Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas
Wednesday, May 28, 2003
Illegals in van sent to Mexico, driver detained
By JON FULBRIGHT
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
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,"
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
By JENNIFER GALVAN
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,
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
County's jobs, workers rises as April unemployment falls
By JON FULBRIGHT
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
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
By JENNIFER GALVAN
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
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
By ROSIE FLORES
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
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
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,"
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
"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,"
"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
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
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
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
By JENNIFER GALVAN
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
"Next year get your bad debts and move them into charity care," Parrish
The audit was accepted with Flores making the motion and Bill Wendt seconding
In other business the board approved the nursing scholarship program,
with Hung making the motion and newly elected board member Pablo Carrasco
"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
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
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.
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
Associated Press text, photo, graphic, audio and/or video material shall not be published, broadcast, rewritten for broadcast or publication or redistributed directly or indirectly in any medium.
Copyright 2003 by Pecos Enterprise