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Area Newspapers


Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Top Stories

February 16, 1999

Inmate dispute won't affect RCDC

From Staff and Wire Reports
Officials with the Immigration and Naturalization Service are being pressured by members of Congress to increase the number of illegal aliens it keeps in U.S. jails. But any potential increase in inmate population will not affect the number of prisoners held by the Reeves County Detention Center.

Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, and Rep. Elton Gallegly, R-Calif., sent a five-page letter to Attorney General Janet Reno last week setting out their complaints and asking that INS Commissioner Doris Meissner be replaced "if she is unable to quickly address these enforcement problems."

Smith and Gallegly said they hoped the letter would kill discussion at the INS of possibly releasing up to 1,500 illegal aliens convicted of such crimes as burglary, assault and drug offenses because of a shortage of detention space.

Smith said he was unmoved by reports that INS field managers would break their budgets unless they released some detainees to make room for offenders with the most serious criminal records. The agency's budget has doubled over the last four years, he said.

INS spokesman Russ Bergeron said no criminal aliens had been released and no decision had yet been made on whether any would be.

"We are examining how best to meet the mandatory detention requirements of the law in the face of inadequate funding for bed space to detain these aliens," Bergeron said.

No matter what the outcome, the local INS officer said it would not affect the population of the RCDC, which houses inmates for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.

"INS has strict guidelines and the most critical is the safety of the general public," said INS officer Alex Rodriguez.

Rodriguez said that inmates at the RCDC are a different type of inmate.

"The inmates at the RCDC are BOP inmates," said Rodriguez. "Immigration detains individuals pending removal proceedings."

RCDC inmates are not released until they complete their sentencings, according to Rodriguez.

"We're talking about two different type of inmates," said RCDC Warden Rudy Franco. "These other inmates haven't been adjudicated."

"These inmates are detained for different reasons," said Rodriguez. "It's very complex, but because of the strict guidelines, these other inmates don't qualify to be placed in this local facility," he said.

"Our contract is with BOP, we would have to have a separate contract with immigration to hold these type of inmates," said Franco.

The current RCDC facility houses about 1,000 inmates, but that figure will double within the next two years.

"This will make a total of 2,000 beds," said Franco. "We will be hiring 180 more people once this construction is completed."

Franco said they are very excited about the new addition, which will bring a big boost to the local economy, providing top paying jobs.

"There's a lot of opportunity out here and we want to provide the best safety measures for the community," he said.

Boll Weevil Eradication Zone hearing set

Farmers and landowners with cotton production are invited to comment on a proposed assessment rate for the El Paso/Trans-Pecos Boll Weevil Eradication Zone referendum.

The Texas Department of Agriculture has set a public hearing next Thursday, Feb. 25, at 3 p.m. in the Texas-New Mexico Power building, 1126 Stafford Blvd. in Pecos.

Cotton producers are encouraged to attend this hearing to offer their input regarding the proposal recommended by the local zone advisory committee. Local committee members have proposed a maximum assessment rate of $20 per land acre of cotton.

TDA will take comments on a maximum assessment to be voted on by cotton producers in a referendum set for March 26. At that time, cotton producers will also determine whether to establish a boll weevil eradication program for the zone and elect a board member to serve on the Texas Boll Weevil Eradication Foundation Inc.

The El Paso/Trans-Pecos Boll Weevil Eradication Zone consists of approximately 60,000 acres in 15 counties: Brewster, Crane, Crockett, Culberson, El Paso, Hudspeth, Jeff Davis, Loving, Pecos, Presidio, Reeves, Terrell, Val Verde, Ward and Winkler.

For more information on the proposal or the public hearing, contact Matt Brockman, Texas Department of Agriculture special assistant for producer relations at 512-463-7593.

Sales tax rebate check from holiday period up

Christmas sales in Pecos were up slightly in 1998, based on the tax rebate checks sent out this month by State Comptroller Carole Keeton Rylander's office. But the city's increase lagged behind that of Texas as a whole and other area downs reported declines in their tax rebate checks, due in part to the ongoing slump in oil prices.

Pecos' February tax rebate check for $93,128, based on local sales during December, was up about three percent from the same period a year ago. It's an improvement on November's sales, which were down 4 1/2 percent from 1997's figure, but the 3 percent rise was below the rate of the statewide increase, which Rylander's office put at 9.92 percent.

For the first two months of 1999, the city's rebate checks have totaled $141,330, up less than one percent from the $140,922 total returned from Austin in Janaury and February of last year. The city collects 1 1/2 cents from the state's 8 1/4 cent sales tax.

The figures from Rylander's office continue to show sales tax rebates in West Texas have generally done better in the towns less reliant on the oil patch for its economic boost.

Midland reported a sales tax gain of less than 1/2 percent for it's pre-Christmas sales, while Odessa was up 18.2 percent, but that was due to a 25 percent hike in the city's sales tax compared with a year ago. Andrews continued to show double digit declines, Crane also saw their sales tax rebate check fall and Wink's check was nearly 70 percent below it's rebate from last year.

Exceptions were Fort Stockton, up 7.62 percent, Monahans, which showed a 42 percent increase, and Alpine, where the February rebate check was down by 9 1/2 percent, while those in nearby Marfa and Presidio rose by 10 and 25 percent.

The Reeves County Hospital District's rebate for February also was up by 9.35 percent. The hospital got $37.673 back from Austin as its 1/2-cent share of the sales tax, up from last year's $34,451.

Overall, Rylander's office sent back $293,632,206 in rebate checks, up from $267,126,394 from a year ago. Houston received the state's biggest check, totalling $39,900,785, a 7.85 percent increase from February, 1998, and Dallas got back $25,493,321, up 9.66 percent from a year ago.

TNP blames transition costs for overall fourth quarter loss

Texas-New Mexico Power Company's transition-to-competition plan contributed to fourth-quarter losses for the parent company, TNP Enterprises Inc., the company announced in a press release.

TNP reported a $3 million loss for the fourth quarter, which included an additional charge of $3.3 million to exit the construction business at Facility Works Inc.

For the year, T-NMP reported earnings of $34.2 million, or $2.58 per share. Increases in gross profit, attributable to the hot summer weather and from customer growth, were more than offset by impacts of the transition plan and the loss of a significant industrial customer in the first quarter of 1998.

Last fall, the Public Utility Commission of Texas approved T-NMP's transition plan, which became effective retroactive to Jan. 1, 1998, and included rate decreases of 3 percent and 1 percent, respectively, to residential and commercial customers.

The plan also changed the manner in which purchased power costs are recovered from customers. The capacity, or demand, portion of purchased power is now recovered through a fixed rate rather than being automatically passed through to customers, as in the past.

Rate decreases as well as increases in demand purchased power costs reduced T-NMP's 1998 earnings below the 11.25 percent return on equity cap.

Ag service helping promote Child Passenger Safety Week

According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, 146 children age 12 and under were killed in motor vehicle crashes in Texas in 1997. Additionally, there were 31,142 injured in motor vehicle crashes.

The Texas Agricultural Extension Service has joined the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Texas Department of Transportation to promote the week of Feb. 14-20, as National Child Passenger Safety Week. This special week is a national observance to increase awareness about the need for children to ride buckled up on every trip. Every part of the community - businesses, citizen groups, health care providers, police agencies, schools, government, the military, etc. - has a role to play in getting children buckled up.

There are many things that can be done to curtail the program of unrestrained and improperly restrained children. Parents should understand that a child needs a safety seat that is appropriate for the child's age and weight. It is important for parents to read and follow their vehicle owner's manual and safety seat instructions.

Never place a rear-facing infant seat in the front seat of a vehicle with a passenger-side air bag. Children 12 and under should always ride in the back seat for safety. Children too large for child safety seats and booster seats should always wear both lap and shoulder belts.

Remember the ABC's of child passenger safety: Air Bag Safety, Buckle Everyone, Children Ride in Back.

For more information on supporting National Child Passenger Safety Week, contact the Passenger Safety Education office at (409) 845-3850 or call your local County Extension Agent office, at 915-447-9041.

Churches plan Lenten services for Wednesday

Area churches will be holding special Lenten services Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent, and concludes on Easter Sunday.

First Methodist Church will observe Ash Wednesday with a special service scheduled for 6:30 p.m., on Wednesday, Feb. 17. Everyone is invited to attend the special service.

Santa Rosa De Lima will be having Mass and "ashes" at 7 a.m., noon and 7 p.m.


High Monday 83; low last night 40. Tonight, fair. Low near 30. Light wind. Wednesday, partly cloudy and becoming windy. Warmer with a high near 70. Southwest wind increasing to 15-25 mph and gusty.

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Pecos Enterprise
York M. "Smokey" Briggs, 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 1999 by Pecos Enterprise