An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988


Crest of Montezume, photo by David Cramer

The Crest of Montezuma, soon to be protected from developement, stands tall over the village of Placitas

Land exchange expands public lands

—SIGNPOST STAFF
On August 16, the Bureau of Land Management released a Notice of Decision (NOD) for the Santo Domingo Land Exchange II. The BLM, the New Mexico State Land Office, and Santo Domingo Pueblo negotiated a land exchange that will help each party accomplish land management objectives. It allows the BLM to meet legislative mandates and consolidate public lands at the Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, the Ball Ranch Area of Critical Concern, and the Crest of Montezuma.

Of particular interest to Placitas residents is the acquisition of the Crest of Montezuma by the BLM. The crest is the spectacular hill east of the village of Placitas. The land borders the national forest and is archeologically significant. According to legend, it contains the lost Montezuma Mine [See story on page 23.]. The process of preserving this land for open space was begun in 2003. The following excerpt from an April 2004 Signpost article provides background information:

When Placitas resident Rick Burnley saw people staring at a large map on the hood of a Lexus, he was nervous. He correctly suspected that the beautiful valley near his home was slated for development. Concerned that riparian habitat would be lost along with the rural character of his community, Burnley decided to find out if something could be done to protect the land, known locally as the Crest of Montezuma.

Throughout the area, new homes are being built at an astonishing rate. Developing the ecologically sensitive area seemed like too much to area residents who have seen coyote, bear, and deer drink from the creek that traverses the property, and watched great horned owls and bald eagles soar overhead.

Fortunately, research led Burnley to Karyn Stockdale of the Trust for Public Land (TPL). Stockdale met with Burnley and other Placitas residents, and then began discussions with the landowners about ways of protecting the land that would meet the needs of all parties. Good news came when Stockdale approached officials from the Bureau of Land Management and discovered they were interested in acquiring and protecting the property.

While BLM was interested, the agency did not have the funds to purchase the property within a time frame the landowners could accept. Some quick negotiating by TPL allowed Santo Domingo Pueblo to acquire 1,077 acres of the Crest property in November 2003. Santo Domingo will hold the property as a “conservation buyer” until the pueblo is able to complete an exchange with BLM, expected to take place in mid-2004.

BLM plans to work with area residents to develop a resource-management plan that will protect wildlife habitat and allow for low-impact recreational use. Through the exchange, Santo Domingo will acquire ancestral lands nearer the pueblo.

The exchange took over three years to complete. BLM Albuquerque District Manager Ed Singleton told the Signpost that the process was delayed by real estate details and problems reconciling an old land grant survey. He said that barring any new problems or protests over the NOD, the BLM can start preparing the Crest of Montezuma for recreational use during the month of October.

Singleton said that during the time it took to iron out the details of the exchange, the BLM has formed a loose partnership with Sandoval County to manage the open space. Land has been acquired adjacent to the Crest that will provide access to the property. A trailhead with an informational kiosk and restrooms will be built, as well as a new trail to existing trails on the first bench of the Crest. The BLM also plans to reduce “hazardous fuel loading” to protect the national forest and nearby subdivisions from wildfires.

“The BLM has an undeserved reputation for just developing and disposing public land.” Singleton said. “This is an example of how we work to protect unique places that become open spaces for citizens to enjoy.”

Singleton also said that the BLM plans to begin the public process of updating the Rio Puerco Resource Management Plan in 2008. The twenty-year-old plan was created before residential growth in the Placitas area rendered inappropriate some of the prescribed uses of public land. “We’re aware of the issues and look forward to public input,” he said.

Rail Runner Phase II on track to reach Santa Fe by end of 2008

The Environmental Assessment for Rail Runner Phase II has been officially released for public review by the Federal Highway Administration, the New Mexico Department of Transportation, and the Mid-Region Council of Governments.

“The Environmental Assessment for Phase II is an important step in providing public transportation service for the City of Santa Fe and residents of Santa Fe County,” says Lawrence Rael, Executive Director for the Mid-Region Council of Governments.

More information, including a copy of the full Environmental Assessment, can be found at www.nmrailrunner.com. Hard copies are available for review upon request.

Intel begins workforce reduction

—SIGNPOST STAFF
As Intel announced in May, the Rio Rancho site is ending production of 200 mm wafers and, as a result, the site will experience a workforce reduction of more than 1,000—one quarter of the workforce. Intel began to notify employees of their employment status the first week of August.

Liz Shipley, Communications Manager said, “Intel recognizes that this is a difficult time for employees and the community. Intel has been collaborating with state and local officials to support employees during this difficult time.”

To assist impacted employees during this transition, Intel has opened a Career Resource Center offering a number of services, including:

• Access to PC’s, phones, fax, copy machine, scanner and workspace

• Career Counseling

• Training & Professional Development (for example, workshops on resume writing, interviewing and negotiating as well as enrichment seminars and E-learning programs on interpersonal and business skills)

• Access to on-line job search engines

• Job fairs

Intel has been working with the New Mexico Rapid Response Team (NMRRT). The NMRRT has hosted a number of open forums for employees to explain state and federal resources available to these employees.

Intel has denied rumors that they were preparing to move from the Rio Rancho site, saying that they are still investing billions of dollars into new technology at the site. It remains to be seen how the layoffs will affect the glut of houses in the Rio Rancho real estate market.

ESCAFCA needs assessment available online

During the 2007 Legislative session, the New Mexico Legislature passed House Bill 939 creating the Eastern Sandoval County Arroyo Flood Control Authority (ESCAFCA). Governor Bill Richardson then appointed Debbie Kilfoy, Bill Sapien, Wayne Sandoval, Dan Dennison, and Salvador Reyes as the first ESCAFCA board members.

Also known as the “Eastern Sandoval County Arroyo Flood Control Act,” HB 939 declares as a matter of legislative determination “that the organization of the authority hereby created having the purposes, powers, duties, privileges, immunities, rights, liabilities and disabilities provided in the Eastern Sandoval County Act will serve a public use and will promote the health, safety, prosperity, security, and general welfare of the inhabitants thereof and of the state.”

The ESCAFCA Board of Commissioners hired HDR Engineering, Inc., to produce a preliminary needs assessment. To accomplish this, HDR:

1. Performed a planning-level hydrologic analysis of the watersheds affecting the ESCAFCA jurisdictional area.

2. Interviewed each commissioner and toured their representative area.

3. Interviewed the Sandoval County Road Department.

4. Held three public meetings for input from residents of the Towns of Bernalillo, Algodones, and Placitas.

The preliminary needs assessment is available for viewing and public comment at www.townofbernalillo.org. The assessment includes public comments and maps identifying flood problem areas. The board members and the continued existence of ESCAFCA will be up for election in 2008.

New Mexico Wine Festival enlivens town

Mayor Patricia A. Chávez invites residents and businesses of the Town of Bernalillo to the New Mexico Wine Festival on Labor Day weekend, September 1-3, 2007 from 12:00 noon to 7:00 p.m. The Town of Bernalillo sponsors the festival as an economic and tourism development project.

The family event is filled with something for everyone—a showcase of New Mexico wineries, artisans, and entertainment. Food vendors, face painting, and a petting zoo for children round out the activities for a fun-filled weekend. Adult admission is $10 (includes commemorative glass); youth admission (ages thirteen to twenty) is $5; children twelve and under get in free. Anyone under the age of twenty-one must be accompanied by a legal adult guardian.

Go to www.townofbernalillo.org for festival details and advanced ticket purchases.

Chart shows which phone numbers will retain the 505 area code.

New Mexico splits into two area codes

On October 7, 2007, the state of New Mexico will be split into two area codes. The northwest region of the state will retain its current area code (505), and the rest of the state will get a new area code (575). This change will apply to wireline and wireless service as well as other communications services.

Local calls within your area code will continue to be dialed with seven-digit dialing; local calls from one area code to another area code will require ten-digit dialing. All long-distance calls will require 1 + ten-digit dialing.

Why will the new area code be necessary? According to Qwest, New Mexico is running out of telephone numbers due to growth in state residents, communications service providers, available telecommunications products, and additional lines. The state is adding the new 575 area code to meet the demand for additional telephone numbers.

Albuquerque makes policy on enforcement of federal immigration laws

In August 2007, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), the nation’s leading Latino legal organization, and a coalition of community organizations led by El CENTRO de Igualdad y Derechos announced that the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) and the city of Albuquerque have agreed to implement new police procedures related to the city’s policy against local enforcement of federal immigration laws. The new procedures clearly state that Albuquerque police are not to engage in investigating a person’s immigration status, nor are they to enforce federal civil immigration laws.

“The new police procedures adopted by the city reinforce its policy that no city resources are to be used to investigate any immigration-related matter, which is strictly a federal responsibility,” said David Urias, MALDEF staff attorney and lead counsel in the case. “The policy will in no way prevent officers from arresting anyone that commits a crime or that threatens the public safety, but instead only ensures that police officers focus on keeping all communities safe and encourages members of the immigrant community to trust officers.”

The implementation of the new APD procedures is the result of community efforts and is part of a settlement between MALDEF and the city, which resolves the case of Gonzalez v. the City of Albuquerque, a civil rights lawsuit filed in May 2005. The suit alleged that Albuquerque police and employees of Albuquerque Public Schools violated the civil rights of three high school students by seizing and detaining them at Del Norte High School until immigration officials could question them about their immigration status.

Rachel LaZar, Director of El CENTRO, stated, “We are proud to have engaged in dialogue with MALDEF, faith and civil rights leaders, victims’ advocates, the immigrant community, and law enforcement officials to ensure that the Albuquerque Police Department’s standard operating procedures reflect Albuquerque’s long history of passing non-discrimination policies that promote public safety and reflect the unique needs and demography of our community. We will now work with the community to ensure that APD is held accountable for its implementation and that this policy is not violated.”

MALDEF previously settled the portion of the case against the Albuquerque Public Schools, which resulted in changes in school district policies. Under that settlement, school officials must ensure that all students, regardless of their immigration status, are safe and secure while in school. The settlement also prohibits school officials from reporting students to immigration officials while they are at school.

Founded in 1968, MALDEF, the nation’s leading Latino legal organization, promotes and protects the rights of Latinos through litigation, advocacy, community education and outreach, leadership development, and higher education scholarships. For more information on MALDEF, visit www.maldef.org.

Signpost Cartoon, c. Rudi Klimpert

County Line—Making transportation convenient

—DON LEONARD, CHAIRMAN, SANDOVAL COUNTY COMMISSION
It’s a stark reality of life, especially in the West where travel is measured by miles rather than city blocks, that quality education, jobs, and access to health care often depend on reliable transportation.

“Point B” becomes almost meaningless if you can’t get there from “point A.” And, with increased gasoline prices and traffic gridlocks, travel is becoming more difficult and costly for all of us.

Personal vehicles, of course, are the traditional modes of transportation used by westerners. Mass transit, a coordinated system that moves millions of people in many other countries and along our own eastern seaboard, is becoming a vital alternative in many areas, including Sandoval County.

In the metropolitan Albuquerque area, the New Mexico Rail Runner Express commuter train is proving its worth on a daily basis as a way for travelers from Bernalillo to Belen to avoid traffic and travel economically. The commuter rail celebrated its first year of operation in July. Ridership already has exceeded expectations, with an average of twenty-five-hundred commuters a day using Rail Runner service along the fifty-mile corridor.

Rail Runner has become the fastest start-up of any commuter rail train in the country during the past twenty years. Its use and benefits will further increase when service is expanded to Santa Fe, scheduled by the end of next year.

The Sandoval Easy Express is another transportation alternative gaining popularity among local residents. The SEE, as it’s called, is the County’s first rural public transit system and began service in April.

SEE service currently is available Monday through Friday along two corridors that link with Rail Runner at the Sandoval County/US 550 Station in Bernalillo and with City of Albuquerque bus lines that offer convenient travel throughout the metropolitan area. The commuter bus service will be extended to the Cuba area later this fall.

The Easy Express Route 4 provides service along a fifty-three-mile corridor from Bernalillo to Jemez Springs, with stops throughout the day in Cañon, Jemez Pueblo, San Ysidro, and Zia Pueblo. SEE Route 22 extends about forty-five miles, from Bernalillo to Cochiti Lake, with stops in Cochiti Pueblo, Peña Blanca, Santo Domingo, Algodones, and Santa Ana Pueblo.

Buses along both routes stop at numerous other locations in Bernalillo and Rio Rancho, including a stop at the intersection of Unser and Southern in Rio Rancho. There, riders can connect with bus service into Albuquerque under a five-way partnership formed last year by Sandoval County, the City of Rio Rancho, the City of Albuquerque, the Mid-Region Council of Governments, and the State Department of Transportation.

Fares for the bus service are based on the number of zones traveled. Fares for one zone, such as from San Ysidro to Jemez Springs are $1 and travel through two zones, such as from Jemez Springs to Bernalillo is $2. Discounted fares of fifty cents per zone are available for seniors ages sixty and over, mobility-impaired riders, and children ages six through eighteen. Children ages five and under ride free on the SEE. Monthly passes also are available and start at $16.

For more information on SEE schedules or fares, call 1 (877) 660-1110.

To make use of the Easy Express service even more convenient for area residents, the County is establishing a free park-and-ride lot adjacent to the County Judicial Complex and Health Commons at Idalia and NM 528. The State Department of Transportation also offers a park-and-ride lot near the Rail Runner Station at US 550 and I-25. Commuters in rural areas can park their vehicles near the SEE bus stops in the communities along the routes.

Questions or comments for Commissioner Leonard can be mailed to him in care of Sandoval County Administrative Offices, PO Box 40, Bernalillo, NM 87001.

Town of Bernalillo accepting applicants for municipal judge vacancy

The Town of Bernalillo is accepting letters of interest and résumés through September 5, 2007 from residents interested in the municipal judge position. To qualify, interested parties must be a resident of the Town of Bernalillo for at least one year, must be a registered voter, and must have no convictions of any felony or misdemeanor. Mayor Patricia A. Chávez is tentatively scheduled to recommend an individual for appointment to the Town Council on September 24, 2007.

Interested parties will be reviewed by a 13th District Court judge, a magistrate judge, and town personnel, and will be offered for final interviews with Mayor Patricia A. Chávez prior to recommendation to the Town Council. The newly-appointed Municipal Judge shall fulfill the unexpired term and serve until the next municipal election in 2008.

Letters of interest and résumés should be delivered or mailed to the Office of the Mayor, Patricia A. Chávez, PO Box 638, Bernalillo, NM 87004 or emailed to mayorchavez@townofbernalillo.org. To obtain more information on the Town of Bernalillo Municipal Judge position, call (505) 771-7129.

Rio Rancho mayor Michael J. WilliamsRio Rancho mayor Michael J. Williams

New Rio Rancho mayor makes office appointments with residents

Rio Rancho mayor Michael J. Williams has established weekly office hours to meet with residents every Wednesday morning from 9:00 to 11:00. Appointments are now being taken and will be held at the Mayor’s Office, which is located on the fourth floor of Rio Rancho City Hall at 3200 Civic Center Circle NE.

“I believe it is imperative that Rio Rancho citizens have access to the Office of the Mayor,” Mayor Williams said. “I look forward to residents utilizing this time with me to discuss the issues that are critical to our city.”

To ensure an efficient scheduling process, residents will need to complete a Mayor Meeting Request Form. This form can be obtained and submitted in person to the City Administration office, located on the fourth floor of Rio Rancho City Hall. Forms can also be obtained online via the city’s website at www.ci.rio-rancho.nm.us/mayorform. They can be emailed to mayor@ci.rio-rancho.nm.us or faxed to (505) 891-7274.

After forms are received, residents will be contacted and provided their appointment time. Meetings will be scheduled in fifteen-minute increments. Appointments will be subject to availability and will be scheduled on a first-come, first-served basis.

For additional information, call (505) 891-5001.

 

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