The Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newsmagazine Serving the Community since 1989


Leon Lucero wields a shovel in the Placitas acequia during the annual ditch cleaning in preparation for irrigation season.

Leon Lucero wields a shovel in the Placitas acequia during the annual ditch cleaning in preparation for irrigation season. Former acequia mayordomo Moises Perea said the work went quickly, as 66 volunteers, the most in several years, turned out to clean 3.5 miles of ditch and laterals. The traditional and necessary event dates to at least the 1840s and possibly earlier, when settlers returned to the area after abandoning the nearby village of Las Huertas.

Improved Signpost
Community Calendar accepting e-mail submissions

The Signpost is expanding its Community Calendar to better inform the community about events in and around southeastern Sandoval County. If you or your business staff are organizing an event of interest to the general community, please e-mail your calendar listing to The deadline for submission is the twentieth of the month prior to publication. (For example, May 20 is the deadline for listings in the June issue.)

Please include the date of the event first. Then the name of the event, a description (seventy-five words or less), the time, location, cost, and public contact information. Please also include your private contact information, in case the Signpost calendar editor has a question about your submission. Your private contact information will not be published.

You may also submit your calendar listing on the Website. Click here to access the Calendar Submission Form page.

Calendar listings must be e-mailed to or submitted on the Web site Calendar Submissions Page in order to appear in the Community Calendar. This is a free community service by the Signpost.


New Bernalillo police chief Fred Radosevich meets with news media

New Bernalillo police chief Fred Radosevich meets with news media shortly
after town councilors unanimously selected him for the job.

New Bernalillo police chief optimistic

Bill Diven

Bernalillo’s new police chief says he doesn’t expect the political trouble that dogged his predecessors and left the department in turmoil for more than a year.

“I’ve worked with a lot of mayors and councils,” said Fred Radosevich, the former police chief of Grants. “As long as I do what I think is best, we’ll get along fine.”

Radosevich, a twenty-five-year veteran of New Mexico law enforcement, served seventeen years as chief in Grants before retiring in 2003. He has continued working with a regional narcotics task force and said he had business to finish there before going on duty in Bernalillo early this month.

Last year Radosevich acted as a consultant to the Bernalillo town government, studying policies and procedures of its troubled police department. He withdrew from that contract, held jointly with his brother Mark, a retired state police officer, to be one of eight applicants for the chief’s job.

A committee studying the applications recommended three finalists, one of whom did not survive the rugged background check. Of the remaining two, Bernalillo mayor Charles Aguilar picked Radosevich over former Española police chief Wayne Salazar, and town councilors unanimously agreed at their April 12 meeting.

Town administrator Lester Swindle said the police department is back up to full staff—fifteen officers—for the first time in many months and has been on the mend since the firing of controversial police chief Ramon “Mojo” Montijo in October.

Radosevich is “going to put some tension back into the springs of this department,” Swindle told councilors.

“He’ll improve on an improving department.”

Radosevich said he has worked with some of the department’s officers before and expects to take some time to get familiar with the staff and current situation before making any changes. He cited the gang problem as an immediate concern and said he did not know the status of a criminal investigation of one officer launched during Montijo’s tenure.

“With some good direction, and assistance from surrounding agencies, we can do good work,” he said.

Trouble within the department began in January 2003 when the council refused to renew the contract of longtime chief William Relyea. His first successor accepted and then backed out of the job, and Montijo arrived in April.

Over the next five months, an inventory of department property and evidence sparked outside investigations by local and federal agencies over missing weapons, badly stored narcotics, and a burglary at Bernalillo High School in which an officer was named as a suspect.

Montijo was twice suspended by the mayor and ultimately fired, and procedures for handling property and evidence were tightened. The Rio Rancho Department of Public Safety investigated the school burglary, and its report was signed by Detective Mark Pelligrini and Sergeant Roberta Radosevich, the new chief’s sister-in-law.

District Attorney Lemuel Martinez turned the report over to his counterpart in Bernalillo County to avoid any conflict of interest, and the case remains open.


Placitas Library asks public to decide between
five location offers

Sue Strasia
Placitas Community Library, Inc.

The new Placitas Community Library is open Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 10:00 a.m. to noon and 1:00 to 5:00 p.m., and on Saturdays from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. We’re the first brown building located on Tierra Madre #1. Thanks goes to Madeline Randle—for getting an all-volunteer staff to catalog and check out books—and the many folks who have worked diligently in setting up the library.

Our grand opening will be held in conjunction with Placitas Appreciation Day at the Merc on Saturday, May 15, when our doors will open from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. We will have used books for sale, free door prizes every hour, balloon animals, and a children’s story hour starting at 1:00 p.m.

We are in the process of writing grants and asking for funding of our library. Recently, we approached Debbie Hays, the Sandoval County Manager, to see if the county can help us. She indicated that a land purchase by the county would be reasonable, as long as we have wide support.

We want to hear from everyone interested in a library for Placitas. Please help us determine the best site for our library and support our decision once it is made by the Placitas Library Board. Who knows? The final site might be determined unexpectedly, but right now we have five options.

 The first option is by the Merc on Orville and Judy McCallister’s land. They are willing to donate eight tenths of an acre for a library, with the stipulation that it includes a community meeting room, kitchen, performing arts facility, multipurpose facility, fitness facility, and administrative offices. Parking is available in the surrounding area. Building restrictions are also in effect. All monies must be in hand before construction.

 The second option is at Highway 165 and Tunnel Springs. The owner is asking $80,000 for four acres. This site is considered centrally located to all residents in the Placitas area, and has mountain access to the Sandias. The owner is willing to build and carry the note for ten years but then the price goes up. Also, there is a power line that cuts through a corner of the property.

 The third option is west of the main fire station on Highway 165. The owner will match the Tunnel Springs offer of $80,000 for four acres. This site is also near the bed and breakfast, and halfway between the village and the Merc, making it accessible to the local community as well as the outlying areas. This site can be easily seen from the highway, and the views are incredible.

 The fourth option is by the Senior Center on Las Huertas Road. This land was donated by Peggy Walden for recreational use, a preschool, and with an option to build the library. It is close to the school and the Senior Center. Access places more traffic pressure on Las Huertas, which is a concern by some residents.

 The fifth option is right where the library is now located. Pepi Strahl offered to build a building for the library and lease it to us but there is no option to buy.

Each option has pros and cons that are briefly outlined above for you to make an informed decision. Please contact us and give your name, telephone number, and address with your choice for a site or if you need further information. Write to Sue At The Library: P.O. Box 445, Placitas, NM 87043, send e-mail to:, or call 867-0026.


Eloy Gutierrez (left) and Rudy Gonzales of TEF Construction rip up floor tile

Eloy Gutierrez (left) and Rudy Gonzales of TEF Construction rip up floor tile during the $310,000 renovation of Bernalillo Town Hall now underway. The project, scheduled for completion by August 1, will make the rest rooms handicapped accessible and turn the open patio between town offices and the motor vehicle division into an enclosed foyer.

Water, sewer costs rising in Bernalillo

Bill Diven

Proposed boosts of about 20 percent in water and sewer rates may be just a taste of future increases, according to Bernalillo town officials.

The town hasn’t raised rates in five years and now faces at least $10 million in expenditures over the next three years to meet federal clean-water requirements, wastewater superintendent Nick Tobey told town councilors. “Water and sewer operations are supposed to be self-support but currently are barely breaking even,” he added.

“We know there are going to be big costs coming,” Tobey told the Signpost. “This is to take some of the sticker shock out of the raises to come.”

On the water side, Tobey estimates $3.5 million in needs, more than half of that to remove naturally occurring arsenic, with the rest for pipeline replacements and extensions. Consulting engineers estimate costs of anywhere from $7 million to $10 million to meet federal requirements imposed when the town wastewater permit was renewed in December, he added.

Those requirements including removing chlorine and drastically reducing ammonia and nitrate from effluent discharged into the Rio Grande. The town wastewater plant had been operating without a permit since 1993.

The town plans to study its rates as part of developing a water-conservation plan and will look at sales-tax increases and issuing bonds as possible sources of money. Currently town residents pay $16.37 for six thousand gallons of water, about $2.50 below the statewide average, and $17.01 a month for sewer service, about $2.50 above the state average.

Ordinances establishing the new rates were on the agenda for the council’s April 26 meeting.


Rezoning denied for construction yard
on Frontage Road

Bill Diven

Placitas residents protesting a construction yard won their argument when the Bernalillo Town Council rejected a request to rezone the property.

The council voted unanimously on April 12 to support the town planning board, which previously had denied the zone change sought by Victor Corporation of Rio Rancho. Victor also had sought a special-use permit to allow it to set up its offices and park heavy equipment at the site.

The ten-acre property on the I-25 frontage road north of NM 165 currently is home to an auto shop and previously housed a fertilizer operation. The front of the property already has commercial zoning, but the back, zoned agricultural-residential, includes low hills adjoining the Placitas Trails neighborhood.

A portion of those hills would have been flattened for the yard, with the remainder left as a visual buffer between the equipment yard and the homes, Victor president Mark Jones said. Residents who bought on the edge of the subdivision knew there was commercial activity below and continuous noise from the interstate highway, he added.

Jones also said he would bring needed tax revenue to Bernalillo, while homeowners argued it would be at their expense.

“The zoning is the protection we as homeowners rely on,” said John de Graauw, one of about twenty-five Trails residents who attended the council meeting. “We’ll see the heavy equipment that goes beep, beep, beep. He saves some money, and our property values take a dive.”

Jones later told the Signpost that he had met with residents before the meeting and thought they had an agreement that satisfied any concerns. He declined comment on whether he would appeal the council’s decision to district court.


County line—Every vote counts in this year’s elections

Daymon Ely
Sandoval County Commission

Damon Ely
Damon Ely

So many articles have been written about voting that the statistics have become clichés. Let's discuss two of them: Your vote counts. You have a real choice to make.

Unfortunately, many citizens, and particularly young people, have stopped listening and don't think their vote counts, that one vote cannot matter. Or, they believe there really is no difference between Democrats and Republicans, so why bother. In this election year—2004—and, especially, in Sandoval County, no one can correctly make these arguments.

Let's start with the idea that one vote does matter. In the last three elections, two races for the Corrales Village Council and one Rio Rancho City Council race were decided by one vote. That's right, one person made the difference. A state-representative contest in Sandoval County two years ago was decided by just three votes. So, one vote does matter.

Now, the other argument: there is no real difference between the two major political parties. We heard that argument in 2000. It drove many voters to pull the lever for Ralph Nader and prompted even more people, I suspect, to simply not vote.

Well, that argument has certainly been refuted. Since the last election, the President has preemptively struck at Iraq. His administration told the nation that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and implied that Iraq was connected with al Qaeda. Now we are embroiled in a war that, according to some of the President's closest advisors, has hurt the war on terrorism. The President has cut taxes and increased spending, and our country has gone from having a huge surplus to a huge deficit. He has, rightly or wrongly, taken the nation in a whole new direction and the consequences will certainly be profound.

The Republican administration disagrees fundamentally with Democrat challenger John Kerry on the approach to the Middle East and our relationships with friends, allies, and the United Nations. The two major parties also clearly disagree on approaches to the environment, health care, and the entire domestic agenda.

Support George Bush or John Kerry, but get involved. A vote for either side will set the direction for our country for many years to come.

So, vote in the June 1 primary election and the November 2 general election.

First, you must be registered to vote. Okay, we've made that easy. To register, simply stop by Sandoval County's Bureau of Elections. Or, call 867-7574 and you can register by mail. But hurry. May 4 is the deadline to register for the June primary. October 5 is the deadline to register for the November general election.

Voting, too, has never been easier. Call 867-7574 and an application for a mail-in ballot will be sent to you.

Or, vote early or absentee in person at the county courthouse in Bernalillo. Stop by and vote between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Mondays through Fridays from May 4 to May 28, or on Saturday, May 29, between 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m.

You can also vote at the county's alternate early- or absentee-voting site in the San Ysidro Village Offices. There, polls will be from May 15 to May 29: from noon to 8:00 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, and from 10 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Saturdays May 15, 22, and 29.

For more information on how or where to vote, call the county's bureau of elections, 867-7574.

So, get registered and start voting. Your ballot does make a difference. See you at the polls.

Questions or comments for Commissioner Ely can be mailed to him in care of Sandoval County administrative offices, P.O. Box 40, Bernalillo, NM 87004.


Don Oppenheimer

Don Oppenheimer sees magnetic levitation train travel in our future.

Levitation in future for commuter train?

Bill Diven

Fond childhood memories of trundling trolley cars don’t keep Don Oppenheimer from challenging the commuter-train system being fast-tracked by state and local government.

The former rocket scientist, in public presentations and private arm twistings, promotes a futuristic vision of light, swift trains floating on a bed of electricity. Known as magnetic levitation, “maglev” for short, such systems already exist in Europe and Asia, some operating at speeds nearing three hundred miles per hour.

Even local boosters of traditional heavyweight commuter trains say it’s a great vision. Maybe someday, they add, but not in 2005, when service begins between Belen and Bernalillo, with plans to expand to Santa Fe.

“The United States is behind, and the railroad system is in deep trouble,” Oppenheimer recently told the Sandoval County Commission. “We need to look at this seriously. That is if we’re wise enough to start making decisions.”

Instead of wheels, maglevs ride on electromagnets that, when energized, create a magnetic field raising the train above steel rails. The train then moves down its own protected guideway, elevated or tunneled as needed to avoid highway crossings.

Newer maglev systems are less expensive than critics realize, according to Oppenheimer, who has sketched out local routes looping through Albuquerque, the Sunport, and Rio Rancho. Several states already receive federal planning funds, with maglev construction money contained in the transportation bill now pending before Congress.

“One thing we need to do is change the New Mexico mindset of ‘we’re too poor,’ ‘we’re too little,’ whatever, and let other states take all the money,” Oppenheimer told the Signpost. But Oppenheimer, an electrical engineer with defense-contractor missile programs now retired to Rio Rancho, also fears the $75 million about to be spent on traditional commuter rail is “just going to evaporate” if service isn’t frequent and convenient enough to get people out of their cars.

J. W. Madison shares that fear but also doesn’t want talk of maglev and distract from getting regular trains up and running. As the president of the citizen group Rails Inc., he sees the first crucial step as setting up a strong regional transportation district as now allowed under state law to include buses and shuttles linked to the commuter trains.

“We hope an independent RTD receives enough funding to do the job right, as opposed to Amtrak, which gets just enough money not to do the job right,” Madison said. 'Nickel-and-dime funding is a good way to sabotage something you want to fail.”

Governor Bill Richardson named the Mid-Region Council of Governments to set up commuter rail to metropolitan Albuquerque, and late in April MRCOG programmed $75 million for initial costs in the coming year. The money—$50 million in state bonds and $25 million in anticipated federal funding—includes track upgrades, stations in Belen, Los Lunas, and Bernalillo, and leasing or buying locomotives and coaches to begin operations in the fall of 2005.

Then the RTD takes over with $60 million in annual revenue expected from fares, federal funding, and local taxes yet to be approved by voters.

“When the election will be is hard to say,” MRCOG executive director Lawrence Rael said. “We’re plowing new territory, but I would venture to say we’re at least a year away from one.”

Rael said contracts among local governments setting up the RTD could be ready in about three months. An agreement with the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway for use of its tracks may be done within a few weeks, he added.

As to maglev, “It’s a great technology if we had unlimited funds. It’s worth considering when we look at the future.”

Rio Rancho, which calls itself the City of Vision, also is looking at its transportation future, according to Mayor Jim Owen. The proposed budget now being developed for the fiscal year beginning July 1 will include money for a transportation policy, he said.

“One of my concerns is that Rio Rancho is an isolated situation to access rail under the existing system,” Owen said. “We need to find some way we can access mass transit in a practical way.”

Owen said he and Oppenheimer have talked a lot about maglev and that the technology offers exciting if expensive possibilities. He said he personally handed a package of Oppenheimer’s materials to the governor and presumes they were passed on to the state department of transportation.


Ultimate Bullriders Rodeo coming to Bernalillo

Tough hombres and mean bulls meet at the Sheriff’s Posse Arena on May 15 for the first Ultimate Bullriders Rodeo in Bernalillo. Rodeo events—from kids’ sheep riding to serious bull riding—begin at 7:00 p.m. and are expected to end by 11:00 p.m.

Children under five are admitted free; admission for ages five to twelve is $5; admission for age thirteen and up is $7. Entry fees are $100 for Ultimate Bullrider members and $125 for nonmembers, with a $25 deposit due by May 10. Lesser fees apply to other events.

The Bernalillo Sheriff’s Posse Arena is located west of the Rio Grande and south of US 550. For additional information, call 385-7594.






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