The Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newsmagazine Serving the Community since 1989


Free Classified Ads on the Signpost Web site!

By popular demand, the Signpost will offer Classified Ads on its Web site starting November 1, 2004. To get things going, all ads will be posted free for one month, if e-mailed to the Signpost by the next deadline of October 20.

Sections will include:

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To submit, please email or fax your text of 40 words or less, along with your category of preference, to: or (fax) 867-3870. No logos or image files will accepted (yet). In the Subject line of your message, please include Classified Ads.


Jon Tibbetts—hired to serve as fire chief of the newly formed Sandoval County fire department.

Jon Tibbetts—hired to serve as fire chief of the newly formed Sandoval County fire department.

Sandoval County hires fire chief

Ty Belknap

Sandoval County has hired Jon Tibbetts to serve as fire chief of the newly formed county fire department. He joins Clark ”Sparkie” Speakman, who will serve as deputy chief fire marshal, and Jess Lewis, deputy chief of fire operations. Administrative offices will continue to be in the emergency-services building on Melissa Drive in Bernalillo.

Sandoval County Fire Department is funded in part by a quarter-cent increase in gross receipts taxes as approved in last spring’s special election. Tibbetts said that there would be no immediate changes in the volunteer fire departments and Bernalillo Emergency Medical Services. The first steps will be to develop job descriptions and get county commission approval to hire a chief of emergency medical services and an administrative secretary.

Then they will decide on building plans and sites for two heavy rescue units, staffed full-time by paramedics and intermediate level EMTs. Locations under consideration include the intersection of NM 528 and US 550 west of Bernalillo, and SR 165 near I-25, which would be convenient for freeway rescues and calls to Placitas.

Paramedic units will initially be housed at the BEMS station as personnel and management are transitioned to SCFD. EMS personal must have firefighting and hazardous-materials-handling credentials. Rescue trucks will carry extrication devices, as well as firefighting protective gear so that the EMTs will be equipped to assist firefighting operations.

The hiring of Tibbetts was met with some criticism because he does not have duel training as a firefighter, as did other applicants. He brings a strong EMS background, having served for nine years as paramedic supervisor in Farmington and eighteen years in administrative positions at Albuquerque Ambulance Services. Tibbetts has served as education coordinator, systems-status manager (keeping units available for quick response and interfacing with fire departments), and operations director.

Tibbets explained, “Nearly 85 percent of the work of fire departments is EMS. Keeping ambulances staffed full-time is a complicated business dealing with federal regulations, overtime, and sick leave. Ambulance billing is a very specialized process involving many different agencies. SCFD won’t pay for itself because of its size and rural environment that cuts into the efficient use of equipment and personnel, but we hope to maximize money coming in to keep the tax subsidy to a minimum.”

Tibbetts was obviously hired for his experience in the administration of EMS, but he will soon undergo firefighting and haz-mat training, as well as keeping current on the incident-command system. The ICS is designed to designate an emergency situation that requires different levels of control and filling positions with the best-suited personnel. “One of our goals is to routinely use ICS in medical emergencies. I certainly have no problem with someone who is better trained than I am in certain situations, volunteer or paid, being in charge of an incident,” he said.

Volunteers tend to be displaced when paid personnel take over a fire department. Tibbetts says that he is determined not to let this happen in the SCFD. He said that volunteers will continue to be a key element of emergency services. “ The volunteers have done a great job. When they are first on a scene, they will be in charge until they turn the patient or scene over to paid responders. Quality control will be positive, not punitive. I plan to attend volunteer chiefs’ meetings, get my feet on the ground, and see how things work. Any changes that take place will be done by consensus, not by mandate.”



Corraled Placitas “wild” horses were tested to determine if they were descended from the horses brought over by the Spanish conquistadors, which would have qualified them to live on a wild-horse preserve.

Status of Placitas wild horses is debated

Margo DeMello

As a newcomer to the area, I had heard about Placitas's wild horses but had not seen them until just a few weeks ago. It was a small family group of about seven, grazing and playing in the shadows of the hills outside of Sundance Mesa.

Here, I thought, is the reason my husband and I moved to New Mexico. Wild horses roaming the desert!

I've since learned that not everyone is as thrilled as I was to see the horses. Indeed, over the past two years the controversy over who these horses are and where they belong has escalated to dizzying heights, with some residents complaining that the horses damage their yards or sensitive riparian areas, horses being rounded up and sold for slaughter in Mexico, and accusations of government officials attempting to cover their tracks.

According to Patience O'Dowd of the Wild Horse Observers Association, there were at least fifty wild horses living on the Placitas BLM/Open Space as late as 1992, and more in the surrounding areas. No one knows for sure where the horses originally came from, although many, including the Bureau of Land Management and the New Mexico Livestock Board, feel that the horses originally belonged to members of San Felipe Pueblo.

Thanks to roundups, poaching, new fences, and years of drought, their numbers have dwindled so that the entire population is at risk.

The current controversy centers on a simple question: are they wild horses, or simply stray livestock? If the horses are livestock, then they are not eligible for federal protection as wild horses.

However, if they are wild animals, they are protected by the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971, which mandates that wild horses and burros be given the same priority as other users of public lands and be allowed to live on public lands without harassment. The act defines wild horses and burros as “all unbranded and unclaimed horses and burros on public lands of the United States.”

Furthermore, a December 2003 opinion by the attorney general's office states that a horse may be considered by New Mexico law to be “wild” if it is not “livestock” under the state's livestock code. Livestock, according to the code, are those domestic animals that are used on or raised on a farm or ranch. Those animals not found to be livestock are not subject to livestock-board jurisdiction.

WHOA representatives have armed themselves with over a dozen signed affidavits that they feel prove that the horses have roamed Placitas and the surrounding BLM land since before the 1971 law, which would make them wild horses by both the federal and state law.

Government officials, however, have yet to be convinced. During public meetings held in 2002 and 2003, BLM and NMLB representatives restated their position that the horses are strays from San Felipe, and livestock board officials claimed at a December 2003 meeting that the pueblo confirmed their ownership of the horses. Additionally, Tom Gow, of the Albuquerque field office of the BLM, maintains that the horses are continuing to migrate back and forth from the reservation.

WHOA, however, challenges this position; they say that representatives from San Felipe never said that the horses were from their reservation. As of March 2004 Ted Garcia, tribal administrator for San Felipe, told Patience O'Dowd that the tribe was still making a determination. Furthermore, as recently as June of this year, the livestock board, in a response to a Freedom of Information Act filing by WHOA, acknowledged that they have no proof of ownership of any of the horses by San Felipe. (The tribal administration did not return my phone calls.) Finally, in the minutes of a September 2002 livestock board meeting, Tom Gow is quoted as acknowledging that the horses were in Placitas prior to 1971, but that they were owned by the pueblo at the time. According to the Wild Horses Act, that would make the horses wild.

Since the 2002 formation of WHOA, more and more residents of Placitas have taken an interest in the fate of the horses, some even going so far as to adopt some of the horses, and hundreds more have signed a petition in favor of the horses remaining in Placitas.

One such family is Mark and Barbara Goodwin, who are caring for a band of ten threatened wild horses on their Cedar Creek property. While the Goodwins' original goal was to find a sanctuary to provide permanent space for the horses, they have found this to be easier said than done. One option would have been to prove that the horses were descended from the horses brought over by the Spanish conquistadors, which would have qualified them to live on a wild-horse preserve. Five of the horses were tested by the University of Kentucky and deemed 50 to 60 percent Spanish, which made them ineligible for the spot with the New Mexico Horse Project.

Other possible options include the Placitas Open Space and BLM land, neither of which are available at this time, but if WHOA gets the horses classified as wild, then those options could possibly be revisited.

For the time being, the major players in the debate are at a stalemate, with BLM and the Livestock Board asserting that the Placitas horses are livestock, and WHOA charging that the horses are wild. No roundups are planned at this time, and will only be triggered by complaints from the public who object to the presence and activities of the horses. (WHOA asks that the public who find horses on their land please contact them for help.)

Even if WHOA is able to prove that some or all of the horses are wild, their fate is still not assured. According to Tom Gow, this would trigger a series of public meetings as well as a revision of the management plan for the five thousand acres of BLM land surrounding Placitas. Residents, community activists, ranchers, and others would have a voice in deciding the ultimate fate of all of the activities that currently take place on the land, including  off-road vehicle use, shooting, hiking, ranching, and pipeline development, and how horses would fit with those activities.

Furthermore, BLM would have to be satisfied that the horses could effectively be managed on those five thousand acres and that there would be enough food and water for them (because it would then be illegal for residents to feed them).

The ultimate fate of the Placitas horses may well be decided outside of New Mexico, if recent stories about wild-horse roundups throughout the West are any indication. According to an August 2004 story, the BLM is planning to reduce the wild-horse herds on public lands by one third, or ten thousand animals, in order to placate cattle ranchers, with some horses going up for adoption but many being permanently corralled in “holding facilities.” Another recent story reports that one of Colorado's five remaining populations of wild mustangs is about to be removed from its ancestral land in order to allow for oil drilling.

For many, the horses are a part of the living heritage of the west. As activist Cindy King points out, the West was built on the backs of horses, and they deserve our respect and protection. Unfortunately, how that will occur and what form it will take has yet to be decided.


A lone pedestrian waits in the painted median for traffic to clear before continuing across Camino del Pueblo in Bernalillo.

A lone pedestrian waits in the painted median for traffic to clear
before continuing across Camino del Pueblo in Bernalillo.

Barri Roberts of Algodones and Ron Wilkins of Los Alamos brave afternoon traffic to cross Camino del Pueblo

Barri Roberts of Algodones and Ron Wilkins of Los Alamos
brave afternoon traffic to cross Camino del Pueblo

“Bulb-outs” and crosswalks will improve pedestrian safety in Bernalillo

—Bill Diven

Despite a walking cast on her right foot, Barri Roberts is determined to cross Camino del Pueblo to reach the Range Café.

Late-afternoon traffic is heavy in downtown Bernalillo as the four lanes of state highway 313 carry local traffic and commuters ducking off I-25 to dodge the backup on US 550. Soon Roberts and a companion spot an opening and safely find refuge in the restaurant.

“It's not that there are a lot of rude drivers,” the Algodones resident told the Signpost. “Drivers did slow down for us.”

Still, a crosswalk and some protection for pedestrians would be nice, she said.

And that could happen as soon as November as the town government and the New Mexico Department of Transportation begin the first of what may be several “traffic calming” projects. The effort tries to balance the town need for pedestrian safety and DOT concerns about maintaining traffic capacity, according to Bernalillo community development director Maria Rinaldi.

“For the purpose of enhancement projects, DOT is willing to consider 313 as a municipal roadway,” Rinaldi said. “And they are willing to concede the design to us for the first part funded by DOT.”

The first project involves “pedestrian bulb-outs,” sidewalk extensions to the edge of the driving lanes in the 900 block of Camino del Pueblo. A crosswalk connects the bulb-outs with a raised pedestrian median where now only painted lines separate northbound and southbound traffic.

The bulb-out in front of the Range will take three or four parking spots, but parking already is banned on the opposite side between the entrances to the Ta Gr Mo Lumber & Hardware parking lot.

Range owner Matt DiGregory said he asked the state for a crosswalk years ago but was told it would only give pedestrians a false impression of safety. One Range parking lot is east of the highway, and customers frequently report close calls in getting to the restaurant, he said.

“It's a great idea. It's definitely a necessity,” he said. “It's only a matter of time before something happens; there have been near misses.”

The crosswalk will benefit businesses on the east side, DiGregory continued, since people living west of the Range often use a breezeway through the building as a shortcut to the street.

Jack Torres, co-owner of T & T Supermart, said the crosswalk is a good idea if police enforce it and step up enforcement of the ban on U-turns. He added he would have preferred to hear about the project from the town government rather than the Signpost.

“The frustrating part of this is the unwillingness of the town to require appropriate amounts of parking,” Torres said. “Frankly it would have been nice if someone would come by and tell us what they have in mind.”

While the first project has DOT funding in place, three additional crosswalks still require federal funding to be sought next year, Rinaldi said. Public meetings will be held early in the year to discuss those, she added.

Town administrator Lester Swindle said traffic calming can be good for business as drivers slow down, look around more and feel safer about getting out of their cars. However, plans do not call for reducing the speed limit now set at thirty miles per hour from the 800 block south and thirty-five miles per hour to the north, he said.

Once the work is done, Bernalillo police will enforce the state law requiring motorists to yield to pedestrians at crosswalks, Swindle said.


Traffic lights coming to multiple locations in Bernalilllo

Bill Diven

Traffic changes also are coming to US 550 in Bernallilo with the addition of signal lights at South Hill Road.

The New Mexico Department of Transportation is scheduled to open bids on Oct. 22 for installing the lights at a cost of about $300,000. The intersection west I-25 provides access to Centex Inc., a motel and service station on the north and the park-and ride lot on the south.

Also being planned are signals in downtown Bernalillo at Calle Presidente and Camino del Pueblo, also known as NM 313. The busy intersection provides access to the post office and El Pueblo Health Services and currently is a one-way entrance into the Sandoval County courthouse parking lot.

The signal system can be modified if the county decides to convert the parking lot entrance to two-way traffic, according to the DOT.


The county line

What has our county accomplished?

Daymon Ely
Sandoval County
Commission Chairman

Our nation has 3,143 counties, or parishes, as they are called in some states. If I were to bet, my wager would be that Sandoval County will accomplish more this year than any of them—and that we will do it responsibly with no increases in property taxes.

Sandoval County is very healthy economically and our future is equally bright. Residents have not faced hikes in property taxes to fund county government for many years and, given our strong financial posture, no increases are contemplated. That stands in marked contrast to other counties where overextended finances, imprudent management, and other factors are causing taxes to escalate—even while services are being slashed and employees laid off in attempts to stave off financial disaster. 

Our list of accomplishments, meanwhile, continues to grow. If the proof of the pudding is in the eating, there's plenty of food for thought in the long list of achievements we will have attained this year:

 A clean, efficient composting project that will quickly turn waste into usable and useful soil enhancements. When combined with a new recycling program, the composting project will cut the amount of waste being buried in the county landfill by 30 percent within the next five years, including (believe it or not) sewage sludge. This offers considerable environmental benefits and will save tax dollars by deferring the need to expand the landfill.

 The county's Health Commons facility near NM 528 and Idalia, and our novel approach to  provide “one-stop shopping” for health care and related needs. The county's approach of using technology and consolidating health and social services in one location is a model for health-care delivery systems locally and nationally. 

 A full-time, comprehensive fire and emergency medical service that provides more timely and efficient services to residents in rural areas. We're supplementing the high-quality efforts of our more than two hundred dedicated fire and EMS volunteers with a paid staff of emergency medical professionals who will be cross-trained in firefighting and HAZMAT techniques.

 Renovation of the historic El Zócalo complex in Bernalillo as a premier multipurpose center for job training, tourism, and economic development. The complex also will house retailers and offices for both the public and private sectors.

 An enhanced, working partnership with Santa Ana Pueblo that boosts the economic development efforts by the county's second largest employer and encourages regional cooperation on projects benefiting all county residents.

 Passage of the largest industrial revenue bond in our nation's history. The bond package encourages Intel to invest $16 billion in Sandoval County and should stimulate other companies to invest locally and provide workers with quality, well-paying jobs—all at no expense to taxpayers.

 An active partnership with the state and other local and regional entities to provide an effective and efficient mass transit system for county residents.

 Hopefully, a permanent fund for groundwater management, including water and sewer projects.

 A new county justice complex that includes modern, technology-equipped courtrooms to more efficiently serve residents and provide needed space for the county sheriff's office.

 A doubling in size of the county detention center, which is consistently evaluated as one of the best correctional facilities in the entire region. In stark contrast to jail projects in other counties, our jail project is being completed ahead of schedule and right on budget.

 A substantial increase in salaries for county law enforcement and correctional officers.

 Master planning of the former gun-club site at Idalia and NM 528 so that the county-owned, fifty-six-acre site can be developed in an appropriate manner for government and retail use.

 A combined government-private endeavor to deliver high-speed technology to the county's rural areas. We're looking at using the latest technology for such practical purposes as telemedicine and enhanced. high-speed communications for rural businesses and residents.

“What do you guys do?” is the most frequent question asked of a county commissioner. In Sandoval County, the response has to begin with “How much time do you have?”

Questions or comments for Commissioner Ely can be mailed to him in care of Sandoval County Administrative Offices, P.O. Box 40, Bernalillo 87004.


Optimists to host a Candidates’ Forum, pizza party

The Optimists de Sandoval will host a candidates’ forum on October 3 from approximately 2:00 to 3:30 p.m. at the main Placitas Fire Station for the offices of county clerk, treasurer, district attorney, Public Regulation Commission District 3, and the 13th Judicial Circuit judge. Each pair of candidates will have 15 minutes. This will include six minutes for the candidates to introduce themselves and nine minutes for questions from the audience. Voters are welcome to stay until 4:00 p.m. to talk, have coffee and snacks, and peruse the table of campaign literature. All are encouraged to attend.

The Sandoval County Sheriff's Department and Optimists de Sandoval honored Martha Foster as the Hero of Sandia Loop for protecting her neighborhood against burglars. An award was presented to her on September 20 at the Optimist awards and installation banquet.

There will be two Optimist clubs for youth in the Placitas area: the Alpha Club serves children in prekindergarten, kindergarten, and first and second grade and meets every Wednesday; the Junior Optimist Club serves grades three through five only at Placitas Elementary School. Members of both groups, as well as parents, teachers, and other interested persons are invited to join the kids at their annual pizza party on October 18 beginning at 6:30 p.m. at the San Antonio Mission.


Sandoval County voting information at a glance

    Important dates

October 5, Tuesday, 5 p.m., deadline to register to vote or change voting address. Also, absentee paper voting by mail and at the Sandoval County clerk’s office begins.

October 16, Saturday, 8 a.m., start of early in-person machine voting at the Sandoval County courthouse.

October 30, Saturday, 5 p.m., end of early in-person machine voting and absentee paper voting at the clerk’s office. Mailed absentee ballots must be received by 7 p.m. Election Day.

November 2, Tuesday, Election Day, polls are open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Voters with registration or absentee problems can vote using provisional ballots that may be counted when the problem is resolved.

    Polling locations

Contact the Sandoval County Bureau of Elections 867-7577 or visit for a list of polling places.

In Jemez Springs, Precinct 18 has been moved to the Presbyterian Church due to a fire at the American Legion Hall.

    Constitutional amendments

3. Permit municipalities to hold runoff elections.

4. Expand veterans' property tax exemption to include veterans who did not serve in times of armed conflict.

5. Change name of New Mexico School for the Visually Handicapped to New Mexico School for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

(Amendments 1 and 2 were voted on in a special election last year. For details on the amendments, including arguments for and against, visit the Secretary of State Bureau of Elections Web site,

    Statewide bond issues

A. Senior citizen facilities improvements and construction

B. Higher education capital improvements

C. Library acquisitions

D. Full-day kindergarten classroom construction

For details on the bond issues, including a complete list of proposed expenditures, visit the Secretary of State Bureau of Elections Web site,


    Sandoval County Candidates

     Sandoval County Commission

District 2: Donald Leonard, Democrat; Gary Kanin, Republican

District 4: Jack Thomas, Democrat incumbent; Chris Espinosa, Republican

District 5: Joshua Madalena, Democrat; unopposed

County Clerk: Sally Padilla, Democrat; Dianne Torrance, Republican

County Treasurer: James Truscio, Republican incumbent; Lorraine Dominguez, Democrat

District Attorney: Lemuel Martinez, Democrat incumbent; Pete Ross, Republican

     District Judges

Division 2: George Eichwald (D), Stanley Read (R)

Division 6: Violet Otero (D), incumbent, unopposed

     State Senate

District 9: Sen. Steve Komadina (R), incumbent, unopposed

District 10: John Hooker (D); John Christopher Ryan (R)

District 19: Sue Wilson Beffort (R), incumbent, unopposed

District 21: Sen. Kent Cravens (R), incumbent, unopposed

District 22: Sen. Leonard Tsosie (D), incumbent; Ernest Geros (R)

District 23: Sen. Joseph Carrero (R), incumbent, unopposed

District 39: Sen. Phil Griego (D), incumbent; Al Lopez (R)


     State House:

District 22: Kathy McCoy (R) unopposed

District 23: Eric Youngberg (R), incumbent; Janice Kando (D)

District 41: Rep.Debbie Rodella (D), incumbent, unopposed

District 43: Rep. Jeannette Wallace (R), incumbent, unopposed

District 44: Rep. Jane Powdrell-Culbert (R), incumbent, unopposed

District 60: Rep. Thomas Swisstack (D), incumbent; Glen Walters (R)

District 65: Rep. James Rodger Madalena (D), incumbent, unopposed


     Public Education


District 1: Martin Andrew Garrison (D), unopposed

District 4: No candidates filed

District 10: Rose Martinez (D) write-in; Violet Lopez (R) write-in


     Public Regulation


District 3: Ben R. Lujan (D); John Gonzales (R)






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