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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Vote recount confirms win by Natividad

Staff Writer

The numbers were the same following a recount of the March 9 Democratic Primary elections, and that meant .Reeves County Commissioner Precinct 1 Felipe Arredondo remained one vote short of qualifying for the April 13 runoff election.

Arredondo, who was seeking his third consecutive term as Precinct 1 commissioner, filed the request for a recount, after he was the third contender in a five-man race for his position, finishing one vote behind challenger Robert C. Natividad.

The recount, which was held Wednesday afternoon, in the second floor courtroom at the Reeves County Courthouse, confirmed that first place finisher Rojelio “Roy” Alvarado will be facing Natividad in the run-off election scheduled for April 13.

Reeves County Democratic Party Chairman Bob Dean said that everything matched in the recount and that there had been no changes.

Results from the March 9 elections had Alvarado with 337 votes, followed by Natividad with 209 ballots. Arredondo received 208 votes. The one-vote win qualified Natividad to face Alvarado next month.

Five candidates were entered in the Precinct 1 primary election, with Chel Flores getting 116 and Armando Granado 97 votes to round out the field.

Natividad said that he is very happy with the outcome. “I hope everyone comes out and votes during the runoff,” he said. “I just want to thank everyone that voted for me and for their confidence in me.”

Natividad said that it was a good, clean race and urged everyone to come out and vote again. “And may the best man win.”

Candidates and one representative were allowed to be inside while the re-count took place. Alvarado was on hand along with Jaime Arredondo who was representing his father, Felipe, who was out of town. Robert Natividad was present and as was his wife, Bertha, who is treasurer of his campaign.

Reeves is one of the few remaining counties in Texas to use the punch card ballot system, which was called into question during the 2000 Florida presidential election recount. The county will be forced under law to replace their punch card machines before 2006.

Dean said that the election clerks do an excellent job and that the numbers turned out the same. “We’ll canvass the election this evening at 6 p.m. and draw for the order on the ballot for the runoff,” said Dean.

Arredondo, who was unavailable for comment, had won election as commissioner first in 1984, defeating incumbent Marcos Martinez, Jr. Four years later, he lost to Martinez in his bid for re-election, but in 1996 defeated incumbent Lupe Garcia, while running as a write-in candidate during the November general election. He won re-election to a new four-year term in 2000.

The runoff between Alvarado and Natividad will be one of two on the April 13 ballot in Reeves County. Nine candidates ran in the March 9 primary for Reeves County Precinct 3 Commissioner, with Bailey Wheeless finishing first and Joel Madrid placing second to qualify for next month’s runoff race.

K-9 attack suit by UPS driver heard by Junell

Staff Writer

A female United Parcel Service driver’s $1.85 million lawsuit against the federal government over an attack by a U.S. Border Patrol agent’s drug detection dog went to trial this morning before U.S. District County Judge Robert Junell in Pecos.

Junell heard the civil case involving United Parcel Service truck driver, Florence Cox, and the United States of America, beginning with testimony from Cox this morning at the Lucius D. Bunton Federal Courthouse.

Neither the plaintiff nor the defendant dispute the fact that during a voluntary search of the UPS truck, Cox was bitten on her right breast, and Cox testified it has been customary for parcel service drivers to voluntarily submit to searches at Border Patrol checkpoints. The checks were to assure that the packages they are carrying do not contain contraband.

However, she said that during one such search of her work vehicle, on October 25, 1999, she was bitten because the Border Patrol agent handling the K-9 lost control of the animal.

Cox’s claim that the negligence shown by the officer resulted in a loss of her ability to accomplish her job, due to pain associated with metal clips used to attach the crushed breast tissue back together and her current phobia involving a fear of being attacked by large dogs.

According to Cox’s defense attorney Mike Barclay of Alpine, the issue of the case is whether or not the search of the UPS truck was conducted with probable cause or not. “Provisions exist, where when the government stops a vehicle with probable cause, and some kind of damages occur, the government has immunity. However no such probable cause existed here,” Barclay said.

Points of contention between the government’s assertions and the plaintiff’s complaint included the method that the handling officer used to control the dog, before and once the attack commenced.

The government also contested Cox’s claims of being unable too return work in the same capacity as she left, along with contesting the benefits due to Cox as a UPS employee, and whether or not Cox had attempted to return to work, at UPS or otherwise.

The plaintiff’s team contended that the handler of the K-9 unit had lost control of the dog as the search was nearing an end and that allowed the dog to attack Cox.

They also asserted that the handler had to choke the dog with his arm, cutting off the dogs air supply to get the animal to release. Defense lawyers stated that the handler only had to pull back on the dog’s choke chain to get the animal to release.

According to documents submitted to the court, Cox is requesting $1.85 million in total damages, $10,000 for medical expenses, $1.3 million for loss of earnings and benefits over the 13 years that will follow the incident, and $450,000 in the form of personal damages.

Among the documents produced by the defense team included one from 2001 stating that a Dr. Fredrickson ascertained that Cox’s disability was 10 percent and that she could return to work.

Cox’s team stated that she could not return to work as a driver due to the pain associated with the permanent metal clips affixed inside her breast and due to the phobia of large dogs, that she would have to come into contact with on a daily basis, as a delivery driver.

The case is scheduled to resume at 1:15 p.m. today.

Breast exam mobile clinic discontinued

Mobile Mammography services will no longer be available to rural hospitals in this area, Reeves County Hospital officials have announced.

The Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center Mobile Mammography Clinic (MMC) has provided mammography services in rural West Texas since 1995-1996. However, MMC announced earlier this month it would be discontinuing the services due to the unavailability of a mobile mammography technologist and the costs of updating equipment.

“I’ve talked to other area hospitals, San Angelo and El Paso, and they no longer have mobile mammography services either,” said Venetta Seals, Director of Public Relations and Marketing, for Reeves County Hospital. “This is a service we certainly are saddened to lose, but at this time we are unable to locate another source,” she said.

One of the purposes of the MMC was to provide breast screening technology to the underserved areas in the isolated communities in West Texas, such as Pecos, Monahans, Fort Stockton, Iraan, Alpine, Presidio, Van Horn, Junction and various other communities.

Over this period of time, the Mobile Mammography Clinic program provided other 20,000 mammograms to patients in West Texas as well as other areas.

Rebates for area cities up after declines to start 2004

Staff Writer

Sales tax collections for the Town of Pecos City were up in January following declines in the two months leading up to the Christmas holiday season, according to figures released by Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn’s office.

The city’s sales tax rebate check for March, which is based on sales made during January, was up 9.69 percent, to $57,293 from $52,230 a year ago. The totals were based on sales made within the city limits during the month of January. However, coming off declines in rebate checks Pecos received the previous two months, it left the city’s overall rebate total for the first quarter of 2004 down 4.86 percent, at $183,620.

The city’s rebate is based on its 1 1/2-cent share of the state’s 8 1/4-cent sales tax. Out of the city’s total, one-sixth, or $9,548, goes to the Pecos Economic Development Corp., for operating expenses.

Balmorhea and Toyah also reported increases in their March tax rebate checks, following earlier declines. Balmorhea’s $678 check for the month was up from $638 in March of 2003 and represented a 6.21 percent increase, though for the year the city’s rebates are still 12.85 percent behind last year’s total, at $2,241.

Toyah’s $676 check represented a jump of 422.72 percent over last year, when it received just $129 back from Austin, and the big increase put the city’s first quarter rebates 78.69 percent ahead of 2003, at $1,380.

Overall, most Permian Basin and Trans-Pecos cities reported increases in their March sales tax rebates. Midland’s check for $1.5 million was the largest in the area and 15.56 percent above last year’s total, while Odessa received a rebate check for $1.04 million, which was 2.87 percent high that last March.

Andrews’ check for $69,921 was up 13.7 percent; Alpine’s check for $60,457 was up 4.45 percent; Crane’s $23,663 check was up 9 percent; Van Horn got back $27,564, a 5.03 percent increase; Big Spring received $278,803, a 6.22 percent increase; Monahans got back $59,447, a 10.89 percent increase; Kermit received $23,668 in rebates, a 7.03 percent increase, and Wink got back $5,341, up 24.94 percent from a year ago.

Fort Stockton was the only city to report a major drop in its tax rebate check. The city’s March rebate was $92,808, which was 20.8 percent behind last year’s total. Fort Stockton, Monahans and Big Spring collect 2 percent sales taxes, while the other area cities collect the same 1 1/2-cent sales tax as Pecos, with the exception of Andrews, which remains at 1 percent.

The Reeves County Hospital District collects the other 1/2-cent sales tax in the county. Its check from Strayhorn’s office in March was $24,232, which was 1.99 percent down from last year. For the first three months of 2004, the hospital has received $83,199 in tax rebates, which is 3.58 percent behind 2003’s total.

Statewide, Pecos’ March tax rebate increase was about average. The comptroller’s office said $206.2 million in rebates were sent out to cities and counties, which was 9.29 percent higher than a year ago. Houston had the single largest rebate of just over $26 million, which was 7.48 percent higher than last year, while Dallas had the second biggest check, for $13.8 million, which was up 3.78 percent.

Diaper deposit dumps woman in jail

Cocaine reportedly found in a purse and marijuana hidden in a baby’s diaper led to the arrest of one person Tuesday evening, after a narcotics search warrant was executed by the Pecos Police Department and the 143rd District Attorney’s Office. The warrant was executed at 521 S. Elm St., which police said was the home of Tiffany Garcia.

“Once the SWAT team had secured the occupants of the residence, officers proceeded to search the premises,” said Pecos Police Investigator Paul Deishler.

“Officers found during the search a substance believed to be marijuana,” said Deishler. “The suspected marijuana was hidden inside Ms. Garcia’s baby’s diaper,” he said. The suspected marijuana was removed from the baby’s diaper and released to the evidence officer, according to Deishler.

Deishler added that during the search, officers found a substance believed to be cocaine inside the purse of Garcia.

Officers also found on the property, chemicals used with the manufacturing of methamphetamines.

Officers completed their search of the premises and Garcia was placed under arrest for the following offenses: possession of a controlled substance (cocaine), possession of a controlled substance (marijuana) and possession of drug paraphernalia.

“She was transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center, where she is awaiting arraignment,” said Deishler. “Her child was released to the grandmother.”

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