An Independent Monthly Newsmagazine Serving the Community since 1989


Bernalillo Bridge

Canoes launch on the Rio Grande, south of the Bernalillo bridge

Sandoval County focuses on development

—TY BELKNAP
Several years ago, Sandoval County was feeling the pinch of ill-advised investments that cost millions and created a scandal. Not anymore—Sandoval County investments are making money. Not only that, the expansion and development of one of the country’s fastest-growing counties is being bankrolled by $85 million they got for backing Intel’s $16 billion revenue bond.
The April 5 Sandoval County Commission meeting opened with a rosy financial report from the county financial advisor.

Then Michael Springfield, Director of County Development, presented a request for approval of a resolution adopting a master plan for La Plazuela de Sandoval—an administrative complex for county government. La Plazuela will be located at the former Gun Club property at Highway 528 and Idalia Road, on fifty-six acres next to the Judicial Complex that was recently completed.

The development will include public buildings, retail outlets, high-density housing, and open space. The administration building would be three stories tall and contain fifty-five thousand square feet.

Springfield said that the departments that draw the most traffic would be located on the first floor and that the building would be a state-of-the-art communications center—consistent with the county broadband initiative.

County manager Debbie Hays said that the county government had been “bursting at the seams” for years in the twenty-eight thousand square foot courthouse in Bernalillo. She said that departments have been moved incrementally to other locations and that it would be more efficient to have government offices centralized.

Hays also said that the present courthouse would be used to provide office space as required for the District Attorney, drug courts, and state agencies.

Furthermore, Hays said that the $10 million project was not outside the county budget and could be completed in eighteen months.

The County Commission voted unanimously in favor of the resolution.

OTHER BUSINESS:
Also, during the April 5 meeting, Noreen Scott, Executive Director of Rio Rancho Economic Development Corporation (RREDC), presented the County Commission with a progress report and requested an additional $20,000 to the $30,000 annual county funding they currently receive. Scott pointed out that RREDC had been instrumental in bringing several businesses to the Bernalillo area, including a concrete block plant, a laboratory to produce health and beauty products, and possibly a photovoltaic plant.

Scott’s PowerPoint presentation outlined why development should be encouraged: to lure business to the area, creating jobs, less commuter traffic, and a higher standard of living. “It’s just the right thing to do,” she said.

Commissioner Jack Thomas agreed that development of big box stores and manufacturing along the northwest loop between US 550 and I-40 is “the key to the future.”

County government enthusiastically embraces the rapid development of the Rio Rancho area, which is projected to cover the west side of Albuquerque from the Rio Grande to the top of the escarpment and beyond.

Signpost cartoon c. Rudi Klimpert
Drilling to start on May 28

At the April 19 Sandoval County Commission meeting, commissioners voted unanimously to go into the water-prospecting business with Recorp Partners, the Arizona developer of Rio West. The preliminary plan for the eighty-thousand-resident planned community west of Rio Rancho was approved by the County Commission last fall.

Under the agreement, Sandoval County will fund up to $2.5 million (more Intel money), or sixty-six percent of the cost of two nine-thousand-foot-deep exploratory wells into the Rio Puerco Basin, in hopes of discovering a significant enough amount of water to supply the projected population growth in southern Sandoval County.

Loosely based on water produced during oil drilling over the past fifty years, and salty water seeping to the surface in some places, county officials expect to find large quantities of salt water. The county would shoulder sixty-six percent of the cost, or up to $6 million of Intel money, involved in the desalinization and distribution process and would have a sixty-six percent ownership.

Michael Springfield, Director of County Development, said that drilling was scheduled to begin on May 28. Studies must be completed and submitted to the Office of the State Engineer by February 2008.

Commissioner Jack Thomas called it “a pretty good deal for Sandoval County.” He said, “With a sixty-six percent share, we can control the price and sell water at a price people can afford. The water will stay in New Mexico. This is a huge investment for sustainable water in New Mexico.” He described desalinization of water as a “stop gap.” Future technology, he said, might make it possible to “suck it [water] out of the air.”

Maybe the commissioners read last month’s grim new warnings on global warming. The journal Science predicted that the Southwest will be gripped by a permanent drought by 2050. The study, based on nineteen computer models, found that conditions in Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado would resemble the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. This situation could cause water wars.

Commission Chairman Don Leonard applauded decision-makers for “having the foresight to allocate Intel money to the future of Sandoval County.”


Bernalillo gets a Wal-Mart

Just across Highway 528 from Rio Rancho’s Enchanted Hills, preliminary construction has begun on a two-hundred-fifteen-thousand-square-foot Wal-Mart Superstore within the Bernalillo town limits, which is projected to be completed early in 2008.

Despite well-documented evidence concerning the negative effects of having the world’s largest corporation in a small community, Bernalillo town administrator Stephen Jerge described the new Supercenter as “uncontroversial.”

What about the traffic snarls? The money flowing out of state? The absence of living wages and health care, and the destruction of small business? Jerge did not immediately return a phone call to the Signpost.

Jerge was quoted in the Journal, “We welcome Wal-Mart and associated business. We expect a tremendous spike in our gross receipts tax that we can put back into the community.”

Many people considered a Wal-Mart at US 550 and Highway 528 inevitable, but the sudden arrival precluded the kind of opposition that is now commonplace around the country—including Tijeras, Highway 528 and Corrales Road, and the ongoing struggle over a Supercenter off Osuna NE in Albuquerque.

Bernalillo residents are fortunate, however, that the Supercenter is not being built across the road in Rio Rancho. They would have suffered the ill-effects with few of the good. Rio Rancho finds itself with more “retail leakage” to the east. The new Wal-Mart is expected to create three to four hundred full- and part-time jobs.

Signpost cartoon c. Rudi Klimpert
Water Supply Could Run Low

—SEAN OLSON
Growth in Rio Rancho is rapidly drinking up the city’s water supply and officials are saying now is the time to plan for the future. The City Council was presented with four policy recommendations Wednesday, which would help ensure the city has an adequate water supply as it grows.

John Kolessar, City Infrastructure Director, told councilors seventy-five percent of the city’s available water through two pumping permits from the State Engineer is already in use or promised to developments.

With current water pumping permit amounts, the city could only support a little less than two hundred thousand people and would not be able to support all 105 square miles of Rio Rancho land currently in city limits if it were developed, Kolessar said. Rio Rancho has nearly eighty thousand people now.

“There is an end to this parade,” Kolessar said Thursday.
Kolessar said at the meeting that the pressure on the pumping permits could be relieved through “aggressive” pursuit of desalinized water. Desalinization is a process that filters salt from water and converts it to potable water. He said the city is in negotiations with a private company that claims it can build a large desalinization plant. The city signed a confidentiality agreement with the party until more preparation is done.

Sandoval County is interested in a desalinization plant for the Rio Puerco basin that would support the proposed Rio West development west of Rio Rancho, as well as the rest of the county. County officials have said there could be a large supply of salt water deep under the Rio Puerco basin surface. The county is waiting for tests to see if water is available to support the plant.

Kolessar said the city would support county efforts to build the Rio Puerco desalinization plant if a large supply of water is found.

While the city is working on more than twenty policy points to help water conservation and increase supply, four were presented to the council to give staff authorization to develop them further, he said.

Kolessar asked the city to set aside five thousand single-family equivalent units—units that measure the average water use to determine the overall water availability—for retail, institutional, and industrial growth in the city. This would deviate from the city’s first-come, first-served policy to provide water for development.

The total single-family equivalent units available for pumping to the city are seventy-three thousand. The five thousand units would act as a “cushion” for when water permits get closer to running out, Kolessar said.

The other recommendations include prioritizing water re-use projects that replace existing irrigation using drinkable water with recycled water, adopting a xeriscaping policy with incentives for people who follow it, and adopting a policy with requiring any land annexed by Rio Rancho to bring in its own pumping permit and water rights.

The recommendations, when applied to current water policy, could save the city up to ten thousand SFEs, Kolessar said.
Councilors authorized city staff to do further work on the policy recommendations through a resolution, but tacked on a provision for mandatory public meetings on the subject. The policies will be prepared and sent through the Utilities Commission—the public meetings will be held at that time—and then the council will have to approve the specific policies and ordinances that come from the process, Kolessar said.

This article was reprinted with permission from the April 13, 2007, Albuquerque Journal.


Rio Rancho still hears “that sucking sound”

—TY BELKNAP
Back around the turn of the century Y2K, then-Rio Rancho mayor Jennings told the Signpost that the “City of Vision” needed to build houses rapidly to attract big retail outlets to provide gross receipts tax revenue to pay for the infrastructure required to support the rapid building of houses. He described what is now called “retail leakage” as “a giant sucking sound to the south.” He was talking about Cottonwood Mall and surrounding big box retail outlets. Jennings joked, “The more we build, the ‘behinder’ we get.”

Noreen Scott of the Rio Rancho Economic Development Corporation told the Albuquerque Journal last month that retail leakage is still a problem that results in long drive times, depositing gross receipts taxes in Albuquerque and resulting in a tight Rio Rancho budget. Her organization is working to correct this situation.


Silvery Minnow habitat

Black lines represent water channels that have been dug in the Rio Grande, just south of the Bernalillo bridge, to create a Rio Grande silvery minnow habitat.

Excavation for minnow habitat

Heavy equipment digs new channels in the Rio Grand to create habitat for the silvery minnow.

Interstate Stream Commission creates minnow habitat

—SIGNPOST STAFF
Contractors for the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission (ISC) will complete approximately eighty-two acres of excavation this spring within the Albuquerque area for the purpose of creating a Rio Grande silvery minnow habitat. The diagram above shows where channels were completed below the US 550 bridge in Bernalillo. This project gets funding from the Middle Rio Grande Endangered Species Act Collaboration Program and from the New Mexico Water Trust Board. Most of the work was completed by mid-April to prevent concerns about nesting for migratory birds.

ISC hydrologist and project manager Grace Haggerty explained, “The islands and bars that have been modified will be inundated in the spring and we hope to see more minnow in this stretch of the river as a result of all this work. Silvery minnow eggs produced during the spring runoff are retained in the slower-moving water. They float for several days before becoming larvae and then minnows. The young minnows then benefit from the cover and vegetation in this newly-created habitat.” Haggerty said that the excavations are designed to flood even in years when the runoff is low, and that the ISC will be monitoring the effectiveness of the restoration work.

The ISC is responsible for the interstate compacts and for protection of our state’s waters. Their website at www.ose.state.nm.us will soon contain more information about this project.


Sandoval Easy Express bus service started April 23

Sandoval County and the Mid-Region Transit District sponsored a kick-off event for the Sandoval Easy Express, the County’s first rural public transit service. The event was held on April 19 at the Sandoval County Health Commons, located at New Mexico 528 and Idalia.

The Sandoval Easy Express service is funded by the New Mexico Department of Transportation, through a Federal Transit Administration rural public transit grant, and Sandoval County. The County has contracted with the Mid-Region Transit District to oversee day-to-day operations of the service and to hire a contractor to provide a “turnkey” operation. The Mid-Region Transit District, after a request-for-proposals solicitation, has hired All Aboard America to operate this service.

Sandoval Easy Express service will be provided Monday through Friday along two corridors: Route 4, approximately fifty miles in length, and Route 22, approximately forty miles in length. Service will begin on April 23.

Both routes provide limited service to the Sandoval County/US 550 New Mexico Rail Runner Express Station in Bernalillo, the Sandoval County Health Commons, and to points along Rio Rancho Boulevard and Southern Boulevard in Rio Rancho.

The routes also provide a connection to Route 151, the commuter rail shuttle between Rio Rancho and the Los Ranchos/Journal Center station, which has stops at Intel and Cottonwood Mall.

The buses will reportedly include bicycle racks.

For more information, call Gino Rinaldi at (505) 771-3317 or Augusta Meyers, Mid-Region Transit District at (505) 247-1750.


Bernalillo Dam rehabilitation underway

As many residents may have noticed, work has begun on the rehabilitation of the Piedra Liza Dam near I-25 at the entrance to Placitas. National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has entered into a contract with MRT Heavy Hauling, Inc., for rehabilitation of the dam. The Piedra Liza Dam was built to protect both rural and urban areas after a devastating flood in 1949 destroyed a hundred-year-old convent in Bernalillo. NRCS is expecting completion of the project in early June. MRT Heavy Hauling, Inc. is an Albuquerque-based firm. Maintenance and operation of the Piedra Liza Dam is shared by three entities: Coronado Soil and Water Conservation District, Sandoval County, and the Town of Bernalillo. The three sponsors will jointly operate and maintain the dam throughout its life.

For further information about the Piedra Liza Dam project, contact Roger Ford at 761-4430.

Reprinted from Coronado News, a publication of the Coronado Soil and Water Conservation District.


County Fairgrounds improvements to be discussed

Sandoval County will hold a series of public discussion meetings in the coming weeks to gain ideas for improvements to the sixty-seven-acre County Fairgrounds site near Cuba.

Gregory T. Hicks, an Albuquerque-based architectural and planning firm, has been hired by the County to develop a master plan for improvements at the fairgrounds to create new recreational and economic development opportunities.

“We hope to gain ideas from as many people as possible in developing the master plan, so that future improvements to the site will benefit residents throughout the County,” said Mark Hatzenbuhler, the County Fairgrounds Property Manger.

The meetings are scheduled from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on the first three Wednesdays in May—on May 2 at the Cuba Senior Center; on May 9 at the San Ysidro Village Complex; and on May 16 in the Rio Rancho Council Chambers. Ideas and suggestions gained from the meetings will be compiled into a final report that Hicks & Associates will present to the County Commission in Bernalillo this summer.

Among ideas being considered for the fairgrounds site are expanded rodeo grounds, multipurpose buildings, dormitories, an RV park and camping areas, a nature walk, a playground, a petting zoo, and possibly light manufacturing or retail use.
“We aren’t locked in to any one concept. Instead, we will rely very heavily on ideas of residents gained during the meetings,” Hatzenbuhler said.

“Our intent is to develop the site into a year-round facility that can serve a wide variety of residents and a wide variety of uses, in addition to hosting the County Fair during the first weekend of August each year,” he said.

Santa Fe hosts “Building a Culture of Peace”

—MIKE STAUFFER, NEW MEXICO TOURISM DEPARTMENT
S anta Fe has long been lauded as a place of healing, artistic and spiritual inspiration, as well as a focal point of historical and cultural studies. Now, a world peace conference can be added to the long list of exceptional events that have happened in this ancient city.

“Building a Culture of Peace” is a two day, jam-packed event happening May 16 and 17, 2007, in the City Different. Taking place at the Santa Fe Hilton over the two-day period, a list of highly acclaimed keynote speakers such as 1997 Nobel Peace Laureate Jody Williams and the Dalai Lama (by video) will join forces with an anticipated community of more than five hundred people hoping to make headway against violence, militarization, and discrimination, among other issues facing our world.

Louise Diamond, PhD, and author of The Peace Book writes in her piece entitled “What is a Culture of Peace?” that the conference is meant for “people from around the world who are passionate about peace, gathered together for two days of deep inquiry, strategizing, and action planning on these subjects [to] widen and strengthen the peace path for those who would choose this better way, and make a major contribution to the existing global movement for a culture of peace.”

Joining the Dalai Lama and Williams, known for her work as the Ambassador for the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), are another two top names in the world peace movement — 1992 Nobel Peace Laureate Rigoberta Mench?, and Arun Gandhi, the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi. Mench? is a leader in Indigenous People’s rights who followed in her parents’ footsteps, despite their consequent murders, to improve conditions for peasant workers in her native Guatemala. Already a leader in social and economic reform in India, Gandhi founded the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence in order to teach his grandfather’s philosophy through workshops and community outreach programs.

The two-day event will be structured around five Peace Councils, to focus on growing a generation of peacemakers from our youth, demilitarization of our economy and consciousness, seeking a sense of oneness and healing in the world, examining our relationship to the living earth, and the role of politics in human rights and peace promotion.

In the coming weeks, an announcement will be made regarding the exciting artists planning to entertain Santa Fe and the “Building a Culture of Peace” participants at the world-renowned Santa Fe Opera House.

Visit www.santafepeace.org to register and read the official blog. For more information about the World Peace Conference, contact Marjorie Mann at (505) 827-6461 or Marjorie.mann@state.nm.us, or www.santafepeace.org.


Historical Society discusses 1680 Pueblo Revolt

The Sandoval County Historical Society will meet on Sunday, May 6, at 2:00 p.m., at the Delavy House Museum. Stephanie Beninato of the New Mexico Humanities Council Speaker’s Bureau will speak on “Facts and Fantasy of the Leadership of the Pueblo Revolt in 1680.” Also, for this day, an invitation has been sent to the Santa Ana Women’s Co-op of Tamaya to display their art. Refreshments will be served. The program is free and open to the public. The Museum is located off Highway 550, west of Bernalillo, between Coronado State Monument and Star Casino. For further information, contact Martha Liebert at 867-2755.


Bernalillo High School students help victims of Clovis tornados

The Bernalillo High School (BHS) freshman Geology and Chemistry classes taught by Evelyn Aikens Eppinger visited Clovis, New Mexico on April 24 to sort and deliver donations to victims of the recent tornados in the area. The Salvation Army trained the BHS students in their duties.

While the students were at the disaster site, FEMA gave a short presentation about the requirements for jobs in the federal sector in relation to natural disasters. Members of the Natural Disaster Team of New Mexico who took part in the clean-up and aid to victims of 9/11 also talked with the students about careers related to natural disasters.

There were about thirty students who took the journey, partially assisted by donations from Sandoval County, Home Depot, Walgreen’s, and the BHS family.

 

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