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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Top Stories

Friday, April 16, 1999

School OKs removal of gym fire debris

By ROSIE FLORES
Staff Writer
PECOS, April 16, 1999 -- Debris from the Old West Pecos Gym that burned recently was declared as no longer of any use to the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD and has no appreciable value at the regular Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD board meeting held last evening.

The board also authorized disposal of the debris and awarded the job to the Roy Lindsay Construction Company of Pecos.

The district received two proposals, both from Pecos companies, one from Dirtmasters, in the amount of $5,600 and from Roy Lindsay Company for $6,500.

"The first proposal from Dirtmasters was for $5,600, but after he went out there and looked it over he decided it would be a little bit more, making the Linsday offer lower," said P-B-T ISD Superintendent Don Love.

He said both are fine people in the community and that both have done work for the district before. "But now the Lindsay Company's proposal is lower, since the Dirtsmaster's proposal went up to $7,000," said Love.

The job will require that the lot be cleared off completely, according to Love.

He said that Johnny Terrazas had suggested saving the bricks that didn't burn for the athletic booster club to sell as a fundraiser. "We can ask the Lindsay company to set aside those bricks for Mr. Terrazas," said Love, who told the group that the building had not been insured since 1992, but that he couldn't find anything about it being considered condemned.

"We did go through that building last year and we decided that it wasn't really safe and it would cost too much to repair it and make it usable again," said Love.

The insurance adjuster did take a look at the debris, but the district wouldn't get anything out of it since it wasn't insured.

City and state fire marshals investigated the cause of the April 5 blaze, but Love said, "They haven't been able to say what caused the fire."

In other business, the school board discussed replacing the track at the Pecos High School, which will cost between $180,000 to $200,000 a year.

"I received an interlocal agreement and met with the city attorney about possibly replacing this track with both the city's and the county's help," said Love.

The superintendent said under the proposal the county and city would provide in-kind services, with the school providing about $40,000 for the topping on the track. "I don't know if the school is ready at this time to take on this project, but it's something we have to look at and something I've been wanting to do for a while," said Love.

A long discussion followed with Town of Pecos City Council representative Ricky Herrera present for the discussion.

"This was brought up at city council and we voted to try to help with this project," said Herrera.

"I know that it does need to be replaced and that if we do replace it, we need to keep everything off of it," said Love. "I've heard that in the afternoons you can see everything from skateboards to bikes on the track, which ruins it."

The track was last resurfaced in 1983, and water running off the football field has caused the inner lane of the track to collapse in some sections.

"Other schools boycotted Pecos as a place to have track meets because we don't have an all-weather track," according to board president Earl Bates. "We need to get together as entities and find out who's going to provide what."

This year for the first time no junior high track meet was held in Pecos.

Herrera told the group that the city has made a commitment to this project and that city council members have talked to Utilities Director Octavio Garcia. "He said he was willing to give his all to this project," said Herrera.

"If we could get a breakdown as to how much this would cut into the $180,000, if we were to provide all the manpower," he added.

"Octavio assured us that he cold get together and do a good job," said PHS Principal and city council representative Danny Rodriguez.

Bates made a motion that a committee be formed with representatives from all the entities to see what direction they need to go in to accomplish this task.

Board member Louis Matta said that he was worried that the board was not getting their priorities straight. "I think we need to look at other things, such as teacher's salaries," said Matta.

"If it comes down to priorities, my number one priority is to take care of our teaching staff," said Matta. "If we put funds into repairs instead of it going to personnel, they might resent us for not thinking of them."

Matta said that he didn't want to see this particular subject talked to death. "If we're going to do it, let's do it, not just talk about it," Matta said. "But if the money's not there, it just isn't there and let's say so."

He added that the upkeep on a new all-weather track would be very expensive each year and would mean more money from the district. "It's very expensive to keep it soft and looking new," said Matta. "We would have to be very careful to not have anything at all on it."

Love told the group that the track is currently being used by the new recreation department, housed at the Pecos High School Old Gym.

Walking and jogging are currently activities being sponsored by the recreation department. "These people are now using the track, but it's not very comfortable," he said.

The $40,000 would go into providing resin, glue and all the materials that form the four-inch layer, according to Love. "If they (the city and county) would tear it up and do all the work, it might be something we can do," he said.

"It still might cost $80,000 every year to keep up with it," said Matta.

Board members agreed with Bates and decided to form a committee to pursue this idea.

County plans courthouse events next week

By ROSIE FLORES
Staff Writer
PECOS, April 16, 1999 -- County Government Week will be celebrated the week of April 19-24 and Reeves County will be observing the occasion in a big way.

"This is something we want to do for the community to let them know what county government is all about, what it entails and all the services that the county provides," said Reeves County Commissioner for Precinct 3 Herman Tarin.

The Reeves County Courthouse will feature an "Open House" on Wednesday, April 21 throughout the day.

"We want to emphasize that in today's public schools we find the leaders of tomorrow," said Tarin. "We want to use the school to courthouse approach."

A couple of "mock" commissioners court on the third floor of the Reeves County Courthouse.

Doug Meiner's government class from Balmorhea will be at the commissioners court meeting at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday and Joan Capshaw's government class from Pecos High School will be at the meeting at 1 p.m.

"We're going to let the students pretend they are the judge and commissioners and see what the county government does," said Tarin.

Other school classes are welcome to come tour the courthouse and attend the "mock" commissioners court meetings.

Video tapes will be shown in the lobby of the courthouse, titled, "The Glue That Holds Texas Together," which explains how the different offices work.

A barbecue luncheon will be set up outside the courthouse and open to the public and will feature barbecue sandwiches, cookies and drinks and other goodies.

Elected officials will be on hand to answer questions and assist in any way, according to Tarin.

The event is sponsored by all the public officials and is of no cost to the county. "This is a cooperative effort by all the officials and is not costing the county anything, it's just something we want to do for the community," said Tarin.

A mariachi group will provide the music during the barbecue luncheon.

Everyone is invited to come to the courthouse for the special tour, barbecue and "mock" meetings.

County shows job gain, drop in unemployment

PECOS, April 16, 1999 -- Unemployment rates in the Permian Basin dropped from their near-record highs in February, with an increase in the number of people without jobs in Reeves County last month offset by the addition of over 100 new jobs within the county during March.

According to figures released Thursday by the Texas Workforce Commission, Reeves County's rate remains high, at 12.3 percent, and the number people unemployed within the county was 802, one more than in February, according to the TWC's adjusted figures.

But the jobless rate fell two-tenths of a percent because 127 new jobs were added within the county, while the labor force grew by 128 people.

TWC reported there were 5,717 jobs in Reeves County last month, with 6,519 people in the local workforce. That's an increase of 341 people since January, but the number of jobs in the county is up by 421 since then, which has allowed the unemployment rate to drop by two percent.

The jobless rate for the Town of Pecos City was higher than that for the county as a whole, but still down from January and February. TWC said there were 4,411 people employed in Pecos last month and 718 without jobs, for an unemployment rate of 14 percent.

Both the number of jobs and the labor force in town are up from February, when the rate was 14.3 percent, while the number of jobless has fallen by 72 since January while the number of jobs is up by 325 from that month, when unemployment hit 16.2 percent.

Other area counties also reported improved unemployment figures, compared to the first two months of 1999.

Ector County's jobless rate fell from 11.7 to 10.9 percent, due to a drop of over 800 people in the city's workforce. Midland County's labor force fell by nearly 400 and their jobless rate went from 6.6 to 6.3 percent. The Permian Basin's two biggest cities both reported an overall loss in jobs from February to March.

Andrews County saw it's total number of jobs remain about the same, but a one percent drop in its labor force cut unemployment from 12.9 to 12.2 percent. Pecos County also saw its rate fall, from 8.9 to 8.3 percent, as the decline in the labor force offset a slight loss in jobs.

Winkler County had the biggest unemployment decline, from 18.8 to 16.4 percent. The county, hard-hit by the slumping oil industry, lost three percent of its labor force last month, but added 11 jobs.

Howard and Ward counties matched Reeves County in cutting their jobless rates despite a growth in the workforce. Howard County added 250 jobs and cut its rate from 6.1 to 5.7 percent, while Ward County added 24 people to its labor force and 47 jobs, lowing unemployment from 12.9 to 12.3 percent.

Statewide, the TWC said growth in service-sector jobs helped shave state unemployment by four-tenths of a percentage point in March.

Texas' unemployment rate fell from 4.8 percent in February to 4.4 percent in March. The state has reached that rate five times since April 1998 but has gone no lower.

"The service producing sector added 24,400 jobs over the month, as all industries within the sector experienced payroll gains," said Ron Lehman, a TWC commissioner.

Manufacturing and mining areas continued to sustain job losses, Lehman said.

The Bryan-College Station area had the lowest unemployment rate at 1.5 percent. Austin-San Marcos was next at 2.1 percent.

Republic backer enters plea on gun charge

By JON FULBRIGHT
Staff Writer
PECOS, April 16, 1999 -- Dudley Edward Vandergriff still feels the government did not have a right to stop and search his blue Oldsmobile, and feels the attempt to deprive him of his right to own a gun violates the Second Amendment.

But the Republic of Texas supporter did agree to a conditional plea of no contest to the charge of being a convicted felon in possession of firearms, during a hearing this morning before Judge Royal Furgeson in U.S. District Court in Pecos.

Vandergriff was among a group of seven men who were arrested at the Flying J Truck Stop in Pecos on April 30, 1997, during the Republic of Texas siege in Fort Davis. Pecos Police Officer Cosme Ortega stopped the men while they were at the truck stop, and a search of their vehicles turned up rifles, knifes and other items official say they were taking to the Balmorhea area, in support of Republic of Texas leader Richard McLaren.

Vandergriff, 32, who had previous convictions for cocaine and marijuana possession, was found guilty of the gun possession charge in a federal court trial in September, 1997, but it was later overturned and sent back to U.S. District Judge Lucius D. Bunton III.

Furgeson, who was substituting for Bunton in federal court this week, listened as Vandergriff told the court officials had no probable cause to search the Oldsmobile he was in, because there were no weapons showing from inside the vehicle.

Rifles were visible inside a Chevrolet Suburban also stopped at the Flying J, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Fred Brigman said Ortega had observed the two vehicles traveling together and stopped at the Flying J's gas pumps before approaching the men.

"The primary issue here is justice must be served. After two years it has not been served," Vandergriff said. "How long must I wait? Why can't I just tell you my story and then say `hmm, I agree or disagree.' Otherwise, we get caught up in all this law stuff.

"What matters is I'm a citizen and I can tell you I'm not guilty," he said.

He added that in his opinion, the law denying convicted felons the right to bear arms was in violation of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Furgeson told Vandergriff that he was bound by the constraints of the law either to take the conditional no contest plea, which will allow Vandergriff to appeal the eventual sentence to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, or to grant him a second trial on the charge.

His lawyer, Robert Leahey, said Vandergriff's concerns would be addressed again during sentencing at a later date before Judge Bunton, and in the appeal to be filed with the appeals court.

Vandergriff admitted to a cocaine arrest at age 19 and a marijuana arrest five years later, but said, "I'm 32-years-old now and I don't use drugs. The main issue is I have never, never assaulted anybody with a weapon. You're talking about depriving me of a decade of my whole life just for having a gun."

At that point, the hearing took a recess while Vandergriff could talk with family members and Leahey in private. After the break, he agreed to the conditional no contest plea, which Furgeson said under federal sentencing guidelines would carry a sentence of 84 to 105 months, with a possible three-level reduction to 63 to 78 months.

Bonilla's office in Pecos open Monday, Tuesday

PECOS, April 16, 1999 -- The part-time Pecos office of U.S. Congressman Henry Bonilla will be open for the first time on Monday and Tuesday at the Reeves County Courthouse.

Tony Carrillo will be the staff representative for Bonilla (R-San Antonio), who will handle requests for information, will work with constituents on a variety of issues including: social security, VA concerns, immigration, information on obtaining a passport, agricultural concerns, etc.

The office will be open on Monday and Tuesday from 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.

Bonilla was first elected to Congress from the 23rd District, which includes Reeves County, in 1992. He currently is with a group of representatives on a tour of NATO headquarters in Germany and refugee camps in the Balkans, in connection with the current military action against Yugoslavia.

Lotto

AUSTIN (AP) Results of the Cash 5 drawing Thursday night: Winning numbers drawn: 6-8-19-35-39. Number matching five of five: 1. Prize per winner: $91,744. Winning ticket sold in: Mathis. Matching four of five: 248. Prize: $555.

***

AUSTIN (AP) The winning Pick 3 numbers drawn Thursday by the Texas Lottery, in order: 6-8-1 (six, eight, one)

Obituary

Lucia Orona

Lucia G. Orona, 80, died Thursday, April 15, 1999 at Odessa Medical Center Hospital.

A rosary will be held at 7:30 p.m., today at the Pecos Funeral Home Chapel.

Mass is scheduled for 3 p.m., Saturday, April 17, at Santa Rosa Catholic Church with Father Mike Alcuino officiating. Burial will be in Santa Rosa Cemetery.

She was born Dec. 13, 1918, in Shafter, was a lifelong Pecos resident, a homemaker and a Catholic.

Survivors include five sons, Casimiro Orona of Kennedy, Tx., Jesus and Gabriel Orona of Pecos, Ramon Orona of Odessa and Leonard Orona of Japan; four step-sons, Manuel Orona of Stockton, Calif. and Santiago, Leandro and Fernando Orona of Pecos; three daughters, Maria Loyato of Littlefield, Ramona Cortez of Lamont, Calif. and Maria Licon of Pecos; two brothers, Sarapio Gutierrez and Vincente Gutierrez, of Billings, Mont.; two sisters, Martha Gutierrez of Marfa and Margarita Gutierrez of El Paso; 26 grandchildren and 22 great-grandchildren.

Pecos Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.

Weather

PECOS, April 16, 1999 -- High Thursday 65. Low this morning 35. Forecast for tonight: Partly cloudy. Low in the mid 30s. Light wind. Saturday, mostly sunny. High in the mid 60s. Northwest wind 5-15 mph.



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