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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
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Top Stories

Friday, March 14, 2003

Council delays continuing ed guideline vote

Staff Writer

PECOS, Friday, March 14, 2003 -- Town of Pecos City Council members delayed final action on the question of continuing education programs for city employees, along with four other items during their regular meeting Thursday morning at City Hall.

The council is seeking to set guidelines for workers seeking financial support from the city to attend education programs directly related to their jobs. In January, the council asked city attorney Scott Johnson to prepare a more precise version of the city's policy on funding employees' continuing education programs.

The first draft of the policy was drawn up by Johnson and Town of Pecos City Manager Carlos Yerena following the council's approval in November of a new contract for Yerena, which included partial funding of college courses that would allow Yerena to seek a Masters of Arts degree. However, after reviewing the policy, council members Frank Sanchez and Angelica Valenzuela had questions about how the selection process would be handled under the plan, and what city employees would be eligible for continuing education funding.

The council did agree to change the number of years an employee must work of the city before they can be accepted for the program.

The current policy states that a city employee must work for at least three years. The number of years has been reduced to two years.

At the request of Mayor Pro-Tem Gerald Tellez, Johnson said that he will also add into the policy that it will pay for those who have to have the training and as much as the budget allows them to pay.

During the next council meeting, the members will go over the policy once again after they have had some time to review it.

The other items tabled were that of authorizing Frank X. Spencer and Associates to prepare plans and specifications for a new Stafford Boulevard lift station to replace the existing facility; authorizing preparation of plans and specifications for proposed holding ponds pumps and pipes at the existing wastewater treatment plant; conducting an engineering study of six existing tanks and tank sites, including 27 well sites for security concerns and recommendations for tank conditions; and the approval for change order No. 2 for sanitary landfill trench excavation trench four in Area B and trench one in Area A.

The first three were tabled for monetary reason, while the landfill issue was tabled because Yerena had not had time to look over the proposal before having to go out of town.

The accounts payable report of $327,208.02 was approved with Tellez making the motion and Sanchez seconding it.

Tellez also made the motion to accept the minutes of the regular February council meeting with Benavides seconding it.

Councilman Johnny Terrazas made the motion to accept the juvenile monthly report for February with Michael Benavides seconding it.

Terrazas again made a motion to accept the resolution #03-3-1-R for central counting stations for city elections to be located at the Reeves County Courthouse and appoint officials for central counting stations early voting ballot board, early voting and election day.

City's tax rebate check again shows small drop

PECOS, Friday, March 14, 2003 -- Sales tax figures from January collections showed another small decline for the Town of Pecos city, while tax collections fell sharply in Balmorhea and Toyah, according to figures released today by Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn's office.

Pecos, which has seen slight drops in its tax receipt figures for the past several months, saw its tax rebate check for March decline by 21/2 percent, based on collections made during January. The city got back $52,230 from the comptroller's office, based on its 11/2-cent share of the state's 81/4 percent sales tax. Last March, the city got back $53,474 in tax receipts from Strayhorn's office.

For the first quarter of 2003, tax receipts sent back to Pecos totaled $193,020, which was down 2.91 percent from last year, when the city got $198,825 back in taxes for the first three months of the year.

The first quarter of 2002 was also the last one during which the Anchor Foods plant was running at close to full operation. Anchor shut its plant at the end of May last year, causing local unemployment to jump by 10 percent. The facility has been reopened by TransPecos Foods, but currently is operating with a much smaller labor force, and the city's jobless rate remains in double digits, and about double its level at the same time a year ago.

Out of the city's March tax rebate check, one sixth goes to the Pecos Economic Development Corp. The PEDC will receive $8,705 in tax receipts this month.

The decline in tax collections was sharper in Balmorhea and Toyah. Balmorhea's check for March was $638, down 42.2 percent from $1,104 a year ago. For the first three months of 2003, the city's tax rebate checks came to $2,572, down 17.73 percent from last year's $3,126.

Toyah's check for March was only $129, which represented a drop of 701/2 percent from last year's $439 figure. Toyah has gotten $772 back from Austin so far this down, down 37.66 percent from last year's $1,239.

Rebate checks across the Permian Basin and Trans Pecos region showed mixed results for the month. Several cities reported double-digit increased in their checks from a year ago, while others joined Pecos in reporting slight declines.

Fort Stockton, Marfa and Van Horn were among the cities with double-digit increases in their sales tax receipts, but those were due to increases in the cities' tax rates during the past year. Marfa and Van Horn raised their rates from 11/2 to 13/4 cents and saw their collections increase - Van Horn by nearly 20 percent and Marfa by over 70 percent. Fort Stockton's rate went from 11/2 to 2 percent and its collections jumped by over 58 percent, to $117,194.

Cities that went up double digits without sales tax increases included Andrews, Crane, Odessa and Wink, while Midland, Alpine, Monahans and Kermit all saw their sales tax checks fall this month.

Local officials get Homeland Security briefing

Staff Writer

PECOS, Friday, March 14, 2003 -- Local emergency response personnel from Pecos and other Reeves County communities were in town Thursday afternoon to hear a Homeland Security presentation provided by the Permian Basin Regional Planning Commission.

City and county officials from Pecos, Toyah and Balmorhea along with Reeves County Hospital representatives, Toyah and Balmorhea EMTs, Town of Pecos City Fire Marshal Jack Brookshire, Fire Chief Roy Pena, city employees and members of the volunteer fire department among those listening to the presentation on the assessment process by Homeland Security Division Project Co-Coordinator, Barney Welch at the Reeves County Civic Center.

The presentation was part of the new Homeland Security measures put into effect following the terrorist attacks on the United States on Sept. 11, 2001. The requirements called for local representatives from agencies of the law enforcement, public works, health department, government administration, emergency medical services (EMS), health care, school officials, fire department, private stakeholders, hazardous material, emergency management and disaster services to attend.

Welch presented the group with a power point presentation that illustrated the functions of the project. However, before the presentation began, he said that he was surprised to see the large number of people in attendance.

"I am happy to be here," Welch said. "There are so many of you here. This is the most I've seen."

He also told the group that this Homeland Security Division Project is an intense project that is going on in the state of Texas.

"This is the best time for any jurisdiction to get federal money," Welch said, adding that federal funds distributed through the program are designed to protect lives and property.

In his presentation the Homeland Security Division's duties were listed as scheduling meetings with jurisdictional stakeholders, providing clarification on state and federal requirements placed on regions and local jurisdiction and the assisting in the creation of inter-jurisdictional emergency planning working groups.

Welch provided the group with a definition of the background of emergency management.

"Emergency management consists of systems, resources, and activities designed to assist a community in mitigation against, preparing for, responding to and recovering from the effects of all hazards," he said.

Welch went on to define emergency as the occurrence or imminent threat of a condition, incident or event which requires immediate response actions to save lives, prevent injuries, protect property, public health, the environment and public safety or to lessen or avert the threat of a disaster.

"And disaster is the occurrence or imminent threat of widespread or severe damages, injury, loss of life or property, or such severe economic or social disruption that supplemental relief is necessary for the jurisdiction to recover," Welch said.

Welch also provided the group with a list of potential hazards ranging from a building collapsing to a hurricane.

"Do you thing you could receive money for a hurricane," Welch asked the group?

Not knowing the correct answer, the group sat still with one or two of them shaking their heads no.

"How about if you had to relieve some assistance to an area that suffered from a hurricane," Welch said. "So you can receive assistance."

While Gulf of Mexico hurricanes rarely affect West Texas, Reeves County's last major disaster occurred in May 1987, when a tornado destroyed most of the town of Saragosa, killing 30 people. It remains the highest death toll for any single tornado in the United States since the 1970s.

Throughout his presentation, Welch would tell the group that it was important for them to fill out the application papers necessary so that when April 11 came around they would have some thing turned in and though it might not be completed they would still be able to receive some assistance since they could prove that the paperwork is underway.

Welch added that it would be okay if some of the areas contained a lot "Nos" or "N/As" because the state felt that every jurisdiction should be able to participate.

"It will increase your allocation percentage," Welch said.

Though Pecos is currently excluded from receiving funds, Forsan (near Big Spring) has 74 percent of its assessment completed and Forsan is much smaller then Pecos, Welch said.

Reeves County Emergency Management Coordinator Ricky Herrera said that some of the people were wondering why they were invited it was because in some areas of the required paperwork he would need the assistance of all of the agencies, such as the hospital, the law enforcement agencies, the EMS and the fire department, in completing the Homeland Security forms.

"I invited people from the oil and gas companies because they are targets for terrorist threat," Herrera said. "This program is going to involve a lot of people."

As he prepares to fill out the annex paper work he said that he would need their help because he would attempt to do it all by himself.

"I will need help from the Reeves County Hospital, the Sheriff's Office and other agencies," Herrera said. "I will be calling you and asking for help."

He also said that as they begin to fill out the annex paper work, Herrera hopes not to duplicate any of the questions with Balmorhea or Toyah.

"We can do it as a team," Herrera said.

Task Force officials release IDs of 26 arrested

Staff Writer

PECOS, Friday, March 14, 2003 -- Trans Pecos Drug Task Force officers have released the names of 26 people arrested in Thursday's "Operation Street Sweep" round up, while saying they are still seeking other individuals on drug-related charges.

The effort, which was focused on the city of Midland, was termed a success by officials with the Task Force and other local enforcement agencies who banned together to take several individuals dealing with drugs off the streets.

Approximately 40 law enforcement officers from the Trans Pecos Drug Task Force, Midland Police Department, Midland County Sheriff's Office, Texas Department of Public Safety aircraft division, Texas Highway Patrol, Andrews County Sheriff's Office, Pecos Police Department and the Culberson County Sheriff's Office began serving some 58 sealed grand jury indictments on 35 individuals at 6:30 a.m. on Thursday. The indictments were issued by the Midland County Grand Jury on March 12.

"This operation, called Operation Street Sweep, is the culmination of an undercover narcotics investigation that began in the fall of 2002 by the Trans Pecos Drug Task Force," said Trans Pecos Drug Task Force Commander Gary Richards.

Undercover officers have purchased heroin, marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine in various amounts, mostly in grams and multi grams, at a cost of several thousand dollars.

The primary drugs of choice have been marijuana (approximately one kilo) and cocaine (approximately two kilos), according to the task force report.

"We arrested 27 defendants yesterday," Richards said, adding that they still have 11 others at-large.

"We presented 35 defendants and 33 indictments and two are still under investigation," said Richards. "The others had been investigated and we hadn't come up with good reliable addresses for them."

Richards said that they are still working on those sealed indictments.

"We also served two unrelated warrants, there were two subjects that had warrants out on them," said Richards. "We went out there and found two wanted people."

Richards said that this was a great operation and a lot of hard work. "These officers did an outstanding job of going undercover, putting their lives on the line to bring these individuals to justice," he said.

Richards said that the Trans Pecos Drug Task Force had three undercover agents that carried most of the load. "Ken Colston, operation officer, did an outstanding job of helping the undercover officer identify suspects," said Richards.

"He along with Brad Rider, are the two that did the locating and we coordinated with the district attorney," he said.

The Midland Technical Training served the high risk warrants and the Midland Sheriff's Department Command Post was used during the operation.

Midland County Crisis Intervention Unit also participated. "They were available in case any individuals we arrested had children," said Richards. "They deal with the children and take care of them."

Richards said that the Midland Fire Department and EMS were also on hand.

Officials released the names of 26 of those involved. Those named and the charges involved are: Sammy Romero, 23, for delivery of controlled substance, cocaine and heroin; Jessie Mancha, 26, delivery of a controlled substance, cocaine; Ellis Warren, 41, delivery of a controlled substance, cocaine; Jonathan Brito, 38, delivery of controlled substance, cocaine; Ryan Metcalf, 35, delivery of controlled substance, cocaine; Trevor Jackson, 20, delivery of controlled substance, cocaine; Isaac Brito, 26, delivery of controlled substance, cocaine; David Wooden, 20, delivery of controlled substance, cocaine; Juan Arredondo, 48, delivery of controlled substance, cocaine; Chris Taylor, 21, delivery of controlled substance, cocaine; Sergio Rodriguez, 18, delivery of controlled substance, cocaine; Tim Hines, 36, delivery of controlled substance, cocaine and heroin; Dianna Bonilla, 36, delivery of controlled substance, cocaine; Elma Varela, 32, delivery of controlled substance, constructive; Marcelo Lopez, 31, delivery of controlled substance, cocaine and Debra Swanson, 42, delivery of controlled substance, cocaine;

Also, Donald Murray, 39, delivery of controlled substance, cocaine; Ricardo Lujan, 24, delivery of controlled substance, cocaine; Jacovee Phillips, 24, delivery of controlled substance, cocaine; Dedric Marrs, 22, delivery of controlled substance, cocaine; Jesse Sokolowski, 21, delivery of controlled substance, cocaine; Ramon Diaz, 60, delivery of controlled substance, cocaine; Twakesia Howard, 19, delivery of controlled substance, cocaine; Dodionne Watson, 26, delivery of controlled substance, cocaine; Antonio Villa, 50, delivery of controlled substance, cocaine and Diva Avalos, 35, delivery of controlled substance, cocaine.

"We all worked hard and this was a cooperative operation between several agencies," said Richards. "We always work really well together and the task force pulls together at times like this."

The Trans Pecos Drug Task Force covers the counties that participate in the task force. "We're always willing to help out," said Richards. "Because we all want the same thing, to take illegal drugs off the streets," he said.

Motel hosting meeting today for Pecos LL

PECOS, Friday, March 14, 2003 -- A meeting will be held this evening at the Best Western Swiss Clock, 1000 W. Palmer St., for Pecos Little League coaches and officials to plan for the 2003 season.

The meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. at the Swiss Clock Inn. League officials also said that registration for the 2003 season has begun and will continue through March.

Miss Cantaloupe pageant seeking 2003 contestants

PECOS, Friday, March 14, 2003 -- Applications are now being taken for girls in Kindergarten and First Grade, who would like to participate in the 2003 Little Miss Cantaloupe Pageant.

Applications may be picked up at the Pecos Chamber of Commerce Office, 111 S. Cedar St.

The deadline to register is March 31.


PECOS, Friday, March 14, 2003 -- High Thursday 86. Low this morning 52. Forecast for tonight: Mostly cloudy. Slight chance of thunderstorms. Lows in the mid 50s. Southeast winds 10 to 20 mph. The chance of precipitation is 20 percent. Saturday: Partly cloudy. Isolated thunderstorms. Highs in the mid 80s. South winds 5 to 15 mph shifting to the southwest 10 to 20 mph in the afternoon. Saturday night: Partly cloudy. Isolated thunderstorms. Lows in the lower 50s. Sunday: Windy. Mostly sunny. Highs in the mid 80s. Monday: Partly cloudy. Lows in the upper 40s. Highs in the mid 70s.

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Pecos Enterprise
York M. "Smokey" Briggs, Publisher
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324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
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