The U.S. 550 Transit Center in Bernalillo, is one of two new transit centers in Sandoval County
Governor Bill Richardson thanked officials for their ongoing support for the transit project. In looking at the future of the Rail Runner, Richardson expressed, “my dream is that this system will eventually take us to northern New Mexico and then Denver, and then south to Las Cruces.”
Transit Centers open in Sandoval County
—L.A. Williams, Signpost
Sandoval County opened two new transit centers offering economical and convenient ways for commuters to travel across Sandoval County and beyond in April.
The two transportation hubs are located at the Sandoval County / US 550 Rail Runner station in Bernalillo and at the La Plazuela governmental and mixed-use complex that straddles the Town of Bernalillo and City of Rio Rancho near Idalia Rd and NM 528.
The two facilities will serve as collector points for residents and commuters who use the Sandoval Easy Express (SEE) bus system, the Rail Runner commuter rail system and area park-and-ride facilities.
Sandoval County Manager, Juan Vigil, presided over the opening ceremonies at the newly completed U.S. 550 Transit Center. The ceremony included representatives from the State, County, Mid-Region Council of Governments and communities throughout Sandoval County.
“The transit centers are key to our on-going commitment to develop a countywide, multi-modal transportation system,” said Sandoval County Commission Chairman Don E. Leonard. “The two transportation hubs, the Rail Runner, park-and-ride programs and the SEE bus service work in tandem to help meet needs of commuters across Sandoval County.”
Leonard said the two centers are “yet another step by the Sandoval County Commission to create a coordinated transportation system that will save energy, lower commuting costs of residents and reduce the adverse environmental impact of single-occupancy vehicles.”
Governor Bill Richardson was in attendance and thanked the commissioners, both past and present, for their ongoing support for the project.
Richardson has always found a receptive audience in Sandoval County saying, “when it comes to your county, hit me up all you can, because your stock is really high.” In looking at the future of the Rail Runner, Richardson expressed, “my dream is that this system
will eventually take us to northern New Mexico and then Denver, and then south to Las Cruces.”
The 4,400-square-foot transit citer at the Sandoval County / US 550 Rail Runner station includes a reception and waiting room for commuters catching bus, car pool or Rail Runner services. The building includes restrooms, a concession area and information counter. Also included is a community room available for public use, a Sheriff’s Department substation and administrative offices for the County’s transportation program, Sandoval County Easy Express bus service and other transit options available for residents.
The La Plazuela transit center is located next to the to the County’s park-and-ride lot just north of the Health Commons and District Court buildings at Idalia Rd and NM 528. The 1,700-square-foot transit facility contains a climate controlled waiting area for commuters using car pools and the SEE bus service, restrooms, a concession area and information desk. The building also includes offices for Sandoval County’s maintenance staff and a conference room available for public use.
The centers were built at a combined cost of $4.05 million and funded by a $2.3 million GRIP II allocation approved by the New Mexico Legislature in 2007. Both centers were designed by Kevin Balciar of Soleil West of Albuquerque and Crown Builders Inc. of Albuquerque was general contractor.
Sandoval County and the Mid-Region Transit District kicked-off SEE bus service two years ago. The SEE provides commuter bus service along fixed routes from various stops in Rio Rancho and Bernalillo to Cuba and communities along the Jemez corridor and to communities along the I-25 corridor north to the Town of Cochiti Lake. Included is service throughout the day from the La Plazuela park-and-ride facility to the Rail Runner’s Sandoval County / US 550 station in Bernalillo.
Detailed route information and arrival and departure times are available at both www.sandovalcounty.com or www.riometro.org, or by calling the SEE at 877-660=1110. Information on the New Mexico Rail Runner Express is available at www.nmrailrunner.com.
Bernalillo Town Administrator resigns amid allegations of improper credit card charges
—L.A. Williams, Signpost
Bernalillo’s town administrator, Stephen Jerge, resigned in April amidst questions about his spending habits on the town issued credit card.
Concerns arose after calculating that Jerge charged roughly $45,000 to the town’s card over a 26-month period from January 2007 through February 2009 on items including dining, travel, lodging, and fuel.
On April 23, Mayor Patricia Chávez and the Town Council announced members of a task force to work with the Town Finance Director to assess credit card records under recent scrutiny.
The four member task force includes: Robert Burpo, president, First American Financial Advisors; Julieta Chavez, president, Chavez Accounting and Taxes; Lori Dominguez, business manager for Bernalillo Public Schools; and Liz Arellano, Bernalillo resident and retired finance professional. Santiago Chávez, finance director, Town of Bernalillo will be available as a resource upon request. The task force will review specified credit card records from 2007 to present.
In addition to providing a report on their findings, Mayor Chávez has also asked the task force to outline recommendations for future guidelines to achieve a higher degree of transparency in the town’s record keeping.
“I believe this task force will create a plan of action that is fair and protects our taxpayers,” said Mayor Chávez. “I want our taxpayers to have continued confidence that public funds are being properly used.”
The task force will commence immediately and has at this time a projection of 45 days to complete its assessment and make recommendations. At the time of completion, the Town of Bernalillo will publicly disclose findings.
Stephen Jerge was appointed as Town Administrator on May 22, 2006. The Town Administrator is the chief of staff appointed by the Mayor. He or she is responsible for all daily management and human resource operations conducted on behalf of the Town. The Town Administrator also oversees the planning, coordination, and evaluation of Town policies, procedures, and activities related to Town business.
In a response to questions from the Signpost, Mayor Chavez expressed the following, “There is much going on in the Town of Bernalillo right now with many new opportunities surfacing to better serve our residents and businesses.
Our concern with credit card expenditures is an opportunity to take steps to further strengthen our policies, maintain transparency and protect our taxpayer dollars. In response to these concerns, I sought guidance from the State Auditor’s office. As a result, a task force of professionals is now appointed to review credit card expenses and current policies and processes to provide recommendations on findings and proposed action.
It is our duty as public servants, to build and maintain a high level of trust with the constituents we represent. That trust involves properly managing and reporting use of public funds. I want residents to have continued confidence that public funds are being invested for the increased benefit and in the best interest of the Town of Bernalillo. Steps have already been taken to strengthen the Town’s financial procedures and it is because of these steps that the Town received an A+ credit bond rating in 2008.
We have achieved many successes for the Town of Bernalillo such as road improvements, new public safety facilities and services, better water quality, and effectively moving to compliance with EPA discharge and HUD requirements. We will continue to work hard to move Bernalillo forward and in the right direction. All efforts are on enhancing the quality of life and better serving all our residents and businesses.”
Everyone counts in the 2010 census
In 2010, the U.S. census will define who we are as a nation. Taken every 10 years, the census affects political representation and directs the allocation of billions of dollars in government funding.
The census population totals determine which states gain or lose representation in Congress. It also determines the amount of state and federal funding communities receive over the course of the decade.
The 2010 census data will directly affect how more than $3 trillion is allocated to local, state and tribal governments, and in order for this funding allocation to be accomplished fairly and accurately, the goal of the decennial census is to count everybody, count them only once, and count them in the right place. The facts gathered in the census also help shape decisions for the rest of the decade about public health, neighborhood improvements, transportation, education, senior services and much more. New Mexico Partnership Specialist of the Denver Regional Census Center, Veronica Reyes, says, “when you participate in the census, it’s like writing a check to your community.”
The goal of the 2010 census is to count all residents living in the United States on April 1, 2010. The U.S. Census Bureau does not ask about the legal status of respondents in any of its surveys and census programs. To help ensure the nation’s increasingly diverse population can answer the questionnaire accurately and completely, about 13 million bilingual Spanish/English forms will be mailed to housing units in neighborhoods identified as requiring high levels of Spanish assistance.
With one of the shortest questionnaires in history, the 2010 census asks for name, gender, age, race, ethnicity, relationship, and whether you own or rent your home. It should take about 10 minutes for the average household to complete. All responses are used for statistical purposes only, and all are strictly confidential.
By 2010, there will be an estimated 310 million people residing in the United States. Counting each person is one of the largest operations the federal government undertakes. For example, the Census Bureau will recruit nearly 3.8 million applicants for 2010 Census field operations. Of these applicants, the Census Bureau will hire about 1.4 million temporary employees. Some of these employees will be using GPS-equipped hand-held computers to update maps and ensure there is an accurate address list for the mailing of the census questionnaires. The U.S. Census Bureau’s Denver Regional Census Center is recruiting managers now for the Santa Fe Local Census Office, set to open in the fall of 2009.
Those interested should visit the census employment website at www.census.gov/roden/www/2010emply.html for detailed job descriptions and directions on how to apply. Applicants can also call 505-348-5340 to schedule a supervisory test.
Sandoval County Line
—Don E. Leonard, Sandoval County Commission Chairman
Some of life’s memories are never forgotten. Seeing a child off to the first day of school is one. Others are our first time behind the wheel of the family car or the life-lasting lessons learned from our first day on the job, most often when we were teens.
Summer jobs provide students with much more than paychecks. The experiences gained from that first opportunity of earning pay for performing needed services are deeply ingrained. Those memories shape our working life into retirement.
That first job and first supervisor, combined with developing new skills and sense of accomplishment creates a work ethic that lasts far longer than the money earned for clothing, college funds, recreation or maybe to buy that first car.
Sandoval County’s highly effective Summer Youth Employment Program helps create those memories and work habits. In return, the County program also provides needed workers for jobs in programs and services that benefit all residents.
It’s a program that is strongly supported by each of the five County Commissioners and is highly popular among youth and parents alike. Applications for this year’s program closed on April 17 and the selection process is already underway.
This summer, 145 teens ages fourteen to seventeen will be hired in all areas of Sandoval County. The young employees will be placed in a wide variety of jobs in government, schools, and not-for-profit agencies that serve County residents. Participants in the program will be assigned to specific tasks and job sites. Each will work twenty hours weekly and earn a salary of $7.50 per hour.
Some youth employees will help implement recreational programs. Others will provide maintenance at schools or assist older citizens at County senior centers.
Some summer youth employees will work directly with elected officials in County and city government. Others will perform needed duties in such areas as personnel, public works, landscaping and building maintenance, and community service programs.
The County program tries to find a good match for employers requesting a worker with specific skills. Yet, each job shares the common goal of providing our youth with opportunities to obtain valuable experience and assets for building future careers. And, all of the jobs will help provide needed services to our communities and residents.
This year’s program starts on June 8 with a mandatory orientation session so that both employers and the young employees understand expectations and job requirements. At the end of the eight-week program on July 31, supervisors will give the youth workers written job evaluations and discuss their work performance with them.
Adult supervisors are key to the program’s success and are responsible for training and providing on-the-job oversight. And, supervisors of the young employees also must be flexible in scheduling to accommodate summer school, vacations, and medical appointments.
The Sandoval County Commission, which allocates funds to operate the Summer Youth Employment Program, has high expectations of participants. The participants in the program are expected to do a good job and make a valuable contribution in their work.
Questions or comments for Commissioner Leonard can be mailed to him at Sandoval County Administrative Offices, PO Box 40, Bernalillo, NM 87004.
Placitas Area Plan given the green light
The Sandoval County Commission officially adopted the Placitas Area Plan during their April 16 meeting. The Area Plan will now, once again, be in the hands of the Sandoval County Planning & Zoning Commission, as well as staff, to write in the zoning ordinances and specific codes contained within the plan.
The excitement of having the Area Plan approved, after so much time and energy having been spent by county officials, staff, and residents throughout the process, was short-lived due to the lingering concerns over five contentious issues: the Loop Road, minimum lot size requirements for Ideal Acres, water availability, BLM land uses, and the most disputed topic — the future development of the Cashwell family property by Placitas Ventures, LP.
Referring to the proposed future development of the Cashwell property at the April 16 meeting, John Cashwell stated that his “family has looked for the best and most appropriate use for the Placitas Area.”
But, after viewing the Placitas Ventures’s amended land use and area calculations for the Master Plan (MP) zoning application at the April 23 meeting, it was evident that a vast majority of residents in attendance vehemently opposed what was presented. Placitas Ventures requested a MP zoning change for the 103-acres, which is currently zoned as Rural Residential Agriculture (RRA), in order to accommodate cluster residential housing on 75.17-acres (of which only 12.91-acres is buildable and would contain at most 75 hilltop clustered houses), open space on 8.71-acres, municipal services and office on 5.07-acres, and a “reserved” area of 14.19-acres.
Although county staff recommended approval of the zoning change with restrictions that it adhere to criteria in the Area Plan, many in the room, including some commissioners, were left confused by the request. Commission Chairman John Arango said, “how can we have an MP development without any plan, we don’t even know what the plan will be.” While Placitas resident Orin Safir stated, “this decision needs to be deferred, it is simply not ready yet. We need to go through the entire legislative process on the Area Plan, to write the ordinances and codes. We accept the idea of clustering, but we have never defined the specifics of what clustering is.”
In a letter written by OnePlacitas member, Stephen Barro, and delivered to the P&Z Commissioners at the April 23 meeting, he summarized the events leading to this point as such; “In May 2008, Mr. Knight Seavey, acting as agent for the Cashwell family, submitted to Sandoval County an application for master plan (MP) rezoning of that family's 103-acre parcel located along Highway NM 165 in the center of Placitas (the "Cashwell tract"). The proposed development, especially its commercial component, drew massive community opposition from the outset—opposition that intensified as the Placitas planning process proceeded. Reflecting the community's views, the County Development staff wrote into the Area Plan the recommendation that future commercial development in Placitas be limited to three existing commercial areas and, consequently, that such development not be permitted at the Cashwell tract. After multiple hearings and much discussion, during which Seavey and the Cashwells were afforded extraordinary opportunity repeatedly to press their case, the Planning and Zoning (P&Z) Commission voted to support the County planners' and the community's conclusions and not to support any commercial activity at the Cashwell property. That result has now been confirmed by the County Commission, which, on April 16, 2009, adopted the Area Plan as written, leaving the commercial development recommendation intact.”
In addressing the commissioners, Placitan Lou Fisher said, “It is not the fault of the 5,500 residents of Placitas, and it is not the fault of the developer, here we are one year later, and there is still angling...Mr. Seavy continues to teach you what is good for Placitas,” and warned “this is going to influence the upcoming ordinances.”
Nearly three hours into the April 23 P&Z meeting, and after all was said and done, an MP zone request was approved by a vote of five to one, with Commissioner Henry Street voting “begrudgingly yes,” and Commissioner Mike Lucero being the only one to vote against the request.
However, the process is far from over, as Mr. Barro points out, “decisions about land use in Placitas will not be controlled by the code's existing provisions; rather, the County, with public participation, is about to write new zoning rules applicable to the Placitas area. There is no preset limit on how specific these new rules can be.”
Sandoval County Development Director, Mike Springfield, laid out the framework for the next several months. Initially, the code writing process will take place within the department. Second, there will be a series of public hearings over the next three to four months. Following the public hearings it will take approximately 60 days to adopt the new codes. Overall, Springfield said, “we’re looking at a good 6 months to get the ordinances changed.
Upcoming Sandoval County Commission meetings:
May 7: Sandoval County Commission, 6:00 p.m., Commission Chambers.
May 21: Sandoval County Commission, 6:00 p.m., Commission Chambers.
May 28: County Planning and Zoning Commission, 6:00 p.m. Commission Chambers.