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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Cousin says Lynch to  wed Ex-Pecosite

From Staff and Wire Reports
Former POW Jessica Lynch celebrated her first night home with fried chicken and her mother's chocolate pie before trying out her bedroom, newly renovated by community volunteers to make it handicapped accessible.

"It was a well-deserved rest," said Lynch's cousin, 1st Sgt. Dan Little, in an interview Wednesday with Diane Sawyer on ABC's "Good Morning America." Little also said that Lynch, a member of the 507th Maintenance Company, is planning to marry former Pecos resident Sgt. Ruben Contreras, Jr., who also was a member of the 507th Maintenance Company and was in attendance at Tuesday's press conference in Elizabeth, W.Va, to mark Lynch's return home.

Lynch beamed as she turned to Contreras, whom family members identified as her boyfriend.

"Ruben, you never let me give up," she said. "You're my inspiration and I love you."

Contreras' father and grandparent still live in Pecos. He is one of three members of the 507th Maintenance Division with local family ties.

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Johnny Villarreal Mata and Pvt. Ruben Estrella-Soto were among the 11 soldiers killed in the firefight near Nasiriyah, in which Lynch was injured.

Contreras attended high school in the mid-1990s in Pecos, while also attending school in Colorado, where his mother lives. He was at first reported missing following the March 23 attack, but was located by U.S. Army officials two days later.

The two-bedroom home where Lynch grew up had been transformed by volunteers to accommodate her injuries and nearly doubled in size, with new ramps, an extra bathroom and a new first-floor bedroom.

Little, who accompanied Lynch on the flight from Washington, D.C. to West Virginia, told Sawyer that Lynch was in pain on the flight, but added she wasn't one to complain.

"I looked over at one time and she did grimace ... she was rubbing her knees," Little said. "But to tell you she was in pain, she never would." Lynch is suffering from broken bones and other injuries and faces months of rehabilitation.

Lynch, a 20-year-old Army supply clerk with the 507th Maintenance Company, arrived home to a hero's welcome on Tuesday. After speaking to reporters in Elizabeth, she was moved to a red convertible for a motorcade to her home in Palestine, a community of about 300. About 2,000 people lined the route.

"It's great to be home," the former POW said softly in her first public appearance. "I'd like to say thank you to everyone who helped and prayed for my return."

Lynch received a standing ovation as she entered the media tent in a wheelchair. She wore a beret and a crisp Army dress uniform adorned with medals awarded Monday, including the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.

"I'm proud to be a soldier in the Army. I'm proud to have served with the 507th. I'm happy that some soldiers I served with made it home alive. It hurts that some of my company didn't," Lynch said.

She read a statement thanking American and Iraqi doctors who treated her and mourned Lori Piestewa, a 23-year-old American who died in the same March 23 attack in which Lynch was injured.

"She was my best friend," Lynch said. "She fought beside me and it was an honor to have served with her. Lori will always remain in my heart."

Lynch said that for a long time, she did not realize that her ordeal had captured the hearts of millions around the globe. "I read thousands of letters, many of them from children, who offered messages of hope and faith," she said.

Lynch's convoy was ambushed near Nasiriyah after becoming lost from the rest of the convoy in southern Iraq. U.S. forces rescued Lynch at a Nasiriyah hospital April 1, while five other captured 507th soldiers, held apart from Lynch, were rescued April 13. The 507th is based at Fort Bliss, near El Paso.

Lynch became an instant hero, but controversy clouded the story of her rescue after reports charged that the Pentagon exaggerated the danger of the raid. In her home town, little of that seemed to matter.

"We are all happy she is back," said Cleo Lawson, of Elizabeth. "Now just let the girl rest. It's going to be a new life for her."

Regina Ray, of Elizabeth, owner of Creative Gifts and Floral, said she hopes Lynch can cope with all the attention: "You think you are coming home to normal, and this town is not normal," she said.

Charges filed against trucker in I-10 fatalities

Staff Writer

PECOS, Wed., July 23, 2003 -- Charges have been filed against the 61-year-old truck driver in connection with the Monday morning accident near Sierra Blanca that left two Pecos residents and three other persons from Arkansas dead.

Stan Kennedy, of Shreveport, La., has been charged with five counts of manslaughter and two counts of injury to a child, one being a second-degree felony and the other a state jail felony. Kennedy, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety, was responsible for the four-vehicle chain reaction crash just outside the U.S. Border Patrol Checkpoint in Sierra Blanca that killed five people and sent three others, two of them also Pecos residents, to an R.E. Thomason Hospital in El Paso.

Cecilia 'Ceci' Santana Carrasco, 27 and Jacob Carrasco, 2, both of Pecos, died in the wreck, while Carrasco's husband, Rudy, and the couple's 5-year-old daughter Bethany, are being treated for their injuries at Thomason Hospital.

DPS authorities stated that they believed Kennedy was not paying attention to the road as he approached the checkpoint.

"At this point we are looking at driver inattention," Texas Department of Public Safety Lt. Luis Najera told the El Paso Times.

Kennedy is also at R. E. Thomason Hospital recovering from a broken leg and a punctured lung.

The accident occurred while the vehicles awaited inspection at the Sierra Blanca Checkpoint during the morning hours on Monday.

According to the DPS report the accident occurred at 9:50 a.m., MDT (CDT) in the eastbound lanes at mile marker 102 on Interstate 10, the location of the Sierra Blanca U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint.

The report states that the 1994 Freightliner, driven by Kennedy, was traveling eastbound and as it approached the checkpoint it failed to control speed causing it to strike a 1996 Ford Mustang, driven by the 32-year-old Rudy Carrasco, who is a dispatcher with the DPS office in Pecos. As a result, the Mustang then hit the back left end of a 2001 Nissan causing it to rotate clockwise.

The Nissan, which was driven by Vera Branscum, 58, of Arkansas, was then hit by the truck on its right passenger side, while the Mustang then rotated counter clockwise and struck the back end of a 1997 International Tracker Trailer, tow trailer.

Branscum and two passengers in the Nissan, identified as Shannon Grady, 33 and Jaben Kassinger 1, all of Arkansas, were also killed. The driver of the International, identified as Jose Cueto, 34, of El Paso, suffered no injuries.

According to the DPS in El Paso, Bethany Carrasco still listed in critical condition, while Jareb Kassinger, 7, the sole survivor of the Nissan and of the Arkansas family, is also at Thomason Hospital and listed in fair condition.

Najera, a co-worker of Carrasco, told the Times, "The loss of his family has a great impact on the department and the community of Pecos, where everyone knows everyone."

Monday's accident is the second major accident on I-10, the first one occurring in 1999, which killed four people at the Border Patrol checkpoint located west of Las Cruces, N.M., on May 23.

Valuations decline overall in final numbers

Staff Writer

The Reeves County Appraisal Review Board certified final valuations for local taxing entities in Reeves County last Thursday, during their quarterly meeting in Pecos.

The board certified the numbers that will be used by the taxing entities to set their budgets and tax rates for the 2003-04 fiscal year, and overall they showed declining valuations, based mainly on lower values for oil and gas within the area.. The lower valuations were higher than the preliminary numbers sent out in May by chief appraiser Carol King Markham, with the changes made after June's appraisal review board hearings.

Reeves County, Pecos City, Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD, Balmorhea ISD, Reeves County Water Improvement District #2, and the Reeves County Hospital District all received lower evaluations, with the largest drops reported by the county and hospital district, which share the same taxing boundaries. Both showed declines of $17,728,080.

Total combined valuations for both came to just over $429 million, so the decline represented a four percent drop in valuations for both the county and hospital district. Out of that decrease, all but $296,180 came from drops in mineral valuations, according to figures compiled by Markham.

The City of Pecos saw a decrease of $1,381,700 in its valuations, to $112.8 million, even though property valuations over the past year were up $149,220. Mineral valuations for the city were down $1,530,920 compared with 2002's totals.

Meanwhile the city of Toyah saw their valuations increase $45,050 and Balmorhea also had an increase of $41,540, both based on increases in mineral valuations. Real estate valuations in both cities were unchanged from a year ago.

Balmorhea's total valuations were put at $3,419,450 and Toyah's were $1,630,690.

P-B-T ISD's valuations include the western section of Ward County around Barstow, and were down $16,363,030, of which all but $477,150 came from declining mineral valuations. Total valuations for the school district were $437.2 million, so the decline represented about 3 percent of the district's total valuations.

Balmorhea ISD was down $1,233,040 to $23,420,270, which was the biggest percentage drop in valuations of any local taxing entity, at just over 5 percent. The drop came despite a $6,200 increase in property valuations within the school district.

The Reeves County Water Improvement District #2 received a decrease of $1,120. Total valuations within the district are $4,561,390, according to the appraisal district.

The preliminary numbers released in May by Markham showed a decline of only $5.7 million for the county and hospital district and a drop of $7.3 million for P-B-T ISD. However, the final valuation figures were better for the Town of Pecos City, which initially faced a loss of $5.2 million in their numbers, based on a decline of $4.3 million in real estate values.

New members will take oaths for PHA board

PECOS, Wed., July 23, 2003 -- The Pecos Housing Authority/Farm Labor Housing Board of Commissioners will hold its first regularly scheduled meeting in three months and will swear in two new commissioners Thursday afternoon at its offices at Starley and Meadowbrook drives.

The meeting will cover the months of May and June as well as July and will begin with the swearing in of new Resident Commissioner Irene Dominguez and Commissioner Maribel Alvarez.

During the PHA portion of the meeting the commissioners will approve the minutes of its April meeting, which was delayed until May.

Pecos Housing Association members Jesse Stephens and John Grant are scheduled to speak to the board during public comments.

The commissioners will also receive an update on the participation at the 3rd Annual Nelrod Consortium Conference "Succeeding In A Changing World" Training seminar held in May in New Orleans, along with the Nelrod reference manual. They will also hear a letter from Elieen Rogers, Director of HUD's Fort Worth office, in reference to the notification of approval of the PHA 5-year and Annual Plan submission for fiscal year beginning January 1, 2003; discuss the Texas Housing Association 2003 Annual Conference and Trade Show Agenda/Application on August 26-28 in Corpus Christi; hear a letter from Robert K Bein II, CEM, CREI Energy Management Consultant and a letter from William O. Russell, III, Deputy Assistant Secretary, HUD, Operating Subsidies.

Unfinished business will consist of the paving of the alleys at the PHA developments, the fencing project for the East Side 10th and 11th Street Apartments and a contract for wrought iron work to Benny Mora, the south side apartments sidewalks and parking project update, the landscaping of a gazebo and playground on the east side development and the contract to clean up vacant lots.

New business will consist of discussing and approving the PHA 2004 Annual Agency Plan Posted for review and comments, an Energy Audit report as presented by Robert K. Bein, the 2003 Operating Subsidy obligation action of $192,877 year to date, the 2002 PHA Scoring Packet, the 2003 contract with the Texas Migrant Council for the use of the Day Care Center, the adoption and implementation of the updated policies "Security Policy, and the "Community Service Policy" to be re-instated as of July 31 and the 2002 audit in process by Mike Estes, CPA our of Fort Worth.

The commissioners will also receive an update on the Board of Commissioners Bylaws, the staff training at the THA Annual Conference in Corpus Christi, the Nelrod Consortium Agreement for Accuwage Salary Studies and the monthly reports for the months of May, June and July.

After the swearing in of Dominguez and Alvarez in the FLH, the commissioners will approve the minutes of their monthly meeting.

John Perkins is scheduled to speak during public comments.

An update will be given on the correspondence in reference to the request of authorizing the transfer of funds from the Reserve Account to the General Operating Account, a letter from Susie Saenz, Victim Services Coordinator in reference to the status of Vanessa Hernandez's case and the payment of delinquent fees in the sum of $4,895 from Hernandez and three letters from John Perkins in reference to the approval of the 2003 budget, the 2002 audit and the 2002 Actual Budget and the supervisory visit/compliance review.

For old business the commissioners will discuss and approve the audit of the financial statement as of December 31, 2002 as prepared by Mike Estes, an update on occupancy/vacancies, applications, maintenance/repairs and the increase of laundry charges from washers.

Under new business the commissioners will review, discuss and approve the action in items listed under communications, the playground and gazebo, the contract for Benny Mora, the funds of transactions from the Reserve Account to the General Operations Account and the monthly reports for the month of May, June and July.

CCRC raises funds for school supplies

PECOS, Wed., July 23, 2003 -- Community Council of Reeves County is sponsoring a fundraiser to raise money to pay for school supplies that will be handed out to qualified individuals before the beginning of the school year.

The fundraiser will be held from 10:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m., Friday, Aug. 1, in the Wal-Mart parking lot.

Hamburgers, hot dogs, frito pies and cup cakes will be for sale.

The Community Council is asking the community to come out and have lunch and help with the worthy cause.


PECOS, Wed., July 23, 2003 -- High Tuesday 109. Low this morning 73. Forecast for tonight: Mostly cloudy with a 40 percent chance of thunderstorms. Lows in the upper 60s. Southeast winds 10 to 20 mph. Thursday: Partly cloudy with a 20 percent chance of thunderstorms. Highs in the mid 90s. South winds 5 to 15 mph. Thursday night: Partly cloudy with isolated thunderstorms. Lows in the upper 60s. Friday: Partly cloudy. Highs in the mid 90s. Saturday: Mostly clear. Lows near 70. Highs in the mid 90s.


Cecilia Carrasco, Jacob Carrasco and Dorothy Lindsey

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