Sandoval Signpost


An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988
  Up Front

 Pablita Velarde

Mural painting of a buffalo hunt scene combining realism and abstract painting style, by Velino Shije Herrera, also known as Ma-Pe-Wi. Among his accomplishments, Ma-Pe-Wi is well-known for the murals he painted in a reconstructed kiva at Coronado State Monument in Bernalillo that were funded by the Works Progress Act (WPA) and the Federal Art Project (FAP). He painted a series of true frescoes in 1938 on the walls of the reconstructed Painted Kiva in the South Plaza of the Kuaua Ruins. He also had a hand in designing the Zia symbol for the New Mexico state flag. Throughout his lifetime (1902-1973), he was a member of Zia Pueblo.

 WPA art

One of 25 photographs of New Deal artwork on exhibit in Bernalillo at Coronado State Monument—this one is believed to be Pablita Velarde greeting tourists at Taos Pueblo.
Photo credits: —Charron McFadden

Dixon Apples appeals State Land Office decision

—Ty Belknap

On May 11, Dixon Apples filed an appeal with the New Mexico State Land Office regarding the decision by Land Commissioner Ray Powell to deny a lease transfer deal between the Mullane family and San Felipe Pueblo. The Mullanes contend that the Powell first encouraged the deal, then unreasonably  concluded that San Felipe lacks the experience in orchard management required by the lease. The appeal is also based on the contention that Powell was overly influenced in his decision by his objection to the terms of the lease that were negotiated by former Land Commissioner Patrick Lyons.

The appeal, which has not yet been scheduled, will be presented in an administrative hearing to two Land Commission hearing officers. Evidence will be presented by the Mullanes’ attorney much the will same as is done in a court hearing. The hearing officers give a non-binding recommendation to Powell who will then make a final decision. Powell says that this will be a very open and transparent process. If the Mullanes are not satisfied with the decision, they can appeal to District Court.

Powell told the Signpost on May 23 that his initial decision was based on the lack of twenty years orchard experience by the San Felipe, and based on evidence he had seen so far, the tribe is not qualified. He said, “We are actively searching for folks with experience who are willing to take the required risks and spend money on the orchard. We have had several inquiries.”

Powell said that a potential new operator would first have to pay the Mullanes for their apple trees, the Mullanes would relinquish the lease, and a new lease would be negotiated between new operator and the Land Office.

[See Powell’s and Mullanes’ statements in the Gauntlet, this Signpost.]

Possible new power transmission lines in Sandoval County

—ES-CA Forum and Signpost Staff

On May 15, Reid Bandeen and Orin Safier, representing both Las Placitas Association and Eastern Sandoval Citizens Association (ES-CA), met with Jeremy Turner, Executive Director for New Mexico Renewable Energy Transmission Authority (NMRETA). This was a follow up to a meeting with Bandeen, Safier, and Turner in October of 2010. The May 15 meeting was prompted by a May 3 article in the Albuquerque Journal (“$350M Power Line Proposed”) discussing the preliminary proposal for the route of a transmission line.

The article stated that PNM, NMRETA, and Power Network New Mexico filed a joint request with federal regulators that would clear the way for construction of a new merchant transmission line to deliver renewable energy from eastern and central New Mexico to western markets. Turner said, “RETA was created to meet the public interest objective of developing transmission to facilitate renewable energy projects in New Mexico, and this project will accomplish this goal.”

The article goes on to say, “The line would stretch west—just north of the Sandias—into Sandoval County to PNM’s Rio Puerco switching station.” This raised concerns that the new lines would go through Placitas, adding to the transmission lines already present in Indian Flats.

For the present easement running through Placitas to be used, it would have to be widened by two hundred feet. This would require purchasing land from willing land owners and/or massive eminent domain condemnation of property. It would lead to the attendant complications of public process, environmental surveys, and permitting.

NMRETA is an agency under the control of the state, and is highly resistant to condemnation. Furthermore, such a route would not only have to run through the northern portions of the Placitas area and BLM lands immediately north of Placitas, but also through Bernalillo and Rio Rancho, requiring far more extensive purchase of property and/or condemnations in urban areas. Turner considers Placitas to be an urban area for the purpose of this evaluation.

It should be noted that NMRETA does have condemnation authority. Having such authority, however, does not imply a willingness to use it where costs and public resistance would be high. Turner said that in general NMRETA would work with willing land owners to limit the use of eminent domain as much as possible. There are already more than enough complexities and difficulties involved in bringing this project for renewable energy transmission to fruition.

According to Turner, NMRETA is presently in talks with the San Felipe and Santa Ana Pueblos, regarding locating the new line near to the present power easement which crosses I-25 just north of Algodones, significantly north of Placitas. (You can see this power line crossing the freeway as you’re driving on I-25.) This is not only the preferred route for the new lines, but probably the only one that is viable.

This route makes the most sense from an engineering, environmental, financial, and public policy standpoint. Therefore, agreements with the tribes are necessary. Lacking those agreements, the project would probably die, according to Turner. However, if this preferred route is not feasible, NMRETA and its partners could possibly pursue the alternative route through Placitas.

The NMRETA project hinges on “fast tracking” the process for acquiring transmission rights, which must be approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which is something like a federal-level New Mexico Public Regulation Commission. NMRETA has requested an expedited hearing with FERC, and might receive FERC’s response as soon as August, 2012.

Turner reports positive signs of potential agreement in the ongoing discussions with San Felipe and Santa Ana Tribal Councils. This project could be a benefit to the two Pueblos, providing revenue from the purchase of easements, and also the possibility of revenue through generating renewable energy on the tribal lands, which could then be connected to the new power lines.

Were everything to go just right, the new lines could be constructed and have power running through them by mid 2015. There could be as much as 1,500 megawatts of renewable power running through these lines, which is considerable given that PNM’s total use is now 2,600 megawatts.

Bernalillo news

• The State Engineer has approved a permit authorizing the diversion of up to 3,000 acre feet of water per year (AFY) from the municipal drinking water wells. According to Mayor Jack Torres, the OSE has found that it is in the public interest to allow Bernalillo’s diversion of drinking water and to protect these rights by ensuring that future water rights applications will not affect the Towns’ ability to divert 3,000 AFY. This is particularly important as the community is situated near Rio Rancho, the City of Albuquerque, and a number of small mutual domestic water associations.

The consolidated permit application has been pending for almost thirteen years. The approval of the application became a priority of Torres’s administration in 2011. “The approval of the Town’s permit positions us to provide adequate drinking water for at least the next thirty-five years, perhaps longer,” said Torres.

• The Town of Bernalillo Oral History Project is off and running. You can drop by the library anytime they are open but if you want to ensure availability, call 771-1440 to reserve your time, or schedule a time with an interviewer. The recording booth will be set-up for three people, so you can have a conversation with your family and friends. All the stories recorded will be compiled and archived in the Southwest Reading Room of the Town of Bernalillo Martha Liebert Public Library.

• The Summer Reading Program is a free eight week program at the library that encourages children and teens to read throughout the summer. Everyone can register, read, and be eligible for fun incentives (prizes). There are free programs and workshops in our library all summer long. Visit the Town of Bernalillo Public Library from June 1 to July 30. Fill out a registration form at the front desk. Children and teens will receive a reading log and a schedule of summer activities. Every time you bring in your reading log to show us what you have accomplished you get a small incentive/prize. At the end of the program we will also have prizes to award to the children and teens who have read the most books.

• On May 8, the  Bernalillo Planning & Zoning Commission was scheduled to reconsider the approval of the “Santa Rosa” Master Plan, revised to include over four hundred apartments on the frontage road east of I-25. The Commissioner voted to send this item up to the Town Council without a recommendation.

Santa Rosa would require the Town to extend water, sewage, police, and other public services across I-25. It would increase traffic at the crowded I-25/SR165 interchange. Town Council members are reportedly studying up on the issue of whether the drain on municipal finances caused by big residential developments is offset by the tax revenue generated. They will probably consider the Santa Rosa master plan during on of the council meetings in June.

• Mayor Jack Torres will lead a health walk on June 30, starting at 8:00 a.m. The walk begins at Rotary Park. The goal of this heath walk, entitled “Get Moving,” is to encourage residents to start walking daily and take a proactive approach to better health. The walk will cover approximately two miles of easy terrain. Leashed dogs are welcome. For more information, call Ida Fierro at 771-7128.

James Telles

James Telles, principal, Placitas Elementary School
Photo credit: —Ty Belknap

BPS shakes up PES

—Ty Belknap

Bernalillo Public Schools (BPS) superintendent Allan Tapia sent letters advising that all eight of the school’s teachers who wished to be rehired would be required to reapply and interview for their jobs. The letter explained that this action was being taken because Placitas Elementary School (PES) has recently been given a “D” grade by the NM Public Education Department. Traditionally high performance at PES has slipped over the last several years.

Students were transferring to other schools in the district, dropping enrollment from 167 in 2008 to only 121 this year. Parents were complaining about not feeling welcome at the school, and that teachers were unwilling to sponsor extracurricular activities and clubs.

Several parents who did not want to be quoted by name put a lot of the blame on former principal who resigned earlier this year. They say things are getting a lot better, and that they are reconsidering their plans to transfer their children. The administration was not willing to assign blame to any one person, rather stressing the positive changes which are now in effect.

James Tellas was hired to take over as principal on March 5, in part because of his experience in restructuring problem schools. In a recent interview with the Signpost, he called the BPS action “reconstituting the school.” He said that he made recommendations to BPS after assessing the school and finding shortcomings, which were not necessarily the fault of “bad teachers.”

Superintendent Tapia told the Signpost that two teachers have elected to retire at the end of the school year, and twenty-two teachers from the district applied for the six positions. “We might have to take this kind of action in other schools when immediate action is needed to enforce rigorous teaching standards,” he explained. “We have high expectation of the new teachers, and they will have to be willing to take part in after-school activities.”

All but one of the teaching positions have now been filled. Tellas said that two popular teachers will return— Beth Sommers (kindergarten); and Vince Sheehan (fourth grade). He has sent letters to the parents who transferred students to find out what went wrong and to try to get them back.

Tellas, a licensed contractor, plans to begin work at the school soon, on a courtyard greenhouse paid for by a grant that he applied for and received. Students will be able to take part in growing plants and studying horticulture. He also said that the new teachers have expressed interest in after-school science labs, robotics, chess, and running.

 “My goal is to make PES a top-notch school, the way it should be, with happy kids and happy parents in a happy community,” Tellas said. “Parents have started to volunteer again, the Cub Scouts are back, and we have plans for extracurricular activities in the fall.”

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