Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas
Tuesday, April 27, 2004
Salt Draw bridges to be repaired by July 4th
By JON FULBRIGHT
Interstate 20 between Pecos and Toyah will be completely reopened by the July 4 holiday weekend, after work began on Monday to replace the first of two highway bridges damaged by floodwaters earlier this month.
The Texas Department of Transportation signed a $3.65 million contract last week with Fort Worth-based Gilbert Texas, Inc. to replace sections of the two bridged damaged on April 4 by flooding in Salt Draw, five miles east of Toyah.
An 86-foot long section of the eastbound bridge collapsed following a rainstorm April 4 that also caused flooding to over two dozen homes in Toyah. The collapse of the bridge forced traffic to be detoured along State Highway 17 to Interstate 10 for 11 days, until temporary repairs could be made to the surviving westbound bridge.
The reconstruction project is only scheduled to take 66 days, and is scheduled for completion by June 30. “They’re going to do the eastbound bridge in May and then do the westbound bridge in June,” said Glen Larum, TxDOT Public Information Officer for the Odessa District.
Demolition work to clear the channel of bridge debris got underway Monday following a pre-construction meeting between Gilbert Texas officials and TxDOT engineers.
Mohammad Moabed, the TxDOT engineer in charge of the repair project, said that the contractor plans to work seven days a week to rebuild two bridges, which were originally designed in 1966 and built in 1968, replacing the old U.S. 80 bridge. The two bridges were widened in 1983. “They’re going to work 7 to 7 every day,” Larum said. “Gilbert Texas said if necessary they would put two shifts in.”
Engineers were on-site Monday at the bottom of Salt Draw studying the bridge structure and the debris left by the collapse. Larum said after the debris is removed from beneath the eastbound lanes, shafts for the new bridge support structure will be drilled on Thursday.
Gilbert Texas is the third company to work on the I-20 bridge since the April 4 collapse. Knight Construction of Big Spring was at the site first, to check on any damage done by the flood to the surviving westbound bridge, and an initial $1.2 million emergency contract twith Jones Brothers Construction of Odessa shored up the existing westbound bridge, which survived the flood waters and is currently carrying two-way traffic.
Carlsbad wary of drilling plan at subdivision
CARLSBAD, N.M. (AP) - Residents of a subdivision north of Carlsbad are concerned over proposed oil drilling near the only access road to their homes.
Tyler, Texas-based Mewbourne Oil Co. has applied for a drilling permit for a Bureau of Land Management site on the east side of the neighborhood.
Leslie Thiess, BLM's Carlsbad field office manager, said the permit had not been issued as of Monday.
"We are not protesting the drilling," resident Robert Kelly said at a neighborhood meeting Sunday. "We understand the need for that. A lot of people out here, or their family members make their living in the oil and gas industry. It's a safety issue for us."
Most residents were concerned that the proposed drilling site is located at the entrance of the single access road into the Roberts subdivision.
"If something were to happen at the drilling site, there would be no way for us to get out," he said.
Sandra Collins said her home is within 700 feet of the proposed site.
"We don't want them to drill a well, but we recognize the fact that it is going to happen and that we will have to put up with the noise," Collins said.
Mewbourne Oil Co. officials could not be reached for comment Monday.
County Commissioner Lucky Briggs, who met with residents Sunday, said he would ask Mewbourne officials to attend next week's Commission meeting.
County Manager Steve Massey said he joined Briggs and Joel Arnwine, county emergency preparedness coordinator and fire marshal, to tour the proposed site Monday.
"All we can do is maybe request that the BLM or the oil company build an access road so that people will have a safety access road during the time the well is being drilled," Massey said.
The city of Carlsbad changed its regulations for distance between drilling and homes from 300 feet to 500 feet. After a blowout at a drilling site inside the city limits in south Carlsbad last month that caused the evacuation of more than 1,000 residents, Mayor Bob Forrest placed a 90-day moratorium on drilling within the city limits.
However, the moratorium does not apply to drilling outside the city limits, such as on the BLM land.
Thiess said the BLM is still negotiating with the oil company and working to address the concerns of residents.
"One of the things that we are working on is whether they could drill in another location," Thiess added. "We would like to get them as far away from the subdivision as possible."
RCDC inmates put in lockdown for food protest
By BRENDEN BRIGGS
Inmates at Reeves County Detention Center’s Units I and II have been under a lockdown for the past two days, due to a dispute over meals served at the facility.
However, reports of a lockdown due to riots and gang fighting at Reeves County Detention Center III were not verified by prison officials.
A press release faxed to the Enterprise this morning at 11:30 a.m. from RCDC Warden Rudy Franco’s office confirms that prisoners in RCDC I and II have been on lockdown since breakfast on Monday, and at least three meals have been boycotted in protest of “several security procedures recently instituted.”
The press release did not specify what phase is on lockdown, it only said that the protest began as a “portion of the inmates,” and was followed by protests by “the entire inmate population.”
The press release was sent out today after three calls to Franco were not returned over the past two days. Officials also failed to provide information during a Monday visit to the prison, and two messages left with County Judge Jimmy Galindo also were not returned.
The Enterprise attempted to contract Franco and Galindo after receiving reports of problems at the 3,120-bed prison on Monday. An anonymous call about problems at the prison was also made to KWES Ch. 9 in Midland-Odessa, officials with the station said this morning.
The allegations circulating include hunger strikes in RCDC I and II over a reduction in the amount of food given to prisoners on a daily basis. Rations have apparently been reduced from a combination of soup and burritos to a choice between soup or burritos.
Inmates at RCDC I staged a riot 10 years ago over a change in the food menu that removed menudo from the inmates’ Sunday meal schedule.
In RCDC III, reports of riots and gang fights apparently forced the lock down of the entire facility yesterday. However, prisoners were seen in the recreation yard this morning at 10:30, but it is not know if the entire facility is off of the lockdown yet.
Inmates at RCDC I and II come from the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, and are housed under a contract with Reeves County. Inmates at RCDC III come from the State of Arizona, and the two groups are kept separate within the prison environment.
Federal Board of Prisons officials and Arizona Department of Corrections have not been available for comment to confirm either allegation.
P-B-T board hears superintendent profile report
By ROSIE FLORES
Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD Board members listened to a leadership profile put together by Texas Association of School Board consultants during a special meeting held Monday evening.
The profile was done as part of the district’s search for a new superintendent. The board hired TASB last month to help in their search during meeting last month, after accepting the resignation of current superintendent Don Love, effective at the end of the school year.
Don Killough, with TASB, told the group that there were three items that would be presented to them for review.
The first item was a summary of the comments they received on the assessment forms and in the leadership profile sessions on April 19-20.
“Our sessions for the most part were well attended and we believe we had some very beneficial discussion,” said Killough.
“The second item is a suggested profile that we compiled from the comments we received,” said Killough. “We listed those characteristics that were mentioned most often,” he said.
The third item is a draft of the brochure that TASB will use to advertise the search.
Approximately 45 individuals returned the form giving their written responses and approximately 98 participated in the focus sessions conducted by Killough and Ernesto Martinez.
The two met with administrators, faculty, community, students, support staff and other residents. The first objective for the profile building sessions was to make sure that everyone in the community had the opportunity to participate and that objective was accomplished through advertising, written letters and announcements.
The second objective was to receive responses from a cross section of the community.
“The responses from approximately 143 individuals should yield that cross section we believe both objectives were accomplished,” said Killough.
Killough went over the responses with the group and gave a summary report.
“Respondents almost universally were pleased with the financial positions of the District,” said Killough. “They overall had high ratings of the schools but want to be better,” he said.
Killough said that they were somewhat pleased with the district’s focus on academic achievement but want it stronger, the accomplishments of students in both academics and co-curricular activities, the community and parental support provided the schools and the overall quality of the students, teachers, administrators and support staff in the district. “They were pleased with the commitment being made to technology and the opportunities provided for students,” said Killough. “Respondents generally felt that in P-B-T ISD, students truly come first,” he said.
Two concerns appeared to be repeated continuously by the respondents. The first addressed the future financial position of the district. A declining student population without significant increases in the tax base has created a situation where the district is at the tax cap, has aging facilities, and has expectations of continuing existing programs with limited resources. These constraints have made it necessary to make budget cuts, increase class size, and restrict salary increases that have lowered staff morale.
Killough said that there is a concern that the P-B-T salary schedule needs to be competitive so the district can retain and attract quality staff.
“They realize that the district has a healthy fund balance, but is faced with other constraints making the use of the fund balance a concern,” said Killough. “The enrollment decline has created a situation where the district has and must continue to study the effective utilization of facilities and staff,” he said.
The second addressed the need to maintain the district’s accomplishments while raising the bar to encourage even higher levels of academic achievement, especially at the secondary level.
“Many would like to see greater parental involvement and support of their children’s education resulting in increased school attendance and greater academic successes,” said Killough.
He then outlined the concerns and the expectations of the community’s new superintendent.
“They want a superintendent that will come and stay and not use Pecos as a stepping-stone or as a place to retire,” said Killough. “They want a superintendent whose moral fiber is beyond reproach and who will be a role model.”
He said that they have already received numerous applications for the position, though he declined to provide a list of the applicants.
Applications close on May 21 and the TASB group will be bringing the top five back to the board.
The search for a new principal for Pecos High School also is continuing, with 14 applications from both local individuals and out-of-town contenders on file. Current PHS principal Danny Rodriguez announced in March he would retire at the end of the current school year.
RCH staff given smallpox vaccinations
By BRENDEN BRIGGS
The Texas Department of Health representatives were at Reeves County Hospital yesterday to vaccinate “first responders” against a possible bio-terrorism attack of the smallpox virus.
The program is part of the federal Department of Heath and Human Services plan to prepare small pox response teams for a possible attack of the deadly virus, according to a press release put out by the DHHS.
Five RCH workers were vaccinated on Monday. Included on that list are Public Relations Director Venetta Seals, Dr. Dele Olusanya, Biomed/IT/Safety assistant Valerie Lozcano, respiratory therapist Abraham Miranda and Rosemary Scroggins.
Smallpox is a virus that causes severe rashes, high fevers, fatigue, head and backaches, and possible blindness. The virus was effectively eradicated in the late 1970’s through vaccinations, but previous to that time, it had a mortality rate of 30 percent.
The vaccinations are currently being made from a similar, but less harmful virus, according to the press release. The vaccine will not be able to cause the actual smallpox disease, but will confer a high degree of immunity for most of the recipients that receive the vaccination before exposure. The vaccine is also effective in reducing the severity of the infection if given within the first couple of days after exposure.
This first round of vaccinations is aimed at the personnel that will be exposed to the virus in the event of an attack. These personnel include firefighters, police officers and hospital workers. A second round of vaccinations are planned for members of the media and other personnel that will be exposed in the case of an attack.
The last outbreak of smallpox in the US was reported in 1949, with the last naturally occurring worldwide case reported in 1979. Active vaccination of the American public was ceased in 1972.
Only two strains of the virus are currently known to exist in the world, in laboratories in the United States and Russia. But following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks fears were raised that terrorist might be able to gain access to the virus and use it in a bio-terror attack.
The vaccine is not needed for everyone in the case of an attack. Only those exposed need the vaccine, a decision of who was exposed will be made by public health officials at the time of attack.
The Center for Disease Control strongly recommends that people with reduced immune function do not receive the vaccination. Also, those with a history of heart problems should not receive the vaccine, and people that have chronic and acute skin disorders and problems should not get the vaccination, until the condition clears. Smokers are also recommended against getting the vaccine.
County able to find funds to make RCDC payments
By ROSIE FLORES
Lease payments for the Reeves County Detention Center were approved, along with a new warden for RCDC III and other several personnel and salary changes, during the regular Reeves County Commissioners Court meeting held Monday.
Commissioners approved the 1999 lease payment in the amount of $420,209; the 1999 RCDC maintenance reserve payment in the amount of $29,166 and the 2001 lease payment.
Reeves County Judge Jimmy B. Galindo spoke to Barry Friedman of Carlyle Capital Markets, who financed the facility, about the 2001 lease payment.
The payment is in the amount of $420,000, according to Owens.
“We have enough money to cover these two, but I need to speak to Barry about the 2001,” said Galindo.
After leaving the meeting Galindo said upon his return that funds for that payment will come from the contingency and construction funds “The funds for this will come out of the certificate payment fund,” said Galindo.
The county has had problems meeting lease payments since last year, due to problems securing inmates for the Reeves County Detention Center III addition, which was completed last March. The county has since signed a deal with the state of Arizona to house inmates at the $40 million facility, but commissioners are still dealing with a shortage in funds.
Several personnel changes were approved during the meeting, something the court has been going through for the past few weeks in connection with those budget problems. County employees who were being paid out of the General Fund have been moved to the RCDC III in an effort to reduce General Fund expenses.
At least one employee from each department has been transferred to the prison, including from the library staff and the county extension office.
Also in connection with the RCDC, there were 26 new hires listed under personnel and salary changes, with eight salary changes and one transfer.
Correctional officers are being hired for positions at the Reeves County Detention Center III, at a starting salary of $22,880.
The Warden for the new facility working for the GEO Group is Martin McDaniel at an annual salary of $90,000; Deputy Warden, David Cole, with an annual salary of $70,000; business manager is Kim Gonzales, at $50,000; employee development specialist, Vanessa Simmons, $40,000; risk management/sanitation coordinator, Charles Hannah, $30,000 and executive secretary Sylvia Garcia at $27,040.
Other employees at the new facility employed by GEO include: human resource specialist, Donna James at $45,000 a year; mail room supervisor, Rickey Nunez at $27,040 and laundry specialist Rudy DeAnda at $30,000; maintenance supervisor at Rey Pena at $38,000 and maintenance tech-general maintenance Ernest Garcia at $28,000 a year.
Chief of Security, Ernest A. Ballard, will be making $50,000 a year; shift supervisors, Frank Garcia, Charles R. Moore Jr., Brady Kolenousky, Victor Fierro, Rene Rayos, $38,083; assistant shift supervisors, Liandro Castaneda and Jose A. Baeza, $36, 083.
In other business, commissioners listened to a report from Lucy Parnell, with First Choice Power Company.
Parnell outlined several options available to the county and said that they wanted to keep the entity as their customer.
“You’ve stayed with us and we have had a long steady relationship,” said Parnell.
Parnell said that they are two companies and that they took the name First Choice. “All we get is the energy,” said Parnell. “All we are is a billing agent for them,” she said.
Under reports from various departments, Owens told the group that the Department of Public Safety would be discontinuing their database and will have a contract with a private vendor.
Justice of the Peace Judge Amonario Ramon said that the data would be entered when the individual applies for a driver’s license. “The data base is being discontinued, so all the warrants are being removed,” said Ramon. “They’ll only come up when they re-apply for their driver’s licenses,” he said.
“They’ll let them know that they can’t get a driver’s license until they pay that ticket,” he said.
Reeves County Commissioner Precinct 3 Herman Tarin said that he had received a letter from the extension office. “I just received it Friday, so it was too late to put it on the agenda,” he said. “Maybe we can put them on the agenda next time,” he said.
Under budget items and line-item transfers, Owens said that judge Ramon’s part-time employee had been eliminated during the recent budget cuts. “He has asked to move his travel money to pay her until the end of the school year,” said Owens. “He has completed all his training and just came back from a school and has some funds left,” he said.
Owens said that Ramon’s part-time employee needs the job to complete her course at school. “She needs it to get credit for her class,” he said.
In emergency spending in the General Fund, the county court-at-law computer crashed over the past week, according to Owens.
“He (court-at-law judge Walter Holcomb) does not have any money in his budget and Commissioner Hill (Norman Hill, Precinct 2) has asked that $1,500 from his travel expenses be moved to that line item to purchase a new computer,” said Owens.
School to talk with turf firms to lower costs
By ROSIE FLORES
Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD board members agreed to spend only a certain amount of money on installation of artificial turf and track renovations for Eagle Stadium, during a special meeting held last evening by the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD Board members.
The group meet to discuss the cost of the project, after rescinding their initial awarding of a contract earlier this month.
The board awarded ProGreen the turf contract for $499,950 in March, with an additional $40,000 for the track project. But the company could not be bonded, and the contract was then terminated and new bids were solicited.
The original bid came in about $10,000 over what the district had budgeted for, and on Monday architect Monte Hunter and Jeff Bresee were on hand to talk to the board members about the new proposals they had received.
“This time around, we received five proposals,” said Hunter.
The proposals included a base proposals or four different alternates.
“Alternate one is to do the turf and the “D” areas and also resurface the field events,” said Hunter.
The first three alternates included resurfacing the track area and alternate four was to put a granular base on the turf. “This is a traditional base to help it drain,” said Hunter.
“I think that the message that you won’t spend as much got out there,” he said.
Hunter said that what they had done was rank the companies and told board members which two companies ranked the best.
Field Turf/RS Global and March/Sportsfield were the top two companies.
“Field Turf has the oldest (high school) field in Texas, in Amarillo,” said Bresee. “They have fields that have reached the eight years, which is the warranty base,” he said.
Hunter told the group that there is a $25,000 contingency built into the bids. “The real proposal is really $25,000 less,” he said.
The first step board members made was to receive briefing and recommendation from staff concerning the ranking and ranking process for competitive sealed proposals for the football field synthetic turf and track renovations.
“Before we start talking about how much it will cost, you need to approve the ranking first,” said P-B-T ISD Superintendent Don Love.
He made the recommendation that the board that they approved the ranking and then direct the staff to negotiate within the budgeted amount.
“The board can say don’t exceed $530,000, with $490,000 designated for the turf,” said Love. “If we can get it to that, or maybe you might just want to do the turf and do the track another time,” he said.
Love said that if the board agreed, the staff would then negotiate with the top company, if that company does not want to negotiate, they would go to the next one.
“Maybe, there are some areas that we can cut back on, such as using latex instead of polyurethane,” he said.
Board member Amy Miller said that after listening to several other concerns during the past few weeks, such teachers shortage, schedules, the need for more books and other items, was the board still comfortable with wanting to install the turf.
“I just want to know is everyone who voted for this, still comfortable with this, do they still want to go forward?” she asked.
“The question is not appropriate on this heading,” said board president Billie Sadler. “I do believe that everyone who voted for this was conscious of their vote,” she said.
“It’s been a long time since then, I just wanted to know if it was still alright to go ahead with this project,” said Miller.
Sadler said that the item had already been approved and finance director Cookie Canon said that the item had been budgeted.
Trauma awareness event set for May 4 at Midland College
Trauma Awareness Day is Tuesday, May 4, and the Texas ‘J’ Regional Advisory Council is sponsoring an event at the Chaparral Center of Midland College.
The event will run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and will educate participants on injury prevention. It is open to the public and admission is free. Attending and presenting at the event will be a number of medical and public safety officials from around the area.
The event is also to host a United Blood Services blood drive, a Project Rescue Me ID tag program and a Fire Safety trailer exibit, in addition to multiple interactive presentations that will allow the public to actively learn about traumatic injury prevention.
High Monday 80. Low this morning 51. Forecast for tonight: Mostly cloudy with isolated showers and thunderstorms. Lows near 50. Southeast winds near 10 mph. Wednesday: Mostly cloudy early with a 20 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly cloudy in the afternoon. Highs near 80. Southwest winds near 10 mph. Wednesday night: Partly cloudy. Lows in the mid 50s. South winds near 10 mph. Thursday: Partly cloudy. Windy. Highs near 90. Southwest winds 20 to 30 mph. Thursday night: Partly cloudy. Lows in the mid 50s. Friday: Partly cloudy. Highs near 80. Friday night: Partly cloudy. Lows near 50.
York M. "Smokey" Briggs, Publisher
Division of Buckner News Alliance, Inc.
324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 432-445-5475, FAX 432-445-4321
Associated Press text, photo, graphic, audio and/or video material shall not be published, broadcast, rewritten for broadcast or publication or redistributed directly or indirectly in any medium.
Copyright 2003 by Pecos Enterprise