Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas
Thursday, September 17, 1998
Commissioners wrangle over ballot wording
By MAC McKINNON
"Retaining the optional county road system in Reeves County"
with voters to vote for or against is how a local option
issue will read on the ballot for the general election Nov.
The ballot wording was decided during a meeting of the
Reeves County Commissioners Court, attended by all
commissioners Wednesday evening, in a continuation of their
However, two of the commissioners, Bernardo Martinez and
Felipe Arredondo, believed the wording should say
"abolishing" instead of "retaining."
Both started to make their pitch after County Judge Jimmy
Galindo put forth the proposal using the word "retaining."
Martinez told Arredondo to "let me do the talking," and said
he believed that is what those who presented the petition
wanted. However, Galindo noted that the wording on the
petition said only that an election was requested on the
After some debate, the word "retaining" was used and
approved with Arredondo casting the only `no' vote.
Martinez took exception with a report in Tuesday's
Enterprise saying he was against the optional county road
system -- or unit road system as it is locally known -- when
it was created in 1990. He said he made the motion to call
the election at that time. He said he didn't sign the
current petition but he would have if he had been in favor
of changing back to the old system.
The unit road system was approved in 1990 by the voters,
with then-incoming commissioner Dr. W. J. Bang leading the
push to get it created. He said he still likes the way it
operates and it is very efficient, adding that if the county
goes back to the old system with each commissioner having a
crew and equipment, it would require a tax increase to pay
for added costs.
Russ Salcido is the current road administrator, having taken
the position in May, 1995.
A petition signed and verified by voting records of the
required number of county voters was submitted on Aug. 28
calling for an election. If voters cast ballots to abolish
the unit road system and return to the old way, it would
take effect immediately after commissioners canvass the
Arredondo noted that he wanted to make it clear the election
would not cost the county any extra money, and not $5,000
as was previously reported, since there is already an
election going on for that date.
It was also noted that the commissioners will have a special
meeting on Monday to go over the proposed budget and tax
rate for the coming year.
Included in that budget will be discussion on the juvenile
detention center, which does not meet standards for
In the meeting earlier this week, commissioners approved an
agreement with Ector and Midland Counties for housing local
juveniles for long-term periods.
Feds tout increase in local prosecutions
By PEGGY McCRACKEN
Teamwork among federal, state and local law enforcement
agencies is the primary factor in a whopping increase in
criminal prosecutions in the Pecos Division of federal court
over the past two years, said U.S. Attorney Bill Blagg.
Blagg held a press conference in Alpine Wednesday to commend
the Alpine Multi-Agency Task Force, which he calls "a prime
example of what federal, state and local law enforcement can
do when we work together."
The task force is responsible for investigation of most of
the 217 felony cases filed this fiscal year in the Pecos
Division, Blagg said. It is composed of the Drug Enforcement
Administration, U.S. Border Patrol, Customs Service, FBI,
Texas Department of Public Safety and Brewster County law
Increased funding for federal officers has also had an
Under the Attorney General's Southwest Border Initiative,
more federal agents, equipment, prosecutors and support
staff have been positioned along our border with the
Republic of Mexico in an effort to stem the tide of illegal
immigration and drug activity, Blagg said.
The U.S. Attorney's office for the Western District of Texas
has hired 12 new attorneys and filled six support staff
positions to help prosecute drug and immigration violations
occurring along the border.
Two of the prosecutors are assigned to the Pecos Division.
They live in Alpine, where felony suspects make their
initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Katherine
Baker. She may set bail or order the suspect detained for
indictment in Pecos, where trials are held.
Pecos had twice the number of indictments this past fiscal
year (ending Aug. 31) as did Midland, where three assistant
U.S. attorneys are stationed.
Jim Blankinship, who transferred from Austin to handle cases
in the Pecos Division, is credited with much of the increase
in prosecutions (up from 55 in 1996) He has now returned to
Austin, and Steve Miller has taken his place. Fred Brigman
also lives in Alpine.
Blagg has appointed local attorney Jeff Parras as the third
AUSA for the Pecos Division, and he will be stationed in
Pecos once the FBI completes a background check - expected
to take about two more months.
Parras will handle prosecutions in the local magistrate and
district courts, relieving the attorneys living in Alpine
from the frequent 180-mile round trips.
Other new personnel was stationed in El Paso, Del Rio and
San Antonio, Blagg said.
El Paso led the district in indictments, with 1,369, while
Del Rio had 554 and San Antonio 292.
Pecos had the highest percentage of drug cases, with 80.2
percent; followed by Midland with 71.8 percent and El Paso
with 68.6 percent.
Indictments in the Pecos Division included 15.2 percent
immigration violations and 0.5 percent firearms violations.
None were white collar crimes, and 4.1 percent were other.
Two district judges serve the Pecos Division, along with two
magistrate judges. District Judge Royal Furgeson of Midland
and Senior Judge Lucius Bunton of Odessa hold court here at
least one week out of each month, and often twice.
Magistrate Judge Stuart Platt of Midland has scheduled court
in Pecos twice a week, handling pre-trial matters for Judge
Furgeson in both civil and criminal cases, along with
misdemeanor violations. He accepts many of Judge Furgeson's
guilty pleas as well, but the district judge is required to
All felony cases initiated in Baker's Alpine courtroom are
heard in Pecos. Since Baker is a part-time magistrate, she
is not authorized to handle felony matters past the
WIPP's opening delayed until January
CARLSBAD, N.M. (AP) -- Federal officials once again have
pushed back the target date for opening a nuclear waste
repository for the nation's defense industry.
The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad is unlikely to
open before January because of legal challenges and
uncertainty over whether any waste is ready for shipment,
U.S. Department of Energy officials said Wednesday.
The DOE previously said it hoped to open WIPP this month. It
was the latest in a series of WIPP delays dating back
``January is now the realistic case,'' said John Arthur of
the DOE's Albuquerque Operations Office.
That estimate was backed up by Tom Baca, head of
environmental management at Los Alamos National Laboratory,
where the first 17 truckloads of WIPP cargo are to
At the root of the latest delay is a dispute between the DOE
and the state Environment Department over whether there
might be hazardous chemical waste mixed in with the 116
barrels of radioactive waste destined for shipment to WIPP
from Los Alamos. The DOE claims there is no hazardous waste
but is striving to satisfy state demands that Los Alamos
scientists prove it.
The two agencies are haggling over how that will be done.
Arthur said he hopes that agreement will be reached by next
But once that occurs, Arthur said, it would take two months
to actually extract the samples from the drums and analyze
And then it would then take another two months before waste
shipments could begin, he said.
WIPP is designed to bury plutonium-contaminated waste from
the nation's defense industry 2,150 feet underground in
ancient salt beds 26 miles east of Carlsbad and 75 miles
north of Pecos.
Waste from sites east of the Mississippi are scheduled to
travel to the WIPP site through Texas along Interstate 20,
exiting at Pecos and then heading north along U.S. 285 to
County's jobless rate reaches 12.1 percent
Reeves County's unemployment went up by just over
one-half percent in August, climbing to 12.1 percent despite
an increase in the total number of jobs during the past year.
Every county in the Trans-Pecos/Permian Basin area showed an
increase in their jobless rates from August 1997, due in part
to the decline in oil prices which had cut back drilling
activity in the Permian Basin. But Pecos was also hurt by
the loss of jobs at the Freeport-McMoRan sulphur mine, which
announced its closing on June 30, and an increase in the
labor force during the past year.
According to the Texas Workforce Commission, Reeves County's
labor force has grown by 380 since August of 1997, but only
11 more jobs are reported within the county since that
time. As a result, the unemployment rate has grown from 7.7
to 12.1 percent during the past year.
TWC said there are 6,800 people employed in the county, out
of 7,735 overall in the local labor force. Both those
numbers are down from July, during the heart of the
cantaloupe harvest season, when 7,176 people out of 8,113
had jobs, for an unemployment rate of 11.5 percent.
Presidio County continues to have the highest unemployment
rate in the area. One third of the county's workforce is
jobless, up from 31.6 percent in August 1997. The next
highest unemployment rate was reported in Ward County, which
also saw the growth in its labor force outpace the creation
of new jobs during the past year. The jobless rate there
increased from 6.5 to 9.4 percent.
The area's two biggest counties, Midland and Ector, reported
different job pictures, despite having almost the exact same
number of workers in their labor force. Midland's 2,902
people unemployed gave it a 4.5 percent jobless rate, up
from 3.8 percent last year, while Ector County saw its rate
jump from 6.2 to 7.1 percent, with 4,556 people unemployed.
Health Fair events scheduled for downtown
By ROSIE FLORES
What kind of health are you really in? High blood pressure?
Do you have prostate cancer? Answers to all these questions
can be found at an affordable price at the First Annual
American Home Health Fair.
The Partnerships for Good Health is scheduled for Saturday,
at the American Home Health building, 315 S. Oak.
Beginning at 7:30 a.m., qualified individuals will start
performing tests on patients and conclude at noon.
"We want to start this early because some of the tests that
will be offered require fasting," said Director of Nursing
Fasting will guarantee a more accurate blood test, such as
blood sugar levels, according to Gerke.
Pre-registration will be held all day Friday.
"We'll have some really useful blood tests such as the SMAC,
CBC, Thyroid profile for $18," said Gerke.
The tests usually are very expensive ranging up to more than
In addition a LIPID Profile will be available for $8 more.
"The SMAC shows the base cholesterol, but not really how
high or low the HDL is and this test will determine if you
are at risk for a heart attack or arterial sclerosis," said
PSA's, blood screening for early determination of prostate
cancer, will be offered. This test is one of the most useful
tools, specifically for men, to determine prostate cancer
and has immensely increased the survival rate for those who
are diagnosed with prostate cancer.
Mammography will be available through the Texas Tech Mobile
Unit, which will be on hand for the special event.
Michelle Cser, physician's assistant, will be assessing EKG's
and Tympanograms. The Tympanograms tell the condition of the
ear drum. Ming Chow, licensed dietitian will be advising
health fairgoers on dieting. "This is not just for those
worried about their weight, but for diabetics and those
individuals diagnosed with congestive heart failure or other
health problems that require weight watching," said Gerke.
Blood oxygen saturations tests will be given free.
"And something new that a lot of people are interested in is
the new drug Viagra," said Gerke.
Steve Valenzuela, pharmacist for Professional Pharmacy will
be on hand to discuss and answer questions about hair loss
and the many products available along with the new drug
Gerke stated that the home health agency basically planned
this mid-year health fair for those individuals who were
unable to attend the Reeves County Health Fair held in April.
"This will give them a chance to attend this one, or if they
did go and their tests turned up something they have been
working on correcting, this will be a good chance to see how
they are doing health-wise," said Gerke.
Gerke explained that if the individual is working on their
cholesterol level, checking it now a few months later will
give them a better idea of well they are doing.
If the tests done at the health fair turn out abnormal
individuals are encouraged to seek professional advice from
"This is just a really great opportunity for our community
to have access to some really, usually expensive tests at an
affordable rate," said Gerke.
A lot of the tests will be available for free with the
others for a minimal cost. Blood pressure, glucose tests,
body fat versus height exam, pulse oxymeter and tympanograms
re all part of the free exams.
A booth will be set up with plenty of information on hospice
care. "This is a service that we started two years ago,"
Marana Deaton will be manning a booth set up with
information on state financial aid and will explain ways to
obtain grants that will assist with medications for families
that are overwhelmed with expenses.
High Wednesday 89. Low this morning 65. Forecast for
tonight: partly cloudy. A slight chance of showers or
thunderstorms. Low around 65. East wind 5-10 mph. Chance of
rain less than 20 percent. Friday, partly cloudy. A 20
percent chance of thunderstorms. high around 85. East wind
Mac McKinnon, Publisher
Division of Buckner News Alliance, Inc.
324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 915-445-5475, FAX 915-445-4321
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Copyright 1998 by Pecos Enterprise