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Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Friday, October 7, 2005

City’s new rates average for state, but high for area

Staff Writer

Water and sewer rate increases approved last Friday by the Pecos City Council have lifted the city’s rates above those of Fort Stockton and Monahans, the two closest communities to Pecos of similar size, according to a comparison of water rates for all three cities beginning with the 2006 fiscal year.

However, the rate is about average for similar sized cities across the state, according to a survey earlier this year by the Texas Municipal League.

The council voted 3-2 last Friday to raise the base water rate for residential customers from $5.89 to $9.30, and the base rate for each additional 1,000 gallons of water from $1.79 to $2.16, effective with next month’s bills. However, at the same time, water use charges for each additional 1,000 will be set on a graded scale, so that customers using 6,000 gallons a month will pay a rate of $2.34 per 1,000 gallons above the initial $9.30 charge, those using 9,000 gallons will pay a $2.38 rate, and those using the average 11,000 gallons a month will pay a rate of $2.48 cents. Those using 13,000 gallons or more will pay at a rate of $2.61 for each 1,000 gallons.

The base rate increase over the former level comes in at 58 percent. However, city finance director Sam Contreras said a story in Tuesday’s Enterprise about the overall increase had the percent rate above what customers will actually be paying.

“The total rate increase doesn’t equate to 58 percent. It’s a lot less,” Contreras said. “I made some calculations, and it’s in the area of 40 percent.

City manager Joseph Torres was out of the office on Thursday, but utilities director Edgardo Madrid said he and Torres have been meeting with groups this week to explain the reasons for the rate increase.

“Yesterday, we visited the Lions’ Club and today we’re visiting the Rotary Club,” Madrid said on Thursday. “The day before yesterday we met with the KOL (Key Opinion Leaders) group, and Mr. Torres is scheduled to go on Pecos Talking (on KIUN) on Friday.

“We will also have information available at the Fall Fair, and people can come up to us and discuss how they will be affected,” he added.

Water and sewer repairs that have been mandated by state officials were cited as the main reason for last week’s rate increases, and the city also faces a $400,000 annual payment beginning in 2009 on a loan taken out with the Texas Water Development Board for construction of the city’s new $8 million South Worsham water field. The payment is currently being made by Reeves County, under an agreement to provide water for the Reeves County Detention Center.

Monahans is also increasing its water rates for the 2006 fiscal year, with the biggest difference coming in the charge for water usage over the base rate. Monahans will have a $9 charge for the first 2,000 gallons, and a $1.50 rate for each additional 1,000 gallons. Fort Stockton charges a lower base rate than either Pecos or Monahans and but a larger base total, at $7.35 for the first 3,000 gallons. After that, their water rate is in-between the totals charged by Pecos and Monahans, at $1.99 for each additional 1,000 gallons.

The new residential rate for Pecos customers will put the cost for 10,000 gallons of water at $32.60 a month, while Fort Stockton’s rate is $21.28 a month and Monahans’ rate comes in at $21 a month. But the TML survey for cities with populations between 5,000 and 10.000 does show Pecos’ new water rate is about average for all Texas cities. The cost for 10,000 gallons of water on average is $32.73, according to the TML’s May, 2005 report.

Of all cities surveyed by TML, Andrews had the lowest rate for 10,000 gallons of water, at $15.70, while the highest was in Bowie, where residential customers pay $63.90 a month for 10,000 gallons of water.

Sewer rates for residential customers in Pecos went from $7.01 to $11.08 for the first 2,000 gallons, and from $1.32 to $2.09 for each 1,000 gallons after that following last Friday’s vote.

Pecos’ system for setting sewer rates above 2,000 gallons is slightly different from those used in Monahans and Fort Stockton. Monahans charges a base rate of $10.72 for the first 10,000 gallons of water going into city sewers, while the flat charge is $14.48 for customers delivering between 10,000 and 15,000 gallons of water to the sewers. Each additional 1,000 gallons above that is charged at a rate of $4.16.

Fort Stockton has two residential sewer rates, a flat fee of $13.65 for the first 10,000 gallons, and a rate of $14..15 for those using between 10,000 and 20,000 gallons.For 10,000 gallons of wastewater, the city’s new rate of $27.80 is $1.10 cents above the TML’s statewide average of $26.81. Andrews again had the state’s lowest rate for cities between 5,000 and 10,000 in population, at $8, while Keene’s rate of $51.52 was the highest of all cities in the TML survey.

Second Border Patrol agent sentenced in smuggling case

A second former Marfa Sector Border Patrol agent was sentenced Wednesday, for his role in a scheme that allowed drugs through Sierra Blanca checkpoint without inspection.United States Attorney Johnny Sutton announced Wednesday that former Marfa Sector Border Patrol agent Robert Espino was sentenced in El Paso to eight years in federal prison for his role in a scheme to smuggle cocaine through the Border Patrol’s Interstate 10 checkpoint in Sierra Blanca without inspection.

“Even though we know that corruption exists in many parts of our country, it is still shocking to find a federal agent helping the criminals in exchange for dirty money. Mr. Espino betrayed his brothers and sisters in the Border Patrol and the people of this country,” said United States Attorney Johnny Sutton.

In addition to the prison term, United States District Judge Frank Montalvo ordered that Espino pay a $1,000 fine and be placed under supervised release for a period of three years after completing his prison term.

On May 13, 2005, Espino pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance. By pleading guilty, Espino admitted that for two days beginning on Sept. 17, 2004, he conspired with others to allow more than five kilograms of cocaine to pass through the checkpoint without inspection, in exchange for more than $5,000.

Espino’s sentencing came two weeks after former Border Patrol Agent Aldo Manuel Erives was sentenced to 127 months imprisonment for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance. Erives was sentenced on Sept. 21, while on Sept. 29, his brother, Jose Lehi Erives, was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison on the same charge.

Two additional co-defendants each face up to five years in federal prison after pleading guilty in May to conspiracy to possess a controlled substance with intent to distribute. David Garcia and Jesus Delgado, both former Marfa Sector Border Patrol agents, are scheduled to be sentenced at 9 a.m., next Wednesday, Oct. 12.

Also resulting from this investigation, Roberto Beltran faces up to 10 years in federal prison after pleading guilty on June 2, 2005, to smuggling approximately 750 illegal aliens. Beltran, together with Lehi Erives, conspired with agents Erives, Espino, Garcia and Delgado to allow hundreds of illegal aliens safe passage through the Sierra Blanca checkpoint over a one-year period beginning January 2004. Beltran is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 13.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security - Office of Inspector General, investigated these cases. Assistant United States Attorneys Mark Greenberg and Greg McDonald are prosecuting these cases on behalf of the government.

Cold front, storms cut power, delay paving

Two weeks after the official start of fall, cooler temperatures finally arrived in West Texas early Thursday morning, as a cold front brought just over an inch of rain to Pecos, while keeping temperatures around the 50 degree mark Thursday morning and early afternoon.

The front came in around midnight, and was followed by a line of thunderstorms that knocked out power to parts of the west side of the city, after an earlier line of storms Wednesday night bypassed Pecos.

The front sent temperatures plunging from a high of 95 degrees on Wednesday to just 48 degrees shortly before noon on Thursday. The National Weather Service reporting station at Pecos Municipal Airport reported 1.02 inches of rain fell there between 2:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, and a light drizzle continued to fall in the city in the early afternoon.

The front brought the first major snowfalls to parts of Wyoming and Colorado, and dropped daytime temperatures in West Texas as low as 42 degrees at Guadalupe Peak, 100 miles northwest of Pecos. However, the effect of the front was expected to be short-lived, with highs by Saturday climbing back to around 80 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.

Aside from the power outage this morning, which forced Pecos High School to cancel its normal morning breakfast period, the showers and cold temperatures also have put a temporary halt to the Town of Pecos City’s seal coating project.

City crews put new surfaces down on Walthall and two west side streets earlier this week, and had laid an oil base for seal-coating work on Seventh Street. But city utilities director Edgardo Madrid said the Seventh Street work would have to be put off until conditions improve.

“We’ve scheduled it, if possible, for next week, when the temperatures are supposed to by above 70-75 degrees,” he said. “We can still do it, the only thing is we have to have two days in a row. So we’re set for Seventh Street as long as the weather permits.”

Warm temperatures are needed to do seal coating or paving projects, to make sure the new surface will attach to the base. An early-season cold front that passed though West Texas in 1998 caused new paving on Interstate 20 to break loose from the highway, forcing the road to be closed for 20 miles in western Reeves County until a new surface could be applied.

Police catch three in act during Eddy St. burglary

Two juveniles and a 21-year-old man were arrested by Pecos police last week, after they were caught attempting to burglarize a building on South Eddy Street.

Police said the incident took place about 2 a.m. on Sept. 28, when officer Juan Prieto saw one male running from Desiree’s Boutique, 1203 S. Eddy St., while another crawled out of a glass door that had been broken out at the store. Prieto was able to catch one of the two males and also apprehended the 21-year-old, who was parked in a vehicle about a block away from the store.

Arrested was Michael Munoz 21, 915 S. Cherry St., along with the 15-year-old male juvenile who also lived at that address. Both were charged with burglary of a building, a state jail felony. Munoz was taken to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center, while the juvenile was transported to the Reeves County Juvenile Detention Center.

Prieto and Sgt. Armando Garcia later arrested a 16-year-old male juvenile at his home at 412 E. Seventh St., on the same charge. He was also transported to the Reeves County Juvenile Detention Center.

Police investigator Cpt. Kelly Davis said the three suspects all had past criminal records. “We did search a house and found property that came from that burglary. I think we recovered all of that,” he said.

“This is the first time in a long time our guys have caught someone in the act,” Davis said. He added that no one else was believed to have been involved in the break-in attempt.

Methodists to install new pastor during Harvest Day

The district superintendent of the United Methodist Church will be guest speaker for the Pecos congregation’s annual Harvest Day celebration, this Sunday.

“We are excited not only because our D.S. will be with us, but we will also be welcoming our new pastor,” said lay leader Terri Spence.

Rev. John McClean of the El Paso district will bring the Harvest Day message during the 10:55 a.m. worship service. Also planned for the service is the installation of Pecos and Toyah’s newly appointed pastor, Rev. John Barrett of Midland.

“This Harvest Day will be very special,” said Mrs. Spence. “We hope to have as many members and guests as possible, and of course it’s always a blessing to have past members return for Harvest Day,” she said.

Harvest Day was established more than 50 years ago by Pecos Methodists who saw a need to celebrate and give thanks for the harvest of crops. Although farming is no longer the mainstay of church families, members have continued the annual tradition of Harvest Day as a special thanksgiving.

A covered dish luncheon and time of fellowship follows the morning worship service.This year’s Harvest Day speaker is originally from Iowa and is currently in his 22nd year of full-time appointment with United Methodist churches in the New Mexico/Northwest Texas area.

Rev. McClean graduated from the University of Iowa with a bachelor of music education degree in 1976. After college graduation, he was hired by First United Methodist Church in Pearsall, where he married Karen Tudhope in 1978. They moved to Indiana in 1981, and McClean graduated from United Theological Seminary with a Masters of Divinity degree in 1984. The McCleans have three daughters.

In the New Mexico conference, the McCleans have served churches in Clovis, Roswell and Rio Rancho in New Mexico as well as Crane, Amarillo and El Paso. McClean is presently in his third year as superintendent of the El Paso district.

Carrasco prayer vigil scheduled Sunday

A prayer vigil for Monica Carrasco and her family will be held at 7 p.m., Sunday, at the Gazebo at the Saragosa Park in Pecos.

Everyone is encouraged to attend the special vigil for the Balmorhea teen, who disappeared from her uncle’s home in Balmorhea on Oct. 1, 2003.

Also, if anyone has any information on the whereabouts of Carrasco, contact the Reeves County Sheriff’s Office at 445-4901.

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Pecos Enterprise
York M. "Smokey" Briggs, Publisher
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Phone 432-445-5475, FAX 432-445-4321

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