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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Top Stories

Tuesday, May 11, 1999

Red Bluff faces fight at Malaga Bend

By JON FULBRIGHT
Staff Writer
PECOS, May 11, 1999 -- Red Bluff Water Power Control Board members agreed to prepare for possible legal action with the State of New Mexico involving the Malaga Bend desalinization plan, but were hopeful that negotiations with two water rights holders on the Pecos River could resolve the latest problem for the long-delayed project.

Newly-appointed Pecos River Compact Commissioner J.W. Thacker and Barstow-area landowner Rusty Carpenter offered their own suggestions to the latest problem, during the board's monthly meeting in Pecos on Monday. That came after the board heard from the district's lawyer, Tim Brown, and from Albert Wagner, president of Loving Salt, Inc., which is seeking to mine salt removed from the river under the Malaga Bend project.

Brown said the latest delay was created in March, when a lawyer for the state engineer's office blocked final approval of the plan. "The lawyer said over lunch hour he checked the records and found two (water) rights holders, M&M Cattle Company and IMC Kellum, between our subtraction point and Albert's," he said.

Red Bluff wants to transfer 30 acre feet of fresh water from their site, located near the Texas-New Mexico state line, to Loving Salt's location, to be used for clearing equipment. Wagner plans to pump the salt water from a salt spring at Malaga Bend into three man-made pounds, where salt would be mined after the water evaporates.

The project would lower the salt content of the Pecos River in Texas, and improve the water quality for use by farmers south of Red Bluff Lake.

Brown said he has set up dates for hearings on the permit with the state of New Mexico. "By June 18, we have to tell them who our expert witnesses are, and the drop-dead hearing date is Sept. 21 in Santa Fe," he said. In preparation, Brown urged the board to contract with HDR engineering to do a study showing that transferring 30 acre/feet of fresh water north would not harm the water going to M&M Cattle Co or to IMC, whose subtraction point is as the same location as Wagner's site.

The hearings would not be needed if waivers were signed by both IMC and M&M Cattle Co., but Red Bluff general manager Jim Ed Miller said, "I think we should ask (HDR's) Sonny Kretzchmar to get it done, because I don't think we're going to get it signed."

"IMC and the city of Carlsbad made a deal to sell water back to the state. Until that deal is signed and sealed IMC doesn't want to do anything to jeopardize that," Wagner said.

Brown said he talked with Jim Wilcox, a Carlsbad attorney who handles work for Chicago-based IMC. "The only way they'll play ball is if Red Bluff gives them an agreement that they won't interfere with their water rights and will shut down (water to Loving Salt) if there is low (Pecos River) water."

Wagner said IMC has about 600 acre/feet of Pecos River water rights, while M&M Cattle Co. owns about 30 acre/feet.

Miller said he talked with the son of M&M owner Harold McDonald about a month ago. "I gave him a contract and he said he would get it signed in a couple of days, but I haven't heard back from him since then."

Carpenter said she had talked with McDonald since than, and indicated "If you (Red Bluff) would be willing to negotiate with him, he would be agreeable."

"By not signing he's preventing us from using our own water and making us pay him," Miller said, though board president Randall Hartman said a lease agreement could be cheaper than a drawn-out legal battle with the state of New Mexico.

"I don't mind looking at it. The benefits would be greater than going through all of this," Hartman said, and the board authorized Miller to begin negotiations with M&M, while at the same time approving funds to begin the $2,000 HDR study, if no deal can be reached with M&M and IMC.

Wagner said he is awaiting final word from the New Mexico State Engineer's Office on construction of the three ponds where the Malaga Bend salt spring would be redirected.

"I'm looking at by the end of June we should be ready to start construction on the pond," he said, adding that the fresh water needed for cleaning the equipment could be hauled in for about 18 months, until harvesting of the salt from the first pond begins.

In other action on Monday, after the board talked with Brown and district auditor Randy Graham they agreed to put some of the district's money into a maintenance and special projects fund, to better indicate to the public where Red Bluff's expenses are going.

The action was in response to a discussion at last month's meeting with Ward County farmer Tom Nance who argued that under the 1989 Pecos River Compact settlement contract, the district was not allowed to build up a surplus and should return the money to farmers by cutting the $2.50 per acre/foot fee Red Bluff charges for its water.

Board members said the surplus funds would be needed for several projects, including the upcoming Red Bluff Dam gate replacement work, scheduled to be completed over the next two years. and Brown said on Monday, "The contract is not absolute to make you charge 93 cents," per acre/foot, under the 1934 contract creating the water district. "Times have substantially changed."

On the water report, Miller told board member Manuel Lujan that low water releases last month were to blame for a high water loss rate along the river. "With the river dry and low you get even worse loss" he said, adding that "Some of the water went to the Imperial Reservoir."

The quarterly investment report, accounts payable and cash disbursements were also approved by the board at the meeting, which was the first for Thacker, a Monahans resident appointed by Texas Gov. George W. B ush as the new Pecos River Compact Commissioner. Former commissioner Brad Newton, who was appointed by former Gov. Ann Richards, has taken a job with State Sen. Frank Madla's office.

Balmorhea council OKs park plan

By PEGGY McCRACKEN
Staff Writer
BALMORHEA Demonstrating the cooperative spirit that has begun to move this valley oasis forward, the Balmorhea City Council on Monday accepted six lots of land from the Balmorhea ISD for a city park.

The land, lying on the western edge of town, will be developed through a $64,000 grant from Texas Parks and Wildlife, with an equal amount in matching funds and in-kind donations from local citizens and businesses.

Karen Pogue, who has spearheaded the drive, said she has $35,000 in cash, materials and labor pledged.

School superintendent Carl Hoffmeyer said that TPW officials and a a representative of the Nature Conservancy have approved the property offered by the school district.

"When I first got involved with the city park, I was leery until I read the objectives and goals in the long-range plan," Hoffmeyer told the council. "It talks about under-developed areas and the need for city parks and play areas."

The plan speaks of cooperation between entities, he said.

"In that spirit, (Precinct 3) Commissioner Herman Tarin and myself as superintendent have worked to provide options for you. This is the only piece of property the school could donate. We are still willing and didn't put any stipulations on it."

He said that time is running out on the TPW grant application, and "things need to be done."

After the council voted unanimously to accept the land, Dr. Hoffmeyer said that the school district hopes to cooperate further by establishing a xeriscape educational project in the park as a hands-on learning experience for school students.

City Secretary Jeannie Clark asked the council to set a usage fee for the current city baseball park and downtown area, with a deadline for reservations.

Clark said that one group has already reserved the park for Memorial Day and wants it again for Labor Day. Another group has also asked for a Labor Day reservation, she said.

"Now I want a deadline and a cash deposit."

Coucil members Olga Mendoza and Sammy Baeza suggested a two-week deadline, but Clark said that may not be long enough.

Coucilman Danny Reynolds said that most reservations are made on a calendar year basis. "If you don't let them do it in advance, they can't line up a band," he said.

Water Supt. Freddie Schrier said that users currently post a $50 cleaning deposit, which is refunded if they leave the park in good condition.

"We still have to mow it, maintain the bleachers, haul off trash, so there has to be a figure for rent and paid in advance.

"If someone requests a reservation but does not pay rent, if that day rolls around and they don't show up...If the rent money is there, the city is assured of getting that. If they don't show up, someone else is knocked out of using the park."

The fee should be waived for T-ball, Little League and any youth programs during the summer.

Reynolds made a motion to set the fee at $150 per day, but Mayor Ismael Rodriguez and other coucil members said that would be too high.

"You have to remember teams come here and stay in motels and buy, and I don't think they make that much," said Herman Tarin.

Clark said that anyone using the park for more than two hours is required to rent Port-a-Johns, and they cost $200 per day.

Reynolds amended his motion to make the fee $75, starting June 1. He specified that if the city is required to close a street for an event, that constitutes use as a park and the fee would apply.

The motion passed unanimously, as did all motions made during the 45-minute meeting before a large crowd of citizens interested in the park grant.

Reynolds commended city employees for working during the recent city-wide cleanup on Saturday and proposed they be given a comp day off, which the council approved. He also suggested another cleanup in late August to prepare for the Labor Day celebration.

"We found some flaws in our system and are going to improve them," he said. "The sheriff will bring trusties from the Pecos jail. The people that turned out last time worked pretty hard."

He said Sheriff Andy Gomez would also provide potato salad and beans cooked at the jail.

"The sheriff is real interested in cleanup," Reynolds, a deputy, said.

The council voted to set cleanup for the third weekend in August.

David Carrasco, a computer technician for the school district, has agreed to install new computers for the city and transfer data from the old computer, Clark said. His price is $30 per hour, and the money is in the budget.

Schrier said he has called two attorneys about helping organize the 4-B sales tax board, but with no response. The council tabled forming a board, which will be composed of two coucil members and five qualified voters from the city.

The city must first form a corporation, then appoint the board to administer the half-cent sales tax approved by voters in the recent city election.

Elia Estrada reported the ambulance service made seven runs last month and are working on license renewal through the Texas Department of Health.

Schrier reported the water system is operating well, with 200 gallons per minute being pumped.

The sewer permit expires June 26, and the application to the Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission has gone in, he said.

One 17-year-old boy will work for the water department this summer through the Job Training Partnership Act, Schrier said. "Last summer we had two. They didn't have enough kids down here apply, so we only get one. Hopefully he's a worker."

Reynolds noted the water department has held expenditures $30,000 below the budget, and the fire department and office supplies are also under budget.

"We appreciate the performance of our city employees," he said.

Canadian company buying BCTI

By ROSIE FLORES
Staff Writer
PECOS, May 11, 1999 -- A Canadian firm will be taking over operations at the Battery Conservation Technologies, Inc. (BCTI) of Pecos soon.

The announcement came from Wayne Sorci, CEO of International Reclamation Corp. (IRC), which is buying BCTI. Officials did not give the cost of the purchase.

IRC, a Canadian environmental corporation based in British Columbia, entered into negotiations with the shareholders of BCTI to acquire it because of the great and rapidly increasing worldwide demand for an alternative to the landfill of alkaline batteries.

Company officials were in Pecos last month, prior to the final announcement of the purchase.

Robert L. Curry, Sr. said he is very pleased with the completed share transfer of the company he has and continues to serve as president. "I'm excited about the aggressive strategy the Canadian company has adopted to elevate BCTI's International presence," Curry said.

"With a multi-million dollar capital upgrade planned for the Pecos plant as well as the infusion of a solid business plan, there is no question BCTI will emerge as the sustained leader of cutting edge, battery recycling technology," said Curry.

In 1992, the Pecos plant began developing a proprietary process of recycling alkaline batteries which has since become an international solution to governments as well as large corporate entities wishing to be relieved of the perpetual liability inherent with the hazardous waste landfill of batteries.

BCTI is fully approved and licensed by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission to handle and process spent batteries as well as offer a certificate of full recycle which in turn relieves its clients from any and all long term liability related to future leaching and/or environmental contamination.

Teens' jail terms shortened on pot charges

By PEGGY McCRACKEN
Staff Writer
PECOS, May 11, 1999 -- Five years, two years, 15 months.

Federal court defendants heard those sentences Monday when U.S. District Judge Royal Furgeson held his now-weekly docket in the Pecos Division.

With Senior Judge Bunton taking a leave of absence following surgery, Judge Furgeson is handling all the 30-plus criminal cases indicted here each month.

Michelle Raquel Rodriguez, 19, and Jessica Marie Meraz, 18, both of Douglas, Arizona, drew the judge's mercy and the shortest sentences, although they admitted possession of more than 800 pounds of marijuana.

Defense attorneys Anthony Foster and Frank Brown sought the reduced sentences because the two young women cooperated with law enforcement officers after their arrest. As a result, Anna Robinson was arrested and convicted of marijuana possession.

Robinson pleaded guilty and was sentenced last month to five years in prison because she refused to talk, Judge Furgeson said.

"She said she was worried for her safety and reprisals. That does support to some extent the view that you were worried about your safety," Judge Furgeson told the two tearful defendants.

Foster said that Rodriguez's family members told him she had been employed since graduation and they knew she must have been under some type of duress to get involved in a drug operation.

Rodriguez told him she had met someone across the border, and he had made a proposal that she come to Texas and drive a vehicle from Presidio to Pecos, where it was to be loaded with marijuana.

"She was to be paid for driving it. She knew it would be loaded in Pecos," Foster said. "But her job was strictly to drive it."

The girls rode a bus from Arizona to Ojinaga, Mex., and stayed there three or four days "surrounded by all these individuals with weapons. At one point they thought they would like to leave but were told `You know too much already.'" Foster said.

Intimidation was such that it resulted in them driving the vehicle, he said.

Brown said that Meraz was "hanging on a cliff," and that she clearly put herself there.

"Today we will shove her off or pull her back," he said. "Her mother and sister are here from Douglas and Phoenix. Her sister said she will take custody to get her out of Douglas" if Judge Furgeson would place her on probation.

"It's a difficult decision," Judge Furgeson said. "I am so impressed at how young both these women are. Sometimes young people make such wrong decisions. If they had just had a little bit of maturity they might not have made the same decision."

Assistant U.S. Attorney J. Miller said that probation is not appropriate for a conviction that carries a mandatory minimum five-year prison sentence, based on the amount of contraband.

"When they were stopped, there was no other vehicle before or after them on Texas Highway 188. The agent could see for five miles," he said, disputing the girls' claim that the drug dealers traveled in front and behind them.

At the checkpoint, they didn't tell the officers that someone was following them, and they gave a bogus address where they were going, he said.

"They didn't `fess up until a K-9 alerted," Miller said. Further eroding their claim of innocence, Miller said the women stopped in El Paso and partied in Juarez on their way to Presidio.

He did request a reduction based on the statement implicating Robinson, but said, "We are not dealing with 5-10 pounds of marijuana. It was over 800 pounds. Probation is not appropriate."

Meraz apologized to the United States and to Texas for her mistake.

Judge Furgeson said he hates to see young people starting out on the wrong track.

"Sounds like to me that you have learned that drugs are bad and people that deal with drugs are bad," he said.

He commended the defendants for cooperating and reduced their sentences to 15 months each.

"It is one-fourth the sentence of

Arena hosting Relay for Life this weekend

By ROSIE FLORES
Staff Writer
PECOS, May 11, 1999 -- Reeves and Loving County walkers and runners will go around the clock in the battle against cancer during the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life this Friday and Saturday.

Teams of walking and running enthusiasts from all walks of life will gather at the Buck Jackson Rodeo Arena to show their support in the fight against cancer. Relay for Life is the American Cancer Society's community-oriented team event where participants walk or run around the track relay style for 24 hours.

When they aren't taking turns on the track, team members camp around the track and take part in a variety of fun activities. Teams from companies and organizations collect contributions.

"Relay for Life is as much an awareness raiser about progress against cancer as it is a fundraiser," said Marie Cardenas, County Extension Agent. "Many of the participants will be recovering cancer patient themselves. Their involvement is proof of the progress that has been made not only in cancer cure rates, but in the quality of life following cancer treatment."

"The funds raised will enable us to continue our services to cancer patients and their families, to offer more educational or risk reduction programs, and to expand cancer research programs," said Cardenas.

If you would like to register a team for Relay for Life, participate as a cancer survivor or recognize someone during the Luminaria ceremony, contact Marie Cardenas at 700 Daggett, Suite E or by calling 915-447-9041. You can also contact Nancy Ontiveros at 915-447-3551, ext. 350.

Lotto

AUSTIN (AP) Results of the Cash 5 drawing Monday night: Winning numbers drawn: 3-5-14-18-34. Number matching five of five: 2. Prize per winner: $42,112. Winning tickets sold in: Houston, Jones Creek. Matching four of five: 193. Prize: $655.

***

AUSTIN (AP) The winning Pick 3 numbers drawn Monday by the Texas Lottery, in order: 7-4-9 (seven, four, nine)

Obituary

Salome Munoz, Jr.

Salome Munoz, Jr., 57, died Sunday, May 9, 1999, at Reeves County Hospital.

A rosary is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. today, at the Pecos Funeral Home Chapel.

Mass will be held at 2 p.m., Wednesday, May 12, at Santa Rosa Catholic Church with burial in Greenwood Cemetery.

He was born May 4, 1942, in Marfa, was a lifelong Pecos resident, a retired driller for Pennzoil Sulfur Co. and a Catholic.

Survivors include his wife, Polly Munoz of Pecos; one son, Thomas Munoz of Pecos; two daughters, Gloria Tarango of Pecos and Melissa Valles of Odessa; his mother, Tomasa T. De La O of Monahans; two sisters, Ageda Nunez of Pecos and Mercedes Anaya of Odessa; one grandchild; eight nieces and seven nephews.

Pecos Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.

Weather

PECOS, May 11, 1999 -- High Monday 91; low last night 60. Tonight, a slight chance of evening thunderstorms, otherwise partly cloudy. Low in the mid 50s. Wind becoming northeast 10-20 mph this evening. Chance of rain 20 percent. Wednesday, partly cloudy. High in the mid 80s. East wind 10-20 mph.



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