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Tuesday, May 12, 1998

RCDC expansion project nearly finished

Staff Writer
The dayroom expansion at the Reeves County Detention Center
is back on schedule, and may even finish a few days early,
Lorraine Dailey of DRG Architects in San Antonio, told
Reeves County Commissioners at Monday's regularly-scheduled

Dailey said Banes Construction should have the entire
three-room addition completed by the June 7 deadline, but
may be packing up tools as early as June 5.

"The program is moving forward well," Daily told
commissioners yesterday, "and the quality of the
construction is good."

Work at the facility was stalled when it came to the
attention of RCDC Warden Rudy Franco and officials at the
Bureau of Prisons (BOP) that many of the construction
workers employed by Banes had prior criminal records - a
violation of BOP policy.

Together, Franco and the BOP drafted new criteria for
employment at the center that would not affect the crew's
timetable. Banes employees with criminal records may
continue to work at the center but must go through extra
security measures on entering and leaving the facility, said
County Judge Jimmy Galindo.

"It'll be a photo finish, there is no doubt," said Daily.
"But, they are pushing it."

The expansion project will create three day rooms connected
by covered outdoor walkways, and allow for a 300 bed
expansion. It will cost the county about $2.8 million.

In other business, commissioners - in an action prompted by
a special meeting called last week on the matter - expressed
their like-mindedness regarding the current county-wide unit
road system by signing a resolution detailing its benefits.

The resolution states that the unit road system "affords
continuity and consistency in the service and repair of
roads and bridges throughout Reeves County for approximately
half the cost required in the past to operate the department
in four separate precincts."

First adopted in 1991, the county-wide unit system replaced
the previous system in which road maintenance was divided
along precinct lines, with each commissioner responsible for
the roads in his or her own precinct.

A $6,460 grant for emergency medical services issued to
Reeves County from Texas Department of Health may be divided
between the Pecos Volunteer Ambulance Service and Balmorhea
EMS. Galindo suggested that the money be split according to
population, with $4,000 going to the Pecos service and the
remaining $2,460 going to Balmorhea.

W.J. Bang, Commissioner of Precinct 2, suggested that he
investigate whether the hospital qualifies as an EMS
provider under TDH guidelines. If so, Bang suggested, it
should be included in the grant money because of the
transfer services the hospital offers patients. The original
motion was accepted pending further review and ratification.

A contract between Midland, Ector and Reeves counties was
accepted by the commissioners for the detention of juvenile
offenders from the two other counties. Midland County agrees
to pay $65 per day per youth detained and Ector County will
pay $60 per day.

The County Judge's office will oversee various county
projects now that Mari Maldonado has resigned as grant
administrator. Commissioners had been assured by Maldonado
that the a three month extension had been accepted by the
state, but Lynn Owens, county auditor, said no paper work
verifying this has been seen.

"There are various projects not getting done," said Galindo,
"We need to move this work faster . . . The easiest
transition is for the County Judge's office to take them
over and see them through close out. I think we can handle

Commissioner Herman Tarin, Precinct 3, who expressed
gratitude to Maldonado for a "good job", said he understood
the former candidate for Commissioner of Precinct 4 was
going to work for Anchor West.

In other action, the commissioners unanimously accepted the
deputation of two reserve officers in the Reeves County
Sheriff's Office; the purchase contract, pending the bill of
sale, for the road and bridge department of a John Deer
backhoe, at semi-annual payments of $8,600; an interlocal
agreement between the county and cities of Balmorhea and
Toyah for road repair; and the leasing of a dish washing
system for $175 per month from Americlean Systems Inc.

An item regarding the bidding of a food contract for RCDC
inmates for the next six months was tabled pending Warden
Franco's review.

Nearly 20 new RCDC employees were also approved by the

Oil price fall hurts valuations

Mineral valuation gains several Reeves County taxing
entities received last year disappeared, as plunging oil
prices caused estimated appraisal totals approved by the
Reeves County Appraisal Review Board for 1998 to drop from
1997's levels in the oil producing parts of the county.

Board members approved the totals during Friday's meeting,
and the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah School District was the big
loser, with its appraised value declining by $20,249,310
from last year's supplemental rolls.

The current estimated value of $360,191,120 (down from
$380,440,430), is divided between $116,034,340 in real
estate and $244,156,780 in mineral values.

The district's mineral values dropped over $16 million, due
mainly to the sharp decline in oil prices during 1997. The
drop affected P-B-T's Ward County section of land, along
with land in oil producing areas of eastern and northern
Reeves County.

Reeves County has a total estimated tax level of
$353,357,800, a decrease of $7,220,930 from the 1997
appraisal. Real estate makes up $147,806,670 of the
estimated total, and mineral values make up $205,551,130.
Just over $5 million of the $7.2 million decline came from
losses in the county's mineral valuations.

The Reeves County Hospital District saw its estimated value
decline by $4,481,390 from last year's certified level of
$360,578,730. The current estimated appraisal total of
$356,097,340 is comprised of $150,546,210 in real estate and
$205,551,130 in minerals.

The district's $5.03 million drop in mineral valuations was
the same total as for Reeves County, while real estate
values for the district rose by $546,500.

Pecos City has an estimated tax level of $114,920,840, made
up from $103,632,170 of real estate value and $11,288,670 in
mineral value. This represents a total decline of $1,225,750
from the 1997 supplemental appraisal level of $116,146,590.

However, the city's loss was all in real estate, as mineral
valuations there rose by $81,000.

Taxing entities in southern and western Reeves County also
saw mineral valuations rise.

Toyah City has an estimated appraisal total value of
$1,358,700, a decrease of $24,160, but was up $1,550 in
mineral valuations.

Balmorhea City, Balmorhea Independent School District and
Reeves County Water Irrigation District (RCWID) #2 all saw
their appraised levels increase. Balmorhea City increased by
$24,410, to an estimated appraisal level of $3,452,590, with
three quarters of the rise coming from increased mineral

Balmorhea ISD appraisal totals jumped by over 33 percent,
rising $7,895,520 to its estimated appraisal level of
$26,540,990. The school district's property values increased
by $4.86 million, a increase of over 50 percent from 1997,
while minerals climbed $3.03 million.

RCWID #2 increased in estimated value by $1,021,280 to a
current level of $4,678,960. A $1.44 mineral valuation rise
made up for $414,900 lost in estimated real estate values.

Legal fight over pupfish costing Red Bluff

Staff Writer
The Pecos River pupfish isn't very big, but the legal bills
that it's creating for the Red Bluff Water Power Control
District are.

Red Bluff board members on Monday approved bills totalling
over $19,000 for two months work by the law firm of Brown
and Potts in its effort to prevent the federal government
from listing the pupfish as an endangered species.

The move would allow the government to take control of water
flow along the Pecos River from the Red Bluff district,
which provides water to farmers in four counties.

Brown and Potts lawyers attended hearings in New Mexico to
argue against the plan, and the district earlier paid for a
seperate study that showed the pupfish's current habitat was
limited within Texas to Screwbean Draw, south of Red Bluff
Dam, though it has other habitats along the river in New

"If you want to stop right now, we can do it," said Red
Bluff general manager Jim Ed Miller, referring to the
district's legal costs. However, he added "I think we're
over the big end of it right now.

"We won't know until November," when the government's first
report is due, Miller said, and Pecos River Compact
commissioner Brad Newton agreed the legal bills should be
lower over the next six months.

Newton also handed out a copy of an article in last
Wednesday's Albuquerque Journal about a new potential
legal action the district could face in the future.

A Santa Fe-based environmental group, Forest Guardians,
announced plans to challenge the 52-year-old Pecos River
Compact, along with those on the Rio Grande, Upper Colorado
River and Costilla Creek. The group said it would sue under
the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act and the
National Environmental Policy Act to nullify the compacts
and commissions in those areas.

Like the pupfish decision, the suit, if successful, would
remove control over water releases from the commissions and
water districts and place them in the federal government's

"Right now it's a good old boy network of irrigators and
industry users who play God and don't think the
environmental laws apply to them," Forest Guardians director
John Talberth told the Journal. "I hope this is a bucket of
cold water in their faces."

"It's a bunch of do-gooders and professional money raisers
who send out letters saying they want to save the Earth,"
said Red Bluff board member Dick Slack. "They make a lot of
money off of them."

"The good thing about this is Red Bluff is not named in the
suit, but the Pecos River Compact is," Newton said, and
recommended the board take no action at this time.

"The (Texas) attorney general's office is on top of it, the
governor's office is on top of it, and I'm on top of it,"
Newton said.

The board later voted by a 6-1 margin to send $500 to the
Texas Water Conservation Association, to help fund an appeal
of a decision by a Corpus Christi judge that a water
district could be held liable for a late water delivery even
without a written contract. Board member Manuel Lujan cast
the lone dissenting vote.

The board later voted to have the district's lawyers talk
with the city of Carlsbad, N.M., about changes to the
easement contract Red Bluff is seeking to sign with that
city. The contract would allow Red Bluff to build a pipeline
over land owned by the city to three man-made lakes owned by
Loving Salt Co., where water from the Malaga Bend salt
spring would be sent.

Carlsbad wants Red Bluff to pay for a $2 million liability
policy as part of the deal, but board members voted to see
if the district could pay for that insurance being added to
Carlsbad's policy, after being told the premium would be
$6,000 annually.

"The reason why it's so high is you can't insure just this
one spot. You'd have to insure all of Red Bluff," Miller

Loving Salt (formerly Sun West Salt) would mine the salt
after the water evaporated out, and the process would cut
salt levels at Red Bluff Lake and in the Pecos River below
Malaga bend.

The board also discussed offering $500 rewards through
Crimestoppers in Reeves, Pecos and Ward counties for
information leading to arrests in vandalism cases involving
Red Bluff property.

Miller told the board that Roy Lindsey Construction had to
build a temporary diversion to send irrigation water to
Grandfalls, after vandals shot a gate in half last month.
Permanent repairs can't be made until water deliveries to
the Grandfalls area is completed.

Water reports and investment reports were approved by the
board, along with the hiring of part-time help for secretary
Robin Felts, who will be on maternity leave this summer.

Miller asked for board approval to hire Felt's mother, Rita,
along with Ann Hess, Miller's stepsister, for part-time
work. "I'd like your say in this, since we're related, but
it's hard to get somebody down here on a moment's notice,"
he explained before the board granted its approval.

Bonilla presents Bickley with WWII medals

Staff Writer
Adding to the "croix de guerre", a French medal for heroism
in battle, Congressman Henry Bonilla presented local cotton
man and former Pecos Mayor Bob Bickley with six more medals
honoring him for his extensive service during World War II.

Bonilla, the 23rd District representative in Congress,
stopped by Bickley's office about 2 p.m. yesterday to meet
the decorated veteran and make a presentation of the medals.
Bickley served with anti-aircraft artillery as a technical
sergeant in the United States Army and completed five
military campaigns between November of 1942 and November of

"A lot of folks may not know what you did, they just think
of you as a cotton expert," said Bonilla. "I cannot imagine
being like you were and the bravery in your heart."

The small group who had gathered to share the special
occasion with Bickley joined Bonilla in congratulating him
with a round of applause.

"I appreciate it very much Congressman," said a reserved
Bickley. "But, remember, most who have decorations, whether
high or low level, have gotten them somewhat accidentally."

The medals had all been awarded to Bickley previously,
though he just wrote and requested they be sent recently.

"I didn't expect anything like this," said Bickley of the
Congressional escort.

Bonilla took a few moments to chat amiably with Bickley, who
along with serving as Pecos Mayor in the late 1970s and
early 1980s, is the Trans-Pecos Cotton Association's
Executive Director.

When asked later if he had been contacted about the area
drought which has brought just .12 inches of rain to the
Pecos area since Jan. 1, Bonilla said he had not spoken to
any farmers from the Pecos but his secretary had.

Bonilla said he understood the drought was not just a West
Texas problem but a state-wide situation. "We had a similar
problem about two years ago until we finally had some rain
and the condition improved," he said.

Some of the medals presented yesterday included one for
American Theater, one for European Theater and one for Army
of Occupation.

Stockton ISD rejects school uniform plan

FORT STOCKTON (AP) - School administrators in Fort Stockton
say they'll try to come up with a tougher student dress code
to present to the school board.

Superintendent Dale Pitts favors uniforms, but school
trustees nixed that idea unanimously Monday night, saying
the idea didn't have broad enough support from parents.

Last week, school officials mailed a questionnaire to 1,100
parents of students in the first through seventh grades at
Fort Stockton. Of the 194 who responded, 120 said requiring
students to wear khaki pants and white dress shirts was OK.

That was a clear majority of those who responded, but the
board said it was reluctant to require uniforms with
opposition from more than a third of the parents.

Some parents and faculty members have argued for the
uniforms, saying they would help neutralize a growing
discipline problem.

Some parents argued that uniforms, at about $40 an outfit,
would be too expensive for some students and would
needlessly limit the students' right to free expression.

``Our middle school kids seem to be at the age at which they
are the most free-spirited,'' Pitts said in a recent
interview. ``Sometimes, total freedom of speech has to be
given up to control the entire group.''


High Monday 95. Low this morning 58. Forecast for tonight:
Fair, with lows in the upper 50s to lower 60s. Wednesday:
partly cloudy and windy, with highs in the upper 80s to
lower 90s.

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324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
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