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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Top Stories

Friday, March 19, 1999

New jobs cut unemployment rate

PECOS, MARCH 19, 1999 -- You have to go back a long ways to find a time when Reeves County's unemployment rate was lower than Ward County's jobless totals. Or Andrews County. Or Winkler County.

But thanks to the plunge in oil prices and the resulting layoffs in those counties more heavily reliant on the oil industry, that was the case in February, according to statistics released Thursday by the Texas Workforce Commission.

The county's jobless rate still remains high, at 12.3 percent. But that's a two percent drop from January and the TWC reported that while Reeves County's labor force grew by just under 200 people last month, it was more than offset by the addition of 296 new jobs, bringing the local labor force up to 5,592 workers.

TWC reported 784 people within the county were without jobs last month, most of those in Pecos, where the unemployment rate was higher, at 14 percent. The city had a workforce of 5,017 last month, 4,315 of whom were employed. Both those numbers also are up from January, when Pecos' unemployment rate was 16.2 percent.

Reeve County's 12.3 jobless rate is still well above the 8.6 percent rate for the county a year ago, but all of that total is due to an increase in the local labor force. TWC reported the labor force is up by 295 workers from February of 1998, while the number of jobs within the county grew by 37 over this same time last year.

The jobless rate for the Permain Basin as a whole was 9.2 percent, unchanged from the previous month, while the area's biggest counties, Ector and Midland, saw their rates rise slightly. Ector County's rate was up .1 percent, from 11.6 to 11.7 percent, while Midland's rate rose from 6.4 to 6.6 percent.

In the counties where oil is the main industry, jobless rates also were virtually unchanged last month. Andrews County saw its unemployment totals rise from 12.8 to 12.9 percent, Ward County saw their drop slightly, from 12.9 to 12.7 percent, while Winkler County reported a jump in jobless numbers from 18 to 18.7 percent.

Joining Pecos is reporting declines in unemployment of more than one percent was Pecos County, which fell from 10.3 to 8.8 percent, and Presidio County, which still has the area's highest jobless rate, but saw it improve from 33.5 to 31.9 percent last month.

Fort Stockton also joined Pecos in a sharp drop in it's jobless rate, from 11.5 to 9.9 percent. Unemployment numbers in Midland, Odessa Monahans, Andrews were only slightly higher or lower than a month ago.

Statewide, the TWC reported unemployment in Texas fell by one-tenth of a percentage point for the second month in a row. The seasonally adjusted rate fell from 4.7 percent in January to 4.6 percent in February. The rate was 4.8 percent in December.

"Strong employment increases in construction over the month once again outpaced job losses from the mining and manufacturing sectors," said Ron Lehman, a TWC commissioner.

"All sectors of the Texas service-producing industry added workers from January to February," Lehman added.

The only area in Texas with an unemployment increase was Odessa-Midland, where the rate rose from 9.0 percent in January to 9.2 percent in February.

The Bryan-College Station area had the lowest unemployment rate at 1.7 percent. Austin-San Marcos was next at 2.3 percent.

Police continuing probe of gunshot death

By PEGGY McCRACKEN
Staff Writer
PECOS, MARCH 19, 1999 -- Pecos Police were called to a residence at 1111 S. Cherry about 10:40 p.m. Thursday, where they found the body of Tommy Joe Tucker, 21.

Investigator Kelly Davis said that Tucker has been shot once in the right temple, and a .32 caliber pistol was lying on the floor near the body.

Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace Amonario Ramon ordered an autopsy to determine the cause of death.

Davis said that the body was discovered by Oscar Rodriguez, who had gone by to check on Tucker. Rodriguez said he first knocked on Tucker's door at 7 p.m. and got no response.

Returning at 10:40 p.m., Rodriguez still got no response to his knock and then climbed in through a window. He discovered the body and notified police.

No one else was in the house when police arrived, Davis said, although Tucker was known to live with a woman.

Ward offers OC update during Rotary meeting

By SMOKEY BRIGGS
Staff Writer
PECOS, MARCH 19, 1999 -- Pecos Economic Development Corporation president Gari Ward was the featured speaker at Thursday's meeting of the Rotary Club.

Ward updated the group on the status of economic development in Pecos.

Topping Ward's list was Odessa College's continued interest in opening a campus in Pecos.

"We have been working with Odessa College for the last nine months and lately we have made a lot of progress," Ward said.

The college is interested in the old White's/Pecos Autoplex building on Eddy Street, Ward said. The 28,000 square foot building was large enough for the combination of vocational and academic courses the college planned to offer, according to Ward.

The lighted parking lot is also a consideration since 90 percent of the courses will be offered at night, Ward said.

"Bringing Odessa College to Pecos is probably more important than any other single thing this community could do to further economic growth," Ward said.

Ward said that the new campus could open for business as soon as the beginning of the Fall 1999 semester in August.

Ward also reported that negotiations are still underway with a barbecue sauce manufacturer and a steel fabricator.

The Rotary Club meets every Thursday at twelve noon at the Pecos Valley Country Club.

McKinney says subpoena likely in Stickels trial

By PEGGY McCRACKEN
Staff Writer
PECOS, MARCH 19, 1999 -- Pecos Police Chief Clay McKinney said this morning he expects to be subpoenaed to testify for the defense Monday in a civil trial in Monahans between two former law enforcement officers.

John Stickels, who as 143rd District Attorney raised the ire of narcotics officers by dismissing some of their cases and striking "lenient" plea bargains in others, is suing the former commander of the Permian Basin Drug Task Force for libel.

Tom Finley, who led the task force until its demise last year for lack of state funding, wrote a letter in 1996 accusing Stickels of being a failure as a prosecutor.

That letter was published in area newspapers, and Stickels claims it made him a laughingstock.

He testified on Wednesday that he wanted Finley to apologize to each member of his family and to tell them "I am not a failure and a liar and a crook."

Former Enterprise reporter Mari Maldonado testified Thursday that Stickels' reputation among law enforcement officers was bad before the letter was published.

Maldonado said she continually received complaints of Stickels' lack of prosecution.

Enterprise reporter Peggy McCracken testified on Tuesday that she had checked out numerous complaints from law enforcement officers. In one instance, she obtained a list of cases filed by the Pecos Police-Reeves County Sheriff's Office narcotics task force to determine whether prosecution was lax. Most of the cases involved an investigator with the PBDTF.

"Based on what you read in the files, did you write a story?" asked Hal Upchurch, who represents Stickels.

"No, I did not," McCracken replied.

"Why not?"

"Based on the information in the files, had I been district attorney, I would have dismissed them too," McCracken testified.

Maldonado testified that she did not follow up on officers' complaints because they spoke off the record. But she said she knew that 10 people arrested in a police raid she attended were given lenient sentences.

Ward County Sheriff Ben Keele testified Thursday that Stickels failed to prosecute cases filed in that county.

McKinney headed the local narcotics task force as a deputy for the Reeves County Sheriff's Office when Stickels was district attorney.

The trial began Monday before visiting judge Pat Baskin of Midland. Testimony is expected to continue next Monday.

Scott Tidwell and Jackson Jones represent Finley and the task force.

School board recognizes students for state efforts

By ROSIE FLORES
Staff Writer
PECOS, MARCH 19, 1999 -- Special guests were on hand at the regular Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD School board meeting held Thursday evening in the board room.

Business Professionals of America students who qualified for national along with students in Walter Holland's Art III class who had an exhibit at the Texas Education Association Building in Austin were recognized during the meeting.

The students received a round of applause from board members and other guests.

"We're just very proud of all these students," said Holland.

The group was picked by the Texas Arts Commission to have an exhibit on display at the Texas Education Association Building in Austin.

Art students involved in the project include, Jack Armstrong, Kendall Belles, John Canon, Sonny Celaya, Jennifer Contreras, Olympia Gamboa, Filomena Hernandez, Orlando Matta, Randall Reynolds, Elsie Rodriguez, Eneida Samaguey, Estrella Sanchez, Joe Sotelo, Jesus Terrazas, Salvador Villalobos and JoAnn Wein.

"Our group did a three-dimensional exhibit, all the other schools had two-dimensional projects," said Holland. "This is a big honor and we're very pleased."

Holland said that he looks forward to doing other work and are planning a project for the old Pecos High School gym, which is scheduled for renovation, that will also involve the biology department.

Fourteen members of the Pecos High School chapter of Business Professionals of America traveled to Corpus Christi recently to compete in the BPA State Leadership Conference and Competitive Events. Teachers Judy Holland and Jackeline Dominguez accompanied the students to the competitions.

Three students were selected as National Alternates competitors in their respective events. Elvira Dominguez placed in the Administrative Assistant event, Jennifer Fuentes placed in the Database Manager event, and Noel Ybarra placed in the Desktop Publishing event in Corpus Christi. Each of these students competed against 40 or more students from across the state in their events. Only the top eight students are recognized in each event, with some students begin designated as National Qualifiers and others as National Alternates.

Efrain Rodriguez campaigned and was selected to be one of three National Officer Candidates for BPA at the National Leadership Conference and Competitive Events to be held in Philadelphia, Penn., on April 23-27.

Rodriguez will be campaigning against student candidates in the 14 other states across the United States who have chapters of Business Professionals of America. Six of those candidates will be selected to serve as national officers for the organization for the 1999-2000 school year.

"Pecos High School is very lucky to have so many qualified students to participate in the State competitive events, and it is indeed a tribute to the students who received recognition on the National level," said Judy Holland. "This is the most students at one time to receive this honor at PHS," she said.

Other students attending and competing at Corpus Christi included Nathan Lujan in C++ Programming; Michelle Gabaldon as Financial Specialist; Orlando Orona in Banking Concepts; Annabel Carrasco as Payroll Accountant; Jonathan Fuentes in Computerized Accounting; Oscar Medrano in Management Concepts; Desiree Sanchez in Verbal Communications Prepared II and Grant Holland, Desiree Sanchez and Michelle Gabaldon as Presentation Management Team. Juan Angel Ramiez and Claudia Garcia were voting delegates and campaign managers in Corpus Christi, as well.

School board approves roof replacement at PHS

By ROSIE FLORES
Staff Writer
PECOS, MARCH 19, 1999 -- A new roof will soon be installed in Building "A" at the Pecos High School as recommended by Frank Spencer and Associates.

Spencer was on hand at Thursday's Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD monthly school board meeting to present several options to school board members on the replacement of the roof, which has caused numerous problems this past winter.

A preliminary estimate of probable cost was presented by the architect and board members voted to with base bid option "A," in the amount of $164,500.

The other option was in the amount of $309,500 and included a 20-year warranty.

Spencer said that with this decision they could now go out for bids and construction was likely to begin 20-30 days after that. "We'll have plans ready by April 1 and receive bids within three weeks," said Spencer. "After that it will be 20-30 days when the project begins," he said.

Spencer assured the board that the roof construction would be completed by the beginning of the next school year, in August.

In other business, attracting math, science, special education and bilingual teachers was a "hot" topic of discussion for the board.

"It's really a very competitive area, to attract these teachers," said Personnel Director for the district Gome Olibas, who told board members he has attended some job fairs and that the competition to attract these type teachers was very high.

"We need to offer them some kind of incentive to come to Pecos," he said.

Olibas suggested offering a one-time allotment or relocation allotment of $1,500 to these teachers.

"I think that if we want to attract these teachers to Pecos, we need to offer more than $1,500," said board member Steve Armstrong.

He added math teachers especially need to be recruited for the secondary level in Pecos. "We need to strengthen the math department and if we want to do that we have to get really serious about it," Armstrong said.

He suggested offering $5,000 for the math teachers instead of $1,500.

"We have to take into consideration our other teachers, who are very qualified and dedicated also and doing a good job," said board president Earl Bates.

After the discussion, the board opted to go with Armstrong's recommendation and to offer math and science teachers, who specialize in this fields, a $5,000 signing bonus and to offer special education and bilingual teachers, a $1,500 signing bonus.

"We want to make sure that these teachers are certified in that training field and to get the best ones we can," said Armstrong.

Olibas said that he would try his best to recruit the best possible teachers in those specialty fields as he could.

Board members also voted to offer

Kids net racquets from tennis carnival

PECOS, MARCH 19, 1999 -- The Pecos High School tennis team and the United States Tennis Association (USTA) teamed up Thursday to put on the second annual Pecos Tennis Carnival, held at the high school tennis courts.

According to Pecos High School tennis coach Bernadette Ornelas, the goal of the carnival was to interest children in tennis at an early age.

"This event is aimed at children in grade school and most of the activities are designed to help kids work on their hand to eye coordination and basic motor skills along with being fun," Ornelas said.

"We want the children to have some fun, to learn something, and to leave with an interest in this great sport," she said.

Members of the high school tennis team led the children through the activities.

Also helping out was Luis Valdez, the USTA representative for the Permian Basin area.

Valdez said that the carnival was part of a nationwide effort by the USTA to boost interest in tennis in young children.

"The nationwide program is called the Tennis Blitz," he said. "As part of this program USTA sponsors school workshops, tennis leagues for younger children, and offers free tennis lessons as well," Valdez said.

As part of the carnival, USTA donated 75 tennis racquets to the school district, he said.

Valdez estimated that 225 children attended the carnival.

Settlement deal, burial problem on county agenda

PECOS, MARCH 19, 1999 -- Reeves County Commissioners will meet in closed session during their regular meeting scheduled for Monday to discuss two items.

Commissioners will discuss an insurance settlement on an Reeves County Detention Center fire accident and to discuss Charlie Millan burial and plot resolution in closed session, while in open session, they will talk about the RCDC 1,000 bed expansion financing with Barry Friedman and Banes General Contractor application and payment No. 7 for RCDC addition support shell and recreation building.

The group will discuss a resolution to allocate motor fuel tax funds to support county road system and creation of foreign medical graduate position for RCDC.

Frank Subia's request regarding housing rehabilitation program.

In addition commissioners will discuss and take action on:

* Reports from various departments.

* Budget amendments and line-item transfers.

* Personnel and salary changes (RCDC, sheriff's office, swimming pool, Justice of the Peace Precinct #1 and personnel office).

* Minutes from previous meeting.

* Semi-monthly bills.

Lotto

AUSTIN (AP) Results of the Cash 5 drawing Thursday night: Winning numbers drawn: 6-9-16-25-38. Number matching five of five: 1. Prize per winner: $92,801. Winning ticket(s) sold in: San Antonio. Matching four of five: 283. Prize: $492.
***

AUSTIN (AP) The winning Pick 3 numbers drawn Thursday by the Texas Lottery, in order: 4-9-2 (four, nine, two)

Weather

PECOS, MARCH 19, 1999 -- High Thursday 61; low last night 28. Tonight, clear. Low in the mid 30s. Light and variable wind. Saturday, sunny and warmer. High in the lower 70s. Wind becoming south 10-15 mph.



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Pecos Enterprise
York M. "Smokey" Briggs, Publisher
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