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Van Horn Advocate
September 3, 1997
DPS redirects money slated to add troopers
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AUSTIN (AP) September 3, 1997 - Not enough state troopers patrol Texas highways because the Department of Public Safety spent money earmarked for hiring new officers on other things, a state audit has revealed.
The audit issued Tuesday said the state's main law enforcement agency used the money to pay for salary increases, building repairs, improved computer and radio technology and other expenses.
Higher speed limits have combined with the state's rapidly growing population to make roadways more dangerous at a time when the state has a trooper shortage. In 1996, for example, there were about 450 more fatal car accidents than in 1995.
The report by State Auditor Lawrence Alwin says that by redirecting the money, the agency has given the impression that "the number of commissioned officers protecting the public was greater than the actual number of officers employed."
"In fiscal year 1997, the monies from approximately 140 of the 237 Traffic Law Enforcement commissioned officer vacancies were being used to fund other expenses than hiring additional troopers," the report said.
The $4.7 million allocated to fill trooper positions in 1996 was spent elsewhere, the auditor said. The agency has 563 vacant position and about half are trooper jobs.
The DPS now has about one trooper for every 215 miles of rural road. If the vacancies were filled, the state would have one trooper for every 125 miles of highway, DPS Director Col. Dudley Thomas said.
Despite the trooper shortfall, Thomas says Texas roads and highways are safe.
"The bottom line is that I feel as safe today for my wife, my daughter to be on the roads as I felt (two years ago)," Thomas said. "I don't feel like they are in any danger."
He said the DPS has been forced to shift money for troopers to cover costs of legislative mandates that state lawmakers didn't provide enough money for. He noted that half of a 3 percent salary increase lawmakers gave state employees in 1991 had to be paid for by agencies.
Paying for things the Legislature required but did not provide money for led to a $4.7 million shortfall in 1996, DPS officials said in the audit.
To cover that shortfall, the agency used money earmarked for traffic law enforcement positions, officials said.
"The expenditure of these funds occurred only for justifiable resources critical to the DPS mission," the agency said in a written response to the audit. "No waste of tax dollars occurred."
The state has 1,703 uniformed officers patrolling 250,000 state rural roads and highways or directly supervising those officers. There are about 250 trooper vacancies.
"Are there enough troopers out there? No. Will there ever be? I think so," Thomas said.
In addition to using its money to fill trooper positions, the auditors also found:
- the DPS does not report properly how it spends an $8.7 million forfeited-asset fund. For example, lawmakers did not know about DPS's $915,190 purchase of 1,013 acres in Florence, on which a $30 million training academy will be built.
- the DPS is not accountable to the public and the Legislature because it does not respond within the legally required 10 days to requests for public information.
New technology helps blind
student read Pecos Enterprise
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By CARA ALLIGOOD
PECOS, September 3, 1997 - Thanks to new technology, and some dedicated teachers, a blind sixth-grader at Lamar Middle School can now participate with the rest of her classmates and read the Pecos Enterprise when newspapers are distributed to area schools for classroom use as part of the Newspaper in Education (NIE) program.
A computer program called Mega Dots takes a computer disc supplied by the Pecos Enterprise, which has the day's stories stored on it, and translates those stories to braille for Jessica Thomasson to read. Once translated to braille, the stories are printed on an embosser, which prints them out in the raised dots of the braille language.
The computer used to make the braille translations also has a program called Dec Talk which utilizes a voice synthesizer to read the stories out loud to Jessica.
Both methods are used at different times, according to Jessica's VI (visually impaired) teacher, Janie Aguilar. Aguilar can read braille by sight, and works with Jessica on her math and science assignments.
"This is my second year with Jessica," said Aguilar.
According to Aguilar, Mega Dots translates letters and numbers, but not mathematical or musical symbols. Jessica is taking band this year, and learning to play the coronet.
Aguilar said that there are braille symbols for the symbols used in math equations and sheet music, but there is no software currently on the market which turns the print symbols into braille. The symbols are the same as certain letters, but with another symbol in front of the letter indicating that it is to be read as a symbol.
"This is a learning process for us, too," said Aguilar.
In addition to Aguilar, Jessica is being taught this year by her home room teacher, Marina Underwood, and by Rhonda Gallagher, who instructs Jessica in language arts and reading.
Gallagher uses many of the activities on the Mini Page, which the Enterprise publishes on the days that papers are distributed to the schools as part of the NIE program, and adapts as many of them as she can for Jessica.
"Jessica can recognize regular letters if they're raised," said Gallagher. To adapt some of the Mini Page activities for Jessica, Gallagher enlarges activities, such as puzzles and word searches, then traces over the bigger copies with "puffy paint," she said. This won't work with every illustration or activity, such as connect-the-dots or matching pictures to find the differences, but the method does increase the amount of activities that Jessica can participate in with the rest of her class.
"It takes more work, but she sure gets a lot more out of it," said Gallagher.
Underwood said that Jessica also has special markers, and whatever Jessica draws with them puffs up a little bit, so that she can feel the lines, said Underwood.
"She manages," Underwood said. "She's a neat kid."
All of Jessica's teachers agree that she is an excellent student.
Travelers find folks helpful, friendly in Pecos
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By ROSIE FLORES
PECOS, September 3, 1997 - A couple traveling on I-20 last Thursday almost lost their beloved pet.
"I was so upset, I just couldn't calm down," said Valkyrie Baker.
Baker and Chris Pippin were traveling west on I-20 about 7 p.m. Thursday when smoke started coming out of their truck due to a faulty transmission. They were traveling from Virginia to Tucson, Ariz.
"I could see all the smoke, but I couldn't stop in the middle of nowhere," said Pippin.
The couple were going to stop at a truck stop, but before they could make the stop, the dog, which was frightened at all the smoke coming out, jumped out in the middle of the freeway.
"I saw him jump out and just started screaming," said Baker. "He's my baby and I've had him for a long time," she said.
The mixed breed pet, named B.J., make his quick getaway injuring himself in the process.
"I just knew he was dead, so we stopped and I dialed 911," said Baker.
Baker stated that she had trouble communicating due to the fact that she was so upset.
"I babbled on and on and finally the 911 operator calmed me down, she called a trooper, who was there within minutes," said Baker.
The trooper then proceeded to lead them to local veterinarian Ronald Box's office.
"We followed him and he called the vet, who was also in his office within minutes," said Baker.
The couple stated that they never expected such hospitality, and were pleased to find out that everywhere they went they received the same treatment.
"Everyone was just so nice to us, and I want to thank everyone," she said.
Had it not been for the quick actions of Dr. Box, the beloved animal would not be here today, according to the couple.
"He was just great, he attended him superbly, gave him antibiotics and kept him overnight for observation," said Baker.
Box drove the couple around and showed them several spots where they could get the vehicle repaired.
The couple then took their vehicle to get fixed and received the same kindly, concerned service at Custom Muffler and Tire on Highway 285.
"I just can't believe how nice everyone was to us, it's a blessing that our truck happened to break down here," Baker said.
The ironic part of the whole situation is that in 1969, Baker's mom was traveling from Tallahasse to Tucson when their truck broke down here also.
"There's just no trips complete without a story to tell," said Pippin.
B.J. is doing fine, with some injuries to his face, but no broken bones.
The couple's other dog, Dixie, B.J.'s mother, did not jump out of the moving vehicle.
"She doesn't go anywhere and I'm glad for that," said Baker.
"We're just so grateful our misfortunate happened in Pecos where there are so many caring people," said Baker.
Former Reeves County warden abused inmate
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From staff and wire reports
PECOS, September 3, 1997 - A former warden of the Reeves County Law Enforcement Center is one of four Texas prison officials who abused inmates, according to reports.
The president of one of the nation's largest private prison developers was accused of encouraging guards to assault inmates when he ran a Texas prison, The Dallas Morning News reported in a copyright story last week.
State and federal records also show that four other Texas prison officials punished in the 1980s for abusing inmates are now wardens at state or private prisons, the newspaper reported.
David L. Myers, president of Corrections Corp. of America - which operates 44 prison units in the U.S. and 12 in Texas - was warden of the Eastham Unit in Lovelady, Texas, in October 1984 when he was accused by court officials of tacitly encouraging his men to assault inmates for taking a guard hostage.
Myers was exonerated, but the prison director at the time issued a "letter of instruction" saying Myers needed to maintain supervisory control of his officers. Myers was unavailable for comment Tuesday, the newspaper said.
Seven months after the letter was issued in February 1985, Myers moved to Florida to work for CCA. He became the company's president in 1994.
Two of the four current wardens whom federal reports said had past problems work for CCA. They are Sanders E. Estes, warden at CCA's Venus correctional facility; and Joe Driskell, warden at CCA's Liberty County correctional facility.
The other two are Darwin D. Sanders, warden of the state's Clements Unit; and Herbert Scott, warden of the state's Beto I Unit.
When Estes was a captain at the state's Ellis Unit, he was suspended without pay for 30 days in 1983 for participating in a May 1982 beating of an inmate.
"That man was biting, kicking and scratching," Estes told the newspaper Tuesday. "He'd just killed a man."
"Do I feel (the punishment)...was justified? No, I don't. But everyone's a Monday-morning quarterback," he said.
Estes was also warden at the Reeves County Law Enforcement Center, now called the Reeves County Detention Center, from 1988 to 1991, according to administrative assistant Alicia Nichols. There were no accusations made against Estes during his career in Pecos.
When Driskell was an assistant warden at the Eastham Unit, he was suspended for 14 days for a September 1983 beating of an inmate along with another warden. The wardens were apparently angry because the inmate had forged Driskell's name on a commissary slip.
Sanders was a captain in October 1982 when he watched subordinates beat an inmate who had his wrists handcuffed behind his back, a federal report said. In February 1984, the report said, he failed again to keep subordinate officers from using excessive force.
For both incidents, Sanders was put on probation for a year and took a pay cut.
Scott was a major in July 1984 when he was reprimanded for slapping an inmate. He got three month's probation. Scott told the newspaper Tuesday that it happened during an incident when an inmate who had escaped spat at him.
"I hit him and got him out of my face," Scott said. "I've done nothing that I'm ashamed of."
The federal reports were made for U.S District Judge William Wayne Justice who had found the Texas prison system unconstitutional because of cruel and unusual punishment.
The reviews criticized state prison officials for being reluctant in taking strong and timely disciplinary action against employees who were found to have abused inmates.
CCA spokeswoman Susan Hart said she was unaware of earlier disciplinary actions taken against CCA personnel, but noted it happened more than a decade ago.
"I can't comment on something that happened prior to their CCA employment," she said.
Hart said wardens at CCA's private units are qualified and must meet high work standards.
The facilities managed by CCA have been accredited by American Correctional Association, which sets national standards for detention facilities, she said.
Wayne Scott, executive director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, said Sanders and Scott have proven to be good employees and that he's comfortable with their job performance.
"Not everyone goes through their career without a blemish," he said.
Scott said the four wardens were disciplined and have demonstrated positive changes during the past decade. During the 80s, he said, dozens of prison employees were fired for abusive acts and the fact that the four men were not fired indicates their actions weren't that severe.
"Corrective action could be taken that would save their careers, and that was done," he said.
Artist with Pecos roots named
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PECOS, September 3, 1997 - Former Pecosite Walt Holcombe, 28, recently was honored as a promising newcomer in his field of comic illustration.
Holcombe was awarded The Russ Manning Promising Newcomer Award (given in conjunction with the West Coast Comics Club) as part of the 1997 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards ceremony July 18 in San Diego. Russ Manning created the "Tarzan" comic strip for many years.
Holcombe received the award for his self-published love story "The King of Persia" published last year by Accordion Press and printed in Canada by Qubecor Printing of Montreal.
The awards ceremony was held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown San Diego in conjunction with Comic-Con International: San Diego. Presenters included independent filmmaker Kevin Smith, The Anti-Gravity Room's Phil Guerrero and Nick Scoullar and creators George Perezx, Carol Lay, James Robinson, Trina Robbins, Geof Darrow, Terry Moore, Jeff Smith and Sergio Argones. Awards Administrator Jackie Estrada served as MC.
Holcombe's first cartoon was published in "Jack & Jill" magazine when he was 11. He began drawing cartoons for the Pecos Enterprise at age 13. After graduating from Pecos High School in 1987 Holcombe attended art school in California for a year and then in Austin for two years.
His art work has also been published in "National Lampoon," "Pal-Yat-Chee" and "Jab."
Holcombe received a grant from Xeric Foundation to help publish "The King of Persia."
Walt's work has also been featured in three separate exhibits displayed at 8-Ball Studios, Alternate Current Artspace and the FringeWare store.
His father, Walter M. Holcombe, is a practicing attorney in Pecos.
The 56-page comic book, "The King of Persia," containing about 350 separate drawings is available for $4.95 from Accordion Press, P.O. Box 49751, Austin Tx., 78765.
Manuel B. Garcia
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PECOS, September 3, 1997 - Manuel B. Garcia, 89, died Tuesday, Sept. 2, 1997, at the Pecos Nursing Home.
A rosary is scheduled for 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, at Martinez Funeral Home Chapel.
Mass will be held at 2 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 4, at Santa Rosa Catholic Church with Father Antonio Mena officiating. Burial will be in Greenwood Cemetery.
He was born in Shafter, Tx., was a retired construction worker and a Catholic.
Garcia was preceded in death by his wife, Maria C. Garcia.
Survivors include: four sons, Concepcion (Teofilo), Ramon and Manuel (Pina) Garcia of Pecos and Saul Garcia of El Paso; six daughters, Eloisa Bustamente, Carlota Zubiate, Catalina Garcia and Aida Mata of Pecos, Petra Rayos of El Paso and Socorro Aguilar of Odessa; one sister, Sabina Madrid of Pecos; 28 grandchildren; 34 great-grandchildren; and one great-great grandchild.
Martinez Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.
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September 3, 1997 - High Tuesday, 96, low this morning, 66. A cold front moved slowly southward across Texas today, bringing with it the promise of cooler temperatures and showers and thunderstorms. The front extended early today across the South Plains from the Wichita Falls area to between Abilene and Lubbock to El Paso. West Texas will have partly to mostly cloudy skies with light rain or thunderstorms across most of the area through Thursday. Lows tonight will be in the 50s and 60s in West Texas. Highs Thursday will be in the 70s and 80s over most of West Texas, ranging upward into the upper 90s in the Big Bend area.
San Angelo Standard Times
Abilene Reporter News
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Dallas Morning News
Texas Press Association
York (Pa.) Daily Record, Sister Paper to Pecos Enterprise
Mac McKinnon, Publisher
Division of Buckner News Alliance, Inc.
324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 915-445-5475, FAX 915-445-4321
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. Neither these AP Materials nor any portion thereof may be stored in a computer except for personal and non-commercial use. The AP will not be held liable for any delays, inaccuracies, errors or omissions therefrom or in the transmission or delivery of all or any part thereof or for any damages arising from any of the foregoing.
Copyright 1997 by Pecos Enterprise
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