Local camping: breathtaking sites fun for the whole family
Ancestral pueblo ruins at Bandelier — Camping is the perfect way to break away from everyday stress, spend quality time with the family and enjoy the scenic wonders of nature. It doesn’t cost much, you don’t have to wait in long lines, and if you live in Sandoval County, you don’t have to drive three days to get to a beautiful campground. Read about these great local sites on the Around Town page of the Signpost.
Mayor apologizes to town citizens for deficient Financial oversight
The Town of Bernalillo’s external financial task force released its assessment report on June 27, 2009. The report findings clear the names of two employees; deems Mayor Patricia A. Chávez’ expenses for the entire period justifiable, “reasonably well documented and in good condition”; and outlines potential patterns of misuse and questionable expenditures by the former town administrator. After reviewing the report, Mayor Patricia A. Chávez had the following comments:
“I want to offer my sincere apologies on behalf of myself, the town council and administration, for failing to identify this credit card misuse due to our deficient financial oversight.
The town council and I were aware that we relied on state purchasing guidelines in the absence of formal financial policies and procedures. We, along with staff, focused on restructuring the entire financial portfolio and achieving a balanced budget. This included consolidation of all independent bank accounts under one umbrella, investing cash, catching up on late audits, and seeking funds for much needed capital improvement projects for our community. We anticipated that the investment in our new financial management system and its 2008 deployment would help identify, and prevent the very problems that this task force report has revealed. In light of the task force findings, more immediate policy action is warranted.
Questionable charges by Stephen Jerge, identified in the task force report, are shocking. The now evident abuse of our trust is extremely disappointing. This report glaringly points out that the lack of credit card policies and procedures
blurred the lines of department and personal accountability. In 2006, Town Council disagreed on the initial recommendation for a new Town Administrator. Through the town’s screening and hiring process, Mr. Jerge subsequently surfaced as the top candidate and was duly appointed. He was unanimously re-appointed in 2008. We entrusted him to perform the day-to-day operations on behalf of the town in complete confidence based on his purported character, ability and experience.
Copies of this report have been sent to the State Auditor’s office and to the town’s independent auditing firm Heinfield, Meech & Co. for their consideration. Additionally, the town council and I will address each of the task force recommendations and outline proposed action. In addition to credit card and travel request policies that are already underway, I have also instructed town administrators to immediately take the report and build a timeline for the review, development and implementation of all its recommendations.
The members of this taskforce have delivered an exceptionally well researched and organized document in a very short time. I thank them for their independent, professional, unbiased review. This is a significant contribution that supports the Town’s effort to achieve maximum transparency in its reporting and record-keeping.
In this growing, vibrant community, I remain committed to maximum transparency and accountability. It hurts everyone, financially and otherwise, to be unfairly targeted politically and otherwise by the media and others as we attempt to work through our internal affairs.”
Budgeting places the Town of Bernalillo outside the norm in NM and nationally
Mayor Patricia A. Chávez and the Town Council approved the 2009/2010 fiscal year budget in their May council meeting. The budget view is surprisingly good considering the nation and state’s economic woes.
With revenues increasing by 11.43% to $11,688,827 the projected 2009-2010 expenditure budget is $10,996,340 including an increase in reserves. The impact of the economic recession and the associated sales decline was mitigated by an increase in sales revenues from several new businesses including the Flying Star and Wal-Mart.
A conservative approach to budgets and fiscal management have also improved Bernalillo’s Bond rating from essentially no bond rating to an A+ rating.
An increase in budget reserves also improves Bernalillo’s ability to respond to capital project opportunities that require matching funds. Administrators have projected a zero (0) revenue increase and factored in a 5% overall reduction to assure a balanced budget under all circumstances.
Insight and planning by the town’s administration resulted in the following newly budgeted initiatives and projects:
- Widening and improvements of Calle Don Tomas including associated infrastructure, curbs, drainage and other changes. The changes are much needed for pedestrian and other traffic and will meet ADA standards.
- Road improvements and landscaping of Camino Del Pueblo, Bernalillo’s historic main street, will add considerable appeal to citizens and visitors who patronize restaurants and other businesses in that part of town.
- The Midtown Rail Runner Station area, which is within easy walking distance from main street, will also receive upgrades to improve citizen access and safety.
- Rotary Park, the mainstay of Bernalillo family recreational activities, will get permanent bathroom facilities. The park, within two blocks from the center of town, is a multi-use recreational area with picnicking facilities, a large pavilion for larger events plus ball fields.
- The town’s original water wells (#1 and #2) will be re-commissioned with an associated arsenic treatment facility.
- Bernalillo citizens will see infrastructure improvements to Bosque Road and South Hill Road.
- They will also see completion of the west side DPS station to house Police and Fire/Rescue personnel and their equipment. This is a vitally important step in addressing the safety of a growing citizenry.
- We will see completion of the installation and ongoing operation of the geographic information services (GIS) function that automates and supports critical town administrative functions including E911/Emergency Response services as well as planning and zoning and other community initiatives and projects.
- We will also expand the new financial management systems to support the Municipal Court, police serves, fire/rescue, and Planning and Zoning modules.
- And finally two additional employees, a municipal court clerk and one shared public utilities/park maintenance person will help us respond to Bernalillo citizens needs.
Mayor Chávez states, “Bernalillo continues to be impacted by internal growth as well as growth and development around us. That requires careful planning and investment in Bernalillo’s aging infrastructure to assure the preservation of the quality of life for Bernalillo citizens and to promote similar initiatives long into the future. Collectively, the governing body worked long and hard to achieve a balanced budget. Our focus on incremental capital infrastructure investment will reap many benefits for our citizens; all in an economy that has been slow to recover.”
State Engineer recommends standard measure for calculating water use
The New Mexico Office of the State Engineer has developed a standardized methodology for gallons per capita per day (GPCD) calculations in New Mexico, which is a standardized tool for water use reporting.
“This methodology will be used by the New Mexico Office of the State Engineer to track municipal water use over time and manage the State’s water resources into the future,” said State Engineer John D’Antonio, P.E. “In addition, the methodology will provide the drinking water supplier with a categorized baseline of historical and current water use, and assist both the state and the drinking water supplier in planning, tracking, and reporting water uses.”
The Office of the State Engineer staff designed a gallons per capita per day (NMOSE GPCD) calculator to implement the methodology. It uses a Microsoft Excel ™ structure to record the data and to develop the results. The NMOSE GPCD Instruction Module provides the details on how the Calculator works, to include the data to input and how to interpret the results. Both the Calculator and the Instruction Module are available on the Office of the State Engineer website at http://www.ose.state.nm.us/newtstweb/wucp_gcpd.html.
The GPCD methodology will be required as part of the application process when requesting to hold water unused (40 Year Plans), in water conservation plans, and mandated water use reporting. It may also be required as a permit condition in sensitive hydrologic basins, emergency permits, and large or excessive users.
This type of data is also requested as part of the Uniform Funding Application that is used for evaluating water and wastewater loan fund requests.
“This methodology and the supporting NMOSE GPCD Calculator are designed to give the New Mexico Office of the State Engineer and drinking water suppliers within New Mexico a tool to standardize water use reporting,” said Water Use and Conservation Bureau Chief, John Longworth, P.E. “These calculations aid in tracking trends and changes over time, water use programming and planning, and projecting future per capita needs.”
The methodology was developed by the New Mexico Office of the State Engineer in cooperation with leading water engineers and conservation experts in the nation. The methodology and the GPCD Calculator were reviewed within New Mexico and nationally by state agencies, municipalities, and university and water conservation experts. It was pilot tested by seven drinking water suppliers within the state. For more information, please contact Julie Maas at (505) 765-2011.
The Office of the State Engineer is charged with administering the state’s water resources. The State Engineer has power over the supervision, measurement, appropriation, and distribution of all surface and groundwater in New Mexico, including streams and rivers that cross state boundaries. The State Engineer is also Secretary of the Interstate Stream Commission and oversees its staff.
The nine-member Interstate Stream Commission is charged with separate duties, including protecting New Mexico’s right to water under eight interstate stream compacts; ensuring that the state complies with each of those compacts; as well as investigating, conserving, and protecting the waters of the State; and water planning.
Sandoval County Line
—Don E. Leonard, Sandoval County Commission Chairman
Sandoval County is perfect for a “stay-cation,” a near-to-home vacation that will end summer doldrums and recharge the hearts and minds of residents and visitors alike.
With money tight and gas prices lower than last year but inching upward, it’s easy to save time and dollars by enjoying the County’s diverse scenic attractions, unique cultural events, and historic sites that even some longtime residents may have overlooked.
National travel and personal finance publications alike are proclaiming the cost savings rewards of stay-near-home road trips and the advantages of relaxing extended vacations closer to home.
For helpful suggestions on where to go and what to do close to home, call the County’s Economic Development and Tourism Office, 867-TOUR. Better yet, stop by and chat with the friendly, professional tourism staff at the El Zócalo complex and Special Events Center in Bernalillo. Ask for a personalized travel itinerary or the latest schedule of Native American dances and events.
At El Zócalo, you can pick up a copy of the “See Sandoval County“ visitor’s guide and take a stroll through the exceptionally refurbished 1874 convent that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Special Events Center is available to host private receptions and weddings.
You can also check out the County’s newly redesigned and very appealing and informative tourism website at sandovalcounty.org.
With so much to see and do in Sandoval County, consider extending your travels with a stay in one of the County’s many charming bed and breakfast inns. There, too, the tourism staff can assist in preparing a multi-day itinerary.
The Tourism Office, the guide, and the multi-media website provide extensive information on the crown jewel of scenic byways, the Jemez Mountain Trail that winds through much of Sandoval County, as well as travel ideas along the other three scenic byways that connect our communities.
In addition to offering updated calendars of the County’s many art, cultural, and historical events, the Tourism Office provides timely travel information on the wide range of food and lodging options that attract both international and local visitors. In addition, the staff readily share their favorite tips for the many intriguing and enjoyable “travel secrets” found only in our scenic and multicultural areas.
Less than thirty miles from Bernalillo, for example, is the Ojito Wilderness, a vast area that offers steep-sided mesas, remote box canyons, and tranquil escapes. Or, further north near Cuba is the San Pedro Parks Wilderness Area, which has abundant wildlife along with numerous fishing and camping opportunities.
The Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument off I-25 near Cochiti Pueblo provides a remarkable outdoor experience of slot canyons and geologic formations which are duplicated only by a site in Turkey.
The Sandia Man Cave east of Placitas is the site of unique and highly important finds that some archaeologists believe may date back thirty thousand years.
The Jemez Falls, meanwhile, provides an ideal setting for a family outing while the historic Coronado State Park adjacent to Bernalillo blends both an indoor and outdoor museum. Or, for a romantic getaway, consider sampling the excellent vintages available at the County’s many wineries or soaking in one of the several natural hot springs in the Jemez Mountains.
Regardless of vacation goals, Sandoval County offers unique blends of scenery, history, and culture that provide boundless, refreshing opportunities for residents and visitors alike. The money saved by staying nearer to home is an added bonus.
Questions or comments for Commissioner Leonard can be mailed to him in care of Sandoval County Administrative Offices, PO Box 40, Bernalillo, NM 87004.