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Friday, November 11, 2005

Chamber Oks ‘Night’ shift to end of July

Members of the Pecos Area Chamber of Commerce have changed the date for the annual Night in Old Pecos/Cantaloupe Festival, but new events have been planned to coincide with the festivities, which are now scheduled for late July.

The date change was approved by the Night In Old Pecos Committee and was presented to the Chamber’s Board of Directors on Tuesday, as part of their monthly meeting.

The event has been held traditionally on the weekend prior to the start of the West of the Pecos Rodeo, but will now take place about month later.

The item had been discussed at the October chamber meeting and the surveys were handed out at that time.

“We had sent out surveys to see how people feel about changing the date of Night In Old Pecos, to the latter part of July,” said chamber member Debbie Thomas.

“We collected all of them and discussed at the meeting,” said Thomas. “We had some people say that they didn’t want the date changed, but we had a lot more that said they did.” Thomas said that they would like to try the new date in 2006 and see how it works out, and if it isn’t successful go back to the old date.

Night in Old Pecos is usually held the last Saturday in June, following the Golden Girl/Little Miss Cantaloupe Pageant, which is held the previous night.

“We were having it the Saturday after the pageant, but we weren’t having as many people as we would like,” said Thomas. “Also the volunteers were getting tired, because it was the same ones that would volunteer during the rodeo.”

Another problem the past few years has been a lack of Pecos Cantaloupes for the Cantaloupe Festival. The event began 20 years ago in late July, but was merged with Night in Old Pecos due to low turnout. However, since the area’s cantaloupe harvest normally doesn’t begin until after the Fourth of July, cantaloupes were in short supply, and efforts to speed up the harvest of some melons in order to be available by late June was unsuccessful. Thomas said the new date would give people another chance to visit Pecos and would give the volunteers who work at the events a break.

“We can re-evaluate it after next year,” said Thomas. “And since it will be held at the end of the month, hopefully we can have some cantaloupes, since the title of the event is Night in Old Pecos/Cantaloupe Festival.”

The 2006 Night in Old Pecos/Cantaloupe Festival will be held Saturday, July 27, the last Saturday in July.

“The other activities that we have planned for that weekend include a Cantaloupe Food Show,” said Thomas.

The group sponsored a Cantaloupe Food Show earlier this year at the Trans Pecos Bank and the event went really well and a lot of people turned out for the first time event, according to Thomas.

“Since it went really well at the bank this year, we thought it would be alright to change it to another location and have it in conjunction with Night in Old Pecos,” she said. “These are just tentative events we are working on,” she said.

The food show would be held on Friday and a car show on Saturday.

“GEO (RCDC prison management) will be hosting a car show on Saturday during the day and then that evening we’ll have the festivities in downtown Pecos,” said Thomas.

She said that the Windmill Square Players are also working on something special to coincide with the weekend’s events.

“They are putting together something special that will be held that weekend as well,” she said.

The Cantaloupe Fly-In will be held Sunday, July 28, at the Pecos Municipal Airport. “They have moved that event to coincide with the festival,” said Thomas.

In other business on Tuesday, Women’s Division President Michelle Workman told the Chamber that their group is working on their Fireman/EMT Appreciation Dinner, scheduled for Saturday.

“Since we did so well in the Pretty Baby Contest that we sponsored during the Fall Fair, we plan to use those funds for the dinner,” said Workman.

This year’s event will feature Italian food, with music provided by D.J. Eddie Vasquez. “We plan to feed 150-160 people the firemen/EMT’s and their immediate family, we’ll donate some of the funds to the food bank and will some of the funds for the Christmas Lighting Contest in December,” she said.

Board member Bill Oglesby updated the group on tourism/advertising.

“We hope to finish the signs for the parks/zoo on Nov. 29,” said Oglesby. “There will be a double sign at the exit and another sign at the park by the buffalo pens,” he said.

The brochure the group has been working on will feature a map of Pecos.

“We hope to put these out at the motels, since Pecos is shaped funny this will help our visitors get around,” he said.

Oglesby also welcomed everyone to go out to this weekend’s swim meet, scheduled to begin Friday afternoon and late Saturday morning at the Pecos High School Natatorium. “We put on an excellent meet and hope that everyone can come out and see all the good swimmers,” said Oglesby. “We also help other towns put on swim meets.”

This year’s Christmas Parade is scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m., Friday, Dec. 2, with lineup at the Pecos High School.

“This year’s theme is ‘What Christmas Means To Me,’” said chamber director Linda Gholson. “Hot chocolate and cookies will be served at the Reeves County Courthouse where the parade will end,” she said.

A Holiday Open House will be held Tuesday, Nov. 22 by some of the merchants in the community.

“This will give everyone in the community to see what Pecos has to offer before they go shopping out of town,” said Gholson.

City’s offer on bed tax fund split questioned

Town of Pecos City Council members put off any action on a new contract with the Pecos Chamber of Commerce for sharing the city’s hotel-motel bed tax, pending a meeting of the bed tax board to discuss the proposal.

The city’s offer would divide the funds received from the occupancy tax into four equal shares, which city officials said would be the fairest way to handle the issue. However, members of the Chamber said the plan would take away funds from both the Chamber and from the group’s advertising committee if approved.

Chamber board members discussed the bed tax dilemma during their regular meeting on Tuesday, the day before the city council reviewed the issue at their regular meeting at City Hall.

“I took them our proposal and now what I need to know from all of you is if you want to accept their contract or take our proposal back to them again,” said board president Jimmy Dutchover, before board members opted to resubmit the same proposal that they had approved during last month’s meeting to the city, following a discussion On Wednesday, Dutchover told the council, “They asked us if we could take it back to the hotel-motel committee, but we haven’t met as the hotel-motel committee since the contract was drawn up.”

The dispute centers on the division of the city’s hotel-motel bed tax revenues, after the total surpassed the $160,000 mark annually on which the contract was based. The current agreement calls for the Town of Pecos City will receive $8,700 each quarter to fund the Main Street Program, while the West of the Pecos Museum will get 27 percent of the remaining hotel/motel tax, the Chamber’s advertising committee will get 36 percent of the total and the Chamber’s general fund will get 37.0 percent.

The formula presented by the city and rejected by Chamber board members would divide all of the bed tax funds evenly between all four groups, with each receiving 25 percent quarterly of whatever amount the hotel/motel occupancy tax pulls in. The agreement would also have an automatic renewal option, city attorney Scott Johnson said.

He added that while there are only certain things the hotel-motel tax can be spent on, such as encouraging tourism, the money in the end is controlled by the city. “Everybody doesn’t have to agree with it,” he said. “If they don’t like the proposal, they can opt out.”

City manager Joseph Torres said he believed having all four groups split the total equally would benefit the city’s tourism efforts in the long run. “I don’t know how large the hotel-motel tax will be, but it’s been going up 4.5 to 4.6 percent each quarter.”

Bed tax committee member Bill Oglesby pointed out that under the old arrangement, any total above $160,000 went to the Chamber, but at the same time, the funds for the Main Street Program were taken out of the bed tax before the remaining funds were divided up.

He said the Chamber and the advertising committee would initially lose funds under the new proposal, while the museum and the Main Street Program would see an increase, but noted both those groups had not spent all the funds they had received in past years.

“If you’re not spending all your funds, maybe you have enough to operate on,” he said. Oglesby said the museum is seeking funds to repair leaks in its roof, which was improperly attached to the walls during a renovation seven years ago, and fix a sinkhole in the patio area before applying to be included in the new Trans-Pecos Trails guide the State of Texas is putting together.

“There are 22 counties in the (trails) program. Some of them won’t be as active, but others will be aggressively pushing to get their museums, parks and programs into the brochure,” he said.

Council member Frank Sanchez said the Museum should look into seeking funds through the Main Street program for repair work to the roof or patio. The state program is designed to help groups and businesses fund restoration of buildings in downtown areas of cities for business and tourism purposes.

Slack back in county office after 53-year break

When trouble popped up and a vacancy occurred in the Reeves County Attorney’s office at the end of October, county commissioners and County Judge Jimmy Galindo looked around for a replacement, before deciding to get the man responsible for creating the office he’ll be dealing with, during his long tenure in the Texas Legislature.

Richard C. Slack, who was first elected to public office in Reeves County 57 years ago and last served as a county official 53 years ago, was named by county commissioners on Monday as the new Reeves County Attorney, where he’ll handle cases going before the Reeves County Court-At-Law

“When I was in the legislature, I got the bill passed that created the county court-at-law,” he said. “The court-at-law judge has all the legal jurisdiction a county judge normally has.” Slack, who celebrated his 90th birthday earlier this year, agreed to take the position last week, and was appointed by Reeves County Commissioners on Monday, though he has yet to take the oath of office.

“They wanted someone who was weak-minded and easily influenced to take care of it,” Slack joked, during a meeting Tuesday of the Red Bluff Water Power Control District Board, where he represents Reeves County Water Improvement District No. 2 “He’s a very well respected member of the community and very capable,” Galindo said prior to Slack’s appointment.

Slack was elected Reeves County Judge when he was 33 years old, and served from 1949 through 1952, when he won election as the area’s representative in the Texas Legislature. He served there as a member of the legislature’s Democratic majority for 14 terms, during which time he was a member of the powerful Legislative Budget Board.

Slack lost his bid for re-election in 1980 to Big Spring Republican Larry Don Shaw, and was out of elective office for over a decade, before taking the job as Reeves County WID No. 2 representative in the mid-1990s. He also still manages his local business interests in both Reeves and Presidio counties.

His new job comes as the result of the Oct. 28 resignation of Luis Carrasco as Reeves County Attorney. Carrasco submitted his letter of resignation to Galindo one day after Texas Rangers conducted a warrant search on his office, as part of an investigation into missing funds from Reeves County and personal client accounts.

“I was kind of drafted into this,” he said. “They’ve got a problem with the old county attorney, where the law says you can’t take him off the payroll until a new county attorney is appointed. He already owes the county $30,000, so they thought they better get him off the payroll.”

Slack said on Tuesday he was busy moving some of the county attorney’s records and furniture over to his office, which is just across Cypress Street from Carrasco’s office. He also said he would keep the two secretaries being employed by Carrasco to handle county attorney business.

“They’ll still be employed. They’re well qualified,” he said. “Some said just run everybody off, but I said ‘nosiree, they’re well qualified’.”

The county attorney and county court-at-law handle cases such as DUIs, probation of wills and juvenile cases that fall in-between the jurisdiction of Justice of the Peace and the District Court levels. “The big cities have several county courts-at-law, and some of the rural areas don’t have any,” he said.

“Constitutionally, the county judge doesn’t have to be a lawyer, he only has to be learned in the law,” Slack said of the state rules for county judges. “The lawyers can help them out, but I think it works better when a county has a court-at-law.”

Slack said he was chosen after other local lawyers either declined the position, or couldn’t take it due to a conflict of interest.

“Bill Weinacht, Roddy Harrison are guys who are successful. They don’t want to fool with it because they have too much in their private practice,” he said. “Or with Scott Johnson, they have a conflict of interest.”

Johnson, who is the Town of Pecos City’s attorney, is the son-in-law of Reeves County Court-At-Law Judge Walter Holcombe.

“I was responsible for creating this position, so it should be interesting,” he said. “I’ve got an experienced staff, so it should be a smooth transition.”

Slack has remained active with area business interests since leaving the Texas House 25 years ago, though he said, “Really, I don’t have enough to do,” he told the Red Bluff board on Tuesday.

“Of course in the future, I expect them to get someone younger, but I’ll hold it as long as they need me,” he said.

“When I get a little older and more mature, I’ll stop being so active,” Slack said.

Local gay marriage ban vote tops state margin

Reeves County voters proved to be more conservative than voters statewide on Tuesday’s most highly debated ballot issue, but the constitutional amendment to prohibit gay marriages in Texas passed by a wide margin at both the state and county level. Proposition 2 passed across the state Tuesday, with 76 percent of voters favoring the ban and 24 percent opposing it. The amendment takes effect immediately.

In Reeves County, the margin was even wider, with almost 88 percent of those casting votes supporting the measure, and just over 12 percent opposing. A total of 567 people voted for Proposition 2, while just 80 voted against the measure, according to results from the Reeves County Clerk’s office.

``I think it's a really loud message that people in Texas and nationwide really strongly believe that marriage is a man and a woman, and children deserve both a mom and a dad and we shouldn't be tinkering with that,'' said Kelly Shackelford, a leader of Texans For Marriage, which favored the Texas ban.

While Texas law already prohibited same-sex marriages, the constitutional amendment was touted as an extra safeguard against future court rulings that might allow it.

The ban's opponents, however, argued that a constitutional ban is merely a statement of discrimination against homosexuals. They also suggested that the amendment's wording could endanger common-law or even traditional marriages, depending on how a judge interprets it.

On other proposed amendments, Texas voters approved a change to deny bail for criminal defendants who violate release conditions pending trial, and to create a relocation and improvement fund for Texas railroads. Voters approved a change to allow cities to issue long-term grants and loans for economic development.

Texans also passed a measure to allow people age 62 or older the option of borrowing against the equity in their homes by setting up a line of credit rather than taking a lump-sum loan or fixed monthly advance.

Voters rejected proposals giving the Legislature the authority to define maximum interest rates for commercial loans, and the authority to expand members' terms on regional mobility authority boards, or toll-road agencies, from two years to six years.

In Reeves County, voters also approved Proposition 1, on the improvement fund for Texas railroads, by a 324-226 vote margin.

Proposition 3, which specified that certain economic development programs do not constitute a debt passed across the state but failed in Reeves County, by a 219-32 vote margin.

Proposition 4, on denying bail to criminal defendants who violate release conditions, passed in Reeves County by a 483-97 margin. - For, 483, Against, 97; Proposition 5, on allowing the legislature to define rates of interest for commercial loans also failed among county voters, getting only 246 votes for and 309 against.

Proposition 6, on adding members to the State Commission on Judicial Conduct passed locally 312 to 233. Proposition 7, on approving line-of-credit advances, passed 301 to 242; Proposition 8, on the land claims in Smith and Upshur counties, passed in Reeves County 267-210, and Proposition 9, on expanding members' terms on regional mobility authority boards, also lost in Reeves County, by a 278 to 230 margin.

Police jail two, continue probe in assault case

Two persons were arrested this week, and other arrests could follow, Pecos Police said, as the result of an assault last month that left a local man hospitalized.

Adam Huertas, 19, 318 S. Olive St., was arrested on Tuesday on a warrant charging him with aggravated assault causing bodily injury, while Roger Matta, 21, of 424 N. Oak St., was arrested on Wednesday on the same warrant charge. Police said Huertas was arrested at 614 S. Walnut St., while Matta was arrested at his home on the warrants, which were issued by Municipal Court Judge Amanario Ramon.

According to Police Chief Clay McKinney, the arrests were made following an investigation into an assault that had occurred two weeks earlier.

“On October 23, a victim identified as Juan Serrano, 34, left a local club in Pecos with the two suspects,” he said. “They went to a residence in Pecos, and while at the residence Mr. Serrano was assaulted and robbed of approximately $70.

“The suspect after the robbery was able to walk to a nearby business, and there was able to call the police,” McKinney said. Serrano was later taken to Reeves County Hospital, and was hospitalized for three days for treatment of his injuries.”

“We have obtained written confessions from the defendants Huertas and Matta,” he said, adding “We are continuing the investigation, and there is a good probability additional warrants will be issued in this.”

Arreguy, Contreras announce wedding plans

Mr. and Mrs. Benny Arreguy are happy to announce the engagement of their daughter, Monette Pena Arreguy, to Freddy M. Contreras.

Freddy is the son of the late Mr. Federico A. Contreras and Mrs. Julia M. Contreras of Pecos.

The bride-elect is a graduate of Pecos High School. She is employed by the 143rd District Clerk’s Office.

The groom-elect is a graduate of Pecos High School. He is an investigator for the 143rd District Attorney’s Office.

The wedding is planned for Nov. 19, 2005, at Santa Rosa de Lima Catholic Church in Pecos.

The couple will reside in Pecos.

Rubio celebrates first birthday

Ricky Rubio III celebrated his first birthday with a party held in his honor at his home on Saturday, Nov. 5.

Many friends and family were on hand to help with the celebration. Enrique is the son of Ricky Jr. and Christina Rubio.

His maternal grandparents are Ruben Orona and Marylou Orona. Paternal grandparents are Ricky and Norma Rubio.

He is the Godson of Richard and Aurora Franco.

Baby Ricky’s favorite gift was a play center given to him by his Grandpa Ruben.

Rodriguez deployed to Iraq

Specialist Samuel Rodriguez was deployed to Iraq on Oct. 7, 2005. He was stationed at Ft. Still.

Specialist Rodriguez is the son of Al and Norma Wentworth.

Rodriguez is going as a heavy equipment transport company.

He will be deployed for a year.

Rodriguez has two children, Samuel Jr., 6-years-old and Jocelynn, who is two years old.

He and his wife, Rebecca, are expecting their first child in April.

Rodriguez was also deployed in 1999 and 2003.

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