An Independent Monthly Newsmagazine Serving the Community since 1989

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MTD Inspection

Patrolman Wendy Carpenter-Graft of the state Motor Transportation Division directs a gravel truck onto portable scales during a recent spot inspection. MTD reported nearly a quarter of the 53 trucks checked were overweight, one by 5,600 pounds.

Operation Windshield Watch underway

—BILL DIVEN
Truck inspectors issued citations to nearly half of the gravel haulers and other commercial carriers checked on a recent morning, according to the state Motor Transportation Division.
Working with the Albuquerque Police Department, officers on I-25 stopped southbound trucks leaving Sandoval County and routed them to a temporary inspection station on the frontage road, south of the Tramway interchange. Inspectors working under MTD's Operation Windshield Watch program snared other trucks turning off Tramway to the frontage road.

“We get so many complaints about broken windshields,” said MTD Lieutenant Rachel Meserve. “One of the first trucks we stopped had a cracked wheel on the steering axle.

“Luckily we caught it before it got any worse.”

Of the fifty-three trucks weighed on portable scales, a dozen were overweight by as much as fifty-six hundred pounds, according to Meserve. “That affects stability,” she said, adding that the extra load can crack wheels and damage tires not designed to support the weight.

MTD and APD officers gave twenty-six trucks full inspections and wrote 113 citations for alleged weight and safety violations, she said. Ten trucks deemed unsafe were taken out of service, as was one driver who was considered impaired because she didn't have her glasses, Meserve added.

Potential fines range from $50 to $150 per citation, plus towing bills for several trucks. The inspections took place from 6:00 to 11:00 a.m. on August 16.

One gravel truck with a pup trailer belonging to Richard Casias Trucking of Albuquerque was stopped twice and towed because violations cited the first time had not been fixed, Meserve said.
Contacted later, Richard Casias said the MTD action bordered on harassment, given the minor infractions. He also said the APD inspector seemed frustrated because he couldn't communicate with driver Manuel Rosales, who speaks mostly Spanish.
“They did find a problem; the brakes were very slightly out of adjustment,” Casias said. “It was not an emergency, and it was not life-threatening.

“There were a few lights on the trailer not working, but we were not hauling at night.”

Casias said his company runs thirteen gravel trucks and is successful because it puts money back into maintenance. He also conceded the officers were just doing their jobs and that he doesn't feel his company was being singled out.

While there are careless haulers out there, Casias said his drivers know to cover their loads and clean loose gravel from the dump aprons. “We tell them if they don't, that windshield is coming out of their paycheck,” he said.

Meserve said MTD tries to stage spot inspections once a month and is planning a toll-free telephone number for motorists to report complaints. Asked if a half-day inspection helps, Meserve replied, “It does, but only for a few days, and then they're back at it.”

Ownership information on trucks and trucking companies can be found at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Web site, http://ai.fmcsa.dot.gov, and links to SafeStat Online.

Plans for commuter-train are on track

—BILL DIVEN
Connect the dots from Canada to Congress to Albuquerque and Santa Fe and they form a picture of commuter trains running to, and maybe through, Bernalillo.

As August was winding down, the first coaches for the new Rail Runner commuter service were en route to Albuquerque from the manufacturer in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Contracts to use existing tracks between Belen and Bernalillo were almost ready to sign, and negotiations for an operator to run the service were in their final stages.

And in Santa Fe the state revealed its preferred route to extend commuter train service beyond Bernalillo to the capital. That action came shortly after Congress and the President authorized $75 million, about a quarter of the estimated cost, for the extension.

“That really makes a big difference; it helps a lot,” said Pat Oliver-Wright, a planner director with the New Mexico Department of Transportation. “We were happy.”

An authorization is not an appropriation, she added, so additional legislation is needed before the check is in the mail.
Oliver-Wright said the planning team chose the Community District corridor as its preferred route to Santa Fe. Trains would use existing BNSF Railway tracks from Bernalillo north to La Bajada and then east toward Cerrillos.

From there, a new fifteen-mile right-of-way diverges north through public and private land to connect to the Santa Fe Southern Railway, whose tracks reach downtown Santa Fe. The exact route, roughly a mile east of I-25, is not yet defined, and some residents of the semirural area are voicing opposition to the idea.

As the preferred alternative, the corridor is now subject to about two months of public and political scrutiny before moving on to detailed environmental studies. At $317 million, it is the most expensive route considered but also the shortest, with commute times between Albuquerque and Santa Fe pegged at seventy-four minutes.

Planners rejected a cheaper alternative, at $225 million, using mostly existing tracks beyond Cerrillos to Lamy and Santa Fe, because operational costs would be higher and travel times slower.

“The twenty-minute time difference was estimated to drop ridership by 30 percent,” Oliver-Wright said. The goal is still to have the system running by the end of 2008, she added.
Chris Blewett, of the Mid-Region Council of Governments, said his agency expects to sign a contract to use BNSF Belen-Bernalillo tracks by the end of this month. However he declined to say whether the state plans to lease the tracks or buy them outright.

Negotiations with Herzog Transit Services to operate and maintain the Rail Runner system also are near completion although a signing date is uncertain, he added.

Sandoval County Commissioner Donald Leonard, returning from a MRCOG meeting, said the first commuter coach to arrive has “See Sandoval County” on its side. The county contributed $10 million to the project from money it is receiving for handling the $6 billion Intel bond issue last year.

“This is real exciting,” Leonard said. “We're right on schedule.”
Leonard also said survey results show that Sandoval and Valencia County residents would use the service and be willing to pay $4-$4.50 fares even if the ride took fifteen minutes longer than the commute by car.

Blewett said the survey results were encouraging in Albuquerque, where 60 percent of respondents said commuter rail was very important, even though only 23 percent said they were likely to use it. The Belen-Bernalillo service is scheduled to be operational by the end of the year, he added.

The possibility of a technological leap to magnetic-levitation trains shuttling to Rail Runner stops or extending to Santa Fe remains in play, although state planners have rejected the idea for now. Bernalillo town administrator Lester Swindle, who has been pushing the idea, scheduled a meeting of government and industry leaders for late August, focusing on “urban maglev,” a lighter version of systems already operating in Europe and Asia.


Bernalillo awarding contracts for wastewater, library, water line projects

The rehabilitation of the Bernalillo wastewater plant and the expansion of the town library are about to begin, according to town officials.

Smith Engineering of Albuquerque was the apparent low bidder to design and build the first phase of the wastewater project. That work includes an enclosed sludge facility expected to be operational next spring, putting an end to odor complaints from the outside storing and drying of the plant by-product.

The contract still must be approved by town councilors.

Groundbreaking also is expected this month for the addition to the library. The structure will be built off site and is scheduled to open in time for the formal unveiling of renovations to the town hall and the police building.

Additionally, councilors will be asked to approve a contract award to HDR Engineering of Albuquerque to begin replacing aging water lines in the town.


New county judicial complex up and running

—BILL DIVEN
With his recent move across the Rio Grande, Sandoval County Sheriff John Paul Trujillo enjoys the proximity of his new neighbors in the district court and district attorney's office.

Previously, the preparation and delivery of court orders, summonses, and prisoner transfers was spread among three buildings in Bernalillo and Rio Rancho. Now, with the opening of the Sandoval County Judicial Complex, Trujillo said the paperwork flows more efficiently and, particularly with domestic-violence restraining orders, can be delivered quicker.

“Once it's filed and walked across the hallway, we can serve it,” Trujillo said. “Any mistakes we catch right away.”

The $7.7 million Judicial Complex sits prominently above the intersection of NM 528 and Idalia Road, in southwest Bernalillo, just across the street from the city of Rio Rancho. Dedication ceremonies on August 11 opened with Reverend Charles Becknell praying for peace and justice as the Black Eagle singers from Jemez Pueblo drummed outside.

“Opening a big new courthouse is a very big deal,” said Chief Justice Richard Bosson of the New Mexico Supreme Court. “Courthouses are not built easily.

“It's no wonder most courthouses in New Mexico are seventy to eighty years old.”

Courthouses are “almost secular temples,” he added, symbolizing society's commitment to justice and the rule of law.
Chief District Judge Louis McDonald said the new building corrects security problems in the old court building on Montoya Road adjacent to the county jail. Among other concerns, he said, jurors lacked a separate entrance, forcing them to walk past the often emotional families of victims and defendants during criminal trials.

The Judicial Complex joins the Sandoval County Health Commons as new structures on a fifty-six-acre former shooting range purchased by the county in 2002. The Health Commons also combined once scattered services, some previously housed in rented locations.

The seat of government remains in the county courthouse in downtown Bernalillo, where the space vacated by the sheriff will be remodeled for existing departments and relocation of the DWI program from its rented building. Plans call for slight remodeling of the former court building on Montoya Road, west of the Rio Grande, to house the magistrate court, which has added a second judge and is located in a rented building on Camino del Pueblo. in downtown Bernalillo.

The district attorney also had been renting office space in Rio Rancho before moving to the new Judicial Complex. Most of the new 45,699-square-foot structure was paid for with a bond issue approved by county voters, with additional funding from the state legislature and other county sources.

In addition to adding a third courtroom, the building provides interview rooms for sheriff's deputies and a forty-seat training room. The department already has hosted a statewide training session for school-resource officers.

Seven BPS schools fail AYP testing

—TY BELKNAP
Seven Bernalillo schools—Algodones Elementary, Bernalillo High, Bernalillo Middle, Carroll Elementary, Cochiti Elementary, Cochiti Middle, Santo Domingo Middle—joined a large percentage of schools statewide in failure to meet state standards in annual yearly progress testing.

New Mexico Public Education Department secretary Veronica Garcia urged communities “not to rush to judgement about the quality of the schools,” since testing standards were more stringent than in 2004 and more students were tested. NMPED standards require a 92 percent attendance rate and a 90 percent high school graduation rate.

A certain percentage of students as a whole, as well as students in four subgroups—minority, English-language learners, special education, economically disadvantaged—must be deemed proficient in math and reading. If any subgroup is not proficient, the school fails. Bernalillo Public Schools has a high percentage in each subgroup, three of which failed to meet state standards at BHS.

The system is designed to require accountability from public schools and is part of the federal No Child Left Behind program. Testing has been criticized for being overly competitive, irrelevant to students who are not college-bound, and culturally foreign to minorities. Schools lack funding for technical programs to provide a relevant education to those who need it most. Many students who fail to display proficiency at arbitrary standards opt to quit, and are therefore left behind. Decent jobs are then not available and a cycle of poverty, hopelessness, and crime is perpetuated. Schools are blamed for social, political, and economic problems of society as a whole.

On the bright side, Santo Domingo Elementary, which had failed to meet standards for several years, was deemed proficient in 2005.

Barbara Vigil-Lowder, BPS superintendent, told the Signpost, “We’ve been meeting with principals, staff, and parents to take a look at the results, disaggregate them, and to find the core problems so we can do better next year. We are making a plan of action for each school to see what is being taught and whether or not is being understood by the students. Teachers will be required to develop a formalized short cycle that will assess student progress, make changes as necessary, and move on, rather than waiting for the year-end testing. The NMPED is reevaluating the relevancy of the test to all designated subgroups.”

Vigil-Lowder said that the testing is helpful because it is important to know how the students are doing and to hold staff members accountable. “It reflects one piece of the school, but it doesn’t show the whole picture.” she explained. “We invite members of the community to visit the school. They will see students who are learning, interacting, and happy to be here.”
Vigil-Lowder said that the tests don’t show BPS’s emphasis on physical education, nutrition, performing arts, and other after-school programs. “We strive for excellence for all students, whether in academics or technical training, like auto mechanics, microtechnology, or even robotics.”

The consequences of continued failure to meet AYP standards include mandates ranging from systemic corrections to restructuring by the NMPED, although the NMPED lacks funding to take over a failing school.


Placitas group to host community gathering

A group of Placitas Democrats and Friends is hosting a community gathering on Sunday afternoon, October 2, from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m., at the Placitas Elementary School. Everyone is welcome to attend. The purpose of the event is to thank those in the community who, without regard to party affiliation, have come together to support candidates in the past and to celebrate many common interests and goals. Free hotdogs, finger foods, drinks, and helium balloons for the young and young-at-heart will be provided while they last.

The organizers hope the entire community will come to mingle; meet and greet new residents; visit tables set up by Placitas groups, such as the volunteer fire department, the Placitas Library, and other interested groups; meet officeholders and candidates for various offices; and just generally get to know each other. There will be no speeches, just a fun family day with food, with music provided by the Placitas Mountain Band.
Organizations serving Placitas are invited to set up a table . Contact Janice Saxton at 867-1139.

Bernalillo girls softball team wins state championship

The eleven-year-old girls all-star softball team from Coronado Little League in Bernalillo won the state championship on July 25, over Silver City Little League, 23 to 1.

They won the district championship the week before over Cibola Little League, 15 to 6, and then moved on to the state tournament at West Mesa Little League, where they won the state championship.

On July 26, to honor the girls, the Town of Bernalillo fire chief paraded the team in full uniform atop fire station vehicles, from Bernalillo High School down main street to the Coronado Little League playing fields.

The team members are Athena Morningstar, Marissa Valencia, Kate Darnell, Claudia Delara, Chelsea Quintana, Jalaina "Timitz" Suina, Andrea Archibeque, Deanna Montano, Gabriella Montano, Kimberly Archibeque, and Chelsea Darnell.

“This is a big accomplishment for any Little League team and we have worked hard for this,” said proud manager Raymond Archibeque. The winning team was coached by Jake Archibeque, Joslynn Gutierrez, and Anthony Apodaca.


Thomas is new Family Service Program administrator for county

Arlene Thomas, a highly experienced social-services professional, has been named administrator of Sandoval County's broad-based Family Services Program.

Thomas began work on August 15, overseeing the county's multi-faceted community-health, indigent, and DWI/substance-abuse programs, as well as the Health Commons facility.

The Family Services Program supports area health services and provides information on health-related programs and activities at the county Health Commons facility, near Idalia and NM 528, and at other sites throughout Sandoval County.

Collaborating on the program are the state Department of Health and Sandoval County, along with Abrazos Family Services, Haven House, La Buena Vida and PB&J Family Services.
Together, these partners are providing services to more than 2,700 Sandoval County residents, under one roof, in a new, 10,000 square foot health commons, located at Idalia and Highway 528.

They bring primary care, behavioral health, domestic violence services and prevention, child development screening, parenting education, workforce training and public health services all under one roof. But even more than occupying the same space, the Commons called for collaborative planning and service delivery.

After proving the need and viability of a health commons approach, the partners worked to secure $1.2 million to construct a new facility, with shared space and collaboration planned for in the design. The facility was completed in January and was jointly funded by the County, State and federal governments. The Sandoval Health Commons was also designed as an alternate emergency preparedness center.

Public Health Services provided at the Health Commons on a full-time basis include: childhood immunization, adult flu vaccines, family planning, STD testing and treatment, HIV/AIDS testing and counseling, WIC nutrition counseling and vouchers, Medicaid application assistance, Children's Medical Services, and several other services.

Abrazos Family Services provides prenatal case management services. Haven House provides domestic violence counseling services.La Buena Vida provides behavioral health counseling.PB& J Family Services provides parenting education and developmental checkups.

For more information, call 867-2291.

 

 

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