Rio Rancho City Manager David S. Campbell

The Aug. 22 quarterly luncheon of the Rio Rancho Regional Chamber of Commerce covered upcoming events, more roadwork on Southern Boulevard and the needs of the local school district.

Flyers on the tables highlighted a Sept. 21 “Shop & Stroll Street Party” on Southern Boulevard to commemorate completion of phase 1 of its reconstruction, with live music and entertainment on three stages.

Mayor Gregg Hull showed enthusiasm over the completion of the first phase of reconstruction on Southern and the Oct. 18 Mayor’s Gala, with the theme “Do You Believe in Magic?”

“The first lady (Carrie Hull) is very excited about this this year because there’s a new component, called the First Lady’s After-Party,” Hull explained. “After we get done with the banquet and everything, then we’re going to move down to The Stage, which is the entertainment venue there at the (Star Casino), and there’ll be this after-party.

“Now, I don’t know what she has planned there, so I’m just gonna go home.”

Road work

Hull also updated attendees on four city road projects recently completed: Montreal Loop, Abrazo Road, Rockaway Boulevard and Meadowlark Lane.

“Those four projects have all come in on time and under budget,” he said, drawing applause.

And Hull provided more good news: “If you haven’t heard it on the news yet, (Wednesday) the City of Rancho was awarded $800,000 that we’ll be putting toward the reconstruction of Southern Boulevard west of Unser — so we’re going to leapfrog a little bit.”

The $800,000 grant from the state Department of Transportation is matching money adding to money the city and Sandoval County earmarked for the project, with a total budget of $2.1 million, Hull said before the program started.

From Unser Boulevard to 15th Street, Southern will receive mill and inlay work to redo the surface. From 15th to Rainbow Boulevard, workers will entirely reconstruct the street, he said.

The project does not include adding more lanes or sidewalks.

Getting more laughs during his presentation, Hull reminded folks, “In the last bond issue, 78 percent of you voted ‘yes’ on (road projects), so eight out of 10 of you approved those orange barrels.”

First impressions

Then came the humorous presentation, an introduction to many, by new City Manager David Campbell, who, in a former job of his as an international diplomat, occasionally provided reports for guest ambassadors.

“I was a U.S. diplomat working overseas,” he said. “I’m going to take my training for that and introduce you to what we do as diplomats when we go to a new post.”

Campbell outlined 15 points for “U.S. Embassy Rio Rancho,” which included a brief history of what once was known as Rio Rancho Estates and his first impressions of the city.

“Inexplicably, they prefer to call themselves Rio Ranchoans (instead of Rio Rancheros),” he said, adding points on the city’s history, business, school district, athletics success, public safety, medical infrastructure, first-rate library system, utilities and public infrastructure, chamber of commerce, weather, diversity of its residents, and more.

Understanding what many residents consider the elephant in the room, Campbell said, “Locals tell us that Rio Rancho needs a gathering place and if properly developed, the City Center can anchor a tremendous urban revitalization project; the mayor and city manager are working on just such a project, along with the governing body.”

Campbell also lamented a “chronic backlog of road projects that the city is working to catch up on,” quipping that he’d found “about 140 roads named after women … and there are 94 roads named after men.”

His 20-minute speech was well-received.

School bonds

When he was done, Rio Rancho Public Schools Superintendent Sue Cleveland told of the importance of the district’s $60 million bond issue going before voters in November — pointing out there’d be no increase in taxes if approved. She said six schools need new HVAC systems, for which about $43 million from the bonds would be necessary.

Because of current air-conditioning systems not functioning well, she said, students are “miserable in the classrooms” in extreme heat.

The district, formed in 1994, is no longer new, Cleveland reminded listeners, and money must be spent to maintain the facilities. One of the two new schools under construction and expected to open next August, Shining Star Preschool, is a must, she said, because its current campus — originally Stapleton Elementary as part of Albuquerque Public Schools — “is literally falling apart.”

She received support from Chamber President and CEO Jerry Schalow: “Without the school district, we aren’t Rio Rancho.”