An Independent Monthly Newsmagazine Serving the Community since 1989


Martha Liebert and Mayor Patricia Chavez

Photo by Ty Belknap

Bernalillo mayor Patricia Chávez presents Martha Liebert with a plaque at the grand opening and rededication ceremony of the Martha Liebert Public Library.

Martha Liebert Public Library rededicated

Mayor Patricia A. Chávez, library director Juanita Montaño, and the library board hosted a grand opening and rededication of the Bernalillo Martha Liebert Public Library on Wednesday, June 21. “I see this facility as a center of learning. The initial visionary efforts of Martha Liebert, unquestionably a pioneer, has evolved into a valuable community resource—a dedicated place not only to gather information but also to exchange ideas that expand the mind,” Mayor Chavéz stated.

The facility was rededicated in the name of town resident Martha Liebert, who as a volunteer established Bernalillo’s first public library in 1965. Liebert served the community as librarian from 1965 until her retirement in 1990. The Bernalillo Public Library was initially dedicated in her name in 1985, but the designation was lost when the public library was moved to Roosevelt Elementary.

The library, under the directorship of Juanita Montaño since 1995, has been housed in several public facilities including Bernalillo Town Hall, and most recently in shared space at Roosevelt Elementary School. The new facility is at 124 Calle Malinche and officially opened to the public on May 22. Service hours are Mondays through Fridays, 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., and Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. The public can enjoy an expanded, six-computer station with Internet access, a media center, and a Southwest Collection/Artworks room.

The new facility is constructed in a hacienda style, with early territorial accents common to the Bernalillo area and in compliance with the character-design guidelines of the Town of Bernalillo Main Street Overlay Ordinance. “The library was designed by town staff to fit appropriately in a residential neighborhood and to reflect the architectural styles of the traditional houses and historic Roosevelt Elementary that surround the new facility,” said Maria Rinaldi, community-development director for the town.

For further information, contact the Bernalillo Martha Liebert Public Library, at 867-1440.


Sandia Pueblo well served despite Abramoff scandal

—LAWRENCE R. GUTIERREZ, GOVERNOR, PUEBLO OF SANDIA
SANDIA PUEBLO, NEW MEXICO, JUNE 23, 2006—As the report of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee notes, in 2002 the Pueblo of Sandia retained the Greenberg Traurig law firm, where Jack Abramoff worked, and Michael Scanlon’s political consulting firm. These firms were engaged in connection with the Pueblo’s efforts to secure Congressional ratification of a settlement of its longstanding claim to Sandia Mountain, a matter of the utmost religious and cultural importance to our Pueblo. The Pueblo’s efforts were ultimately successful—thanks to the steadfast resolve of the Pueblo’s leadership, the support of numerous individuals, groups, and government officials at the local level, and the hard work of Senators Bingaman and Domenici, Congresswoman Wilson, and our entire Congressional delegation. A true consensus ultimately emerged for the settlement.

The Pueblo greatly appreciates the work done by the Committee in reporting on the unconscionable behavior of Mr. Abramoff and Mr. Scanlon in their dealings with various tribes, including the Pueblo of Sandia. The Pueblo was pleased to cooperate fully with the Committee and is outraged by what the Committee uncovered. In exposing the dealings of Mr. Abramoff and Mr. Scanlon, the Committee performed an important service to tribes and to the country.


County revises Placitas subdivision ordinance

—TY BELKNAP
On June 2 the Sandoval County Commission voted unanimously to adopt revisions to the county subdivision ordinance, dealing specifically with summary subdivision and family-transfer exemptions in Placitas. On February 2, in an attempt to better control residential development, the commission had approved a 120-day moratorium on these relaxed provisions of the subdivision ordinance, to allow time for the Planning and Zoning Commission to work on changes without being flooded with last-minute applications. P&Z conducted two well-attended and contentious public hearings and recommended changes to the county commission.

The changes to summary subdivisions included a requirement for public hearings, notification of adjoining property owners, a grading-and-drainage plan to be submitted to the county engineer, and a water-availability assessment to be reviewed by the Office of the State Engineer.

Changes in family-transfer exemptions also require public-hearing notification to adjoining property owners. In addition, subdividers using this exemption are now required to file sworn and notarized statements that ensure that land transfers will be used by family members for their own residential use and not as a part of a development scheme.

At prior public hearings, developers and private landowners complained that the revisions would make small summary subdivisions prohibitively expensive. Comment at the June 2 meeting centered on the inevitable delays resulting from dealing with the Office of the State Engineer. It was pointed out that the smaller the subdivision, the greater the added expense, hurting private landowners more than professional developers.

Prior to voting in favor of the changes, the commissioners agreed that the revisions were not perfect and that they would review the ordinance annually to see how it is working.


New Bernalillo streetscape plan

New Bernalillo Streetscape draft design plan for part of Camino del Pueblo calls for two-lane traffic.

Bernalillo Streetscape plan sparks controversy

—TY BELKNAP
Director of community development Maria Rinaldi was not expecting the flood of public opposition that dominated the June 12 Bernalillo Streetscape meeting. Business owners and residents of Camino del Pueblo were outraged at the idea of reducing their street from four lanes to two lanes.

“It was supposed to be a constructive design workshop where townspeople view a conceptual design that resulted from previous workshops. Public input was sought to modify that design if that’s what people wanted,” Rinaldi said. She further explained that there would be a good deal more public process before a design was approved and that no date had been set for construction to begin.

The draft design calls for reducing the flow of traffic from four lanes to two lanes on Camino del Pueblo from Avenida Bernalillo to Calle Presidente. A landscaped median would be interspersed with left- and U-turn lanes. Numerous pedestrian crosswalks would include park benches, trash containers, hydrants, and sidewalk lighting. Sidewalks would be widened to eight feet for easy access to electrical-cable and water lines and enhanced with decorative brick accents. A parking lane would be eight and a half feet wide (increasing overall parking spaces by two), the driving lane would be fifteen feet wide (wide enough for a car and a bicycle.)

“The town has be diligent in getting funding for this project form the Federal Highway Administration. These funds can only be used for the Streetscape project. It would be negligent of us to not take advantage of this opportunity to address pedestrian safety issues, comply with regulations to be accessible to the handicapped, and at the same time beautify and improve economic development,” Rinaldi said.

Opponents say that the draft design will accomplish none of these things. They circulated a petition asking Mayor Chávez to reject the plan “because of numerous safety issues as well as the negative impact on business and the overall community.”

The petition specifies the following areas of concern:

• Too much traffic for two lanes.
• Emergency vehicles would not be able to get through traffic.
• U-turn locations would create traffic hazards and congestion.
• Overall traffic volume would not decrease, but would shift to residential streets, creating safety hazards at numerous places in town.
•Two lanes would make it more difficult for anyone trying to turn onto Main Street, including school buses and residents trying to get to work or to local businesses.
•Two lanes would likely lessen the total number of cars, but at the same time increase density, causing more congestion and more frustration for residents wanting to get from point A to point B.
•Less traffic and difficult ingress and egress is bad for business.
•Negative impact on San Lorenzo Fiesta.

Department of Transportation District district lead traffic engineer Tony Abo told the Signpost that the DOT had some concerns about how the left and U-turn lanes would work and that the preliminary plan needed some fine-tuning. He said it was a jurisdictional issue and that the DOT would go along with the two-lane issue as long as the town understood the ramifications. “There is a limited amount of width available. You can’t have four lanes, a median, parking lanes, and a wider sidewalk. Residents of Bernalillo need to come to some consensus about priorities,” Abo explained. He said that so far he did not see a clear consensus for or against the proposed plan.

Concerning accommodating increased traffic on Camino del Pueblo caused by traffic snarls on US 550 and I-25, he said, “The town shouldn’t be penalized for occasional incidents. The community has to decide whether they want to provide a convenient shortcut for commuters or if they want an attractive main street that is pedestrian-friendly. The proposed plan might weed out some drivers looking for a shortcut and encourage others to shop and spend more time in the community.”

The next Streetscape-design workshop had not been scheduled as of Signpost print date. The proposed plan is displayed in the town-council chambers, and public input questionnaires are available.

Maria Rinaldi declined to comment on the concerns outlined in the petition. She said that they would be considered along with other public input.

Groundbreaking for new Rio Rancho City Hall

The City of Rio Rancho announced the groundbreaking for construction of the new city hall in City Centre, across the street from the Multi-Purpose Event Center. Gerald Martin starts construction this month on the city hall and anticipates a twelve-month project.

Several distinctive design and aesthetic features included in the project are traditional Southwest images translated into contemporary motif, transitional indoor-outdoor spaces and low-maintenance zinc metal skin. The project also achieved valuable energy efficiency through glazing, geothermal heating and cooling, and higher insulation values that will substantially lower building-operating expenses.

The city intends to occupy the new building late next summer and celebrate with a grand-opening ceremony in August 2007.


Pete David Salazar
Pete David Salazar

Orlando Lucero
Orlando Lucero

Charles Aguilar
Charles Aguilar

Sandoval County election returns

—BILL DIVEN
Election officials' opinions of voter turnout in the June primary ranged from awful to dismal, but that didn't stop the winners from accepting their nominations.

“I want to thank people who went out to vote,” Placitas resident Pete David Salazar said. “There weren't that many, but I'm especially grateful to them.”

Salazar won the Republican nomination for the District 1 seat on the Sandoval County Commission, representing Placitas, Bernalillo, and a far-northeast neighborhood in Rio Rancho. Orlando Lucero defeated three other Democrats for his party's District 1 nomination.

Both candidates said they expect to knock on a lot of doors before the November 7 general election.

“I love to talk to people,” Lucero, a Bernalillo educator, said. “I'm excited.

“I'll be out there beating the bushes.”

Overall, about seventy-eight hundred Sandoval County residents voted, with Democrats outnumbering Republicans about 2.5 to 1. That's out of fifty-one thousand registered voters.

The District 1 race was the most crowded on the ballot, as six candidates from Placitas, Bernalillo, and Sandia Pueblo vied to succeed incumbent Commissioner William Sapien, who is reaching his term limit after two four-year terms.

Lucero won his nomination with 594 votes, defeating Patrick Baca (486), Margaret Palumbo (236) and Jean Eichberger (182). Salazar eked out a twenty-three-vote win over Gary Miles, 232 to 209.

The closest race came in the Democrats’ contest for probate judge, where Placitas attorney Stevan Schoen and former Bernalillo mayor Charles Aguilar tied with 2,056 votes apiece while Jerard Misquez finished third. Ten days later, when fifty-two provisional paper ballots used by voters who didn't appear on precinct rosters were opened, Aguilar pulled ahead by ten votes.

His Republican opponent in the general election will be Judy Kwapich Madril, who ran unopposed.

The only other contested county-level race was the Democrats’ contest for magistrate judge Division 3. There Delilah Montaño-Baca defeated incumbent Magistrate Richard Zanotti and William Mast.

The Republican magistrate judge Division 3 candidate is Mary O. Kwapich, the current probate judge.


Rehabilitation planned for Piedra Liza Dam

Rehabilitation construction is anticipated this fall on the Piedra Liza Dam according to Roger Ford, USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service planning engineer. The Town of Bernalillo and Sandoval County are partnering with the Coronado Soil and Water Conservation District on the project.

“This small but important dam does not meet current design standards,” said Ford. “While the dam is in very good condition, it was designed and built fifty years ago. Since then, design standards have become more stringent.”

In preparation for actual rehabilitation construction, the sponsors applied to the USDA-NRCS for rehabilitation assistance, and an investigation of the need for rehabilitation was completed and a watershed plan prepared. A plan and environmental assessment were completed in June 2005. Engineering designs were prepared, and the three sponsors and New Mexico Dam Safety Bureau are reviewing the final design. In addition, the sponsors are in the process of obtaining land rights, and Sandoval County emergency-management personnel are completing an emergency action plan.

The Coronado Soil and Water Conservation District, Town of Bernalillo, and Sandoval County have secured their 10 percent of the project costs. Sixty-five percent of the funding will be federal provided by NRCS, and 25 percent will be state funds provided by the Dam Safety Bureau.

The project will include the installation of the roller-compacted concrete revetment on the downstream exit slope of the auxiliary spillway, improved principal spillway and outlet structures, and access to the dam from Highway 165,” said Ford.
The sponsors will jointly operate and maintain the dam throughout its life.

For further information about the Piedra Liza Dam project, contact Roger Ford, at 505-761-4430.

The Coronado SWCD board of supervisors meets at 9:00 a.m. on the third Thursday of every month at the First Community Bank in Bernalillo. The public is welcome and invited to attend meetings for informational purposes. To find out more or to be placed on the agenda, please call Chairman Tony Lucero, at 867-4563.

Rail Runner and students, teacher

Carroll Elementary School art teacher, Gary Sanchez (right), stands while students from his art class and BPS officials pose on the Rail Runner train. These students were among the winners of the Rail Runner Calendar art contest.

Rail Runner commuter service starts on July 14

—BILL DIVEN
Passenger rail service returns to Bernalillo for the first time in decades when the New Mexico Rail Runner Express begins commuter service to Albuquerque on July 14.

The first departure from the U.S. 550 station somewhere around 6:00 a.m. that Friday is expected to be a quiet affair. Formal ceremonies are not scheduled until early on the afternoon of Monday, July 17, when Governor Bill Richardson and others lead a mobile celebration from the U.S, 550 station down the tracks to Albuquerque.

The event begins in Bernalillo for good reason, according to Augusta Meyers, Rail Runner communications manager.
“Sandoval County gave $10 million for a train,” Meyers said. “It's only appropriate they get some time and recognition.”

The $10 million came from payments the county received for acting as middleman in the $16 billion Intel bond issue in 2004.
Initially, Rail Runner's only stops will be U.S 550/Bernalillo, Los Ranchos, and downtown Albuquerque. Additional stations, including one in downtown Bernalillo, are under construction or waiting to go to bid, and service to and from the southern terminal at Belen won't begin until September after signals are installed between Belen and Isleta.

Since the state took over the tracks in January, Rail Runner crews have been learning the system, running frequently from Albuquerque to Belen and back. Not all the trains have not been empty, however, with the media, law enforcement, elected officials, and others riding the 140-seat coaches or inspecting them at station events.

“We have been getting a lot of real favorable response from the public,” Mid-Region Council of Governments executive director Lawrence Rael said. “I'm excited and eager.”

Rael, citing renewed bus service between Rio Rancho and Albuquerque, said he's pleased with the way communities are coming together on transportation issues.

“We're changing the way we view ourselves as a state and as a region,” he said.

Passage on Rail Runner is free for the first three months and $2 a ride after that through December 31. Regular fares will be established then.

Also not determined is the Rail Runner schedule for the twenty-five-minute run from Bernalillo to Albuquerque. A draft schedule for the U.S. 550 station posted on the Rail Runner Web site shows arrivals and departures starting at 5:35 a.m., a midday train, and three late-afternoon trains operating Monday through Friday.

A firm schedule is to be released soon, and Rael said it would include municipal bus connections at Rail Runner stations. That schedule, to be available in printed form and at www.nmrailrunner.com, is to include connecting municipal bus service in Albuquerque.

When the project was first announced late in 2003, the state hoped to have trains running by the end of 2005. Negotiating an outright purchase instead of a lease of the BNSF Railway tracks delayed the work and helped drive overall costs toward $400 million.

“We're still the fastest commuter-rail start-up in the country,” Meyers said.

 

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