Archive for Santa Fe County

A Titanic Sinking: Google Drones Fly Away

by John Weckerle

In April 2014, your editor and a number of other people received an e-mail message containing very good news: Titan Aerospace, a solar-powered drone startup operating at the Moriarty Municipal Airport – had been purchased by Google, and the project was to stay in Moriarty. As reported in the Mountain View Telegraph less than sixteen months later, Google abruptly announced its decision to abandon Moriarty and move the operation to California, reportedly so that it could better facilitate coordination with its other aviation-related operations.  Google leaves behind a $15 million, 60,000 square-foot facility at the airport, and will be repaying a $1 million dollar grant for water and sewer upgrades.

State and local officials, while expressing disappointment, have variously downplayed the negative and emphasized the positive, seeking to find a silver lining in this particular cloud.  Governor Martinez was reported to have called the move disappointing and expressed support for the community (KOAT), while U.S. Representative Michelle Lujan Grisham was somewhat more pointed in her expression of disappointment (Albuquerque Business First).  New Mexico Economic Development Secretary Jon Barela emphasized that the State would recover its million-dollar infrastructure investment, and noted that the situation leaves Moriarty with assets that “will be able to benefit from water and sewage lines built with the state grant. Barela said the structural improvements ‘can help attract future projects to the state.'” (Santa Fe New Mexican). Moriarty Mayor Ted Hart, quoted in several of the previously referenced articles, characterizes the economic impacts as minimal (and in a direct and immediate way, at least, he may be right) and cited some apparent, though vague, commitment by Google to work with the City to find a use for the facility.

Reactions, at least in the form of responses to news stories, have been varied.  Some cite problems with in-state higher education, others point to workforce issues, others mentioned inexperience in aviation and excessive optimism on Google’s part, and still others blame Governor Susanna Martinez (while our positions often do not align with Ms. Martinez’s, we acknowledge that blaming her directly for this one is similar to blaming her for a meteorite strike or the weather.  More likely suspects would include the Easter bunny, Godzilla, or extraterrestrials. Or maybe the East Mountain Tea Party.).

It’s clear that much of the general reaction was surprise.  Our reaction was two fold: surprise (we were surprised by all the surprise, because we were surprised by Google’s initial decision to operate here in the first place) and something more typical…

A drive to look at some data.  We admit it; we’re nerds. Acknowledging that Google’s decision election to move was clearly business-based, we wondered what local factors might have influenced the decision and started to pull some economic data together.  As we worked through the data, we recognized that one of our regional economies is clearly in distress.

That’s right; we said one of them.  There are, at the very least, two.

»» A Titanic Sinking: Google Drones Fly Away


by John Weckerle

In the November 1, 2012 edition of the Mountainview Telegraph, Edgewood resident and Tea Party organizer Bob Steiner provides a letter to the editor titled “Property Rights and Edgewood.”  In the letter, Mr. Steiner opens with a lament with respect to the multiplicity of jurisdictions to be encountered near the borders of a small town located near the borders of three counties.  These focus on the multiple jurisdictions as they apply to emergency services and animal control, and the duplication of services.  About halfway through the letter, Mr. Steiner gets to the main point: that Santa Fe County has proposed a Sustainable Land Development Code (SLDC) and “that may really hurt some county residents.”  Mr. Steiner, after stating vaguely that the ordinance “will force land owners to strictly adhere to severe new restrictions that limit where they could erect housing and industrial buildings,” declares that “It also dictates that some multi-family housing (apartments) must be built.”

A sentence or two further on, after suggesting that the County has assembled a sort of ideological goon squad to market the ordinance, Mr. Steiner states: “According to another local press source, this “simple” ordinance has some 350 pages and has still to be vetted by legal authority.”  This would, on the face of it, seem to suggest that Mr. Steiner had not actually seen the ordinance, and we figured that we should take a look.  Employing more of the advanced research techniques that are available to us and not the Tea Party – the County web site, Adobe Reader, and the CTRL and F keys – we were able to isolate all uses of “multi” in the document (there are 75), and determine that there is absolutely nowhere in the document where the use of “multi” involves a requirement to build anything.  Neither do references to “apartments” (7 instances).

There is, however, a requirement that a certain percentage of housing be affordable, which might be part of the confusion, as such requirements tend to cause some heartburn in certain circles – especially circles that have gone on record with the opinion that sustainability is some sort of international socialist conspiracy.  This section of the ordinance – Chapter 13 – also causes some indigestion here, although for different reasons.  Chapter 13 contains references to terms not defined or used in any other place in the ordinance (for example, Major Project and Minor Project).  The ordinance requires the Affordable Housing Administrator to “recommend and present to the Board proposed Affordable Housing Regulations” and appropriate amendments.  The affordable housing requirements in the ordinance rely on income ranges “specified in the affordable housing regulations,” which of course would appear not to have been passed, at least based on the wording of the ordinance.  Proper definitions and regulatory references are vital to any ordinance and, based on this and a quick perusal of other parts of the ordinance, we find it difficult to argue against Mr. Steiner’s suggestion that it has not benefited from a thorough legal review – which we think should happen before, and not after, release to the public.

While we agree that the County should proceed slowly, it is not because of unspecified, probably fictitious, egregious requirements but because the ordinance as currently worded simply does not appear to pass muster as a well-organized and enforceable document.  Because we are staunch supporters of sustainability (which probably brands us as socialist conspirators from Planet Ten), we’d like to suggest that the County engage their attorneys and other specialists in developing sustainable development codes, rework the document to a greater degree of completion, and reissue it for public review.

In case Edgewood residents are concerned about where they fall in all this: we feel it important to point out that this ordinance specifically applies, as pointed out in Section 1.8, to the unincorporated portion of the County, which does not include Edgewood.

Santa Fe County Press Release: Santa Fe County Burn Restrictions Lifted

Santa Fe County – August 17, 2011 – Due to recent rains and an increase in precipitation the fire danger level for Santa Fe County has dropped and Open Burn Restrictions established with Ordinance 2011-5 have been lifted.

Burn permits obtained from Santa Fe County Fire Department prior to the implementation of the Open Burn Restrictions are void and a new permit must be obtained.  Permits can be obtained from your local fire district or from the Santa Fe County Fire Prevention Division.

“Despite the recent rains, precipitation levels are still below normal for this time of year.  We ask that residents use caution when burning and follow the terms and conditions of the Open Burn Permit to avoid a wildland fire or a fire on their property,” said Interim Chief David Sperling.

If residents have built up a large pile of vegetation during restrictions, they will need to break that down into smaller controllable piles prior to burning.  Residents are reminded the burning of trash is illegal in Santa Fe County and can be reported by calling (505) 428-3730.

For more information on Open Burning in Santa Fe County, please contact the Fire Prevention Division at (505) 995-6523 or visit

Press Release: Santa Fe County Assessor is Accepting Annual Property Valuation Freeze Applications

Santa Fe – April 26, 2011- Santa Fe County Assessor Domingo P. Martinez would like to remind residents that the Assessor’s Office is now accepting the annual valuation freeze application for property owners who qualify.  Certain Santa Fe County property owners who occupy single-family dwellings may be eligible for a freeze on their taxable value as determined by the Santa Fe County Assessor’s Office.  Freezing the property valuation will minimize future tax obligations for those who qualify.

The valuation freeze is available to property owners age 65 and older, those who are considered permanently disabled and whose total household modified gross income did not exceed $32,000 in 2010. All applicants must meet the income requirement.  To qualify for the valuation freeze, you must apply annually no later than 30 days after the official date of mailing of the Santa Fe County Assessor’s Official Notice of Value. This year the deadline is May 16, 2011.

  • Required supporting documentation when applying to qualify for the valuation freeze by age and income includes a completed application, proof of income (a copy of the property owner’s 2010 New Mexico income tax return and 2010 federal income tax return) and proof of age (a valid New Mexico driver’s license or birth certificate).
  • Required supporting documentation when applying to qualify due to disability and income include a completed application, proof of income (a copy of the property owner’s 2010 New Mexico income tax return and 2010 federal income tax return) and an award letter from either Social Security or Workers’ Compensation confirming the permanent disability.

“It is important that people who may qualify for this freeze are aware of it,” said County Assessor Domingo Martinez, “We encourage people to apply and take advantage of this benefit, especially in these tough economic times.”

Property Valuation Freeze applications and other exemption forms are available at the Santa Fe County Assessor’s Office at 102 Grant Ave., Santa Fe, NM 87501 or

For more information contact the Assessor’s Office, (505) 986-6300 or visit

Local Phone Service Interrupted

by John Weckerle

KOBTV reports that internet and phone service have been restored to our area after having been interrupted due to the accidental cutting of a Qwest fiber optic cable in Tijeras.  Another crew cut a line south of Soccorro that interrupted service  to much of the southern part of the State.  KOBTV and other sources suggested that cell phones be used to make emergency contact.

That would have been fine, we suppose, except for those of us whose cell phone service was also affected.  As it turns out, we had a medical emergency here at New Mexico Central headquarters shortly after the outage began, and found that our Sprint cell service was also inoperative.  Unable to make ANY connections to contact doctors or emergency response people for advice, we made our own run to the ER in Albuquerque and took care of the problem ourselves (everything will be fine).

We would like to know more about this situation: the identity of the contractors, what led to the accidental cutting of the cables, whether any negligence was involved, what corrective actions and/or sanctions are being implemented, and what Qwest may be able to do provide some level of backup service in the event that cables are accidentally cut in the future.

El Nino Rides Again

by John Weckerle

Winter Sunrise in Southern Santa Fe County -  Photo by John Weckerle

Winter Sunrise - Southern Santa Fe County

Sunday’s snowstorm brought about a foot of snow to New Mexico Central headquarters.  Fortunately for us, the snow melted sufficiently to allow us to make our appointments in Albuquerque yesterday afternoon.  First thing in the morning, though, the snow was fresh and deep, allowing your editor and Senior Snowpack Analyst Wilson to set out just before sunrise and survey the situation.  We were not disappointed, and we’re looking forward to the April (and thereafter) flowers that will likely benefit from the recent weather.

Winter Storm Dumps Major Snow Load (So Far)

Sedillo Hill camera at 8:33 a.m.

by John Weckerle

Snow is falling heavily here at New Mexico Central headquarters, and has been since sometime during the night.  Depending on where we dig, we can see anything from eight inches to a foot.  Areas shoveled less than half an hour ago are under two to three inches of snow already.  Road reports are not encouraging, and neither are the roadside camera shots from  Cameras at I-40 & NM 14, and at Carnuel, are iced over, with no image available except for the ice on the camera.  The I-40 & Zamora Rd. Camera shows some snow in both lanes, and having looked at two consecutive images, we think it may be getting worse there.  The Sedillo Hill camera shows at least some snow in all lanes – and both cameras show snow still falling. According to, the following schools in our area are closed:

  • East Mountain High School

    Senior Meteorological Correspondent Wilson Taking Scientific Snow Depth Measurements

    Senior Meteorological Correspondent Wilson Taking Scientific Snow Depth Measurements

  • Edgewood Christian School
  • Mountainair Junior High
  • Albuquerque Public Schools East Mountain Schools
  • Estancia Municipal Schools
  • Moriarty-Edgewood Schools
  • Mountainair Public Schools

TCPO To Go Transportation and the Estancia and Moriarty Magistrate Courts are also closed.  If we’ve missed any schools, we’d appreciate it if our readers would let us know.

Lest the local climate change “skeptics” get too excited, let’s remember that winter storms of this nature (and the frequency with which they’ve been occurring) are typical of El Nino conditions – a warming of surface waters in the Pacific Ocean.

Wolves Wend Way to Wildlife West

by John Weckerle

Yesterday saw the arrival of three very important personages at Albuquerque’s Double Eagle Airport aboard an aircraft provided by Lighthawk, a conservation organization of volunteer pilots providing support to environmental and ecological efforts.  Three Mexican grey wolves arrived from the National Zoo to begin the last leg of the trip to their new home – Wildlife West Nature Park in Edgewood, New Mexico.  The plane was scheduled to return east with a retired female wolf from the Sevilleta Wolf Management Facility, bound for New York.

The arrival of the male and two females represents a substantial increase in Wildlife West’s participation in the wolf recovery effort, more than doubling the Park’s population of lobos.  The new arrivals will take up residence in new habitat space adjacent to the existing wolf enclosure.

The Park’s Christmas present comes with a price, however; food, veterinary care, and other expenses will require financial resources that are already strained.  Those wishing to help the Park and its participation in the wolf recovery program would do well to visit the Park’s web site and consider making a donation; any support would certainly be appreciated.

Oh, The Weather Outside…

by John Weckerle

Last night brought us some fairly intense weather here at NM-Central headquarters, with times of snow, freezing rain, thunder and lightning, and high winds.  This morning seems dominated by the wind, although weather authorities warn of more potential precipitation before the system has passed.  Local TV stations indicate that the Estancia Valley, including Estancia itself, will likely bear the brunt of the storm in our area.  The northern part of the state has received substantial snowfall.  Here at NM-Central, we’ve received a few inches or so. reports that road conditions in the area are (at best) snow-packed and icy.  According to, Moriarty-Edgewood schools and Estancia schools are closed, and East Mountain High School and APS schools are on a two-hour delay.  We have not been able to find any information on Mountainair’s schools.   We recommend that our readers stay home if they can, and to those who can’t, please be extra cautious.

Santa Fe County Presents Water Plan Update, City Watershed Thinned

by John Weckerle

On September 29, 2009, Karen Torres of Santa Fe County presented the latest information on the plan for a backup for the Buckman water diversion to serve County residents in the Santa Fe vicinity.  Ms. Torres outlined the County’s strategy for identifying potential locations for backup wells, including soil/rock type (primarily interested in the Tesuque Formation as well as Precambrian granite and Permian limestone), groundwater chemistry, distance to existing water lines, pressure zones, proximity to springs, distance to aquifer decline areas, slope, and proximity to springs/sumps, among others.  Ms. Torres indicated that the County was looking for sources near Santa Fe and was not considering sources in the Estancia Basin, indicating that the County is “not doing to badly on supply in our own area.”  Only two local residents attended the Edgewood meeting.

In related news: Many of us saw smoke rising to the more-or-less north recently.  This was the result of an open-burn project aimed at thinning the Santa Fe Watershed, which provides about 40% of the city’s water supply.  The burn was completed successfully, and we hope that Santa Fe benefits from the project.

Time To Circle The Water Wagons?

by John Weckerle

Today, we received the following message from Karen Torres of  Santa Fe County, forwarded by  the Estancia Valley Economic Development Association:

The Santa Fe County Water and Wastewater Operations Department will be conducting a series of public meetings to facilitate public input on proposed well locations to serve as a back-up water supply to the Buckman Direct Diversion Project.

  • Wednesday, September 23rd 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm at the Nancy Rodriquez Center (1 Prairie Dog Loop)
  • Thursday, September 24th 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm at the Eldorado Senior Center (14 Avenida Torreon)
  • Monday, September 28th 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm at the Rodeo Grounds Extension Office (3229 Rodeo Rd.)
  • Tuesday, September 29th 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm at the Santa Fe County Edgewood Satellite Office (1916 Old US 66, Edgewood)
  • Wednesday, September 30th 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm at the Pojoaque Satellite Office (West Gutierrez, Suite 9, Pojoaque Center)

For more information, call Karen Torres at 992.9871.

Uh-oh. »» Time To Circle The Water Wagons?

Public Service Announcement: Wildlife Safe Passage Meeting Tomorrow

by John Weckerle

We have received word from Linda Hill that the New Mexico Department of Transportation will be holding a meeting on Wildlife Safe Passage from Tijeras to Edgewood tomorrow at 4:30 p.m.  at Wildlife West Nature Park’s Bean Barn.  Wildlife Safe Passage uses a combination of tactics – fencing, underpasses, etc. to help prevent wildlife from crossing highways such as Interstate 40 and being struck by vehicles.  Wildlife Passage also helps reduce the impacts of highways on animal migration, reproduction, foraging, access to water, and other ecologically essential activities.  A similar effort was undertaken in Tijeras Canyon, where the DOT worked with the City of Albuquerque and local groups such as the Tijeras Canyon Safe Passage Coalition and others.

For a map and directions to Wildlife West, see the Park’s map & directions page.

Edgewood Kite Festival and Green Energy Fair

by John Weckerle

Kite Festival PhotoThe Town of Edgewood will hold its annual Green Energy and Kite Festival at Wildlife West Nature Park this Saturday and Sunday, May 2-3, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.  The event includes kite flying contests; stunt kite demonstrations; and remote control gliders.  Green energy and sustainable living demonstrations will be given including solar electricity; renewable energy; water harvesting (tours of Wildlife West’s water harvesting features); wind energy; biodiesel, hybrid; electric, and fuel cell vehicles; a solar oven; and solar-powered car kits.  Workshops will be conducted on the T. Boone Pickens plan for restructuring the nation’s energy system, permaculture, and more.  The Albuquerque Astronomical Society will be providing stunning views of the Moon and Sun, and there will be music from Trombone Troubadours and the Messangers Choir.  The event also marks the debut of Wildlife West’s new Disc Golf Course.  All the aforementioned events are free to the public and vendors.

In addition, inside the Park’s enhanced zoo (see the Park web site  for admissions information), Artists for Wildlife West will hold their Pre-Mother’s Day Artistfaire.  For more information, see the event flyer and the Wildlife West site, or contact Roger Holden, Edgewood Parks and Recreation Director, at (505) 286-4518 (e-mail:

Gimme Shelter – Part 1

by John Weckerle

(Editor’s Note: Chuck Ring contributed substantially to this article)

In a January 22 article on outlining financial problems faced by the Moriarty-Edgewood School District, Mountain View Telegraph writer Lee Ross reports on apparent consternation among the local school board members regarding the new Estancia Valley Regional Animal Shelter proposed to be located in Edgewood’s Section 16, south of Edgewood Middle School.  According to the article, Moriarty-Edgewood School Superintendent stated: “I honestly did not have any idea that this was going into place.”

Excuse me?

As pointed out by former Town Council member and animal friend Chuck Ring, the regional animal shelter has been the subject  of at least 13 articles in the Telegraph alone, all but one of which mentions Section 16 as the location for the facility.  One would expect that elected officials would keep abreast of issues affecting the interests of the District, and that District personnel would be scanning the news for such issues and reporting back to the school board.  Further, a naming contest was held in coordination with the school district, and Ms. Couch reportedly participated directly in that effort. »» Gimme Shelter – Part 1

Edgewood Considering Windmills Without Requiring Permits

 by John Weckerle

Tonight, with very little fanfare before the fact, the Town of Edgewood will hold public hearings on a proposed amendment to the zoning ordinance to allow windmills as a permitted use in all residential areas.  Towers may be up to 80 feet tall  on small lots (1/2 to 1 acre)  and with no limit on height on larger lots.  The ordinance can be found here.

The proposed revision appears overly simplistic and indicates that inadequate consideration was given to the complex issues associated with wind turbine use in residential settings.  For example, the noise requirement states that a level of 60 decibels may not be exceeded at the “closest neighboring inhabited dwelling.”  In some situations, there may be many undeveloped lots between the windmill and the next inhabited dwelling, potentially rendering those lots uninhabitable and depriving the owners of the ability to build homes on them.  Taken in that context, some may suspect that the windmill ordinance has a certain “anti-development” goal. Allowing wind turbines – and their associated towers, to be permitted rather than conditional uses seems to ignore the complex and varied residential configurations found within Edgewood’s rather extensive land area. »» Edgewood Considering Windmills Without Requiring Permits