STANLEY — On just about any other day, B Anaya Road in this quiet, rural community in the far southern reaches of Santa Fe County sees very little traffic, except for maybe the legion of grasshoppers on either side of the 8.29-mile stretch of asphalt.
But Wednesday, the remote road looked like a busy highway as county construction crews began a $105,000 pavement preservation project that’s raising questions about the use of taxpayer funds and how the road was selected for maintenance.
The road ends at the home of the county’s deputy public works director, Robert Martinez, as well as the ex-wife of former County Commissioner Mike Anaya. Anaya’s brother, Robert, also a former county commissioner, owns land off the road, too.
Eric Giron, who served as the county’s road maintenance superintendent for 10 years, said there are other county roads in worse shape that need more attention and that politics are at play.
Giron was direct on who’s to blame.
“[Public Works Director] Michael Kelley and Robert Martinez aren’t going to be there for very much longer, so they are fixing roads for themselves, basically. That way them and the Anayas and the other residents on that road can have a well-maintained road for the future,” said Giron, who resigned last year after a drunken-driving arrest.
“That road does not get a large amount of traffic compared to other roads in Santa Fe County that that material could’ve been used on,” Giron added. “I guess it just bothers me that they’re using their power pretty much to finish the roads before certain people retire and certain people aren’t [with] the county anymore.”
Efforts to reach the Anayas were unsuccessful. Mike Anaya’s ex-wife, Dora, declined to comment.
Neither Kelley nor Martinez, who is scheduled to retire in the fall, returned messages seeking comment.
“They are speaking through me,” county spokeswoman Carmelina Hart said.
Hart said the estimated 4.5-mile chip seal project was done by the book.
“We routinely apply chip seals and perform regular maintenance on county-maintained roads,” she said.
Not including the latest project, the county has performed nearly $1 million in chip sealing work on B Anaya Road in three separate projects in the last 11 years, Hart said. The first project, which covered the first two miles, was done in 2008. The second project, which spanned the next 2.5 miles, was completed in 2013. The third section, which was the most expensive at nearly $600,000, spanned the next two miles. The final stretch of B Anaya Road is unpaved.
“There are not any future projects planned at this point for that last section of Anaya Road,” Hart said.
Hart said the roadwork being done this week will put a new surface on the first 4.5 miles of the paved road.
“Chip seals and maintenance have to be done every five years just to maintain, to preserve the pavement,” she said.
A drive on the road Wednesday, at least the part that had not yet been chip sealed, revealed no obvious problems or ruts.
Hart said it was Giron who noticed some rutting in the pavement last year and recommended the work.
“The new road maintenance superintendent and the projects engineer reviewed the recommendations and agreed the treatment should be applied because of the rutting that was occurring,” she said.
Hart said the county uses a sealcoat manual known as PASER, short for Pavement Surface Evaluation and Rating, to determine the work that needs to be done on a county-maintained road. Hart provided documents showing “slight rutting & traffic wear” on B Anaya Road, which received a rating of 6 that calls for “preventative treatments.”
“It was one that fell into the area of needing maintenance work based on the PASER evaluation,” she said.
Hart also provided a list of road maintenance pavement preservation projects that have recently been completed or will be completed by the end of the summer. The list included B Anaya Road.
But Hart said she didn’t know whether there are other county-maintained roads with lower ratings that didn’t end up on the list.
Asked whether Martinez had any undue influence in the selection of B Anaya Road for chip sealing work, Hart said he didn’t.
“All work that is done is approved by the BCC,” she said, referring to the Board of County Commissioners.
So, everything was done by the book?
“That’s exactly what I’m saying,” she said.
County employees working on the project referred inquiries to Hart. But some workers acknowledged the project was causing turmoil within the department.
“There’s roads that are worse,” one of the workers said.
Giron said the road did in fact have some rutting but that he’s “pretty positive” he didn’t recommend it for chip sealing.
“I’m not the one that makes the final call as to where to spend the money,” he said.
Follow Daniel J. Chacón on Twitter @danieljchacon.