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Tuesday, October 3, 2000

Officials fail to find source of noxious fumes

Staff Writer

PECOS, October 3, 2000 - Noxious gas fumes cleared out the recreation yard Monday evening at the Reeves County Detention Center and had local law enforcement officials searching unsuccessfully for the source of the problem.

"Our lieutenant reported that there was a smell of gas in the yard," said Reeves County Detention Center Warden Rudy Franco.

Inmates in the yard reported feeling ill as a result of the smell, and Franco said guards then cleared out the yard and took the inmates back inside, while they called authorities to come check on the incident.

Reeves County Sheriff's Deputies and Pecos Police officers were dispatched to the prison about 8 p.m., however officials could not find the source of the smell.

"We went over there and looked around and nobody could find anything," said Reeves County Sheriff Andy Gomez.

"We don't know what it was exactly, but is some kind of noxious gas," said Franco.

Officers could find no leaks coming from nearby buildings, and also searched the area around the Town of Pecos City landfill, but could not pinpoint the source of the smell at the prison.

RCDC recently moved in 96 more inmates to the new 1,000-bed addition that has been under construction for a few months now.

Completion date had been scheduled for September, but that date has been moved back, and was set for this Friday by Reeves County Commissioners, during their last regularly scheduled meeting.

"That unit that just opened should be full in a week or two," said Franco.

Both the Texas Jail Commission and the Bureau of Prisons certified the RCDC for two units, "C" and "D," during inspections last week.

The new inmates were allocated to Unit C, following the partial inspection. "We're building up our population," said Franco.

Franco stated that they have made a commitment with BOP to have 200 additional beds available.

"We're just waiting for the other units to be completed and inspected to transfer more inmates in," he said. "Things are going really well and we're hoping everything will be ready soon," he said.

Franco stated that everyone at the facility is excited about the new wings and are looking forward to seeing it completed and filled.

Mayor vows comeback after bankruptcy filing

Staff Writer

PECOS, October 3, 2000 - Town of Pecos City Mayor Ray Ortega has filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy in an effort to reorganize his finances and pay off his creditors.

"It will be under reorganization, it gives me a chance to re-organize my finances and gives me time to straighten out my finances," said Ortega, who was elected to a two-year term as the city's mayor back in May.

Foreclosure proceedings had begun on the home of the Ortega and the property was scheduled to be put up for auction this morning.

The auction sale has been scheduled for 10 a.m., today on the front steps of the Reeves County Courthouse, but because of Ortega's decision to file for Chapter 13, that process will be delayed.

"You can't auction off on bankruptcy," said substitute trustee with Elliott and Waldron David Stephens.

"In business, you take the good with the bad, we had seven good years and this has been a tough year," said Ortega.

Ortega explained that there have been several factors that have led to his decision to file, including losing money at his place of business, a fire, which required that they put in more money to restructure and the bad economy, which has hit everyone.

"It's been tough and we've been having to take from one business to pay off another, without getting further into debt. It's a tough economy, a lot of businesses are hurting," he said.

Ortega said that was one of the reasons he chose to run for mayor, in order to work on the economy and to help strengthen Pecos and make into a working community again.

"There are a lot of positive things the city is currently working on to make this community a stronger one, one that can handle this tough economy and live through it," said Ortega.

Some of the projects city officials are working on including a new Pecos Police Department headquarters and detention center, which would house U.S. Marshal's Service inmates, produce more jobs and help the economy in Pecos. City officials are also working on developing a new water field south of town and crews are currently seal-coating the streets of Pecos.

"And just because I'm having a personal problem, that in no way means that I won't be working my hardest and doing my best for this community," said Ortega. "That just means that I plan to work even harder and do more," he said.

Ortega stated that this was just a personal setback, and he would work his way out of debt and get back on his feet.

"The recent action I took, is just to give me time, time to reorganize and fix my problems and pay back my creditors," said Ortega. "I do plan to pay back all those creditors and get back on top."

Ortega stated that as mayor, his main priority was the community's welfare. "This doesn't mean I won't do a good job, because I'm going through this, everyone has these type of problems in their lives," said Ortega. "This is just one of those things that happens to people in their lives," he said.

The reason his personal problems came to light, is because he is an elected official, according to Ortega.

The property which had been set for auction today is located in Block 7 of the Jay Capps addition to the Town of Pecos City, according to the Town of Pecos City, Reeves County, Texas, according to the Plat of Record in Volume 3, Page 118 of Plat Records of Reeves County.

Original beneficiary on the home, located at 2100 S. Plum St., was Harlingen National Bank and the current beneficiary is Nationwide Home Mortgage Company F/K/A Allied Group Mortgage of West Des Moines Iowa.

The home was sold to Raymond Ortega, Jr., on Oct. 21, 1996 for $69,650, which included an improvement loan, for $10,568. The home was purchased on a 30-year note.

Taxes, insurance and escrow were also included his monthly payment, which came to about $700-$800 a month.

The same home had been foreclosed on Drs. Orson and Eunice Anderson, who had purchased the home from the original owners, Ben and Jesusita "Emily" Matta. The foreclosure on the Andersons came in April 1996, after the couple moved from Pecos to Big Spring.

Three properties belonging to Ortega currently have a purchase money note.

State sets area projects, transportation dates

Staff Writer

PECOS, October 3, 2000 - The first in a six-week series of hearings on the proposed Texas Transportation Plan began on Monday in Houston, with hearings in the West Texas area planned for late October and early November.

The Texas Department of Transportation announced the meeting schedule in a press release last Thursday, three days after releasing a list of projects TxDOT has scheduled for highways across the state over the next few years.

The Texas Transportation Plan is updated every five years, and is a long-term blueprint for the state's transportation system. It includes not only highways, but also public transportation, aviation, rail transit, waterways, bicycle facilities, pipeline, telecommunications and information technology systems.

The hearings are designed to allow public input into the plan. There will be 14 hearings, the first of which was held in Houston. All hearings are scheduled to run from 3 to 8 p.m., local time.

In West Texas, hearings are scheduled for Lubbock, Amarillo, El Paso, San Angelo and Abilene. The San Angelo hearing is scheduled for Monday, Nov. 13, at the TxDOT Training Room at 4502 Knickerbocker Rd. The meeting is Lubbock is set for Monday, Oct. 30 at the International Center at Texas Tech, 601 Indiana Ave., and the hearing in El Paso is scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 2 at the El Paso Chamber of Commerce office, 10 Civic Center Plaza.

Earlier this year, a group of Pecos officials went to San Angelo for a TxDOT hearing on the Texas Trunk Highway System. That plan was created in 1990 and is being updated this year, and officials were hoping to get U.S. 285 added onto the system.

One of the goals of the Texas Truck System is designed to identify major U.S. and state highways for upgrading from two-lane undivided to four-lane divided highway status. City and Pecos Chamber of Commerce officials cited the planned start-up of transporting radioactive waste along U.S. 285 from Pecos to Loving, N.M. as a reason for widening the highway.

TxDOT did announce last year it has proposed funding in the FY 2006 budget to construct a loop around the east side of Pecos, so trucks would no longer have to travel along Cedar Street through the downtown area. The loop would use the existing Collie Road overpass with a new Farm-to-Market highway to be built north of Business I-20 (Third Street) and south of Interstate 20.

The list of projects released Monday does not include definite start-up dates past the year 2004.

The Unified Transportation Program includes several projects in the Pecos and Reeves County area. None are listed for start-up in 2001, but the list includes three scheduled for 2002:

_ Replacing bridges and approaches on U.S. 285 at Toyah Lake south of Pecos, at a cost of $1.388 million;

_ Replacing bridges and approaches on Business I-20 in Ward County, east of the Pecos River at a cost of $3.5 million;

_ Repaving 9½ miles of Interstate 10 in the Allamore area, going west from the Culberson County line at a cost of $25 million.

Other projects on the list, but with no start-up time listed by TxDOT, include replacing bridges and approaches on I-20 in Reeves County at Moody Draw and rehabbing seven miles of the main lanes of I-10 in Jeff Davis County, from the Reeves County to Culberson County lines.

Cotton Association schedules meeting tonight

PECOS, October 3, 2000 - The Trans-Pecos Cotton Association is planning a cotton meeting for 6 p.m., on October 3 at the old onion shed beside the Pecos Cantaloupe Company, according to Bob Bickley, Executive Director of the Trans-Pecos Cotton Association.

The meeting will be held after this afternoon's Field Day, scheduled by the Texas A&M Agriculture Extension Service at its center, seven miles west of Pecos. The Field Day was scheduled to begin at 3:30 p.m.


PECOS, October 3, 2000 - High Monday 105. Low this morning 62. Forecast for tonight: Clear skies. Low in the lower 60s. South wind 5-10 mph. Wednesday: Partly cloudy. High in the upper 90s. South wind 5-10 mph. Wednesday night: Partly cloudy. Low in the lower 60s. Thursday: Partly cloudy: Turning breezy and cooler. Highs from the mid 80s to the lower 90s.

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