Sandoval Signpost


An independent monthly newspaper serving the community since 1988
  Around Town

Maria Rinaldi

María Castillo-Rinaldi, Director of Community Development and the Interim Administrator for the Town of Bernalillo

Bernalillo: an insider’s perspective

—Elaine Sullivan

María Castillo-Rinaldi grew up in Bernalillo and is the Director of Community Development and the Interim Administrator for the Town. On November 15, at 2:00 p.m., the Placitas Community Library will host María as she shares her perspective of growing up in an extended family in a historic community and how this experience has informed her work in Bernalillo.

Ms. Rinaldi is a member of a blended family of Spanish Colonial, Italian, and Anglo heritage. She is a descendant of the Perea, Montoya, and Castillo families, and the great granddaughter of one of the first Italian immigrants to Bernalillo, Giovanni Giorgio Rinaldi. She is also the daughter of Susan Ray Strawn who came from Germany to New Mexico to attend St. Joseph’s on the Rio Grande College in Albuquerque.

In her twenty-five years of public service in the community, she applies her knowledge of the history of Bernalillo and the unique life experience of a person with deep roots and personal influences of a continuously blending culture.

The Placitas Community Library Adult Programing Committee and the Placitas History Project are pleased to have María Rinaldi share her memories of growing up in Bernalillo and her thoughts about its present and future.

PNM builds solar energy center in Sandoval County

Work is underway at the new $16-million PNM Sandoval County Solar Energy Center, located on an eighty-acre site in Rio Rancho Estates. Panel installation will begin in early fall; construction will be complete by the end of the year.

The center’s 82,350 solar panels will generate the energy used by 2,400 average residential customers. The 6.1-megawatt center is also expected to generate an estimated $152,000 in new tax revenue for the county next year.

By 2016, PNM expects its solar plants will generate the energy to power 40,000 average residential customers for a year. Today, PNM has eight utility-scale solar centers in operation. This year, in addition to Sandoval, PNM is also constructing new solar centers in Valencia and Cibola Counties. Four new solar centers are proposed for next year. For more information, visit

Photo credit: —Bill Diven

New signage added to the rebuilt Interstate 25 interchange include this one offering a hint of where to find Placitas.

Is it left to Placitas, or is it right?

—Bill Diven

Placitas may be a little easier for travelers unfamiliar with the territory to find now that agitation by a group of residents has led to additional signage at Interstate 25.

The shortage of signs was but one issue brought up by the Eastern Sandoval Citizens Association (ES-CA) as the $19 million dollar overhaul of the I-25 interchange began to assume its final form. Also were the matters of striping the urban-style intersection on the overpass and signage on the signal bridges and the freeway exit-entrance lanes.

ES-CA members who began meeting with New Mexico Department of Transportation officials at the construction site in February had another major concern. An acceleration lane on State Route 165, headed uphill from the I-25 exit to Placitas, appeared in the early plans shown to the public, but was absent from the actual project.

The lobbying by ES-CA paid off, winning everything but the acceleration lane. NMDOT stood firm on that, saying it was safer to slow exiting drivers with a tight turn onto NM 165, especially with other traffic, notably gravel trucks, needing to cross both lanes to turn onto the I-25 frontage road.

Now, in addition to three large signs on the freeway northbound, indicating the Bernalillo and Placitas exit, a new sign on the left side near the top of the exit ramp points left to U.S. 550 and right to NM 165. It does not, however, say which way leads to Bernalillo and which to Placitas.

Photo credit: —Leland Bowen

A low-flying C-130 aircraft similar to this one seen last April, flying the same routes over Placitas and Bernalillo, has residents looking up.

Air Force testing buzzes Sandoval County

Signpost Staff

The low-flying Air Force plane seen recently in low-altitude flights was taking advantage of New Mexico’s elevation and terrain to test equipment, according to an Air Force spokesman.

The four-motor C-130 made regular flights over the Placitas and Bernalillo areas for about ten days in mid- and late-October. Military units on the air and ground often use New Mexico for testing and training because conditions here are friendly and mimic other parts of the world that are less so, the spokesman at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque said.

The aircraft was authorized to fly as low as five hundred feet above the terrain, he added.

The propeller-driven C-130s are considered a workhorse aircraft adapted to multiple support, combat and rescue missions, and are a common sight over Albuquerque. The 58th Special Operations Wing at Kirtland flies three versions of the aircraft as it trains crews for special operations and combat search-and-rescue missions.

Free technology workshop

On November 19, from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m., in the Loma Colorado Main Library Café Area, by appointment, there will be a workshop designed to help attendees understand how to download eBooks, eAudiobooks, eMagazines, music, or videos to their devices. Learn about new devices or bring yours for help. Call Dawn at 891-5013 ext. 3084 to schedule an appointment. The library is located at 755 Loma Colorado Blvd, NE, in Rio Rancho.

Photo credit: —Bill Diven

An excavator operator is hard at work clearing public housing along Calle Laguna in Bernalillo, so new homes can be built.

Housing project overcomes unexpected hurdles

Signpost Staff

The project to renovate and expand public housing in Bernalillo turned out to be full of surprises, few of them pleasant.

First came the realization that many of the 1970s-era homes set for upgrading fell within the flood plain the feds designated several years ago over concerns the ancient river levee might fail. Then there was asbestos found in tile mastic on the floors and in the sheetrock wallboard.

“There were very difficult times through this project when we thought it was not going to survive,” said Ed Romero, executive director of the Santa Fe Civic Housing Authority. “It just got a lot more expensive, but I think in the end we’ll have a nicer project than was planned a year and a half ago.”

Initially, the project west of downtown Bernalillo near Rotary Park called for demolishing and replacing eight units, building 22 more, and renovating the remaining 68 for a total of 98.

“Then we ran into the flood-zone issues,” Romero said. “Basically we couldn’t do anything on the site until we were out of the zone, not even rehab.”

Plans changed dramatically when it was found that all but 24 of the homes were in the flood zone, requiring fill dirt to be brought in elsewhere to a depth of six feet in a few spots. By the end of October, nearly all the flood-zone homes had been demolished and work on foundations was about to begin on the south side of the $19.2 million dollar project.

And what of the people who once lived in the 76 homes? As the project moved toward reality, Santa Fe Civic, which has taken over administration of Bernalillo’s public housing, stopped renting units when they became vacant, which left 53 occupied when it came time to move.

Santa Fe Civic provided rent vouchers, moving assistance, and first dibs on the new units when they’re ready. With the limited supply of affordable housing in Bernalillo, many of the residents ended up in Rio Rancho. That led Santa Fe Civic to broker an arrangement and bus transportation from apartment complexes that allowed students to continue attending Bernalillo schools if they wanted.

The new homes are designed to achieve LEED Platinum status, the top of a rating system based on energy and water efficiency, indoor air quality, sustainable building materials and site development, and neighborhood design, among other criteria. The rehabbed buildings will meet that standard or the next level down, Romero said.

The original homes were sturdy but lacked insulation in the slump-block walls with little more in the ceilings.

While the federal government still provides housing vouchers, it has all but stopped funding low-income housing projects. Instead, a program of tax credits attracts private financing—in this case from US Bank—which has worked with Santa Fe Civic in the past.

Santa Fe Civic manages public housing for Santa Fe and several other towns and counties. The Bernalillo project is expected to be finished in October of 2015.

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