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Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Bonilla discusses Senate bid in Pecos stop

Staff Writer

U.S. Congressman Henry Bonilla paid a visit to Pecos on Monday, which may or may not have doubled as an early campaign stop for 2006, as he awaits a decision on whether or not to run for the U.S. Senate.

The seven-term Republican from San Antonio toured the Reeves County Detention Center, and then met with local citizens for a question-and-answer session late Monday morning in the West of the Pecos Museum courtyard. It was one of three stops on the day for Bonilla, but the only one within his 23rd Congressional District, as he makes plans to run for the Senate in 2006, if incumbent Kay Bailey Hutchison decides to challenge Rick Perry for governor.

“Whatever her plans might be, and I communicate with her a on a regular basis, and I communicate with the governor on a regular basis, and I want to underline in bold, I’m not encouraging her to do else at this time,” Bonilla said. “She is trying to make her decisions based on what she feels in right for her and for whatever office she holds in the future. But if she chooses to vacate the seat I’m running for that seat, no ifs ands or buts.” Bonilla was planning to travel to Seminole and to Fort Worth on Monday following his Pecos stop, as part of his exploratory efforts to set up a Senate bid, before returning to Washington.

“Right now I’m spending my time, quite frankly not as much in my community like I have in past years,” he said. “For the next few months I’m concentrating on going out to a lot of areas that hold the key votes for something like this if the opportunity presents itself.”

Republicans currently hold both U.S. Senate seats as well as all the top elected statewide offices in Texas. Hutchison’s challenge to Perry would come in the March 2006 Republican primary, if it happens, and Bonilla said, “The U.S. Senate competition, if there is one, will all be in Republican primary voting hands.”

Almost all voters in Reeves County traditionally vote in the Democratic primary, but Bonilla has won a majority of votes in the county in several of his re-election bids, including his win last November over Joe Sullivan for the 23rd District seat.

Bonilla noted that when he was first elected in 1992, defeating longtime Democratic Congressman Alberto Bustamante, the 23rd District was considered a solid Democratic district. “A lot of people thought you couldn’t do it because simply it hadn’t been done before. My population historically has been over 65 percent Hispanic a lot of people thought people of my ethnic background would not in overwhelming numbers support a Republican candidate.”

Bonilla toured the RCDC prior to his visit downtown. The prison holds over 2,000 U.S. Bureau of Prison inmates, but was unable in 2003 to get additional BOP inmates for the new $40 million RCDC III unit. The county eventually was able to secure a contract with the State of Arizona to house its prisoners at RCDC III, which allowed it to receive the payments to pay off the prison’s construction bonds.

The congressman said he is working on getting federal funding to help fully rehabilitee the former Smithers Automotive Testing Center, which the Pecos Economic Development Corp., along with Texas A&M and Applied Research Associates out of Albuquerque are seeking to reopen. And he was hopeful that Congress would be able to pass President Bush’s energy bill in the near future. High energy prices have helped the area’s oil and gas production industry, but have hurt local drivers and will hurt local agriculture producers this year who rely on natural gas to fuel pumps for underground water irrigation.

“It’s not going to happen overnight. This is something that’s more long-term, but it still has to get through the Senate,” Bonilla said of the energy bill, which passed the House last week.

Bonilla mentioned several other issues Congress was currently dealing with, such as Social Security reform, during his talk in the museum courtyard. He was also questioned about the current Latin American free trade bill before Congress and was asked to vote against it by one of the local livestock producers.

“For the most part there’s a lot of support for it in our state. The agriculture community is for it. However, a lot of the sugar producers are very concerned about the sugar provisions in that which is going to make it very difficult to pass,” Bonilla said. He added that other livestock producers he has talked to have been supportive of the bill.

Asked about bipartisanship in Washington, Bonilla said while the bills that come out of the House Appropriations Committee, where he is the No. 2 Republican member, usually gain over 400 votes from the full House, he was opposed to compromising on certain other issues.

“I’m not here to tell you I’m going to be bi-partisan on issues I have to sacrifice a principle on. If it’s a vote to eliminate the death tax I don’t care who is opposed to it, I’m going to be against them because I believe very strongly in that, and I don’t want to water down something like that, or if it’s an issue involving the war on terrorism I’m not going to sacrifice any principals just to be bi-partisan.

“Nobody can solve everybody’s problem, no matter what job you hold. But I think they walk away knowing we did all we could and knowing that if the next day presents a new challenge we’ll be there to try to help as well,” he said.

Barreno serves second tour of duty in Iraq

SPC Christopher Barreno was deployed to Iraq on Feb. 28, which is the second tour in Iraq for Barreno. He is with the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment stationed out of Fort Carson, Colo. On April 10, Barreno met up with his Uncle Jimmy Leonard in Baghdad. Leonard has been in Iraq since January 2 and is with the National Guard Unit out of Abilene.

Barreno’s brother Marco will also be deploying to Iraq in September.

Christopher’s wife, Amy and son, John are staying in Pecos until he gets back from Iraq.

He is the son of Larry and Debra Martinez.

His brothers, Marco and Jr. and sister’s Amy and Amanda are very proud of him.

RCDC bond restructuring gets approval

Staff Writer

Reeves County Commissioners took more steps towards the restructuring of bonds for the Reeves County Detention Center, during a special meeting held Friday afternoon. Commissioners approved authorizing the execution and delivery of several documents pertaining to the restructuring and refinancing of the RCDC, after the county’s bond rating was upgraded above junk bond status in March.

Barry Friedman, of Carlyle Capital Markets, Inc., was on hand and the group also held a phone conference with Vicky Hall of the company’s Dallas office.

Friedman told the group that the county had reached a very significant achievement in regards to the ratings going up. “A lot of hard work has gone into this,” he said.

The county’s inability to get the U.S. Bureau of Prisons to place inmates into the new 960-bed RCDC III in 2003 threatened to prevent the county from repaying its bonds on time, which caused bond rating agencies to lower the county’s bonds to junk status. Junk bonds are normally harder to sell in the marketplace and carry a higher repayment cost. The improved rating comes after the county signed a contract with the State of Arizona to house inmates in RCDC III.

Friedman said that the rating had been raised to Triple B minus, the first level above junk bond status. The change will save the county money in terms of repayment rates it will have to make on the bonds, along with making the securities easier to sell in the bond market.

Standard and Poors’ Ratings Services raised its underlying rating (SPUR) on Reeves County, lease-rental certificates of participation debt outstanding two notches to ‘BBB’- from ‘BB’ in March, based on improved coverage levels the company said should result from the county’s debt service restructuring.

“This will smooth things out and make it very competitive as far as RFP’s as well,” said Friedman.

He said that most facilities such as the RCDC are usually leased out for 20-25 years to begin with.

“It’s been a tough three years, we can only second guess what’s to come. But we’re looking at the future of the county in a very positive position today in going forward,” said Friedman.

He said that the move towards restructuring was multi-faceted.

“First and foremost to keep rental payments to what it had been in 2005, to levelize that,” said Friedman. “Through a longer term recoup general fund money, which the county did have to step up and make payments during the ramp-up at the facility.”

Friedman told the group that they would have flexibility in going forward and that structurally what they had in place was very strong.

In addition, some amendments were made to the contract with the State of Arizona, according to Friedman.

With the BOP using only space available in RCDC I and II, the county negotiated an agreement with Arizona Department of Corrections in February of 2004 to house a minimum of 778 of the state’s inmates in RCDC III of the facility at a per diem of $44.80. Inmates began arriving at Reeves County Detention Center in March 2004. The contract was extended later that year to June 30, 2005.

Hall was on hand via telephone to answer any questions regarding the financial side of the restructuring.

The upgrade to ‘BBB’ is contingent on management’s refunding of the debt outstanding identified in the offering memorandum. Should the refunding not occur, the rating on the debt outstanding would revert back to the previous ‘BB’ rating, the company said.

In 2004, Reeves County and the U.S. Bureau of Prisons finalized an agreement in which the bureau will continue to use only Reeves County Detention Center’s sections I and II. Management used the most recent certificates of participation to finance the construction of RCDC III, but could not get the BOP to provide inmates for the new 960-bed facility. The BOP did agree to a new per diem has been set at $48.25 for a minimum of 2,025 federal inmates. The new agreement will extend to Jan. 31, 2007, with annual per diem adjustments. The bureau has placed inmates at the facility since the first unit opened with 300 beds in 1986. The prison currently can hold over 3,100 inmates, making it one of the largest non-federal or state-run prisons in the nation.

County’s March jobless rate drops back

Reeves County’s jobless rate dropped back below 10 percent in March, according to figures released on Friday by the Texas Workforce Commission.

The TWC said the county had 390 people unemployed out of a workforce of 3,954 people, for a 9.9 percent jobless rate. That’s down from 10.5 percent in January and 10.4 percent in February, the first two months that the TWC’s new jobless numbers were formulated, based on 2000 U.S. Census Bureau data.

The revised census numbers raised unemployment by over 3 percent in the county, while at the same time cutting the estimated number of people in the workforce by over 20 percent. The March numbers showed an increase of 19 people and 37 jobs over February’s totals within the county, but the number of jobs is still 33 fewer than in January, when the TWC said there were 4,019 workers in Reeves County’s labor force. There are no figures for the unemployment rate for the Town of Pecos City, due to the new formulation numbers by the TWC. The commission said the new unemployment figures are more accurate than the ones based on the older formula, but the new system also removed listings for any cities with fewer than 25,000 people.

Across the area, most counties saw a drop in their jobless rates for March. Andrews County’s jobless rate fell from 5 to 4.6 percent, as its workforce declined slightly while the total number of jobs in

the county increased. Brewster County (Alpine) saw its rate fall from 3.9 to 3.5 percent, as it added both workers and jobs to its labor force. Pecos County’s rate went from 6.3 to 5.8 percent, as its labor force and total number of jobs increased, while Ward County saw a drop in its jobless rate from 6.8 to 6.2 percent, as the number of workers in the county dropped by 33, which offset a loss of five jobs from February’s total.

Ector County (Odessa), saw its jobless rate drop from 5.6 to 5 percent in March, despite a drop in jobs. The area’s second-largest county had 71 fewer jobs in March compared with February, but saw its labor force fall by over 430 people. Over in Midland County, unemployment fell from 4.4 to 4.1 percent. The TWC said Midland had only three fewer jobs in March from the previous month, but its labor force declined by 210 during that same time.

Statewide, unemployment fell to 5.6 percent in March, down from 6 percent a month earlier, and non-farm jobs grew for the seventh straight month. The TWC said Friday that the number of working Texans rose to a record 10.52 million in March, a 1.3 percent increase over a year ago.

About 626,000 Texans were unemployed. That estimate does not include people who have stopped actively looking for a job, and both the employed and jobless figures were adjusted for seasonal hiring and firing.

Initial claims for unemployment benefits in March were 12.5 percent lower than in March 2004 and continued claims were down 27.4 percent, the commission said.

The state unemployment rate was the lowest estimated by the state agency since 2001. Texas was still higher than the national unemployment rate of 5.2 percent for March. Both figures were seasonally adjusted, which most economist believe gives a more accurate picture of the job market.

PHS classes of ’42, ’55 prepare for reunions

Old classmates, friend and family members are busy getting ready for reunions in Pecos.

The 50th anniversary reunion for the Pecos High School class of 1955 is scheduled for this weekend in Pecos. While next month, the Class of 1942 will be holding a reunion here as well.

The Class of ’55 reunion is planned for April 29- May 1 and the Best Western Swiss Clock Inn will be headquarters.

There will be a registration fee of $25 per person to help defray expenses. This fee will include a “Meet N’ Greet” Deli Buffet Friday evening meal at 7 p.m. in the meeting room at the motel. The meeting room will be open all afternoon for visiting.

Saturday the meeting room will be open all day, while there will be no scheduled lunch, as everyone is encouraged to explore all stomping grounds around town.

Saturday afternoon, at about 5 p.m., the group will meet at Buddy and Sue Bryan’s back yard at 804 Jefferson Street for a visit and barbecue. There will be refreshments.

Sunday morning will be breakfast, checkout and goodbyes.

The Pecos High School class of 1942 will hold their 63rd reunion in Pecos on May 20-22, the week prior to graduation for the 2005 Pecos High School senior class. The 1942 group will be remembering that when they were graduating they were not planning careers or choosing what college to attend, since they were the first class to graduate following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the U.S. entry into World War II. All of the 19 men in the class were soon in the military forces serving in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps or U.S. Coast Guard. Some didn’t wait for graduation ceremonies, but volunteered for service immediately after FDR’s stirring speech about the “Day that will live in infamy.”

After the Japanese surrendered in 1945, these young men returned home to pick up the threads of interrupted lives and resume what is now accepted as the normal concerns of young Americans graduating from high school.

Miraculously, though some wore purple hearts, there were no war fatalities in the group. And, when the class got back together for their 40th reunion in 1982, all classmates, both men and women were still living.

The 22 women in the class were not left out of the war effort. Many of them became “Rosie the Riveters” in war-related production plants or worked at military bases such as the Pecos Army Air Base and the Rattlesnake Bomber Base in Pyote.

Though eight are no longer living, most of the remaining 34 class members lead active lives. Many will come from California, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Georgia, Tennessee, Arizona and Texas to join with their classmates in reminiscences and to update themselves with some of this year’s graduates at Pecos High School.

Fernandes gives Red Hat book review

Members of The Modern Study met recently in the home of MSC President Lena Harpham to hear a book review presented by Emily Fernandes.

Mrs. Fernandes, dressed appropriately in a purple suit with a large red hat and red shoes, gave a sampling of the lives of five women who’ve been best friends through 30 years since high school. The book written by Haywood Smith, “The Red Hat Club,” quotes Jenny Joseph’s poem of an old woman who “wears purple with a red hat which doesn’t go….”

“Red hat clubs have sprung up all over the world, a grassroots insurgency of women who have lived long enough to savor the simple act of having fun with the girls.”

Mrs. Fernandes read the “Red Hat Rules” known as the “Twelve Sacred Traditions”: Do Overs; Makeovers; No Lies; No Telling; Mind Your Own Business; Girls First; No Secret Affairs; No Beating Each Other Up When We Blow It; No General Discussions About Religion, Abortion or Politics; With the Exception of Alcoholic Beverages, all Calories Shall be in Chewable Form; No “I Told You So’s”; the Subject of Weight Will Never Be Mentioned or Even Implied; Codicil: Exercise and Workout Fads May Only Be Mentioned Once.

“The Red Hat Club” is a funny, unforgettable novel that shows the power women can find when they accept and support one another.

President Lena Harpham called the meeting to order. Betty Lee le the Collect and Nan Cate led the pledges to the U.S. Flag and Texas Flag. Regular business was conducted and Mrs. Cate gave a Federation Report on “Books From the Heart,” regarding available books for young children.

Betty Lee, treasurer, reported that funds from the bake sale were enough to cover this year’s senior scholarship.

Catherine Travland reported that nursery books, “Tales of Virtue” were available from Publications International, Ltd. She was given permission to order a supply for the Newborn Packets given by the Reeves County Hospital to new parents.

Mrs. Harpham appointed Joyce Morton and Catherine Travland to assist her in selecting a suitable location for the TFWC Fall Board Meeting, Oct. 22.

Roll call was answered by each member telling a joke or funny story.

Iris Reddick and Paula Fuller assisted Mrs. Harpham with hostess duties.

Weather spotter training class Tuesday

The National Weather Service in Midland will offer a severe weather spotter training session, from 7-9 p.m. on Tuesday at the Reeves County Civic Center.

The training Session will include such topics as: tornado and downburst production; classification, structure and behavior of single cell, multi-cell and super-cell thunderstorm; airflow in and near tornadic thunderstorms and additional examples of severe thunderstorms, tornadoes, wall clouds, and downbursts.

Please give serious consideration to attending the training session and/or designating members of your staff to attend. You are encouraged to invite others who have an interest in severe weather spotting for the National Weather Service. It should be noted that the training session is designed for the purpose of training spotters.

The presentation represents an opportunity to receive training that could be of great value to your community, business, school and home.

For further information call the Emergency Management Office at 432-445-5418.

Credit by exam sign-up deadline near

Credit by examination (without prior instruction) sign-up is currently being held and the deadline is this Wednesday, April 27, in the counselor’s office with Eva Arriola and Pat Cobos.

Test dates will be held Wednesday, May 18 and Friday, May 20, at the Pecos High School.

Credit by Examination for acceleration allows students enrolled in grades nine through 12 to be awarded credit toward high school graduation through credit by examination for acceleration.

Students who wish to obtain credit for any class that counts toward graduation may apply to take the examination for acceleration. The student may not have been previously enrolled in the class. Applications are available in the Pecos High School Guidance and Counseling Office.

Credit is granted to students who score 90 percent or above mastery on the examination for acceleration. The test will only be administered once in the fall and spring semesters. A copy of the testing schedule and application deadlines are available in the counseling office.

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