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Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Friday, August 26, 2005

Feds remove city’s deadline on CJC wages

Town of Pecos City officials no longer have a deadline to institute payment of back wages for employees at the Pecos Criminal Justice Center. But they still are waiting for a decision by the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Marshal’s Service on whether CJC workers will receive $222,000 in back wages, and if the city will end up having to shoulder the cost of that increase.

“Basically, we’re going to wait for the Marshals to make a ruling,” said city finance director Sam Contreras on Wednesday. “They took away the deadline until it gets resolved.”

Contreras and city manager Joseph Torres planned to update city council members on the situation during their regular meeting at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday. The item is one of a number on the council’s regular agenda.

City officials were informed earlier this year by the Department of Labor (DOL) that workers at the 96-bed facility had to be paid at federal wage rates similar to those for guards at the Reeves County Detention Center I and II. The city was also told they had to pay those workers back wages to make up for the lower pay scales.

The CJC houses U.S. Marshal’s Service prisoners under a contract with the city, and the agency funds much of the cost of hiring workers for the facility. But officials with the Marshal’s Service balked at paying the increased costs, and Torres said the agency’s financial situation is the reason they’re fighting the DOL ruling, which would affect other cities and counties that have agreements with the service to house federal inmates awaiting trial or sentencing.

“If you look at their webpage, their financials show they have a $215 million deficit. That’s what the Marshals are looking at,” Torres said.

Torres said new personnel at both the DOL and the Marshal’s Service are discussing the situation, after initially giving the city a 30-day extension on the DOL’s 90-day compliance deadline, which expired on Aug. 19.

As an emergency measure on Aug. 18, the council approved paying CJC workers one-quarter of the back pay total, roughly $55,000, while awaiting a final decision by the federal agencies. The city may be required to pay the remainder of the $222,000 and it may be reimbursed by the Marshal’s Service; if not, city officials said the $55,000 would be treated as a bonus for the workers, who would not be required to repay the money.

Other items up for discussion by the council at their Thursday meeting were appointment of a Municipal Court Judge to replace Amanario Ramon; an executive session of consider/discuss the duties of Pecos Ambulance Service personnel; discussion of agreements with Reeves County and with the Reeves County Community Sports and Recreation Department; discussion of use of municipal land for the Pecos High School homecoming bonfire; and discussion and consideration of a revised tax planning calendar for 2005.

Bondman’s suit against Gomez tossed by Parks

A lawsuit filed against Reeves County Sheriff Andy Gomez alleging bonding services were being directed away from an El Paso man’s business was found to be groundless and the complainant was charged for attorney fees.

Pascual Olibas, a bondsman from El Paso who formerly lived in the Pecos area, had filed the lawsuit against Gomez alleging a withholding of public records and alleging an injunction to go forward into the future. However, 143rd District Judge Bob Parks found the suit had no merit under the state’s Open Records Act, and ordered Olibas to pay $4,800 in attorneys fees.

Parks said the legislature in its wisdom has adopted an act, which is substantially implementing a public right to know about the public business.

“The court is very much in support of such an act. I think the legislature also assumes that there will be good faith on both sides as they attempt to approach these matters. I think a review of the petitioner’s exhibit would show that there have been a very large number of requests by Mr. Olivas and his agents of the sheriff for information; nevertheless, that does not in and of itself imply any kind of bad faith.”

Judge Parks said that a review of these indicate a considerable interest by Mr. Olivas in the details of the operation of the sheriff’s department well outside of the normal interest of someone engaged in the bonding business who is not a resident or voter in this county; nevertheless, that doesn’t prohibit him from making such inquiries to the extent such information is maintained by his department.

Parks agreed with the statement by Gomez’s attorneys that the sheriff did not have to compile information in the format requested by Olibas or do so without a fee being charged.

“The court disagrees with Mr. Olibas in his implication that there is not a complete response to his information request in petitioner’s exhibit number one,” Parks wrote in his decision. “The sheriff tells him there’s not such a list, but that, nevertheless, he will look to see what additional information he may have, which is one of the permitted responses, although, in general, any deferred response is to have time deadlines. “ Judge Parks added that he had serious doubts that this is in fact, a good-faith effort by Mr. Olibas.

“The nature of other inquiries, as well as this inquiry, reveal kind of a randomness that may, in fact, be, for whatever reason, an attempt at harassment of the sheriff’s office,” the judge said, in ruling that the suit was filed groundlessly and in bad faith.

The ruling also found that under the Declaratory Judgment Act, that the response of the sheriff was reasonable and timely.

“All of that being said, the court awards attorney’s fees in this matter totaling $4,800; $3,000 for Attorney Bill Weinacht’s services; $1,800 for Mr. Dennis Dennis’ of Midland services through the time of the trial and will take judicial notice of the request for additional fees and provide for those in a final judgment in this case,” said Judge Parks.

Old favorites offered at new food stand

Sno cones and a wide variety of snacks are available at the new Sno Queen located at 701 Cedar Street.

The Sno Queen, which is open Thursday, Friday and Saturday, began as a small stand, but will offer a “little” bit of everything to snack on, after expanding their building in recent weeks.

“We decided to open up the stand due to popular demand,” said co-owner Olga Lopez. “People wanted something good and fast and we offer lots of treats for the kids.”

“We wanted something to do and this seemed like a good business opportunity,” said Lopez.

“We have an assortment of flavors of sno cones and they are all made with shaved ice,” said Lopez.

The most popular sno cone? The pickle sno cone, which comes complete with chopped up pickles on top.

“The little ones enjoy the sno cones, because we put gummi bears on top,” said Lopez. Sno cones are not the only things you can order at the corner stand. Frito pies, chili dogs and one of their most popular items, popcorn balls.

Lopez and her business partner, Jerry Matta, recently expanded to put in a grill.

“We want to start making the famous Frito burgers and curly cue fries,” said Lopez. Matta said that his dad, Ben Matta, who was owner of Ben’s Spanish Inn, which was located on Third Street, for many years wanted to participate in the growing business. As a result, one day a month, the Ben’s famous chili rellenos will be available at the little restaurant.

Ben’s Spanish Inn was open for about 45 years, beginning in 1940 and was famous for their chili rellenos.

The name for the business came from nostalgia. “We used to have a sno queen on the east side and it was really popular,” said Matta. “So the name is nostalgic, I just wanted to name it sno queen, even though we’ll be offering different things,” he said.

Matta said that they had originally planned to buy a portable building to use during the 16th of September Fiestas.

“Then we found this one and everything just started snowballing and we decided to make it permanent,” said Matta. “We decided to add to our menu and are now expanding to include the frito burgers everyone loves,” he said.

Lopez said that they will also be offering sugar free sno cones.

Barstow man remains jailed after shooting

The man charged with shooting a Barstow man on Aug. 17 remains in Ward County Jail following a bond reduction hearing in Monahans on Tuesday, while his victim continues to recover from his gunshot wounds at Medical Center Hospital in Odessa. Gary Wayne Skelton of Barstow remains jailed following the hearing in 143rd District Court, where District Court Judge Bob Parks reduced Skelton’s bond to $100,000 from the $500,000 set originally by Ward County Judge Sam Massey following last Wednesday’s shooting incident. Skelton would still need to post a $10,000 cash bond in order to be released.

Skelton was charged with shooting Roque “Rocky” Ramirez with a .22 caliber rifle while the two were at a trailer home located at 301 Barstow Ave. in Barstow. Skelton fled the scene in his pickup, but taken into custody the following morning, after he turned himself in to Loving County Constable Vance Jones in Mentone.

“Gary Skelton was charged with Aggravated Assault for shooting Roque Ramirez. Initially a $500,000 bond was set,” said Randy Wilson of Abilene, who is Skelton’s court-appointed attorney. “We filed on Friday for a Writ of Habeas Corpus to reduce the bond, it was oppressive and illegally restrained because it was oppressive.

Wilson said on Tuesday he believed Skelton was securing his release through a bonding service, but Ward County Sheriff Mike Strickland said Thursday morning that Skelton remained in jail in Monahans.

During the 10 a.m. hearing on Tuesday, Parks agreed to reduce the bond, under certain conditions. Skelton can have no contact with the alleged victim or any member of his family, and that he cannot come within 1,000 feet of each other. Judge Parks agreed. Prosecutor agreed.

Skelton was turned over to Ward County Sheriff’s Deputy Ben Deishler and transported from Mentone to Monahans following his arrest. The original report released by Strickland stated that Ramirez was shot once in the upper chest by Skelton, but Ramirez’s wife, Irene, said the initial report last Wednesday that her husband had been shot three times was correct.

“He still has two bullets in him,” she said on Tuesday. Her husband remains at Medical Center Hospital, suffering from a collapsed lung, two fractured ribs and internal bleeding, but was able to get up and take his first steps on Monday.

“The doctors said it missed his spine by 1/16 of an inch,” Irene Ramirez said, adding that her husband was suffering from some spinal cord pain in addition to his other injuries. Sheriff’s deputies were still searching for both a motive in the shooting, and for the weapon used to shoot Ramirez, which Skelton said he threw out of his pickup somewhere between Barstow and Mentone.

“They brought in helicopter, but they couldn’t find it,” said Strickland. “That’s a pretty big area to search out there.”

Irene Ramirez said she also didn’t know what prompted the shooting.

“My husband doesn’t know him, and he doesn’t know us,” she said.

Police jail teen, find gun in drive-by shooting case

One man was slightly injured and a teen was arrested by police Wednesday night, following an alleged drive-by shooting near the downtown area of Pecos.

Eric Medrano, 17, of Barstow, was arrested and charged with firing two shots into the home of Cruz Jimenez, at 624 S. Cypress St., about 10:15 p.m. on Wednesday.

According to Pecos Police investigator Capt. Kelly Davis, the 31-year-old Jimenez said shots were fired into the front of his house, and he was wounded slightly in the stomach. However, the injury was minor and no ambulance was called to the scene.

Officers then began a search of the area, until they were told the suspect was reportedly seen in the area of Fourth and Oleander streets. Police began a search of that area, and Davis said they were eventually able to locate a white male, identified as Medrano, at 713 W. Fourth St. He was then taken to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center, where he remained at noon on Thursday pending a bond hearing.

“We believe it is gang related,” Davis said, He said investigators believe Medrano was part of a gang, and added that Jimenez’s brother had been stabbed in the side in a separate incident earlier this week.

A modified 12-gauge shotgun was also recovered at the time Medrano was arrested. Davis said the case remains under investigation, and more than one person may have been involved in the incident.

“The victim did state when the first shot went off he did notice one person running,” he said.

Suspects arrested in connection with July assault

A mother and son were arrested earlier this month by Pecos police in connection with an alleged assault on a storage room manager that occurred on the west side of town in July. Jimmy Don Juarez, 1921 W. Fourth St., was arrested on Aug. 8 in the parking lot of Wal-Mart, 1901 S. Cedar St., on a charge of aggravated assault, three days after his mother, Shelia Renee Juarez, 41, 1921 W. Fourth St., was arrested on the same charge.

The two were alleged to have assaulted James Norman, the manager of Bell U Storage, 2118 West Third St., in the early morning hours of July 23. Norman was hit in the head with a pipe following an argument reported to police he was taken first to Reeves County Hospital, then to a Midland hospital for treatment of his injury.

Sheila Renee Juarez was arrested following the attack, on a charge of public intoxication, but was later released. She was arrested at 12:33 a.m. on Aug. 5 at 605 S. Mesquite St., on the new charge, according to Pecos Police Capt. Kelly Davis.

According to the report filed by police office Ishmael Gamboa, Norman and Juarez were inside the office at Bell U Storage when he arrived, and than another individual had assaulted Norman and then left the scene.

Norman charged that Sheila Juarez came to the office drunk, and was scratching and hitting him as he attempted to dial 911. He said as that was happening, he was attack from behind by Juarez’s son, Jimmy Don Juarez, who hit him with a pipe and then left the area.

Cold shortens open-air flight across country

Driving in a car with a head cold is bad enough, but flying over 10,000 feet in an open-air plane was a little too much for a veteran pilot to deal with as part of a planned trip through all 48 contiguous states this summer.

J.W. French made a stop off in Pecos Thursday morning, flying up from visiting a friend in Alpine after traveling down the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains in his home-built Bakeng Duce prop plane from Wyoming to West Texas. French said he was making the trip to honor his late friend, Lt. Col. Sam Burgess, who had made a similar flight twice in his lifetime.

“I started the 6th of July from Fort Myers, Fla.,” said French, who plans to end his trip back home early next month. “I’ve been to 31 states and covered 6,300 miles so far, at an average speed of 100 mph.”

“”I had intended to do all 48 states, but I came down with a head cold and my ears were stopped up. I stopped the trip in Wyoming because I couldn’t handle the high altitudes of the Rocky Mountains.”

French said his friend made the trip in 1970 and 1974, and he planned to try again next year to make the trip through the lower 48 states, but will also hit a few more states on the way home to Florida.

“I’m going back to San Marcos today, where my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren are. My great-grandson is in high school, and I’ll get to watch him play football Friday night,” French said.

From there, he planned to travel to Louisiana, and then north through Arkansas to southeast Missouri. “I’ve got to get my hunting license there for dove season,” he said. “I’ve hunted with the same group since 1971.”

From there, French said he would make stops in Kentucky and Tennessee, visiting a friend there, then meet up with his wife at their summer home in Foley, Ala., before returning to Fort Myers, though the current hurricane warnings for South Florida could affect his trip, if the storm passes through the state and into the Gulf of Mexico.

“I don’t know what the stuff out in the Gulf is going to do,” he said, adding that the open-air plane, which he bought and flew down to Florida from Wisconsin in 2001, has to be careful to avoid storms.

“It’s been good since I’ve been in Texas,” French said. “If the weather’s good, I fly. If not, I sit on the ground.”

McKinney named to fill vacancy in Precinct 1 slot

Reeves County Hospital Board members welcomed a new individual to their group at their regular meeting held Tuesday evening.

The group appointed Brenda McKinney to serve on the open seat for Precinct 1, which had been held by Chel Flores.

Flores died three months ago, the second death among the five-member board in the past year. Precinct 3 representative Bill Wendt died in August of 2004. That seat was left open until this past May’s election, when Terry Honaker was unopposed to fill the unexpired one-year term.

Both the terms of Honaker and McKinney will be up for election in the 2006 Hospital District elections.

In action on Tuesday, the board approved bills and financials and set up a special meeting on Aug. 3 to approve the tax rate.

The group agreed on Aug. 30, to set up a special meeting to calculate the effective tax rate.

“We approved the planning calendar and went into executive session for three items,” said hospital administrator Bill Conder.

He said that the group had talked briefly about the ambulance contract, just to get some information.

Board members also approved all the property bids.

Will, Bates exchange wedding vows

Elizabeth Michelle Will and Evan Earl Bates were united in marriage on Saturday, June 11, 2005, in the Courtyard of the Marathon Motel in Marathon. The Rt. Rev. Dr. Henry A. Doherty of Alpine officiated the seven o’clock evening ceremony. The couple honeymooned in Cozumel, Mexico.

Maids of honor were the bride’s sisters, Cynthia Will of Texhoma, Oklahoma and Kathryn Will of Alpine. Bridesmaids were Maritza Rodriguez, Austin, and Lana Seargeant, of Alpine. Kevin Bates, brother of the groom, was best man; groomsmen were Miles Walker, Texhoma, and Joseph Sanchez of San Marcos. Flower girls were Sadie and Lexi Summerlin of Devine, Texas. Ring bearer was Trey Seargeant of Alpine. Javier Rodriguez of Austin and Tres Summerlin of Devine were ushers.

Music was provided by The High Notes of Alpine.

The bride is the daughter of Paul and Mazie Will of Alpine. She is the granddaughter of the late Arthur and Mary Belle Will, and the late John and Mazeritta McLellan, all of Donna, Texas. The groom is the son of Earl and Phyllis Bates of Midland. He is the grandson of Sam and Ophelia Carter of Monahans.

Elizabeth grew up in Alpine and received a Bachelor of Arts from Sul Ross State University. She also received her Master of Arts from Texas Tech University. Evan grew up in Pecos and received a Bachelor of Science from Sul Ross University.

Elizabeth and Evan now reside and each in Pecos.

Litonjua, Seijas announce wedding plans

Neriza A. Litonjua from Chicago, Ill. and Herman J. Seijas from Pecos, plan to marry Sept. 10.

The bride-elect is the daughter of Romeo and Litonjua and Elvie Kropiewnicki of the Phillipines.

She is a 2001 Navy graduate and is currently enlisted in the U.S. Navy and serving in Great Lakes, Ill. as a Culinary Specialist. She is continuing her education to pursue a career in Physical Therapy.

Her fiancé is the son of Edel De La Garza and Merced De La Garza, both of Pecos. He is a 2000 Pecos High School graduate and enlisted in the U.S. Navy in June of 2000. He is currently serving in NAS Kingsville as Physical Security.

He continues to pursue his career in Law Enforcement and plans to become a State Trooper upon finishing his enlistment in the U.S. Navy.

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