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
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
Ownership information on trucks and trucking companies can be
found at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Web site,
and links to SafeStat Online.
Plans for commuter-train are on track
Connect the dots from Canada to Congress to Albuquerque and Santa
Fe and they form a picture of commuter trains running to, and maybe
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
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
The rehabilitation of the Bernalillo wastewater plant and the
expansion of the town library are about to begin, according to town
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
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
“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
“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
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
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
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
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.