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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Monday, March 15, 2004

Pct. 1 recount now scheduled for Wednesday

Staff Writer

A re-count of the Reeves County Precinct 1 commissioners’ election has been scheduled for Wednesday, following last week’s results that left only a one-vote difference between second and third place in the five-candidate race.

Incumbent Precinct 1 Commissioner Felipe Arredondo requested a recount following the elections, after he fell one vote short of being in the April 13 runoff. Arredondo received 208 votes, while the second-place finisher, Robert C. Natividad had 209 votes. Roy Alvarado was the winner in that election with 337 votes, but since he did not receive 50 percent of the votes, a runoff election will be held to determine the candidate in the November general election.

The recount has been scheduled for 2 p.m., Wednesday at the Reeves County Courthouse.

“I have already advised all the candidates of the recount,” said Reeves County Democratic Primary chairman Robert C. Dean. “I’m lining up my crew to get ready for the recount.”

Dean said that each candidate has the right to have one observer present during the recount. “They can have themselves and one other individual there,” he said.

The canvassing of ballots from Tuesday’s Reeves County Democratic Primary election now is scheduled for 6 p.m., Thursday at the Reeves County Courthouse.

Arredondo said on Wednesday that he would ask for a recount of the Precinct 1 votes. “I think I deserve a re-court and the people who are backing me asking for one,” he said. “I owe it to them to ask for one and you never know, it was just one vote and things could go the other way,”

The Precinct 1 runoff will be one of two held in Reeves County on April 13. The other will be in Precinct 3, where nine candidates were seeking to replace retiring Commissioner Herman Tarin. Bailey Wheeless was the top vote getter with 202 and will be facing Saul Herrera who received 174 votes. Herrera’s total was 31 votes ahead of the third place finisher, Joel Madrid, who received 143 votes.

Wednesday recount will be done using the punch card ballot system, which came under heavy criticism four years ago during the presidential election recount. As a result of problems reported with the punch card system and the error rate for punch card ballots, Congress mandated that those types of ballots be eliminated in all U.S. counties by 2006. Reeves was one of 13 counties in Texas using the punch card voting system in the 2000 election. Since then several counties, including Harris County, the state’s most populous county, have changed over to different voting systems. Dean said the county would be switching to a different voting system by the 2006 primary elections.

Flores joins other incumbents in seeking to keep RCH berths

Staff Writer

Filing ends today at 5 p.m. for candidates in all area city and school elections, along with those of the Reeves County Hospital District, which saw its third incumbent up for re-election file for a new two-year term late last week, after losing a battle for the Reeves County Commissioner Precinct 1 race.

Chel Flores has filed to retain his seat on the board, after running for commissioner in a five-man race. He has held that seat for a decade. Flores ran in last week’s commissioner’s election, but finished fourth in the balloting.

The other two incumbents who previously filed are Bill Wendt, who is seeking a second two-year term as Precinct 3 representative on the board, and at-large member Leo Hung, who filed for a third two-year term.

The Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD Board has five persons seeking three available seats going into the final day of filing. Former board member David Flores, who lost in his bid for re-election last May, was the second challenger to file, joining former Pecos High School baseball coach and P-B-T athletic director Bubba Williams.

The others to file so far are the three current incumbents, Crissy Martinez, Lila Cerna, and Saul “Chip” Florez. All filed in mid-February to retain their seats on the board. In the Town of Pecos City election, Mayor Dot Stafford has filed for re-election along with city council incumbents Angelica Valenzuela and Michael Benavides. None of the three have challengers as of yet in the May 15 election.

Benavides and Valenzuela currently are completing their first two-year terms on the council, while Stafford was returned to the mayoral position in 2002, after being defeated for re-election in 2000.

In the Barstow City elections the three incumbents have filed to retain their position. The three places to be filled are one full term for mayor, one for council and one unexpired term. Angel Abila filed for the positions of mayor, Robert Ortega for the full two-year term and Abram Flores for the one year unexpired term.

In the Balmorhea City elections three individuals are up for re-election, including the mayor’s position. The positions are for two-year terms and those currently serving are mayor Ruben Fuentes and council members Eddie Roman and Rosendo Galindo.

Galindo, like Flores, was unsuccessful last week in the Democratic primary election, running for Reeves County Commissioner in Precinct 3.

Balmorhea School Board members up for re-election are Armando Mondragon and Paul Ward. As of early this afternoon nobody has filed for a position on the board, which is a three-year term.

Hospital addition gets OK from TDH inspectors

Staff Writer

Reeves County Hospital administrator Robert Vernor said today that inclement weather has delayed the finishing touches to the new addition to the hospital, but a grand opening should follow as soon as the last few items have been completed.

“We are just trying to update the public on where we stand at this moment,” Vernor said this morning. “The Texas Department of Health completed its 100 percent walkthrough last week, and had nothing but some minor changes.”

According to Vernor, the walkthrough was completed last Wednesday, and the items the TDH inspectors found were so minor that a second walkthrough would not be necessary.

“TDH will send back a report with the items they want changed and we will send them a report with the projected completion dates,” Vernor said. “Once they receive our response, they will issue a certificate of occupancy for the new wing.”

Vernor added that the hospital was hoping for the certificate to be issued around the end of this month.

The new facility will include an expanded emergency room and the hospital’s new kidney dialysis center. Work on the $8 million expansion project began on March 11 of last year, and the original Grand Opening date was set for March 11. However, a delay in the TDH inspection until March 10 forced hospital officials to at first reschedule the opening for March 25. Vernor said this morning that date for the opening also has been called off, due to the recent heavy rains that set back the work outside the addition.

“We are hoping to reschedule the grand opening sometime after the first of April. Other than the minor TDH changes, the only phase of the construction left is the paving of the parking lot,” Vernor said. “Crews had the dirt work finished on Wednesday of last week, but the rains set in and the work wasn’t able to be completed. We are hoping to have the pavement down as soon as the weather improves.”

“The two architects working on the project, Dave Kippen and Rob Meese, were here for the final inspection and have completed their final punch lists,” Vernor said. “We have been very pleased with the work that the architectural firm has done on this project. They were on top of every issue that came up, and have done a great job for us on this project.”

Carlsbad families back home after blowout

CARLSBAD (AP) - Some 1,200 residents who were forced to evacuate their neighborhood last week because of a natural gas drilling accident were back home Monday after authorities declared the area safe.

"We're excited to go home after four days," said Liz Baggs, Carlsbad's emergency preparedness manager. "Everybody is like a bat out hell trying to get home."

Police on Thursday ordered people out of 462 houses in a south Carlsbad subdivision, as well as nearby offices and a few motels, after a well blew out when an oil drilling crew hit a pocket of natural gas.

Although the evacuation ended Sunday, not all evacuees returned home. Baggs said some opted to use city-issued vouchers for another night in local hotels and motels, still a little fearful of returning home.

However, authorities emphasized that air quality tests were done to ensure the area was safe. They distributed health and safety information to residents on Sunday.

Texas-based Chi Energy Inc., which owns the drilling rig, planned to meet with residents Monday to talk about the mishap and the inconvenience that it caused. Baggs said the company's president and a claims adjuster were in Carlsbad on Monday. The company has pledged to pick up the tab for the vouchers issued to evacuees, which covered everything from motel rooms to personal care items and prescription medication.

The company has not returned calls from The Associated Press seeking comment. In a statement released during the weekend, Chi Energy said it recognized the inconvenience caused by the incident and was committed to the public's safety.

Meanwhile, crews continued to burn off the natural gas spewing from the well Monday. Chi Energy planned to drill in from a different direction to capture the remaining gas, Baggs said.

"They're going to be working on it for about 30 days," she said.

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