Sandoval Signpost


An independent monthly newspaper serving the community since 1988
  Public Safety

Firewise map shows the addresses of the five Firewise pilot grant properties.

Firewise Placitas plans fair and celebration

—Vickie Gottlieb

On April 5, from 10:00 to noon, at the Placitas Community Center, 41 Camino de la Huertas, there will be a Firewise Placitas fair and celebration.

Firewise Placitas is celebrating the Coronado Soil and Water Conservation District sponsorship of last year’s wood chipper events and matching grants that helped reduce wildfire risk around five Placitas homes. Enjoy cake and drinks, talk to property owners who had trees and vegetation thinned and pruned to create an acre of defensible space around their homes, find out how to be prepared for emergencies, meet government officials and others who can answer questions, learn about ‘go’ packs, erosion control, and firewise plants.

There will be activities and candy for children of all ages. There will be giveaways, including a free one-acre ‘defensible space’ assessment, usually fifty dollars, to identify what can be done to the winner’s property to reduce wildfire risk. You can meet local folks who can help make your property more firewise, clean up debris, remove dead wood, etc.

Do you know how much a tree or shrub should be pruned from the bottom to reduce potential damage to your home? How much mulch should you spread under trees? How are our watershed, wilderness area, and tree size related? What are the most important items to have ready to go in case of emergency? Do you know what to do with your livestock and pets if you must evacuate?

Come to the fair, share in the celebration, and learn a thing or two. 

You can make a difference by helping make Placitas fire-wise. Check us out at our gatherings between 10:00 a.m. and noon on March 6 and 20, in the Collins Meeting Room of the Placitas Community Library. Contact Vicki Gottlieb at 404-8022 or for more information.

EMS tax threatened

—Bill Diven

Call it a glitch or an oversight or just one of those government things, but conflicting language from ten years ago is threatening a tax that supports emergency medical services in Sandoval County Fire Department (SCFD).

In 2004, county voters approved a 0.25 percent tax on most goods and services sold in unincorporated areas served by SCFD. It now generates about $56,000 dollars a month for EMS salaries although revenue suffered, along with consumers, during the recession, slipping to $711,000 dollars last fiscal year from $792,000 dollars the year before.

Flash forward ten years from the election, and here’s the problem: the tax question on the ballot said nothing about a sunset clause although a state law required another vote in ten years to continue the tax. When county commissioners the next month approved the ordinance implementing the tax, it contained a ten-year sunset.

To complicate matters further, a month after the election state law changed, eliminating the sunset requirement.

“The sunset is in the ordinance, not in the law,” County Manager Phil Rios told commissioners last month. Now the county faces a March 31 deadline to pass a new ordinance or lose the revenue, he added.

County Attorney Patrick Trujillo said an outside law firm determined the county could simply pass an ordinance without a sunset clause to continue collecting the tax.

Before agreeing to consider a new ordinance, the two Rio Rancho Republican members of the five-person commission sought assurances there would be ample time for public comment. They also wanted to know exactly what the 2004 ballot question said, information not available at commissioners’ February 6 meeting.

“I want to see the actual ballot language and the law,” Commissioner Glenn Walters said. He also said he was voting yes to publish the proposed ordinance just to get it to the public for comment.

“I’m troubled by it,” added Commissioner Don Chapman while praising the work of country first responders. “Did voters know there was a ten-year sunset?”

Ultimately, all five commissioners voted to start the ordinance process with final consideration expected at their March 6 meeting.

At the same 2004 election, voters continued a fire-protection tax that bought equipment across the county. That includes a fire truck for Fire Station 43 after it opened on Petroglyph Trail in Placitas and a rescue unit at Station 41, the Placitas Volunteer Fire Brigade station near mile marker 4 on State Road 165.

The EMS tax pays the salaries of firefighter-paramedics and covers more than half of the county department’s salary budget.

“I can tell you that without these taxes, we would not be able to fund and provide the services that we are today,” Interim Fire Chief James Maxon told the Signpost. “Today alone we dispatched to Santo Domingo, we dispatched to Cuba, and we’ve dispatched to Placitas twice so far.”

The county also pays volunteer departments in Cuba and Jemez Pueblo to respond to calls in rural areas outside their communities. In turn, the county covers those communities when local responders are on ambulance runs to Rio Rancho or otherwise aren’t available.

Narcotics ring busted in Bernalillo

—Lieutenant Keith Elder

Sandoval County Sheriff’s deputies and law enforcement officers from Region 1 Narcotics Taskforce, DEA, FBI, and Bernalillo Police Department assembled at 5:00 a.m. on February 19, 2014, to serve search warrants in Sandoval County and the town of Bernalillo. The search warrants were a result of narcotics investigations for trafficking.

Several arrests have been made and narcotics seized in connection with the search warrant service. Narcotics officers seized valium, heroin, methamphetamine, and one firearm. The amount of narcotic seizures has not yet been determined.

Region 1 Narcotics Taskforce and DEA have actively been conducting narcotics investigations in Sandoval and surrounding counties. Narcotics investigations are ongoing. The Region 1 Narcotics Taskforce is comprised of local law enforcement officers from area agencies and DEA, including Sandoval County Sheriff’s Office deputies.

Free household hazardous waste collection

—Peter L. Wells

Keep Rio Rancho Beautiful (KRRB) and Sandoval County will offer the city of Rio Rancho and Sandoval County residents the chance to dispose of household hazardous waste for free. On, March 15, from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., residents can bring items to the Santa Ana Star Center upper southwest parking lot, 3001 Civic Center Circle.

Motor oil, gasoline, cleaners, antifreeze, paints, solvents, herbicides, pesticides, compact fluorescent lamps, and batteries will be accepted at the collection. Tires, appliances, and other types of waste such as biohazard, commercial and electronic will not be accepted at this event.

Proof of residency, such as a utility statement and photo identification, will be required to utilize this collection. For more information, call 896-8389 or visit the city’s Web site,

Residents of Rio Rancho and Sandoval County can recycle a variety of items year-round at the recycling center located adjacent to the Sandoval County Landfill, 2700 Iris Road. The recycling center, which is operated jointly by the city and county, is open every Saturday (except holidays) from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Items accepted include cardboard (broken down and flattened); white and mixed paper; plastics #1-7; aluminum; scrap metal; appliances including those with Freon; electronics including TVs (limit four per day, per vehicle); tires (limit four per day, per vehicle); clothing; eye glasses; and hearing aids.

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