Sandoval Signpost


An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988
  Up Front

 Placitas Holiday Sale Board

Placitas Holiday Sale Fine Arts & Crafts Sale board members present raffle-proceeds check to benefit Placitas Elementary School’s Art In The School Program. (l. to r.) Dana Patterson Roth, Jon Couch, Norma Binder (Principal, Placitas Elementary School), Ellen Faris (Art In The Schools Coordinator), Bunny Bowen, Mary Hofmann, Nancy Couch

PHS supports Art in the Schools

(l. to r.) Nancy Couch and Jon Couch, Placitas Holiday Sale organizers, share a smile with Ellen Faris, Art In The School coordinator

Placitas Holiday Sale gives back to community, donates to Art in the School Program

—Placitas Holiday Sale Committee

For nine years, the generous artists of the Placitas Holiday Sale have donated pieces of their work to an art raffle to benefit the Placitas Elementary School’s Art Program. Last year the raffle raised $1,430, bringing the total over nine years to an amazing $9,915. On February 16, a check was presented to the Placitas Elementary School for the Art in the School (AIS) Program. According to AIS coordinator, Ellen Faris, the money will be used to buy art supplies for the children and to enhance the school’s art program.

Faris noted that AIS was founded by art historian, Sara Otto-Diniz, in 1985 when art education funding was severely cut in the public schools. While some art funding has been restored, many children still receive little or no art education. This nationally recognized, innovative nonprofit program has reached thousands of New Mexico students who would otherwise have had no visual arts education.

The kids at the Placitas Elementary School have enjoyed a unique and stimulating learning experience from AIS, which has exposed them to many artists and volunteers who take the time to share and teach them the joy of creating. The halls are filled with colorful artwork done by the students.

This year one AIS theme is Quest for the Medieval Castle: The Architecture of Defense, where the children will create their own castles. Another theme, The Pueblo: Architecture for a Natural World, provides enrichment activities by exploring the unique, natural Pueblo architecture style. The children will make their own Pueblo village using natural materials. A third theme, Itinerary India, Princely Paintings of the Rajputs, will provide a study of Seventeenth century Indian Rajput miniature paintings and invite the children to make their own paintings. Finally, Prints Make an Impression: The Aesthetics of Multiplicity will encourage the kids to explore the process of image-making in a variety of print-making methods such as woodblock prints, lithographs, and more.

The Placitas Holiday Fine Arts & Crafts Sale also benefits the fund raising efforts of the Presbyterian Church, the Placitas Volunteer Fire Brigade, and the Placitas Elementary School.

Thanks to those sponsors whose efforts and generous donations have helped immensely: Rock Hill Electric; Range Café; Murray Drilling; Blades’ Bistro; Rachael Tingen, DMD, from Placitas Dental; Bernalillo Storage; Lucy Noyes and Dick Hopkins from La Puerta Real Estate Services; and Nancy and Wayne Ullery from Heartland New Mexico. llc. Special thanks also go to Dee Christmann and her friends who have generously donated their time and energy to help sell the tickets.

We live in a very special community where people support the arts. This year’s Placitas Holiday Fine Arts & Crafts Sale is to be held on November 17 and 18. To preview the artists, artwork map, and sites or to apply to the 2012 show as an artist, visit: Art raffle tickets help the Art in the School Program.

The Placitas Holiday Fine Arts and Crafts Sale is organized by a small committee of local artists and sponsored by the Placitas Mountain Crafts and Soiree Society, a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization dedicated to serving the community, the arts, and artists.

Cashwell zoning application withdrawn

Signpost staff

Last month, the Cashwell family withdrew its application for rezoning to permit cluster housing on 103 acres in Placitas near the Fire House and Overlook subdivision. The Cashwell item remained on the agenda for the February 23 Planning and Zoning Commission Meeting, at which time Sandoval County Development staff announced receiving the letter of withdrawal.

A group of Placitas activists had opposed this development for years, ever since it was first introduced during the 2008 public hearings for the Placitas Development Plan. They contended that this development would deplete limited water resources, would set a precedent, and that the houses would block their views.

Architect Knight Seavy presented the plan as an environmentally friendly one with abundant open space. When asked why he was planning the development in the current absence of demand, Seavy responded, “We’ve been planning this for five years and have gotten nowhere,” implying that there might be a demand by the time they finally got through the application process.

He and his clients pushed forward with their plan with the apparent support of the SC Development Department despite public opposition and environmental limitations. The plan depended on a water supply that was to remain unproven until the application was approved. Peggy Johnson, Senior Hydrologist from the New Mexico Bureau of Hydrogeology and Mineral Resources did a study of the entire water system of Placitas that cast doubt on the quality and sustainability of the water supply around the Cashwell tract.

Sandoval County gets a little funding

The 2012 capital outlay budget that went to the governor includes the following for Sandoval County: Torreon Road Rehabilitation—$13,000,000 requested—$240,000 in budget; El Zócalo Historic Renovation—$750,000 requested—$175,000 budget; E-911Center—regional dispatch center $2,000,000 requested—$640,000 in budget.

Madalena elected as SC Chairman

On January 13, District 5 Commissioner Darryl Madalena was elected chairman of the Sandoval County Commission for 2012. Madalena, who will be serving his second consecutive term as chairman, was elected by a unanimous vote during the Commission’s first meeting of the year. The Commission also unanimously elected District 1 Commissioner Orlando Lucero to a second consecutive term as vice chairman.

 Asphalt meeting

Residents pack County Commission office to voice concern about new asphalt plant.
Photo credit: —Tony Hull

County orders removal of asphalt equipment

—Ty Belknap

A report from the Eastern Sandoval Citizens Association (ES-CA) of a zoning violation involving gravel mining and asphalt processing equipment by Fisher Sand and Gravel appeared in the January 2012 Signpost. The report warned of the threat of unpleasant and possibly toxic fumes that could affect Bernalillo and Placitas if Sandoval County did not enforce its ordinance.

Community concern about the gravel mine originated in May 2010 when Fisher applied to the County Planning and Zoning Commission for re-zoning to conduct asphalt batching operations on their property just southeast of the I-25 interchange at mile marker 242. Citizens pointed out that there were serious irregularities with the application, and the permit was never approved. The County authorized this property for a terrain management grading operation, a permitted use on RRA zoned properties, but the gravel mining operation that was conducted on-site appeared to go far beyond grading—especially when asphalt processing equipment was moved in.

At the January 12, 2012, meeting of the Planning and Zoning Commission, ESCA President Bob Gorrell brought these developments to the attention of the Commission. As a result, the SC Development Department staff promised to visit the site and take appropriate action if a violation was discovered.

On January 27, the Development Department sent written notice of the violations to Fisher and gave them thirty days to remove all equipment and mined materials from the property.

Despite this letter, about seventy residents of Placitas and Bernalillo packed the Commission chamber for the February 2 meeting of the County Commission to show their concern and support Gorrell, who addressed the commissioners during the public comment period.

Gorrell told the Commission that the gravel mining operation had been going on for a long time, in violation of zoning. He also criticized County Development Department for a long-term pattern of negligence in enforcing zoning ordinances. (See Gauntlet, this Signpost.)

Gorrell thanked SC Manager Phil Rios for interceding in the matter. Rios defended the department, saying, “Our staff has not been negligent in this situation. We are going to follow our ordinances.”

SC Public Information Officer Sidney Hill told the Signpost that the Development staff was already in the process of inspecting the Fisher Property when ES-CA contacted Rios. He said that the county is required to follow legal procedures in enforcing its ordinances, which takes time. If Fisher does not comply with the order to remove equipment and materials from its property by February 27, he said that the county will issue fines and/or seek a court order.

Hill said that county staff does not routinely inspect properties to ensure zoning compliance, but does so when there is a complaint from a concerned citizen or watchdog organization like ES-CA.

c. Rudi Klimpert

ESCAFCA—a year without Placitas

—Ty Belknap

Eastern Sandoval County Flood Control Authority Board of Directors Chairman Sal Reyes told the Signpost that earthwork on Athena Pond will begin in May or June. The 4.5-acre retention pond project off Athena Road in Bernalillo will be the first time shovel has contacted dirt on any flood control project since ESCAFCA’s controversial start in 2008.

The 4.5 acres itself was a source of controversy when it was purchased from former ESCAFCA board member Bill Sapien. Opponents of ESCAFCA called the deal a conflict of interest—one more thing to add to the list of complaints that led to the cessation of Placitas last year.

Reyes said that the retention pond is designed to slow flood waters that often fill the area and breach the irrigation ditches, affecting about three hundred homes. This is a short-term solution for events that occur during five and ten year events. Reyes said that a series of dams in the Sandia Pueblo foothills would be required to address one hundred year events.

Creating long-term solutions is expensive. Reyes says that the needs of the Town of Bernalillo dominates the wish list that will require far more funding than is currently available to ESCAFCA. The town lies in a basin without drainage. Prior to modern paving of roads, the town drained through a swampy area to the south and traditional drainage sites called “desaguas.”

Reyes says that ESCAFCA is hindered by a dearth of historical data and mapping. They would like to find the old drainages and obtain right-of-ways to the Rio Grande. He is careful to avoid the hot-button term “eminent domain” because it stirs up opposition. Reyes says that friendlier, small town solutions can be found. Of course, this too will take a lot of money.

Another problem is the recent FEMA evaluation that placed a large part of Bernalillo in the Rio Grande flood plain, requiring many residents to purchase flood insurance. Reyes said that ESCAFCA looked at the FEMA maps to try to narrow the indiscriminate floodplain lines. Four hundred properties in Placitas were moved from the floodplain by mapping that took terrain into account. Unfortunately, much of Bernalillo is protected by the levy that is in question. Reyes said that there is presently no way to deny that these areas are technically in the floodplain.

ESCAFCA is trying to form an agreement with the Army Corps to Engineers to collaborate on a geotechnical study of the levies. “There aren’t any documents on the construction of the levies. They are about twenty-feet high and thirty-feet wide and it’s hard to imagine they wouldn’t work. Remediation of problem areas would be more cost effective than replacement,” Reyes said. Again, any solution will require more funding than is currently available without an outside source.

ESCAFCA also covers the Algodones area. Reyes said that the Las Huertas Wash drains the watershed adequately, for the most part. Floodwaters sometimes back up near the I-25 interchange and flood properties on Bowersville Road. Flooding causes irrigation ditches to breach and flood the Los Colonias area. “Eventually these problems could be addressed, but right now, ESCAFCA’s limited funding is being used on areas with greater population,” Reyes said.

Reyes said that the progress during the first four years of ESCAFCA was slowed by lack of technical data. The staff was forced to spend most of its time dealing with the Placitas opposition. Since legislative action separated Placitas from ESCAFCA last year, Reyes says things have gone more smoothly.

New policies at Sandoval County Detention Center

Signpost staff

Last month, after completing its investigation of two recent inmate suicides by hanging, the administration of the Sandoval County Detention Center decided to make the following additions to its standard operating procedures:

Inmates will be allowed to keep low-top tennis shoes after booking, provided that the booking officer, booking supervisor, or shift commander determines the shoes to be otherwise acceptable. Even inmates who are allowed to keep their tennis shoes will be relieved of their shoelaces. The laces will be placed in the inmates’ property bag.

After 48 hours of being incarcerated, an inmate who has low-top tennis shoes may submit a formal written request via an Inmate Communication Form for a pair of shoelaces. No inmate will receive shoelaces exceeding twenty inches in length.

No inmate will be issued shoelaces if they are on line-of-sight suicide watch, housed in a segregation cell or separation cell, or if they are on medical or disciplinary classification.

Also last month, the SC Commission voted unanimously to a policy change proposed by SCDC director Al Casamento to prohibit the possession and consumption of all tobacco products in the center. This policy includes not only inmates, but staff, contractors, and visitors, as well.

The policy goes into effect on June 4 after which violators could face felony criminal charges if caught with tobacco products. Staff could be terminated.

Commissioner Don Chapman said, “I like that it’s got some teeth to it.”

Commissioner Donny Leonard said that he approved of the policy because the county has to pay for costs associated with healthcare risks associated with tobacco use, and the county is under pressure from the state to keep costs down.

Public Information Officer, Sidney Hill, told the Signpost that staff members have several months to participate in smoking cessation programs before the ban takes effect. Inmates are by statute only housed at the facility for one year, so it would not be practical or cost-effective to offer smoking cessation programs to them. They will be forced to go cold turkey, eased only by the hard candy Casamento said that he plans to provide to help with the transition. Incarceration could be viewed as an opportunity to stop smoking, permanently— a form of rehabilitation.

When inmates get their shoelaces back, they can exercise to relieve the tension. SCDC has no plans to offer yoga classes as jailers have recently done at Bernalillo County Detention Center.

Charges dismissed in wild horse dispute

—Ty Belknap

On February 7, the state of New Mexico dropped a charge of criminal trespass that was filed in Sandoval County Magistrate Court against Placitas resident, Christine Landers, on October 11, 2011. The case was dismissed.

Landers was involved in a dispute with the Wild Horse Observers Association over the treatment of a herd of free ranging horses (See September 2011 Signpost) and freely admitted that she tried to release the horses from a temporary corral on private land off Camino de las Huertas. Landers told the investigating deputy that the horses were wild, and she did not think it was right for them to be penned up. She said that the horses were muddy, in danger, and being abused

WHOA described these horses as “livestock” (not to be confused with wild horses), which had escaped from a corral in the Cedar Creek subdivision. These horses, dubbed the “Placitas Eight” were endangered by traffic. WHOA said that they had permission from a landowner to use the property to hold the horses until they could be moved to a wild horse sanctuary in northern New Mexico. WHOA, at the time, encouraged their supporters to ask Sandoval County Sheriff Doug Wood to press the trespassing charges.

Horses continue to wander into the roads in Placitas. Signs are posted to warn motorists to drive slowly.

SC Public Works proceeds with Placitas West paving plan

—Sandoval County Public Works

Freeform Way and Forest Lane, in the Placitas area, have been scheduled for road improvements including new asphalt pavement and storm water drainage improvements. These roads have been identified for maintenance issues and to provide a safer driving surface for the surrounding residents. The construction will begin in early March 2012.

The County wishes to advise affected residents that during the construction process they may experience delays but that the roadway will not be shut down during construction and residents will have access to and from their residences during the construction process.

Sandoval County held a Public Meeting on February 27 at the US 550 Rail Runner Transit Station to go over the construction plans, schedule, and project scope. The project was the subject of controversy in the neighborhood.

For questions, comments, and information call Fred Marquez, Project Management Manager, at 505-771-8500 or email him at:

New DA location

Flanked by Rio Rancho Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors in red jackets, Town of Bernalillo mayor Jack Torres cuts a ribbon, alongside (l. to r.) District Attorney Lemuel Martinez, County Commissioner Donny Leonard, Magistrate Judge Richard Zanotti and Rio Rancho Mayor Thomas Swisstack, to help commemorate the opening of Sandoval County District Attorney Lemuel Martinez’s new office in Bernalillo

District Attorney’s Office celebrates new location

—Ty Belknap

On January 27, the Thirteenth Judicial District Attorney’s Office in Sandoval County celebrated its move to the old courthouse in Bernalillo with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The catered party was well-attended by local municipal and county officials. 

The DA’s office previously had staff at the judicial complex on Idalia near N.M. 528, as well as the AMREP building near Quantum and N.M. 528 in Rio Rancho. District Attorney Lemuel Martinez said that he was very happy to have his entire staff in one location.

When the Thirteenth Judicial was formed in 1971, it included huge, but sparsely populated, rural areas of Sandoval and Valencia Counties. In 1981, Valencia County split to form Cibola County, which is still part of the district. The area has seen tremendous growth, especially in Rio Rancho, and much of the growth has come since Martinez took office in 2001. The office now handles 9,000 cases a year—all felony, DWIs, and domestic violence cases.

The office complex occupies the entire second and third floor that formerly served as the Sandoval County administration center. For security reasons, the only way for visitors to enter is by the elevator in the rear of the building. The DA complex houses the offices of the Community Education Center, the Pre-Prosecution Diversion Program, Probation Violations, Juvenile Justice Program, Bad Check Restitution Program, as well as the offices of assistant DAs and investigators. Records are kept in the former County Clerk’s storeroom. Martinez got the former County Manager’s office.

There is plenty of space left, but Martinez expects that it will be needed when the area resumes its pre-recession growth spurt.

The new physical address is 711 Camino Del Pueblo S., Bernalillo, NM 87004. Mail must be sent to The Thirteenth Judicial District Attorney Sandoval County Office (P. O. Box 1750 Bernalillo, NM 87004). To reach the office, call (505) 771-7400 or fax to (505) 867- 3265. Office hours are 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (open through the lunch hour), Monday through Friday.
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