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Friday, September 8, 2000

City seeks exemption to build new landfill

Staff Writer

PECOS, September 8, 2000 - Town of Pecos City Council has approved allowing Health and Sanitation Director Armando Gil to continue negotiations with several engineering firms on proceeding with an application for an Arid Exempt Landfill Permit.

The vote was taken in the special meeting on Tuesday to seek the Arid Exempt Landfill Permit, which allows the city to build a landfill without a liner.

Pecos was unable to receive this permit a few years ago because of a shallow water table, which is contaminated. The lack of an exemption sharply increased the cost of the city's then-new landfill trench.

Gil said at that time the Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission (TNRCC) believed the water table had been contaminated by a previous landfill.

Gil said they performed a source demonstration where they tested the water and ground around it.

"We were able to prove to TNRCC that the water was not contaminated by the landfill," he said.

After TNRCC saw that they have now allowed Pecos to pursue applying for the permit.

Gil said the city is actually applying for two permits - one for a Type I Landfill that accepts "household" garbage and another one for a Type IV Landfill that accepts construction and demolition debris. He said operating those without a liner is less expensive with less work.

"To operate with a liner, it would cost the city from $900,000 to a million a year," he said. "It entails a lot of work."

"It would probably bring the cost of operation under $350,000 to $400,000 a year," Gil said.

The $1.2 million cost of a lined landfill trench built in the early 1990s led the council to opt against building a second trench. The city instead contracted with Duncan Disposal to haul trash to the company's regional landfill near Penwell, but a recent rate increase request by the company led the council to take a new look at getting an arid exemption permit.

Gil said TNRCC requires that an engineering firm submit the information for the application and told the council he has discussed cost of putting the information together with two firms, Spencer and Associates of Pecos and Mid-Tex Engineering out of Abilene.

After discussing the fees with both firms, Gil said Mid-Tex gave a lower price.

The council approved Gil to go ahead and discuss fees with several different firms.

Gil said he would have to negotiate with the firms and come back to the council with his recommendations.

He said he is trying to save as much money as possible.

"What we're looking at is basically what's best for the city," Gil said. "We're just looking to try to save the city as much money as we can."

The council also discussed the agreement with Corplan Corrections for the construction management of the Municipal Law Enforcement Center with Pecos Police Chief Clay McKinney.

McKinney recommended the city start with a 96-bed facility then look again in about a year and consider any possible expansion to the facility.

The council tabled the item for lack of information until City Attorney Scott Johnson is present.

Herrera given 11 years in bond fraud scheme

Staff Writers

PECOS, September 8, 2000 - Former Pecos bail bondsman Joey Herrera was sentenced Thursday to 11 years in a Tennessee state prison, plus a fine of $80,000 for his part in a scheme to create false death certificates for three men facing drug charges in the Nashville area.

Davidson County District Judge Cheryl Blackburn handed down the prison term after hearing testimony in a sentencing hearing, said District Attorney John Zimmerman. Several people from Pecos testified in the hearing.

Herrera, who also ran an insurance agency in Pecos and was a former Pecos-Barstow-Toyah school board president, pleaded guilty in March to several counts, for which the possible prison time is 8-12 years. As part of the plea agreement, he stipulated a number of facts relating to the crimes he was charged with.

Zimmerman said that he required the stipulation of facts to ensure that Herrera could not later claim the state of Tennessee had convicted him for something he did not do.

Zimmermann said in early March Herrera pled guilty to four counts of fabricating evidence, one count of conspiracy to fabricate evidence, and two counts of money laundering. The Davidson County District Clerk's office said Herrera pled no contest to the last two counts, according to records filed with them on March 3, 2000.

"We were kind of surprised. We thought we were going to go to trial and all of a sudden the defense lawyer contacted us," Zimmermann said at the time. Herrera's trial had been scheduled to start on March 6 before Blackburn, along with that of a co-defendant, Gilbert Wiebe.

Herrera was arrested in February 1999 and was charged with helping two employees of Paul's Bonding Co. of Nashville produce death certificates for four men, including Gilbert's brother, George Wiebe, with the final incident coming as part of a sting operation by law enforcement officials.

According to records filed in Blackburn's court, Herrera contacted Paul's Bonding Company to write bonds for several Hispanic individuals who had been arrested and charged with crimes in Davidson County. In May, 1998, Paul's Bonding Company was ordered, as surety, to pay a judgment for the final forfeitures of Rosendo Ramirez, in the amount of $5,000 and Louis Rodriguez, in the amount of $53,000, after Both defendants had failed to appear in the Nashville court. The final forfeiture judgments had been continued for a period of 30 days until July of 1998.

In June of 1998 Peggy Coleman, the manager of Paul's Bonding Company, delivered in the Clerk of the Davidson County Criminal Court death certificates for Rosendo Ramirez and Louis Rodriguez reflecting that both individuals had "died" in Mexico. Subsequent investigation revealed that the death certificates were false and fraudulently made with forged signatures of the public officials from Mexico.

At about the same time, George Wiebe was charged with possession of over 300 pounds of marijuana and bond was set at $500,000. Paul's Bonding Company again acted as surety for the bond at Herrera's request. Wiebe was released from jail, and at his first court appearance on Sept. 30, 1998, an employee of Paul's Bonding Company presented a death certificate for Wiebe, also apparently issued from Mexico.

Following an undercover sting investigation, co-defendants Peggy Coleman and James Farrell were arrested and charged with money laundering and fabricating evidence on Dec. 11, 1998. During the arrest of the defendant Farrell a search warrant was executed at the Paul's Bonding Company office. Police seized the office files for the cases of Ramirez, Rodriguez and Wiebe. Copies of the Mexican death certificates filed in court for these individuals were in the office file for Paul's Bonding Company. A "post-it" note was found attached to the death certificate for Ramirez with a notation, which read, "Good Luck, Joey." The defendant Herrera referred to himself in communications with Paul's Bonding Company as "Joey."

Herrera was unaware of the arrests of Coleman and Farrell when he was contacted by co-defendant Peggy Coleman, at the request of the law enforcement authorities in February 1999. He was told that a final forfeiture was to be paid by Paul's Bonding Company on Feb. 24, 1999, for the bail bond in the amount of $50,000 in the case of State v. Reyes Castro, who had failed to appear in Davidson County Court. According to court records, Herrera volunteered to obtain a phony Mexican for Castro for a fee of $15,000, the funds being paid from police department funds.

Herrera claimed that the money represented only half of what was to be used to pay the requested fee of Mexican officials to prepare the phony death certificate, the remaining half he said he would pay by himself since he had recommended the bail bond.

Herrera then delivered a Mexican death certificate for Castro to Paul's Bonding Company, by fax and UPS overnight delivery.

Along with the false death certificates, Zimmermann and the Davidson County District Attorney's office said the money laundering charge was based on evidence that discussions between Herrera and agents of Paul's Bonding Company revealed that Herrera was going to receive a $250,000 fee for obtaining the release of George Wiebe.

Wiebe is a member of a large-scale drug ring operating out of Mexico. Court records show he is a fugitive from justice in Kansas City, Kan., pending a federal indictment for trafficking in marijuana, prior to his arrest in Nashville, and he is a fugitive from justice from Davidson County.

George Wiebe's brother, Jonathan, was arrested on June 29, 1999, in Presidio, during a border crossing from Mexico while transporting over 300 pounds of marijuana and is presently detained pending a sentencing hearing for that offense. He also has been indicted with his brother, George, in the federal indictment in Kansas City.

Herrera agreed to split the $250,000 paid by Wiebe's associates with the agents of Paul's Bonding Company. Co-defendants Coleman and Farrell would receive $125,000 of which $50,000 was to be reported as the premium for the $500,000 bond, leaving co-defendants Coleman and Farrell with $75,000 to split as undisclosed and unlawful profits for making the Wiebe bond.

State law prohibits the bail bonding company and its agents from receiving any funds in excess of the statutory premium of $50,000 plus a $25 administration fee.

According to the court records, On July 1, 1998, co-defendant Farrell obtained the release of Wiebe by signing as surety, though no funds had been received for the premium. Co-defendant Farrell was instructed by defendant Herrera to keep Wiebe in his office until he received a call from Herrera that the money had been received as promised. Wiebe's son, Gilbert Wiebe, also was present at Paul's Bonding Co. at the time.

After obtaining the release of George Wiebe and securing him in the office of Paul's Bonding Company, Herrera was contacted by phone and notified of the situation. George Wiebe then contacted someone in El Paso, and assured them that he had been released from jail. Herrera then told Farrell that he would call back as soon as he had gone across the border to obtain the $250,000 in cash since the people paying the money did not want to bring the cash across the border.

About three hours later, Herrera contacted Farrell and advised him that he had the $250,000 in cash in U.S. currency and that he could release George Wiebe from his office.

Arrangements were made for Farrell and another employee of Paul's Bonding Company to meet Herrera in Midland, the following day to receive their share of the money. Herrera later admitted to police that he did in fact deliver the $125,000 in U.S. currency to Farrell in Midland and that he had received this cash from across the border and smuggled the same into the U.S.

The currency delivered by Joey Herrera to Farrell did not contain bank wrappings, but rather was wrapped in rubber-banded amounts in various denominations and constituted drug proceeds from the criminal organization that Wiebe worked for.

Farrell then purchased a car to drive the currency back to Davidson County where a portion of the funds were posted on the company books reflecting the statutory premium and the remaining funds were split between Farrell and Coleman.

Herrera has remained in custody of Tennessee officials since his bond hearing on March 29, 1999. Documents filed in a pre-sentence investigation revealed that Herrera had been convicted in 1991 of bribery. The conviction was removed from his record after a pre-trial diversion.

Grass fire near Santa Rosa gets inside building

Staff Writer

PECOS, September 8, 2000 - Firefighters were busy Thursday afternoon putting out a structure fire on the east side of town that was first believed to be a grass fire.

The call came in to the fire hall at 4:56 p.m. that a grass fire was burning behind Santa Rosa Church on East Fifth Street.

"We only responded with two units, because at first it came in as a grass fire," said Pecos Volunteer Fire Chief Roy Pena. "When we were on our way, they stated that there was a structure involved."

"We usually roll all six for a structure fire," he said.

Pena then alerted two more units and the emergency unit to the site, where grass around an old building being used as storage caught on fire, and then ignited the building.

"It was just being used as a storage building, luckily nobody was inside and nobody was hurt," said Pena.

The fire chief said the building was full of boxes of clothes, mattresses, old television sets and other items.

"There was a big hole on the outside of the building and weeds and grass were growing outside and towards the inside of the house," said Pena. "The grass caught fire and spread to the inside of the house."

It took firefighters about 25 minutes to extinguish the flames and put out the fire.

Earlier that day firefighters were called out to the 300 block of West County Road.

"They called us about 11 a.m., that smoke was coming out of an apartment," said Pena. However, firefighters didn't have to extinguish anything at that fire.

"Somebody had left something in the oven and when we got there everything was okay," he said.

Pena added that his department is still seeking addition funds to buy accessories for their new Rescue Cam, which would help in locating people inside smoke-filled buildings.

"However, some of the accessories did not come in with the camera, they weren't part of the package," said Pena. "We are still trying to raise funds for the accessories and if there's anything left over, hopefully it will go towards another one (camera)."

Firefighters will be having a drawing on Sept. 23, at city hall. Individuals have a chance to purchase tickets for three different prizes including $100 worth of gas, $100 worth of lottery tickets or $100 worth of groceries.

"We already paid the $15,500 for the Rescue Cam itself and now just need more funds for the accessories," said Pena. "We hope to start raising funds for another one."

Tickets can be purchased for 3 for $1 from any firefighter or by going to the fire station located on Cedar Street.

Youngsters will also be going door to door to sell the tickets this Saturday.

Pena stated that they are planning a presentation of the camera on the day of the drawing. "We are still working on the location, so it won't be a danger to the residents," he said.

Pena said that firefighters are willing to do a demonstration with the Rescue Cam for anyone in the community who wants to see how it works.

Tarin seeks to get water to cemetery

PECOS, September 8, 2000 - Watering at the Balmorhea Cemetery will soon get a little bit easier.

"I'm working on implementing a tank out there so it won't be a problem to the citizens to go out there and water," said Reeves County Commissioner Precinct 3 Herman Tarin.

Tarin stated that in the meantime, anybody wanting to water at the cemetery can contact him and he will assist them. "They can just call me, I'm in charge of it now, and I'll be glad to help out," he said.

Anyone wanting to water at the cemetery at anytime can contact Tarin at 375-2365.

"We're working on getting a tank set up out there, and we hope to do this soon," he said.

X-Men saga comes to screen

Staff Writer

PECOS, September 8, 2000 - X-MEN, a common name among children of all ages, has now come to the big screen and can be seen and heard (halleluiah) at the newly renovated State Theater today, Saturday and Sunday. Of particular note is the greatly improved sound system that renders the softest whispers audible to the audience.

This classic comic book series has been transformed into a visual wonderment under the direction of Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects) and Newton Thomas Sigel (Apt Pupils).

The storyline seems to come right out of an X-MEN comic book but that might have something to do with X-MEN creator, Stan Lee, being an executive producer.

For those who don't know about X-MEN this movie is about mutants with various powers and how they struggle with humans to be able to live without fear of persecution. As the movie progresses it also deals with the mutants own insecurities and fears of day-to-day living.

Lee's characters all come to life one by one with an elaborate display of lighting, camera angles, costuming, dialogue and acting.

The opening scene introduces the audience to the soothing voice of…Captain Picard?

Patrick Stewart, who is better known as the Captain of the Starship Enterprise in the television and movie series Star Trek: Next Generation, plays the wheel-chair bound and telepathic Professor Charles Xavier more commonly known as Professor X.

Stewart shows his extreme talent for acting by making one almost swear that his character was specifically written for him.

Ian McKellen (Gods and Monsters), who portrays the villain Magneto, allows the audience the pleasure of hating him while understanding his motives to his evil ways.

The most enjoyable performance, though, came from Australian actor Hugh Jackman.

Jackman performs in his American debut as Wolverine, the solitary man who possesses amazing healing powers and retractable claws.

Jackman's Wolverine, who is quite charming and somewhat cute if he would just get a new haircut, seems to have all the funny lines in the movie and pulls them off well.

This performance by Jackman could very well make him the next up and coming leading man in Hollywood.

The male side of our species might be interested to know that Halle Berry (Boomerang) plays Storm, who has the ability to manipulate and control all forms of weather.

Other performances include Anna Paquin (The Piano) as Rogue, Famke Janssen (Goldeneye) as Dr. Jean Grey, James Marsden (Gossip) as Cyclops, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos (Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me) as the metamorph Mystique, as well as former pro-wrestler Tyler Mane as Sabretooth.

The most interesting cast member is Ray Park as Magneto's flunky the Toad.

Now this is the interesting part _ Park recently made his motion picture debut as Sith Lord Darth Maul in the 1999 blockbuster Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace.

The movie itself could have used a few more action sequences but more than made up for it with the cinematography.

The lighting was wonderful with nice placement of shadows bringing more anticipation to the storyline.

Camera angles and movements were exceptional. Tight close ups and scenes shot at various angles brought more emotion and desperation to the scenes.

Overall the most exciting technical aspect of the movie is the special effects.

These effects are seen every time a mutant uses their power and during fighting sequences. For example, the filmmakers were able to turn Romijn-Stamos into anything and anyone and showed Cyclops' power of destroying anything with his eyes.

For all the die-hard X-MEN fans, the movie is left wide open for a possible sequel.

All in all, X-MEN is well done and worth seeing once if not twice and leaves you wanting special power like the famous characters.

I know I left the theater wanting to be like Storm so maybe we could get some rain here every once in a while.


Billie Rochelle

Billy Lively Rochelle, 87, of Kermit, died Thursday, Sept. 7, 2000, at Kermit Health Care Center.

Graveside services were held at 3 p.m., today, at Kermit Cemetery with Rev. Trey Turner officiating.

She was preceded in death by her husband, Willie Rochelle in Carlsbad, N.M., on July 2, 1992.

She was born Dec. 4, 1912, in Monroe, La., was a homemaker, a Kermit resident for 43 years and a Baptist.

Survivors include one brother, Louis A. Lively of Monahans and one sister, Daisy Roberts of Monroe, La.

Cooper Funeral Chapel, Inc., of Kermit is in charge of arrangements.


PECOS, September 8, 2000 - High Thursday 106. Low this morning 67. Forecast for tonight: Mostly clear. Low in the upper 60s. Southeast wind 5-10 mph. Saturday: Partly cloudy. High in the mid 90s. South wind 10-15 mph. Saturday night: Mostly clear. Low in the mid 60s. Sunday: Partly cloudy. Low in the mid 60s. High in the 90s.

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