Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988

  Up Front

How do you picture Placitas?

Placitas Community Library (PCL) and the photography group, Perspectives - Sharing an Open Vision, are excited to announce Picture Placitas: a community celebration, in words and images, of the incredible place we inhabit.

We invite all who live in Placitas to share your view of this unique community. Your celebrations of Placitas will create the first exhibit in the new library in early 2010. As part of the Grand Opening of the new PCL facility, we plan a mosaic-style exhibit and sale of these eight-by-ten images created by us and inspired by Placitas. This is a celebration for all of us, not only those who consider themselves artists. You may submit “pictures” as photos, paintings, poems, essays, or other images. So pick up that brush, get out there with your camera, sit down with pen and paper, sort through those old pictures, and share your view of this remarkable, historic, diverse place we are lucky to call home. The subject can be anything: people, views, buildings, plants, animals, clouds, food, the Placitas troll, anything at all that captures your “Placitas.”

The Placitas Community Library is undertaking this project in collaboration with Perspectives - Sharing an Open Vision. Perspectives embraces excellence, originality, and innovation in all photo-based art. The founding members of the group are David Cramer, Fernando Delgado, Joan Fenicle, and Barry McCormick. These Placitas-based artists are donating their time and expertise to curate this show.

David Cramer is an award-winning nature and scenic photographer with an emphasis on missions, wild horses, and other unique subjects that reflect the rich history of this part of the world. David also leads photography workshops for all skill levels. For more information, please visit

Fernando Delgado came to New Mexico via Cuba and a successful twenty-five-year career as a creative director for the advertising industry in New York. He attended The Cooper Union School of Art and Parsons School of Design in New York, where he studied with Louise Nevelson, Milton Glaser, Henry Wolf, and Herb Lubalin. His work is currently on exhibition at The National Hispanic Cultural Center Art Museum; The Andrews Art Museum in North Carolina; and in October, at The Albuquerque Museum. For more information, please visit

Joan Fenicle came to New Mexico from the Colorado Rockies. She has interpreted the scenery and culture of the Southwest in paintings and photographs for years. She is photo editor for albuquerqueARTS magazine and coordinator of the Artscrawl gallery events in Albuquerque. For more information, please visit

Barry McCormick was a commercial photographer for more than thirty years in the New York metro area. Since moving to Placitas, he has concentrated on fine art figurative work. He has exhibited in a number of New Mexico group shows and his work is collected internationally. For more information, please visit

Mounting of work for the Picture Placitas installation is being donated by Framing Concepts, 5809-B Juan Tabo NE in Albuquerque.

Perspectives members and members of the PCL Program Committee will be making short presentations to interested groups during the fall. Please call the library 867-5340 and leave a message for Anne Frost if you are interested in having us come to your group.

Entries will be accepted beginning September 1, 2009 and must be accompanied by a completed entry form. Look for brochures around town with the distinctive Picture Placitas logo to find entry forms and guidelines for submissions. Additional information and forms can also be found at the library (867-5340) and on our website at

Look around at the amazing place that is Placitas and let it inspire you!

Piedra Lisa Development a hot potato

—L.A. Williams, Signpost

On August 24, 2009, the Bernalillo Town Council heard an appeal by agents and owners of Olive Grab, LLC regarding the proposed Piedra Lisa Townhouses development. Previously, the Planning & Zoning (P&Z) Commission had rejected the Piedra Lisa preliminary plat on July 9, 2009, making it impossible for the developers to get a building permit (see Signpost, August 2009).

Similar to previous hearings, the Town Council listened to the many concerns of area residents and pleas for approval from members of Olive Drab, LLC. David Soule, of Rio Grande Engineering, spoke as an agent for Olive Drab and admitted that not all the items required for preliminary plat had been included in their prior package submitted to the P&Z commission which resulted in a denial.

Santiago Chavez, Town Administrator, said he had reviewed the preliminary plat and consequentially listed several key requirements that were not previously met at the P&Z hearing. These included grading plan, road width and cross section, surveys, and elevations of the potential development.   

Soule then provided the town council with the missing material and requested that they approve the appeal because all the criteria had therefore been met.

During the public hearing portion of the meeting, several area residents request that the appeal be denied for many reasons including public safety and property rights, traffic congestion, over-development, and the public’s inability to view the developer’s newly presented material. William Sapien, ex-Chairman of the Sandoval County Commission, ask of the council, “if there is any doubt in your mind, in your heart, or more importantly, in your stomach, err on the side of caution.”

Following the public hearing, Mayor Patricia Chavez ask Town Attorney, George Perez, “does the information presented this evening call for a new hearing?”

“I believe this would constitute a new process,” said Perez. He then continued, “this a technical matter, if the preliminary plat includes all the information, approve it. If it doesn’t, send it back to the developer. If it is presented to you, and it complies, you can approve it, P&Z doesn’t need to see it again.”

The simple fact that the P&Z commission had not received a complete package with all the necessary material from the developer seemed to be a contentious point by many in the room. Councilor Marian Jaramillo made a motion to send the preliminary plat back to the P&Z with the newly included material for reconsideration. Councilors Santiago Montoya and Eddie Torres agreed (Ronnie Sisneros was not in attendance) and the town’s development dilemma was delayed once more.

Signpost cartoon c. Rudi Klimpert

Placitas Senior Center caught in money crunch

—Ty Belknap, Signpost

Don Booth, Vice Chairman of the Sandoval County Commission on Senior Affairs and member of Placitas Senior Center presented thirty-seven letters from other members at the Center to the August 6 meeting of the Sandoval County Commission expressing concerns over recent staff cuts. He told the county commissioners that reducing the hours of program assistant Mary Lou Arriola will force the center to cut back new activities, reducing the hours of operation.

Booth says that the Placitas center is the most active of the Sandoval County senior centers with over thirty activities per week. Morning yoga classes are very popular, as are a variety of other exercise classes. Other activities include partner and duplicate bridge clubs, photography club, and classes in painting, jewelry making, cooking, and fly tying for fishing.

Director of Community Services Peggy Cote says that money is tight and that the cost of providing services to seniors is rising while state and federal funding has remained stagnant. She explained that increased demand coupled with a big jump in food and gas prices have forced the county to find ways to cut costs. She said that the county has tried to find ways to reduce expenses without cutting services or laying off staff members.

County Commission Chairman Don Leonard wrote in the June 2009 County Line column in the Signpost:

“…in just the past ten years, the cost of operating senior centers and providing vital services for Sandoval County’s elderly population has dramatically increased by $1.35 million. Despite the increased costs, the federal government has reduced its funding percentage. Today, Washington contributes just over twelve cents for every dollar spent for the county senior programs, down from a twenty-five percent share a decade ago. State funding . . . has likewise decreased from twenty-two percent in 1999 to twelve percent today.”

Leonard says that the county relies on hundreds of volunteers to fill in with driving, foster grandparents, and senior companions.

Cote says that county senior centers provide over 150,000 meals a year. The Frail and Elderly Program relies on county support for ninety-five percent of expenses. This program is vitally important to rural populations, providing the service of fifty-six caregivers and two case managers that help seniors stay in their homes. “Every center is different,” Cote explained. “Homebound seniors in Cuba rely heavily on meal delivery, while we provide 375 to four hundred meals a day to the booming center in Rio Rancho. Placitas has many talented members and a very active activity schedule. In Rio Rancho, we were able to cut the driving staff because of centralized transportation services.”

Cote said that the Placitas center still has flexible hours of operation that allow for activities to continue all afternoon, but that generally the center is less busy in the late afternoon. “Other counties have cut services and closed centers,” she said. “Sandoval County remains committed to providing its seniors with the services they have come to expect. We felt these cuts were necessary at this time. What happens in the future depends on the costs of service as well as state and federal funding.”

Cote said that expenses for senior services come out of the same general fund that pays for police, fire, and other vital services.

Don Booth encourages the county to find other places to cut funding. He said, “Senior centers are a good place for government spending. It actually saves money because active seniors are more healthy.”

Commission Watch

—Signpost Staff

The regular meeting of the Sandoval County Commission was held in the Commission Chambers on August 6, 2009, at 3:00 p.m. Commissioners in attendance were Don Leonard, Orlando Lucero, David Bency, and Glen Walters.

Loretta Apodaca, job specialist and teacher from Bernalillo Public Schools, gave a presentation to the board on the Jobs for America’s Graduates program. Ms. Apodaca thanked the board for its support of the school-to-career program and introduced five students who presented certificates to each Commissioner. Chairman Leonard thanked the students for their hard work.

Chairman Leonard then presented the Outstanding Senior Volunteer Award to Alois Weber, ninety-eight years old, for her years of volunteer service to the County’s Senior Program. Chairman Leonard gave a brief biography of Ms. Weber, a charter member of the Meadowlark Senior Center, and described her as a role model for positive aging. Jim Moran read a letter in her honor from Senator Udall’s office.

Phil Ríos, Director of the Division of Public Works, presented a briefing on construction of the county administration building, illustrated by a brief slide presentation showing where various departments will be located and excellent views of the Sandia Mountains. He announced that construction is one month ahead of schedule, with a completion date set for March 2010, and that design modifications have saved about $50,000. He added that the move-in time might be in June 2010, due to various factors.

Commissioner Walters inquired about the size of the basement and Director Ríos stated that it contains approximately eight thousand square feet for IT equipment and storage areas for offices. Commissioner Lucero asked if there will be adequate parking and Mr. Ríos assured him that there will be.

Commissioner Leonard asked what the “growth” plan is and Mr. Ríos explained that, although the original plan would have been for twenty years, with current statistics, most likely the building will cover ten years’ growth.

County Manager Vigil stated that funds have been set aside to cover moving expenses, paving for parking, and landscaping.

Director Rios requested a motion and received unanimous approval for cooperative agreements, including a Special Project Agreement, $110,040; County Arterial Program, $210,236; and School Bus Routes, $159,876 (Total Funds from Department of Transportation (DOT): $480,152; county match of in-kind funding of $160,050.67).

Ríos discussed the agreements and stated that DOT has reduced funding by $123,000. Rios requested that the commission award a contract for surveying services to Brasher Lorenz, Inc., which was ranked highest by reviewers of four proposals received. Approval was unanimous. Rios also requested and received unanimous approval for a contract for on-call engineering services with Huitt-Zollars, as well as a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the County and the New Mexico Department of Transportation Transit and Rail Division for stimulus funding of $400,000 for transit shelters. Director Ríos discussed the MOA and distributed a list of the proposed transit shelter sites.

County Manager Vigil and Donna Wylie, Director of the Division of Economic Development and Tourism discussed and requested a Motion to Publish Notice of Intent to authorize issuance and sale of project revenue bonds not to exceed $4 million to construct a facility at the county fairgrounds to house adjudicated Native American youth. They pointed out that currently there is no such facility in Sandoval County and adjudicated youth are housed as far away as South Dakota, isolating youth from parental visitation. The proposed residential facility would house non-violent prisoners, would have some thirty beds (six for residential staff), a $1.7 million payroll, and could have a $5 million economic development impact in the Cuba area. The facility would be operated by a long-time provider of such services through the Department of Justice.

Vigil and Wylie said that a twenty-five-year lease would be executed, with twenty-year debt service, on eight to ten acres of the twenty-seven total on the county fairgrounds property—a back-out clause would be included. The Bureau of Land Management has endorsed the proposal. A governing or advisory board would be formed that will include local residents. The proposal has been discussed with Village of Cuba officials.

Chairman Leonard stated this is a real opportunity for economic progress in Cuba and the Commissioners voted unanimously for approval.

County Detention Center Director Casamento discussed and received unanimous approval of Memorandum of Understanding between the County and the City of Albuquerque regarding collection of DNA samples of individuals arrested for certain charges. Funding will come through grants funds.

Community Services Director Peggy Cote received unanimous approval of a Memorandum of Agreement between the County and the New Mexico Department of Health to address eating problems in toddlers. The program will cost $104,700 and end October 31, 2009. Cote was also granted unanimous approval for a contract between the County and the New Mexico Department of Children, Youth, and Families costing $244,644 and ending June 30, 2010.

Division of County Development director Michael Springfield was granted unanimous approval of a Professional Services Agreement between the County and Huitt-Zollars to perform review of subdivisions submitted by private property owners.

County Manager Juan R. Vigil and Duane Hall, Acting Director of Human Resources and Risk Management received unanimous approval of a resolution providing for the county to pay the employer share of an employee’s family’s health, dental, and vision insurance in the event that the employee dies in the line of duty.

Duane Hall reported on the county’s Summer Youth Employment Program, stating that fifty-three employers and 144 youth participated in the 2009 program and he credited Mary Jo Trujillo with the smoothly-run, successful program.

Three seniors from Placitas spoke during the public comment period in support of re-instating a staff member of the Placitas Senior Center to full-time hours. (See article, this Signpost.)

A much shorter County Commission meeting was held on August 20, 2009, at 6:00 p.m., with Commissioners Lucero, Leonard, and Walters in attendance. Leonard opened the meeting by reading a proclamation honoring the life and work of Deputy Sergeant Joseph Anthony “Joe” Harris who was hailed as a hero after being killed earlier this summer in a shootout with a burglar in Jemez Springs.

Commissioner Glen Walters said that he was fulfilling a promise to Joe by promoting the Citizen’s Police Academy, which will also be honoring the fallen deputy at a graduation celebration on September 26. The academy is a twelve-week class attended by fifteen to twenty citizens who learn about the Sheriff’s Office and receive hands-on training at crime scenes and traffic stops.

County Manager Juan R. Vigil won unanimous commission approval for a request for proposals for federal lobbying services for Sandoval County. He said that lobbyists are needed to seek federal stimulus funding for several projects, including the Northwest Loop Road, airport improvements, the building of a desalination plant, and Sandoval Broadband.

Community Services Director Peggy Cote was granted unanimous approval for the 2009 Shelter Plus Care Agreement between the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Sandoval County for nine units of tenant-based rental assistance for the chronically homeless and mentally ill for five years. Cote said that the new units will bring the number of units at La Buena Vida to twenty-two. Approval was also granted for a professional services agreement between New Mexico Primary Care Association and Sandoval County Community Health Program to provide on-site Medicaid applications at the Sandoval County Health Commons.

County Line

—Don E. Leonard, Sandoval County Commission Chairman

Sometimes, the people you hope you never have to meet are the ones you may need the most: the men and women in the Sandoval County Fire Department (SCFD).

SCFD’s 243 volunteers, along with the County’s seventeen career firefighters and EMTs, often go unnoticed until their assistance is needed. Then, they provide the highest levels of fire and emergency medical services from seventeen fire stations throughout our unincorporated area.

While most of us would consider risking our lives to save a child or spouse, the County’s firefighters and emergency medical responders—whether volunteer or paid—put their lives in jeopardy to assist strangers who they otherwise would most likely never meet.

Volunteer firefighters and emergency medical service providers are routinely the first to respond to emergency situations. The only rewards they receive for their time, life-threatening work, and skills are the appreciation of County residents and the satisfaction of knowing they are making a difference in many of our lives.

Increasing numbers of emergency situations drive home the importance of their service. In the Torreon Fire District, volunteers are averaging almost two emergency responses every day. In the Placitas District, meanwhile, volunteers will field more than four hundred calls by year’s end. And, SCFD’s records show the numbers of responses are growing at a rate of about ten percent a year.

One challenge faced by SCFD and volunteer fire departments nationally is the difficulty of recruiting and retaining volunteers, especially in today’s economy where people are working multiple jobs or facing time constraints. For information on how you can help your friends and neighbors in times of need, call the Department at (505) 867-0245 or visit SCFD’s website at

SCFD‘s fire districts are based in Algodones, Zia Pueblo, Placitas, La Cueva, Ponderosa, Peña Blanca, Regina, Torreon, and La Madera.

In addition to supporting the volunteer departments with funding, equipment, and supplies, Sandoval County provides comprehensive training for residents wishing to volunteer as firefighters or emergency medical techs. Most volunteers, in fact, are cross-trained in both firefighting and emergency medical services.

Volunteers receive a minimum of 170 hours of training before becoming certified firefighters. A minimum of 120 hours of training is needed to become certified as an entry level EMT. Sandoval County pays for EMT and fire training that follows national standards and the same certification that paid firefighters obtain.

Based on dollar savings alone, the payback for County residents is substantial. SCFD estimates the work by unpaid volunteers saves about $10 million annually.

The County Commission recently recognized the value and high levels of service by the Department’s volunteers and honored three members for their efforts and motivation.

Chief Lee Taylor was recognized as District Chief of the Year for tirelessly managing the La Cueva Fire District and Humberto Macias of the Placitas Fire District was recognized as Volunteer Firefighter of the Year. Renee Ignacio of the Torreon Fire District was honored as Volunteer EMT of the Year for her devotion and John Gurule of the Peña Blanca Fire District was recognized as Junior Volunteer Firefighter of the year for his dedication as a top responder to emergencies.

As they, the other volunteers, and career staff of SCFD know firsthand on a daily basis, their efforts make a considerable difference to all of us, especially in times of need.

Questions or comments for Commissioner Leonard can be mailed to him in care of Sandoval County Administrative Offices, PO Box 40, Bernalillo, NM 87004.


Eight hummingbirds feasting. Photo by Henri Khasky of Placitas.

Construction begins on the Presbyterian Rio Rancho Medical Center

In mid-August, Presbyterian Healthcare Services announced at a news conference that the construction of the Presbyterian Rio Rancho Medical Center is once again underway and full steam ahead. Rio Rancho Mayor Tom Swisstack, Sandoval County Commissioners, and Rio Rancho City Councilors were on hand for the major announcement.

“The construction of the Presbyterian Rio Rancho Medical Center continues the positive momentum taking place in our city as this project is another example of new development that will enhance the quality of life for our residents,” said Rio Rancho Mayor Tom Swisstack.

Presbyterian will invest $165 million in the construction of the Presbyterian Rio Rancho Medical Center. This is the single largest investment in Presbyterian’s hundred-year history. The facility will feature labor and delivery services, intensive care, operating rooms, cardiac services, MRI and imaging, emergency care, and more. Rio Rancho and west side residents will no longer need to cross the river for essential hospital care.

“Presbyterian is committed to building a twenty-first century medical center for Rio Rancho and west side residents,” said Jim Hinton, Presbyterian president and CEO. “We appreciate the community’s patience and support during this process.”

During the last few months, Presbyterian has continued to invest in pre-construction site work and maintained permits and plans. As a result, the sixty-six-bed Presbyterian Rio Rancho Medical Center is expected to be completed in 2011.

The Presbyterian Rio Rancho Medical Center will feature lighting and low noise to promote healing, spacious rooms for patients and their families, and an environmentally-sensitive plan.

Presbyterian Healthcare Services was founded in New Mexico in 1908, and is the state’s only private, not-for-profit healthcare system. Presbyterian offers seven hospitals, a statewide health plan, and a growing multi-specialty medical group. Presbyterian employs more than nine thousand people throughout New Mexico.






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