An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988

Will Ouellette, Piedra Liza Dam

Will Ouellette on Piedra Liza Dam, in front of housing for standpipe to channel water under the dam.

Piedra Liza Dam

Recently completed concrete spillway around Piedra Liza Dam

Piedra Liza Dam rehabilitation successful—and early


As many residents may have noticed, the rehabilitation of the Piedra Liza Dam has been completed. The rehabilitation project was very successful—it was completed both early and under budget!

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, just north of Albuquerque. Since the dam was constructed, Sandoval County has increased almost seven-fold in population. The Placitas area upstream from the dam has also experienced dramatic growth over the years. It is currently estimated that more than seventeen hundred people live within the floodplain downstream from the dam and would have been adversely affected by removal or failure of the dam. The dam also protects motorists on I-25, which carries in excess of forty-three thousand vehicles per day.

Over the years, the dam has been well-maintained by local sponsors, including the Coronado Soil and Water Conservation District, the Town of Bernalillo, and Sandoval County. But analysis based upon current design standards showed a number of outdated components that needed to be improved and rehabilitated.

Construction of the rehabilitation project for the Piedra Liza Dam took place in the spring and summer of 2007. The project corrected all of the deficiencies of the existing structure and helps assure the dam will continue to provide flood protection for downstream users for another hundred years.

The next maintenance issue will be brush removal and gopher control, which will also be handled by the same local sponsors. These sponsors will continue to jointly operate and maintain the dam throughout its life. The Piedra Liza project is an excellent example of how an existing structure can be brought up to modern-day standards through partnerships with local, state, and federal governments in order to protect New Mexicans and their natural resources from storms and floods.

For further information about the Piedra Liza Dam, contact Will Ouellette, chairman of the Coronado Soil and Water Conservation District (CSWCD) at (505) 867-2440.

[Note from the Editor: Will Ouelette told the Signpost that all residential development above the dam must be above the high-water mark potentially created by the dam. The proposed retail development below the dam is not approved by the CSWCD or the Office of the State Engineer.]

US 550 shuttle service to be part of new circulator route

The Town of Bernalillo is helping to fund a new Sandoval Easy Express (SEE) Route—Route 1—which will connect town residents with health and retail services west of the Rio Grande, as well as provide much-needed transit service to the Bernalillo and Sandoval County Rail Runner stations.

The SEE Route 1 will provide some of the same service that the soon-to-be eliminated US 550 Shuttle Service offered, plus park-and-ride service from the Sandoval County Judicial Complex to the Sandoval County Rail Runner station. This restructured route will provide service in Bernalillo along Don Thomas, Camino del Pueblo, and US 550. Transit service is also provided to the Commerce Center, the Health Commons, Presbyterian Medical Offices, and other locations along NM 528.

The new SEE Route 1 Service will go into effect October 29. The SEE service is funded by Sandoval County and the NMDOT, and operated by All Aboard America under contract to the MRTD. For additional service and schedule information, call All Aboard America at 1-877-660-1110.

In an effort to gather input from residents of the Town of Bernalillo, Rio Metro planners have scheduled a public input meeting. Rio Metro is the regional transit service planning effort that is presently underway in Sandoval County. The purpose of this meeting is to obtain public input regarding the types of transit services that people would like to have provided and gather ideas on how these services would be funded.

The meeting is scheduled for Monday, November 5 from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., at Bernalillo Town Hall Council Chambers at 829 Camino Del Pueblo.

Those interested in commenting on regional transit service or transit services in Sandoval County are encouraged to attend these meetings.

If you require assistance at this meeting, call Rio Metro Staff at (505) 247-1750 at least three days before the meeting.

For more information, contact Augusta Meyers at 239-8612 or

Bernalillo street improvements underway

Mayor Patricia A. Chávez is pleased to report on the $7 million investment to complete Bernalillo street resurfacing and plans for improvements currently in progress. Enhancements are made possible by funding the town has budgeted specifically for street redevelopment, and is supplemented by the New Mexico Department of Transportation Cooperative, GRIP I/ II, and Municipal Arterial Program dollars.

In the past couple of months, the following streets have been resurfaced or redeveloped: Sandia, Calle del Norte, Calle Don Andres, Calle Don Francisco, Calle Don Vicente, Calle San Felipe, Calle Industrial, Calle Montoya, Camino Don Jacobo, Calle del Presidente, and Edmonds Road.

Over the next several months, you will see activity on Camino del Pueblo as part of the Streetscape investment; additionally, Camino Don Tomas, South Hill Road, and the NM 313 street access into the Mid-Town Rail Runner station are planned for enhancements.


Key Ingredients Elizabeth Medina

The Sandoval County Historical Society hosted theSmithsonian traveling exhibition, “Key Ingredients,”at its DeLavy House Museum last month. It continues through November 9.

Elizabeth Medina of Zia Pueblo demonstrated traditional feast-day cooking on the opening day of the “Key Ingredients” exhibit at the Sandoval County Historical Society.

Sandoval County Historical Society exhibit honors food and culture


To the native peoples of the Southwest we owe such daily sustenance as green and red chile stew, posole, barbecue, and popcorn. They were also the conduit for Mexican staples such as tacos, tamales, and especially chile—and thus the source of much of what we call New Mexican cooking.

But the Pueblo contribution to American food history goes beyond figuring out how to grow staple crops like corn, beans, and squash on lands with almost no rain. Their cosmology embraced everything from the unforgiving desert to the mercilessly cloudless skies—every creature, plant, and land formation—in a science that survived the test of famine, drought, and centuries, nourishing the cultures and peoples that followed. So it was only fitting that our local food story in the Sandoval County Historical Society’s exhibit “Key Ingredients: America by Food” begin in the pueblos.

The six-week exhibit, which ends here November 9, is sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution in conjunction with 165 communities nationwide from 2003 through 2010. In New Mexico, six rural locales are hosting the exhibit, starting with Acoma last summer, Bernalillo, Questa, and Chama, and finally Artesia and Portales in the new year.

The idea is to bring museums closer to rural communities, said Martha Liebert, director of the Sandoval County Historical Society. The Smithsonian provides the basic exhibit, to which the museums contribute local materials, speakers, events, and funding—in this case, from the New Mexico Humanities Council and Bernalillo County, plus dozens of local businesses that kicked in everything from food to advertising.

The exhibit’s opening-day crowd of nearly one hundred people filled the main room of the DeLavy House Museum, an adobe home donated to the Historical Society and now overshadowed by the Santa Ana Casino—a fitting context to the pueblos’ history of survival.

Three SistersAward-winning painter and potter Marcellus Medina of Zia Pueblo opened the exhibit with an allegorical presentation on the origin of the Three Sisters—corn, beans, and squash—which are sacred to native tribes of the Americas as the source of life. Zia cosmology comes in fours, Medina said, so the sunflower precedes the Three Sisters symbolically as the nucleus of life, whose seeds generate the colorful human races.

Medina emphasized that Indian culture is ongoing, living, and reconciled in those who, like him, believe in “one god, and two mothers”—the Indian Mother, source of all natural phenomena, and the Virgin Mother introduced by the Spanish.

Joe Sando, an elder from Jemez Pueblo, also pointed toward the unity of tradition amid food introductions by the Spanish, Mexicans, and Americans. The tortilla was Spanish, Sando noted; horno (oven) bread originated with the Moors, and dried meat (jerky) and chiles from Mexico. “We were one people until 1913,” he said. All these foods have become part of pueblo tradition.

Whatever its origin, Native Americans consider food sacred, the speakers emphasized. To Indians, food is the most important thing, Medina said, so it is always symbolically returned to the fire or earth in prayer and recognition that the flesh of plants and animals is our flesh, and must be replenished.

This philosophy, which is being revisited today in food-based movements toward the sustainable use of resources, provides a natural beginning and end point to the cycle of New Mexico food history. The “Key Ingredients” exhibit presented panel discussions and presentations each weekend on topics ranging from local agriculture, acequias, Hispanic food traditions and festivals, to local products, immigrant contributions, and the science of human nutrition.

Southwest pumpkin cookies disappear

While Elizabeth Medina, like many Zia cooks, declines to publish her recipes for commercial purposes, researcher and native chef Lois Ellen Frank of Santa Fe has been able to bring dishes from many New Mexico tribes to a Western audience. These cookies from her collection Foods of the Southwest Indian Nations (Ten Speed Press, 2002) come from the women of Tesuque pueblo, north of Santa Fe. She notes that they are not too sweet and disappear instantly.


2 cups sugar
2 cups vegetable shortening
2 cups cooked pumpkin
2 eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1 cup raisins
1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease a large cookie sheet. In a large bowl, cream together the sugar and shortening. Add the pumpkin, eggs, and vanilla and beat until smooth. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and allspice. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture, small amounts at a time, until completely mixed together. Stir in the raisins and walnuts. Drop tablespoons of the dough roughly two inches apart on the cookie sheet. Bake for twelve to fifteen minutes, until golden brown. Makes about seven dozen cookies.

Sandoval County treasurer mails 116,912 tax bills

Sandoval County Treasurer Lorraine Dominguez said her office would mail 116,912 tax bills on November 1 to owners of property throughout the County.

The tax bills reflect property taxes for 2007. Payment for the first half or full year must be postmarked by December 10 to avoid delinquency charges or interest. The second half payment becomes due on April 10, 2008, and must be submitted by May 10, 2008 to avoid delinquent charges. The bills are being mailed to property owners’ addresses worldwide.

“The property tax bills that go in the mail in November are the only notice taxpayers will receive for the entire year. No additional bills or notices will be sent,” Dominguez said. “The bills include coupons for submitting payment for both the first and second one-half installments, as well as a third coupon for taxpayers to use when paying the full year’s taxes in one payment.”

“While taxes for many property owners are paid by their mortgage company, taxpayers should contact their escrow agent to confirm receipt of the tax information from the Treasurer’s Office,” she said. “Even if the bill is being paid by a mortgage company, the owner of the property should keep a copy of the bill for their records.”

Property tax payments can be submitted to Sandoval County in a variety of ways, including in person at the Sandoval County Courthouse in Bernalillo or by mail using the return envelope included with the bill. Other options include payments by electronic fund transfers, Visa or MasterCard by phone at 1-866-269-1950, or online though a link available on the Treasurer’s section of the County website:

“Taxpayers should realize, however, that credit card transactions will incur a fee of 2.5 percent of the payment amount and electronic fund transfers from savings or checking accounts will include a fee of $3 per transaction,” Dominguez said. “These fees are charged by the financial institution and Sandoval County does not receive any proceeds from the convenience fees.”

More information on tax bills, payment options, and related topics is available online at the County Treasurer’s section of the County website ( or by calling the Treasurer’s Office at (505) 867-7581. Questions regarding property valuations, exemptions or changes of ownership or addresses should be directed to the County Assessor’s Office at (505) 867-7562.

Town of Bernalillo tax dollars at work

U.S. Senator Pete Domenici and representatives from the offices of U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman, Congresswoman Heather Wilson, and Congressman Tom Udall joined other federal, state, county, and local dignitaries in a groundbreaking ceremony on August 28, 2007. The event marked the official start of the Town wastewater system replacement and an arsenic treatment project that will bring two Bernalillo water wells into compliance with Environment Protection Agency (EPA) standards by February 2008.

The estimated cost for the combined community projects is $16 million. The Wastewater Treatment Plant reconstruction has been funded through a combination of EPA; State, Tribal Assistant Grant; NM State Legislative; and Sandoval County sources totaling over $3.5 million dollars. The funding balance to complete the project was achieved through an aggressive financial portfolio restructuring under the direction of Mayor Patricia A. Chávez and the guidance of Finance Director Santiago Chavez and Town Financial Advisor, Rob Burpo of First American. As a result, in September 2006, the Town was able to secure $8,775,000 in Joint Utility Bonds. The bonds will be paid off in 2028 at a 4.184% coupon rate in a twenty-year amortization schedule.

The arsenic project fund requirement of $4 million was secured through a cooperative agreement with the Army Corps of Engineers, whereby the Corps will reimburse the Town of Bernalillo for seventy-five percent of the cost at the completion of the arsenic treatment project. The Town has financed all project costs with the New Mexico Finance Authority to bridge the construction funding gap until grant dollars kick in.

Mayor Patricia A. Chávez and the Town Council are committed to the citizens of Bernalillo and are pleased to offer new state-of-the-art wastewater and arsenic treatment facilities within the next fifteen months.

The wastewater treatment plant will treat 1.9 million gallons of water daily and the two arsenic treatment facilities at Well #3 and Well #4 will lower arsenic levels to five parts per billion. These levels are well below the current EPA requirements of ten parts per billion.

Our community investment and progress is made possible by the leadership of Town policymakers; in-house personnel from multiple departments; and financial, engineer, and construction partners including First Financial, RBC, Wilson & Company, NCS, ARS, H&T, RMCI, Bradbury Stamm, and Cleary Builders.






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