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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Illegals in van sent to Mexico, driver detained

Staff Writer

PECOS, Wed, May 28, 2003 -- The driver of a van in which 19 illegal aliens were hidden on a trip from El Paso to Dallas is in the Pecos County Jail in Fort Stockton, while U.S. Border Patrol officials have returned all but two of the illegals to Mexico.

Hugo Ricardo Ramirez remains in jail in Fort Stockton, according to a jailer with the Pecos County Sheriff's Department, while Border Patrol investigators there continue to look into Tuesday's early morning traffic stop west of Pecos, which led to the discovery of the illegal aliens hidden behind furniture in the rear of the utility truck.

Department of Public Safety Troop Arnulfo Rivas made the traffic stop, shortly before 2 a.m. on I-20 near the 33-mile marker, seven miles west of Pecos, after the van exceeded the 65 mph nighttime speed limit. Ramirez was also found to be driving with a suspended license, and after he was placed under arrest the illegal aliens were discovered in the rear of the van.

Officials at the scene at first said 17 illegals were hidden inside the van, but raised that number to 19 Tuesday afternoon.

"The bulk of them have been returned to Mexico," said John Carter, agent in charge of the U.S. Border Patrol station in Pecos, where the van was taken following the traffic stop. "The driver is being held for prosecution, along with the necessary witnesses."

Carter said two of the illegal aliens were kept in the U.S. to serve as material witnesses, while "all the women and children have been returned to Mexico." There were four children, including a baby, among the 19 illegals in the rear of the van.

"We're viewing this as a rescue operation because of the conditions under which they were transported," Carter said. Temperatures were in the low 70s early Tuesday morning, but Rivas said after the traffic stop was made, "I went back in there to see if anybody was there, and it was hot in that truck."

"They only had three gallons of water and it was quite hot in there," Carter said today. The (Border Patrol) service is processing it because they are illegal aliens, but we want to emphasize the rescue aspect, since there were small children in there and those conditions are pretty rough for little bitty children."

Rivas said Ramirez was in the driver's compartment with a passenger when the traffic stop occurred. He told the trooper he was moving from El Paso to Dallas and was taking his furniture there in the rear of the van. At the time of the traffic stop, the van had traveled about 200 miles of the 635-mile trip from El Paso to Dallas.

Carter said the investigators in Fort Stockton would talk to Ramirez in hopes of finding out more information about the smuggling operation "Right now we don't have any of that information on anyone else being involved," Carter said.

Ramirez could face federal charges of transporting illegal aliens, but as of this morning, no charges had been filed in U.S. District Court in Pecos. The van, which came from Penske Van Rentals, remains at the Border Patrol office on the south side of Pecos, awaiting the arrival of company officials from El Paso to pick it up.

The traffic stop came two weeks after 19 illegal immigrants died after being locked in a truck being driven towards Houston from the Lower Rio Grande Valley. On Tuesday, the seventh person linked to the smuggling operation was arraigned in federal court in Houston.

Authorities said Norma Sanchez-Gonzalez arranged for two people to be smuggled into the country, one for $1,900, the other for $1,800. One of those immigrants died in the trailer in South Texas earlier this month.

Lake searched after suspected drowning case

Staff Writer

PECOS, Wed, May 28, 2003 -- Officials are continuing to search for the body of a man who is believed to have drowned on Memorial Day at Red Bluff Lake in northern Reeves County.

Area game wardens, the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Reeves County Sheriff's Office are involved in the search of the lake. According to Reeves County Game Warden, Brad Reeves, the search for the victim began late Monday afternoon.

"We began a search and rescue type search late Monday," Reeves said. "Yesterday was more of a recovery effort."

However, Reeves added that he would not release any information on the victim out of respect for family members.

A certified diving team out of Midland helped in sweeping the lake Tuesday and today they continue their search with a fly over by a DPS helicopter, Reeves said.

He said that the drowning incident occurred in the Sandy Beach area of Red Bluff. Reeves did not provide other information, but KWES-TV said the Reeves County Sheriff's Department reported the man was trying to swim to shore to get help for the boat he was in after it had ran out of gas. He reportedly was in the middle of the lake when he called for help. His friends swam out to try to help him but were never able to find him.

Other Game Wardens assisting in the search are from El Paso County, Jeff Davis County, Ward County and Brewster County.

"We are one big team trying to recover the body," Reeves said about the joint efforts of the Game Warden officials, DPS and the Reeves County Sheriff's Office.

County's jobs, workers rises as April unemployment falls

Staff Writer

PECOS, Wed, May 28, 2003 -- Reeves County added 200 workers and 300 jobs to its labor force in April, which sent unemployment in the county to its lowest level in 11 months, according to figures released last Thursday by the Texas Workforce Commission.

The TWC said the county's jobless rate remains in double digits, but the sharp rise in the total number of jobs caused the unemployment rate to fall from 12.7 to 10.8 percent. That's the lowest level since May 2002, when unemployment in Reeves County stood at 9.3 percent.

The jobless rate took a sharp jump in June of 2002, after McCain Foods closed the Anchor Foods plant in Pecos it had purchased in 2001. The closing cost 700 people their jobs and caused the unemployment rate in Reeves County to jump to 19.9 percent last August.

According to the TWC's figures, Reeves County had 6,263 people in its workforce last month and 5,588 with jobs. The 675 unemployed was down from March's total of 771, when the county had 6,049 people in its workforce and 5,278 employed.

However, the local workforce and the total number of jobs in the county remain below the levels in April of last year and in April of 2001. One year ago, the county had 6,862 people in the labor force and 6,356 with jobs, for a 7.4 percent unemployment rate. Two years ago, the county's April figures showed a workforce of 7,053 people, and 6,618 with jobs, which put the local unemployment rate at 6.2 percent.

The April 2003 numbers for the Town of Pecos City showed a slightly higher unemployment rate than for the county. The TWC said Pecos had 4,915 people in its workforce, and 604 people unemployed, for a jobless rate of 12.3 percent. That's over 10 percent lower than last August's high of 22.4 percent following Anchor's shutdown, but is still almost four percent above a year ago, when unemployment in the city was at 8.5 percent.

The city has lost 442 workers in the past year, while the total number of jobs is down by 591 since April of 2002, mostly connected to the closing of Anchor. TransPecos Foods purchased the plant from McCain Foods and resumed operations last fall, but with only about 20 percent of the former workforce, as the company seeks new contracts to replace the ones McCain moved to its other onion processing plant in Grand Island, Neb.

Across the Permian Basin unemployment was down from March, with Reeves County's decline the second largest among those in the region, behind only Presidio County, where the jobless rate dropped from 21.5 to 18.5 percent.

Unemployment fell from 7.0 to 6.5 percent in Odessa last month and from 4.5 to 4.2 percent in Midland. Ward County's jobless rate dropped 1.6 percent, from 8.3 to 6.7 percent, while Pecos County saw its unemployment decline from 5.9 to 5.4 percent.

Statewide, Texas unemployment fell slightly to a seasonally adjusted rate of 6.6 percent in April despite more job losses in the airline and travel industries. The April figure was down slightly from March's 6.7 percent but an increase over the 6.3 percent jobless rate in April 2002.

The following are the preliminary April unemployment rates for the Texas metropolitan areas, with March rates in parentheses. The local figures are not seasonally adjusted.

Abilene 3.9 (4.2); Amarillo 3.4 (3.7); Austin-San Marcos 5.3 (5.7); Beaumont-Port Arthur 8.5 (8.9 ); Brazoria 8.1 (8.3); Brownsville-Harlingen 10 (10.1); Bryan-College Station 1.9 (1.9); Corpus Christi 6.3 (6.4); Dallas 6.6 (7.0);

El Paso 8.3 (8.9); Fort Worth-Arlington 5.9 (6.2); Galveston-Texas City 7.3 (7.7); Houston 6.2 (6.3 ); Killeen-Temple 5.1 (5.4); Laredo 7.2 (7.6); Longview-Marshall 6.4 (6.4); Lubbock 2.9 (3.1); McAllen-Edinburg-Mission 11.9 (13.5);

Odessa-Midland 5.3 (5.7); San Angelo 3.5 (3.7 ); San Antonio 4.8 (5.1); Sherman-Denison 6.6 (6.7); Texarkana N/A; Tyler 4.1 (4.3); Victoria 4.9 (5.0); Waco 4.5 (4.8); Wichita Falls 4.1 (4.3).

PHS graduation rehearsal planned Friday

PECOS, Wed, May 28, 2003 -- Graduation rehearsal is set for 9 a.m., Friday. All graduating seniors and participating parents need to be at Eagle Stadium by that time. Bring sun screen and water.

The 2003 PHS Graduation Ceremonies will begin at 8 p.m., Friday. All graduating seniors need to report to the Eagle field house by 7:30 p.m.

Questions regarding graduation rehearsal or ceremonies may be directed to Danny Rodriguez at Pecos High School, 447-7222.

Career in law enforcement was early goal for Lazcano

Staff Writer

PECOS, Wed, May 28, 2003 -- Knowing what he wanted to do at such an early age, Pecos Police Patrol Officer Ernesto Lazcano attended college while waiting to achieve his childhood dream.

"That is the only thing I really wanted to do as a child," Lazcano said about becoming a police officer. "At the age of 19 I went to the police academy but after completion I was unable to get hired until I turned 21, so I went to college."

He attended Odessa College where he received an associate degree in Criminal Justice in 1995.

After receiving his degree, Lazcano began working for the Reeves County Sheriff's Department. While there he worked as jailer, reserve deputy, deputy, warrants deputy, narcotics investigator, before serving as a SWAT Team Commander for 21/2 years.

After his time at the Sheriff's Department, Lazcano moved over to the Police Department in 1999. He currently is licensed as an advanced police officer, holds a basic jailor's license and is certified as a Standardized Field Sobriety Test Practitioner.

Lazcano said that he considers his career to be rewarding and exciting.

"I don't consider it a job but a lifestyle," he said. "It brings self-satisfaction at the end of the shift when you are doing a good job."

In considering his career a lifestyle, Lazcano added that he did not see anything bad about his job, but it does have unpleasant moments that include situations where people have died while performing CPR or seeing children seriously injured.

Not being able to recall the worst part of his job, Lazcano did however remember one of the scariest moments as an officer.

"As a deputy, I had to stop a vehicle on the interstate that was driving on the wrong side of the interstate and seeing it coming directly towards me head on," Lazcano said.

Lazcano said his most memorable moment was his first day on patrol as a Reserve Deputy.

While moving from the Sheriff's Department to the Police Department, he has remained a member of the Pecos/Reeves County S.W.A.T. Team. Lazcano also has been a member of the Texas Army National Guard out of Midland since joining the Pecos Police. As a member of the National Guard, he was deployed for one year after September 11, to Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio, where he was a member of Operation Noble Eagle.

Lazcano enjoys riding his Harley-Davidson motorcycle and lifting weights on his free time. He is also currently working on receiving a bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice Administration through the University of Texas of the Permian Basin.

He hopes to some day be a part of the administration process of Criminal Justice.

As graduation nears for high school students, Lazcano gives out advice of his own to the 2003 seniors and all the students of Pecos.

"Be dedicated to what you want and follow your dreams," Lazcano said. "Never give up and make the right choices. Be a leader not a follower."

In providing a message for the students he also has a message for the community of the Town of Pecos City.

"Thank you for your support," Lazcano said. "And remember we only enforce the laws, we do not make them."

Lazcano is the son of E.C. and Socorro Lazcano. He and his wife, Roseann, have five children, Cezar, Vivian, Bianca, Alejandro and Alessandra.

Lazcano is the third officer featured in the Pecos Enterprise, as part of the 'Behind the Badge' program. The two previous officers have been Sgt. Cosme Ortega and Felipe Villalobos.

Commissioners offer support for Pecos Trail program

Staff Writer

PECOS, Wed, May 28, 2003 -- Pecos and the surrounding area has a lot to offer, and a group will be working hard to promote the area as part of a regional tourism project.

Reeves County Commissioners approved a resolution Tuesday, in support of the Texas Heritage Trails Program.

West of the Pecos Museum Director Debbie Thomas and Pecos Area Chamber of Commerce Director Linda Gholson were on hand for the meeting to talk about the program, which involves cities along the state's Texas Pecos Trail, which stretches from Mentone on the northwest to Rocksprings on the southeast.

"We really have a lot to offer and we need to let everyone know," said Debbie Thomas. "There's so much history in this area," she said.

Thomas said that that was why the museum is currently promoting a special. "We're having family day on Saturdays and letting everyone in free," she said.

Linda Gholson told the group that tourism is the number one industry. "That's why it's so important for us to all get together and promote what we have, and this area is alive with interesting things for people to see," she said.

The resolution stated: West Texas and the Pecos Trail area are a mecca of interesting historical events and significant historical sites;

Whereas, the Texas Heritage Program is capable of generating tourism dollars for the entire region by attracting travelers and showcasing the historic uniqueness of our vast area;

The Reeves County Commissioners Court has great pride in the history of the independent and hard working people who settled here and established our community.

"There's no doubt that we wholeheartedly approve of this resolution and support it," said Reeves County Judge Jimmy B. Galindo.

Galindo said that one of the biggest tourist attractions in the area was just 30 minutes away. "Balmorhea is full of history and has so much to offer," said Galindo. "I'm amazed at all that it has," he said.

"There's so much history there too, but a lot of people don't realize it," said Thomas. "To see all the military pictures out there and realize that we were once a very important part of the military is fascinating," she said.

"We have the greatest treasure in Balmorhea," said Galindo.

The TransPecos Foundation and the Texas Historical Commission hosted an organizational meeting March 25 in Iraan, for the Pecos Trail Region in an effort to coordinate cooperative regional support for the Texas Heritage Trails Program.

The March 25 meeting brought together 47 representatives from 13 of the 22 counties in the region. A core committee was formed to handle the application process. However, it was emphasized that input at the community level was essential to the success of the application process.

The Pecos Trail Region is one of 10 heritage trails regions within the state. It encompasses 22 counties which include Andrews, Crane, Crockett, Ector, Edwards, Glasscock, Kimble, Kinney, Loving, Martin, Maverick, Midland, Pecos, Reagan, Reeves, Sterling, Sutton, Terrell, Upton, Val Verde, Ward and Winkler. It includes the cities of Pecos, Fort Stockton, Monahans, Odessa, Andrews, McCamey, Sanderson, Del Rio, Sonora, Ozona, Junction and Eagle Pass.

As a designee, the Pecos Trail Region would allow communities to be eligible for partnership grants which would help fund community development and cultural heritage projects through advertisements and marketing efforts. Heritage tourism is a means to focus on the region's distinct past and encourage visitation.

Commissioners also appointed a committee to the Reeves County Historical Commission. "In the past there was a committee that was formed and they did really well," said Galindo. "Now, we want to appoint another one and hopefully keep it going."

Thomas said that Mike Burkholder had been active in that committee and helped with the museum restoration, which was a $600,000 project.

Appointed to the committee were Albert Alvarez, Bill Oglesby, Cathy Travland, Debbie Thomas, Sue Toone, John Rediger, Dorinda Millan and Felipe Arredondo.

In other action, commissioners adopted and approved the HIPPA privacy manual and business associate agreement and designated a privacy officer for HIPPA. Privacy officers for Reeves County will be Sylvia Garcia for the general fund and Donna James for the Reeves County Detention Center.

Commissioners approved a payment to LMD Architect; R.W. Jones and Sons and a change order for ISI Detention Contracting Group, Inc.

New hires included: at the Reeves County Recreation Department, Nicole Yvette Payne, part-time, $8 an hour; at the Reeves County Sheriff's Department, Sammy Valencia, as a part-time jailer at $7 an hour and at the Reeves County Detention Center, Miriam Zubia was transferred from the training department to the recreation department and her new title will be recreation specialist II; Arturo Quintana was promoted to case manager coordinator at $36,000 per year and Mike Contreras to COII at $24,000 a year.

RCH board OKs abatement sought by TransPecos Foods

Staff Writer

PECOS, Wed, May 28, 2003 -- The Reeves County District Board of Directors in a unanimous vote approved the tax abatement with TransPecos Foods during their regular monthly meeting on Tuesday.

Joe Keese, representing TransPecos Foods, said that the tax abatement would be for their new equipment, worth $239,000.

He informed the directors that the net value of the facilities had declined about two-thirds because when McCain closed its door it took with it equipment for four of the five production lines and several freezers. TransPecos Foods bought the plant from McCain Foods last year. McCain had purchased the plant in September 2001 when it employed 700 workers, but shut the onion processing facility down on May 31, 2002.

Currently TransPecos Foods has three shifts working 24 hours.

"The building will not be abated," Keese said. "There is $290,000 worth of material subject for abatement plus what is purchased in the future."

Board member Leo Hung made the motion to accept the tax abatement with TransPecos Foods with Vice-President/Secretary Chel Flores seconding it.

Bill Parris, President of Parish Moody and Fikes out of Waco presented the board with its 2002 Audit stating that there had been good cost control with in the past year.

"Expenses are consistent as a percentage of gross," Parrish said. "Contractual deductions and bad debts have improved."

He informed the board that its cash flow had gone down but in reality that money could be seen in the investments the board had made.

The hospital has also paid off $238,050 of its debt, while receiving $317,258 from Medicare and a small amount form Medicaid, Parrish said.

He added that the hospital had done a good job of patient management, with its discharges going up and the length of stays doing down.

As he concluded, Parrish gave the directors advise on what to do for next year in regards to segregating duties and creating a timely billing service, which actually has been solved with a new policy the hospital has just put in place.

In regards to the bad debts, Parrish suggested placing them into Charity Care.

"Next year get your bad debts and move them into charity care," Parrish said.

The audit was accepted with Flores making the motion and Bill Wendt seconding it.

In other business the board approved the nursing scholarship program, with Hung making the motion and newly elected board member Pablo Carrasco seconding it.

"We have received a lot of interest," about the program, Reeves County Hospital Administrator, Robert Vernor said.

He also informed the board that the program currently had $65,000 to begin operations.

Directors also amended the hospital bylaws in reference to the Joint Conference Committee. Vernor informed the directors that the bylaws currently ask for two board members and two active staff members.

"Legally there can not be three board members present," Vernor said. "We will now have one board member and the President so that we will not have a quorum."

The sale of property located at 11th and Cedar and 409 E. Fifth St. was approved with Wendt making the first motion for the property on 11th and Cedar and Flores seconding it. Wendt went on to make the motion for the property at 409 E. Fifth St., with Carrasco seconding it.

In the administrator's report, Vernor informed the directors that the construction was on schedule for the hospital's new addition, with concrete footing in place.

Along with Carrasco, current Reeves County Hospital Board of Directors President Linda Gholson was also sworn into office for a new two-year term, with Hung suggesting that both Gholson and Flores keep their titles on the board from the past year.

Postal carriers' food drive nets 1,600 pounds of items

PECOS, Wed, May 28, 2003 -- Hundreds of letter carriers picked up non-perishable food items from mailboxes during the annual Letter Carrier's Food Drive the Saturday before Mother's Day. With the help of local residents, the Pecos community donated more than 1,600 pounds of food.

"It's food drives like this one that allows us to provide food for seniors that have to make choices between medication and food. Food for those families that have not had a decent meal in days, as well as food for children, so they won't have to go to bed hungry," said Robert Bush, Food Bank executive director.

The West Texas Food Bank feeds people who are hungry or food insecure through a network of nonprofit organizations and churches in 22 counties, for this reason it is hard to keep the shelves stocked with nutritional food.

According to Food Bank board member Kenneth Winkles, "Through the efforts of the Postal Letter Carriers and other union members, the West Texas Food Bank is able to avail itself of the great generosity of the wonderful people here in Kermit. To receive contributions of 1,600 pounds of foodstuffs in one weekend is a great indication of our charity towards one another. I want to thank everyone involved for his or her efforts and altruism, because no one should go hungry in this country."

Feel free to contact the West Texas Food Bank to find out more about what you can do to help end hunger in your area, 1-800-305-6022.


PECOS, Wed, May 28, 2003 -- High Tuesday 87. Low this morning 56. Forecast for tonight: Partly cloudy. Lows in the upper 50s. East winds 5 to 15 mph. Thursday: Partly cloudy. Highs near 90. Light and variable winds. Thursday night: Mostly clear. Lows near 60. Friday: Mostly clear. Highs near 100 .Saturday: Partly cloudy with a slight chance of thunderstorms. Lows in the mid 60s. Highs in the upper 90s.

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Pecos Enterprise
York M. "Smokey" Briggs, Publisher
Division of Buckner News Alliance, Inc.

324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 915-445-5475, FAX 915-445-4321

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