Sandoval Signpost


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Eastern Sandoval Citizen’s Association (ES-CA) report

~Chris Daul

The Sandoval County Commission had previously voted to place the issue of extending the Hospital Tax on the 2016 ballot. The Eastern Sandoval Citizens Association (ES-CA) has extensively looked at this issue. Both Sandoval Regional Medical Center and RUST Medical Center have made presentations to the ES-CA Board, and many citizens have provided detailed information that is posted in the ES-CA Forum. ES-CA decided to send a survey out to their membership, which included 283 recipients, asking if they supported the 2016 Hospital Tax. ES-CA received 105 responses and sixty included comments. Results were that 87 percent do not support the tax and 13 percent do support it (percentages rounded).

Comments in favor of the tax included that the hospitals provide needed health services, jobs, and tax revenue to the County, and that they support health care facilities that are nearby and convenient.

Comments opposed to the tax included: the 2008 tax was to be for eight years only, and used for bricks and mortar to help reduce overcapacity of existing hospitals, and not for supplementing hospital operations costs; both hospital groups are very profitable and can support themselves including further expansion of facilities and services; the tax would not reduce cost of visits; administrative salaries and bonuses were outrageous; the tax question was not smaller; no plan to phase out the tax; and, that the tax was not asked as two questions allowing some to support only UNM as a teaching hospital.

The survey question is posted in the ES-CA forum along with additional information relating to the survey.

ES-CA encourages all registered voters to vote in this election. Early voting is taking place at the voting convenience centers (check the Sandoval County website at for information as to locations of early voting sites and Election Day polling locations).

The next ES-CA Board meeting will be on November 1, 2016, beginning at 6:30 p.m., at the Placitas Fire Station on Route 165. All are welcome to attend.

re: Hospital Mill Levy———Vote Yes

I am living proof of why Sandoval County residents need medical care nearby. In 2011, a virus caused my liver to fail. If it hadn’t been for the physicians at UNM, I would not be here today. They were instrumental in stabilizing my condition and coordinating care with the Mayo Clinic where I underwent a liver transplant. Today, my physicians at Mayo Clinic rely on UNM/SRMC physicians to take care of my yearly post-surgery care.

At the time of my illness, I knew I was in good hands. I had served as a Sandoval County Commissioner from 2005-2012 when the first mill levy funding was being studied and passed. This required working with officials from both Presbyterian Rust Medical Center and UNM/Sandoval Regional Medical Center (SRMC) towards getting critical services (services, which potential businesses frequently request and inquire about when considering whether or not to locate in Sandoval County).

From the beginning, we have had a partnership between the taxpayers of Sandoval County, the Sandoval County Commission, elected community officials, representatives from the County’s Seven Pueblos, and two Navajo Chapter Houses.

Today the benefits from having our own hospitals extend outward from just the direct dollars generated by medical services and personnel. Residents who will never be patients at either SRMC or Rust Medical Center still benefit from their commitment to move west of the Rio Grande, knowing these facilities are available.

 While the Rio Grande produces a beautiful green belt, it remains a barrier to access health care and development. I live in the middle of Corrales and can be at SRMC within 18 minutes and Rust Medical Center within 15. I know that if I have an emergency, there are specialists on call who can drive to the hospitals within minutes. Contrast that with having to drive to Albuquerque for medical care. It takes me 45 minutes to drive from my house to my business at Lomas and Second Street in Albuquerque. From there, I would still have another five minutes to arrive at Presbyterian or UNM—and then I would have to find parking. Once there, waits at either emergency room can run into the hours. 

I was elected to the County Commission in January 2005. Within a year, we were approached by Presbyterian officials who said they could justify building in Sandoval County if they could get help with drainage concerns. We were able to work with the SSCFA to address these concerns.

Shortly after that, UNM Hospital came asking the County to increase its indigent fund contribution for uncompensated care being given to Sandoval County residents. Our answer was no, however, we said we would support a mill levy to support services and work to access Indian Health Service dollars available to pay for the members of the Seven Pueblos, and two Navajo Chapter Houses in Sandoval County. Combining those funds made it easier to justify building the hospital.

We did a lot of campaigning to get the word out on why this mill levy was needed. We went to Chamber of Commerce meetings, public meetings, and knocked on doors to educate people on the issue. At the time, many people asked me, “What are you doing? You can’t get re-elected by supporting a tax!”

I told them, “I don’t care if I get re-elected or not, this is the right thing to do,” and by the way, I did win re-election and served until 2012. (If you worry about getting re-elected, then you have the wrong job.)

 We have worked together with both hospitals to ensure critical services are offered without unnecessary duplication. That may mean that sometimes Presbyterian takes on a service while SRMC doesn’t and vice versa. For instance, my understanding is we don’t yet have a large enough number of babies being born in Sandoval County and the Westside of Albuquerque to support providing labor and delivery services for even one hospital. Yet Presbyterian Rust agreed to provide that service and critical neo-baby care, too.

We knew there was a need for mental health services, so the hospitals came up with a plan: Presbyterian Rust agreed to provide outpatient services and UNM/ SRMC agreed to provide 12 in-patient beds and the citizens of Sandoval County benefitted from these types of negotiations. As demand for services grows, we knew that these needs would change. We worked with both hospitals on what was the fairest way to split funds from the mill levy based on the services they were offering.

 After serving two terms as a County Commissioner, I was asked to be on the SRMC Board as a Community Member. After, serving on this Board for eighteen months, I am even more certain we the voters did the right thing in voting YES for this mill levy. We have worked hard for decades to bring these two hospitals to Sandoval County. Voting for a continuation of the mill levy will NOT change the amount we pay in taxes and the services received will keep growing.

 Your support will ensure that we continue to have high quality medical care available in Sandoval County in years to come. It is my hope, everyone will vote YES on the hospital mill levy, November 8, 2016.

—Donnie Leonard, Corrales

re: Hospital Mill Levy—Vote No

On the November Election Ballot there is another Hospital Mill Levy Question. Should we continue to support two Sandoval County Hospitals with another $110 million for eight more years? Do these hospitals require a continued infusion of $1.125 million every month for another 96 months? Can the taxpayers afford $37,000 every single day for an additional 2,918 days?

The hospital lobbyists, and past and current County Commissioners argue an incredible return on investment. But the fact is that our return on investment is maximized if we stop these payments now. Our return on the first $110 million will continue for years to come just like a good work truck after all the payments have been made. Who continues to make payments after the thing is paid for? 

The maximum return on investment was on the first $110 million and would be severely diluted by continuing to make the payments. In fact, if we were to double down, we would lose the opportunity to invest in other options like infrastructure and education and/or to simply reduce the taxes we pay.

Hospital lobbyists point out that passage of the mill levy will not raise your property taxes. What they don’t say is that, if the mill levy does not pass, annual property tax will decrease by $425 per $100,000 in taxable value.

Since the return on the original hospital investment will continue for years, and we have the chance to invest in other needed programs, which, in turn, will also return on investment, what sense is there in putting all of our tax money in a single option? Vote No on the Hospital Mill Levy Question!

—Mike Neas, Placitas

re: San Felipe horse sanctuary?

Dear Signpost,

Several times over the past few years your newspaper has made mention of a horse sanctuary that the Pueblo of San Felipe has supposedly established. I even remember Mr. Ricardo Ortiz’s presentation a few years ago at the church in Placitas where he described the facility as having stalls, veterinary services, etc. I have tried on several occasions to contact the Pueblo concerning the location and hours of visitation to the sanctuary, however, to date I have never received any answer to my inquiries. I have come to the conclusion that this whole thing is smoke and mirrors. Could you please inquire about this and, if it exists, please let your readers know where it is and how we can visit the facility, and if it doesn’t, please let your readers know that as well. Thank you.

—Stephen Delong, Bernalillo
[Ed.—Thank you for your letter. We are working on a story about this for the December Signpost. Stay tuned.]

re: T-Mobile service

I too have been with T-Mobile since it’s inception here for over a decade. Used to have the best reception over anybody else! Last several years not so much. Every time I get those survey texts I give poor ratings and they always contact me. The last time, they were SO excited about their new towers and I have yet to see a difference! I can rarely get decent reception at my own home! I’ve had an ongoing issue with them for YEARS! Glad to know I’m not alone and thanks for your letter!

—Christina Conder, Puesta Del Sol, Placitas

re: T-mobile Cellspot

My T-mobile service had deteriorated by my home/office, and I had been using wifi for my connection. I recently found out that T-mobile provides free Personal Cellspot Routers to users. It’s quick and easy to set up but you need Internet service. It plugs into your modem/router and provides 4gLTE and 5 bars at and around the house. I now have a very stable/reliable connection here and have encouraged several friends and customers to get it also. Extra bonus for me when working at their homes, I also get 4gLTE and 5 bars on my devices since the Cellspot provides service connection to all Tmobile devices in range. I didn’t know if you were aware of this, but many of your readers might find this very helpful. One thing, after setting it up, you need to turn off WiFi on your phone/device.

—Bernie Sullivan

re: T-Mobile Cellspot, T-Mobile Service, and the NM Public Regulation Commission

In response to the T-Mobile Cellspot solution [See Sullivan letter above], this does not address the bigger issue, which is little or no signal outside the home. And if you loose your Internet connection, you lose your cell connection. If people in their home lose their Internet connection and they don’t have a landline, and they have an emergency, they are S.O.L. This is a very dangerous situation. Especially someone who is having an in-home health or security emergency and cannot connect to 911 or loses their connection.

When the 4G LTE CellSpot works it is really good, but it is a false sense of security.

Several of the people who contacted me said they had been told by T-Mobile representatives that the best way to get service restored is for a large number of affected T-Mobile subscribers to complain about the lack of service. One easy way to do this, and to force T-Mobile to respond, is to file a complaint with the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission, and I strongly recommend that anybody who is getting little or no service in the community to go to www.nmprc.state.nm., scroll down until you see a link: File a Complaint. Select the link, “Please Click Here to Complete the Utility Informal Complaint Form,” and take a moment to fill in the form.

My complaint is that as an isolated community of mostly retired people, living on one acre+ lots, that not having reliable service puts the community at risk both in terms of health issues as well as emergencies. At the end of the form is a box to enter a Suggested Resolution. At the very least this should be to restore coverage to the Placitas area west of the Village. I suggested that since we have had little or no service in the area since late July/August when the cell tower at the Ranchos South water tower was shut down, and as we are paying for 3-4G LTE service, we should get a refund and/or discount on our monthly bills until the service is restored to the level before the service was cut off.

—Gary W. Priester, Ranchos de Placitas

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