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Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Friday, December 23, 2005

Bussinesses closing on Monday

With Christmas falling on a Sunday, Monday will be a holiday for many local businesses, while some will be closing early on Saturday for Christmas Eve.

City, state and federal offices will take off on Monday, and there will be no mail deliveries that day. Area schools already have closed for the holidays, and won’t reopen until Tuesday, Jan. 3.

La Tienda Thriftway will be open on Monday, but will be closed all day on Christmas, and will close their doors at 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve. Most local convenience stores, along with the Flying J truck stop, will remain open for Christmas

The Pecos Enterprise will also be closed on Monday, but will reopen on Tuesday and will publish a paper that day.

County judge candidate list growing

The position of Reeves County Judge has become a popular one in the 2006 Democratic primary election, with more individuals filing their treasurer’s designation as the first step towards entering the March 7 race, while a third candidate has formally entered the race. A total of five people have now at least taken preliminary steps towards running for the job, held for the past 11 years by Jimmy Galindo.

Grace Renteria filed her treasurer’s designation with the county clerk to run for county judge, naming Lily Serrano as her treasurer. She has also filed with county Democratic Party Chairman Bobby Dean to make it official.

Candidates in Reeves County have to file with Dean by Jan. 2 to officially enter the March primary race, while under state law treasurer’s designations have to be filed with the Reeves County Clerk’s office.

Local restaurant owner and former Pecos Chamber of Commerce President Al Gomez was the first to enter that race, while Town of Pecos City finance director Sam Contreras filed his treasurer’s designation, naming himself as treasurer. Both have also filed with Dean to run for county judge, while two other have filed treasurers’ designations: Bernardo “Chaquen” Martinez and Israel Campos.

Martinez was a five-term commissioner for Precinct 4, serving from 1978 to 1998, while Campos has been a Reeves County Sheriff’s Deputy for a number of years.

Those filing a treasurer’s designation include Richard Slack, who is currently filling the unexpired term of the Reeves County Attorney. Slack named Gloria O. Florez as treasurer of his campaign to serve out the final two-years of the current term.

Slack took over the post in November, after county attorney Luis Carrasco resigned at the end of October, amidst allegations of missing funds. The incident is currently being investigated by the Texas Rangers.

Alvesia “Tita” Tarin filed her treasurer’s designation, naming herself as treasurer, to run for Reeves County Commissioner Precinct 2. Norman Hill, who has already filed to retain his seat, currently holds the position.

Amonario P. Ramon filed his treasurer’s designation to retain his seat as Justice of the Peace Precinct 1.

Incumbent Justice of the Peace Precinct 2 Jim Riley has filed with Democratic Party Chairman Bobby Dean to retain his seat. Riley was first elected to the position in 2002. Heriberto “Eddie” Rodriguez filed for justice of the peace for Precinct 4, a position currently held by Lamberto Herrera.

The other incumbents who have filed include Diane Florez, who is seeking re-election as Reeves County Clerk; Linda Clark, who is seeking re-election as Reeves County Treasurer; District Clerk, Pat Tarin, County Treasurer Linda Clark and Walter Holcombe, who is running for a new term as Reeves County Court-at -Law judge.

Almost all county elected officials over the years have run in the Democratic primary and won its nomination, though candidates can also run as Republicans in the March primary election, or as write-in candidates on the November 2006 election ballot.

Individuals who would like to file for a position in the Democratic primary can contact Dean at 940-4944. He will also set up a temporary office at the old Greyhound bus station at Third and Cypress streets, and will have the appropriate paperwork to fill out on hand. Voters will also elect candidates for several regional races, along with the governor’s race, the race for U.S. Senate and other statewide positions.

While the last day to file for a position is Jan. 2, that will also be a holiday, due to New Year’s Day falling on a Sunday in 2006. Candidates can still file with Dean, but the final day the County Clerk’s office will be open before the deadline is Friday, Dec. 30.

Monahans man dies, two hurt in Highway 17 Salt Draw crash

A Monahans man was killed and two others were injured early Thursday morning, in an accident involving a pick-up heading for a drilling site in southern Reeves County.

Joshua Purcell, 26, was pronounced dead at 7:01 a.m. at Reeves County Hospital by Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace Jim Riley, about two hours after the accident on State Highway 17, eight miles south of Pecos.

According to the report by Department of Public Safety Trooper Richard Crum, the accident happened about 5 a.m. as the Ford F-250 pickup Purcell was in was heading south to a drilling site near Balmorhea. Crum said the driver of the pick-up, identified as Timothy Jones, 32, of Monahans, apparently fell asleep, causing the vehicle to veer off the right side of the road at Salt Draw.

The pick-up went into the bar ditch, and then over an earthen embankment and onto loose soil in the draw, before hitting a retaining wall on the south end of the draw. The vehicle came to rest upright in the bar ditch facing west.

Neither Jones, Purcell, who was sitting in the front passenger’s seat, or a third passenger, identified as Adam Butler, 32, of Kermit, were wearing seat belts at the time of the accident. All three were taken by ambulance to Reeves County Hospital, where Crum said Jones was listed in stable condition early Thursday afternoon with lacerations to the face, while Butler was in stable condition with lacerations, contusions and abrasions.

The accident was the second within a 12 hour period in the Pecos area involving a vehicle carrying oilfield workers. Four persons were in a pick-up about 9 p.m. Wednesday in the Barstow area of Ward County when it went off a road and landed in a canal. One person reportedly was arrested in the accident, which was investigated by DPS Cpl. Emmit Moore, but no further details were available at press time.

Red Bluff plans early water allotment date

Red Bluff Water Power Control District board members plan to set water allotments for 2006 at their January meeting, after being told the water level at Red Bluff Lake is already at 117,000 acre/feet, about triple the size of several years ago.

Board members discussed the water allotment schedule, along with the purchase of a new vehicle and approved merit bonuses for district employees despite objections from the board’s newest member during their monthly meeting, held on Tuesday in Pecos.

Reeves County Water Irrigation District No. 3 representative Ava Gerke had questions about how the 2006 water releases would affect the 2005 releases, which are still being used by farmers for winter wheat in her district.

Managing director Randal Hartman said once the allotment is made in January, the notices would be sent to the seven sub-districts and any further water releases would count against the 2006 allotments.

“We’ve been trying to get it earlier and earlier, because if you make it too late they don’t have time to get things set up,” Hartman said. “We’re trying to do this so they’ll have funding available.”

Gerke said she was concerned that farmers still using their 2005 allotments would not have water available after the 2006 allotments are made. Hartman said the water would not be cut off, but they could be a gap of 3-4 days between the time the board votes on the 2006 allotments, and the notices are sent out to the sub-districts.

“There is probably a two-week time lapse between when we send them out and when we get them back,” said Robin Lebouf, secretary for Ward County WID No. 1, who was in attendance at the meeting.

Red Bluff went two years without any water releases, and had delayed releases in 2003 due to the area’s ongoing drought, which dropped the lake’s level as low as 30,000 acre/feet. Hartman said along with rains over the past two years at the lake, it’s also benefited from water releases out of New Mexico, though that could become a negative in future dry years. “They’ve turned about 35,000 acre/feet, which gives them a very large credit that can come back and bite us,” he said. “They can turn around and shut us off in a dry year. Unless we have something in the lake, we’re shut down.”

During a discussion of the 2006 budget, Hartman said, “The past year’s budget came out real clean. It came out pretty well, and hopefully we’ll keep this one within budget.”

He said a line item for $8,500 for water measuring equipment would have to be raised to $25,000 for the purchase of two Doppler water measurement devices for the Grandfalls and Imperial areas. The devices would be put in the canals leading to those areas in order to better measure the water flows.

The district also agreed to pay about $21,000 for the purchase of a new Toyota pick-up, after a recently purchased Ford pick-up caught fire and was destroyed.

“It burnt to the ground. The highway patrol came in and asked what color it was, it had burnt so badly,” Hartman said. He said brush that contacted the catalytic converter may have caused the fire in the Ford pick-up, which was insured.

The vote on the merit bonuses have been an annual event at the end of the year, though Hartman said under law the money, which is equal to 40 percent of the employees’ monthly paycheck, cannot be handed out as Christmas bonuses.

“You can do it at any time of the year,” he said, after Lebouf said her board had been told they could not hand out any type of bonus.”

Prior to that, Gerke said she could not approve the bonuses due to action taken over the last two years by the district, in trying to keep Gerke and Ward County WID representative Tom Nance off the board.

Red Bluff had argued that differing rules on voting eligibility between water irrigation and water improvement districts made the elections of Gerke and Nance illegal, after those two district changed from water improvement to water irrigation districts. The district won a lawsuit in 143rd District Court last year, but it was overturned by a state appeals court earlier this year, and Red Bluff opted against any further appeals.

Gerke told Hartman that due to the legal expenses incurred by Ward County WID 3, “My district does not feel that you as a board member should not be given a merit bonus.”

She said she could vote for merit bonuses for other Red Bluff employees, but on the motion by board member Jay Lee to give the bonuses to all employees, Gerke voted against, while Loving County WID representative Ysidro Renteria abstained. Hartman and board member Charlotte Wilcox voted in favor of the resolution.

On the Malaga Bend salt alleviation project, Hartman said the district is still in negotiations with a new company to take over operations of the project to pump salt spring water away from the Pecos River and into man-made ponds, where the water can be evaporated and the salt mined. Until a deal is reached, he said the meters reading water flow above and below Malaga Bend have been removed.

“When we get something going, we’ll have another meter system put in,” he said. The new telemetry system would sent data via satellite to the U.S. Geological Survey, which would handle the measuring and would post the results on its website.

Hartman said the new devices would cost about $50,000, but the salt company would pay most of the cost if a new deal is reached. “If we make a new deal, they will put it in,” he said. “It should be a small expense to us.”

Slack’s status on water board still uncertain

The Red Bluff Water Power Control District is still awaiting a ruling from Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office on the status of board member Dick Slack on the seven-person Red Bluff board, though a farmer and official with the sub-district Slack represents said state law is clear that he can no longer hold the office.

Slack, who celebrated his 91st birthday during Tuesday’s meeting, did not vote on any items on the monthly agenda due to the controversy, which began when he accepted the job as Reeves County Attorney in early November. Slack took the job to replace Luis Carrasco, who resigned at the end of October following the revelation that he was under investigation for misappropriation of both county funds and funds of clients from his personal law practice.

The appointment allowed the county to fulfill a state law that said Carrasco remained on the county payroll until a new county attorney was appointed. But the move resulted in a conflict with another state law that says one person cannot hold two elective offices at the same time.

“That was brought to my attention by an opinion by the attorney general of Texas,” Slack told the board on Tuesday.

Slack holds the seat for Reeves County Water Improvement District No. 2 on the Red Bluff board, one of seven sub-districts that receive water from Red Bluff Lake. “People want me replaced,” he said, citing a letter brought to him by Allan Zeman, a farmer in the area and a member of the Reeves County WID board that cited the state law.

“It’s not the district that says that, it’s the statute that says he can’t serve,” Zeman said on Thursday. “The attorney general’s opinion is pretty cut and dried.”

“According to that ruling, as soon as he took the oath (for county attorney) he’s off the board,” said Red Bluff general manager Randal Hartman. But he said another opinion in relation to conflicts of interest might allow Slack to remain in the job.

“More probably he doesn’t receive pay from us, because there’s no conflict between this board and the other position,” Hartman said. Annual salary checks were handed out to Red Bluff members on Tuesday, but no salary was paid to Slack for the period since he accepted the county attorney’s position.

According to information on the state attorney general’s website on dual officeholders () dealing with offices that pay salaries:

An office is one "of emolument" if its emoluments are fixed by statute or by a governmental body. In such case, the compensation attaches to, and is inseparable from, the office. Failure to pay the emoluments attached to an office does not remove it from the category of "office of emolument."

“The attorney general’s opinion on that I presented to Mr. Slack and it’s clear,” Zeman said. “Dick told me he agreed on that.”

However, Slack said on Tuesday he still held out some hope he could remain in his position.

“I’m kind of undecided and so is the chairman (Hartman) as to whether this affects this board,” Slack said.

“I’d really hate to lose you on this board. You’re an intelligent man,” said Red Bluff board member Ava Gerke.

“I’m not going to be torn up one way or the other,” said Slack, who previously served as Reeves County Judge from 1949-52, and in the Texas Legislature from 1953 to 1980, where he crated the county attorney’s position he now holds

RCH board approves policies, digital X-ray machine purchase

Reeves County Hospital District board members approved a number of new policies and procedures for hospital staff, delayed action on another and agreed to the future purchase of a digital X-ray machine, during their final regular meeting of 2005, held on Tuesday in the hospital’s classroom.

Board members also approved medical and other health staff privileges for 2006-07, agreed to the sale of two pieces of property and agreed to take bids on 80 acres of land in which the hospital has a mineral rights stake as part of the meeting.

The policy items included those on nurses and nursing peer review, patient grievances, patient rights and responsibilities, patient restraint usage and the hospital’s compliance manual. The only policy not approved was the patient orders policy, after board member Leo Hung questioned the time period for the administration of certain medications.

As presented to the board, the stop order policy for Schedule 1 medications was 7-10 days, while the stop order on Schedule 2 medications was 72 hours. “Schedule 1 medication has no therapeutic value and is highly addictive,” said Hung, who is also the owner of Professional Pharmacy. “Schedules 2 through 5 have therapeutic value and are addictive.” RCH Chief of Staff Dr. W.J. Bang said the times listed for the Schedule 1 medications was an oversight, though the error could not be altered during Tuesday’s meeting.

“We can only approve what has been presented to us by the medical staff,” said board member Linda Gholson. “From the confusion, it’s obvious we should send the patient orders back for the next agenda.”

Hospital CEO Bill Conder told the board the district had gotten a new bid on the digital X-ray machine of $42,000, which was $6,000 below the previous bid. However, the purchase of the new equipment won’t take place until the district has the available money.

“This will save us considerable money, about $30,000-$35,000 in film and fixer, and the image comes out on disc, so we’ll save storage space,” Conder said. “It will pay for itself in a year-and-a-half.”

The property sales approved included 2119 S. Alamo St., on a bid of $800 by James Hayes, and 310 W. 13th St., on a bid of $400 by Oscar Mendoza.

The 80-acre tract is in Ward County on which the district has a minimal mineral rights interest. Conder said the district has one offer for drilling rights at the site, but told the board, “We need to put it in the paper for bidding, and it will be voted on at the next board meeting.”

Medical staff members who were given privileges for the next two years included Bang, Dr. Orville Cerna, Dr. Joseph Darpolar, Dr., Haithan Jifi, Dr. Alexander Kovac, Dr. Oladele Olusanya, Dr. K.M.L.S.T. Moorthi and Dr. Ziad Abdo. Privileges were also given to Michele Cser and Jerry Giardina, RCH staff under contract with Allied Health Service, and to courtesy medical staff of Dr. Manolar Angirekula, Dr. Sruesh Gadasalli, Dr. Thomas Turner, Dr. Gary Elan, Dr. Franklin Dzida, Dr., Sudhir Amaram, Dr. John Molland, Dr. Phillip Zeeck, Dr. Shanti Neerukonda, Fernando Boccalandro and Dr. William McGee.

RCH board votes to end home health care program

Reeves County Hospital District board members rejected a request by hospital doctors to extend the time period to turn around the hospital’s home health care program, voting to kill the program during their meeting on Tuesday at the hospital’s classroom.

Dr. W.J. Bang and Dr. Joseph Darpolar urged the board to give the hospital additional time to fix problems with the service, but the board voted 3-0 to eliminate the operation, though nurses involved with the program will still be working with a state-funded primary health care operation. The vote came following a five-month period during which the hospital sought to boost referrals to the money-losing service, and at a time when the hospital is facing a budget gap of nearly $1 million.

Board president Linda Gholson, and members Pablo Carrasco and Terry Honnacker voted to eliminate the program, Board member Brenda McKinney was absent and board member Leo Hung, who owns the competing American Home Health agency, left the meeting before the discussion on the hospital’s home health care operation began.

“The staff met today, and the consensus was more or less unanimous,” Bang said of the doctors’ decision to support retention of the program. “This service can be viable if we put all our effort into it.

“The 4-5 month period is too short to measure if it’s successful or not,” Bang said, while Darpolar said, “Closing down home health now is premature.”

Bang said having a home health care service at the hospital made doctor-patient communication easier, along with keeping more nurses within the hospital.

“Four to six months was acceptable at that time to the medical staff,” said Gholson.

Bang said that the hospital did not have an ongoing home health care director during that period, and only had one registered nurse to provide medical care to patients in the program. He also said services such as home oxygen therapy, were not available through the hospital’s program.

“Unless all three entities unite, it’s difficult to go forward,” Bang said of the hospital board, its doctors and the RCH administration.

Bang also said the hospital had not done a good enough job of marketing the service, which RCH administrator Bill Conder disputed.

“We were doing newspaper ads, doing radio and going on Pecos Talking,” he said. “It wasn’t true that we weren’t marketing.”

“To do it right, we’re going to have to hire another nurse and do more marketing. That’s going to cost a lot of money,” Conder added.

Hospital financial officer Frank Seals questioned any additional expenses for the program, given the current budget deficit, while Gholson said operating a home health care service now may not be as financially viable as it was when first approved by the board.

“Am I wrong that time changes things? Things that would have worked 10 years ago don’t work now,” she said. “If we can’t financially provide what needs to be provided, where to we get the money?”

Bang said the hospital was in good financial condition until the expenses for remolding and the construction of the new kidney dialysis unit put the district into a deficit. “We need to look at more efforts to find additional sources of revenue,” he said.

TxDOT puts new lighting up, puts old bridges up for sale

New lighting is in place, and old bridges are for sale by the Texas Department of Transportation, as part of two projects in southern Reeves County.

TxDOT crews have just finished installation of new lighting in the Toyahvale area that will help astronomers at the nearby McDonald Observatory see better at night, while plans to replace three bridges just to the west of Toyahvale first involve TxDOT offering the old structures up for sale.

Willis Electric Company of Abilene -a contractor for TxDOT - has installed “stealth lighting” for the State Highway 17 and “Old U.S. 290” [FM 3079] intersection near Balmorhea State Park that doesn’t pollute. The four low-pressure sodium luminaries emit a carefully prescribed pattern of light that can only be seen in the intersection itself.

“Even the neighbors, including tourists at the State Park, can literally sit out on their front porch and look at the stars without any interference from the highway lighting,” said Lauren Garduño, the TxDOT engineer who oversees highway construction in a 12-county area of West Texas that includes Reeves County.

The light from the 40-foot high light towers is focused directly on the roadway at the intersection, creating a lighted safety zone for drivers at the T-intersection. A solar-powered flashing warning beacon will signal to drivers that they are approaching a highway intersection.

The lights, which just ended their 14-day testing period, comply with a state law that prohibits lights that pollute the atmosphere in the vicinity of the observatory.

Meanwhile, the project to replace the bridges on FM 3079 will take place next year, but TxDOT area public information director Glen Larum said the bridges, which were build as part of U.S. 290 when that highway was first constructed across West Texas, can be bought by the public - though any buyer will then have to find a way to remove them.

“Because of their historic nature, we have to offer them up for bidding,” said Larum. The bridges are considered too narrow for modern highway design, and their concrete sidewalls with arched openings are also more dangerous for traffic than the more flexible railings used in today’s construction.

The bridges, which used to be part of the main highway connecting El Paso with the Texas Hill Country and Austin, will be demolished if there are no bidders.

Christian Home dinner set for Christmas Eve

Desserts and volunteers are still needed to help fill the needs of the Pecos Christian Home, which will be preparing meals for over 600 individuals this Saturday at the Reeves County Civic Center.

With Christmas falling on a Sunday this year, the Christian Home has moved up the date of its annual free dinner to Saturday.

“We’re still in need of pies and any kind of desserts,” said Kenneth Winkles, Christian Home Board Director.

He said that they are planning to serve over 600 meals and will start at 11 a.m. on Christmas Eve, at the Civic Center.

The home has been sponsoring both Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners at the Civic Center for many years. Each year several hundred people either eat dinner at the center, go there to take meals home or have them delivered to homes that normally are part of the local Meals on Wheels program.

Winkles said that volunteers are always needed to help with the delivery of the Meals on Wheels.

He was pleased that this year the Reeves County Sheriff’s Office would be providing help through their trustees.

The group also delivers the Meals on Wheels program dinners, because that program does not operate during the holidays.

“These meals are delivered to the elderly in the community,” said Winkles, though people can also pick the dinners up at the Civic Center if they choose to do so.

Winkles said that if individuals don’t have time to help with the meals, but would like to make a contribution, that would also be okay.

Anyone wanting to donate an item or make a contribution can do so by going to the Christian Home, located at 1201 S. Elm or by calling Winkles on his cell phone at 448-1883.

The Thrift Store located at the Christian Home is open from 9-3 p.m., each day and donations can be dropped off there.

If anyone wants to help the group during the holidays they can contact the Christian Home at 445-2049 or show up at the civic center on Saturday.

Pecos man given 87 months on federal smuggling charge

A local man was among several individuals who were sentenced Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Pecos on various drug charges following investigations into the illegal activities.

United States Attorney Johnny Sutton announced that U.S. District Judge Robert Junell handed down the following sentences:

Juan Carlos Madrigal, 29, of Pecos, was sentenced to 87 months in federal prison after having pled guilty to possession with the intent to distribute over 2,000 pounds of marijuana. On July 15, Madrigal was caught by U.S. Border Patrol Agents of the Marfa Section, Marfa Sector, after the agents found an abandoned Chevrolet Avalanche loaded with the marijuana on Pinto Canyon Road south of Marfa, and north of Ruidosa, Tx.

Madrigal was found nearby and claimed no knowledge at the time, however, the keys to the truck were found in his possession. The case was investigated by the Alpine High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Drug Enforcement Administration task force and prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney B. Dwight Goains.

Octavio Gutierrez, Jr., 19, Joshua Jovan Martinez, 20, and Omar Darren Sandoval, 21, all Odessa, were sentenced to 120 months, 92 months, and 70 months in federal prison, respectively, for their involvement in the possession with the intent to distribute over 3,100 pounds of marijuana. On July 21, these three defendants were involved in smuggling the aforementioned marijuana through the Big Bend National Park, which was destined for the Odessa, area for further distribution. The marijuana had a street value of over $2.5 million.

Heather Raquel Del Valle and Miguel Angel Mendoza, Jr., both 20 years of age and from Odessa, were previously sentenced in November to 46 months in federal prison for their involvement. The case was investigated by the U.S. Border Patrol Big Bend National Park, Marfa Sector, Park Rangers of the Big Bend National Park and the DEA of both the Alpine and Midland offices. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney James J. Miller, Jr.

Daniel Dominguez, Jr., 22, formerly of Midland and Presidio, was sentenced to 151 months in federal prison for the possession with the intent to distribute over 4,300 pounds of marijuana. Dominguez was initially apprehended on July 17, 2004, south of Alpine, on a ranch road with over 2,100 pounds of marijuana. He became a fugitive and was caught on June 25, 2005, with 2,200 pounds of marijuana on Interstates 20 south of Pecos. The case was investigated by U.S. Border Patrol Alpine and Marfa Stations, Marfa Sector, Texas Department of Public Safety and the Alpine HIDTA DEA task force. This case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Miller and Goains.

Ariel Aurelio Lujan, 21, of Odessa, was sentenced to a total of 136 months in federal prison for conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute over 880 pounds of marijuana, conspiracy to launder drug proceeds and the attempt to export a stolen vehicle. Lujan was involved in a large scale conspiracy to import and distribute marijuana from Ojinaga, Chihuahua, Mexico, to the Midland/Odessa area. He recruited drivers to obtain marijuana in Mexico and transport it to Odessa, for distribution at street level. Lujan would also collect the proceeds and return the money back to the supplier in Mexico. On at least one occasion, he attempted to export a stolen truck from New Mexico to Mexico as payment for a load of marijuana. The case was investigated by DEA Alpine, U.S. Border Patrol Alpine, Marfa,

Presidio, and Van Horn Stations, Marfa Sector, Texas Department of Public Safety, Odessa Police Department and the West Texas Narcotics Task Force. This case was prosecuted by AUSA Miller.

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Pecos Enterprise
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324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 432-445-5475, FAX 432-445-4321

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