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Archive 2002

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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Top Stories

Monday, May 20, 2002

Hundreds pay final respects to Rodriguez

PECOS, Monday, May 20, 2002 -- Hundreds of Law Enforcement Officers attended the funeral for  fallen officer Jaime Rodriguez today at Santa Rosa Catholic Church.

Rodriguez died in Lubbock about 6½ hours after being shot twice in the abdomen while performing a routine drug check on a Greyhound bus on Thursday morning in Pecos.

Along with numerous family and friends approximately 20 different law enforcement agencies from Texas and New Mexico paid their respects at the funeral.

Hundreds of people filled the streets as numerous vehicles line the streets in front of Santa Rosa Catholic Church, just across the street from Rodriguez' childhood home. Many more waited at Mount Evergreen Cemetery on the southwest side of Pecos to pay their final respects.

Authorities on Friday identified a 19-year-old Austin resident as the man who fatally shot Rodriguez, a Trans Pecos Task Force officer, and wounded a passenger after Rodriguez asked the man for identification

The man, Richard Colunga II, was killed when officers returned fire, according to the Department of Public Safety.

Colunga was wanted on a Travis County warrant for aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon, DPS spokesman Tom Vinger said.

When asked for identification the gunman replied that he only had a bus ticket, but when Rodriguez inspected the ticket and determined it was for a different bus, the man drew a gun from behind his back and started shooting, Altom said.

Also shot was Heather Lee, 17, a passenger from Columbia, S.C., Altom said. The girl had a bullet lodged near her spine and was in stable condition awaiting surgery late Friday, she said.

Colunga was shot and killed in the exchange of fire on board the bus. Ballistics tests were being conducted to find out who fired the shots that struck all three people on the bus.

A bag belonging to Colunga was located on Friday in Tucson, Ariz. Officials said a drug dog alighted on the bag, and it was returned to Pecos as part of the investigation.

Cuellar outlines plans during Pecos stopover

Staff Writer

PECOS, Monday, May 20, 2002 -- U.S. Congress candidate Henry Cuellar made a campaign stop  in Pecos during his West Texas Tour last Thursday morning to talk with  local officials and citizens about Pecos' needs.

The stop came on a mournful day however with Cuellar arriving just a few hours after shots were fired at the local Greyhound Bus Station.

After expressing his concern over the day's events, Cuellar began talking with several people about his hopes for the future.

Cuellar, who is the former Texas Secretary of State, is running against five-term Republican Congressman Henry Bonilla in the November general election. He said his main goal in running for Congress is to give the general public a bigger voice to express what the public believes needs to be done in America.

"I want to have some sort of presence in West Texas," he said.

Continuing, he said that he would like to have an office with his staff members in each county of this district so the public would be able to visit.

"That is one of the reasons I'm running, we need customer service in Congress," he said. "To make sure we listen to people."

Cuellar, who came from a stop in Fort Stockton, also spoke of his plans if he's elected to Congress.

Those plans include emphasizing education and health care as well as helping citizens benefit from federal funding.

"A lot of people don't know what federal dollars there are," he said. "We need to bring more resources in the area."

Originally from Laredo, Cuellar has spent seven terms in office as a Democratic State Representative where he worked to improve education, health care and build bipartisan coalitions to protect water and property rights, improve farm-to-market roads, implement tough anti-poaching laws and increase access to health care for seniors.

In a previous interview with the Pecos Enterprise Cuellar explained numerous things he has been involved in while in the State Legislature.

"I was the author of the Texas Grant, which is the largest financial aid program in history (for student college funds), and I was chairman of the budget committee on public schools and higher education until I became Secretary of State," Cuellar said.

"While I was in Austin I emphasized health care, and started the CHIP program in Laredo, which is now statewide," Cuellar said.

Over the next several weeks Cuellar plans to visit each county in the West Texas district.

He said that the West Texas district alone, which is a total of 24 counties, is larger than many states.

"This district is larger than 31 states," he said.

Cuellar is looking forward to serving the citizens of West Texas and plans to be in the area many more times before the November election.

He plans to come back to Pecos in July to participate in the West of the Pecos Rodeo Parade, however he is unsure what he'll be riding in that parade.

"They haven't decided if I'll be in a car or on a horse," he said smiling.

Either way Cuellar said he'd be happy to be here.

Cornyn's campaign bringing tour bus through Pecos

PECOS, Monday, May 20, 2002 -- Texas Attorney General John Cornyn, who is seeking the position in  the U.S. Senate currently held by Phil Gramm, will be stopping in Pecos  Tuesday afternoon, as part of his statewide bus tour leading up to the  November general election.

Cornyn, a Republican who was elected Attorney General in 1998, will meet with area residents beginning at 1:45 p.m. at the Reeves County Courthouse. His bus tour will then take him to Monahans later Tuesday afternoon.

Cornyn is running against former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk, who won the Democratic nomination in a runoff last month against Victor Morales, who was defeated by Gramm in the 1996 U.S. Senate election. Gramm, who was first elected to the Senate in 1984, opted against running for a fourth term in office this year.

While in Pecos, Cornyn plans to outline his plans if elected to Senate. In a press release, he listed protecting the most vulnerable in society, strengthening our national defense, reducing the burden of the government and fighting for Texas values as some of his key issues.

Valuations for city increase, county, school, RCH decline

Staff Writers

PECOS, Monday, May 20, 2002 -- After a sharp increase last year, property values in Reeves County  dropped back down in 2002, according to the Reeves County Tax Appraisal Office.

Meanwhile, valuations were up for the Town of Pecos City, which saw a decline a year ago, as real estate values in the city increased, while oil and gas valuations outside the city limits dropped from 2001's totals.

The Reeves County Appraisal District mailed property owners letters showing their 2002 proposed appraised value today, as required by state law. They show valuations in Reeves County declined by nearly $10 million, while valuations in the Reeves County Hospital District fell almost $18 million and Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD dropped by $29.3 million.

While the county, school and hospital districts all saw declines from a year ago, the drops are far smaller than the increases in 2001. The school district's valuations rose by nearly $140 million last year, while Reeves County and the RCH district saw their valuations rise by about $130 million.

Declines in the price of oil and natural gas compared with the start of last year account for the decline, though the hospital district also lost $2.9 million in real estate valuations and the school district saw their valuations drop by $3.65 million, to go along with a $25.6 million drop in mineral valuations.

Real estate valuations in the Town of Pecos City were up $5.66 million and the county saw its property values jump $5.2 million. The increase was not enough to offset the county's $15.1 million drop in mineral valuations, but the city saw its much smaller mineral valuations fall by only $1.2 million, leaving it with a net gain of $4.4 million in valuations for 2002.

Total valuations for the county and hospital district are $468.1 million, while the P-B-T valuations are $478.2 million. Valuations within the Town of Pecos City were put at $117.7 million by Markham's office.

The school district's property and mineral declines will be coupled with last year's increase and a drop in enrollment to severely cut state funding for Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD for the 2002-2003 school year. School officials were already aware of the problem last year, since Superintendent Don Love said the state's funding formulas are based on both enrollment levels and total taxable valuations from the previous year.

Along with the city, both Balmorhea and the Balmorhea ISD showed increases in their net taxable valuations this year. Balmorhea ISD was the only taxing entity to report an increase in mineral valuations, rising $1.38 million from last year. Combined with a $45,800 rise in real estate values they put the school district's total valuations at $25.7 million.

The city of Balmorhea's total valuations were $3.47 million, as it saw real estate values rise $29,547, to offset a $3,260 drop in mineral values.

Among the other taxing entities within the county, Toyah's valuations declined $123,932 to $1.56 million; and the Reeves County Water Improvement District No. 2 saw its valuations drop $3.7 million, to $9.7 million.

With the appraisal letters going out to property owners today, Markham reminds property owners that the letter of appraised value is not a tax bill. "Please do not pay _ this is not a tax bill," she said.

Markham emphasized the importance of this letter and the key information that it contains. "A property owner has the right to appeal to the Reeves County Appraisal Review Board on any disagreement with the property's value, exemptions, ownership and other areas," she said.

The deadline for protesting to the ARB is June 19.

The appraisal review board, more commonly called the "ARB," is an independent panel of citizens responsible for hearing and settling protests from property owners who disagree with some action by the appraisal district. The notice includes instructions on how and when to file a protest and a protest form.

What should a property owner carefully review? "Look at the proposed value for 2002," said Markham. "The letter states that land's value and any improvement value for the property for the current year," she said.

An improvement is a building, structure, fence or any other type of fixture to the land.

The appraisal letter also includes current year information on exemptions granted on the property. It provides last year's value, too.

Homeowners that qualify for property tax homestead exemptions have a limitation on their homes' appraised value, beginning with the second year that they qualify their home for homestead exemptions. The appraisal district may not increase their home value by more than 10 percent for each year since the last reappraisal year. A homeowner's letter gives both the market value for the home and the limited home value.

Letters to property owners whose values changed or a new owner "estimated" taxes. These "estimated" taxes are based on the new taxable value and last year's tax rates. Taxing units will set final 2002 tax rates in August and September. Final tax amounts may vary from these "estimated" amounts.

Markham asks property owners to check the legal description and mailing address to be sure that there are not mistakes. "If the letter has an old address, please let the appraisal district know. The post office forwards mail to a new address for a short time, and tax bills do not go out until October," said Markham.

A property owner is responsible for informing the appraisal district of the correct mailing address. A property owner is liable for additional penalties and interest on a tax bill that is not paid on time.

"If you did not get a letter and want 2002 information about your property, call the appraisal district at 445-5122," said Markham.

Chamber members get details on plans

Staff Writer

PECOS, Monday, May 20, 2002 -- Grand Marshals for the Annual West of the Pecos Rodeo Parade  were chosen and committee members are working on other plans to make  this year's event a success, one of the organizers of the event told Pecos  Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors during their lunchtime  meeting last Tuesday.

The Marcos Martinez family and the West of the Pecos Cattlewomen will lead the annual West of the Pecos Rodeo. "We're also working on other things such as bringing in a helicopter or something like that," said Kathy Hurley, one of the organizers of the event.

Hurley said that the group had also been talking to the military about participating. "We'll be on Pecos Talking to discuss plans and update the community," said Hurley.

Town of Pecos City Police Chief Clay McKinney, a guest at the chamber meeting, told chamber members that the new Criminal Justice Center was full and that they had moved all their operations to the new facility. "Everything is going as planned and running smoothly," said McKinney.

Two other guests at the meeting, Oscar Saenz and Pecos Economic Development Director Gari Ward updated the group on new ventures in the community.

"The biggest thing happening right now is the new dairy," said Ward.

Ward said that about two years ago he had developed a good rapport with the owner of the new dairy. "Every now and then we sit down and talk about what he's doing," said Ward.

Ward said that owner E.E. Norwood was spending a lot of money in the community and Reeves County.

"This will add to our local economy and he wants to make into a showplace," said Ward.

Ward said that what Pecos needed next was a feed mill to support all the farmers. "The rural roads are being addressed and a dairy nutritionist comes into Pecos once a month," said Ward.

Ward said that if more dairies moved into the area, it would better the economy and "put Pecos on the map."

"All the milk from here is going to San Antonio," said Ward.

Debbie Thomas and Alfred Gomez spoke about their recent trip to a Tourism Development Workshop in San Angelo, which was held on April 9.

"We learned about the different grants available and that we have the same problems everybody else has," said Thomas.

Thomas said that the main problem seems to be that there are never enough volunteers.

"We really got a lot out of it," she said.

Gomez told the group that he had learned three things at the workshop that were very important. "First, I've learned that we have to keep the city healthy, in order to attract tourism," said Gomez.

"We've got to have something that the tourists will come in and enjoy and for that we have to keep the city healthy and clean," he said.

"Secondly, we need to build up volunteerism," said Gomez. "We have to have a good volunteer force."

"And third, they stated we have to have proper protocol," said Gomez. "We have to all work together," he said. "If we get together and come up with a good plan, we can bring in more tourism."

Gomez said that they had also talked to them about putting on a good fiesta during the seminar. "They told us to put on a good fiesta, one that everyone can enjoy," he said.

There are grants, up to 50 percent that can help us with putting on a good fiesta, according to Gomez.

"We can accomplish things by working together and I think that's a good idea," said Interim Chamber of Commerce Director Linda Gholson. "Tourism is linked to economic development."

Tennis carnival set for Tuesday at PHS courts

PECOS, Monday, May 20, 2002 -- A USTA Tennis Carnival is scheduled from 6-7 p.m., on Tuesday at the Pecos High School Tennis courts.

Kids of all ages are invited to attend and the carnival is free.

Everyone is welcome to come to the USTA Tennis Carnival and celebrate on the newly rebuilt tennis courts. There will be lots of games and door prizes.


PECOS, Monday, May 20, 2002 -- High Sunday 86. Low this morning 62. Forecast for tonight: Partly  cloudy and breezy with isolated evening thunderstorms. Lows in the  upper 50s. Southeast winds 15 to 25 mph. Tuesday: Partly cloudy and  breezy. Highs near 90. Southeast winds 15 to 25 mph. Tuesday night: Partly  cloudy. Lows in the lower 60s. Wednesday: Partly cloudy. Highs in the lower  90s. Thursday: Partly cloudy. Lows near 60. Highs 90 to 95.


Jaime Rodriguez

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