Sandoval Signpost


An independent monthly newspaper serving the community since 1988
  Around Town

Sale of Roosevelt school property moves toward closing

Signpost Staff

The Bernalillo school district and town government are moving closer to sealing the deal on the former Roosevelt Elementary School property. The town already has offered, and the district accepted, a price of $1.25 million dollars for the seven-acre property, located behind Bernalillo Town Hall.

At its September meeting, the state Board of Finance determined the district had satisfied conditions set when the board tentatively approved the sale in July. At last report, sales documents were in the hand of a title company, but a date to close the sale had not been set.

The property with classroom, multipurpose buildings, and other buildings has been vacant since 2012. Town officials have said they plan to move the Martha Liebert Public Library into the two-story adobe building built in the 1930s, move some town offices into new quarters and take public comment on how best to use the rest of the site, which also abuts the police and fire departments.

History of the San Antonio de las Huertas Land Grant

The Placitas Community Library and the Placitas History Project are proud to host Wayne Sandoval and Rebecca Skartwood of the Las Huertas Grant as they present “The History of the San Antonio de las Huertas Land Grant.” The event will take place in the library’s Collin Meeting Room on October 17 at 2:00 p.m. It is open to the public and free.

In September, as part of the ongoing Placitas History Project series of history programs, former New Mexico State Historian Robert J. Torrez spoke about the many land grants in the New Mexico Territory awarded by the Spanish king and later by the Mexican Government. These grants were usually given as rewards for service to the respective authority. From its founding by the original twenty-one families until today, Las Huertas has remained an integral part of the Placitas community.

The Placitas Community Library is located at 453 Highway 165 in Placitas.

Billy the Kid in Placitas

—Robert Gajkowski, Placitas History Project

It seems there is almost no place—no town, no village, no geological outcropping—in New Mexico where a visitor doesn’t find that “Billy the Kid was here.” Of course this is an exaggeration... or is it? From Gallup in the west to Santa Rosa in the east, from Las Vegas in the north to Las Cruces in the south, the ghostly presence of Billy has left its mark. A wild killer to many, a “Robin Hood” to most, whether it was Henry McCarty, Kid Atrim, or William Bonney who was shot down in the darkness of the Maxwell house at Fort Sumner by Sheriff Pat Garrett in 1881, he will always be “Billy the Kid.”

On October 10, noted Placitas historian Michael O’Keefe will bring “The Kid” to Placitas. We here in Placitas will be able to join the chorus, “Billy the Kid was here.” In earlier presentations, Mr. O’Keefe has re-introduced us to U.S. Cavalry General George Armstrong Custer of Little Big Horn fame and to his wife Libby Custer (who O’Keefe insists was far more interesting than the General). O’Keefe’s interest in “the Kid” stems from recent revelations about the dead-at-twenty-one-year-old’s “back east” origins and new information concerning his exploits throughout the New Mexico Territory.

This program is presented as part of the ongoing Placitas History Project’s series on people and events of our State. Everyone is invited to this free event, which will be held at the Collin Room, at Placitas Library at 2:00 p.m.

Upcoming programs in this series include:

  • October 17, Wayne Sandoval and Rebecca Skartwood will present “History of the San Antonio de las Huertas Land Grant.”

Four wandering horses stroll down State Road 165 toward Camino del Tecolote in Placitas in late September, 2015. An animal control officer was called, but it's not yet known where the horses came from or what became of the horses. The horses were reported to the Sandoval County Sheriff's Office whose animal-control officers typically shoo them away from the highway, according to the sheriff’s department.
Photo credit: —Bill Diven

Court ruling reshapes Placitas horse captures

—Bill Diven

In the first test of a recent court ruling, four free-roaming horses that once would have been auctioned as stray livestock instead became the property of the Placitas landowner who corralled them.

An official of the New Mexico Livestock Board told the Signpost that the agency is trying to comply with what it considers a confusing ruling issued in August by the state Court of Appeals. In that ruling, to the court tried to strike a balance between two sections of the state Livestock Code, one governing stray livestock, the other protecting wild horses with colonial Spanish roots.

“The discussion went from academic to actual with those four horses,” NMLB Executive Director William Bunce said. “We had to look at the facts just as we knew them that day… It puts the horses in a precarious situation, but that’s what happens.”

This new twist in the continuing saga of horses wandering Placitas follows the appellate court ruling in a lawsuit filed against the NMLB last year by the Placitas-based Wild Horse Observers Association. WHOA argued the wild-horse section of the law requires horses with no apparent owner to undergo DNA testing and be relocated if they are shown to be descended from Spanish colonials.

Ownerless, unbranded horses have been roaming public lands around Placitas since at least 1965, according to WHOA’s lawsuit.

A District Court sided with NMLB’s contention that all horses are livestock and dismissed the case without hearing the merits of WHOA’s argument. The appeals court overturned that decision, although the state Supreme Court may yet take up the case.

But in addition to sending the case back to the lower court, the appeals court established a distinction between horses that are livestock and subject to auction and those that are unowned and undomesticated, which must be checked for colonial roots. The wild-horse provision was added to the Livestock Code in 2007 through legislation WHOA worked to pass.

Both the NMLB and a group of 11 Placitas residents allowed to join the lawsuit as a separate party have petitioned the state Supreme Court to restore the initial ruling that dismissed the lawsuit. The residents successfully argued they have an interest in the case because the horses have been damaging their property and are creating a public-safety issue.

The board and the residents raise technical arguments on why WHOA’s lawsuit should be dismissed and contend all horses are livestock under law and past court rulings. The NMLB goes further saying that the appeals court creating two categories of horse compromises its ability to enforce the Livestock Code, which governs the sale, transportation, and other aspects of raising livestock in the state.

The four horses were corralled on September 1 on land owned by one of the residents involved in the lawsuit.

“We call the corral the magic portal,” said David Reynolds, the attorney representing the 11 property owners. “An undomesticated, unowned horse magically becomes livestock because it’s owned by the landowner.”

The court ruling is not a license to capture horses and not tell anyone, Reynolds continued, so the Livestock Board was notified. It sent out inspectors to check the horses for signs of disease and evidence of ownership like a brand, tattoo, or implanted microchip.

Finding neither, the inspectors collected hair for DNA testing and left a document that in effect gave ownership of the horses to the landowner. The NMLB contends, however, that DNA testing cannot determine lineage of a horse whose ancestor is not already known.

On September 18, the landowner sold the horses complete with microchipping and the required bill of sale for one dollar apiece to Placitas Wild, which plans to move them to a refuge on San Felipe Pueblo, Reynolds said.

“We really did make legal history this afternoon,” Reynolds said after the sale. “We disposed of them along the legal guidelines we’ve been handed. I think it’s worked to the benefit of everybody.”

Until the court ruling, the NMLB would have taken possession of the horses, advertised them as estray and sold them at public auction if no owner came forward. Horse advocates in Placitas bought nearly all of the horses that came up through that process returning some here and placing others elsewhere.

Complicating the issue further is a provision of the Livestock Code that applies the DNA testing only to horses found on public land. It then narrowly defines public land to exclude most federal and state lands leaving perhaps no land in Placitas that qualifies, Reynolds said.

Some of Reynolds’s clients helped form the group Let Our Land Rest after the peak population of feral horses reached about two hundred, destroying watersheds through overgrazing, trampling of fragile soils, and increasing erosion, according to the website

While WHOA declared victory after the Court of Appeals ruling, Let Our Land Rest suggested they either didn’t understand the limits of the ruling or the unintended consequences of its lawsuit.

The Signpost contacted WHOA President Patience O’Dowd by email for comment on the latest developments but she declined to provide answers to written questions. The website has not posted any commentary since an August 7 news release lauding the Court of Appeals ruling.

King and Queen George and Connie Gabaldón lead a procession of parishioners during the annual Our Lady of Sorrow Catholic Church Fiesta in Bernalillo. Behind them one parishioner carries a santo of Our Lady of Sorrows while others hold up San Lorenzo, the patron saint of Bernalillo.
Photo credit: —Bill Diven

Placitas star party

The Annual Placitas Star Party will take place at the Placitas Community Library on October 17. It will begin at dusk (sunset is at 6:29 p.m.) and continue into the evening. This annual event is co-sponsored by The Albuquerque Astronomical Society (TAAS), Rio Rancho Astronomical Society (RRAS), Las Placitas Association and the Placitas Community Library. It will feature twenty, or more, telescopes of various types and sizes to guide you to the wonders of the night sky.

The members of TAAS and RRAS are enthusiastic about explaining the objects seen through the scopes and about the scopes themselves.

Star parties are a wonderful opportunity for the sharing of astronomy information and for planting an interest in continuing to learn more about our place in the Universe. This is an opportunity for all ages. The Star Party is free and open to everyone.

Arrive early for parking before dark and for observing the set-up of the scopes. Remember to dress warmly and only use red flashlights or headlamps in the observing area to preserve night vision.

The Placitas Community Library is located at 453 Highway 165. For more information, go to

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