the Sandoval-Bernalillo county line.

“People are shooting cows and microwave towers,” commission chairman Jack Thomas said. Three years ago the commission banned shooting in the Rio Grande bosque between Santa Ana and Sandia pueblos, with positive results, according to commissioner William Sapien.

Commissioners also directed county attorney David Mathews to prepare an ordinance as allowed by state law to prohibit trash dumping on private property. Commissioners identified two problem areas in Rio Rancho Estates and around Cuba where county workers frequently pick up trash from public roads but have no authority over adjacent land.

Commissioner Elizabeth Johnson noted random dumping worsened as small landfills closed in favor of a central location with fees. The Keep New Mexico Beautiful program helps collect trash and litter, as do young volunteers from the Boy Scouts and 4-H summer youth programs, she said.

“The more the parents see the kids picking up the trash, the less inclined they are to throw in out,” Johnson added.


Cell towers under scrutiny

Bill Diven

The wireless revolution continues with Sandoval County planners expecting requests for hundreds of new cell-phone antennae in the next few years.

“US 550, I-25 and NM 4 are three growth areas where we see us getting slammed,” zoning enforcement officer Michael Scales told the Signpost. One pending project proposes eight towers on public, private and tribal lands along US 550 from Bernalillo past Cuba, he said.

The forecast of a fivefold increase from the existing 130 antennae to nearly 700 is spawning the county’s first cell-tower ordinance. The document is scheduled for presentation to the Sandoval County Planning and Zoning commission this month and to the county commission in August.

One goal is to reduce the number of towers needed by making cell companies share their structures, said county planning director Mike Springfield.

“The companies will have to prove physically and mathematically that they have to have their own tower, otherwise they have to co-locate,” Springfield said. “They can’t just say, ‘I’m a company, and I want my own tower.’”

One tower can support as many as seven antennae, he added. Currently cell towers need only a special-use permit under the zoning ordinance which requires no technical reviews.

In addition to customer demand, 911 rules are forcing wider service so operators will know the location of emergency calls. Scales said 911 calls from Sandoval County might be answered in Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Farmington and even Durango, Colo.

Beyond reducing the number of towers, the county hopes to eliminate many altogether by hiding antennae on existing structures. These so-called stealth towers already are in use including two attached to power poles in the Placitas area.

“Unless you know what to look for, you do not see it,” Scales said.

Initially the planners proposed allowing them to approve stealth towers administratively, an idea P&Z commissioners rejected as sure to generate public complaints whenever an antenna suddenly appeared.

“We’d have five people in here saying we’re shooting radio waves through their bodies,” commissioner John Arango said at the May 27 commission meeting. “You’d be better off to let us take the heat.”

That includes balancing the needs and desires of different parts of the county.

“In some areas, like San Luis, there is no regular phone service,” Scales said. “In some rural areas, people love to see the towers go up.

“In Cuba, Jemez Springs, La Jara and Placitas, you have to be careful.”

While stealth towers offer visual relief, planners warn their lack of height reduces coverage so more are needed. The proposed ordinance limits stand-alone towers to 199 feet, the maximum allowed without lights by federal regulations.

Taller towers would require a variance. All tower applications would be subject to a public hearing with adjoining property owners receiving advance notice.

The county currently is in negotiations with the Center for Municipal Solutions, a consulting company already working for three other New Mexico counties. The company provides the technical expertise to examine tower design and location and makes its money from fees charged to applicants.

Additionally, the ordinance would mandate:

  • Insurance naming the county among those covered.
  • Bonds of $75,000 per tower and $25,000 per antenna to assure removal at the end of their service lives.
  • Annual reports on each tower and its compliance with federal standards.
  • Applying the new standards to existing towers.

The ordinance also would govern private antennae and wireless broadband Internet connections. The planners expect to address commercial and private satellite dishes when the zoning ordinance is rewritten later this year.


County landfill to close on Sundays

The Sandoval County Regional Landfill will be closed on Sundays beginning July 6 in a move that will save taxpayers thousands of dollars each year. The landfill will remain open Mondays through Saturdays.

"While some of the costs to operate on Sunday are offset by the fees we receive for accepting waste that day, much of the costs to operate on Sundays are being subsidized by county taxpayers," said Mike Foster, Sandoval County’s assistant director of solid waste.

Foster said the Sunday closing would save more than $159,000 a year in the costs to operate the landfill, or about 11 percent of the landfill's budget of $1.4 million.

He said an average of 125 people have used the landfill on Sundays in recent months, about one-third the number of customers who dispose of trash at the facility on other days of the week.

The landfill is on Idalia Road west of NM 528 and employs seventeen workers. It will continue normal operations from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. Sandoval County also accepts residential waste at landfill convenience stations in Cuba, Cañon, and Peña Blanca. Those facilities are open Wednesdays and Saturdays from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Starting at fifty cents for a trash bag or $3 for a pickup load at bed level, the rates to use Sandoval County's landfill increase with the size of the load.


Excavation of original Placitas village continues

Ty Belknap

For six weeks, beginning in June, archaeologists Dr. Nan Rothchild and graduate student Heather Atherton directed the continue excavation of San José de las Huertas north of Placitas village. The rare Spanish Colonial site is owned by the Archaeological Conservancy, which owns four such sites in New Mexico. Jim Walker, the conservancy's Southwest regional director, describes San José de las Huertas as "the most intact Spanish Colonial village in New Mexico, if not the Southwest."

The village was officially granted to settlers in 1767 by the king of Spain, but it was probably established long before that date. It was occupied by as many as three hundred people. In 1826 the government ordered the village to be abandoned, but there is some question whether that order was followed by all the settlers.

The archaeologists have been studying the site for parts of the last four years, initially mapping it with the help of magnetometry and soil resistivity testing. The actual excavation started last summer, and is limited to 1 percent of the surface. Painstakingly digging, scraping, and sweeping the ruins with small trowels, picks and brushes, Rothchild and Atherton disturb as little of the site as possible. They are assisted by several graduate students from Columbia University and volunteers from an educational organization called Earthwatch.

This summer they have excavated a wagon road, bits of selenite windows, plaster floors, slag from metalworking, a fireplace and hearth, and the corner of a wall that was three adobes thick. Artifacts are meticulously drawn and photographed before being taken to the lab for further study. Rothchild said that they have found relatively few household items and tools because the settlers apparently took most everything with them when they left.

Rothchild and Atherton are hoping that their studies reveal physical evidence of the social relationships among the settlers and how this remote settlement related to Spanish policy. "All we have without this evidence are documents and oral history," explained Rothchild. Her article "San José de las Huertas, an 18th-century buffer site" appeared in the July 2002 issue of the Signpost. It can be found on our Web site at

A related article about a tour of the site organized by the Las Placitas Association appeared in the June 2002 issue and can be found at

A six-page article about the ongoing work at San Jose de las Huertas appears in the Summer 2003 issue of American Archeology. Copies may be obtained by calling the Archaeological Conservancy in Albuquerque at 266-1540.


Placitas Community Library incorporates

Karen Crane

On May 20 the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission approved the formation of the Placitas Community Library, Inc. Placitas residents are now one step closer to the establishment of a library in the area, thanks to a small group of committed volunteers.

The project was kicked off several months ago by Snow Watson and Sue Strasic. The two women organized an initial meeting to determine the feasibility of establishing a library in Placitas. A subsequent survey of the community met with very positive response. It sparked the interest of a small group of volunteers who now are meeting monthly to get the project off the ground. Their commitment led to the creation of bylaws and resulted in the establishment of a nonprofit corporation recognized by the state of New Mexico.

The latest meeting was held on June 11 at the residence of Phil Karns. The purpose of the meeting was to adopt the bylaws and organize the board of directors. The bylaws were approved, and three board members were appointed: Sue Strasic, Snow Watson, and Nancy Westbrook.

Nine members will be required for a complete board. It was decided that further appointments to the board of directors would be made at the next meeting. The library group is currently seeking people to serve in this capacity.

In addition to establishing the board of directors, officers of the corporation were elected. Phil Karns was elected president; Sally Haverkate, vice president; Lawrence Robinson, secretary; and Al Westbrook, treasurer. These officers will serve until the end of this year. In December of 2003 new officers will be elected for a term of one year. The new term will begin in January 2004.

Although the corporation has very limited funds at this time, the treasurer was authorized to open a bank account. It was decided that library memberships will be issued. Members will be required to pay annual dues. Adult members will each pay $10 annually and students under the age of eighteen will be assessed a minimal fee of $1.

Future plans for raising capital include a pledge drive. The Placitas Library is formally a nonprofit corporation now, but the organization has yet to receive its tax-exempt status from the federal government. When that status (501c3) is obtained, Placitas Community Library will be able to accept tax-deductible donations.

The June meeting also resulted in the formation of several committees to work on various aspects of the library project. They include a membership committee to recruit new members; a board of directors committee to recruit additional board members; a budget and finance committee; a grants and fund-raising committee; a property and building acquisitions committee; and a tax and compliance committee for obtaining tax-exempt status.

Al Westbrook, the newly elected treasurer of Placitas Community Library, said the organization is looking for volunteers.

 “We are looking for people who are enthusiastic about helping in any capacity,” he stated. That could include anything from becoming a member of the library to serving on a committee or serving as a board member.

The Placitas Community Library is also seeking a location. Secretary Lawrence Robinson said that the ideal property would be somewhere along Highway 165, for easy access for all members of the community. The group is open to all suggestions though, and would like to hear from you if you have any ideas.

If you are interested in becoming a member, serving on a committee, or serving as a board member, you can contact Nancy Westbrook at 867-9768.

The next meeting will be held on July 9 at 6:30 p.m. at 14 Dusty Trail Drive. You can contact Phil Karns, 867-5265, for more information.


History lectures, slides at Coronado Monument

Coronado State Monument will be the site for a lecture and slide show on New Mexico History on July 19 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The program begins at 10 a.m. with the “History of New Mexico,” presented by historian and Hispanic culture expert Tom Chavez. At 11:35 a.m. Dr. Todd Howell will speak about Hawikku Battlefield. At 2:00 p.m. Dr. Richard Flint will reveal “What they never told you about Coronado,” and at 3:00 p.m. the topic of “Rock Art and Prehistoric Art” will be presented by Kurt and Polly Schaafsma. Admission to the lectures is free with paid admission to the site; admission for adults is $3 and children sixteen and under are admitted free.

Coronado State Monument is in Bernalillo, off Highway 550, just past Jackalope. Turn north at the Coronado Monument sign and proceed a quarter of a mile to the visitors center. Parking is free. For more information, call Angie Manning at 867-5351 or write to






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