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Archive 2002

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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Top Stories

Friday, April 12, 2002

Hospital discusses plan for $6 million renovation

Staff Writer

PECOS, Friday, April 12, 2002 -- Reeves County Hospital took another step toward a new look  and more efficient use of space Thursday when Hospital Administrator  Robert Vernor hosted a public comments session in the main lobby  concerning the proposed renovation and expansion project. 

Also on hand to explain and answer questions about the plans were three associates with Hammel, Green and Abrahamson (HGA), an architectural firm based in Minneapolis, Minn.

Vernor said that the renovation and expansion project had several goals and that the plans were created with those goals in mind.

Topping the list of priorities was an expansion of the Emergency Room, shuffling of departments to make more efficient use of space, and improving the image of the hospital.

"Yesterday's wreck involving the U.S. Marshal's van is a good example of why we need to expand our E.R.," he said. Eight inmates and two guards were brought to the emergency room following the accident in Jeff Davis County.

Vernor also said that if the hospital were renovated it would have to make changes to bring it into compliance with federal and state regulations.

Dr. W. J. Bang, the chief of medical staff for the hospital, gave his support to the proposals.

Bang said that the hospital needed more space.

"We've added many services since this hospital was built and these services take up space _ space that used to be used for beds," he said.

Bang also said that the remodeled hospital will be much more efficient and that the image of the hospital was an important part of patient care.

"This hospital is 25 years old and beginning to show signs of age," he said. "With the renovation we will be in a better position to compete for our patients with neighboring medical providers."

Fort Stockton and Alpine have both opened new hospitals in the past two years, and Bang said that Pecos' geographic location left it in a unique position for a smaller community.

"Because of the distance to the major medical centers our community needs a full-service facility," he said.

Bob Walker of HGA said that the plans being discussed were the result of three months of work with the administration, medical staff and his firm.

Walker said that the plan called for a step-by-step approach that would allow the hospital to take smaller bites that would be affordable and that would not disrupt hospital functions during the process.

Walker said that the plan was devised to meet five primary goals.

The goals are to improve patient care, the efficiency of the hospital, the diagnostic conditions, to bring the hospital up to code and to improve the image that is presented to the community, he said.

If the plans are finalized Pecos can expect, among other changes, a new, larger emergency room with less complicated access in the parking lot and shorter walk. Within the hospital the plans call for a shuffling of departments including placing surgery, diagnostics and radiology closer to the emergency room.

A new wing is also planned that will make room for the hospital to have more beds open for patients without crowding other services.

Vernor said that the hospital was and would still be licensed as a 49-bed hospital.

"We're licensed for 49 beds," he said. "But we only have 30 or so open on a daily basis because of the lack of space. If necessary we can shuffle things around and operate all 49 beds."

But doing so requires other departments and areas to make room.

"It gets very crowded," he said.

"With the expansion we should be able to have all 49 beds open all the time," he said.

Vernor said that the first phase of the proposed plan has an estimated price tag of $6 million. The hospital is planning on financing that amount with a bond with payments being made from interest on money the hospital has in the bank and from tax revenues.

The first phase of the project includes all of the new construction and the proposed exterior renovations, Vernor said.

"The new areas will house the new E.R., the new Rural Health Clinic, a new Specialty Clinic, a new physical therapy clinic and maybe a kidney dialysis unit," Vernor said.

Once these service move into the new areas the hospital could begin reorganizing the older parts of the hospital.

Van crash cause disputed, three remain hospitalized

From Staff and Wire Reports
PECOS, Friday, April 12, 2002 -- Eight of the 11 U.S. Marshal's Service inmates injured in  a Wednesday afternoon van crash that killed two other inmates have  been released from hospitals in Pecos and El Paso, while the cause of  the Interstate 10 wreck remains under dispute between the company  that operated the van and the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Francisco Letkeman-Wiebe, 48, and Jose Rubio, 25, died at the scene of the Wednesday afternoon crash on Interstate 10 near Pecos, said Cpl. Kathy Briggs of the Texas Department of Public Safety. Both were thrown from the vehicle when it ran off the highway and rolled down a 10-foot embankment on Interstate 10 at the 183 mile marker in Jeff Davis County. Emergency Medical Service teams from Pecos, Balmorhea, Van Horn and Fort Davis were called to the scene, along with volunteer fire personnel from Pecos and law enforcement officials from Reeves, Jeff Davis and Culberson counties.

The Mexican Consulate in El Paso identified Letkeman-Wiebe as a Mexican citizen from Cuauhtemoc, Chihuahua, and Rubio as a U.S. citizen who married a Mexican woman and had a home in Juarez, Chihuahua.

According to a press release issued by Jack Dean, U.S. Marshal for the Western District of Texas, only three of the 11 inmates remain hospitalized, one at R.E. Thomason General Hospital in El Paso, one at Midland Memorial Hospital and one at Covenant Medical Center in El Paso.

The most seriously injured of the three is Javier Fabela, 19, who suffered a severe scalp laceration and was taken along with two other injured inmates to Thomason General in El Paso. The other two hospitalized are Pablo Aguilar, 61, who is in Midland, and Carlos Romero-Mora, 34, who is in Lubbock. Both were flown by air ambulance to those hospitals after being transported by ambulance to Reeves County Hospital.

Fabela and Aguilar are both in stable condition, while Romero-Mora is in good condition in Lubbock. A Marshal's Service spokesperson said Romero-Mora had "independent health problems" aside from his injuries in the accident.

Romero-Mora and Fabela are two of the three other injured inmates who were Mexican nationals, said Socorro Cordova, a consulate spokeswoman. She identified the other as Victor Hugo Blanco, 35.

The U.S. Marshal's Service refused to release any information on the inmates today, but according to the Odessa American, the other inmates treated and released from Thomason General and Reeves County Hospital were Sergio Murillo-Dominguez, 34, Jose Contreras-Fernandes, 33, Juan Duran-Garcia, 33, Jose Rios-Hernandez, 34, Cameron Hill, 24, Randolph Leby, 39, and Demario Turner, 28.

The 13 inmates were being transported from El Paso to the Ector County Detention Center in Odessa, said Jim Shaw, regional director for CiviGenics, the company that operates the detention center. The inmates were part of a two-van convoy that had left Odessa about 4:30 a.m. to pick up the prisoners in El Paso, and had begun their return trip to Odessa around 12 noon CDT. The guards in the final had traveled about 445 miles over a 10-hour period when the accident occurred.

Department of Public Safety Sgt. Luis Najera said shortly after the accident that the driver became fatigued and drifted off the road. However, Shaw said the van rolled after the front right tire blew out.

Corrections officer Mike Contreras, who riding with driver Dwayne Taylor when the van wrecked, said a guard in the second CiviGenics van told him a blowout occurred. The driver told his superiors fatigue wasn't the cause, Shaw said, adding that he disagreed with the Najera's statement.

"It's unusual for DPS to make that assessment without an investigation," said Shaw. "He (Taylor) was off for two days prior and had a total output time of 10 hours, so that (fatigue) was not the case. If you look at the man's time he was nowhere near overworked."

In his press release, Dean indicated that CiviGenics did not initially tell the Marshal's Service about the conflicting reports after the accident occurred.

"Contrary to what was initially reported to the United States Marshal's Service immediately after the accident, tire failure was not a primary cause," Dean said. "While tire failure may or may not have contributed to the accident, subsequent reports to the United States Marshal's Service indicate driver error may also have been a factor."

CiviGenics operates both the van and the Ector County Detention Center, which is under contract with the U.S. Marshals Service to hold and transport prisoners, is for minimum- and medium-security prisoners, Shaw said.

Ex-Pecos officer shot in Odessa

Staff Writer

PECOS, Friday, April 12, 2002 -- For the second time in three months, a former Pecos  resident working as a law enforcement officer in Odessa has been shot  in connection with handling a domestic dispute.

Former Pecos law enforcement officer Robert Diaz is listed in stable condition at Medical Center Hospital after receiving a gunshot wound Thursday night in Odessa after responding to a domestic disturbance, according to an Ector County Sheriff's Department news release.

Diaz, 54, was shot after struggling with the suspect of a family disturbance call at approximately 11 p.m., last night in the 1900 block of South Westcliff Street in Odessa.

Diaz, a 17-year veteran of the Ector County Sheriff's Office, responded to the call where he arrested Efren Olivas Gonzales, 40, of Odessa.

While Diaz was attempting to handcuff the suspect when Gonzales began to resist arrest, according to the news release.

During the struggle, Gonzales attempted to grab Diaz' weapon. Diaz then attempted to take control of the weapon when several shots were fired with one hitting him in the upper arm.

The news release stated that Diaz was able to call for backup while continuing to hold the suspect in custody until additional officers arrived at the scene.

Diaz is a former Pecos Police Department and Reeves County Sheriff's Reserve Deputy.

Pecos Police Chief Clay McKinney said that Diaz was an officer for the local police department for eight years in the early 70s.

He then transferred to the Sheriff's Office where he was a Reserve Deputy until the mid-eighties.

As of this morning, no bond has been set for Gonzales who is being held at Ector County Detention Center on a charge of attempted capital murder, a Felony in the first degree.

Diaz is the second former Pecos resident to be shot in the line of duty in Odessa this year.

Odessa Police Department Cpl. Greg Travland was shot in the leg after responding to domestic disturbance at an Odessa business on Jan. 18 of this year. During that incident another former Pecos resident, Estela Cadena Ramon, 36, was shot and killed by her estranged husband, Joe Ramon, also formerly of Pecos.

As a result of the exchange of gunfire, Travland suffered a single gunshot wound to the upper area of his left thigh. Joe Ramon was also wounded in the incident, and spent about two months in Medical Center Hospital before being taken to the Ector County Jail.

Since the shooting, Travland has been under doctor's care unable to continue working for the Odessa Police Department, according to Media Spokesperson Sherrie Thomas.

"Right now he is off on injury leave," she said.

It is uncertain when Travland would be able to go back to work

"Right now it's too early to tell," Thomas said.

School board takes partial action on grievance

Staff Writer

PECOS, Friday, April 12, 2002 -- Pecos-Barstow-Toyah School Board members denied one  complaint of a Level III grievance filed by a campus official, while making  partial changes to his campus in connection with a second complaint,  following an executive session Thursday night during their regular monthly meeting.

The board dealt with several other issues before going behind closed doors in executive session to discuss the complaint filed by Jimmy Dutchover, who is the P-B-T district's transportation director, as well as supervising the Lamar Alternative Education Program (AEP) campus.

After the executive session, two motions were made and approved unanimously by the board. One the board denied the compensation portion of the grievance. They granted the second portion of the grievance for Superintendent Don Love to prepare a recommendation regarding future operations of the DAEP-AEP including location, staffing, compensation for employees, funding sources, project costs and student enrollment.

In action taken during open session, board members approved changes in personnel, including the resignation of long-time employee and Career and Technology Director Larry Sloan.

Sloan has been with the P-B-T ISD for30 years and has taught for about 32 years. He has worked in different areas of the school district and most recently was instrumental in procuring funds for the new Technology Center.

The board also appointed current Pecos High School assistant coach Joe Flores as the new varsity basketball coach at the high school, replacing Tino Acosta. Flores is a Monahans High School graduate who holds a Bachelor of Science/Kinesiology degree from Angelo State University and has three years experience as an assistant coach in football and baseball in the P-B-T district.

Board members approved granting permission for the Town of Pecos City to re-open 10th Street between Block 15 and Block 33 of College Addition. The street is a one-block stretch between Willow and Cherry streets, next to the now-closed Pecos Elementary School and one block west of Pecos Kindergarten.

Love told the board that on Feb. 6, 1969, a motion was made to close that street. At the time the Pecos Kindergarten was opening and students were bused to that location.

"Now the city council has approached us about re-opening that street," said Love. "We no longer use that (Pecos Elementary) campus," which was closed last year.

"If we ever gain 500-600 kids again we can request to have the street closed again," he said.

"Do we still have playground equipment out there?" asked board member David Flores.

Maintenance supervisor Joe Coody assured the board that all playground equipment had been removed.

"The only reason I asked, is because if children are still playing there, it could pose a problem," said Flores, "but if not I don't see a problem with re-opening it."

The group recognized Crockett Middle School UIL academic students and band students (concert and sight reading).

"We're very proud of our young students and they (UIL students) will be going to San Antonio to compete at the state level," said Crockett Middle School Principal Juanita Davila.

The group left early this morning accompanied by teacher and sponsor Olivia Herrera who said she was very proud of the kids and had a lot of confidence in them. Students participating in UIL include: Amanda Natividad, Roxxie Mendoza, Marcelo Salgado and Mark Lyles, who are all eighth graders. Seventh graders attending the event are: Brittany Castaneda, Adam Medina and R.J. Guerra.

The band will be participating in concert and sight-reading at Ector Junior High in Odessa.

"If I've ever had a good band it's not because I'm a good teacher, but we have good kids," said head band director Merle Lenfest.

Middle School band director Scott Bostwick told the group that he had spoken to the students and as an incentive told them that there was a can of dog food on one of the shelves and if they received a Division I rating he would eat it.

"No matter what our rating is, I'm very proud," said Lenfest.

The group approved the Pecos Chamber of Commerce's request for use of the Pecos High School New Gym and to waive fees for the Harlem Entertainers, who will put on a comedy basketball show next Friday, April 19, at 7 p.m.

"The chamber of commerce does a lot for this community and this event sounds like it will be a lot of fun," said Love.

Rotary members briefed on cloud seeding benefits

Staff Writer

PECOS, Friday, April 12, 2002 -- Can cloud seeding work in the Pecos area? 

County Extension Agent Terry Holder thinks the idea is worth a try and was on hand at yesterday's meeting of the Pecos Valley Rotary Club to explain the basic process and the details of the local movement to being a cloud seeding operation.

Holder said that cloud seeding research showed some real benefits to the process.

Seeded clouds last about twice as long and cover about 50 percent more area he said.

More importantly the clouds produce an average of 37 percent more rain than their non-seeded brothers, he said.

"It definitely seems to help," he said.

Seeding a cloud involves injecting silver iodide particles into the cloud.

Holder said that clouds are made up of nearly microscopic particles of water.

"As these particles of water hit together they former larger particles and eventually a rain drop forms that can fall," he said.

"The silver iodide particle attracts these microscopic particles so that rain drops form more quickly."

The silver iodide is injected into the cloud by airplanes.

Holder said that a steering committee has been formed to create a cloud seeding program encompassing Culberson, Ward, Reeves and Loving counties.

"We need about $250,000 to get started," he said, "and we are asking area agencies to pitch into the project."

Holder said that the group has about $60,000 pledged so far.

"The Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission is providing technical and financial assistance to areas forming a weather modification agency," he said. "The state provides one-half of the money."

Church cancels youth fundraiser softball tourney

PECOS, Friday, April 12, 2002 -- The Prarie Dog Classic Men's Softball Tournament that had been scheduled for this weekend has been cancelled due to lack of participation.

The event was to benefit the youth of St. Catherine attending World Youth Day in Canada.

Those needing more information on the event or who would like to help the youth can contact Chapo at 445-1772 or Lupe at 447-4024 or 447-9652.


High Thurs. 94. Low this morning 56. Forecast for tonight: Partly  cloudy. A 20 percent chance of thunderstorms. Lows 50 to 55. SE winds 5 to 15  mph. Sat.: Partly cloudy with a 20 percent chance of thunderstorms. Highs  near 85. SE winds 10 to 20 mph. Sat. night: Partly cloudy with a 20 percent  chance of showers or thunderstorms. Lows 50 to 55. Sun.: Partly cloudy. Highs  near 85. Mon.: Partly cloudy. Lows 55 to 60. Highs 85 to 90..


Eliseo Jaramillo and James "Jabo" Sears

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