Sandoval Signpost
An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988
  Up Front

Busy night at the SC Commission

—Signpost Staff

On October 20, the Sandoval County Commission was unable to agree on a replacement for District 21 State Senator Kent Cravens. The seat became vacant when Sen. Kent Cravens resigned after taking a job with the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association. The commission agreed to defer the decision until an October 27 special meeting.

Democrats hold a three-to-two majority on the Commission. Democrat Chairman Daryl Madelena often casts the deciding vote.

The Commission approved retired county Director of Public Works, Frank Marquez, out of a field of eleven, to fill the empty probate judge position formerly held by the recently deceased Mary Kwapich. Marquez will hold this position for the next fourteen months whereupon he will need to run in the 2012 General Election to retain this office. Democrats hold the majority with Democrat Chairman Daryl Madelena cast the deciding vote.

The Commission approved a redistricting plan A-1. Redistricting is a very partisan issue, with both parties pushing for district boundaries that maximize their votes. Once again Chairman Madelena cast the deciding vote. Of the proposed redistricting plans, the newly approved plan most resembles the current districts. The main difference is that Peña Blanca and Santo Domingo are moved from  District One which includes Bernalillo, Algodones, and Placitas to the geographically huge, but sparcely populated District Five. This was done because residents of Peña Blanca asked to be moved and to create a population balance.

The Commissioners approved Phillip Rios as the County Manager. Rios had found bipartisan favor with the commission as the interim county manager, a position he has held since former County Manager Juan Vigil was fired in February when he got sideways with the commissioners from Rio Rancho and Intel. Rios was awarded an annual salary of $135,000 plus benefits through June 2013. Rios will also continue as Director of Public Works until a replacement is hired.

Liz Shipley, Intel Government Affairs Manager, presented the first of proposed regular quarterly reports to the commission. She pointed out the economic contributions made to the county by Intel, including recent hiring and their first ever payment of property taxes. All the commissioners took this opportunity to praise Intel. Commissioner Chapman called Intel “the foundation of economic stability in Sandoval County.”

The Sandoval County Fire Department presented an awards ceremony commemorating the government personnel responsible for containing the Las Conchas fire. Responders were awarded with a commemorative “challenge coin.”

The county Board of Commissioners also saw the proclamation of Red Ribbon Week, a national week of promoting healthy lifestyles without substance abuse. It was to be observed by having numerous drug prevention presentations at local schools. County employees were also encouraged to wear red attire in solidarity of Red Ribbon Week.

Town of Bernalillo retrofits historic house

—Ty Belknap

On October 10, Maria Rinaldi, Director of Planning and Capital Programs presented the Bernalillo Town Council with an update on the Bernalillo Youth Conservation Corps Graber House Project. Built as a traditional home in the early 1920s by an unknown builder, The Graber House will be retrofit as a residence for the adjacent town of Bernalillo Fire Department.

Originally constructed of both adobe and terrone on a minimal foundation, this project is an example of conservation and reconstruction techniques used to preserve the original character, while meeting today’s building codes. Additionally, this project will be the first YCC project to incorporate new adobe construction through the addition of necessary restroom and living facilities for the firefighters.

The fairly pricey project is funded, in part, by applications to New Mexico Youth Conservation Corporation and began in February of 2009. The project is scheduled for completion by May of 2012. Rinaldi told the council that while the town’s expenditures are not insubstantial, the costs are offset by the utility of the house and by the benefit of the training program.

Longtime carpenter, adobe builder, and restoration specialist, Rick Catanach, has hands-on control of the YCC projects in Bernalillo. He works with local youth who are paid for their hours working and training in the program. Those who have not graduated from high school are required to complete a GED (Graduate Equivalency Diploma). They are tutored by highly regarded retired teacher, Susan Rinaldi. Catanach said, “It’s amazing how these guys have responded to the individual attention they get, especially in math. It also helps them to see the practical application of math in the construction trade and to see that their paycheck covers the right amount of hours they worked.”

Catanach says that while the Graber House is not architecturally significant, it is important to teach adobe restoration because so many adobe houses in town have been bulldozed and that “Bernalillo used to be an adobe town.” He said that the former residents of the house stopped by the construction site and told them stories about how Town Hall used to be a storage lot for the lumber company. In recent years the house was practically split in two by the roots of a cottonwood tree in the front yard. They had to start from bottom up to rebuild the foundation and walls.

The YCC has rebuilt the wine museum at Loretto Park and is currently restoring the ruins of the two-story adobe mill next to the downtown Rail Runner station. They have also built fourteen adobe and hand-carved signs around town and six pergolas (shade covers). They use the wine museum as a workshop to build rustic furniture from wood discarded from the barn at El Zocalo that was discarded during a renovation.

Catanach says that the YCC members are not all high school dropouts or at-risk youths. Some are in college, and several are Mexican immigrants who are learning to speak English. Two have been hired by the Town. He says that skills learned in the YCC projects will help some get jobs in the construction industry. Even if they go on to some other profession, they learn how to work hard to complete a task.

Split decision on Senate seat

—Ty Belknap

Last month, the Sandoval County Commission passed, by split decision, a motion to nominate Lisa Curtis, a Democrat attorney from Bernalillo County, to fill the vacant District 21 state senate seat for the final year of the term. Republican Kent Cravens resigned the seat in September after he took a job with the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association. The nomination process took two meetings and over two hours.

Section 4 of the New Mexico Constitution states, “If a vacancy occurs in the office of senator or member of the House of Representatives, for any reason, the county commissioners of the county wherein the vacancy occurs shall fill such vacancy by appointment." The Constitution did not address the situation where the senate district is situated in two or more counties, as is the case in District 21 which includes parts of Sandoval and Bernalillo Counties. Unless the two counties pick the same person, Governor Martinez will choose between the two candidates. At press time, Bernalillo County had not yet picked their candidate.

At the October 20 meeting, Democratic commissioners Donny Leonard and Orlando Lucero voted for Albuquerque attorney Sam Bregman. Republicans Don Chapman and Glenn Walters voted against him and Democratic Commission Chairman Darryl Madalena broke the tie by voting No.

Chapman moved to nominate Sandoval County Republican Party Chairman Charlie Christmann, but the motion died without a second. Several other motions for candidates died without coming to a vote and the commissioners finally agreed to postpone the issue until a special meeting scheduled for October 27.

At the October 27 meeting, the Republicans voted for Mark Morris, the Democrats voted against him, and the chairman broke the tie by voting No. Chapman then moved to nominate Rob Burpo without a second. Leonard moved to nominate Sam Bregman without a second. Both Democrats moved and seconded to nominate Lisa Curtis. The Republicans then moved and seconded to nominate Placitas Republican Women president Sherri Kaiser. The Republicans complained that they were unfamiliar with Curtis, so both women were allowed five minutes to introduce themselves.

When the commissioners could not agree on which candidate would get the first vote, they agreed to a five-minute recess, and then to postpone the vote until after the other agenda items were completed. They adopted a resolution confirming the redistricting plan and a resolution establishing poling places. They also approved a bid for $3 million in general obligation library bonds.

This gave county Attorney Patrick Trujillo a chance to study a copy of Roberts Rules of Order. He told the commissioners that although this situation was not specifically addressed, it appeared to him that the candidate who was first nominated should be voted on first. Chapman countered that if the situation was not specifically addressed, they should pull a name out of a hat to decide who went first. A split vote on whether to vote for the first candidate nominated should go first was decided by Madelena, who voted No.

Leonard suggested that the issue should be decided by the chairman in a “gavel decision.” Madelena was about to flip a coin he was given by someone in the audience when several members of the public objected, saying that the procedure was becoming a circus. Lucero suggested a secret ballot. Somebody else said they should skip the usual role call procedure and just vote on the two candidates.

Madelena gave the coin back. The Democrats then agreed to let the Republicans go first with the nomination of Kaiser and the chairman again broke the tie by voting No. Finally, the commission voted in favor of Curtis with the chairman breaking the tie by voting Yes.

Lisa Curtis accepted the nomination. She said that she was honored to be a part of the long history of New Mexico politics.

SC Master Gardeners' food pantry garden receives international award


One family's project to help people in need has turned into an international award-winning community project that produces fresh vegetables valued at more than $50,000 for Albuquerque area food pantries. Sandoval County Master Gardeners, a volunteer program of the New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service, received the 2011 International Master Gardeners Association Search for Excellence Award for its Seed2Need project.

The 2008 financial crisis and its impact on New Mexico families inspired Master Gardener Penny Davis to channel her love of gardening into producing vegetables for Albuquerque area food pantries. She and her husband, Sandy, began the Seed2Need project in 2008 on a 40-foot-by-40-foot piece of land in a neighbor's abandoned horse corral. The project has grown into a Sandoval County Master Gardener-sponsored project where more than forty Master Gardeners and many other community volunteers contribute to planting, raising, and harvesting more than 30,700 pounds of produce at three plots covering 1.5 acres.

Each month in New Mexico, 89,000 people visit pantries, shelters and soup kitchens in search of emergency food for their families. With the decrease in federal and state funding and an eight percent decline in private donations nationwide, food pantries are having problems getting the basic commodities for their clients, let alone fresh produce.

Master Gardeners are individuals who have participated in extensive training by NMSU College of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences faculty and Extension specialists. In return, they volunteer their time answering calls on their county's gardening hotline, conducting educational programs, and developing and maintaining community gardens.

For more about the NMSU Extension Master Gardener program, visit the website at To get involved with Seed2Need, contact Penny Davis at

Sandoval Historical Society hosts local authors in annual book event

—Paul Rhetts

The Sandoval Historical Society will be holding its Annual Book Event, Sunday, November 13, at 2:00 p.m. at the Delavy House in Bernalillo.

Moderator Don Bullis will sign copies of his new book, New Mexico Historical Biographies. Nasario Garcia will sign Fe y Tragedias and his new book on Ruben Cobos called An Indelible Imprint. Irene Blea will sign Susana. Paul Rhetts and Barbe Awalt will sign 25th Anniversary Contemporary Hispanic Market and Rhetts will sign The World Comes to Albuquerque. Centennial Poet Levi Romero will sign his books, and Melody Groves will sign her new book, Hoist A Cold One. Richard Melzer will sign a History of New Mexico Since Statehood, and Mario Martinez will sign Converso. Robert Torrez, former State Historian, will sign Rio Arriba, and Sherry Robinson will sign Apache Voices. Jim Jones will sing and sign Colorado Moon. Many books will be on sale for gifts and for personal libraries.

The event is free and open to the public. Delavy House is located off Rt. 550 at 151 Edmund Road, near Santa Ana Star Casino.

Eleven Apply for Probate Judge

On October 20, after reviewing resumes and letters of interest, the Sandoval County Commission chose retired Sandoval County director of Public Works Frank Marquez over a Town Councilor from Bernalillo and a Rio Rancho City Councilor who were among eleven people who expressed formal interest in the vacant Sandoval County Probate Judge position.

A former probate judge also was among those who submitted resumes and letters of interest by the October 14 deadline. The Probate Judge oversees all aspects of probate estates within the county. The judge’s role in the administration of an estate will vary based upon whether the decedent died with or without a will, and if the will is contested or uncontested.

State law calls for the county Board of Commissioners to fill a vacancy that resulted from the recent death of former Probate Judge Mary Kwapich. The person appointed will serve until the next general election in November 2012.

The full list of applicants is listed below:

  • Dixie L. Trebbe, a Rio Rancho resident with a background in law enforcement and education
  • Michael J. William, a Rio Rancho City Councilor
  • James E. Dory-Garduño, a Rio Rancho attorney
  • Kirk P. Sorenson, a Rio Rancho resident and former mortgage examiner with the State of New Mexico
  • Donna Tillman, a Rio Rancho resident and retired university professor
  • Alonzo H. Lucero, a Bernalillo resident, and retired Sandoval County Government employee
  • Charles J. Aguilar, a Bernalillo resident who served as Probate Judge from 2006-2010
  • Frank J. Marquez, a Rio Rancho resident and retired Bernalillo County government employee
  • Lawrence D. McClain, a Rio Rancho resident and Sandoval County Planning and Zoning Commissioner
  • William White, a former member of Tom Udall’s Congressional staff
  • Marian Jaramillo, a Bernalillo Town Councilor




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