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Ron and Helen Abousleman to close the doors of the TaGrMo hardware store in Bernalillo after 37 years of business. Photo credit: —Ty Belknap

TaGrMo closing

—Ty Belknap

After 37 years, owners Ron and Helen Abousleman announced in early June that TaGrMo Hardware would close for good on July 19. Almost everything is on sale at a third off. Namesake Abousleman children Tammy, Greg, and Mona are busy with other careers. Ron and Helen have been “deciding to retire for quite a while.” Six TaGrMo employees are looking for jobs. Joe Torres, who owns the historic building that also houses his T&T Supermart, said that he hopes to find another tenant.

They have tried to sell the store over the past year, but “never got a bite.” Ron said, “I think potential buyers thought the building is too small to complete. The economy made a difference, but we were able to stay competitive because after so many years in the business, we knew what the locals needed and could tailor our inventory better than corporations that order merchandise for an entire region.”

In a market dominated by big-box stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot, there may no longer be a place for a one-hundred-year-old building with a wood floor and punched metal ceiling, attentive service, and a solid place in the community. Like just about everywhere else in the country, local downtown businesses have been replaced by national franchises on the edge of town. The homogenized corridors along US 550 and NM 528 look just like a hundred other places.

Helen said, “It was a hard decision. We’re going through a mourning process. People seem so sad when they come in—they give us hugs and say, ‘What will we do without you guys?’ We would just like to say thank you to all our long-term customers who kept us going for so long. It was because of those customers that we were able to serve the community for so many years.”


Lafarge lawsuit response

—Bill Diven

A lawsuit alleging Lafarge North America is violating restrictions placed on its Placitas quarry should be dismissed because those limits don’t exist, the company claims in a recent court filing. The company also argues the “Notice of Violation” of the zoning ordinance Sandoval County delivered to Lafarge more that a year ago was little more than an invitation to discuss the situation at the sand and gravel quarry.

As a result, Lafarge is asking District Court Judge George Eichwald to dismiss the county’s lawsuit with prejudice, meaning it can’t be refiled. No hearings have yet been scheduled on the dueling claims.

The lawsuit filed in April names several Lafarge companies and the companies that own the property and are subleasing it to Lafarge.

The county sued Lafarge alleging the quarry off the Interstate 25 frontage road, just off State Road 165, had expanded mining operations and moved its processing outside areas designated in a 1988 agreement. The agreement—called a Certificate of Nonconformance—was the first permitting of the operation and recognized the quarry as a nonconforming use under the zoning ordinance.

Lafarge argues a 2008 letter not only grandfathered previous uses of the quarry but also became an updated agreement eliminating the earlier restrictions.

“The map attached to the 2008 Certificate is a revised and replacement site map which omits any reference to sub-areas of mining, sequencing or other direction as to the manner in which mining operations will be carried out,” Albuquerque attorney John Salazar wrote in the companies’ answer to the lawsuit. “The 2008 certificate constituted at independent approval, separate and distinct from the January 11, 1988, approval, free of any constraints or limitations purportedly contained in the 1988 certificate.”

Salazar did not respond to a Signpost request for further comment. A county spokesman said the county believes the 2008 agreement is still binding.

Lafarge also claims there are no zoning violations to enforce because the June 2013 “Notice of Violation” letter was not an official finding of violations. The company was denied an appeal based on the letter, first by the county and then by a judge who found the county would have to sue the company to pursue the alleged violations, which the county did.

While Lafarge, in its response, said the company is mining 610 acres within 850 acres grandfathered by the agreement, the county, in its lawsuit, put the property at one thousand acres. Regardless, neighbors have complained about dust generated on the site and activities moving closer to their homes and affecting their quality of life.

Beyond the immediate issues are concerns that the quarry, with a 2010 closure already extended to 2015, plans to continue working and expanding indefinitely. Separately, there are additional worries of new quarries being established in the Placitas area, particularly on Bureau of Land Management lands now part of a resource-management planning process.

Among the BLM’s holdings under review are more than 3,100 acres abutting San Felipe Pueblo in northern Placitas and another two hundred acres in the Overlook area.


Lawyer: “This is not about scrapbooks”

—Leota Harriman, The Independent

A public meeting was held to discuss the recent controversy surrounding two women and four scrapbooks at the Tijeras Senior Center. The meeting was attended by fifty or sixty people, with six speaking in favor of the mayor, six in favor of Floy Watson, and four speaking in favor of getting past the controversy in more neutral terms.

Doris Lark, the woman who made the scrapbooks, passed away in April. Lark and Watson had been banned from the senior center after ignoring letters from mayor Gloria Chavez telling them to return the scrapbooks. Lark maintained that she paid for everything in the books and made them herself; Watson last month had charges against her dismissed for lack of evidence, but is still banned from the center.

Although The Independent has asked several times, the village has given no rationale for its ownership claim on the books.

Watson called being escorted from the senior center by two deputies “the most humiliating and embarrassing event in my 74 years,” and maintains her innocence.

Watson’s attorney, Terri Keller, had harsh words for the village for continuing the ban, questioning why another man who took photos in the scrapbooks has not been banned from the center. “This is not about scrapbooks, it’s about what Floy [Watson] and Doris [Lark] had to say,” she said.

Keller also questioned why her request to have the matter on the meeting’s agenda as an action item had not been answered. She said she had hand-delivered letters to village councilors to the village hall, where they were signed for by Kathy Solomon.

“In that letter, I requested three things,” Keller said. “I requested, one, to be put on this agenda, tonight, and it seems like we could have since there was only one agenda item. They said Diane Klaus is the only one who determines who gets on that agenda. Is that true? Six city council members can’t decide what gets on this agenda? The deputy clerk, who is not an elected official, decides what comes before you?”

After the previous meeting, some of the village councilors said they have difficulty getting an action item on the agenda. That’s important because if a matter is only on the agenda as a discussion item, as it was at this last meeting, no action can legally be taken by the council.

Councilor Don Johnson, with a second from Felix Garcia, got the matter on to the next agenda as an action item, even as the mayor sought to keep it as a discussion item.

“None of these people who talked three weeks ago put forth any evidence before this council that the scrapbooks belong to the center. Did you?” Keller said turning to address the audience. “All you said is that you don’t like what Floy and Doris and her group talked about.” She went on. ”That’s called free speech—that’s what we fought a war for in 1776. That’s what this flag stands for.”

Fred Belk, who at the last meeting was reviled as an “outsider,” said, “I think there’s some hatred going on and that has to be solved.” He said the ban against Watson should be lifted, that letters of apology should be sent, and that remuneration should be given to Watson, Jody Weidner, formerly senior center manager, and Lark’s estate.

“Now the mayor’s office is considering refilling charges against me,” Watson said. “I can’t help but wonder if the mayor’s time would be better spent conducting village business, rather than carry on this childish vendetta.”

The mayor had her supporters in the crowd, too.

Sue Kron said to “disrupt the process” would be obstruction of justice, telling councilors to “…put on their big boy pants and man up.”

Linda Armenta said, “I think this center was built for the village of Tijeras by the village of Tijeras,” to which catcalls of “Wrong!” came from the audience.

Jimmy Chavez, the mayor’s husband, said it’s his prerogative to speak, answering criticisms by some in the audience that he should not do so. “It’s really upsetting to see this dragging on,” he said, urging the council to make a decision.

Jimmy Chavez was also cat-called from the audience, at which point the mayor intervened, as she did several times during the public comment. “We have a police officer here, and he will remove you,” she warned, adding, “Any outburst—you’re being removed.” Charlie Thomas said being annexed by the village was the “best thing that ever happened,” adding, “Now I’m part of the village. When you talk about my mayor, you’re talking about me.”

Rita Rivera drew a gasp from Watson when she said that if Watson was allowed to come back to the senior center, “I have to search her bags.” She added, “I have to search her bags because there’s a lot of stuff that was missing from the arts and crafts they donated, but there was no inventory from Jody [Weidner], so I don’t know.”

It’s getting to the point that it’s really childish and for all of us to grow up,” said Louisa Gonzales. “Not just the other side, but our side too. Let’s grow up.”

According to the mayor, the next meeting will be held June 23 at 6:00 p.m. at the Tijeras Senior Center.

However, the village’s calendar lists the second council meeting of the month on June 16 in the village council chambers. Call the village at 281-1220 for the correct date and location.

Those who wish to address the council must give their name at least three business days in advance.

This is a reprint from The Independent (June 11-17, 2014), a local newspaper serving the interests of the East Mountains area of Albuquerque.

 
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