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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

City Council selects McKinney for interim city manager's post

Staff Writer

PECOS, Tues., Nov. 11, 2003 -- The town of Pecos City Council appointed Police Chief Clay McKinney to serve as interim city manager, following a special executive session this morning at City Hall.

The move was taken to replace outgoing City Manager, Carlos Yerena, who is leaving at the end of the week to take the city manager's job in Kingsville.

The council approved the appointment of McKinney to the position for a salary of $800 per month. The motion passed on a split vote, with Councilman Gerald Tellez and Councilman Michael Benavides dissenting.

McKinney has served as Town of Pecos City Police Chief for the past six years, after previously serving as an investigator with the Pecos Police Department. Yerena served as City Manger for three years, during which time the police department moved into its new Criminal Justice Center on the southwest side of town.

Council members did not say if McKinney would handle his new job out of his office at the CJC or out of the city manager's office at City Hall.

The council is set to begin the advertisement of the full time position as soon as the qualifications are approved during regular meeting on Thursday. City Attorney Scott Johnson was asked by the council to find the qualifications used for the last solicitation for the position of city manager and present them at the next meeting.

The Pecos Economic Development Corp budget for 2004 is also slated for discussion on Thursday. The item was tabled at the last meeting due to the short amount of time the council had to review it.

PEDC President Gari Ward is also to be on hand to answer any questions on the budget and to give the council an update on the projects that the corporation is currently working on.

Also on the agenda for Thursday is the discussion-approval of two change orders for the South Worsham Field development project, concerning the telemetry-electrical systems and the pumps-motors areas on the project. The final engineering walk through was scheduled for late October, with a city official walk through scheduled for soon after.

The council is also scheduled to approve bids for the award of the city employee health care contract. Bids are set to open tomorrow, with final approval coming at the meeting on Thursday.

The next regularly scheduled city council meeting is planned for two weeks from this Thursday, however, because that is Thanksgiving Day, the council is set to either reschedule the meeting or to cancel it completely.

Approval of the fire officials elected in last Thursday's election and the consideration of an appointment of a representative to the Reeves County Appraisal District finish out the agenda.

Brother of fifth grade teacher writing to students

Staff Writer

PECOS, Tues., Nov. 11, 2003 -- A group of fifth grade students have been busy writing to a Pecos soldier currently serving his country in Iraq.

In return the Bessie Haynes Elementary students have been receiving news from the faraway country.

"Greetings from Iraq," wrote Jaime Bustamante Natividad.

"I was born and raised in Pecos, I am a member of the graduating class of 2000," said Natividad. "I am also a soldier in the United States Army and was stationed in Fort Hood before our deployment into Iraq."

Natividad is a member of the Army's 4th Infantry Division (mechanized).

"This letter is being written in appreciation from myself and any other service member from our great little town, who all probably feel the same way," he wrote the students. "I would like to 'Thank' the community for all the help and support that we have received from the people of Pecos.

"My supporters include my parents, Ruben and Margarita Natividad and Mrs. Debbie Flores, (a fifth-grade teacher at Bessie Haynes Elementary School), as well as some young students: Allyson Salcido, Jake Varela, Kendra Villanueva, Mallory Orona and Norberto Salgado.

"I thank you all for the letters of support and the care packages. Also a thanks to anyone else out in the community who is writing and supporting other service members of our great little town, or anywhere else. I speak from experience, receiving letters and packages from people showing you support and appreciation is a great morale booster, especially because of the situations, circumstances, and living conditions we find ourselves in. 'Thank You' for the support and I am pretty sure everyone else feels the same, it is greatly appreciated.

"In closing, I would just like to say "hi" to my wife, Rebecca and my kids, Samantha Nicole and Elijah James. I love and miss you all very much. As well as my brothers and sisters: Rosie, Erlinda, Rafael, Israel, Ismael and Brenda. And again to you, the Pecos Community, 'thank you!'"

PEDC to meet with developer of new housing

PECOS, Tues., Nov. 11, 2003 -- The Pecos Economic Development Corp. is scheduled to talk with developer Vaughn Mitchell during an open meeting on Thursday at 4 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall.

The meeting is to discuss and review Mitchell's credentials, his previous projects and to let the public get a general feel of how the project is to work.

The project is a proposed rental housing development to be located on the Robinson property, a 110-tract section of town between D Street and Robison Street (old FM 1216) on the north side of town.

If plans are approved, The Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs will sponsor 60 percent of the capital required to build the units. The project will cost approximately $4 million, with cost of each unit estimated at $90,000 apiece.

Similar state assisted housing projects have already been built in the neighboring communities of Midland, Odessa, and Fort Stockton.

Each unit will be a three-bedroom, two-bath, stand-alone house. One-car garages, central heat and AC and 50 feet of street frontage are the proposed amenities to accompany each unit.

The rent will be fixed at $400 a month and the units must be rented for at least 15 years before they can be sold.

Wackenhut reimbursements approved

Staff Writer

PECOS, Tues., Nov. 11, 2003 -- Reeves County Commissioners approved reimbursement payments to the new management company for the Reeves County Detention Center, along with a contract for a new perimeter fence at the facility, during their regularly scheduled meeting on Monday.

Commissioners approved a resolution authorizing payment of Wackenhut Corrections Corporation reimbursements, on approval of County Auditor Lynn Owens, prior to submittal to the commissioner's court. The commissioners adopted the resolution presented by Owens.

"This is very much like the agreement we have with the juvenile board," said Reeves County Judge Jimmy B. Galindo.

Commissioners signed a 10-year contract the previous week with Wackenhut to manage the RCDC I and II units, and to help the county market RCDC III, which is in need of prisoners to meet its $40 million bond payments.

The approval of the perimeter fence for the RCDC III addition was a item that had previously been discusses by commissioners.

"If you recall, this item was re-bid," said Owens.

Owens said that the county had received two bids, one from Texas Commercial Fence and the other from Anchor Fencing.

"We had to re-bid it, because we only had one bid that was turned in correctly the first time, the other bid had been faxed and it needed to be in a package," said Owens.

The bids were from Texas Commercial Fence in the amount of $165,000 and from Anchor in the amount of $265,000. "The last time, Texas Commercial Fence bid $237,000, so we're saving a considerable amount of money this time around," said Owens.

"Do we really need that fence?" asked Precinct 1 Commissioner Felipe Arredondo. "Now, that someone else is taking over the prison, I don't see any reason to spend that money."

"I think it will provide a more secure perimeter for RCDC III," said Reeves County Judge Jimmy B. Galindo. "And yes, we definitely need that fence."

"I think this will help us in the future," said Galindo.

RCDC Warden Rudy Franco told the group that U.S. Bureau of Prisons had expressed some concern about the perimeter. "There was an official citation on deviation because the perimeter fence is not separated from R-III," said Franco.

The BOP provides about 2,000 prisons for the RCDC I and II units, but balked at placing any more prisoners in RCDC III earlier this year. The agency said it had no need of any more bed space at that time, but recently put out a request for between 1,500 and 2,000 additional beds at one or more correctional facilities around the country.

Franco said that they needed a full perimeter fence for R-3 in order to operate the facility. "We really do need that fence," he said.

"The funds will come from the contingency funds, from the bond money," said Owens.

A payment to LMD Architect for expense reimbursement on work on the fence was approved.

The group approved the purchase of a vehicle that is currently being used by the District Attorney's office.

Under reports from various departments, 143rd DA Randy Reynolds told the group that they had been leasing a vehicle, that is currently being used by the office investigator.

"We can either keep on leasing it, or purchase it out right and it will belong to the county," said Reynolds.

Reynolds told the group that he had already requested the funds to purchase the vehicle from the forfeiture funds. "We can pay off the balance of $7,800 and it will belong to the county, but the DA's office will be using it," said Reynolds. "The funds will not come from the taxpayers," he said.

Reynolds said that in the event the DA's office no longer had use for the vehicle, it would go to the county.

Weinacht defends new position; firm lowers RCDC bond ratings

From Staff and Wire Reports
A day after a contentious meeting of Reeves County Commissioners over his appointment as County Monitor for the Reeves County Detention Center, local attorney Bill Weinacht released a statement defending his position from criticism by Precinct 3 Commissioner Herman Tarin.

Weinacht said his new job was similar to the one her previously held before Wackenhut Correctional Corp. was given management operations of the 2,165-bed RCDC I and II units.

The argument came the same day that a New York bond rating company lowered the rating on the county's RCDC bonds from 'BB' to 'CCC', a level that is considered junk status.

Reeves County entered into a 10-year contract with Wackenhut after county officials were unable to find inmates to fill the new 960-bed RCDC III addition. Bond payments on the $40 million facility were to come from money earned for housing inmates, and because the bonds were supported by the RCDC I and II units, a default on RCDC III would affect all three units of the $89 million facility.

Wackenhut has agreed to make bond payments on RCDC III for the next year under terms of the contract, which also includes the definition of the duties of the County Monitor position.

"The president of Wackenhut offered me a position with Wackenhut as legal counsel and they are a great company, but I would have been prohibited from representing the County and I just felt uneasy about that," Weinacht said in his statement. "The law requires that the County provide monitoring when a private vendor manages the facility. The County can't just sign it over to a management company and walk away.

"The Sheriff (Andy Gomez) offered me the monitoring position and I accepted. I would have gone with the other job if I had known Tarin was going to be so upset about it. Everything stayed the same with regard to my salary, but the job title and duties changed from legal council to monitor.

"I wish I could help Herman, but we all told him not to promise the community center in Balmorhea unless he was going to get it done," Weinacht said.

Weinacht had served as the county's legal representative at the RCDC since 1997, after serving four years as Reeves County Attorney. His salary was set at $50,000 annually, though Tarin said during Monday's meeting that the 10-year contract for the County Monitor's position was for $618,000.

Tarin and Precinct 2 Commissioner Norman Hill voted against the contract at Monday's meeting, while Precinct 1 Commissioner Felipe Arredondo, Precinct 4 Commissioner Gilberto "Hivi" Rayos and County Judge Jimmy B. Galindo voted in favor of the agreement.

The bond rating downgrade came from Fitch Ratings Service, and was the second downgrade by the company in the past three months. The bonds were downgraded two steps from 'BB' to 'CCC,' Fitch Ratings Senior Director Jason Dickerson said Monday, after being lowered from 'BBB-' to 'BB' in September.

The BB rating is considered "below investment grade," which meant the bonds qualified for junk status.

"We now consider the bonds to be at high risk of default," Dickerson said of Monday's downgrade. He said continued failure to find prisoners for the new wing presents serious challenges for the county.

A call seeking comment from Reeves County Judge Jimmy Galindo wasn't immediately returned Monday.

Last week, Wackenhut Corrections Corp. signed a 10-year contract to take over operations of the complex. Wackenhut is an international company with 49 correctional facilities around the world and employs about 9,000 people.

Dickerson said that if Wackenhut is successful in filling the beds Fitch will re-examine the bond rating.

Fitch said the detention center's relationship with the bureau was vital to its bond rating and added that it is "skeptical" that the relationship will resume in a way that would fill the beds.

Under the contract with Wackenhut, the company will manage RCDC I and III and will help the county market RCDC III to federal and state officials as a site to house prisoners. Wackenhut also has an option to manage RCDC III if prisoners are found for that facility.

A&M Station hosting meeting

PECOS, Tues., Nov. 11, 2003 -- A late-season look at summer annual forages and their production in Reeves County is slated for 9:30 a.m., Friday at the Texas A&M Research Station near exit 33, West of Pecos.

The one-hour meeting begins at 9:30 a.m. and producers can view and learn about production for different types of summer sorghum/sudans, forage sorghums and hybrid pearl millets, including new hybrids with the brown midrib and photoperiod sensitive traits.

One CEU is offered. Tommy Dominguez, Reeves/Loving Ag. Extension Agent and Calvin Throstle, Extension Agronomist, Lubbock, will host the meeting.

For more information contact the Reeves County Texas Cooperative Extension Office at 432-447-9041.


Myrtle Strong and Stephen Perkins

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