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Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Friday, September 9, 2005

Arson suspected in fire at vacant Eighth St. home

Staff Writer

A fire completely that engulfed a vacant house on West Eighth Street on Tuesday may have been arson, according to the city’s fire marshal.

No injuries were reported in the fire, which Pecos Volunteer Firefighters responded to at about 5 p.m., Tuesday, at 808 S. Oleander St. The building was a two-story vacant house located in the block directly behind La Tienda grocery store.

“The house has been vacant for years and about two weeks ago, I went and checked it out and there was graffiti, broken walls and damage done to the interior and exterior,” said Town of Pecos City Fire Marshal Jack Brookshire.

Brookshire said that the home looked like kids had gone through the home and destroyed it.

“There were signs of arson, there were different points of origin of the fire,” said Brookshire.

All seven fire trucks responded to the scene and smoke could be seen from blocks away. “There was a lot of smoke within that entire area,” said Brookshire.

Brookshire said that the ambulance was on standby during the fire. “This is now normal procedure to have EMS on standby during a fire and we also called out the electric service,” he said.

Brookshire said that there was no electricity or other utilities open at the home, but that there was electricity running from the main pole to a box at the house.

Brookshire said that if anybody has any information on who or how the fire started to call him at city hall at 445-2421 or to contact the Pecos Police Department at 445-4911.

Council rejects Duncan bid for surcharge on trash fees

Town of Pecos City Council members rejected a request for an increase in trash collection fees, while accepting the donation of a downtown building to the city on Wednesday, during their regular meeting at City Hall.

The council turned down a request by Duncan Disposal for a 4 percent increase in trash fees, while agreeing to take possession of the old F.W. Woolworth building at the corner of Third and Oak streets. The surcharge would increase Duncan’s payment by $28,000. “Duncan has asked for a 4 percent surcharge due to the high price of diesel fuel,” said city manager Joseph Torres. He told the council the city’s contract with Duncan runs through December of 2006, and the city could accept or reject the proposal, or table it while negotiating for other changes to the overall agreement.

“My feeling is Duncan already has increased rates and cut back services,” said councilman Frank Sanchez, who urged rejecting the proposal.

City Utilities Director Edgardo Madrid said the alley clean-up program using city crews is already picking up between 20 and 25 percent of the 21.2 tons a day of solid waste produced in Pecos.

“They need to take into consideration we’re doing part of the clean up,” Madrid said, and the proposal was then rejected by the council.

“That $28,000 can be used for our crews and our equipment,” said councilman Danny Rodriguez.

“If we had $28,000,’ said mayor pro-tem Gerald Tellez.

The Woolworth building is being offered to the city by its owner, Rudman Partnership. The building was originally built in 1956, but has been vacant since Woolworth closed its Pecos store in 1989.

“I’ve been after Rudman Partnership for three years to do something with the building,” said city Main Street Director Tom Rivera, who added he knew of at least one individual interested in the building.

“There are a lot of possibilities. I’ve talked to Mr. Mike Burkholder about deeding it over to the Pecos Economic Development Corp.,” Rivera said. Burkholder asked the council last month to let the PEDC handle sale or leasing of city-owned properties in Pecos. Rivera said Madrid had looked at the building, and was told the second floor and roof were in need of repairs.

“The structure is in pretty good condition. The roof needs to be replaced or fixed, to prevent moisture from getting into the building,” Madrid said.

Council members also agreed to close the 300 block of South Locust Street and East Fourth Street in front of Santa Rosa Catholic Church next Friday and Saturday for the annual 16th of September Fiestas. The event is held each year in the parking lot of the church, and while Sanchez mentioned that the city has closed the 300 block of South Pecan Street in the past, that block will be left open, according to the council resolution. The council agreed to renew a contract with Inmate Communications of Midland for an inmate phone agreement at the Pecos Criminal Justice Center. The current contract has been in effect since the CJC opened in 2002.

“We had a $2,000 signing bonus with the contract and $2,000 in phone cards with the contract,” Police Chief Clay McKinney said. The phone cards will go to the police department, while Inmate Communications will also install between $20,000 and $25,000 of new equipment.

McKinney said the company would continue to own that equipment, while the contract would run for 29 months.

Officials single out FLH site for evacuee housing

Staff Writers

Farm Labor Housing will be the only site used for housing victims of Hurricane Katrina in Pecos, local officials decided on Tuesday.

Local donations are being accepted to help with the Katrina Relief Fund, while the number of people the city is now expecting to receive will not surpass the 175 mark, according to Reeves County Emergency Management Director Ricky Herrera.

“We have talked to Nellie Gomez (Pecos Housing Authority Executive Director), and she has 25 two-bedroom apartments and 24 one-bedroom apartments that can be used,” he said, though the total number of families that will be invited to seek shelter in the community has been set slightly lower, at 45 families.

While other area cities received some flood victims over the weekend, federal officials probably won’t send anyone to Pecos or other rural communities for a couple of weeks, until they can be grouped together as families. Many families were separated in the wake of the flooding that hit New Orleans due to the collapse of levees following the hurricane. “All they need now is some stability in their lives,” Herrera said.

Herrera said under a declaration of emergency by President Bush earlier this week, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will compensate states and localities for their expenses, though he added all expenses had to be fully documented before FEMA would send out payments.

PHA oversees Farm Labor Housing, which under federal law must be kept available for farm workers temporarily living in the Pecos area. However, Herrera said due to the crisis caused by the hurricane in New Orleans, the Department of Housing and Urban Development is expected to waive those rules.

“Farm Labor Housing is not being used that much in that regard, so the PHA can ask HUD for their use,” said city attorney Scott Johnson.

Herrera said he was asked to look for available housing last Friday by Reeves County Judge Jimmy B. Galindo, and over the next several days he and others came up with the number they thought the city could handle.

Another group, the Katrina Hurricane Relief Committee, met Wednesday morning and again on Thursday to go over the situation, including other issues such as cash donations, clothing and household items.

“It has become more of a recruiting effort,” said committee member Nancy Martinez. “Donations will be accepted for this relief effort,” she said.

Martinez said that there are two ways that individuals can contribute, monetary, by donating whatever funds they want to at either bank. “There will be an account set up in each bank, established under the Katrina Relief Fund,” said Martinez.

Another way to help is by contributing necessary items. “And those items can be taken to a trailer that will be set up at La Tienda parking lot and will be manned by various faith-based ministries.

“We are also seeking volunteers that want to help,” said Martinez. “If anyone wishes to volunteer to receive the donations they can call 445-5487, the health and human services,” said Martinez.

Martinez said that right now they are looking at accepting 45 families.

“As the day gets closer to them coming in to town, if they do decided to send us some refugees, we’ll be putting out more information,” said Martinez. “We’ll put out information about what we’ll need for these apartments,” she said.

She said the FLH apartments on West County Road are only partially furnished.

“These apartments have a refrigerator and stove, but will need other necessary items,” said Martinez.

Items that are being accepted now at the trailer located at La Tienda include:

Bottled water, individual servings of juices, drinks.

Popped top canned foods and fruits.

Individual serving snack foods, pretzels, peanuts, granola bars.

Mosquito and bug repellent.

Personal hygiene products; bar and/or liquid soap, deodorant, feminine hygiene products,

hand/baby wipes, Kleenex, shampoo, toilet paper, toothbrushes, toothpaste.

Disposable diapers.

Sun screen.

Flashlight with batteries.

Cleaning supplies; bleach, buckets, disinfectant cleaners, dustpans, mops, pine sol, rubber gloves.

Trash Bags.

Yard tools; rakes, shovels, hoes, work gloves.

County’s relocation offer draws some questions

Reeves County Commissioners agreed to accept displaced residents from New Orleans during a special meeting held Monday afternoon at the courthouse.

The group also listened to some of the concerns that local citizens had regarding the Katrina Hurricane Relief Effort.

“Over the last weeks, we have all observed images of horrific disaster in New Orleans and Mississippi and last Thursday, we spoke to the State Emergency Coordinator to find out what we can do for them out here in West Texas,” said Reeves County Judge Jimmy B. Galindo.

Galindo said that he had spoken with Jack Colley, the Emergency Coordinator for the State of Texas. “Initially, I offered them the use of our vans and the bus at the RCDC to help in the evacuation process,” said Galindo.

Galindo said that Mr. Colley, very pointedly, told him that if the county really wanted to help, it would be by receiving these displaced families.

“He told me that we could really help by receiving some of these people,” said Galindo. Galindo told Colley that he would have to check with local resources and the county emergency management coordinator Ricky Herrera.

“After talking to Ricky and several hotels and the Pecos Housing Authority, we decided that it would be something that we could do,” said Galindo.

Galindo said that he had received a commitment of 85 hotel rooms and 40 apartments from the Pecos Housing Authority, Farm Labor Housing. However, talks later this week limited the housing of refugees to the FLH apartments.

Galindo said that he had also spoken to the county auditor Lynn Owens and he determined that the county could absolutely do it.

Galindo told the group that he had spoken with Colley about reimbursement and that he had been assured that the county would be reimbursed 100 percent.

Galindo said that they had received word late Monday, that the county would know within 2-3 weeks, if they would be receiving any evacuees.

Galindo said that they had time to plan if they were to receive any of the people from New Orleans.

“This gives us a little time to put things together and get the entire community involved,” said Galindo. “It will take everyone for this effort to work,” he said.

Galindo said that his recommendation was to do what our little community can for these individuals.

“This is probably one of the worst natural disasters there has been,” said Galindo. Galindo said that there were 26,000 evacuees in Houston right now that would need permanent housing for at least four to five months.

“The county had been looking at housing 500 of these individuals,” said Galindo. “We’re still waiting to hear if we’re going to get any.”

Herrera told the group that there had been a presidential announcement stating that every county in Texas that would accept these individuals would be reimbursed 100 percent through FEMA.

“There are a lot of forms that we will need to fill out, but we can do it,” said Herrera. “What have we thought about the school system, our classrooms are already overloaded?” asked retired schoolteacher Gradene Gerbert.

Galindo said that they are focusing on more essential needs at this time.

“We’re trying to just get them into an environment where they have a roof over their heads and that’s something we’ll need to look at,” he said.

Gerbert said that there were no empty rooms at the schools and that all the classrooms were already full.

“This is something else we’ll need to be concerned about and something that will need to be looked at at the state level,” said Galindo. However, he added that there are however empty schools in Pecos.

“We have Pecos Elementary and Zavala that has some space available,” said Galindo. “But like I said, that’s something that would need to be looked at by the federal government and at state level.”

“And what about jobs?” asked Gerbert.

“Will some of these folks want to stay, we don’t know, but if it were me, I’d want to go back home,” said Galindo. “Right now, we’ll just be offering them a temporary home.” Galindo said that he was sure they were sorting all that out at the Astrodome at this time. “Those are very valid points, but we can’t answer those at this time,” said Galindo.

“Well, who’s idea was it to do this?” asked Gerbert.

“It was mine,” said Galindo.

“I just think there are other ways we can help,” said Gerbert.

Galindo said that he had proposed other things to the state emergency coordinator and that this was what he was told that they needed.

“I had other proposals, such as sending them backhoes, buses to bus people, but this is what he said that they needed, temporary housing for these people,” said Galindo. “We just need to reach into our hearts and try to lend a helping hand,” he said.

Galindo said that he knew a lot of individuals were thinking this was too much for our community to absorb.

“Does anyone else feel this way?” asked Precinct 2 Commissioner Norman Hill. The crowd in the courtroom answered “no” to that question.

Reeves County Hospital Administrator Bill Conder said that he thought this was a good idea, but that we needed more information.

“This is just the first meeting to discuss this, we’ll be gathering more information and getting more people involved,” said Galindo.

“I know this needs to be done, this has had a global effect and I think it’s a good idea, we just need more information,” said Conder.

Kenneth Winkles said that the Pecos Christian Home was ready to open their doors to families.

“One of the things we need to remember is to love thy neighbor as you would yourself,” said Winkles. “This meeting isn’t for Satan.”

He said that they too, were willing to do anything that needed to be done to help these people out.

“I don’t think it would overload the school system,” said Winkles. “In addition to sending children, I’m sure they’ll also be sending us teachers or other adults that will be happy to volunteer to help their children.”

Rey Carreon, preacher at West Park Baptist Church and Health and Human Services Director, said that they were working on making the food stamps applications easier to obtain.

“We are also looking at waiving the stipulation that you have to be a resident of Texas to receive Medicaid,” said Carreon. “This will help with the health aspect of the situation.” He said that his staff is also preparing to work late to help with all the applications and with anything else that needs to be done.

Town of Pecos City Mayor Dot Stafford said that she would have liked to be in on the plans from the very beginning.

“It’s very embarrassing and I would very much liked to have been in on this from the very beginning,” said Stafford. “I feel that I have not been informed.”

Stafford said that contrary to a story in Tuesday’s Enterprise, she did receive an initial report about the plan last Friday from city manager Joseph Torres, but received no more details over the weekend.

“We started talking about it last Thursday and didn’t find out anything for sure until late Monday,” said Galindo.

Galindo said that he had spoken to the Torres and to police chief Clay McKinney. “I did inform the city and whether or not you wanted to be included, it could be lack of communication at the city,” he said.

Rev. Greer Willis, of First Baptist Church, said that his concern was being locked in to a specific number before we know our resources.

“I would like to see us staying flexible until Bill and everyone does their assessments and we know specifically what we can and can’t handle,” said Willis.

Herrera said that there are things that we can do right now to help, such as donating items that will be needed.

The group met again the following day and came up with a list and a location to drop off the necessary items.

Cuts, shifts, hikes in fees eyed for new city budget

A looming deficit in the Town of Pecos City’s 2006 General Fund budget has been fixed, both through budget cuts and the shifting of expenditures to the city’s water and sewer budget, council members were told during a special meeting on Tuesday at City Hall.

With the city’s 2005 budget coming in at $300,000 over projections and with valuations down by $1.1 million, the council was looking for cuts in the 2006 fiscal year budget. The cuts discussed Tuesday came from the original 2006 budget prepared by City Finance Director Sam Contreras.

“As far as that, we brought it down from $4.8 million to $4,558,900, so basically, we cut $245,000,” Contreras said. “With the water-sewer, we cut $915,000, so overall, we cut $1.1 million.”

The council decided last week not to raise taxes above the effective tax rate of .8115 cents per $100 in valuations, and on Tuesday City Manager Joseph Torres told the council cuts had been made to city departments, in addition to moving other costs off of the General Fund budget, which is funded through property taxes.

“We’ve moved employees from the General Fund to construction crews,” Torres said. “We moved them from the General fund to a revenue-producing fund, so they will pay for themselves.”

The construction crews are scheduled to work on water and sewer projects planned by the city, many of which have been mandated by the State of Texas. Torres said the city also saved money by eliminating engineering fees on repairs of the city’s water tank, and in the current seal coating project, by handling those items in-house with utilities director Edgardo Madrid.

However, while the shifting of employees will cut the budget of the General Fund, the cost of those items will be added to the water and sewer bills paid monthly by local residents.

Council members in August were told completing all the required water and sewer projects immediately would mean an increase of $61 per month to local water bills. Members said they wanted to keep the increase down in the $10-$20 range for the projects alone, because many people couldn’t afford such a sharp increase, which would mean spreading out the projects over a number of years.

Contreras, who oversaw the changes in the budget, said on Wednesday city officials wouldn’t know how much would be added to monthly water and sewer bills until the final budget is completed.

Other proposed changes in the various departments included not filling a position at the Pecos Police Department left vacant when Julio Quinones moved from there to a newly-created position as code enforcement officer for the city. Torres said supervisors in the department would also be put on a straight salary to eliminate overtime, a 40-hour weekly schedule for the department’s workers would be put in place, and the use of police vehicles would be limited to only on-duty hours.

“Off the top, we cut $60,000-$70,000 off the line-item budget,” Torres said.

Other cuts included a freeze on employee salary increases for the 2006 fiscal year. The council was told city workers received increases between 3 and 5 percent each of the past four years.

Contreras said some money was added to the budget for employee training, while the city currently is awaiting a decision on the U.S. Marshal’s Service contract with the Town of Pecos City and how much that will affect costs at the Criminal Justice Center. The Marshal’s Service said it doesn’t have the funds to pay for back salaries mandated for workers at the CJC by the U.S. Department of Labor, along with a new per-diem man/day rate for Marshal’s Service inmates kept at the facility. The two agencies are currently in talks about the pay problem, and Torres said city officials have discussed the man/day rate situation with U.S. Congressman Henry Bonilla.

“With the new per-diem man rate we’ll wait until October 1, when the government closes (the 2005 budget), and see where we are with that,” Contreras said.

During their meeting on Wednesday, the council accepted the 2004 debt collection rate and the calculations on the effective and rollback tax rates from Lydia Prieto of the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD, which handles the city’s tax rate accounting.

“Last year, we collected an excess $22,905,” above the projected total, Preito said. She added that she anticipated a collection rate of 94 percent for 2005.

The effective tax rate of .8115 and the rollback rate of .86036 were both accepted by the council. The effective rate is about one cent higher than the current tax rate, but will bring in the same amount of money as a year ago due to the decline in Pecos’ property values. The rollback rate is the maximum increase allowed before a tax rollback election is mandated under state law.

Valles defends his country while serving in Iraq


CAMP BAHARIA, Iraq (Aug. 22, 2005) - Keeping more than 1,000 men fed and supplied to fight in Iraq’s austere desert environment may be no easy task, but it’s one vehicle operators like Cpl. Jesus Valles gladly tackle.

From freighting tons of food and evacuating critically injured troops, to helping sort hundreds of pounds of mail and supplying camps with thousands of gallons of water, this 25-year-old Pecos, Texas native and his team of mechanics and vehicle operators service every logistical need their infantry brethren have.

Valles is one Marine with 2nd Platooon, Truck Company, Headquarters Battalin, 3rd Marine Division who works nonstop to keep 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment fit to battle the insurgency in Fallujah and the nearby rural province of Saqlawiyah.

“We pretty much do all the supply runs around here, and we’re always prepared for anything,” said Valles, a 1998 Pecos High School graduate.

Together, he and his 42 platoon mates traveled from their home station of Okinawa, Japan to help the North Carolina-based battalion fight terrorism.

Their journey from Far East to Middle East began aboard their island duty station last year, when these Marines first came together. Marines, many of whom had volunteered to deploy to Iraq, from four different commands within 3rd Marine Division formed into 2nd Platoon and commenced training for their seven-month security and stability mission. “I was excited when I found out I was coming to Iraq, because I’d enlisted to come over here and take part in the war,” said Valles. “We started to do a lot of the same training the grunts did, like taking apart different weapons systems and taking IED (improvised explosive devices) classes. They placed a really strong emphasis on convoy training for us, too, because of our jobs,” he said.

In January, Valles’ unit traveled stateside for their first training evolution with 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, their future comrades-in-arms. They participated in a combined arms exercise and urban security and stability operations training California to prepare them for their upcoming mission in Iraq’s turbulent Al Anbar province. It was time well spent for these Marines, Valles stated. Soon after arriving here in mid-March, Valles and several other Truck Company Marines started operating side-by-side and living with the battalion’s infantrymen.

“Everything I did on the line was something I had done during training,” Valles stated, referring to how he conducted hundreds of convoys, vehicle check points and raids alongside his infantrymen. “We made a good team. We (vehicle operators) helped the grunts by bringing them chow and saving them a lot of time and energy by not having to walk with all of their gear on some missions. They helped us by constantly patrolling our convoy routes and keeping them free of IED’s.”

While working as part of the battalion’s Company B, Valles helped evacuate a Marine who had been shot in the finger to a nearby military hospital.

Currently, he works out of Camp Baharia, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment’s headquarters.

While the battalion’s mechanics and their Truck Company counterparts service the vehicles, Valles and his fellow operators perform daily supply runs for camp personnel and the grunts living within Northern Fallujah.

These supplies include transporting approximately 18,000 gallons of bulk fuel and 36,000 gallons of water per week.

“We supply all of the water and fuel to the bases, and we even have some of our Marines working as part of the camp’s guard force and helping man the ECPs (entry control points, stations outside Fallujah where Iraqi police and Marines search vehicles and personnel entering the city),” stated Gunnery Sgt. Anthony Shamy, 2nd Platoon’s staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge. “The Marines work from sunup to well past sundown to keep the trucks running and the supplies flowing, and they do it without complaints. I couldn’t be any prouder than I am of my guys,” he said.

The Truck Company Marines’ hard-working ethic is embodied in individuals like Valles. Shamy said Valles was recently meritoriously promoted to his present rank for his devotion to duty.

“Corporal Valles is a hard-charger,” Shamy continued. “He takes charge of his fellow Marines to get them working, not by yelling and cussing, but by leading by example. He’s self-driven, and the Marines listen to him.”

Shamy added that this sort of team spirit is not unique to Valles, but seen in 2nd Platoon as a whole. They will continue working together to help secure Iraq.

“When I first came here, I thought I’d be nervous, but with all the training we did before, I think we prepared for this mission pretty well,” said Valles. “We’re all just doing our jobs out here, working hard, and things are running smoothly,” he said.

Valles is the son of Jesse and Martha Valles, of Pecos, and has one son, Jesus Valles IV.

God’s Army meeting postponed

An electrical problem has forced God’s Army to postpone a youth meeting scheduled for this weekend at their new headquarters, 1320 Veterans Blvd.

Kim Ewing, youth director, said the meeting with Rev. Calvin Cosby will be rescheduled later in the fall.

Mata Memorial tourney set for Sept. 24

The Third Annual West Texas Old Timer’s League CW2 Johnny V. Mata Memorial Tournament will be held Saturday, Sept. 24.

Opening ceremony will begin at 8 a.m., Saturday, at Martinez Field in Pecos.

This year the tournament will be an “open tournament”, which means, if a team wants to come and join the tournament and is not on the West Texas Old Timer’s League, they’re more than welcome to come and join everyone for this special memorial.

All new teams must abide by the W.T.O.T.L. rules.

The entry fee is $125 plus four baseballs per team.

There will be food and drinks for sale and the proceeds will go towards a scholarship fund to be given at the Pecos High School and to keep going for next year’s memorial tournament.

For more information contact: Albert Mata at 432-448-2002; Domingo Mata Jr. at 432-448-7494; Domingo C. Mata Sr. at 432-445-4891, (after 5 p.m.) or Rosa Salinas at 432-448-1280.

Please contact any of these individuals two weeks in advance and let them know if a team will be coming so that they can be put on the bracket.

WWW Pecos Enterprise

Pecos Enterprise
York M. "Smokey" Briggs, Publisher
324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 432-445-5475, FAX 432-445-4321

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