Sandoval Signpost


An independent monthly newspaper serving the community since 1988
  Up Front

Placitas Studio Tour—May 7 & 8 • 10am-5pm

Placitas Garden Tour—May 14 • 9am-4pm

Bernalillo Mayor Jack Torres and Adela Dominguez of Rebuilding Together Sandoval County lead the group touring the former Roosevelt Elementary School property now being repurposed by the town, which is seeking retail, commercial and nonprofit tenants.
Photo credit: —Bill Diven

Potential tenants check out repurposed school

—Bill Diven

Now that the town of Bernalillo owns the former Roosevelt Elementary School, it’s showing off the seven-acre property to potential tenants.

“We’re not trying to make this a profit center for the town,” Mayor Jack Torres said as he led about a dozen people through what is now known as the Roosevelt Complex. “We’re trying to make it a vibrant center for the community.”

The town hopes groups, agencies, or businesses interested in working out of a classroom or portable building will have the money to help restore the site. State law allows flexibility on rents for improvements and services provided to the community, Torres said.

Roosevelt has been vacant since the Bernalillo Public Schools (BPS) moved out in 2012 after falling below state requirements for school buildings. A two-story adobe building—once the town’s all-grades school—dates to the 1930s and is to become the new Martha Liebert Public Library replacing a renovated house next door. Classrooms were last renovated in the 1990s.

BPS put the property on the market for more than two million dollars, and after it sat vacant and vandalized, the town bought it last year for $1.2 million. Metal thieves and graffiti vandals have left their mark during that time.

“I’m surprised it’s in such good shape,” Councilor Marian Jaramillo said. Most of the damage is cosmetic, Torres added.

Among those taking the tour were three members of Rebuilding Together Sandoval County, an all-volunteer nonprofit with a mission to prevent homelessness. Members and partners rehabilitate homes of elderly, disabled, and low-income residents of Sandoval County.

“We don’t have a home yet,” said Janice Saxton of Placitas. For now most of the administration is run from Saxton’s home with equipment stashed in a garage and storage building.

“One of the portable buildings would be ideal for our equipment and office,” Jerry Saxton said.

In the last six months, projects have upgraded two homes in Bernalillo and one in Placitas, they said.

County finances tight but in the black

Signpost Staff

While Bernalillo County ponders tax hikes, service cuts, and employee furloughs to plug a $19 million dollar gap in its next budget, Sandoval County is living within its means, even if just barely.

“It looks like we’ll make our budget and not much more,” County Manager Phil Rios said during a budget workshop with county commissioners and top staff. Current projections show up to six hundred thousand dollars in addition money for county operations in the upcoming budget year beginning July 1, he added.

This in an overall annual budget of about $85 million dollars.

After Undersheriff Karl Wiese discussed the difficulty in retaining deputies, Rios said he was making salary boosts a priority as county staff assembles the new budget for commissioners’ approval. Wiese said since November 2014, the sheriff’s department has lost 23 deputies, four to retirement, two for disciplinary actions, and the rest primarily for financial reasons.

“We’re on 12-hour shifts now and having a hard time doing it,” he said.

While the starting wage of $19.75 an hour is “not bad,” it takes 11 years to reach $23 an hour, a figure Albuquerque police officers can reach at the start of their third year, he added.

“I’m having a very difficult time attracting certified, qualified officers,” Wiese said. The cost would be about $275,000 with details of how it’s spent to be worked out in negotiations with the officers’ union, he added.

Meanwhile, a budget analysis has ranked Sandoval County as the most efficient among the state’s five Class A counties.  The county has fewer employees per resident, the lowest sales tax matched by Bernalillo County, and the second-lowest residential and nonresidential property taxes. It also spends the least per resident, $620 dollars compared to $2,010 dollars in Santa Fe County, and $1,187 dollars in San Juan County.

Sandoval County also is the only Class A county not to impose the hold-harmless tax made available after the state stopped replacing local revenue lost when taxes were removed on most food purchases.

“In my 17 years here, I’ve not seen a tax increase except those the voters okayed,” Rios said.

NMDOT delays expanding Bernalillo bridge

Signpost Staff

The first step in widening the rest of U.S. Highway 550 through Bernalillo—additional bridge lanes over the Rio Grande—won’t start this year after all, according to the New Mexico Department of Transportation.

Originally planned to begin this fall, the contract for the $13 million project is now expected to be awarded in the summer of 2017. Environmental concerns limit construction work in the Rio Grande to October through March.

The overall project to widen U.S. 550 to six lanes extends about two miles from Camino del Pueblo, where the widening from Interstate 25 was completed in 2014, to State Route 528 in Rio Rancho. It’s currently in the design phase with no announced date for when construction might begin.

The early estimate pending final design for the overall project, including the bridge, is thirty million dollars.

The $13 million dollars to widen the four-lane bridge is money NMDOT already has in hand from a past bond sale. At first it was thought the project had to begin this year to comply with the bond requirements, but that is not the case, NMDOT said in a statement released to the Signpost.

Separately, installation of traffic signals at U.S. 550 and Paseo del Volcán farther west in Rio Rancho is scheduled to begin in early July. The $299,555 dollar contact was awarded to MWI Inc. of Albuquerque and is expected to take thirty days, according to NMDOT.

The work includes adding fiber optic cable to allow signals in the 550 corridor to be synchronized.

And in Placitas, NMDOT, in late March, reprogrammed the flashing lights protecting the school zone in front of Placitas Elementary School. While the light for eastbound traffic was working as intended, the westbound light had recently been programmed for p.m. instead of a.m., NMDOT said.

Important voting dates

  • May 10: Last day to register, update registration, change party affiliation (at County Clerk’s office or online at the Secretary of State website:, under Voter Information).
  • First day to request absentee ballot. Early in-person voting at County Clerk’s office Monday-Friday through June 3, plus Saturday, June 4.
  • May 21-June 4: Early, in-person voting Monday-Saturday at alternate sites
  • May 23-June 3: Early voting one or two days each at seven pueblos and Torreón Chapter House
  • June 3: 5:00 p.m. deadline to submit absentee ballot request
  • June 7: Election Day, polls open 7:00 a.m.-7:00 p.m. (anyone in line at 7:00 p.m. can vote).
  • 25 convenience centers open for voters from any precinct. 7:00 p.m. deadline to return absentee ballots.
  • Polling locations and more information:

State Senate District 9:

Jodilynn Ortiz

John Sapien

State House District 65:

Derrick Lente

Darryl Madalena

Sandoval County Treasurer:

Laura Montoya

Eugene “Gino” Rinaldi

James Baca

County Commission District 4:

David Heil

Issach Martinez

County Commission District 5:

F. Kenneth Eichwald

Anna Messer (photo unavailable)

June primary draws contests within political parties

—Bill Diven

Republicans and Democrats go to the polls on June 7 as the parties select candidates for the November general election.

If past trends hold, half or more of the state’s voters will cast their ballots in person or by mail before Election Day. For the first time, 17-year-olds can vote in the primary if they are registered and will turn 18 before the general election on November 8.

New Mexico holds closed primaries, meaning only voters registered with a party can vote in the party’s primary.

The county also added voting convenience centers in Bernalillo, Placitas, and Cuba this year to those in Rio Rancho and Corrales. That lets voters vote at any center outside their home precincts if it’s more convenient although voters who don’t live in those communities will vote on provisional paper ballots.

Here’s a look at contested primaries in countywide races and those affecting the Bernalillo and Placitas areas:

State Senate District 9:

Democratic incumbent Senator John Sapien of Corrales, seeking a third four-year term, faces a challenge from Jodilynn Ortiz of Placitas.

Sapien said his work as chairman of the Senate Education Committee in opposing misguided education reforms like third-grade retention and excessive testing has made him the No. 1 target of the Republican Party.

“On the ground, as you talked to educators, it’s the right thing to do,” Sapien said during town hall sponsored by the Sandoval County Democratic Party. “Every child is different. What we’re seeing with the educational reforms nationwide is that they’re imploding.”

Sapien grew up in Bernalillo and still owns a business there.

Ortiz, part of an old and culturally diverse New Mexico family, describes herself as a progressive Democrat who has worked as a single mother to obtain undergraduate and advanced college degrees.

“I have pursued my studies with the ultimate goal of serving my community and the state of New Mexico,” she said in announcing her candidacy. “It is starting from the foundations that we can produce positive results in budgets, education/youth programs, caring for our senior citizens, health care, environmental sustainability, and job creation.”

Ortiz also said as senator she would hold community and town hall meetings to hear from constituents and give legislative updates.

Diego Espinoza of Rio Rancho is running unopposed in the Senate District 9 Republican primary.

State House District 65:

With Democratic Rep. James Roger Madalena retiring after 32 years in the House, his son, Darryl Madalena, and Derrick Lente are campaigning for the party’s nomination to replace him.

Lente, board chairman of the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, is a Sandia Pueblo resident. Madalena, the term-limited chairman of the Sandoval County Commission, lives in Jemez Pueblo.

Madalena cited his experience in the progress made by the commission and the community in supporting new hospitals and college branches and protecting the county. In turn, voters have backed the county’s children by passing tax levies for quality education, he added.

“When people talk about barriers, the first thing I think about is my daughter, who just turned 11,” Madalena said. “We need women’s rights, we need equality pay, because I don’t want my daughter, who can become so qualified, to make less than someone just because of gender.”

Lente, who described his background as lawyer, farmer, and business owner, said his most important title is father.

“I want to make sure that our kids are left in a better position than we are,” he said. Part of that, Lente added, is paying teachers fairly and providing early childhood education.

Lente talked also of his last 18 years working with the environment and water issues related to the Rio Grande.  “Those are going to be on the forefront as we look into the future,” he said. “We need to be able to protect this valley and our district.”

No Republican filed for the District 65 seat.

Sandoval County Treasurer:

Incumbent County Treasurer Laura Montoya of Rio Rancho, who is seeking a second term, drew two opponents from within her Democratic Party: James Baca and Eugene “Gino” Rinaldi, both of Bernalillo.

Montoya, who oversees county revenue and investments, and Rinaldi, a former cabinet secretary with a multi-million-dollar budget, sparred over how the county’s $16 million dollar portfolio is invested. Rinaldi contended the county can do better than the seventy thousand dollars a year it’s making after fees and any losses.

“We’re only investing with a single approach,” Rinaldi said. “We’re a Class A county. We should be able to invest in multiple sources. We can diversify our portfolio.”

Montoya countered that state law limits how public money can be invested.

“We’re not in a market like individuals; we’re not in the stock market,” she said. “We’re in the bond market.”

Baca, a 21-year employee of Sandia Pueblo, said he knows the county well and wouldn’t make promises about collecting more money or being able to lower taxes. “I’m going to be honest,” he said. “I believe the county is better-served when the offices and officers work together.

On the Republican side, Leroy Lovato of Bernalillo is running unopposed for the nomination for treasurer.

County Commission District 4:

The only contested Republican primary for a county office pits David Heil and Issach Martinez against each other to succeed fellow GOP member Glenn Walters, who is term limited after eight years representing the Rio Rancho District.

Heil, retired after a career in transportation logistics and sales management, is active in civic affairs and is a member of the Rio Rancho Planning and Zoning Board. Martinez, a University of New Mexico political science major aiming for a law degree, describes himself online as politically savvy and a future U.S. president.

“I am a strong voice for Rio Rancho having a lot of experience in this community,” Heil said. His transportation background speaks to one problem with broad implications for the county, he added.

“A lot of the issues we have in our community, Rio Rancho, Bernalillo, Corrales and elsewhere in the county, are getting people from one place to another,” Heil continued. While there are elements of a transportation system, more can be done to enhance roads and transit, he said.

Martinez said he’s motivated by living in Sandoval County his entire life and watching the changes.

“I want to help it grow and make it the best county in New Mexico and make peoples’ lives better,” he said. “It’s time for younger people to get involved in running for office.”

He also said he’d work to improve infrastructure in the county and support parks and recreation, law enforcement, and emergency services.

Running unopposed for the Democratic nomination in District 4 is Alexis Jimenez.

County Commission District 5:

With Commission Chairman Darryl Madalena leaving under term limits, two Democrats from Cuba are running for the nomination to succeed him. No Republican filed for the office.

F. Kenneth Eichwald recently retired after 24 years as a Magistrate Court judge, during which time he help establish the county’s DWI program and its domestic violence shelter. He said he’s running because he feels he can still serve the county and      District 5, which sprawls from Zia, Santo Domingo, and Cochiti pueblos west and north to San Juan County.

“It’s a large, large area; it’s well over one hundred miles,” Eichwald said. “There are issues there that are different in all capacities.”

One is the network of dirt roads serving Native American communities that aren’t being maintained south and west of U.S. 550. There is also no emergency plan for the area that relies on the small fire departments in Cuba and Torreón complicated by the lack of rural addressing for emergency responses.

Anna Messer, a former Cuba city councilor and a county DWI program coordinator for nine years, also cited rural addressing and road maintenance as important issues in the district.

“When I was out campaigning going to the chapter houses and knocking on doors, I found a woman stuck on the road carrying oxygen bottles to her house,” Messer said “The area is so culturally diverse. It’s amazing the difference in needs.

“I like the challenges and meeting the needs of the people.

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