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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Friday, February 14, 2003

School board continues consolidation study

Staff Writer

PECOS, Feb. 14, 2003 - Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD Board members once again discussed the possibility of closing two campuses as an effort to save money, but took no final action during the regular board meeting held Thursday evening.

"We have touched on this before," said PBT-ISD Superintendent Don Love of the plan to close the two oldest remaining campuses in the district, Zavala and Lamar elementary schools. Under the plan, the board would move sixth grade classes from Lamar to nearby Bessie Haynes Elementary, which currently has all fourth and fifth graders, while DAEP/AEP would move to Pecos High School from the north side Lamar campus.

"We checked and we do have the room at Bessie Haynes," said personnel director Gome Olibas. "And we'll still have three empty classrooms."

Olibas said that change was needed because the district was losing a lot of students. Enrollment in P-B-T ISD has dropped by 500 students in recent years, resulting in the closings of the Barstow and Pecos Elementary campuses.

Gome said that if they were to move Lamar AEP to Zavala Elementary and close Lamar campus it would mean a savings of $285,547.

"If we move Lamar to high school and close both campuses it will mean a savings of $439,898," said Olibas. "In the long run, it will pay off."

"This will be done strictly through attrition, we're not cutting anybody," said Love.

"The main thing is the safety, there's always the safety issue. This is one way to help us out," Olibas said.

He added that there would be some expenses in making the move, but that they felt the district would make it up in three months.

"It's like when we moved Zavala, we had to have science rooms," he said.

Love said that they were waiting on the Texas Education Agency to see if the could move some items such as air conditioners and ceiling tiles to Building B, where AEP would be housed, if the move was approved.

Love told the group that they could make a decision last night or wait until Tuesday to see what happens.

State rules require AEP students to be separated from regular students at any campus, and board member David Flores asked, "If we decide to move them to Building B, what's to keep the students from AEP from going to the high school?"

"They can't get back on main campus, they will be at the far end and their parking will also," said Olibas.

AEP Director Jimmy Dutchover said that most of the students in the disciplinary program at this time just want to do their time and go on. "They know they got caught with their hand in the cookie jar and now they just want to move on," he said.

"We're just not dealing with the same type kids that we have had in the past," said Dutchover. "That's why I'm not hesitant to move these students."

Basically, if it's going to be done, it's the opportune time, according to Dutchover. "There's no real assurances, but we haven't had any major problems," he said.

Dutchover said that other AEP schools were impressed with what the Pecos campus had been able to manage over the last five years.

"I think we've done a pretty good job, I hope you're pleased, I know I am with the students," said Dutchover. "TEA was very impressed with our AEP."

"Are there any precautions we can take, such as cameras," said board member Steve Valenzuela.

"We have cameras inside the rooms and the school will take care of the outside ones," said Dutchover. "We're looking at getting a couple more cameras."

"If we did have a student that did that (went to the main high school campus), what kind of punishment would he have," Valenzuela asked.

"They would be trespassing and they would be arrested," said Dutchover.

"But do you think it's been successful, because they were so far away and now that they are closer to the regular campus, they won't care," said Flores.

"If we were considering moving the campuses, what kind of maintenance would it require," asked board member Lila Cerna.

"We would still have to mow, take care of roofing and paint outside," said maintenance supervisor Joe Coody. "We would also have to have electricity, water and gas, to use the gym at Zavala," he said. Seventh grade teams from Zavala Junior High School use the school's gym.

"We would still use the band hall and gym at Zavala," said Coody. "They would still be accessible if we moved AEP to Zavala," he said.

"We would work something out with AEP about when they'll be using the gym," said Love.

At Lamar electricity would have to be kept on for the fire alarms and water for irrigation, according to Coody.

Board members opted to table the decision until after Tuesday, to find out what the state is going to do.

Man convicted of drug charges


Staff Writer
PECOS, Feb. 14, 2003 - One man was found guilty on drug charges and jurors in a second trial are currently deliberating an illegal immigration case at the Lucius D. Bunton III U.S. Federal District Court in Pecos.

According to the U.S. Clerk's Office, the first trial this week began on Tuesday and involved the United States of America versus Ruben Medina.

Medina was charged with conspiracy of possession with intend to distribute a controlled substance.

He was found guilty on two counts of the indictment and will be sentenced in April, the clerk's office said.

The second jury trial, which began Thursday, was on three individuals for the transporting of aliens.

The individuals are Jacobo Perez-Gomez, Porfirio Valedez-Nunez and Emeric S. Moguel-Garcia.

The jury was deliberating the case this morning and no verdict had been returned by press time.

Complaints on girls' athletics, special ed voiced

Staff Writer

PECOS, Feb. 14, 2003 - Problems with the girls' athletic program at Pecos High School, and questions about hiring a new special education teacher for the district were voiced during the audience comments portion of Thursday's regular Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD board meeting, held at the school Technology Center.

Individuals have the opportunity to sign in at the beginning of the meeting and be recognized during the audience portion to talk about any subject, but no action can be taken unless the item is part of the regular agenda.

P-B-T teacher and former coach Steele Ewing voiced the complaint about the girls' athletic program. After being recognized by school board president Billie Sadler, Ewing said, "I have been at Pecos High School for the past 24 years," and was concerned with the direction of the program.

"Girls athletics has been on the decline for some time now," said Ewing. "We need to take a look at where girls' athletics is going."

Ewing said that his concern stemmed from some of the events that his daughter and some of her friends had been going through in athletics and he said that he hoped these things didn't happen again. "Each time I've had a problem I've talked to Coach Williams," said Ewing.

Ewing said that one of the "incidents" he was concerned about was his daughter having to run because she missed a practice because she had a band function to attend.

"That has been changed if this was going on before," said Ewing.

Ewing said that another problem was that if they left their sweaters or other personal items lying on the floor the girls were fined money to get those things back. "I did talk to the coaches and that was changed," said Ewing.

Ewing said that when he did talk to some of the coaches he felt he wasn't trying to tell them how to do their jobs. "But I felt that my opinion wasn't worth a hoot, that's the opinion I got," said Ewing. "They felt that they were untouchable."

Ewing said that girls participating in other extracurricular activities should not be punished, but should be commended. "Just because she was at a band function, she shouldn't be punished because she missed practice," he said.

"I hope that situation will be taken care of," said Ewing. "We need to do something to get these girls in athletics and see if we can change some things."

Ewing said he just wanted what was best for his daughter and the other girls in athletics.

Next, president Sadler acknowledged Reeves County Judge Jimmy Galindo, who talked about the planned hiring of the new teacher. "As a parents of a little boy who is autistic, there are some pressing issues in regards to special education," Galindo said.

He said that there are limited areas where the school board has control over special education due to certain laws and regulations concerning special education.

"However, there's one area very apparent to me that you do have control and a say in," said Galindo. "That's is the teacher, I don't know if you ever thought of that."

"I know that you've been advised that you don't have much input, but you're the ones that select the teacher," said Galindo, who went on to question the experience level of the new teacher for the special education students.

"The teacher which is being put before you has only one semester of experience in teaching children who are autistic," said Galindo. "I know that Mr. Olibas does the best he can to bring in good teachers, but this lady brings one semester of experience."

He said that if the teacher is not trained, it will create a situation that can result in a worst situation.

"I would like to ask you to please pay attention to who you put in these classes," said Galindo. "Especially when it concerns special ed classes."

Galindo said that one semester of familiarization with autistic children did not qualify the teacher to teach these children.

Later in the meeting, board members met behind closed doors in executive session. In the open portion of the session, following executive session, the board approved the appointment of Kristi Viney. Viney holds a Bachelor of Science Degree/Lubbock Christian University and has eight years teaching experience. Her assignment: Austin Elementary Special Education S/C Teacher.

The item was approved on a split decision, with board members, Lila Cerna, Paul Deishler, Chip Flores and board president Billie Sadler voting for the appointment. David Flores and Steve Valenzuela voted `no.' Board member Crissy Martinez was unable to attend the meeting.

Red Bluff awaits USGS action to begin salt removal

Staff Writer

PECOS, Feb. 14, 2003 - Removal of salt from the Pecos River at Malaga Bend is awaiting final action by the U.S. Geological Survey, Red Bluff Water Power Control Board members were told on Tuesday during their regular monthly meeting in Pecos.

Work was completed last month on the new well at Malaga Bend, about 70 miles north of Pecos, which will be used to pump water from the salt spring away from the Pecos River and into man-made ponds built by Sun West Salt Co., which will then evaporate the water and mine out the salt.

Managing Director for Red Bluff, Randal Hartman said Sun West "can start pumping, but they're waiting on the USGS to get their monitors acceptable."

The monitors are designed to check the water flow of the Pecos River above and below the diversion, to see that it complies with the adjustments agreed to last year on the Pecos River Compact between Texas and New Mexico.

Hartman said Sun West was digging one pit at a time, and would build more as the first one fills up with salt. He added that the cost of the well to would come in at about $39,000, but said, "We're not paying for it. They're (Sun West) taking it in salt payments."

The well will begin pumping at 600 gallons a minute, and will go down to between 460 and 480 gallons once the aquifer level in the area goes down. However, Hartman said the district may have to go in and pour sand in an abandoned nearby well if it hampers the flow of the new pumping effort.

The project is expected to cut the salt levels in the Pecos River by 50 percent south of Malaga Bend, as the water enters Red Bluff Lake. Currently, the spring's water contains 39,000 parts of salt per million parts of water, which the board was told equals about two pounds of salt per gallon.

In other business, board members voted to hold off on a water allotment decision for 2003 until March, in hopes that more water might reach Red Bluff Lake. Water levels at the lake last year were in the 40,000 acre/foot range, and no allotment could be made to farmers downstream on the Pecos River. At the start of February, water level at the lake was 58,204 acre/feet, which the board said would only permit a small allotment.

Board members also approved the monthly cash disbursements, receipts, fund balances and the investment report for the district. The board was also told nine miles of ditches from the Pecos River weir to the Imperial Reservoir have been cleaned out, at a cost of $3,000. The action was approved, as was a $1,000 expenditure to put a cement apron on the gates at the reservoir.

Commissioners seek to cut cost for new center

Staff Writer

PECOS, Feb. 14, 2003 - Reeves County Commissioners sought ways to cut construction costs on the planned Balmorhea Community Center, sought to speed up final construction work on the Reeves County Detention Center III project and approved a modified version of a $500,000 loan to TransPecos Foods during a special session of the Commissioners Court Thursday afternoon.

But commissioners found out later that they will have to come back a third time and vote on the loan for the food processing facility, since the resolution conflicts with the company's other secured loans.

Commissioners tabled any action on both the Community Center plans and the RCDC project, and will have to come back and meet again next Tuesday on the loan, County Judge Jimmy B. Galindo said today.

The Balmorhea Community Center project had been budgeted by commissioners at $400,000. However, the initial bids that came in were nearly 50 percent above that total, coming in at $591,000, and as a result, architect Lorraine Dailey architect for Dailey, Rabke and Gondeck, and Ron Anderson of Anderson Building and Development Group Inc. of El Paso were asked to go back and rework the plans to see how much they could cut from that total.

Both were at Thursday's meeting, and while they were able to cut nearly $60,000 off the original amount, commissioners and Galindo said the $531,504 price tag was still more than what Reeves County could afford.

"We bid out the most expensive items," Dailey said, "But the prices keep coming back the way they are."

Anderson, whose company is currently working on construction of a new agriculture building and gym for the Balmorhea ISD, said he tried to use some of the same subcontractors as on that project, but their bids came in too high for what was in the budget.

"I think we can come down to $400,000," said Galindo. "Unfortunately, what that means is it forces you to go back and redesign, but what we agreed upon was to finance $400,000."

The county plans to pay back the loan to build the facility at a rate of $25,000 a year for 20 years, and commissioners said they did not want to extend the loan payment period.

Commissioners also asked Dailey to draw up a plan that would eliminate the back porch from the building and possibly decrease the size of the front porch, along with eliminating the exterior stucco panels and going with a plain metal wall and a stained concrete floor instead of tiling. At the same time, Galindo said the county could look at using the interest earned from its account to finance RCDC payments as a down payment on the building to cut down the interested that would be owed on the loan.

Balmorhea Mayor Ruben Fuentez also told Galindo that the city would be willing to help with maintenance of the facility in order to lower future costs.

Dailey also talked with commissioners about the status of the RCDC project, which is scheduled to begin receiving its first prisoners in March, and commissioners talked with Joe Gamen, project manager for N.C. Sturgeon, and Robert Gonzales, project manager for SamCor, Both companies are subcontractors that Gerald Tally with Carothers Construction Co., the project's prime contractor, said on Monday were in danger of missing the deadline for completion of their work.

"I highly recommend you do everything you can to complete this within the required time," said Galindo, who explained that security will be a problem for the subcontractors if work has to be done after the first inmates arrive at the 960-bed addition.

"We're willing to work extra hours. The cleaning is going to be extensive, so we're going to allow days for that," said Gamen, whose company is doing clean-up work at the site.

He said he understood the problem if the current Feb. 25 deadline is missed and would check the "punch list" being prepared by Dailey of items still to be done by his company. Gamen added that he only has punch lists for seven of the 13 buildings right now, while Dailey said a number of the problems are already known, and "there's nothing keeping them from doing it before they get the contractor's report."

Gonzales said his company was having problems getting enough people to work on painting the facility, but added they would be working weekends with another subcontractor to get the work done.

"Does SamCor have the ability to get the manpower?" Galindo asked, and Gonzales said the company would be looking to add 10 workers on Thursday and 10 more today.

He also said they were having problems with painting some parts of the new buildings, only to see other contractors come back in to do more work that would then require another paint job.

"I think it's very important to document where you're having to come back to do work," Galindo said. "If you're having to do that, it certainly impedes your completion date."

The $500,000 given to TransPecos Foods from the county's Revolving Loan Fund had been approved by commissioners at an earlier meeting. But Galindo said the State Office of Rural Community Affairs, which had final approval over the loan, wanted the county to update its loan guidelines, which dated back to the loan granted the Smithers Tire Testing Center in the mid-1980s.

Along with that, commissioners also agreed to a change in the loan requested by County Auditor Lynn Owens, who wanted the county to seek security from TransPecos Foods for the loan.

"It bothers me that we're going to consider a loan of $500,000 on an unsecured loan. It's not responsible on the part of the commissioners court," he said.

"One thing some of us have pushed for is the creation of jobs, but it is a valid point," Galindo said, while adding that other loans taken out by the company would take precedent over any rights the county would have should a default occur.

"From what I have seen at least $4 million is loaned for that operation," he said. "We may be in the second (secured) position on all these things, but second position is better than no position."

However, this morning, Galindo said after talking TransPecos Foods owner Patrick Kennedy, "He said the resolution from us on the second lien was in conflict with their other loans.

"So we're back to the drawing board. The question is whether or not we should approve an unsecured loan for the company in order to create jobs for the community, Galindo said.

As a result, commissioners will meet again at 9 a.m. on Tuesday at the courthouse to again consider the issue.

TransPecos Foods bought the facility from McCain Foods last summer, and currently is using about 100 employees, though plant manager Bruce Salcido said a new contract to supply International House of Pancakes restaurants with cheese sticks and onion rings would result in the creation of another 60 jobs.

"I feel strongly that we need to keep the plant open," said Precinct 1 Commissioner Felipe Arredondo prior to Thursday's vote, while Precinct 4 Commissioner Hivi Rayos added, "We need the jobs."

High Thursday 69. Low this morning 58. Forecast for tonight: Partly cloudy. Lows in the mid 40s. West winds 5 to 15 mph. Saturday: Partly cloudy. Slight chance of showers. Highs near 60. Northeast winds 5 to 15 mph. The chance of precipitation is 20 percent. Saturday night: Mostly cloudy. Lows in the mid 30s. Sunday: Mostly cloudy. Highs in the upper 50s. Washington's birthday: Mostly cloudy then clearing. Lows in the mid 30s. Highs in the mid 60s.

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