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Archive 2003

Area Newspapers
Economic Development


Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Wackenhut assumes control of RCDC, job cuts reduced

Staff Writer

PECOS, Tues., Nov. 25, 2003 -- Wackenhut Corrections Corporation officially took over the management of the Reeves County Detention Center at 8 a.m. this morning, following the approval of an amended contract between the corporation and Reeves County.

The amendments were approved during the regular Reeves County Commissioners Court meeting held Monday at the courthouse.

The county had entered into a management service agreement with the corporation on Nov. 3. However, under the original agreement the contract would not take effect until Dec. 1 or the first day of the first month after the staff at the Detention Center had been reduced to 343 workers. The revised deal will cut by 39 the number of layoffs planned by Reeves County, and leave the prison with 382 employees.

Representatives of Wackenhut and the Federal Bureau of Prisons met on Nov. 14 to discuss the terms and conditions of the county's intergovernmental agreement with the BOP, as well as the terms of the Management Services agreement the county signed with Wackenhut in early November.

"There are a number of changes in the contract that are mutually acceptable," said Reeves County Judge Jimmy B. Galindo.

The main change was the sum of money the county had to pay Wackenhut for management services. A reduction from $333,000 to $62,500 per month was included in the amendments.

The other big change included the number of employees at the RCDC. The original contract had called for a reduction in staff to 343, and 31 layoffs were announced last week.

The change means that 39 workers who were scheduled to lose their jobs will be retained by Wackenhut, and allowed the company to managing the facility this morning.

"This amendment will cease all other lay-offs and instead the reduction in work force will be done through attrition," said Galindo. "The prison is currently having separations of anywhere from 10-15 per month and no other lay-offs are planned."

RCDC Warden Rudy Franco, who was on hand for meeting, said that a number of separations from the prison occur every month. "For one reason or another, we have employees that leave their position at the RCDC," said Franco.

Wackenhut was retained by the county both to manage the prison and to help the county find new inmates for the 960-bed RCDC III. The $40 million addition to the prison was opened in March, but was unable to attract enough inmates to meet bond payments on the prison. Under the financing arrangements, a default on the RCDC III bonds would have affected the entire $89 million facility.

Most of the prisoners in RCDC I and II are kept under contract with the BOP. Franco said that the population at the facility is currently 2,065 inmates.

Under the amendment and with current financing obligations, the county has appropriated funds which when added to interest earnings are sufficient to make all RCDC sublease payments through Nov. 30, including but not limited to funds sufficient to make all but $411,117 of the debt service payment of $1.3 million on the Series 2001 Certificates, including one due next Monday.

"Wackenhut Corrections Corporation is willing to make that $415,000 payment on Dec. 1 and one on Jan. 1," said Galindo.

WCC is willing to pay the county a monthly utilization availability payment in order to ensure the continued availability of the RCDC for future operation by the county.

"As a result of discussion with the FBOP, the county and WCC believe that it is in their best interest to amend the terms and conditions of the Utilization Availability Agreement," said Galindo.

"It can all be captured with the utilization of three and that's what we are all striving for," said Galindo. "Hopefully, through the next few months, we'll be working together for that utilization availability agreement."

"I think this is a major commitment from Wackenhut," he said.

Wackenhut's payments will help the company ensure the availability of all of the RCDC for future utilization by the county and Wackenhut and to secure the company's exclusive rights to market and manage all of the RCDC throughout the term of this agreement.

"You've done an outstanding job and I would just like to make a couple of comments," said Don Houston, vice-president of Wackenhut Corrections Corporation.

"What has happened is that we had a very productive meeting with BOP and have a number of changes, and we need to look at what is best as partners," he said.

Houston said that they had agreed to reduce their fee in order to cease layoffs and ask for exclusive rights to market a very good product.

"I'm excited about the partnership and feel it will be mutually beneficial," said Houston.

"I wholeheartedly agree that will be fruitful for the both us," said Galindo.

"Will you be offering the facility just to BOP?" asked commissioner precinct 3 Herman Tarin.

"If you read this agreement, we're not limited to just BOP and we will look at others, but BOP will be the first," said Houston.

Wackenhut will also be looking for employees to join their "management team."

"We'll be having a tele-conference tomorrow to discuss positions and the DOL (U.S. Department of Labor) positions," said Galindo.

"Under the employment assignment agreement, it is one of the tools that we are going to use to assign managers of the facility to our management team and they will agree to work under the supervision of Wackenhut," said Houston.

During the interim 90-day period, Wackenhut will look at those positions and if there are vacancies put them in there to see if they are right for the position, according to Houston.

Reeves County Sheriff Andy Gomez, who under the rules of operation for the prison had to sign off on any agreement between Wackenhut and the county, said that he was pleased with the amended agreements and that he looked forward to working with Wackenhut.

"I'm glad everything is working out and the agreement is a good deal for both the county and the corporation," said Gomez. "I would just like our monitor to look it over once more."

Council updated on water, sewer projects

Staff Writer

PECOS, Tues., Nov. 25, 2003 -- The Town of Pecos City Council were updated on current and future projects involving the city's water and sewer systems, during their regular meeting Monday night at City Hall.

Edgardo Madrid of Frank Spencer and Associates updated council members on the various construction projects, which included the city's new water field and plans to repair the aging water tanks and towers in town.

Madrid said that the firm was ready to send the final plans for the South Worsham Water Field to the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality and the Texas Water Development Board for final approval.

This will allow the two agencies to send comments on the project, or items they see that need fixing, then the engineers can return to the council for the approval to remedy any problems with the construction, Madrid said.

The council gave approval for the sending of the final plans unanimously on a motion by Councilman Frank Sanchez and a second by Councilman Michael Benavides.

Madrid also addressed the possible application for a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant to repair problems Pecos is facing with its sewer system.

"The total grant amount is $9 million, with 55 percent being loan and 45 percent grant," he said. "Due to the USDA's qualification system, the Town of Pecos only qualifies for a limited amount of grant funds."

Madrid explained that the median income for Pecos falls above 80 percent of the median income the USDA uses as a guide for determination of how much money should be granted to a particular city.

Councilman Danny Rodriguez asked whether Madrid thought that those figures were accurate. Madrid said no but the only other means to get the USDA to go by another number is to commission a study by questionnaire as to the population density and income of the residents of the city. He added that this is typically tough to accomplish due to the low reply rate these studies receive here in Pecos.

Madrid assured the council that this was only a preliminary step, and that the initial application only qualified the town to ask for the money. The amount they asked for was up to the town depending on what aspects of the sewage system needed the most repair.

"If the town were to qualify for the full $9 million, the life of the loan would be around 40 years, with a variable interest rate. I know this is a very tough decision for the council, but the cost of maintaining our current system is getting higher," Madrid said.

The firm presented pictures to the council of the various areas of the sewer collection system that have cracked pipes or simply areas of pipe that are completely missing. The council also saw pictures which pointed out areas of the lagoon holding tank system that were constructed out of clay over 10 years ago that are starting to leak.

Benavides asked Madrid which of the three aspects of the sewage; collection, main collection and lift stations, or peripheral collection, was in most dire need of fixing first. He said that the treatment aspect needed to be fixed and upgraded first.

"The number of holding tanks for the treatment system needs to be expanded to three from the current one. The run off from any rain that we receive increases the volume of contaminated water that we must hold. Currently we are supposed to keep at least two foot of levy above the water level and currently we have just under one," Madrid added.

"It is possible to put in a mechanical treatment plant in with the funds received from the grant. Alpine has installed one and it is working very well. A small amount of bacteria is added up stream from the plant and by the time the effluent reaches the plant, all that has to be done is a small amount of aeration before the water can be released into the environment," Madrid said.

Madrid also talked the council about the status of the water holding towers and tanks around town.

"It has come to our attention that the water tanks in Pecos are approaching the need for refurbishment or replacement, especially the elevated tank on the east side of town," Madrid said.

The engineering firm stated that the city had earmarked funds for the repair of the multiple tanks around town and it might be possible to combine the different funds to fix one of the tanks now, divert the majority of the water to it and fix the others in the near future.

"The city could authorize the commission of a third party to come in a do studies as to the viability of refurbishment, the cost of which we don't expect go beyond $300,000. The cost of a new elevated tank we have been quoted for a 1 million gallon tank is a half a million," Madrid said. "Some of those funds could be drawn from the TWDB grant for water improvements."

The council unanimously approved having Frank Spencer and Associates secure a third party to study the two tanks on a motion by Councilman Gerald Tellez and a second by Benavides.

In other business, the council voted not to approve the Pecos Economic Development Corporation 2004 budget due to issues surrounding the car allowance paid to PEDC President Gari Ward. Council members again expressed their confusion over what seemed to be a double payment for the same item.

"I don't see why we are paying Mr. Ward both gas-mileage allowance and a car allowance," Councilman Sanchez said.

John Grant, the only PEDC representative present at the meeting, said that the original question had arisen during the PEDC's budget meeting in September. Grant said that the item was originally in Ward's contract at hiring.

"The way I understand it is that the $7,200 was essentially salary, but was not called that for tax reasons. It was in the budget before I came on board to the PEDC, but to rectify the situation, the item has been moved to the administrative column on the budget, but it is still called car expense," Grant said.

"I would also like to add that I am both ashamed and embarrassed that I am the only board member here today. I just think that it goes to show the lack of accountability that the PEDC really has," Grant added.

Helpers sought to deliver Thanksgiving meals

Staff Writer

PECOS, Tues., Nov. 25, 2003 -- Just a few more items are needed to complete the Annual Thanksgiving Dinner sponsored by the Pecos Christian Home and scheduled for this Thursday. But volunteers to help prepare and deliver some of the meals are the biggest request to the community right now.

"We've got everything under control, but we still need a few things," said Christian Home Director Mark Polzin. "The biggest thing right now, is volunteers."

More cranberry sauce, desserts and Kool-Aid packets and sugar are needed to complete the meal. "We just need more people to show up and help us, especially delivering the Meals on Wheels," he said.

There are currently 120 people on the Meals on Wheels list. The food program for the elderly and disabled does not operate on Thanksgiving, but those individuals will start receiving their meals from the Christian Home volunteers at 9 a.m.

"If they want to help us with Meals on Wheels, we're asking that they be here by 9 a.m.," said Polzin. "Other volunteers can come in between 8 and 8:30 a.m."

Polzin said that his crew would be out at the Reeves County Civic Center early to set up.

"We will start serving everyone else at 10 a.m. and continue until all the food is gone," said Polzin. "We had said that the meals would be served until 2 p.m., but we'll continue until it is all gone."

"If they want to bring drinks, we're asking that they bring those big packets of Kool-Aid and sugar," said Polzin. "We usually get a lot of children in here and that's what they like to drink," he said.

More families and individuals are expected this year for the annual event.

"We usually serve anywhere from 200-300 people, but we expect more this year," he said. Last year, the Christian Home served meals to about 325 people on Thanksgiving Day.

"We want to thank the community for coming through for us once more and welcome all volunteers," said Polzin.

Donations can be taken to the Christian Home, located at 1201 S. Elm St., or by calling 445-2049 and someone will pick up the items.

P-B-T schools take 5-day break

PECOS, Tues., Nov. 25, 2003 -- Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD students will start their holiday on Wednesday, a day before most other businesses and government offices take off for Thanksgiving

Students will be off on Wednesday and will also have the day after Thanksgiving off this week.

School will resume on Monday, Dec. 1 and school officials wish everyone a safe and happy holiday.


PECOS, Tues., Nov. 25, 2003 -- High Monday 61. Low this morning 39. Forecast for tonight: Partly cloudy. Lows near 40. West winds 10 to 20 mph. Wednesday: Mostly sunny. Windy. Highs near 70. West winds 10 to 20 mph increasing to 20 to 30 mph in the afternoon. Wednesday night: Clear. Lows in the lower to mid 30s. West winds 10 to 15 mph. Thanksgiving day: Mostly sunny. Highs in the mid 50s to the lower 60s. Northwest winds 10 to 15 mph. Thursday night: Mostly clear. Lows in the mid 20s to the lower 30s. Friday: Mostly sunny. Highs in the mid 50s to the lower 60s. Friday night: Partly cloudy. Lows in the lower to mid 30s.


Jerome Campbell

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