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A statement in Thursday's Enterprise that chief deputy Fred
Lujan said the county judge is considering a cut of four deputies in the
1996 budget was in error, Lujan said.
"I said, `The grant is refreshing news amidst rumors that the sheriff
will be cut four deputies,'" Lujan said today.
He referred to a federal grant of $53,000 approved under the COPS FAST
program in the 1995 crime bill. Sheriff Arnulfo Gomez applied for the
grant and was notified recently that it has been approved.
Owens said today that, even if the county does receive the grant, it
cannot be used to replace a deputy cut from the sheriff's payroll in the
"The federal funds are intended to hire additional personnel, not to
replace personnel," Owens said.
Galindo would neither confirm not deny that he will propose a cut for
the sheriff's budget.
"I think everything is on the table and there are no sacred cows," he
The grant would pay only 75 percent of a deputy's salary and benefits
over a three-year period, he said. The county would have to fund the
remaining 25 percent.
"I need new mattresses," Martinez said. But otherwise, Paul Scarbrough,
inspector for the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, said the jail is
"the best it has ever been."
Martinez said he needs at least 50-60 new fire-retardant mattresses, but
would like to replace all of them in the 84-bed jail.
A single mattress costs about $30, but should be less purchased in
quantity, he said.
"I am very pleased with the report," Martinez said. "It is the second
since I became administrator about a year ago. The first time, they had
to come back three times before we passed inspection. This time I was
He said he has made several changes in security and paperwork that the
inspector cited in the previous investigation.
Hilda Woods, administrative deputy, said the staff is very proud of
"He works very hard," she said.
Martinez said the entire staff works hard.
Sheriff Arnulfo Gomez also worked hard to obtain a $53,000 grant under
the federal COPS FAST program, said Chief Deputy Fred Lujan.
"The staff would like to congratulate him on his diligence in obtaining
the grant from the U.S. Department of Justice," he said.
Gomez submitted the application in November for funds to be distributed
to local communities under the crime bill enacted last year by Congress.
"This would allow a sorely-needed new deputy," Lujan said.
"The reason we applied was because we knew we would have deputies taken
away," Woods said.
Lujan said the county judge is considering a cut of four deputies in the
"It would definitely cut services to the community and increase the
overtime of deputies that are left," Lujan said.
"We have one deputy in Balmorhea who has over 170 hours of comp time
built up and he can't take it off because of scheduling problems," he
The grant will pay a deputy's salary for three years, Lujan said.
"They called us last week and told us we got the money," he said. "They
gave us an 800 number to call and they would send us a booklet on how to
proceed to get the funds."
Republicans in Congress are attempting to change the crime bill and cut
out those funds, he said.
Dianne O. Florez, county clerk, and Joel Madrid, justice of the peace,
Precinct 3, were the only officials sworn in who had not held office
County Judge Jimmy Galindo and Precinct 4 Commissioner Bernardo Martinez
took the oath on Monday, but were present for this morning's ceremony.
Catherine Ashley, who retired December 31 after 21 years as county
clerk, administered the oath to her successor, Dianne O. Florez.
Florez swore in her deputies, Yvonne Abila, Virginia Palomino and Kim
After taking the oath herself, district clerk Juana Jaquez administered
the oath for her deputies, Connie Lozano and Pat Tarin.
Others taking the oath from Judge Parks were treasurer Linda Clark,
surveyor Frank Spencer, commissioner Dr. W.J. Bang, justices of the
peace J.T. Marsh, Amonario Ramon and Lamberto Herrera; and treasurer
deputies Lilia Cazares and Sonja Michols.
"This oath reminds us of the solemn obligation we as public officials
have," Judge Parks said. "We have high hopes for everyone's success in
office and ability to serve the people of Reeves County."
"The audit report has been referred to the Texas Rangers to finish the
investigation started by auditor Dan Painter," Stickels said.
Painter reported to Loving County Commissioners that his audit of 1993
and 1994 records showed tht $30,214.35 was misappropriated during the
He performed the audit at the direction of District Judge Bob Parks
after the auditor, Clay Patrick, resigned and her replacement reported
Loving County Judge Don Creager said that an outside audit is performed
every two years, and it was time for the regular audit, anyway.
Most of the missing funds have been repaid, he said, and he expects the
remainder to be paid as well.
Patrick and treasurer Jamie Jones allegedly wrote advance salary checks
to themselves. Both officers signed the checks, Painter said.
Patrick resigned in March and Jones resigned after the audit report.
Commissioners have accepted applications for a treasurer to serve until
the next General Election. They plan to consider appointment in their
regular meeting at 2 p.m. Monday.
Richard Boren, a consultant in international development and a member of
the International Environmental Alliance of the Bravo, met with Pecos
residents Monday to share information on the Sierra Blanca dump, the
WIPP site near Carlsbad, N.M. and a rpoposed site to hold spent nuclear
reactor fuel rods near Ruidoso, N.M.
"If opened, these dumps would contain one of the largest concentrations
of radioactive waste in the United States," Boren said.
He said the Sierra Blanca nuclear dump site is on top of an earthquake
fault in the most seismically active part of the state.
Public hearings on the dump will probably be held in early 1996, after
which the Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission will decide
whether to grant a license.
The dump may receive radioactive waste from Maine and Vermont and
possibly other states.
"West Texas highways would become heavily used by trucks hauling
radioactive waste to the dump, putting many more people at risk," Boren
Reeves County, with two interstate highways, is on the route toward
Sierra Blanca, and possibly the WIPP site in Carlsbad, he said.
Sludge dumping near Sierra Blanca and the prospects of sludge
application for fertilizer on Reeves County farms are also among Boren's
Sierra Blanca is the site of one of the largest land application sludge
projects in the country. Three train loads of New York City sewage
sludge arrive in Sierra Blanca each week.
The project is promoted as a safe "beneficial use" by Merco Joint
Venture, who runs the 90,000 acre project, and by the TNRCC.
"Many experts say the sludge is too contaminated with toxic substances
to be safely used for rangeland or for growing crops," Boren said.
He said that anyone wishing to join the West Texas Toxics Watch should
telephone 915-757-8005 or write P.O. Box 3367, El Paso, 79923.
Jamie Weatherman, who lives about 3/4 mile west of Pecos on old U.S.
Highway 80, said sheriff's deputies warned them to get out and take
their horses with them.
Her husband, Guy Wayne, moved three horses from the Steve Taylor
residence to pens on the Duval Highway, then trailered their two mounts
to Pecos, Weatherman said.
"I was working at the federal courthouse when the fire started," she
said. "He brought the trailer up here and parked it. I went home at 8
p.m. I could still smell that battery smell."
She said about five families live in that rural area between Highway 80
and I-20 that was evacuated.
Asked if the danger of contamination bothers her, Weatherman said, "If I
was too concerned, I could move. They were there before I was."
Joe Basham, vice president of environmental affairs for R&R, said this
morning they are waiting for the fire marshall to complete his
investigation before they begin cleanup.
Jack Brookshire, fire marshal for Reeves County and the city of Pecos,
was at the site Thursday and today and was not available for comment on
the cause of the fire in the lithium processing plant.
Alice Cone, regional air program manager for the Texas Natural Resources
Conservation Commission, said she was downwind from the fire Wednesday
night, and the smoke was blowing toward open pasture where no residences
A study done following the October, 1993 fire believed to have contained
the same substances showed little impact beyond a quarter-mile radius of
the plant, Cone said.
"In one-fourth of a mile, if you draw a circle around the plant, it is
either their property or unoccupied," she said.
Even a grass fire will create smoke that irritates the lungs and settles
on the skin, she said.
"If it is bugging you, get out of the smoke plume," he said.
But residents who fear skin contamination during such a fire may be
better off to stay inside and turn off the air conditioner rather than
evacuate, she said.
Mike Hagen, TNRCC waste program manager, said R&R has a permit to store
and process industrial and hazardous waste, but it must be stored
The lithium batteries in the building that burned were reported to be
used domestic batteries, which do not require a permit for processing,
However, if they are from an industrial source, the lithium batteries
should have been stored in a nearby building with a concrete base, Hagen
"We will send an investgator out to look at waste management practices
soon; probably within the next week," he said. "But that is not related
to the fire."
He said that TNRCC assessed fines after the 1993 fire for improper
management of hazardous waste, "because they were not stored where they
were supposed to be stored," he said.
Basham said that an investigator hired by R&R to work with the fire
marshal concluded that "the highest probability was due to intentional
"We found some evidence that's being analyzed in a laboratory in the
Dallas-Fort Worth area and haven't gotten the results back," Basham said
However, he said they do know the material was hydrocarbon, and it could
not have come from the batteries.
"And we don't use any in the system," Basham said. "The only spot where
it was found was where the investigator said the fire started; the only
place he found evidence."
It will be up to Fire Marshal Jack Brookshire and the state fire
commission to decide whether to investigate the fire as a crime, Basham
"We were at a meeting this morning to review the emergency response with
city officials. Brookshire is apparently out of town."
Basham said they will await analytical results of the samples submitted
to the lab to turn over to the fire marshal and assist him in any way
"to figure out who did it."
R&R is cleaning up the burned building, removing steel from the roof
parts and salvaging what's left of the batteries for recycling.
Basham said they use heat in the recycling process anyway, "but not like
The fire was discovered shortly before 5 p.m., and Brookshire said it
probably had been burning for 30 minutes to an hour. No one was in the
building, which had been closed at the end of the shift at 3:30 p.m.
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Copyright 1996 Pecos Enterprise
324 S. Cedar, Box 2057, Pecos TX 79772
Phone 915-445-5475, FAX 915-445-4321