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Archive 2003

Area Newspapers
Economic Development


Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

RCDC cuts 31 jobs, 39 more layoffs pending

Staff Writer

PECOS, Wed., Nov. 19, 2003 -- Reeves County Detention Center employees who lost their jobs last week or are facing the loss of their jobs in the near future will have an option to go to another facility owned by the company that is taking over management of the local prison.

Wackenhut Corrections Corporation will be overseeing the RCDC once the number of employees decreases at both units currently being utilized to a level listed in the contract between Wackenhut and the county. The reduction requires the elimination of 70 jobs at the facility, according to county officials.

Of that total, 31 workers were dismissed last Friday and another 39 are due to be let go in the near future.

Wackenhut signed a 10-year management contract with Reeves County on Monday to operate the detention center. The move was made after Reeves County was unable to find prisoners to fill the new 960-bed RCDC III unit, and was faced with a possible default on bonds for the $40 million facility.

County Judge Jimmy B. Galindo said in July that because the three units are cross collateralized, a default on RCDC III's bonds would affect the entire $89 million facility.

While the prison currently has only a little over 2,000 inmates, according to terms of the contract, the three units contain approximately 3,025 beds, with 1,105 beds in RCDC I and 960 each in the RCDC II and III units.

Galindo said that there are currently 382 employees at the local facility and that number needs to be reduced to 343, which would mean 39 more employees need to be let go before Wackenhut assumes control.

"The 31 employees that were laid off Friday, were officers that had not passed the jail certification test," said Galindo.

RCDC Warden Rudy Franco said that a meeting with Wackenhut Corrections Corporation is pending. "But they are prepared to offer each of the employees an employment opportunity," said Franco.

There is no timetable as to when the next group of employees will be laid off and when Wackenhut Corrections Corporation will take over. "We don't have a timetable set up and the employees will be the first to know," he said.

However, under the terms of the agreement, Wackenhut is now responsible for finding inmates to fill RCDC III. The contract calls for the company to pay Reeves County a total of $430,000 each month RCDC III remains un-utilized over a one-year period, money the county would use to meet bond payments on the facility until inmates are found.

That part of the contract will go into effect either on Dec. 1, or at the start of the first month after Reeves County reduces the workforce at the prison to no more than 343 employees. That means that if the 39 layoffs don't occur within the next 11 days, Wackenhut will not have to make a $430,000 payment until January 1.

There will be a number of resources available to the displaced employees, according to Franco.

RCDC Personnel Director Donna James said that they are currently working on several "projects" to help these employees.

"We will be having a Benefit Fair on Friday, from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m.," she said.

The Texas Workforce Commission, the Department of Human Services, Wackenhut Corrections Corporation, Odessa College, Edward Jones and a representative from AFLAC will all be on hand at the Benefit Fair to be held at the Reeves County Detention Center.

"They will all be on hand to talk to the employees that were laid off and any potential others," said James.

The entities and agencies will be there to offer their assistance and help all the employees, according to James.

Galindo said that Franco was trying to put together the employees so that they could speak to Wackenhut officials. "Even though those 31 didn't pass the test, they are still being offered positions at the other facilities being managed by Wackenhut Corrections Corporation," said Galindo.

Galindo said that Wackenhut is offering all the displaced employees an employment opportunity at one of their other facilities in Texas. The company manages correctional facilities in Del Rio, Raymondville, San Antonio and Carnes City.

"They have a number of facilities in Texas and are willing to offer every one of these displaced employees an opportunity," said Galindo.

Jury told probe in Pecos sparked child sex arrest

Staff Writer

PECOS, Wed., Nov. 19, 2003 -- A former Pecos pastor is facing aggravated sexual assault of a child charges in Odessa and testimony is to continue today in that trial.

Tuesday marked the first day of testimony in the trial of 32-year-old Raul Puente Jr., in 358th District Court.

"I expect it to continue until late tomorrow," said Ector County District Attorney John Smith.

Testimony began with three witnesses yesterday, including his former mother-in-law, his ex-wife and Reeves County Sheriff's Department Lt. Michael Dominguez.

Puente is a former Pecos and San Antonio resident, but the incident in question occurred in Ector County.

"The grandmother is the one who contacted me and made allegations of sexual assault to a child," said Reeves County Sheriff Lt. Mike Dominguez. "We investigated the incident and determined that the offense had occurred in Ector County."

Dominguez said that he then contacted Paul Shepherd a detective with the Odessa Police Department. "Paul said bring them down here, I did and that's how the ball got rolling on this case," he said. "I also got the Child Protective Services involved."

Dominguez said that the mother-in-law, who had moved to Pecos from San Antonio, didn't know any policemen in Pecos, so she took her complaints to her church's preacher. That preacher then took the woman, Rebecca Maria Santos Alviso, to Dominguez' house to discuss the problem. "I then took them to the sheriff's department, to write up a report," he said.

"I really don't know which church Puente used to preach in, but we were told he was a substitute teacher here at one time," said Dominguez.

Alviso testified yesterday during the trial that her 10-year-old granddaughter had confided in her that Puente had been sexually assaulting her.

Also testifying yesterday, was Puente's ex-wife, Monica Hernandez. The couple have four children, a five-year-old girl that is Puente's; boys 6 and 8 years old and the 10-year-old girl.

"The only incident being tried involves the 10-year-old," said Smith. "We haven't received any other complaints from the other children or from anyone else in Pecos," he said.

Hernandez married Puente in San Antonio in 2000, and the couple and their four children moved from Pecos to Odessa in May 2002. The charge stems from an incident between January and October last year.

Puente has been held at Ector County Law Enforcement Center since his Oct. 6, 2002, arrest in lieu of a $60,000 bond for aggravated sexual assault of a child. He also was denied bond on three counts of indecency with a child and one count of injury to a child.

Puente is only being tried on the aggravated sexual assault of a child charge, according to Smith. The other charges will be addressed at a later date.

Whether anyone else from Pecos will testify is not known, according to Smith. "We're not privy to see who the defense will call to testify," said Smith.

Cancer Society "Smokeout" set for Thursday

PECOS, Wed., Nov. 19, 2003 -- The American Cancer Society's 27th annual Great American Smokeout is scheduled for Thursday across the United States.

The ACS asks smokers to put down their cigarettes for one day each year, as part of an effort to get all smokers to quit cigarette use. According to the ACS, approximately 32 million of the nation's 46 million smokers want to quit smoking completely, and smoking rates nationally have declined from 25 percent in 1993 to 22.8 percent in 2001.

Smokers who are ready to kick the habit can find help through the American Cancer Society's Quitline, at 1-877-YES-QUIT. The Quitline is funded by the Texas Department of Health using Tobacco Settlement funds, and offers free telephone counseling services, advice and cessation materials to smokers age 13 and older.


PECOS, Wed., Nov. 19, 2003 -- High Tuesday 65. Low this morning 29. Forecast for tonight: Clear. Lows 35 to 40. South winds near 10 mph. Thursday: Partly cloudy. Highs 75 to 80. Southwest winds 10 to 15 mph. Thursday night: Partly cloudy. Lows in the lower to mid 40s. Southwest winds near 10 mph. Friday: Partly cloudy. Highs in the mid 70s to the lower 80s. Southwest winds 10 to 15 mph increasing to 15 to 25 mph in the afternoon. Friday night: Partly cloudy. Lows in the mid 40s.

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Pecos Enterprise
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