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Arte de Placitas

Humberto Macias, District Chief for Sandoval County Fire Department, accepts $2,500 from Gene and Linda McClain, owners of Arte de Placitas. Photo credit: —Sandra Macias

Community effort brings $$ to local fire department

Signpost Staff

The Placitas Volunteer Fire Brigade (PVFB) has a rich and colorful history. Linda and Gene McClain, owners of Arte de Placitas art gallery, think there has never been a time when fire danger has been more real or when the fire department volunteers should be more appreciated. Through an idea and effort on the part of the gallery, the Placitas community rallied for the fire department volunteers by showing their generosity on August 3. During that afternoon and evening, Arte de Placitas collected more than $2,500 dollars for the fire department.

After a week of silent bidding on artistically painted chairs that were created by local artists Jack Atkins, Bunny Bowen, Mary Carter, Jaymes Dudding, Doreen Goodlin, Bianca Harle, David Johnson, Jade Leyva, Louise Mancuso, Gene McClain, Andrea Nichols, Linda Poe, and Glo Smith, the final bids raised $1,500.

During a brief ceremony to thank and donate the money to the firefighters, Jaymes Dudding displayed a large flag that was fashioned from used hotshot gloves from Arizona and New Mexico. The alternated dark- and light-colored gloves created stripes with the left upper corner replicating the Maltese Cross, which is the firefighters’ symbol.

The party continued and the fire brigade boot was passed during live music provided by local musicians who volunteered for a cumulative four hours. The boot was filled to the brim twice to the music of John Bullock and John Davis, Michael Crofoot, Sage, ClayStone, and Rock Zone, raising an additional one thousand dollars. The McClains thank the bands and music-lovers who attended and gave so kindly. Linda McClain said, “If you missed the August 3 event and would like to make a donation, you can mail a check to: Placitas Volunteer Fire Brigade at P. O. Box 567, Placitas, NM 87043.”


c. Rudi Klimpert

County, Bernalillo, and Corrales declare flood disaster

—Ty Belknap, Signpost

At the August 8 meeting of the Sandoval County Commission, members unanimously adopted a resolution declaring Sandoval County an emergency/disaster area. Sandoval County (SC) suffered damage caused by major thunderstorm events beginning on July 21. There was damage to public infrastructure, including roads and flood control structures designed to provide access and protect the public. All locally available public and private resources and forces available to mitigate and alleviate the damage were deemed insufficient to cope with the resulting situation, initiate repairs, and meet restoration requirements.

An emergency declaration was deemed necessary in order to exercise emergency powers, expenditure of available resources, to request aid, assistance, relief programs, and funds from the state. The resolution will help the county with the fiscal impact of the flooding that occurred. The Town of Bernalillo and the Village of Corrales passed similar declarations.

SC Public Information Officer Sidney Hill said that SC Public Works personnel had been working in the Jemez on a daily basis during the rainy period in late July. Crews cleared debris from culverts, worked on a road that washed out, and replaced a culvert. The SC Fire Department pumped water from homes and yards and provided equipment as needed to Corrales, Bernalillo, and Cuba. Hill said that SC would apply to the state for funding when costs are tallied.

The Corrales Comment reported “Fierce winds, hail, and rain pummeled parts of the village in such intensity that it has been calculated to occur just once in one thousand years.” Tons of silt that washed down roads and arroyos on Corrales’s west side required days to scoop up and haul away. One home had ten feet of mud and water in the basement.

Bernalillo Mayor Jack Torres said that the state had allocated only $500,000 dollars to cover flood damage throughout the state. He said these funds would not go far, considering the fact the Albuquerque alone estimated damage at three million dollars; that some residents with no flood insurance suffered severe damage; and that there was little private or public assistance available.

“It’s frustrating,” Torres said, “I feel for them, but state anti-donation clauses prohibit the Town from providing funds directly to residents.”

Torres said that the eastern part of town along Hill Road and the Mountainview subdivision were the hardest hit. Two Department of Transportation ponds blew out, adding to the intensity of the flooding that caused the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District (MRGCD) ditch to breech, spilling water and mud across yards, into houses, and along the railroad tracks. As much as two inches of rain caused floodwaters to spill into town from several arroyos from the eastern foothills. “It’s not realistic to think that we can avoid damage from a thousand-year flood, but we need to prepare as best we can,” he said.

Torres said that the ponds recently built by the Eastern Sandoval County Arroyo Flood Control Authority helped somewhat. Local fire departments dumped water pumped from yards into the Athena Pond. He was critical of MRGCD for not maintaining its ditches, which provide a major channel for floodwaters. Residents pay taxes to MRGCD to maintain the ditches, which Torres says are in bad shape—uneven, narrow in places, and now clogged with branches and trash. After the floodwaters receded, Hill Road remained closed until mud could be hauled away.


Dying piñon and juniper trees due to climate stress

—Steve M. Lucero, Sandoval County Cooperative Extension Program

Juniper and piñon trees are dying in Sandoval County at a rapid rate, and there seems to be no sign of reprieve.

The hard freeze, followed by the drought, then the monsoon rains has stressed the evergreens, which has made them more susceptible to disease or pest infestation. Bark beetles are taking a toll on the piñon trees. Additionally, a number of junipers are being affected by Phomopsis blight, one of two common blight (fungus) diseases on junipers that may be a major cause of the die-off.

The blight disease is a common landscape problem where higher humidity and top watering create an environment favorable for the blight. The humidity from the recent monsoon storms may have created a perfect combination to promote the spore growth of juniper fungal disease.

Symptoms of the disease are a dieback of the new growth. Infected shoot tips first turn light green or yellow. As the disease progresses, the tissue turns reddish brown. Over time, the disease may kill young plants and may leave mature plants unsightly with large areas of dead or dying needles.

There is no treatment for this fungal disease other than good landscape practices for watering and planting around the home. As fall approaches, climatic changes will help nature protect our native landscape.

Do not assume all juniper tree loss is due to the fungal disease. Much of the loss may be primarily due to the severe drought. We recommend home owners contact the Sandoval County Cooperative Extension Office for help with the diagnosis causing tree loss.


Federal prisoners return to SCDC

Signpost Staff

Sandoval County Public Information Officer Sidney Hill reported that the Sandoval County Detention Center (SCDC) started accepting federal inmates again on August 6. SCDC has finally met federal standards after the US Marshall Service pulled all federal inmates in 2012 following three suicides. The loss of the prisoners impacted the county budget.

Hill said, “We expect to have 32 federal inmates by August 20. At that time, we will continue to accept inmates as the feds send them and we have room. We also are currently housing 82 inmates from Bernalillo County. We typically have about 130 Sandoval County inmates in the facility as well. Total capacity is 386.”


Eastern Sandoval Citizens Association—community watchdog

—Christopher L. Daul, ES-CA

The Eastern Sandoval Citizens Association (ES-CA) will be holding another general meeting in November. The date and time will be announced in the near future. At ES-CA’s last general meeting, a number of topics were discussed, including the proposed expansion of the BLM pipeline, the BLM land-use proposal, and the future of mining operations in the Placitas area. These issues will be updated, as well as additional topics of interest and concern to residents at the meeting. As always, everyone is invited to attend.

ES-CA is monitoring a new development on an old issue—the Fisher Sand and Gravel site. There has been some discussion about a commercial development on that site—in addition to construction—of a storm water management basin, in coordination with ESCAFCA. The property is presently zoned to allow for commercial and residential development. There is also the possibility that this property could be annexed to the Town of Bernalillo. ES-CA has already begun communications with Mayor Jack Torres of Bernalillo, and we hope to ensure that any development does not have a negative impact upon Placitas. We are all aware of the flooding problems that Bernalillo recently experienced, and we certainly welcome Bernalillo’s efforts to control storm water in their community.

ES-CA will also be holding elections in November for the four district directors and is now welcoming nominations of candidates. While you must be a paid dues member of ES-CA to run, new members are allowed to put their name in nomination. Yearly membership is fifty dollars.

In addition to the election, ES-CA would like to encourage people to volunteer for any of the committees, which are: Membership; Political/Legal; Communications; and IT (information technology). Membership in a committee is a great way to become involved in the issues that Placitans face and to play a role in trying to solve these issues.

ES-CA is also looking for people who want to act as “Watchdogs.” “Watchdogs” attend various local meetings, such as Sandoval County Commissioner meetings, SC Planning and Zoning meetings, Bernalillo meetings and other events, and report back as to what action transpired. This helps ES-CA to stay on top of what other public entities are doing that may affect us here in Placitas.

ES-CA has been working hard over the past few years to protect the interests of all residents of Placitas, but it takes a lot of time and a lot of work, and ES-CA can really use your time and effort. Volunteers in any role are always welcomed, and we encourage you to visit www.es-ca.org to check out what we are doing and how you can help.


Horse advocates clash with CSWCD at monthly meeting

—Ty Belknap, Signpost

Leading advocates for free-roaming horses in Placitas turned out for the August 6 monthly meeting of the Coronado Soil and Water Conservation District (CSWCD) in an attempt to dissuade board members from passing a resolution that calls for the removal of the horses from public and private lands and roadways in the Placitas area.

CSWCD is one of 48 political subdivisions created by the Soil and Water Conservation District Act in 1965. It is charged with various responsibilities involving the protection of natural resources. Its authority involving drainage and erosion issues in land-use planning has traditionally been ignored by Sandoval County. Although it has been marginalized in the past, CSWCD has in recent years sought to fulfill its mission through maintaining the Piedra Lisa flood control dam above the Town of Bernalillo, holding educational programs at the schools, doing a forest restoration project, leading the Firewise Project, and being an advocate for water conservation.

CSWCD was ignored by the New Mexico Livestock Board (NMLB) when it ordered them to remove the Placitas horses in June. Recently elected CSWCD board member Gary Miles of Placitas Animal Rescue filed a complaint with the New Mexico Attorney General, alleging a violation of the Open Meeting Act when the removal order was issued. The board denies this allegation. Miles has constantly been at odds with the rest of the CSWCD board. He sat across the room from the board and recorded the meeting on his iPad.

Free-roaming horse advocates attending the August 6 meeting included Wild Horse Observers Association WHOA president Patience O’Dowd, as well as Sandy and Bob Johnson who are WHOA supporters and co-plaintiffs in the ongoing WHOA vs. Bureau of Land Management lawsuit, which alleges that the BLM planned to round up protected wild horses from its lands near Placitas.

O’Dowd passed out literature and delivered wild horse talking points: horses deserve protection as a reintroduced native species that benefit the environment, and that this information is suppressed because  of a government and media bias that could lead to the slaughter of horses. For more details, visit whoanm.org.

Johnson, also president of the Las Placitas Association (LPA), told the CSWCD board that if they really cared about the environment, they would spend their time keeping tabs on the pipelines and gravel mines, which pose a bigger threat.

Free-range horse advocates, until recently, had unchallenged control of the status quo and have fostered a policy, or lack thereof, that has led to an unlimited numbers of horses with an unlimited range. Several automobile accidents involving estray horses prompted Sandoval County Commissioner Orlando Lucero to host a meeting in June that focused on the threats of uncontrolled, starving herds of horses. This meeting, along with the CSWCD removal order, may have prompted the horse advocates to feed and corral some of the horses, and to get them off the highway. Miles has played a major role in these efforts which are viewed as inadequate by the rest of the board.

During the August 6 meeting, each CSWCD board member took liberal advantage of ten minutes to talk about pet projects. Three hours into the meeting, when it was Miles’s turn to speak, he carried an American flag into the meeting room and led the board in recitation of the pledge of allegiance, then he turned the remainder of his time over to O’Dowd.

When the CSWCD finally moved on to further agenda items, Miles called the Sheriff’s Office to report a perceived threat from board member Lynn Montgomery. Deputy Foster wrote in her incident report that she met Miles outside the meeting room, where he stated that he and Montgomery exchanged words and that Montgomery asked him if he wanted to step outside. She wrote in her report: “Miles interpreted this to mean he wanted to fight and felt threatened by his words.”

Foster’s report states that Montgomery told her:

“Miles was being disruptive in the meeting and because they have a set agenda and limited time, he would speak to him outside. He did not intend for Mr. Miles to be threatened in any manner.”

The report goes on to say that four witnesses back up Montgomery, and all agree that, “Miles was being disorderly and rude. They said his behavior is typical during the meetings and that he is using this as a trivial complaint, one of many that he has made.”

The deputy said that she would review Miles’s iPad recording and determine whether charges would be filed.

The report concluded:

“Based on statements provided at this time, I do not interpret the incident as a threat that Mr. Montgomery was attempting to commit a battery against Mr. Miles.”

The CSWCD board completed its agenda without Miles, voting unanimously in favor of two resolutions:

  • Resolution No. 8-6-2013(A): A resolution stating the position of the Coronado Soil and Water Conservation District concerning estray, free-roaming horses in Placitas which is to remove the horses from private and public land in Placitas; and
  • Resolution No. 8-6-2013(B): A resolution to draft a comprehensive Land and Water Use Stewardship Plan for the Coronado Soil and Water Conservation District.

[Both resolutions are posted on the Signpost September web edition following this article.]

Miles stated in a widely distributed email sent to the Signpost:

I believe that the Coronado board does not have the authority nor the expertise to order the removal of our Placitas Wild Horses… What I have seen in my first month on the board is that the current members have disdain for the public that they claim to represent, they lack knowledge of the basic decorum needed to be public servants, and they rely almost exclusively in their own prejudices and political whims to make decisions and have no interest in following the law as stated in the Soil and Water Conservation Act, the Inspection of Public Records Act, or the Open Meetings Act. Furthermore, I have been threatened twice in the past three meetings by board members. I find this intolerable, and this past meeting I called the Sheriff and will be filing a report and pressing charges.

CSWCD chairman Will Ouellette stated in a widely distributed email:

The CSWCD cannot fulfill its purpose and mission to protect the natural resources of the District, specifically in the Placitas area, with the continuing presence of the one hundred, or more, estray, free-roaming horses, which have already caused massive destruction to the native vegetation, topsoil, and water resources of the area, thereby causing potentially disastrous erosion problems. Further, the CSWCD cannot embark on its stated objective of promulgating a comprehensive land and water stewardship program for the District while the overpopulation of estray, free-roaming horses continues to impair the natural resources of the area. The CSWCD therefore requests the assistance of all interested agencies and officials, including the New Mexico Department of Agriculture, the Livestock Board, the County of Sandoval, and the Bureau of Land Management for assistance in confining and removing the horses as soon as practicable.


Resolution re: Placitas Horses—download as pdf
Resolution re: Land Use Plan—download as pdf

 
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