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Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Red Bluff seeking new deal to mine Malaga Bend’s salt

Staff Writer

Red Bluff Water Power Control Board members are hoping to have a new company in place soon to operate the Malaga Bend salt alleviation project, and voted to support further negotiations with the new company on Tuesday, during their regular monthly meeting in Pecos.

Managing director Randall Hartman said a new company has been in talks about buying out the operations of Loving Salt Co. since January and was close to finalizing the deal. “In a letter they told (Red Bluff attorney Robert) Scroggins they want to get action going on taking up the contract. They want the old contract to remain in place,” he said.

Loving Salt has a contract with Red Bluff to pump water from a salt spring away from the Pecos River at Malaga Bend and into nearby ponds, which would then be mined for salt after the water evaporates. But no mining has been done for the past several months, during which time the district has received no payments from Loving Salt.

Hartman did not name the company looking to assume the contract, but said they agreed to pay both the district’s royalty payment to the state of New Mexico for the salt mining operation and the district’s payment for Pecos River water monitoring to the U.S. Geological Survey, which costs $18,000 annually.

“Long-term what it amounts to is Malaga Bend is never going to be a big money-making project for us, and never will be,” Hartman said. “The salt company will not be making any money for two to three years, but we won’t be losing money on the royalty payment to New Mexico. We’re probably going to end up about break-even.”

“But if we keep the salt out of the river, it’s still better,” said board member Jay Lee. The spring at Malaga Bend roughly doubles the amount of salt found in the Pecos River as it flows into Red Bluff Lake, compared with levels to the north in New Mexico.

Hartman said the board would demand more extensive financial statements from the new company, after having troubles over the years with Loving Salt, and the board then agreed to allow Scroggins to continue his negotiations on a deal with the new company.In other business, members discussed removal of noxious weeds and trees and a report by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation on the costs for improving Red Bluff’s system of Pecos River canals.

“It says the expenses need to be evaluated before we make changes,” Hartman said, who said under current conditions the amount of money needed to improve the system could not be justified.

Michael McCulloch, an Odessa veterinarian who owns land in two of Red Bluff’s sub-districts, told the board he had attended a meeting with Bureau of Reclamation officials in Carlsbad, and had talked to a BOR official in El Paso about in both Texas and New Mexico projects that would involve the agency.

“I would like to encourage the board to talk to these folks, and see what they can provide for this side of the state line,” he said, adding New Mexico and the BOR were looking at doing a burn along the Pecos River just above the state line.

“They’ve got permission to burn, and if it burns over the state line, that’s fine,” said Hartman.

McCulloch said the BOR was looking for written permission for the burn project, but Hartman said that work was being handled by Pecos River Compact Commissioner for Texas, J.W. Thrasher.

McCulloch also said New Mexico was looking at doing spraying for noxious weeds, and wanted to see the project taken up in Texas. Hartman said unlike New Mexico, the land along the Pecos River here is private land, as opposed to being owned by the Bureau of Land Management.

“Most individual landowners, if they see noxious weeds take care of it themselves before it gets out of hand,” he said, adding they could apply for Natural Resource Conservation Service funds that help pay for the weed removal, and added that higher natural gas costs would probable cause sharp increases in the cost of the herbicides in the near future.

Earlier in the meeting, the board formally seated Ava Gerke as the Ward County Water Irrigation District 3 representative on the Red Bluff board. Gerke and Tom Nance, Ward County WID 1 representative, were elected in May of 2004, but were not seated due to a lawsuit between the districts and Red Bluff over voting eligibility in those two districts, compared with the other five districts, which remained Water Improvement Districts.An appeals court earlier this year ruled in favor of the two districts, and Red Bluff chose not to appeal the decision. Gerke was seated on Tuesday, but Nance was not in attendance at the meeting.

Cash disbursements, receipts accounts payable and the district’s fund balance for September were approved by the board, along with the water report, which showed nearly 92,000 acre/feet of water was still in Red Bluff Lake as of Sept. 30.

Hartman said the lake did not getting much water from recent showers. “It just seemed like it rained slowly enough just to soak it up,” he said. “But it still looks better than it’s been.”

City, Chamber debate division of bed tax cash

Staff Writer

Several proposals were presented to the Pecos Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors for obtaining funds for the operation and maintenance of the Reeves County Civic Center during the group’s meeting last Tuesday, but the proposal selected by the group was tabled for later action during a meeting of the Town of Pecos City’s bed tax committee on Wednesday.

The Chamber board met at noon Tuesday to discuss several things including the operation and maintenance of the civic center and ways to fund the yearly fee.Chamber of Commerce President Jimmy Dutchover presented the bed tax committee with the recommended proposal by the board members, which called for removing the $160,000 cap on the current formula, and maintain the established distribution of funds between the chamber’s advertising budget, general fund and the West of the Pecos Museum.

The questions about the cap arose due to increases in the city’s bed tax revenues. City finance director Sam Contreras said that the collections were expected to surpass the $160,000 cap for the first time this year, due to the city’s improving economy.

Contreras said the city was concerned that the current plan would not provide enough money for other items including repairs and utility payments at the Chamber’s Cedar Street office.

“Our concern is the Chamber building needs repairs,” he said. “We’re pretty limited on resources. What Edgardo (Madrid, city utilities director) wanted to do is any excess would be used for repairs of the building.”

“We’ve not seen any figures. This is the first time we’ve heard of this,” said board member Bill Oglesby.

“We’re talking about the excess. Not the percentage you receive,” said Mayor Dot Stafford.”

Oglesby also said the chamber had not seen any financial records for the city’s Main Street Program, which currently receives $34,800 annually from the bed tax for operations.

Torres said if the bed tax committee wanted to look at the Main Street Program’s financial records, they could do so, and a meeting has been set up for 12 noon on Thursday to review the program’s operations.

City officials and the chamber members on bed tax committee also debated whether or not the Main Street Program’s $34,800 should be counted towards the $160,000 cap.We probably need to review the Main Street budget,” Torres said. “I think we need to have a discussion on what we’ll do with the Main Street Program as far as the hotel/motel funds.”

In addition to the motel bed tax, voters also passed a 2-cent motel venue tax, which would be used by the city and Reeves County to renovate the Civic Center and the Buck Jackson Rodeo Arena.

“Should the city and county go forward with the venue (tax) project, we’d look at moving the Chamber over to the Civic Center and making it a tourism center. Then we could tap into the general fund,” Dutchover said.

During the Chamber meeting on Tuesday, Dutchover broke down the current payments made out of the motel bed tax collections.

Each quarter the Town of Pecos City will receive $8,700 to und the Main Street Program; each quarter the museum will get 27.0 percent of the remaining hotel/motel tax; each quarter the advertising committee will get 36.0 percent of the remaining Tax and each quarter the chamber of commerce general fund will get 37.0 percent.

“This formula is good for the first $160,000,” said Dutchover. “After the $160,000 tax is reached, the chamber of commerce general fund receives the extra,” he said.

“Although the contract is written this way, the practice of the chamber is to follow the 27-36-27 formula,” said Dutchover.

He said that the chamber is being asked to revise the contract and distribution of funds to include as little a $25,000 a year for the Operation and Maintenance (O&M) of the civic center.

“During the last meeting, which the executive committee members of the chamber of commerce were a part of, we felt it was best to ask Mayor (Dot) Stafford to table this matter until, you as a director from the chamber of commerce would have adequate time to be shared this information, and have an opportunity to voice support or concern over the change of the contract,” said Dutchover.

“Additionally, we need to look at paying for the annual review, which costs approximately $2,500 a year,” he said.

Dutchover told the group to keep in mind that there are limitations as to what the Hotel/Motel Tax can be used for.

“Two months ago, Dan Painter, CPA did a review of the chamber,” said Dutchover. “Mr. Painter brought to our attention practices, which needed to be looked at,” he said.

“Since that review, the executive committee and the advertising and tourism committee have worked hard to focus on following laws, which governs, and change the practices, which were questionable,” said Dutchover.

Dutchover then presented five proposals to the dilemma and asked the group to vote for one that would work for them and still be in compliance.

Proposal 1: Keep the contract the way it is.

Proposal 2: Keep the percentages the same, but remove the $160,000 limit and allow each of the three accounts to be distributed 27-36-37 regardless of the hotel/motel tax collected.

Proposal 3: Keep the percentages the same up to the $160,000 limit for each of the three accounts. Once the $160,000 is reached, reverse the percentages received. The museum will receive 37 percent of the funding, the advertisement and tourism would continue to receive 36 percent of the funding, and the chamber of commerce general fund would now get 27 percent of the funding.

Proposal 4: Consider proposals #1, #2 and #3 and pay for the annual review by adding $625/quarter to the $8,700, which the Town of Pecos City receives. The new amount of the Town of Pecos City would be $9,325/quarter or $37,300 a year.

Proposal 5: Consider a proposal, which would include a way to fund the O&M of the Civic Center in the amount of $25,000 a year.

After a group discussion, proposal #2 was approved by the chamber board of directors. The group also approved paying the $2,500 to Dan Painter for the audit.

School board approves plans for long trips

Trips for several extracurricular activities were approved for students by the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD Board on Thursday, and a special meeting was set up to discuss board operating procedures and short and long range goals.

The items were among a number discussed by board members during the regular meeting, held Thursday evening in the Technology Center.

The board approved a trip for several Pecos High School students to attend the Texas Campus Crime Stoppers Conference in Austin on Monday, Oct. 17-19.

“This trip wasn’t on our budget, but it’s being paid for by Crime Stoppers,” said PBT-ISD Superintendent Ray Matthews. “We need approval from the board for them to go.”Matthews said that they were looking at 12 students attending the conference.

“There’s two junior high students that will be traveling with them as well,” said PHS Principal Steve Lucas.

Lucas said that assistant principal Jim Workman, along with several sponsors would be joining the students.

“The conference will be full of police officers, so they will be very well supervised,” said Lucas.

The group also approved the PHS tennis team traveling to El Paso for a tournament in February.

“This is also not on the budget, but I suggested that they could raise the money through fundraisers,” said Matthews.

“I signed off on it and they said that they would do fundraisers to raise the money for the trip,” he said.

“Are there any funds that we can help them with?” asked board member David Flores.Finance director Cookie Canon said that the funds appropriated for the tennis team, had already been designated for other trips.

“They have already budged this money for another tournament,” said Canon.

Matthews said that it would cost a little over $2,000 for the trip.

“I would like to see them do a fundraiser and then help with the rest,” said board member Crissy Martinez.

“I know the boosters will help them as well,” said Matthews.

“They felt like they could raise all this amount,” he said.

Board members approved the West Texas Catholic Communities to use the Pecos High School New Gym for an event next month, and waive the fees. The event is scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 5.

“We checked the dates and they are okay,” said Matthews. “They had said that it would be about 3,000 people coming in, but it will be no more than 1,500-1,800.”

The board set a date to discuss board operating procedures and short and long range goals.

Matthews said that Texas Association of School Boards, Region 18 or Sul Ross could come in and help with the meeting.

“I would like to see TASB come in and help us with this,” said board member Amy Miller.

“Give me three dates and I will try to get TASB,” said Matthews.

Matthews said that he would need a first, second and third choice of meeting dates and would see when TASB could come in.

Board members suggested this Tuesday, Oct. 18; next Tuesday, Oct. 25 and Tuesday, Nov. 15.

A public hearing on Schools FIRST (Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas) was held during the regular meeting.

“Nothing has changed much, we received a superior rating last year and this year,” said Canon. “We’re very proud of this rating, and this doesn’t just come from my office, but from the whole district,” she said.

Canon said that the district is losing students, but not replacing personnel, which has saved some money.

“It takes everybody to do this,” said Canon.

Superintendent Matthews also updated the board on the different projects that are being done at several campuses.

At the Eagle Stadium, the punch list is complete and they are negotiating the final payment.

“The fire alarm system is complete and in process of closing out project,” said Matthews.For the high school roofing project, a preconstruction meeting was held on Oct. 12.

Work is scheduled to begin at the kindergarten campus this week, according to Matthews.“Roofing for both kindergarten and Bessie Haynes will take approximately four months,” said Matthews.

Beltran receives 33-month term in smuggling plot

Staff Writer

The final defendant in an investigation that landed several U.S. Border Patrol agents in prison was sentenced for his role in smuggling illegal aliens last Thursday in El Paso.United States Attorney Johnny Sutton announced that in Roberto Beltran was sentenced to 33 months in federal prison for his role in a scheme to smuggle illegal aliens through the Border Patrol’s Interstate 10 checkpoint at Sierra Blanca.

In addition to the prison term, United States District Judge Frank Montalvo ordered that Beltran be placed under supervised release for a period of two years after completing his prison term.

On June 2, 2005, Beltran pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to smuggle aliens. In pleading guilty, Beltran admitted that he conspired together with Lehi Erives and former Border Patrol agents Aldo Manuel Erives, Robert Erives and Jesus Delgado to allow approximately 750 illegal aliens safe passage through the Sierra Blanca checkpoint over a one-year period beginning January 2005.

Beltran is the final defendant in this investigation to be sentenced. This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security - Office of Inspector General. Assistant United States Attorney Mark Greenberg and Greg McDonald prosecuted this case on behalf of the government.

In a separate case, Sutton said an Odessa woman was sentenced in late September for conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine.

United States Attorney Johnny Sutton announced that in Midland, on Sept. 29, Naoma Sue Chambliss was sentenced to 97 months in federal prison for conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine.

In addition to the prison term, United States District Judge Robert Junell ordered that Chambliss e placed under supervised release for a period of five years after completing her prison term.

On April 25, 2005, Chambliss pled guilty to the charges. By pleading guilty, Chambliss admitted that in February 2005, she conspired with her brother, Orbie Dale Chambliss, to sell over 50 grams of pure methamphetamine.

“There is a high prices to be paid for dealing drugs,” said United States Attorney Johnny Sutton. “If you are selling drugs, it’s just a matter of time before justice catches up with you,” he said.

Orbie Chambliss faces between 10 years and life in federal prison after pleading guilty on Sept. 29, 2005, to the same charges. Chambliss remains in federal custody pending sentencing scheduled for Dec. 8, 2005.

This case resulted from an investigation conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Midland Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Sandra Beckner is prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.

Council supports city hosting office for Texas Pecos Trails

Tow n of Pecos City Council members voted to support an effort to host the Texas Pecos Trails regional office, while opting not to make any changes in the city’s existing noise ordinance, during their regular meeting this past Thursday at City Hall.

Pecos Main Street Program coordinator Tom Rivera outlined the Heritage Trails program to council members, and said the host of hosting the Pecos Trail’s regional coordinator would be paid by the state.

“It would be good for this area, because the state prints all the brochures to help promote heritage and tourism,” Rivera said. “Since this is Pecos and it’s the Pecos Trail, why not have it here?”

The Texas Heritage Trails Program was established in 1997, and is based on the Texas Heritage Trails system that the state set up over 40 years ago. The Texas Pecos Trails route is one of 13 in the state, and travels along both sides of the Pecos River, with its most northwesterly point in Pecos and its further point southeast in Del Rio. The Pecos Heritage Trails Program would include the 22 counties through which the Texas Pecos Trail passes.

According to the Texas Historical Commission’s website, the Texas Heritage Trails Program provides technical, financial and marketing assistance to heritage regions across Texas. It includes tourism evaluations of historic and cultural sites, grants to fund a full-time regional coordinator for at least three years and matching grants for projects that enhance the heritage tourism experience.

“One of the benefits of hosting the regional office is we’d be the focus at the state level of the regional effort,” Rivera said.

He added that the coordinator would be required to be out of the office 75 to 80 percent of the time helping to promote tourism in the other 21 counties included in the Texas Pecos Trail. When the coordinator is in town, his office would be in a room adjacent to Rivera’s Main Street Program office, in the Municipal Court and Community Center building.

“They have allocated $50,000 for the first year,” said Bill Oglesby, one of the members of the Pecos Chamber of Commerce who joined Chamber executive director Linda Gholson at a meeting earlier this year of the Texas Pecos Trail counties.

Council members were told be Rivera that along with the salary, benefits for the coordinator would be provided through the state of Texas. The council then approved serving as the Pecos Trail’s regional host.

No action was taken on the noise ordinance, after council members decided the current state and local rules were sufficient to handle problems, if they were enforced. City attorney Scott Johnson said complaints about vehicles with high-powered stereo systems driving through neighborhoods could be taken care of through a state law on noise decibel limits.

“These kind of things officers are authorized to ticket,” Johnson said. “It can be addressed by the officers, and there are decibel meters you can buy that are really pretty cheap.”

Councilwoman Angelica Valenzuela complained about the types of songs with adult lyrics being played by some of the vehicles with high-powered stereo systems. “I’m not going to condemn them, but they need to watch what they expose other people and children to,” she said.

“If we want to control language, we’ll have to adopt a new ordinance,” said councilman Frank Sanchez. “It’s easier just to control the volume.”

The council then decided to take no action on the noise rule, except to authorize purchase of decibel meters for local police, which Johnson said cost about $40 apiece.

In other action, the council approved accounts payable totaling $347,449, and city finance director Sam Contreras said they may have to readjust expenses on fuel costs, due to recent increases. City manager Joseph Torres said the city would look at cost-cutting procedures along with tighter monitoring of fuel purchases for city vehicles.

The council also was given the September juvenile court report, and suggested to Municipal Court Judge Amanario Ramon that he be named to the Reeves County Juvenile Board. “It would be an asset, because you do a lot with juveniles,” Sanchez said.

City sales tax collections rise in latest report

The October sales tax rebate check for the Town of Pecos City was up by almost one third over last year, and tax rebates for the first 10 months of 2005 are now up by more than 10 percent from last year, according to figures released last Thursday by Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn’s office.

Pecos received $81,901 this month, from its 1 1/2-cent share of the state’s 8 1/4-cent sales tax, which is up 31.9 percent over last year’s $62,089 total. The total brings the city’s year-to-date rebate to $733,143, which is up 10.43 percent from last year’s $663,881.

The Pecos Economic Development Corp. receives 1/4-cent of the city’s 1 1/2-cent sales tax total for its operations. For October, the PEDC’s share of the rebate came to $13,650.Balmorhea also reported a double-digit increase in its tax rebate check for the month, but remains down overall for the year, while Toyah saw its month check drop by over half, and its 10-month total is now almost one quarter less than last year.

Balmorhea received $1,139 from Strayhorn’s office, up 22.47 percent from last year’s $930 check. For the year, the city has gotten $14,530 back from Austin, down 8.3 percent from last year’s $15,847. Toyah got only $411 back this month, down 53 percent from last year’s $874, and its 2005 total of $3,590 is down 24.85 percent from last year’s $4,777.

Also reporting a double-digit increase was the Reeves County Hospital District. It’s 1/2-cent sales tax brought in $33,592 this month, which was up 17.24 percent from last year’s $28,650. For all of this year, the hospital has gotten $304,210 back from the comptroller’s office, which is virtually unchanged from last year’s 10-month total of $304,026.

Most of the city’s in the Permian Basin joined Pecos in continuing to show increases in their sales tax rebates for the month, as the improvement in the oil and gas industry has boosted most local economies. Midland received the area’s largest check, for $1.95 million, on is 1 1/2-cent sales tax, which was up 16.77 percent, while Odessa received just over $1.3 million for its 1 1/4-cent sales tax, which was up just under 17 percent compared with last year.

Among cities assessing a one-cent sales tax in the area, Kermit received a check for $19,135, which was down 33.38 percent; Wink received a check for $3,548, down 10.58 percent; Wickett received a check for $4,044, up 17.63 percent; and Pyote did not receive a check this month from Austin, after getting one for $392 last October.

For those like Pecos, Balmorhea and Toyah with a 1 1/2-cent sales tax, Alpine got $72,005 back this month, up 11.64 percent; Crane received $33,244, up 13.25 percent, and Lamesa received a check for $62,438, up 5.43 percent.

Among those assessing a 1 3/4-cent sales tax, Andrews, which just increased its tax rate from one cent to 1 3/4 cents, got $92,658 back this month, up 35.98 percent from last year’s $68,140; Marfa received $16,680, up 26.57 percent; and Van Horn got $27,921 in tax rebates, an increase of 7.52 percent.

For cities collecting the maximum two cent sales tax, Big Spring received a check for $327,1143, up 5.34 percent; Fort Stockton got $131,466 back, up 21.21 percent; Presidio received $20,508, up 3.79 percent; Grandfalls received a check for $2,763, up 154.12 percent; and Monahans got a rebate check for $84,417, up 3.24 percent.

Romero, Marruffo announce wedding plans

Jose Antonio Romero and Angelica Maria De Jesus Romero announce the engagement and approaching marriage of their daughter, Sonia Romero to Steven P. Marruffo, the son of Israel and Hortencia Marruffo of Pecos.

The bride to be is a 2002 graduate of Mountain View High School and is currently employed by the El Paso Community College West Inc.

The groom is a 2001 Pecos High School graduate, a former Pecos resident and is employed by the El Paso Community College. He is an ex-Marine, OIFI and OIFII-2.The couple plan to wed Friday, Oct. 21, at Iglesia De Cristo.


Manuel Armendariz and James Teaney

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