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Wednesday, September 6, 2000

Cash questions focus of council meeting

Forgers take $19,000 from city's account

Staff Writer

PECOS, September 6, 2000 - Law enforcement officials on the west coast are currently investigating theft by forgery in the amount of over $19,000 from the Town of Pecos City.

Bill Oglesby, cashier at Security State Bank, told the City Council last night in a special meeting that the forgery has "involved, at this point, three municipal accounts in Texas" including Pecos.

He said a woman seems to have opened at least two bank accounts at U.S. Bank in Oregon with two different fraudulent identifications with the same picture.

Finance Director for the city, Steve McCormick, assured the Council and the public that this forgery was not a stolen check.

"There are no stolen checks from the city and there are no missing checks from the city," McCormick said.

Oglesby said whoever counterfeited the check had somehow been in contact with a city check long enough to scan it to get all the information on the bottom of the checks.

"It wasn't like they stole a check, they made up a check," Oglesby said. "It is a mystery of how the people got hold of a city check long enough to scan it."

McCormick said the counterfeiters were able to purchase check stock and magnetic ink to duplicate a check to look like the city's checks.

Oglesby said he has been told that it is a possibility that a Nigerian group is behind these forgeries and at one point the secret service was called in but in not currently working on this case.

"There has to be a mastermind to this forgery," he said. "They went through a tremendous amount of work."

Oglesby said the forgers only had a little window of time from when they deposited the check and when the city received the check back. He said these people must have known what they were doing to be able to move the money out of that account before the city was able to realize what happened.

Although the check was written on a bank in Oregon, police in California are overseeing the investigation, council members were told. A second check forgery for a larger amount was discovered before a payment was made.

Oglesby said he is not sure how big this situation is and how many banks and accounts are involved. He believes that whoever counterfeited the checks knew what they would do when they came across a city check.

Oglesby said he is waiting to speak to the investigator on this case to get more information on what happened and if the city will be able to get the stolen money back.

People with checking and credit card accounts should check statements as soon as possible and reconcile the bank statements as well, Oglesby said.

He also suggested tearing up or shredding checks and statements when people are finished with them to try and prevent forgers from getting hold of signatures and check account numbers.

Sewer rate hike linked to fight over payment

Staff Writer

PECOS, September 6, 2000 - Town of Pecos City Finance Director Steve McCormick informed City Council members Tuesday that proposed water and sewer rates might have to be raised an extra 20 percent for the upcoming year.

McCormick's statement came in a special meeting of the council, after the city asked Searcy Willis of Willis, Graves & Associates, Inc., to come up with a current rate estimate.

McCormick said his estimate has been determined under the assumption that Reeves County pays the city over $400,000 a year under an agreement signed earlier this year in connection with city water to be used at the Reeves County Detention Center.

The county signed a contract with the city on March 27 agreeing to pay the city $4 million for water for the next 10 years. The payments are to be broken down to $422,320 per year for every year of the contract.

"Agreement, the County hereby agrees to reimburse the City over the first ten (10) years of this Agreement $4 million plus interest accrued at the rate of 1 percent annually (Advanced Payments). On or before August 30 of each year, the County will pay $422,320 to the City," according to the contract between the city and county.

McCormick informed the council that the county did not pay the $400,000 by the Aug. 30 deadline, which may affect the city's ability to get state loans for construction of its new water field.

He explained that the city must be able to prove to the state that they can pay on the loans they are applying for to construct the South Worsham Water Well Field before they are approved.

McCormick said the city planned to use the first payment from the County to prove that they could pay back the loan, but since they did not receive a payment might have to raise water and sewer rates to cover it.

"In negotiations (with the city) we agreed to pay the $422,000 a month before the initial payment was due," County Judge Jimmy Galindo said.

But he added that the county has other commitments and it would take from this past July to next July to be able to raise the funds to pay the $422,000. However, Galindo reaffirmed that the county would make its payment a month before the city's payment to the state is due.

Replying to McCormick's explanation of needing proof of the ability to pay, Galindo said the water contract should be enough.

"I don't think there is better proof than the contract that we will pay," he said.

City Attorney Scott Johnson said the contract states that the county needs to pay each year by August 30.

"I believe that the contract is pretty clear," Johnson said. "It says they have to pay each year of the contract and this is the first year of the contract."

Galindo said he agrees that they must pay by August 30 but said he believed the first payment should come only after the city receives the loan. He said he believes there has been a lack of communication between the city and county and is willing to discuss the contract and agreements further.

The proposed water and sewer rates from the water rate study compiled by Willis have increases for all but one type of city water and sewer user.

According to the proposed figures, most of the increase occurs in the sewer rates with the majority of the water rates staying the same or decreasing. The minimum monthly bill would rise 6 percent, with an 8 percent sewer rate hike more than offsetting a 19 percent water rate decline.

Under the proposed rates for the average residential usage the water rates would decrease by two percent, but the sewer rates would increase by 84 percent for a total increase of 21 percent or $6.72 a month.

The large residential usage water rate would increase by three percent and the sewage rate would increase by 159 percent for a total increase of 25 percent, or $21.09 a month.

Commercial users of 40,000 gallons would see a water rate decrease of one percent and a sewage increase of 219 percent increase totaling to a 38 percent increase, or $38.08 a month

Commercial users of 100,000 gallons would have the water rate increase by four percent and have a sewer rate increase of 280 percent totaling to a 45 percent increase, which would equal $107.99 a month.

The water rates for the Reeves County Detention Center would remain unchanged, but sewer rates would rise 338 percent, for a 45 percent overall increase. That would cost the county an additional $4,110.96 monthly under the city's proposal.

McCormick said people using the minimum usage would probably not see an increase in rates.

Parade floats, operators sought for fiestas

Staff Writer

PECOS, September 6, 2000 - Music, dancers, food and more are all part of the festivities planned for the Annual 16th of September Fiestas, set for the weekend of Sept. 15-16.

The will kick off at 6 p.m., Friday, Sept. 15, in the parking lot in front of Santa Rosa Catholic Church, 620 E. 4th.

On Saturday, the fiestas will begin with a parade scheduled for 10 a.m.

Entries for the parade are still needed and those who want to participate in the annual event can contact Octavio Garcia or Prescilla Lara at city hall, 445-2421.

"We have a few entries already, but welcome more," said Garcia.

NewsWest 9 will be on hand for the annual parade, along with KMRK-96.1 D.J. Patsy Casas.

Some church groups will have floats in the parade this year, as will the 16th of September Queen candidates.

"We're having a lot of new things this year," said church secretary Hilda Vasquez.

She added that a maximum of 21 booths can be set up inside the parking lot, and only nine are left. "If anyone wants to have a booth, they need to come sign up or call us here at the church," said Vasquez.

Dancers from Ojinaga and Presidio will be on hand as part of the entertainment, along with a special performance from "matachines" from El Paso.

Foods booths offering gorditas, pizza, corn on the cob, tripitas and more will be set up. Other booths will sell toys, snow cones, all kinds of beverages and other items, while activities going on inside Santa Rosa Hall.

"We're very excited and hope everyone comes out and joins us for some fun and food," said Vasquez.

Anyone interested in having a booth at the fiestas can call 445-2309.

PHA board approves landscaping project

Staff Writer

PECOS, September 6, 2000 - Landscaping will be part of a facelift planned for the Pecos Housing Authority's eastside apartments, board members decided on Tuesday.

The PHA Board gave executive director Nellie Gomez the go ahead for the proposed project to landscape the eastside apartments, which will include construction of sidewalks and additional parking area.

The board approved the project during their regular meeting, which was postponed from last week.

"We'll start doing that in phases," Gomez said of the project.

The first phase will involve building the additional parking area and sidewalks. After that, the project will go into fencing and landscaping.

"We're going to start in the area down Orange Street, the apartments on Orange," said Gomez.

Two other items on the agenda were put on hold until Pecos Mayor Ray Ortega is able to attend the meeting.

"They decided to table those until we can meet with the mayor," said Gomez.

The two items tabled were a cooperative agreement with the Town of Pecos City and the PHA Annual Contributions Contract.

In other business, the board listened to a review by Donald J. LaVoy, Director of the Real Estate Assessment U.S. Dept. of HUD, regarding the PHA advisory Public Assessment System (PHAS) Score for FY 1999.

"We scored kind of low this time," said Gomez. "But we're doing some renovations and modifications, and this was just an advisory score."

All monthly reports were approved for the PHA portion of the meeting.

In the Farm Labor Housing portion of the meeting the board approved purchasing three dryers from PHA to be used by the Farm Labor Housing laundromat.

A review proposal from Vaughn Architects Plus Proposal for architectural services was tabled until the board hears from Rural Development, according to Gomez.

Fundraiser to help pay for medical expenses

PECOS, September 6, 2000 - A fundraiser will be held Friday to help out with medical expenses for a community member.

An enchilada plate sale for Annabelle T. Matta will be held beginning at 11:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m., Friday, at the Reeves County Sheriff's Posse Barn.

Plates will $4 and deliveries will be made on two plates or more.

To order call 445-3400.


Ruby Barfield

Ruby Nelle Barfield, 81, of Pecos, died Monday, Sept. 4, 2000, at Midland Memorial Hospital.

Services are scheduled for 10 a.m., Thursday, Sept. 7, at the Pecos Funeral Home Chapel with Rev. L.H. Woodard officiating. Burial will be in Mt. Evergreen Cemetery.

She was born March 4, 1919, in Canadian, Texas, had lived in Pecos since 1951, was a homemaker and a Methodist.

She was preceded in death by her husband, John O. Barfield and one daughter, Barbara Nelle Fonville.

Survivors include one son, John Barfield of Garden City; five grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

The family requests that in lieu of flowers donations be made to the Pecos Senior Center or the American Lung Association.

Pecos Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.


PECOS, September 6, 2000 - High Tuesday 105. Low this morning 69. Forecast for tonight: Clear. Low 65-70. East wind 5-15 mph. Thursday: Sunny. High in the mid 90s. East wind 5-15 mph. Thursday night: Clear. Low in the mid 60s. Friday: Mostly sunny and clear at night. Low in the mid 60s. High in the mid 90s.

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Pecos Enterprise
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