Four-year-old Gabrielle Varela and her colleagues
from the Bernalillo Spartan YAFL YA Cheerleaders prepare to show
Sandoval County Commissioners their award-winning technique. The
16 girls, ages 4-14, won first places for cheering and best stunt
in recent state competition. Commissioners rewarded the team members
with official certificates recognizing their accomplishments.
U.S. Forest Service considers land exchange near
The T'uf Shur Bien Preservation Trust Area Act of 2003 directs
the Secretary of Interior to prepare and offer a land exchange of
National Forest lands outside the area and contiguous to the northern
boundary of the pueblo’s reservation within sections 10, 11,
and 14 of T12N, R4E, N.M.P.M., Sandoval County, excluding wilderness
land, for lands owned by the pueblo in the Evergreen Hills subdivision
in Sandoval County contiguous to National Forest land, and the La
Luz tract in Bernalillo County.
The Forest Service is presently considering whether lands specified
in a proposal submitted by Sandia Pueblo fall within the appropriate
rules and regulations for such an exchange. USFS property specialist
John Bruin told the Signpost that the exchange process could take
up to three years and will include a period of public comment specified
by the National Environmental Policy Act. Bruin said that the USFS
is trying to consolidate public lands through exchanges such as
The national forest is a popular hiking area just south of the
S-curves in Placitas. The public process should make clear what
effect this exchange will have on public access and future development.
Rep. McCoy assigned to impeachment committee
Representative Kathy McCoy (R-Cedar Crest/Placitas) has been named
to a select committee to begin the impeachment process against state
treasurer Robert Vigil.
McCoy is one of ten members of the bipartisan subcommittee of
the House Rules Committee. The committee is to develop impeachment
procedures and determine whether probable cause exists for presenting
articles of impeachment against Vigil, who, along with former state
Treasurer Michael Montoya, was arrested September 16 on federal
“I’ve received calls from constituents ranging from
rage to resignation that this is the way we operate in New Mexico,”
McCoy said in a written statement.
“We must resolve this in a manner that restores public confidence
in state government. Our committee was designed to deal with impeachment
in a deliberative, nonpartisan way,” she continued. “The
public should know that we are treading on uncharted territory and
that we are intensely aware of the absolute necessity to get it
right the first time—not only for this particular case, but
in the event that it reoccurs in the future.”
The committee will report back to the full House by the end of the
special session, and is scheduled to issue a report by October 27
for the new October 28 session.
Three generations of the Juanico family, of San
Felipe pueblo—(left to right) Simon, Aaron, and Dominic—display
white corn, ristras, and other produce at one of the last Bernalillo
farmers' markets for the season. The proposed Cottonwood Ranch subdivision
would punch through the trees in the background to create a new
intersection on Bernalillo's main street, Camino del Pueblo.
Bernalillo council rejects Wallen subdivision
despite P&Z recommendation
Bernalillo town councilors have rejected a plan to put a suburban-style
subdivision on a venerable piece of downtown farmland.
Councilors hearing a citizens' appeal voted unanimously to overturn
a Planning and Zoning Commission decision approving the Cottonwood
Ranch subdivision. Wallen Builders had proposed the thirty-three-lot
project, which includes a new intersection in what is now the 300
block of Camino del Pueblo.
Despite the denial, the council made clear Wallen is welcome to
try again after it addresses access and density issues.
“My recommendation is that we uphold the appeal not because
I want to say no right down the line and we can't work with this,”
Mayor Charles Aguilar said. “Wallen has worked with us I the
“I would hate to see the day we just fit something in, squeeze
it in and we're only concerned about money.”
Wallen planned to wrap the homes around a cul-de-sac tied to Camino
del Pueblo, several lots south of El Zócalo and across from
vacant land used by the Bernalillo Farmers’ Market. The plan
included dedicating space at the back of its property for a future
north-south road paralleling the BNSF Railway.
Town planning director Kelly Moe later said the vote was only
the first or second time in his two and a half years in Bernalillo
that the council has rejected a recommendation from its P&Z
Typical of farmland passed down and divided over generations,
the Wallen tract is long and narrow, stretching from Camino del
Pueblo, Bernalillo's main street, to an irrigation ditch at the
back. The front four hundred feet, which Wallen plans to landscape
rather than subdivide, falls within the style guidelines of the
town's Main Street Overlay zone, while the zoning ordinance governs
the rest of the property.
Neighbors appealing the P&Z approval said preserving their
ditch access is an issue, as is traffic safety in the area used
for the farmers’ market, church events, and the Bernalillo
Wine Festival. Scott Green, whose business would be on the new corner,
said the loss of 375 feet of parking on Camino del Pueblo would
leave the large delivery trucks he needs no place to park.
“Why not show a little more creativity and develop a subdivision
that fits into the community,” he said.
Moe told councilors Wallen's proposal was a suburban design and
sketched out what he called a rural-style option with fewer houses.
Instead of rounding a cul-de-sac, the homes all faced south, lining
a street on the south edge of the property.
Each home had an oversized backyard extending to the north edge
of the property and suitable for landscaping or small-scale agriculture
to preserve the town's rural character, he said.
Moe's sketch located the proposed north-south road by the railroad
differently than Wallen, although it still raised concerns about
the irrigation ditch, water rights, and schoolchildren at nearby
Roosevelt Elementary School. The town has had only preliminary discussions
with the Bernalillo Public Schools about running a new north-south
street past the school to Camino de la Escuela, he added.
Hank Axen, Wallen's director of land development and design, told
councilors that reducing the density as suggested to twenty-two
homes would drive the cost up from $165,000 to $250,000. The homes
in Cottonwood Village sold out quickly, many going to Bernalillo
residents, and a waiting list for Cottonwood Ranch already exceeds
the initial thirty-three lots, according to Axen.
”We think the town has a need for more affordable housing,”
Axen told councilors. Moe, however, suggested reducing the density
could reduce other costs to keep the homes affordable.
Axen later said Wallen is working with the town to revise the
subdivision in hopes of getting a new plan to the P&Z by the
end of the year. It is too early in the process to say what revision
will be included, he added.
Rebuilding of Tramway interchange may be followed
by freeway improvements
Hot on the heels of overhauling the I-25 Tramway interchange comes
word of how the state plans to widen I-25 from Tramway to Bernalillo.
With its study phase now complete, the New Mexico Department of
Transportation announced it is moving ahead to design the new roadway,
with construction tentatively set to begin in January 2007. The
rebuilding of the Tramway interchange now underway is scheduled
for completion in September 2006.
The recommended freeway improvements include adding a lane in
each direction from Tramway to the North Bernalillo–US 550–NM
165 interchange. The southbound bridge over Sandia Wash would be
replaced, although the northbound bridge still is being studied
for possible repair, NMDOT said in a recent status report.
Under the heading of “value engineering,” the proposal
includes a project theme for any landscaping or artistic touches.
Choosing a theme is part of the design process.
The widened interstate would stay within its existing right-of-way
across Sandia Pueblo and retain its open median from near Tramway
for nearly five miles to north of Sandia Wash. From there northward
the study suggests squeezing the lanes together, separated by a
Also recommended is reducing the height of some hills to improve
According to NMDOT, public comments adopted into the design ideas
include extending the concrete median wall north from Tramway to
prevent U-turns and reconfiguring the South Bernalillo Interchange
to permitting exiting traffic to make legal U-turns under the freeway.
One thing the project does not do is upgrade the North Bernalillo
interchange and the often snarled US 550–NM 165 overpass.
That project remains under NMDOT study while the Mid-Region Council
of Governments, currently updating its metro transportation plan,
considers advancing it on the schedule of urban road projects.
Rep. Tom Udall, D-NM, listens to while ARS USA
chief engineer Andy Polnicki points out features of the arsenic-removal
system being tested in Bernalillo. Behind Udall is ARS president
Norbert Barcena, of Placitas, who hopes to show electrically charged
metal plates can collect naturally occurring arsenic from large
volumes of running well water.
Rep. Udall finds Bernalillo arsenic-removal plan “promising”
The experiment to find a cheaper way to remove arsenic from groundwater
in Bernalillo is poised to increase in scale and tie into the town
Following certification by the National Sanitation Foundation
and inspection by the state last month, ARS USA president Norbert
Barcena of Placitas said his company's equipment could be tied into
the municipal system as early as the last week of October. For the
following month, ARS plans to gather data, as fifty thousand gallons
a day flow from town well through ARS equipment and on to water
Testing that has been ongoing since the equipment was installed
next to a town well in April has used static vats well water rather
than a continuous flow.
“The batch and intermittent testing was very positive for
the most part, bringing the arsenic below a level of five (parts
per billion),” Barcena told the Signpost.
For a few brief miles last month, Barcena had Representative Tom
Udall (D-NM) as a captive audience as he explained the ARS technology
during a bus ride from town hall to the well across the Rio Grande.
Barcena said he plans to base ARS and its jobs in Bernalillo when
the patented process moves from experimentation to manufacturing.
Udall, on a tour of his district, stopped first at Bernalillo
Town Hall to hear about linking the town and Rio Rancho with light
magnetic-levitation trains to route commuters around congested US
550 and to the commuter railroad to Albuquerque planned for startup
later this year. Joining him on the bus ride were town councilors
Marian Jaramillo and Ronnie Sisneros, town administrator Lester
Swindle, and two itinerant journalists.
Town customers consume about two million gallons a day, Swindle
said, and the town mixes water from two wells to reduce levels of
naturally occurring arsenic. Two other wells with arsenic levels
above fifty ppb have been shut down, he told Udall.
The federal government is imposing drinking-water standards reducing
arsenic to ten ppb from the current fifty ppb. Under its new wastewater
permit, Bernalillo faces even tougher standards for removing arsenic
and other chemicals from effluent discharged to the Rio Grande,
The town has estimated it would cost $17 million to set up an
arsenic-removal facility using existing technology that adds chemicals
to the water, increasing operational, removal, and disposal costs.
ARS is trying to make operational an electrolytic process in which
arsenic bonds to electrically charged material that can then be
removed, cleaned, and reused.
Udall called the technology interesting, promising, and potentially
competitive. He also praised the commuter-rail venture and its hope
of getting commuters out of their cars.
“With the cost of oil, the market is pushing us in that direction,”
Udall said during a Signpost interview. “The government also
should be pushing any way we can.
“I think the consumer is waking up.”
El Zócalo project in Bernalillo to be
The first shot at rebuilding historic El Zócalo in Bernalillo
misfired when an electrical subcontractor pulled out of the bidding
process at the last minute.
An attempt to substitute another electrician failed in the face
of higher bids and the restrictions of state purchasing laws, so
the Sandoval County Commission rejected the bids at its October
6 meeting and told staff to start over.
The confusion began at the bid opening, after the subcontractor,
working with two of the three bidders, withdrew his approximately
$200,000 estimate but failed to notify one of his potential employers,
according to the county's consulting architect. Low bidder Gemtech
was allowed to look for a replacement electrician, but each of three
offers received added at least $100,000 to the cost.
The attempt to salvage the process ended when county attorney
David Mathews cited a section of the state procurement code prohibiting
changes to bids after they are opened.
County planning director Mike Springfield told commissioners rebidding
would take about forty-five days. And he again warned county commissioners
about rising construction costs.
“Just a heads up,” he said. “The low bidder
was $300,000 over the architect's estimate.
“It just keeps going up.”
The county's architect had estimated the first phase of renovating
the former convent, high school, shop, and barn buildings at about
$1.7 million. The county bought the three-acre property last year
with the intent to upgrade the buildings and convert them to public
Historically the site is remembered for the Sisters of Loretto
convent, Our Lady of Sorrows high school, and extensive orchards.
William “Bill” Sapien
County Line—Property tax relief on the way
—WILLIAM SAPIEN, CHAIRMAN, SANDOVAL COUNTY COMMISSION
The post-Halloween goblins will be less frightful for property owners
this year as tax bills being prepared by the county treasurer's
office are offering “treats” rather than scares.
Property owners will receive tax bills in early November. The good
news is property taxes for residents in most areas of Sandoval County
will be lower. The only exception is the portion of Corrales that
was not previously part of Bernalillo County. There, owners of property
in the Village of Corrales will begin paying higher debt service
that reflects voter-imposed bond tax initiatives.
Tax rates approved by the county commission on October 18 reflect
the diligence of the commission, other elected officials, and the
county's exceptional staff in continuing to improve services to
residents while controlling costs to taxpayers.
Ongoing efforts by county assessor Rudy Casaus and his staff to
get new construction on tax rolls as quickly as possible is definitely
equalizing the tax burden among all residents. In the past year
alone, more than $150 million of new construction has been added
to county tax rolls.
Sandoval County is mailing about 110,000 tax bills, with a net
taxable value of $1.792 billion. That critical component of property
taxes is almost $203 million above last year, which reflects our
County treasurer Lorraine Dominguez is responsible for preparing
and mailing tax bills. Then, Lorraine and her staff have the task
of collecting the taxes imposed by all agencies within Sandoval
County—cities, schools, the state, TVI, and such “specials”
as improvement districts and flood-control agencies.
Only a small portion of the total taxes collected by Sandoval County—about
twenty-five cents of each dollar—pays for county programs
and services. The remaining 75 percent is transferred to the other
The tax levy allocated to Sandoval County government is the same
no matter where you reside in the county—about $212 for a
home valued at $100,000—or a staggering 35 percent lower than
The total tax bill includes $41 that goes directly to the state,
or 20 percent more than last year, again for a home valued at $100,000.
While the county and state tax rates remain the same throughout
Sandoval County, other components of the bill vary from city to
city, among school districts, and by other agencies. Those local
variables are outside of the county's oversight and mean that actual
bills, too, will vary from one area of Sandoval County to another.
Based on a home valued at $100,000, property taxes in Rio Rancho
will be $992, or about $11 lower than last year, including TVI taxes
of $101, where applicable. Taxes on the same-valued property outside
Rio Rancho's city limits but still within the Rio Rancho School
District will be $714, again including any applicable TVI tax. In
Bernalillo, owners of a $100,000 home will see a tax bill of $729,
or $10 less. Taxes on the same-valued home in Placitas or Algodones
will be $642 or $12 less than last year.
In Jemez Springs, taxes on a $100,000 home will be $767, or a
reduction of $22, while taxes on an identical-valued home in San
Ysidro will be $812, or about $17 lower. Owners of a $100,000 home
in the unincorporated areas of the Jemez Mountains will receive
a bill for $637—a drop of $17—and home owners in Cuba
will be billed $794, or a $5 reduction.
With the annexation of the southern portion of Corrales, taxes
in that community, too, will vary by location. For a $100,000 home
in the portion of Corrales that was in Sandoval County before January
1, taxes will be $739, or $36.27 more, including the village's increased
voter-imposed debt service. In the south end of Corrales that previously
was part of Bernalillo County, taxes will be $852, or a reduction
of $109 from what they paid to Bernalillo County last year.
Questions or comments for Commissioner Sapien
can be mailed to him in care of Sandoval County Administrative Offices,
P.O. Box 40, Bernalillo, NM 87004.