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Tuesday, February 1, 2005

P-B-T members Hear pros, cons of drug test plan

Staff Writer

Parents, grandparents and community members were on hand Thursday evening to voice their opinion about a proposed school drug testing program, to Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD school board members, during a special meeting of the board.

School board president Billie Sadler told the group assembled that the meeting was a “planning meeting” only and no decision would be made that evening on whether drug testing would be implemented for Pecos High School students.

“We’ll consider everything you have to say,” said Sadler.

The drug testing proposal was first brought up last fall, and superintendent Ray Matthews said that there had been questions that had arisen and the district would also like to provide information to the public on drug testing.

The district’s lawyer, Todd Clark, and Justin Silvas, with one of the drug testing companies also were in attendance at the meeting.

PHS principal Steven Lucas provided a power point presentation for those at the meeting on drug testing, the pros and cons, the safety issues, the consequences and the risks. “We had some calls from parents that thought this would be a good idea for prevention,” said Lucas. “If we could prevent one person from going on drugs, I think it would be a good idea.”

He added that he thought it would be a good deterrent to students.

Students in extracurricular activities, students who drove, students believed to be under the influence and students with parental permission would be the ones that would be drug tested.

“This would be done randomly,” said Lucas.

The drug testing company would have the student’s ID numbers and then connect the number to the name.

“This would be done through urinalysis and if the test is positive it would then be sent to an independent lab,” said Lucas.

The consequences would depend on local policy, according to what the board would draw up. “The board would have to decide that,” said Lucas.

Parental notification would be the next step and then suspension from extracurricular activities.

“They would receive no punishment from the school and we can’t notify the police about this,” said Lucas.

The downsides included the price, since tests would cost anywhere from $10 to $14 a person, and Lucas said, “There’s also a greater risk of litigation and it might drive students away from extra-curricular activities.”

Several parents and grandparents spoke up both for and against the plan.

Gilda Vejil said that she thought it was a very good idea. “This is a great concern to a lot of us and we have to face the truth.”

“I know for a fact that kids are taking drugs and I think there are drugs in the athletic department,” said Vejil. “I also think that this (drug testing) should be done to all the staff as well.”

She said that the problem was coming to a point that we all should be responsible. “You need to let people know and we need to be sure of what we’re doing here,” she said. James Thomas asked if the drug testing would be done specifically on athletics or the whole student body.

“We can’t do all the student body,” said Lucas.

Thomas, a retired Postal Service worker in Pecos, said that they should drug test everybody or nobody.

Clark that there were some legal issues that prevented the district from drug testing all the student body.

“As it becomes more reliable and prevalent there are more entities testing for it,” said Clark. “But in the case of the students, we’re dealing with a governmental entity and this would infringe on their fourth amendment right. The right to be free of searches. The students don’t check their rights at the schools doors and they do have rights.”

He said that the district couldn’t put in a policy that would be more intrusive than it needed to be.

Clark said that bus drivers are already drug tested and that the board could implement a policy that would allow for drug testing people in safety sensitive positions.

“People that work with chemicals, but if you just teach geometry, there wouldn’t be a reason to drug test that person,” he said. “Any consensual searches would be okay also, it just depends on how widespread the problem is.”

“The consent has to be voluntary, you could do it with new employees or people just coming in to the district,” said Clark. “Have you identified a problem that you need to implement a policy and then again the voluntary becomes questionable.”

Clark said that the student could only be punished by being barred from extracurricular activities. “You can’t use it for another purpose,” he said.

Reeves County Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace Jim Riley supported the drug testing plan. “I think it would be a good idea to drug test all the students that appear in my court,” he said. “I think it would be a deterrent and help the school district.”

Riley said that then if they tested positive twice, they should face charges.

“I don’t think you’ll get them with this,” said Thomas. “There are not that many kids in extracurricular activities, I think they should do the whole bunch or nobody.”

Fatu Darpolor told the group that the kids should be drug tested.

“I believe we have kids now that need to be drug tested,” said Darpolor. “I think this would put them on their guard, because it has just not gotten across to them.”

Rev. Joe Terry with St. James Baptist Church said that no matter how much you try to teach your kids right from wrong, other kids easily influence them.

“We can prepare our young children for the future, because as soon as they go out to look for a job this is the first thing they will face, a drug test,” said Terry. “This would prepare them for what is to come.”

Teachers should be role models and a teacher allowing themselves to be drug tested would be more of an incentive for the student, according to Terry. “It will make them feel better,” he said.

“I’m all for drug testing and I believe the school district is responsible for the safety of the students,” said Reeves County Precinct 2 Constable Jerry Matta. “As far as punitive damages, we don’t want to just put them in jail, we want to help them.”

Stella Ornelas said that she had a 17 and 15 year old. “These are two students that I will have to sign for and if I don’t, will she be kicked out of extracurricular activities?”

Ornelas said that she knew her children’s upbringing. “You don’t and if I don’t sign for them to get drug tested, they will not be allowed to participate in extracurricular activities,” said Ornelas.

“Obviously, this is a learning experience, we don’t know what the policy will say, if we do implement one,” said board president Billie Sadler.

“You will need the parent’s consent for the testing, if that child will be submitted for the drug testing,” said Clark.

Clark said that the testing might stop some students from participating in extracurricular activities. “The board will have to carefully evaluate what their district needs,” said Clark. “If you have any specific information about drugs in your community, you can help curb the problem,” he said.

Ornelas said that she didn’t understand why the students that participated in extracurricular activities would have to submit to the drug testing. “Instead of testing these kids, why don’t you look at the troublemakers first, those that are at Lamar,” said Ornelas, referring to the district’s alternative education center. “Start with them and then come up to the role models,” she said.

“I know what I’ve raised and I know that my children are not doing drugs, but if I refuse to sign for them, they’ll be punished and not allowed to participate in extracurricular activities,” said Ornelas. “I know what I’ve raised, what they’re up to, what activities they’re in, I know for a fact that my kids don’t do drugs, that’s why I don’t want to drug test my kids.”

Test track reopening gets green light

Construction should begin soon at the former Smithers Transportation Test Center that was deeded to the Pecos Economic Development Corporation when the parent company shut the track down four years ago.

“We have received a binding letter of intent which precedes a formal lease agreement,” Mike Burkholder said during the regularly scheduled meeting of the PEDC last Thursday morning.

Burkholder is the president of the corporation.

Present at the meeting were board members Joe Keese, Jimmy Dutchover, Anjelica Valenzuela, and Leo Hung. Board member Alfredo Gomez was absent. Also attending were Executive Director for the Chamber Linda Gholson and City Manager Joseph Torres.

Burkholder told the group that PEDC was still negotiating with Texas A & M regarding the test track but that the coalition represented by the university was moving ahead with plans to refurbish the facility.

“Their business plan calls for an expenditure of $1.8 million over the first 18-24 months to get the track back into shape,” Burkholder said.

Burkholder explained that Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) was a part of the A&M university system and that TTI and privately owned Applied Research Associates were partners in the deal under negotiation.

PEDC has been talking with both Texas A&M and with DaimlerChrysler about using the facility, which was built in the early 1960s and was shut down by Smithers Tire Testing Corp. in 2000. Smithers moved its operations to Daimler’s track near Laredo, and then deeded the facility to the PEDC about a year after it was shut down.

While not the cure for the area’s economic problems Burkholder said that an operating test track would certainly help.

In other business the board tabled an offer from William Chandler to buy a tract of land just north of town known as the Robertson property.

Chandler submitted a letter to the board stating that he planned to build houses for resale on the property along with a picture of an adobe style house similar to the ones he wants to build.

The Robinson property was a proposed home construction site two years ago, but some area residents raised objections about the project.

The PEDC board tabled the item until further information was available. The board also elected officers for the coming year.

Joe Keese was re-elected as chairman. Al Gomez was elected vice-chairman. Anjelica Valenzuela was elected secretary/treasurer.

Longtime local restaurant owner Jaquez dies at 73

Funeral services are scheduled for Wednesday for longtime local businessman and Korean War veteran who died this past Friday in Odessa.

Sebero Jaquez, Sr. died Friday at Medical Center Hospital in Odessa. Jaquez, 73, was the longtime owner of the Old Mill Restaurant, which was a fixture on the east side of Pecos for many years before moving to its current location on South Eddy Street a decade ago. He and his wife, Vicenta “Chentita” opened the Old Mill in 1976 at 424 S. Pecan. Their son, Sebero Jaquez, Jr., has run the restaurant in recent years at its new location, though in a 2002 interview, the senior Jaquez said, “I still help him out at the restaurant,” said Jaquez.

The restaurant business is a family tradition, started by Chentita’s grandfather.

“My grandfather had a restaurant and then my parents, and later I opened up the first Old Mill,” she said.

Before going to work at the restaurant, Jaquez worked for the Texas Highway Department in the Engineering Department and stayed there for 20 years.

He was a past director of the Pecos Chamber of Commerce and was a member of the UMAC, United Mexican American Council, when the group existed.

“We would go door to door trying to get people registered to vote,” he said. “Some people were afraid to vote, because they had to sign their name on the ballot,” he said. Jaquez said the group was formed to enlighten people and to help them understand the voting procedures.

“We wanted to educate them so they wouldn’t be afraid to vote,” he said.

Jaquez was born in Verhalen, where his father worked for the railroad company. He attended Earl Bell Elementary School and then junior high and high school here in Pecos, but left to join the U.S. Army in 1951, just short of graduation.

He was first stationed at Camp Roberts in California for training and 16 weeks later he was sent to Korea, along with many other young men. “We had just completed the 16 weeks of training, when we were sent to fight in Korea,” said Jaquez.

Jaquez didn’t stay in Korea long. He suffered an injury that left him in a coma for months afterwards.

“I had just been there four months when I got a concussion and was injured,” Jaquez in 2002. “I was returned to the U.S., but after I got out of the coma I stayed in the Army.” Jaquez said that being in war leaves a person changed. “You don’t trust anymore,” he said.

He said that sometimes the dead would be there for three to four days. “The smell would just make your stomach churn,” he said.

Jaquez said that sometimes it would be days before the soldiers could eat again.

“There was also a lot of fear, but we looked out for each other,” he said. “But the thought was always with you, are you gong to get hit in the brain, or in the stomach and how much pain will you be in,” he said.

Jaquez said that in his unit there was nobody from Pecos, but that he made a lot of friends.

He remained in the Army until 1953. “After I got out of the coma I remained in the Army for the remainder of my three years,” he said.

Even though he was offered a medical discharge, Jaquez didn’t take it. “It was really hard to find jobs back then and I didn’t know if they were going to offer me anything.”

Jaquez is survived by his wife and 11 children.


Last-of-its-kind wooden pile bridge coming down after 2002 accident near Toyah

A last-of-its-kind highway bridge in Texas will soon be gone, as the Texas Department of Transportation has begun work on replacing the damaged structure, located on the Interstate 20 south service road west of Toyah.

The 73-year-old bridge over Moody Draw originally was part of U.S. Highway 80, known first as Texas Highway 1 and then as the Bankhead Highway, which ran from Savannah, Ga., to San Diego, Calif. The western half of U.S. 80 from Fort Worth to San Diego has been decommissioned over the past 30 years, and the bridge itself has seen only limited usage over the last 40 years, since I-20 was built through Reeves County in the 1960s.

Glen Larum, public information director for TxDOT’s Odessa office said that what makes the bridge special is its construction. “I believe it’s the last timber-pile bridge left in the country,” he said, referring to the supports that hold up the asphalt bridge’s deck.

A concrete slab bridge without piers was placed over Moody Draw in 1925, just before the U.S. Highway System was created. The timber pile bridge then replaced it in 1932, which had a unique post-and-pipe guardrail construction. The guardrail had earned it a state historic designation, but an accident three years ago led to the decision to replace the bridge. “A UP (Union Pacific) truck knocked out part of the pipe guardrail,” Larum said. “Because of that, it lost its historic designation.”

Timber pile bridges are still around, but Larum said the bridge over Moody Draw was the last one still receiving state and federal maintenance, under the Interstate highway program. “It’s a lot like the railroad bridges that are built with timber piles,” he said.

While its not on a major draw, the bridge has withstood high waters over the years, including flooding that hit the Toyah area in the early 1940s, in 1990 and again this past spring. However, TxDOT engineers said the bridge deck was deteriorating and was load-limited. It had been listed as “deficient” for several years, but was kept as is due to the “historic” designation.

Larum said TxDOT has decided to replace the bridge with a standard concrete structure that will continue to allow vehicles to pass in heavy rain conditions, rather than lower the pavement level to build a low-water crossing.

Cherokee Bridge and Road, Ltd. is handling the project, which began last Tuesday. The south access road of I-20 is closed to all but local traffic between Toyah and Exit 14, during which time crews remove pavement and concrete deck, dismantle timber sub-structure, pour new concrete piers and replace deck.

The project is expected to take a little more than four months to complete, and the new bridge will be open to traffic sometime in May, Larum said.

Council OKs raises, fills spots on boards

City Council members apparently had good things to say about Police Chief Clay McKinney, City Secretary Connie Levario and Municipal Judge during an executive session at the end of last Thursday’s city council meeting.

After the closed session the council voted three percent raises for Levario and Amanario Ramon, while McKinney earned a six percent increase. The police chief will now earn $56,500 annually, while Levario’s pay was raised to $29,838 and Ramon, who also serves as Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace, will earn $10,876 for his municipal court work. Before going into executive session the council considered and then denied a proposal to close an alley located on Block Seven of the Meadowbrook Addition.

The Council also made appointments the Pecos Tree Board and the Pecos Electrical Board.

Appointed to the Electrical Board were: Bill Allen, Jack Brookshire, Wayne North, Trevor Teague and Raymond Martinez.

Appointed to the Tree Board were: Teresa Winkles, Carolyn Winkles, Russ Salcido, Larry Levario, Peter Mara, Randy Baeza and Phil Land.

Not on the agenda was the contract between the City and Reeves County Hospital for ambulance services.

The hospital board rejected the city’s last proposal at Tuesday night’s hospital board meeting. Mayor Dot Stafford said last Tuesday she thought the issue would be added to Thursday’s agenda, but after the meeting said that the council will not probably take up the issue again at the next regularly scheduled meeting, set for Feb. 10.

Lara, Salgado announce wedding plans

Louis and Lucy Lara announce the engagement and approaching marriage of their daughter, Kalyn Lara to Luis Salgado, son of Jorge and Linda Salgado, all of Pecos.

The bride to be is a 2001 graduate of Pecos High School, a 2004 graduate of Angelo State University and plans on getting a teaching job in August.

The future groom is a 2000 graduate of Pecos High School and is self-employed.

The couple plans to wed at 2 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 5 at West Park Baptist Church and will make their home in Pecos.

Workman, Alyea announce wedding plans

Mr. and Mrs. Jerry and Emma Workman, of Pecos, are pleased to announce the engagement of their daughter, Lindley to Steven Alyea, son of Mr. and Mrs. Kreis and Carol Alyea of Gonzales.

Miss Workman is a 1997 graduate of Pecos High School and holds a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree from the University of North Texas. She is currently employed by UNT as the Coordinator of Supplemental Instruction for its Learning Center.

Steven Alyea is a 1996 graduate of Coppell High School, attended Tarleton State University, and is a 1999 graduate of the University of North Texas Police Academy. He is currently employed by the Seguin Police Departmenty as a police officer.

The couple plans to wed in a sunset ceremony on Lake Ray Roberts in Pilot Point, on March 19 and make their home in the San Marcos area.

Dr. Jeff Williams, senior pastor of the First Baptist Church of Denton, will officiate.

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