An Independent Monthly Newsmagazine Serving the Community since 1989

Placitas Elementary School mural
Mural unveiled at Placitas Elementary School

Placitas Elementary Students unveil mural project

Whimsical stars look down upon a beautiful green tree that bears orange songbirds and shelters sunflowers, animals, and pottery shards in a large mosaic mural that Placitas Elementary students have been working on since August under the guidance of artist Ophelia Cornet.

The mural was unveiled on May 16, with children cheering and balloons flying into the air. Each grade level was assigned a portion of the mural and was introduced to a wide range of sculpture, painting, and mosaic techniques. Cornet, their project leader and teacher, is a local artist who was born in Belgium. The children enjoyed learning about her culture and the world experiences that she brings to every art lesson. Cornet currently teaches art for children at the Albuquerque Museum.

“There are so many people who helped make this possible,” said principal Christina Werenko. “The result is a permanent art piece and natural landscaping that will enrich the whole community for generations to come.”

The landscaping portion of the beautification project includes new rocks, plants, flowers, stepping-stones, and a new watering system. This project was made possible by a grant from Keep New Mexico Beautiful, rocks and stepping-stones were donated by La Farge, and the hard labor and organization was donated by parents Carolyn Baca, Renee Espinosa, Sandra Sanchez, and Snow Watson.

The mural project was made possible thanks to the Placitas PTO and families who held fund-raisers, and contributions from the Placitas real-estate community, La Farge, Interior Solutions, Los Alamos National Laboratory Foundation, and the Placitas Holiday Art Sale Committee.

Signpost wins award at state level

The Sandoval Signpost newspaper is proud to announce that it has been awarded second place in the 2006 New Mexico Press Women's Communication Contest, in the category of “Publication regularly edited by entrant with over 5,000 copy circulation.” Judges for this category considered writing, editing, design, and content.

The annual New Mexico Communications Contest recognizes excellence in print or electronic media, photography, advertising, public relations, graphic arts, and academic journalism in New Mexico. Awards were presented to contest winners in seventy-six categories at the New Mexico Press Women's annual banquet meeting, on April 21, in Los Alamos.

The purpose of the New Mexico Press Women Communications Contest is to improve professional skills by recognizing high-quality communication. The "message" is what is important. The message—how well it communicates, how it is directed to its target audience, how well it achieves its objectives—is the judging standard.

Work is judged by impartial out-of state media and communications professionals. New Mexico Press Women is open to both men and women. See for more information.

Sandia Pueblo employees receive living-wage increase

On April 19, the Sandia Pueblo Tribal Council voted to approve a minimum-living-wage structure for all Sandia employees. Approximately two thousand employees of Sandia Pueblo and its enterprises, including tribal administration, Sandia Resort and Casino, Bien Mur Gift Shop and Travel Center, and Sandia Lakes will be the first to benefit from this salary increase.

“This action speaks to the concern of council members that all employees be paid a fair wage. The continued involvement and the generosity and progressiveness of our tribal-council members ensure that we will provide fair wages and an excellent working environment for our valued employees, as well as be able to recruit from among the best,” explained Trulyn Bemis, Sandia Human Resources director. "This is a first for a tribal-owned enterprise and positions the Pueblo of Sandia as an industry leader in the local area."

The newly established minimum living wage includes a guarantee that no employee will earn less than $8 per hour (including base rate and tips) and ensures that tipped employees will be paid for personal time off at a living wage. The wage scale for non-tipped positions starts at $8.18 per hour and each salary range has increased and expanded, to provide more financial growth opportunities for employees. To recognize longevity, raises were also given to employees who have been in their current positions for one year or more. Ms. Bemis indicated that "with the continued involvement of Tribal Council, we are expanding our existing benefits plan to guarantee success for our employees and for the Pueblo of Sandia."

Pipeline cuts The Hill
Backhoe excavates pipeline during hydrotesting, north of the Placitas Village.

Giant pressure tests the old Tex-New Mex pipeline in Placitas
Residents hope crude oil stays in the pipe

Last month Placitas was invaded by swarms of pipeline workers who came to pressure-test the fifty-year-old Tex-New Mex pipeline that has been bought by Giant Petroleum. When the testing and repairs are complete, Giant will pump crude oil from Texas through the entire length of New Mexico to refineries in the Bloomfield area.

Giant and its subcontractors hydrotests by filling the lines with water and pressurizing between two valves. If a leak is indicated, the pipeline is dug up as close to the midpoint between the valves as possible. Then liquid nitrogen is pumped through a temporary sleeve around the pipe until the water inside the pipe is frozen into ice solid enough to hold pressure. Then the pressure is monitored to determine which side of the ice plug has a leak.

The process is repeated with another plug placed half way between the first plug and the valve. Then another plug is frozen in the middle of the side that leaks, again and again, until the leak is spotted. This process takes a lot of time and digging. During hot weather it can take up to twelve hours to freeze one plug. Hydrotesting can detect tiny leaks, but a Giant pipeline supervisor said, “This is not an exact science.”

When the leak is found, it is patched temporarily so that the pressure test can continue. Later the section around the leak and the ice plug is replaced with new pipe. The pipeline is also exposed to the elements in three hundred places over four hundred miles where it must be buried or lowered. This entire process is expected to take months to years to complete.

A resident on Camino de las Huertas refused to allow pipeline personnel on his property. Giant field representative Brad Ray said that to avoid conflict they would set plugs on either side and only enter the property if there is a leak. Ray said that people encroach upon the easement when they forget that the pipeline right of way exists. Many residents bought property under the impression that the abandoned pipeline would remain abandoned.

The local grassroots Citizens for Safe Pipelines struggled for years to convince industry and government powers to leave the pipeline abandoned. They argued that the fifty-year-old pipe was made with outdated and unsafe technology, had not been maintained properly, and passed through a high-consequence area. Spills, fires, or explosions could be devastating to the village, the community center, and the nearby elementary school. Residents throughout the entire area would be devastated if a leak were to contaminate the aquifer (as a pipeline did in Midland, Texas).

Citizens for Safe Pipelines proposed a number of measures to mitigate the danger, including moving the pipeline to the pipeline corridor just to the north, or at least using new pipe and safety technology in high-consequence areas. CSP founding member Carol Parker said “Safe operation is vastly cheaper in the long run than legal settlements and environmental cleanups.” These proposals were “taken under advisement.”

Bert Miller, past president of CSP, kicked at the dirt near an ice plug and shook his head in frustration while trying to get a straight answer from a Giant supervisor about the extensive hydrotest activity near his home. His complaints were rebuffed with an annoying but undeniable refrain of “go ahead and vent,” “we were here first,” and “don’t you drive a car?” The supervisor confirmed that a pinhole leak had been detected nearby.

Brad Ray told the Signpost on May 25 that hydrotesting in the Placitas area was successful and complete. He said that only one leak had been detected. Ray said that the process took twice as long as planned because variable ambient temperatures and air pockets forced crews to excavate and visually inspect pipe that proved to be intact. He also said that the pipe was hydrotested to approximately twice maximum working pressure of the line.

Citizens for Safe Pipelines called it quits as an organization. Some former members will continue being active as individuals, and the Las Placitas Association may become more involved in the issue. Carol Parker has met with county commissioner Bill Sapien about trying to get local government access to the integrity-management plan that must be in place before the pipeline is put into service. The Department of Homeland Security has determined that the public release of such information could aid terrorists. Parker is trying to establish the fact that state and local government and public safety officials have a need to know about the plan so that they can respond appropriately in the event of a spill.

Giant project manager Luke Wethers said that he was “very satisfied” with the hydrotest between I-25 and I-40. He said that the integrity management plan would establish where remotely activated block valves would be placed and response plans in the event of a spill. Giant sarety manager Bill Robertson said that public safety meetings are held annually and his office trains regularly with local fire departments. He stressed that is is vital that anyone digging in the vicinity of pipelines must first contact authorities via the “one-call” phone number.

World Peace conference coming to Santa Fe

Tibetan monks of Tibet’s Drepung Loseling Monastery, who travel the country to promote peace, performed “Sacred Music and Sacred Dance” on May 17 in Santa Fe to help benefit the World Peace Conference, which will be held September 22-24.

The Drepung Loseling monks wear magnificent costumes and play traditional Tibetan instruments while performing ancient temple music and dance. Their performance, which includes multi-phonic singing chant masters, transcends time and place. They also utilize traditional instruments, such as ten-foot long dungchen trumpets, drums, bells, cymbals and gyaling horns. Rich brocade costumes and masked dances, such as the Dance of the Sacred Snow Lion, add to the exotic splendor. The purpose of the tour is to contribute to world healing and peace movements; generate a greater awareness of the endangered Tibetan civilization; and raise support for the refugee community in India.

State Senator Shannon Robinson of Albuquerque introduced legislation during the 2005 and 2006 sessions to help secure support to help fund the World Peace Conference in Santa Fe through the New Mexico Tourism Department.

The theme for the three-day conference is Giving Peace a New Face. Planned for the chambers of the House of Representatives and the Senate at the New Mexico State Capitol Building and other locations in Santa Fe, the conference will explore the many facets of peace and introduce the concepts of building environmentally sound, sustainable, peace-based economies. Nobel Peace laureates and other dignitaries from around the world will be in attendance.

“This conference will have a great impact on the state’s tourism economy,” said Michael Cerletti, secretary of NMTD. “It will also offer people from around the world a place where they can come together to join in expressing their desire for change.”

Ymelda DeVargas, special projects director at NMTD, is overseeing the organizational aspects of the conference. “The conference design will provide participants with the information and structure necessary to become active and involved as we all work towards creating the new face of peace,” DeVargas said.
For more information about the concert or the conference, contact Ymelda DeVargas, 505-827-7340.

The following excerpts from a March 8 article by Steve Terrell in the New Mexican are reprinted with permission.

“New Mexico has traditions of peace and traditions of war,” State Senator Shannon Robinson, D-Albuquerque , said Tuesday. “I think this is a great place for a government-sanctioned inquiry into how to create a peaceful world.”

Robinson said he became interested in a Santa Fe peace conference after he and his wife attended a similar event in Kerala, India, last year.

Robinson, since the beginning of the Iraq war, has been known to take time on the Senate floor to try to discuss issues related to that conflict. Several times, his speeches have been critical of U.S. Iraq policy. “There’s no real forum for anyone to have meaningful discussions about the war,” he said.

Robinson waxed philosophical about the paradox of being pro-gun and pro-peace. “There’s a world of violence and a world of peace,” he said. “The two worlds overlap. We could go back to H. Rap Brown, who said, ‘Violence is as American as cherry pie,’ ” Robinson said, referring to the black militant now known as Jamil Al-Amin. “Let’s go figure out how they overlap and the realities of creating a more peaceful world.”

Early voting locations

For the June 6 primary election, residents can cast their votes early from May 20 through June 3 at several locations in Sandoval County. These include the Meadowlark Senior Center, in Rio Rancho; the San Ysidro Public Safety training room; and the Sandoval County voting machine warehouse, at 800 South Hill Road in Bernalillo. Hours are from 12:00 noon to 8:00 p.m.Tuesdays through Fridays, and from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Saturdays. Residents can also vote at the Sandoval County Courthouse Mondays through Fridays from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Margaret Palumbo
Margaret Palumbo

Orlando Lucero
Orlando Lucero

Jean Eichberger
Jean Eichberger

Patric Baca
Patrick Baca

Democratic primary for County Commision

Democrats choosing their District 1 nominee for the Sandoval County Commission on June 6 can choose from among four people familiar with local government.

One is a past commissioner, another served on the Bernalillo school board, one holds a current appointment to a planning board, and the fourth is active in the community and familiar face at past commission meetings. All are hoping to succeed incumbent commissioner and fellow Democrat William Sapien who is reaching his term limit after two four-year terms.

The candidates drew for ballot position and will appear as listed below:

Palumbo served one term on the Bernalillo Public Schools board and ran unsuccessfully for the state Legislature in 2002. The Placitas resident has long been active in party politics and is a member of the Democratic state central committee.

Her main motivation in running, she said, is to give Placitas a voice on a commission currently dominated by Rio Rancho and Bernalillo.

“Placitas has been neglected,” she said. “We have no control over out own destiny.”

Palumbo said she would advocate returning to electing commissioners at-large so they would have to campaign throughout the county and represent a broader range of interests. She also would like to impose impact fees on land sales and home construction to help support services.

Placitas also needs a second route out of the community since NM 165 to I-25 is the only evacuation route other than the tortuous crawl up Las Huertas Canyon to Sandia Crest. The moratorium on lot splits and family land transfers in Placitas is only a bandage on a larger planning problem, she said.

“I don't want to deprive anyone of their right to sell their property,” she said. “But taking five acres and dividing it by five and then dividing it by five again, this is not healthy for the community.”

Lucero is a career educator who started his teaching career in his native Bernalillo, retired twice and is now back in the classroom in Albuquerque. He ran unsuccessfully for the Legislature in 1975, and for the last two years, he has been a member of the Bernalillo Planning and Zoning Commission.

One of his main concerns is traffic and the lack of planning which has created a crisis on the roads particularly through Bernalillo and from Placitas for residents trying to reach I-25.
“We need a flyover over or a swim under or something,” he said. “Traffic should move smoothly.”

Traffic flow and water planning in need to be addressed before the problems affect development and quality of life, he said.
“I'm not for stopping development but for controlling it,” Lucero said. “We cannot build and not improve our infrastructure and make sure we have enough water for everybody.”

Lucero said he would work toward locating a community college in the area with a more vocational slant than the UNM-Los Alamos branch currently based in Bernalillo. He also favors multiple uses for school buildings as community centers rather than leaving them empty after 3:00 p.m.

Eichberger, a Placitas housepainter, is the political newcomer in the contest although she is well-known from her involvement in public issues during her 25 years in the community. Those issues have ranged from protesting the condemnation of private land to widen Camino Tecolote for a developer to lowering the speed limit through Placitas and working to preserve the wild-horse herd.

“I don't consider myself a politician,” Eichberger said. “I'm more of a stateswoman.

“I'm a real hard worker, and when issues come up and people are concerned, I jump on it.”

Two prime issues today are water conservation and traffic, she said. More studies are needed to determine the limits of the aquifer. More efficient traffic flow is need not just for daily driving but for evacuation if one ever is needed, she added.
“We don't need more roads, we need more efficient roads,” Eichberger said. “If there's ever a disaster, we're stuck.”

Those issues are central to preserving the qualities that attracted people to Placitas in the first place, she continued.
“When people move to a rural area, they should expect a rural lifestyle,” Eichberger said. “We treasure our lifestyle, our night skies, our wildlife.

“For Placitas to continue to be attractive, we need to preserve these things.”

Baca served on the commission 1991-98 and has a background that includes being governor of Sandia Pueblo, secretary of labor under Gov. Bruce King and chief of staff for the state Public Regulation Commission. He resides at Sandia Pueblo, sits on the Sandia tribal council and, until he resigned to file for election, was Sandoval County director of community services.

He, too, cites traffic congestion as a major concern with only a little relief to be expected from commuter trains and the county starting up a small bus system tied to the trains. The buses still have to get across the Rio Grande, he said.

“I don't see any other way this works without another river crossing,” Baca said. Help from the state's congressional delegation would be needed to broaden the allowed uses for federal transport funds so vehicles like senior-citizen vans could be used for other services when they are now parked, he added.

Baca said it was during his second term on the commission that he helped start the study of water resources beneath Placitas. A similar effort is needed countywide, he added.

District 1 is the most diverse in the county taking in municipalities, rural areas, tribal lands and a small corner of Rio Rancho, he continued.

“Each one of them has different issues and different problem areas,” Baca said. 'I will work with all these groups.”

Other Democrat nominating races:

Commission District 3: No Democrat filed.
Probate judge: Jerard Misquez, Stevan Schoen and Charles Aguilar
Magistrate Judge Div. 1: No Democrat filed.
Magistrate Judge Div. 2: Incumbent F. Kenneth Eichwald.
Magistrate Judge Div. 3: William Mast, Delilah Montaño-Baca and incumbent Richard Zanotti.
Sheriff: Incumbent John Paul Trujillo.
Assessor: Incumbent Rudy Casaus.

Gary Miles

Gary Miles

Pete Salazar
Pete David Salazar

Republican Primary for County Commission

Two Placitas residents are competing in the June 6 Republican primary for the District 1 seat on the Sandoval County Commission.

Pete David Salazar served two terms on the commission in the 1980s and is remembers as the last Placitas resident elected to the board. He also is believed to be the last Republican chairman of the commission since the 1930s.

Prior to being elected to the commission, he served one six-year term on the Bernalillo Public Schools board. For the last 18 years, Salazar has been president of SER de New Mexico, a nonprofit working with low-income households on education, employment and housing.

Gary Miles is a founder of Placitas Animal Rescue an 18-year Placitas resident who has battled past commissions over highway and development issues. More recently he and District 1 Commissioner William Sapien, who is not eligible for reelection, worked together to bring a mobile spay-and-neuter clinic to Placitas.

In recent elections he has run unsuccessfully for the commission and the state Legislature.

In the drawing for ballot position, Miles name was drawn first.

Miles' campaign continues his challenge to proposed changes in the county subdivision rules that would impose the cost of drainage and water studies-anywhere from $20,000 to $60,000 on small landowners trying to divide their land. None of the current commissioners and only one member of the county Planning and Zoning Commission live outside of a municipality, he said.

“They are not affected by the laws they pass,” Miles said. “It's basically taxation without representation.”

Miles, who was arrested during the protest over widening Camino Tecolote, said he still opposes condemning land to benefit private developers regardless of the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling. He said he would support a resolution stating a county policy of only condemning land for public uses.

The county also needs its own animal shelter and more than the one overworked animal control officer already on staff. The county still needs a spay-and-neuter program to reduce pet overpopulation especially now that the county passed up the opportunity he presented to buy a used mobile clinic from the group that stopped in Placitas last year, he said.

“It needs to be skillfully done and funded,” Miles said.

In general, he added, he's running for office for the same reason as in the past, the lack of representation from Placitas on public bodies making decisions for the area.

“If you live in the unincorporated areas, you should be able to make the rules,” he said.

Salazar said he entered the commission race for two reasons: water and Gov. Bill Richardson.

“Everyone is drawing down the aquifer,” he said. “The corporations are using too much water.”

Salazar said he is still supportive of Intel, as he was as a commissioner when the county approved the first industrial bonds for the computer-chip plant just outside Rio Rancho. Still, the plant could adopt at some expense processes that used less water, he added.

Conservation is on the minds of most Placitas residents, he continued, not just with water but from what he's seen as a volunteer with Placitas Recycling. The county could do more to support the effort, he said.

“I get to see for myself a lot of people who care,” he said.
Instead of spending $10 million on the governor's commuter railroad, Salazar said the money could have gone into a water conservation program.

“Bill Richardson has all these Democrats so controlled, whatever Bill wants, Bill gets,” he said. “He won't get that from me.”

Other Republican nominating races:

Commission District 3: Incumbent David Bency.
Probate judge Judy Kwapich Madril.
Magistrate Judge Div. 1: Incumbent Mary Humphrey-Chavez .
Magistrate Judge Div. 2: Dwight Thompson.
Magistrate Judge Div. 3: Mary O. Kwapich.
Sheriff: Doug Wood.
Assessor: Judy Vanderstar Russell.





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