“Canyon Storm,” 50”x80”,
oil painting, by Arturo Chávez
Placitan Arturo Chávez takes
top Western art award, again
Gerald Peters Gallery is pleased to announce
that Arturo Chávez, represented in the Naturalism Department
of the gallery, received the top award at the nationally juried
Western Artists of America Exhibition on August 25, 2007, at the
Hubbard Museum of the American West in Ruidoso, New Mexico. For
the second consecutive year, Chávez was awarded the most
prestigious award, the Best of Show, for a 50”x80”painting
of the Grand Canyon, entitled “Canyon Storm.” [See cover
art, this Signpost.] The award, sponsored by R.D. and Joan Dale
Hubbard, includes a $5,000 cash prize. Additionally, Chávez
was awarded a gold medal in the oil painting category.
Maria Hajic, Director of the Naturalism Department at Gerald Peters
Gallery said, “Arturo Chávez is the only New Mexico-based
artist out of the thirty artists represented in the Naturalism Department.
Chávez is well known to local audiences for his monumental
western landscapes, and we are proud to represent his work. I am
glad to see Chávez gaining more national recognition.”
The show includes approximately one-hundred-twenty pieces of artwork,
including oil paintings, watercolors, pencil sketches, and bronze
sculptures. In addition to the Best of Show award, gold, silver,
and bronze medal awards were judged in all media. The Hubbard is
a Smithsonian-affiliated museum. The show will be on exhibit at
the Hubbard Museum of the American West through October 14.
For more information, visit www.arturochavez.com or contact Jay
Smith at the Hubbard Museum of the American West at (505) 378-4142.
ESCAFCA announces public meetings to present preliminary
The recently-formed Eastern Sandoval County Flood Control Authority
has performed a needs assessment to address flooding, poor drainage,
soil erosion, and soil movement in the Bernalillo, Placitas, Algodones
areas. ESCAFCA will be conducting three workshops to present the
results of the Preliminary Needs Assessment and solicit input from
the general public.
These meetings will be from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. at the following
• Algodones Elementary School Gymnasium, 1395 Calle SanJose,
Algodones, October 2
• Las Placitas Presbyterian Church, 7 Paseo de San Antonio,
Placitas, Wednesday, October 3
• Bernalillo Town Council Chambers, 829 Camino del Pueblo,
Bernalillo, Thursday October 4
The Preliminary Needs Assessment is available at www.townofbernalillo.org.
For more information call Kevin at 830-5418.
A number of controversial issues surrounding ESCAFCA are presented
in an editorial on page 31, this Signpost.
Sandoval Broadband reports progress
Sandoval County Information Technology Director Michael
Hoag told the Signpost on September 19 that the controversial Sandoval
Broadband had made significant progress since the County Commission
breathed new life into the floundering project in July by agreeing
to invest another $1.1 million.
Hoag said that Sandoval Broadband had “turned up” the
wireless signal from downtown Albuquerque to the County’s
administrative center at the courthouse. “We rebuilt the infrastructure
from the ground up. We are using wireless Internet and have one
of the better networks around,” he explained.
The County has published a requisition for proposals (RFP) in the
Albuquerque Journal and the Rio Rancho Observer seeking contractors
to build a “backbone” from Albuquerque to Cuba. They
are planning a systematic approach to the acquisition of towers
and radios—installed within a system of checkpoints and milestones—that
would make the delivery of one hundred megabits of broadband achievable.
It is estimated that the system would cost about $1.1 million to
buy and $16,000 a month to operate. From the backbone, Internet
service providers from the private sector could theoretically bring
high speed wireless Internet service to all parts of the county.
“We want to notify the entire industry and get as much response
as possible—both locally and worldwide,” Hoag said.
“We will look for proposals dealing with the technical architecture
of the program, the business model, time frame, maintenance, support,
and price.” The RFP can be viewed online at www.sandovalcounty.com.
County officials are determined to go ahead with the project despite
the fact that over the past two years, progress has been slowed
by questionable management, lack of oversight by the County Commission,
and possible fraudulent dealings with entrepreneurs and contractors.
State Auditor Hector Balderas has been conducting a special audit
for nearly a year that reveals problems with the project that now
require a special forensic audit to determine if the problems involve
Scott Akrie of Netlogix—a company hired by the County to
review and evaluate the feasibility of the project—presented
his company’s findings to the Commission. He said that of
the $1.2 million paid to the Dandin Group to build a system “backbone”
to provide a broadband signal from Albuquerque to Cuba, the County
had only a $1,000 radio to show for it. The rest was “vaporware”
and did not exist. The County is working with legal specialists
to sue the Dandin Group for fraud and breach of contract.
Hoag heads a recently formed five-person oversight committee consisting
of experts from UNM, Intel, and Cisco. He said that the committee
will be involved in the entire life cycle of the project, not just
the building of a backbone. The project aims to provide Internet
service and is already involved in programs to improve health care
and education in even the most remote areas of the county. Last
month, Congresswoman Heather Wilson said that she is making progress
in securing $200,000 in federal funds for the telemedicine part
of the project.
In order to avoid the problem of “vaporware,” Hoag
said, “The County will procure all equipment, tag it, and
distribute it. We’ll take an active role in the installation
and maintenance of the signal.”
Bridge collapse injures two
County spokesman Gayland Bryant said that the collapse of a bridge
over the normally dry Rio Puerco injured two women early on the
morning of September 2. The bridge was being renovated by the county
when it was undercut by floodwaters and fell about ten feet.
Ironically, Bryant said, after the bridge disaster in Minnesota,
all county bridges were inspected and deemed safe. The bridge is
on County Road 279 just off US 550. Residents of Torreon and San
Luis must find alternative routes until construction is completed,
probably by the end of October. They can drive past the landmark
El Cabezon and drive gravel roads to San Ysidro or take a one-hour
detour north to Cuba. If the Rio Puerco is not flooding, residents
can drive on a temporary dirt road through the arroyo.
Bryant stated, “We realize that this is inconvenient for
residents, and the county will fix the bridge as quickly as possible.”
BLM Resource Management Plan soon to be updated
—LAS PLACITAS ASSOCIATION
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is planning to issue
an updated Resource Management Plan (RMP) in October of this year
that will include five thousand acres to the north and east of Placitas.
The BLM issues updated RMPs infrequently — approximately every
twenty to thirty years, so it presents a real opportunity for input
into how we want the land to be used. This process gives interested
groups and individuals an opportunity to have their opinions heard.
The BLM expects to have the updated RMP approved in 2011. The five
thousand acres near Placitas is a part of the Rio Puerco Management
District, which includes approximately five million acres.
According to BLM sources, there are many competing interests for
our five thousand acres. These include residential development,
mining interests, a possible energy corridor, livestock grazing,
and all-terrain vehicle use. The advocates of these interests will
be active in pursuit of their goals, so it is important for those
in Placitas who want to preserve open space to also use this opportunity
to speak out now.
The BLM will hold public meetings in our area and is open to written
comment by interested groups. A representative of the BLM will meet
with groups who request such a meeting. This outreach to the public
is termed the “scoping process.” BLM is required by
law to consider the public input gathered through the scoping process
when making their land use decisions, so public participation makes
It is important that the residents of Placitas participate in the
decision-making process. Las Placitas Association will be presenting
a written plan to the BLM. The association favors conservation-oriented
land uses that stress open space, wildlife habitat, low-impact recreational
use, and watershed health. Las Placitas Association will be sending
a mailing to the residents of Placitas seeking input so that we
can speak for our community.
Needless to say, this is a unique and wonderful opportunity to
speak up to preserve the rural character of our community, including
the quiet and dark skies that are so important here. We at Las Placitas
Association look forward to a robust response to our mailing and
a large attendance at the public meetings.
NM Wine Festival draws record crowds
Bernalillo’s Twentieth Annual New Mexico Wine Festival broke
records with an estimated attendance of twenty-seven-thousand people.
The festival, held for three days over the Labor Day weekend, seems
to get more popular every year.
Town of Bernalillo community development director Maria Rinaldi
credited the Rail Runner special weekend service for part of this
year’s success. “The train brought people from the entire
Albuquerque metropolitan area,” she said. “Imagine what
it will be like when the Rail Runner goes to Santa Fe in a couple
years. The wine festival is becoming a real Bernalillo tradition.”
The festival has not only helped to put Bernalillo on the map,
but it is also an economic boon to the area. Rinaldi said that the
town benefits from gross receipts taxes collected at the festival,
and that area restaurants and shops also see a huge increase in
business. “Local entrepreneurs like people who provide parking
also benefit,” she added. “Cheerleaders sell bottled
water as one of several fundraisers. We try to make the festival
better every year.”
County Line—Property tax rates
—DON LEONARD, CHAIRMAN, SANDOVAL COUNTY COMMISSION
As a property owner, I know the “sticker shock”
that occurs with the arrival of the annual property tax bills. In
Sandoval County, however, property owners will see lower tax rates
for all areas but one when the dreaded tax bills start arriving
in early November.
Lower property tax rates were approved by the County Commission
on September 13 and reflect the diligence of the Commission and
County staff to continue improving services to residents while also
controlling costs to taxpayers.
The sole exception to the across-the-County drop in tax rates is
in my community of Corrales. There, tax rates will be higher to
pay increased bond debt for voter-approved initiatives—tax
increases that voters approved to fund projects both for the Village
and for APS, the school district serving Corrales.
We all know homeowners who readily cite dramatic increases in their
properties’ values of ten percent or more each year. Yet,
increases in home values for tax purposes are limited to increases
of no more than three percent annually, regardless of escalating
higher market values. In that regard, while tax rates are lower,
property owners in some areas may see slight increases in their
total tax bill due to the escalating value of their property.
Sandoval County is mailing about one-hundred-ten-thousand tax bills
with a net taxable value of $2.869 billion. That increase of $875.5
million in a critical component of property taxes reflects our County’s
staggering growth. It also mirrors the diligent, ongoing efforts
of County Assessor Rudy Casaus and his staff to get new construction
on tax rolls as quickly as possible and equitably assess tax values
of non-residential property and vacant land on market conditions.
County Treasurer Lorraine Dominguez is preparing and mailing tax
bills. Then, the Treasurer is responsible for collecting taxes imposed
by all agencies in Sandoval County—cities, schools, the state,
CNM, and such “specials” as improvement districts and
flood control agencies. Only a small portion of the total taxes
collected by Sandoval County—about twenty cents of each dollar—pays
for County programs and services, with most of the taxes—about
eighty cents of each dollar paid—going directly to school
districts, municipal governments, and other taxing entities.
The tax rate allocated to Sandoval County government is the same
no matter where you reside in the County—about $193 for a
home valued at $100,000—or $16 less than last year. An additional
$41 is paid to the state.
Other components of the bill will vary from city to city, among
school districts, and by other agencies. While those local variables
are beyond the County Commission’s oversight, they do mean
that tax bills, too, will vary from one area of Sandoval County
In Rio Rancho, based on a home valued at $100,000, property taxes
will be $954, or about $21 less than last year. Taxes on the same-valued
property outside Rio Rancho’s city limits but still within
the Rio Rancho School District will be $688, also about $21 less.
In Bernalillo, owners of a $100,000 home will see a tax bill of
$709 or $19 less, while taxes on an equally-valued home in Placitas
or Algodones will be $621 or $17 less.
Taxes on a $100,000 home in Jemez Springs will be $741, or a reduction
of $17. Taxes on a same-valued home in San Ysidro will be $794,
or $13 lower. Owners of a $100,000 home in the unincorporated areas
of the Jemez Mountains will receive a bill for $615—a drop
of $18—and homeowners in Cuba will be billed $773, or about
Finally, due to higher bond debt approved by voters, taxes on a
$100,000 home in Corrales will be $789, or an increase of $60 over
last year, while taxes on a similar-priced home in that portion
of Corrales that was once in Bernalillo County will be $1008 or,
again, about $60 higher. Those bills will include $45 for the Village’s
bond debt and $345 for Albuquerque Public Schools, plus taxes for
flood control authorities, where applicable.
Questions or comments for Commissioner Leonard can be mailed to
him C/O Sandoval County Offices, PO Box 40, Bernalillo, NM 87004.
NM Environment Department asks consumers to check
for botulism-tainted foods after Sandoval County man’s death
The New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) asks consumers to
check for recalled Castleberry’s food and pet products tied
to botulism after a man hospitalized for a case of that poisoning
died recently. The products are sold under several names, including
Kroger, Meijer, Austex, Bloom, and Thrifty Maid.
The recalled products also include such brand names as Big Y, Best
Yet, Bryan, Bunker Hill, Castleberry’s, Cattle Drive, Firefighters,
Food Club, Food Lion, Goldstar, Great Value, Lowe’s Foods,
Morton House, Paramount, Piggly Wiggly, Prudence, Southern Home,
Steak n Shake, Triple Bar Ranch, Value Time, and some Natural Balance
Eatables dog food varieties.
The Department of Health confirmed that a fifty-two-year-old Sandoval
County man who had been hospitalized in Albuquerque for a case of
botulism has died. The Department of Health did not confirm that
the man’s botulism diagnosis was linked to the recalled food
items, but the man had shopped at a store that sold several recalled
“Consumers should make sure Castleberry food and pet food
products are no longer in their cabinets or refrigerators,”
said New Mexico Environment Department Secretary Ron Curry. “NMED
Food Program Staff has visited stores and other food establishments
to remove the products from shelves, but we believe the products
may still be in consumers’ homes. Botulism poisoning is a
serious and potentially deadly illness.”
The recall of food and dog food manufactured by Castleberry’s
Food Company of Augusta, GA began in July. Those products may contain
hazardous botulinum toxin, which can be fatal.
The recall is not complete, according to the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration. There are reports that these hazardous products
may still be on store shelves. Retailers and food service providers
should continue to remove and secure recalled products. NMED continues
to remove those recalled products during routine inspections. Consumers
who have the products should discard them.
Symptoms of botulism poisoning in humans can begin from six hours
to two weeks after eating food that contains the toxin. Symptoms
may include double vision, blurred vision, drooping eyelids, slurred
speech, difficulty swallowing, and muscle weakness that moves progressively
down the body, affecting the shoulders first and then descending
to the upper arms, lower arms, thighs, calves, etc. Botulism poisoning
can also cause paralysis of the breathing muscles which can result
in death unless assistance with breathing (mechanical ventilation)
is provided. Individuals who show these symptoms and who may have
recently eaten one of the Castleberry’s products currently
under recall should seek immediate medical attention.
If your pet has consumed some of the dog food affected and is showing
some of those symptoms, contact your pet’s veterinarian. If
you have any of the canned pet food items in the list, you should
discard those products.
For more information and a complete list of recalled products,
call NMED Communications Director Marissa Stone at (505) 827-0314
or (505) 231-0475, or NMDOH Communications Director Deborah Busemeyer
at (505) 470-2290. You may also visit www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/fsbotul.html.
Former Rio Rancho mayor leaves town
The Albuquerque Journal reported that former Rio Rancho mayor Kevin
Jackson has moved his family to an undisclosed location in Pennsylvania.
Jackson was cruising along as the popular new mayor when he ran
into trouble for misspending city funds. He resigned under pressure
in July, blaming enemies with “nasty politics and personal
agendas.” Rio Rancho is apparently not pursuing him, as he
has embarrassed the City of Vision enough already.
There is, however, an ongoing criminal investigation being conducted
by the Inspector General for federal Health and Human Services,
along with the FBI and state police. Jackson allegedly misspent
public funds as the head of Best Choice, a nonprofit that promotes
abstinence-only sex education and healthy marriage. He allegedly
mismanaged federal grant funds and was also charged with check fraud.
As a board member, Jackson’s wife was instrumental in the
Rio Rancho school board’s short-lived directive requiring
schools to teach creation theory as a counterpoint to evolution.
Lawyer B.J. Crow told the Albuquerque Journal that he talks to
Jackson several times a week in regards to the ongoing investigation,
although he had no information about how the investigation was proceeding.
Crow says he doesn’t even know where the Jacksons have settled.
It would obviously be bad for business if the former mayor’s
past were to follow him to his new home.
Letter to New Mexico Delegation stresses need
to fund transit operators throughout state
The Chair of the Mid-Region Transit District sent a letter to New
Mexico’s Congressional Delegation expressing the Board’s
disappointment over the recent decision by the U.S. Department of
Transportation, Federal Transit Administration (FTA), to allocate
all $438 million of the fiscal year 2007 Bus and Bus Facilities
discretionary funds to just seven U.S. cities—none in New
“It’s disappointing to me that one-hundred-percent
of our state’s federal tax receipts earmarked for public transportation
went to just seven large U.S. cities,” says Wayne Ake, the
Chair of the MRTD Board and also Mayor of the Village of Bosque
Farms. “New Mexico’s rural transit providers and transit
operators face serious challenges in improving and expanding transit
services for our growing urban areas, and unfortunately, we will
not see one penny of that money.”
New Mexico’s transit providers had submitted approximately
$20 million in requests to come out of the fiscal 2007 FTA budget
for new vans and buses to replace aging vehicles. Mayor Ake’s
letter went on to urge New Mexico lawmakers in Washington to “…assist
in restoring a more reasonable and rational approach to the 2008
Federal Transit Administration budget process.”
“We realize that the FTA was trying to aid the larger cities
with some money that could really make a difference,” says
Ake, “but we need them to also understand that communities
in New Mexico have pressing transit needs, and they could truly
benefit from a broader disbursement of those funds.”
Mayor Ake has stated that transit is an important element of our
state’s overall transportation network. Ake and the MRTD Board
have offered their assistance to New Mexico’s Delegation in
helping the FTA understand the need for funding smaller metropolitan
and rural transit services.
New Mexico Rail Runner Express offers special
weekend service to Balloon Fiesta
The New Mexico Rail Runner Express will be offering special service
for the opening and closing weekends of the Albuquerque International
Balloon Fiesta. People can ride the train to the Los Ranchos/Journal
Center station, where they can hop on a shuttle bus that will take
them right onto Balloon Fiesta field.
To take the special New Mexico Rail Runner Express to the Balloon
Fiesta, you must first purchase a Rail Runner/Park and Ride/ Balloon
Fiesta Admission pass online at www.balloonfiesta.com or in person
at the Balloon Fiesta offices at 4401 Alameda Boulevard NE. Passes
will not be available for purchase at Rail Runner stations or at
the Rail Runner website.
Those wishing to ride the Rail Runner on Balloon Fiesta weekends,
but not attend the Fiesta, can purchase a $2 day pass just to ride
the train on those days (October 6, 7, 13, and 14). These tickets
can be purchased online at www.nmrailrunner.com
or on the platform at any of the Rail Runner stations.