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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Friday, July 25, 2003

Bonilla helpful, but status of RCDC still uncertain

Staff Writer

PECOS, Fri., July 25, 2003 -- Reeves County officials met with U.S. Bureau of Prison officials in Washington on Thursday, to discuss the financial crisis faced by the county at the Reeves County Detention Center.

County and prison officers along with representatives from different entities were in Washington this week, and met with U.S. Congressman Henry Bonilla about the prison, which was expanded earlier this year to hold an additional 960 inmates, but which does not have a contract with the BOP to fill the facility with any new inmates.

The BOP has refused to add any more prisoners to the 2,000 who currently are being held in RCDC I and RCDC II, and are seeking to cut the man-day rate paid by the federal government for housing those prisoners by roughly 5 percent from the current $47.47 rate. Reeves County was seeking a 10 percent increase in the rate to $54.74 per day, and County Judge Jimmy Galindo said earlier this month that the BOP pays other prisons over $60 per day for housing each inmate.

County officials met later Wednesday afternoon with Bonilla, prior to their meeting with BOP representatives on Thursday. None of the officials who attended that meeting were available for comment on the outcome today.

Attending that meeting with Galindo were Reeves County Sheriff Andy Gomez, RCDC attorney Bill Weinacht, warden Rudy Franco and other advisors.

Gomez also met with Bonilla on Wednesday morning, along with Town of Pecos City Mayor Dot Stafford, city manager Carlos Yerena, Pecos Area Chamber of Commerce President Al Gomez and chamber of commerce director Linda Gholson.

"I think the meeting went really well," said Linda Gholson. "We just attended that meeting, but they held another one that we didn't go to."

Bonilla, one of the senior members of the House Appropriations Committee, told the representatives that an amendment had been made to the Fiscal Year 2004 Commerce, Justice, State and the Judiciary Appropriations Act to add local prisons to the list of facilities the BOP is encouraged to use.

"I was pleased with what Bonilla told us," said Mayor Dot Stafford. "He's been working very hard trying to get information," she said.

Stafford said that Bonilla told the group that he knew about the problem since many people in Reeves County had contacted him.

"He contacted BOP and requested some figures from them," said Stafford. "Bonilla told us that he had received a letter telling him those figures would be sent to him soon, but he hadn't received them yet."

Stafford said that the group's main goal in attending the meeting in Washington was to listen to what Bonilla had to say. "We felt comfortable with what he said," said Stafford.

She said Bonilla told the group that he would let them know of any outcome. "He said he and his staff had more information to gather and that he would get back to us," she said.

In his remarks on the floor of the House during discussion of the Commerce, Justice, State and the Judiciary Appropriations Act, Bonilla said, "The report originally included language encouraging the Bureau of Prisons to use existing state and private prison capacity to meet their bed space needs. At my request, this language was amended to add local prisons to the list of facilities, which the Bureau of Prisons is directed to use.

"This small but important change will direct the Bureau of Prisons to take advantage of existing locally run detention facilities such as the Reeves County Detention Center," Bonilla said. "It is my sincere hope that the newest 1,000 bed facility at the Reeves County Detention Center will be utilized by the Bureau of Prisons to provide cost effective housing to federal prisoners.

"Use of this facility would be particularly beneficial to the Bureau given the low cost of housing inmates in this area," he added.

The lack of inmates at the new facility forced Reeves County to miss its initial bank payment on July 1, which will go towards a mandatory Sept. 1 bond payment of $950,000, which is the first installment to repay the bonds used to construct the $40 million addition.

The county also has been forced to draw from the general fund to meet payroll in the wake of their problems with the BOP. Additional money from that fund is scheduled to be drawn out on Monday, according to the agenda for the regularly scheduled commissioner's court meeting.

Galindo said in early July that because RCDC I and II were used as collateral in security funding for the RCDC III project, a default on the RCDC III bonds would also affect the other two prisons, which were built in 1996 and 2000.

During their meeting with Bonilla, one of the questions that the group asked the congressman was "What as a community can we do?"

Bonilla told the group that at this time he didn't have any suggestions in that area. "But he did say he would contact us and let us know if he learned anything new or had any suggestions to offer," said Stafford.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Commissioners to discuss new RCDC cash transfer

PECOS, Fri., July 25, 2003 -- A transfer in the amount of $415,000 from the General Fund to the Reeves County Detention Center Fund to deal with the ongoing financial crisis at the prison will be the topic of discussion at the regular Reeves County Commissioners Court meeting scheduled for Monday.

The group will meet at 9:30 a.m., in the third floor courtroom and the public is invited to attend.

Commissioners have been forced to transfer money from the General Fund to the RCDC fund in recent months to meet payments at the facility, due to the lack of inmates at the RCDC III addition, which was completed earlier this year. In their June 23 meeting, commissioners approved transfer $420,000 for payroll on July 3.

At the time, Reeves County Auditor Lynn Owens said, "We're getting to the point that the general fund won't be able to do this anymore."

Commissioners will also discuss and take action on the transfer of $468,000 of 2001 Bond Interest from the General Fund to the RCDC Fund; the authorization to pay RCDC 1999 bond/lease and maintenance reserve payments of $449,244; authorization to pay RCDC 2001 bond/lease payment $446,676 and authorization to pay the Town of Pecos City Water agreement payment of $422,320.

In other business, the group will discuss and take action on Howard's Mechanical Inc., request for payment No. 17-RCDC III; Xerox's proposal to replace Reeves County Library copier; a contract between Reeves County and Ever Change Youth and Family Services; a contract agreement between the county and Ector County for Juvenile Detention Services; a contract agreement between the county and Hemphill County Juvenile Boot Camp/Detention; deputation and oath for Enrique Munoz as Reeves County Deputy and inmate transportation crew mileage payments.

Regular agenda items include: reports from various departments; budget amendments and line-item transfers; personnel and salary changes (RCDC, sheriff's department, recreation department and the Reeves County Library); minutes from previous meetings and semi-monthly bills.

Council members pick Prieto to determine numbers

Staff Writer

PECOS, Fri., July 25, 2003 -- The Town of Pecos City Council met Thursday afternoon in to discuss the appointment of an officer to calculate the effective and rollback tax rates for 2003.

The appointment, which is required by law, was given to Pecos-Barstow-Toyah tax assessor/collector Lydia O. Prieto with Councilman Danny Rodriguez making the motion and Councilman Frank Sanchez seconding it.

The county has contracted with P-B-T ISD for the past several years to calculate the tax rates. The city council will be working on the budget and tax rates for 2003-04 over the next several weeks, after receiving the 2003 property tax valuation totals last week. Total valuations were put at just under $112.8 million, a drop of $1.4 million from a year ago.

In other business, Emergency Management Director Ricky Herrera presented the Homeland Security Agreement to the council.

Herrera said that back in March of this year they completed an assessment process, and that Reeves County, Town of Pecos City, Balmorhea and Toyah all completed their portion of the assessment, giving them 100 percent completion package.

"Due to that we will receive funds to purchase equipment to address the issue of weapons of mass destruction," Herrera said. "The city received $45,000."

He added that the fund did not call for a match offer of any sort.

"They (the Department of Homeland Security) will open up an account for us," Herrera said.

In regards on how the money will be used, Herrera told the council that the contact person in each department, he for the County and Pecos Police Chief Clay McKinney would prioritize what equipment was needed.

Some of the equipment Herrera said they were looking at purchasing would be respiratory equipment, decontamination equipment, detection of chemicals equipment and communications equipment.

"Communications equipment is on top of the list," he said.

With the program still in its beginning phase, Herrera told the council that there are still a lot of questions that need to be answered and some of the things would change.

A question that was on everybody's mind was whether the money of all four jurisdictions could be combined to form a more central location with all equipment for everybody.

"They were not sure if we could do that," Herrera said. "Each jurisdiction has the right to keep that money."

He added that when there is a thunderstorm warning has been issued for this area, they are notified by the Midland National Weather Service through either teletype, radio or phone lines.

"We are in the process of applying for a weather transmitter for this area," Herrera said. He added that Armando Gill started the process before he left the position of Emergency Management Director in the spring of 2002.

Rodriguez made the motion to accept the agreement with Councilman Michael Benavides seconding it.

A motion to approve sale of property located at 1100 S. Pecan St. was made by Benavides and seconded by Rodriguez, and Rodriguez then went on to approve the sale of property located at 918 S. Willow St. with Benavides seconding it.

After two lengthy discussions on the agreement with Texas-New Mexico Power Company for pole attachments and the awarding the purchasing of accounting software the council agreed to table both issues.

Before making a decision on the agreement with TNMP, council members asked that a representative of the company come and speak to them as well as looking at other companies.

Awarding the bid for accounting software was tabled because Rodriguez wanted two of the companies involved to present the council with an information package of their software.

Other items that were tabled were the closure of the alley located on Fourth and Hackberry streets, and the resolution for the purchase of a truck.

Council members approved the minutes of its regular council meeting held on July 10, the accounts payable report, the monthly municipal court report, monthly juvenile report and the monthly tax collection report all for June.

Dorm project's planners seek deal with PHA

Staff Writer

PECOS, Fri., July 25, 2003 -- The Pecos Housing Authority board swore in two new members on Thursday, and handled a number of other items during a 31/2 hour meeting at the PHA office on Starley Drive.

Irene Dominguez took the oath as the board's new Resident Commissioner, replacing John Garza, and Maribel Alvarez was sworn in to replace Ray Golden on the board, at the start of Thursday's meeting. Vice chairman Jim Workman handled the second half of the meeting, after chairman Frank Perea had to leave.

Perea was re-elected chairman and Workman was named vice-chairman following the swearing-in ceremony, and while the full board was there, they heard a request from Jesse Stevens of the Pecos Housing Association on plans to convert a building on Stafford Boulevard into housing for Reeves County Detention Center workers. The board also was updated on the ongoing work at the PHA apartment locations around Pecos.

Stevens has already met with the city about the Housing Association's efforts into converting the old National Guard building on Stafford Boulevard into a dormitory to help with the city's housing shortage. Executive Director Nellie Gomez said Stevens met with the board to ask them if the PHA could enter into a management deal for the dormitory if the project becomes a reality.

"We didn't vote on anything. We just talked about it," Gomez said.

The work around the PHA apartments included a discussion of cleaning up vacant lots owned by the Housing Authority. Gomez said she has contracted with some current migrant workers living at the Farm Labor Housing to work in their spare time on cleaning up the weeds in the vacant lots.

"I can't find anybody locally to do it, so we'll see how well they do the job," she said. The workers are being paid by sections done, and the PHA has allotted $1,600 for the work.

"When they do it, it's a big crew, so it's going fast," she added.

Gomez said the planned paving of alleys around the PHA complexes has been delayed, do to Reeves County's current financial problems, but that work is proceeding on putting up new fence at the East Side Apartments on 10th and 11th streets.

"As far as the paving of alleys, we're still waiting on Judge Galindo, but we're still getting assistance from them on the fencing project," Gomez said. County crews are doing the trench work, and the board on Thursday voted to contract with Benny Mora to handle wrought iron work at the 10th and 11th street sites.

In the Farm Labor Housing portion of the meeting, the board heard correspondence from John Perkins, Community Development Specialist with the USDA Rural Development on the approval of the 2003 budget, the 2002 audit and the 2002 Actual Budget and the supervisory visit/compliance review.

"The audit came out all right, and he's going to do a supervisory visit on Aug. 15 for Farm Labor Housing," Gomez said. "We'll also have another Health Department inspection on July 29."

Gomez said Perkins had no findings, only recommendations in the 2002 audit, which involved the new agreement with area growers to have all FLH apartments ready for workers by the start of the main harvest season, on June 1.

Gomez said the FLH apartments currently are full, with 49 eligible tenants and 7 ineligibles, who work in transporting migrant children to the Texas Migrant Council's summer daycare facility, located on PHA property on East 10th Street.

The board also approved a trip to the Texas Housing Association's 2003 Annual Conference and Trade Show Agenda/Application on August 26-28 in Corpus Christi for five PHA workers, and adopted the updated the "Security Policy" and the "Community Service Policy" for the authority.

Accounts payable for both PHA and FLH apartments were approved, and the board heard a letter from 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.

Bake sale to help fund Explorers

PECOS, Fri., July 25, 2003 -- A Bake Sale will be held beginning at 9 a.m. Saturday, in front of the Wal-Mart Store.

The fundraiser is sponsored by the Reeves County Explorers Post #600.

Regional water planning board meeting

PECOS, Fri., July 25, 2003 -- The Region F Regional Water Planning Group will hold its quarterly meeting at 10:30 a.m. on Monday at the Howard College Student Union Building, 1001 Birdwell Lane in Big Spring.

The board will hear a number of reports during the meeting, including a special committee report on irrigation demands, and will consider revisions to water demand projections. They will also consider nominations for the Water Conservation Implementation Task Force and hear a report on cities, communities and areas with water planning needs.

Region F is one of the regional water boards set up by the Texas Legislature and stretches from Reeves County east to the Brownwood area.


PECOS, Fri., July 25, 2003 -- High Thurs. 102, low this morning 71. Forecast for tonight: Partly cloudy. Lows near 70. SE winds 10 to 15 mph. Sat.: Partly cloudy. Highs in the lower 90s. SE winds 10 to 20 mph. Sat. night: Partly cloudy with isolated thunderstorms. Lows in the mid 60s. Sun.: Partly cloudy. Highs in the mid 90s. Mon.: Mostly clear. Lows in the upper 60s. Highs in the mid 90s.

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Pecos Enterprise
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