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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Friday, October 10, 2003

County seeking RCDC management/lease bids

Staff Writer

PECOS, Fri., Oct. 10, 2003 -- After seeking ways for three months to find inmates to fill the new $40 million Reeves County Detention Center, proposals are now being accepted by Reeves County from private vendors for the operation, management and/or lease of all three units of the 2,960 bed prison or each unit individually.

A public notice was officially posted on Sept. 30 by the Reeves County Commissioners Court as a request for proposals, with a deadline of Oct. 31 for the proposals to be submitted..

"They're talking with some people, but nothing has been turned in yet," said Reeves County Auditor Lynn Owens.

Owens said that the facilities would be leased to the private vendors if any proposals were received.

"They're seeking private companies to take over as management and operation," he said, adding that Reeves County would still get lease fees from the company that would manage the facility.

"Until we get the proposals, we won't know how much," Owens said, referring to the lease payment.

The county completed work on the $40 million RCDC III addition in March, which holds 960 inmates. County officials built the facility believing that they would be able to fill the facility with U.S. Bureau of Prisons inmates, after the BOP quickly filled the 1,000-bed RCDC II prison when it was completed in 2001.

But the BOP has balked at placing any new prisoners in the facility, which has left the county short of money to make bond payments on the latest addition. County Judge Jimmy Galindo said in August that because the RCDC III is cross-collateralized with the other two units, a default on the bond payments of RCDC III would affect the status of the other two prisons as well.

The management/lease offer would take away some control of the prison from county commissioners, but would allow the county to maintain its ownership of the facility.

RCDC I was built in 1986 to house 300 inmates, and over the next 12 years was expanded to hold 1,000 inmates. During that time, several disputes broke out between then-Reeves County Sheriff Raul Florez and county commissioners over which group would oversee the prison, and as a compromise in 1989 the prison operations were turned over to Correction Corporation of America.

CCA ran the prison for three years, until the contract was terminated and the sheriff's department regained control. However, after several prison escapes and two riots over the next three years which led the BOP to remove some prisoners from RCDC I, county commissioners took over supervision of the facility and hired former La Tuna Federal Prison Warden Rudy Franco to be in charge of the prison in late 1995.

Franco, who remains as warden of the prison, directed all questions and inquiries to Galindo. "We're referring all these matters to the judge, it's entirely within his jurisdiction," he said this morning.

"The county has published a public notice to entertain proposals for the possibility of leasing, managing and operating the RCDC by a private vendor," Galindo said in a statement this afternoon.

CCA is the largest private prison operator in the United States, operates a city-owned prison in Eden, near San Angelo, that was built at the same time as RCDC I, while two other companies, Wackenhut and Cornell, already operate prisons in West Texas and southeastern New Mexico.

Before deciding on the prison management offer, Galindo and other county officials visited Washington D.C., twice during the summer, seeking both agreements to find new inmates for the facility, and a higher man/day rate on the BOP inmates housed at RCDC I and II. The county ended up agreeing to a man/day rate of $47.32 for those two prisons, though Galindo had sought a $54.72 rate, saying that private prisons operated by management companies in other parts of the United States received man/day rates of over $60 from the BOP.

Since then, the county has looked at several other options, including inmates through the U.S. Marshal's Service, the Department of Homeland Security and the State of Arizona. The Marshal's Service has placed over 100 inmates in RCDC III, but that total has not been enough to meet the future bond payments on the facility.

In addition, the county faces a deadline of next Wednesday to make a $422,000 payment to the Town of Pecos City, as its share of the South Worsham Water Field construction project. The payment originally was due at the end of August, but was delayed by the county in order to meet its prison-related financial needs.

Galindo said last month that payment could be delayed because the city did not need the money until the end of October, when the payment to the Texas Water Development Board was due. City council members last month approved a 2004 budget for Pecos that included no tax increase, but was based on receiving the $422,000 payment.

At their Sept. 30 meeting, Precinct 3 Commissioner Herman Tarin suggested to the rest of the commissioners that the county should look into returning ownership of the Civic Center, West of the Pecos Rodeo Grounds, Reeves County Golf Course and the local parks back to the Town of Pecos City. No action was taken on that suggestion.

Proposals for management and/or lease of the RCDC are due to be received no later than 2 p.m., Friday, Oct. 311, according to the proposal put out by commissioners.

Patsy Torres anti-drug event

for P-B-T students approved

Staff Writer

PECOS, Fri., Oct. 10, 2003 -- Patsy Torres will be in Pecos with her Positive Force Tour at the end of this month, bringing with her music and a positive message for Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD students.

P-B-T school board members listened to a proposal from all the school counselors Thursday evening on bringing the group to Pecos, in lieu of the annual District-Wide Drug-Free Pep Rally that has been held for the past few years at the Pecos High School football field. The event is scheduled in conjunction with Red Ribbon Week.

Austin and Pecos Kindergarten Counselor Rosie Salcido told the group that they were there to ask for the board's support in bringing the group to Pecos on Oct. 30. "This will be on a Thursday," said Salcido.

Bessie Haynes Elementary School Counselor Angelica Valenzuela told the group that they had surveyed all the students and teachers. "We offered them four different choices," said Valenzuela.

The options were to have either an outside drug-free rally with guest speaker; an indoors drug-free rally with no guest speaker; an indoor concert/rally (Patsy Torres Positive Force Tour) and four, or no rally (each campus goes on its own).

The unanimous choice by both faculty and students was to bring the Patsy Torres Positive Tour Force to Pecos.

"They quoted us a price of $3,500 to bring the group to Pecos," said Salcido.

She told board members that part of the cost would come through a grant provided by Juvenile Probation Officer Louise Moore. "She applied for a grant and received it, but since it is for Reeves County, she will be giving Balmorhea $1,000, and Pecos $2,500," said Salcido.

She added that they would be asking each campus principal for $500 and the rest would be taken out of the counselors' own accounts.

Two different programs are planned, one for the elementary group, kindergarten through sixth grade and the other for students in seventh through 12th grades.

Both events will be held at the Pecos High School Gym on Oct. 30.

Moore was unable to attend the regular meeting, but provided the group with a letter with her comments and expressed what she had gotten out of the project two years ago.

"I was fortunate to be able to attend both sessions the Patsy Torres presentation when she performed in Pecos several years ago. I was impressed with the way the message was presented to the students as well as the student response and interaction with Ms. Torres and her group members," said Moore.

Moore said that she had the opportunity to see both performances and did not find them offensive. "The students listened to the message presented and had a good time at the same time," said Moore.

She went on to say that she had spoken to several young people who attended the previous performance and they stated that they enjoyed Patsy Torres and would like to see the presentation again.

"The students were able to tell me that Patsy told them not to use drugs, or do crime and that these behaviors could not just mess up their lives, but also the lives of others (family, friends, etc.) One 12-year old said 'the skits made the message so clear, don't do stupid things, or your life will be ruined,'" she said.

"I encourage you, as school board members, to support our school counselors in their efforts to bring a program to the P-B-T ISD that will be beneficial and educational for our students," said Moore. "Please allow our students to receive an important message and have fund at the same time."

"You said that there would be two separate performances, will the content be changed for the elementary school students?" asked board member Amy Miller.

"Yes, the content will be changed somewhat," said Valenzuela. "They'll address the issues, but in a somewhat different way."

"Through the surveys and in talking with everyone, they felt that this would be a more effective way to reach these children," said Salcido.

"I want to express what I experienced, when she came to Pecos," said Miller. "They need to tone down the music and the content," she said.

Miller voted against bringing Torres to Pecos, but all the other board members approved the event.

Kindergarten through sixth graders will view the event from 9:30 a.m. until 10:30 a.m. and seventh through 12th will see it from 1:30 p.m. until 2:50 p.m.

The event is being held in conjunction with Red Ribbon Week, which is being observed in the Pecos public schools. The district's counselors sponsor the drug prevention program with the assistance of the PHS student council, cheerleaders, teachers, administrators, law enforcement agencies, and other community organizations.

The counselors invite the community to come support the fight against drugs and a section at the gym has been reserved for visitors.

All schools are decorating with red to support the fight against drugs. Many activities are held throughout all the schools. The counselors will distribute ribbons and invite the community to participate following a Pecos Talking radio show. They want to extend a special invitation to all law enforcement and community groups to participate. A section has been reserved for all agencies.

Law enforcement agencies are encouraged to bring a banner to display at the program.

District given high marks in state's financial ratings

Staff Writer

PECOS, Fri., Oct. 10, 2003 -- Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD received a Superior Achievement rating from FIRST, the Financial Accountability Rating System, and school officials are excited about the honor.

Board members received the good news during their regular meeting, held Thursday evening at the P-B-T Technology Center.

"We're thrilled about receiving this rating and it's thanks to our financial director and all the staff," said PBT-ISD Superintendent Don Love. "The superior achievement rating is the state's highest, demonstrating the quality of PBT-ISD's financial management and reporting system."

This is the first year of Schools FIRST, a financial accountability system for Texas school districts developed by the Texas Education Agency in response to Senate Bill 875 of the 76th Texas Legislature in 1999. The primary goal of the plan is to achieve quality performance in the management of school districts' financial resources, a goal made more significant due to the complexity of accounting associated with Texas' school finance system.

"We are very pleased with PBT-ISD's Schools FIRST rating," said Love. "It shows our district is making the most of our taxpayers' dollars. This rating shows that PBT-ISD schools are accountable not only for student learning, but also for achieving these results cost-effectively and efficiently."

The Schools FIRST accountability rating system assigns one of four financial accountability ratings to Texas school districts, with the highest being "Superior Achievement," followed by "Above Standard Achievement," "Standard Achievement," and "Substandard Achievement."

Districts with serious quality problems may receive the additional rating of "Suspended Data Quality."

Districts that receive the "Substandard Achievement" or "Suspended Data Quality" ratings under Schools FIRST must file a corrective plan with the Texas Education Agency, according to Love.

P-B-T ISD has been able to avoid the financial problems that have plagued other area school districts in the past three years, and which have forced cuts in staff and programs during that period. The ratings were among the items discussed by the board members during their regular monthly meeting.

In other action, the board agreed to participate in the Pecos Peddler's Flea Market and Auction scheduled for November by placing surplus items up for auction.

"The board has to say that that property is no longer of any use to the district," said PBT-ISD Superintendent Don Love. "Jimmy (Dutchover, transportation director) has a lot of buses and even a ditcher that he needs to get rid of."

Dutchover told the group that the bus lot on Hackberry Street needs to be cleared up. "It's just very cluttered and we need to clear it up, get rid of some of those old buses that we don't use or need," he said, adding that this would be a good way to try to get rid of them.

"I'll be contacting people that buy old buses, either for parts or whatever and then if they don't sell at auction, we'll try something else," he said.

Federal offices, banks taking off on Monday

PECOS, Fri., Oct. 10, 2003 -- All federal offices and both Security and West Texas National Banks will be closed on Monday to observe Columbus Day.

Reeves County offices, local utility companies and Town of Pecos City offices will remain open. The Pecos Enterprise will publish their regular edition on that day and the office will be open to customers.

Alzheimer's groups hold Memory Walk in Midland

PECOS, Fri., Oct. 10, 2003 -- "Memory Walk 2003" will be held at 9 a.m., Saturday at the Midland International Airport, near the Symphony Building (behind KMID-TV Big 2). Registration will begin at 8:30 a.m.

Memory Walk is the Alzheimer's Association's national signature event to help those battling Alzheimer's disease. Since 1989, Memory Walk has raised more than $120 million and is the largest national fund raising event for Alzheimer's disease.

Fariss Murphy and Beverly Thomas, Pecos Support Group Volunteers, invite everyone to come join them for the event on Saturday.


PECOS, Fri., Oct. 10, 2003 -- High Thurs. 83. Low this morning 65. Forecast for tonight: Mostly cloudy with a 40 percent chance of thunderstorms. Lows near 65. SE winds 10 to 15 mph. Sat.: Mostly cloudy with a 50 percent chance of thunderstorms. Highs near 80. SE winds near 10 mph shifting to the NE 10 to 15 mph in the afternoon. Sat. night: Mostly cloudy with a 40 percent chance of thunderstorms. Lows in the mid 50s to the lower 60s. NE winds 10 to 15 mph and gusty. Sun.: Mostly cloudy with a 20 percent chance of rain. Highs in the mid 70s. NE winds 10 to 15 mph shifting to the northwest near 10 mph in the afternoon. Sunday night: Mostly cloudy with a 20 percent chance of rain. Lows in the lower to mid 50s.

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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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