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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Top Stories

Wednesday, August 25, 1999

RCH to close health clinic in Balmorhea

By PEGGY McCRACKEN
Staff Writer
PECOS, Aug. 25, 1999 -- Reeves County Hospital will close its rural health clinic in Balmorhea and enlarge the hospital's emergency room, the board of directors decided Tuesday.

Michelle Cser, physician assistant for both the Pecos and Balmorhea rural health clinics, said that the clinic in Balmorhea was opened as a service to the citizens, and it is no longer needed.

Texas Tech Health Services operates a clinic in conjunction with the Balmorhea schools, so the town will not be without health services.

Chief Financial Officer Richard Mathis estimated the clinic would lose $14,000 in the coming budget year.

"It loses $1,200 to $1,300 per month," he said.

Cser said the patient load of about 30 had dropped to half that, and the clinic "just is not feasible."

She has devoted two afternoons a week to Balmorhea, and will now be full time in the Pecos clinic, where she is also available to treat patients in the emergency room.

To enlarge the emergency room with an addition to the hospital building, the board authorized administrator Charles Butts to contract with Reeves and Associates to draw up plans and specifications for construction bids.

Reeves is building a new hospital in Fort Stockton, Butts said.

"They will work with the emergency room and staff to design a new ER that will better fit the needs," he said.

Butts was also authorized to negotiate a contract for physician recruiting to replace Dr. Ma, one of two obstetricians on the medical staff, and to find office space for a new physician.

Chief of Staff Dr. Orville Cerna said the medical staff recommends actively recruiting a replacement for Dr. Ma so that Dr. Joseph Darpolor "wouldn't have so much load to carry and become disheartened from working too hard."

Dr. Cerna said that the medical staff is glad some of the hospital's staffing problems have been under control, "thanks to our able administrator."

"We have made some hard decisions making sure our medical records will be up to date," he said, to smiles of approval from the board.

On recommendation from the medical staff, Dr. Charles Silvers was removed from the emergency room staff.

Commending the medical staff and hospital employees, board member Marcella Lovett said that other area hospitals have asked her how Reeves County Hospital manages to do so well.

"Will you guys continue to be such a shining example?" she asked.

"Oh, we will just be ourselves," quipped Dr. Cerna. "I am sure our administrator will do his best to recruit some good replacements so we can continue."

Board president Greg Luna said, "We are very proud of all our physicians. We will set a date to take them to the Country Club."

Butts said the medical staff also authorized him to go to work on better radiology coverage, and a group plans to make a presentation in September.

Iris Rives reported that the Texas Department of Health has helped the staff test TB masks to ensure that no contaminated air bypasses the filter.

They also provided a video, "Blood Bug Barriers," for staff training on blood-borne pathogens.

Hepatitis B and HIV are the primary concern, but the video addressed all organisms transmitted by blood and blood flows, Rives said.

Director of Nursing, L.G. Crawford, reported that the county will hold a disaster drill on Sept. 18 to test for readiness to meet emergencies. Use of the emergency room will be part of the drill, he said.

"We put together a scenario with what happens and throw every glitch in the works we can for the hospital, EMS, county judge and others, to see how much we can tax the system if we had a massive disaster," he said.

Butts said he is real proud of what happens when trauma cases come in to the emergency room. He cited a recent accident when three adults and three children were brought to the hospital from a traffic accident near Balmorhea.

After treating the injuries, the staff arranged for a motel room for the family and clothes to wear, he said.

"These people just could not get over how nice we were to them. We told them this is what we do. We make sure all the relatives and friends are contacted.

"This is routine. One of the ladies said we ought to put jeans and T-shirts in a closet so we don't have to go out and hunt for clothes," Butts said.

Hospital board OKs budget, tax rate

By PEGGY McCRACKEN
Staff Writer
PECOS, Aug. 25, 1999 -- Reeves County Hospital District directors on Tuesday adopted a $7.5 million operating budget and $1.1 million capital budget Tuesday and adopted a tax rate of 32.817 cents to help fund it.

The 1999 tax rate is less than 1998 because the district has paid off most of its bond debt, requiring less than one cent per $100 valuation. However, the operations and maintenance tax increased by about three cents.

Loss from operations is projected at $1.3 million, which is $633,266 more than the previous year.

A loss of $2 million in valuations contributed to the need for a tax rate increase for operations.

The board adopted the standard exemptions of $15,000 for senior citizens, $12,00 for disabled veterans and $10,000 for medically disabled, approved the certified appraisal roll, anticipated collection rate and calculation of effective and rollback tax rates.

No public comment was heard during the budget hearing that preceded the budget and tax rate votes.

American Home Health owner Leo Hung presented a comparison on home health care funding for "old agencies," in operation during 1993-94 and new agencies that began operating after 1994.

Current Medicare reimbursement sets a cap on per-patient costs, and old agencies have a higher cap than new agencies, he said.

He estimated that Reeves County Hospital's "new" home health agency brings in less revenue to the local economy than does AHH.

Administrator Charles Butts said that the Medicare rules will soon change, and RCH will receive the same reimbursement as any other home health agency. Due to lower overhead costs, the hospital can operate a quality service at lower rates, he said.

Butts said he has attempted to contact board member Chel Flores about his plans to remain on the board or resign. Flores has not attended a board meeting since May.
 

City, county squabble over big water bill

By ROSIE FLORES
Staff Writer
PECOS, Aug. 25, 1999 -- Water bills too high? Reeves County certainly thinks so and they are disputing a six-figure water bill for the Reeves County Detention Center.

Reeves County Commissioners met with some members of the Town of Pecos City Council, including the mayor Dot Stafford, water superintendent Octavio Garcia, city manager Kenneth Neal and city financial director Steve McCormick.

Council members on hand were Gerald Tellez and Johnny Terrazas.

"My intent is to try to resolve this problem in a manner that will be fair and equitable," said Reeves County Judge Jimmy B. Galindo.

Galindo invited council members to join them in the meeting after the county received a letter from the city, pertaining to a water bill from the Reeves County Detention Center.

The bill in question is estimated to be about $400,000.

"That's because the water rate was the incorrect rate, dating back to January of 1989," according to Galindo.

"The letter states that the rate is this and if it's not paid, they will turn off the water," said Galindo. "The tone is not one I expected, I hope we can resolve this manner in a fair way and hopefully we can continue along that path without sending threats."

Galindo said that at the last meeting he had attended with the council he had suggested bringing in a third party, an expert to do a water study. "And I have found just the right person," he said.

Galindo said the bill he had received was for $348,000, but actually two months have been added to that amount since then, bringing the total closer to $400,000.

"That's the amount the county owes the city because they didn't put in appropriate rate since 1989," he said.

Galindo said the county received a bill for June and July and that the bill had jumped from $4,900 to $16,000.

"We want to be treated the same as any commercial customer, outside the city limit," said Galindo.

At the last meeting Galindo attended with the city, they were given a copy of the new water rate, $5.50 per 1,000 and they were told that they were in a class of their own. "We're out of the city limits and not subject to ad valorem taxes," he said.

Galindo said he had spoken to someone who can come do a study and determine the appropriate water rate. "We were not aware of the rates until this particular bill came up," he said.

"It's better for us if we can have someone like that to come do the study and put it in writing so that we can present it to BOP," said Galindo.

Mayor Dot Stafford apologized if the county thought the letter was "a little bit rough."

"We think that the rate is fair and as far as not being notified of the new rate, it was posted in the newspaper twice and on the radio," said Stafford.

A first reading of the ordinance was read in May and the second reading took place on June 10, according to Stafford.

"We thought this was giving everyone sufficient time and I think that was nothing but fair," said Stafford.

Council Gerald Tellez said that any other customer that pays only one third of their bill, are told they have 30 days to pay or they will be disconnected. "And you asked us to treat you just like any other customers," he said.

The county paid only one-third of the bill.

Galindo stated his concern that if the water was cut off, it would pose a problem for on-going construction at the facility. "There are a lot of concrete and the need for water out there and we just can't afford any delays at this time," he said.

Galindo said that the main point was that the facility was needed for economic growth and that it would eventually provide 200 more jobs in the community.

"I don't think we would actually cut you off, but if it had been calculated at the right rate, the increase would have been less drastic," said councilman Johnny Terrazas.

Stafford said that Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission and the water development corporation had both suggested that the city raise their water rates. "We have some of the lowest water rates and this is what they suggested," said Stafford.

The mayor also pointed out there are some elderly people in the community who are having trouble making their water payments. "If we lower yours, the citizens will be the ones to suffer because their rates will go up," she said. "I just don't think some of these people can afford for their rates to go up anymore."

Galindo said there is objective criteria out there. "If you would just let us complete this study and if that turns out to be the rate, we will go back and pay that," he said. "I can then take it to BOP and tell them that the water rate is justified."

"We want to maintain a good relationship with our biggest client," said Precinct 2 Commissioner David Castillo.

Council members agreed to allow the county to hire a professional, who should be here in a few days. to do the study. However, the agreement is still subject to approval.

"The members want to get together and discuss it at the next council meeting and get the whole council's approval and opinions," said city manager Kenneth Neal.
 

Council eyes property for water field

By PEGGY McCRACKEN
Staff Writer
PECOS, Aug. 25, 1999 -- Continuing their quest for water, the Pecos City Council on Thursday will consider acquisition of real property for a city water field and amend a resolution requesting financial assistance for same from the Texas Water Development Board.

The discussion will be held in closed session, but if the council votes on the matter, it will be in open session to follow.

Also in closed session, the council will consider the position of associate municipal court judge, and duties of the police chief and animal control officer.

Other agenda items include a request for closure of streets on Sept. 11 for the 16th of September Fiestas, agreement to allow demonstration project to control salt cedar, consider anticipated tax collection rate of 95 percent for 1999, consider sale of real property to Texas Department of Transportation, and consider lease of city property located at 5202 S. Cedar St.
 

Inmate charged in major heroin bust

By PEGGY McCRACKEN
Staff Writer
PECOS, Aug. 25, 1999 -- The biggest heroin seizure in West Texas on Monday came as a result of investigations in Pecos and Odessa.

Officers found 1.25 pounds of heroin valued at $52,000.

A Reeves County jail inmate, Lazaro Hernandez Pando, 29, is charged with conspiracy in the case. He allegedly made telephone calls from jail to facilitate the heroin purchase.

Odessa residents Ricky Portillo Aguilar, 21, and Irene Anita Rodriguez, 40, are charged with possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute and conspiracy.

Rodriguez is on federal probation for marijuana possession. She was convicted in the Pecos Division in March after admitting she had 69.4 pounds of marijuana in her possession on Oct. 9, 1998.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeff Parras said that the heroin charges will be prosecuted in the Pecos Division as well. The defendants appeared before U.S. Magistrate Stuart Platt in Midland this morning.

Because of prior felony arrests, the government will seek enhancement on Pando and Rodriguez, Parras said.

The joint undercover investigation involved officers with the Texas Department of Public Safety, U.S. Customs, DEA and the West Texas Narcotics Enforcement Task Force.

Assisting were the FBI and the Odessa Police Department.
 

Ranch rodeo scheduled for  weekend

By ROSIE FLORES
Staff Writer
PECOS, Aug. 25, 1999 -- Local cowboys will have another chance to participate in a rodeo, when Dollar J Production brings the Who's Cowboy, Who's Not Ranch Rodeo to Pecos.

The Ranch Rodeo will be held nightly at 6:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at the Buck Jackson Rodeo Arena.

Events will include team roping, goat roping, calf branding, wild cow milking, tag team milk race and a wild mare race. The wild mare race is scheduled for Saturday only.

"We did one in Van Horn this past July and it proved to be a huge success," said Jason Owen, of Van Horn, organizer of the event.

Owen said that the cowboys wanted to participate in a second rodeo and suggested bringing it to Pecos.

"It was awesome, really, really good and we wanted to give the local cowboys another chance to be in a rodeo," said Owen.

There were over 500 people who attended the Saturday night show in Van Horn, according to Owen. "That's record-setting for Van Horn," he said.

All local cowboys are encouraged to participate, according to Owen.

"The greatest rodeo show on earth is coming to Pecos, Aug. 27 and 28, don't come if you're scared," said Owen.

There will also be some events for the youngsters, such as a boot scramble for those 11 and under. No entry fee is required and a trophy will be awarded both nights to the winner.

A calf scramble for kids 12-16 will be held each night. A Gist belt buckle will be awarded to each winner.

A special event will end the ranch rodeo Saturday night. "Ladies can find out if their man is really a cowboy or if he's just a chicken, with the Cowboy Poker Game," said Owen.

He said Cowboy Poker is an event where a group of really brave or really crazy cowboy's play a game of poker in the arena. "Along with a really angry bull, there's a $20 entry fee and a Gist buckle to the bravest man," said Owen.

After the poker game, everyone is encouraged to get ready to dance their boots off to the music of Wayne West at 9:30 p.m., at the Reeves County Civic Center.

To enter a team or for general information, call Owen at 915-490-0391.

Teams are encouraged to enter early.
 

Balmorhea ISD gets grant for Internet

PECOS, Aug. 25, 1999 -- Balmorhea ISD has received a Non-Competitive Grant for Texas Public Schools in the amount of $39,490 from the Telecommunications Infrastructure Fund Board, a state agency in Austin.

These Public School Technology Advancement and Distance Learning Grants will allow Balmorhea ISD to purchase the necessary equipment to enhance Internet access.

Non-competitive grants for up to $600,000 will fund workstations, networking hardware, ISP costs, videoconferencing equipment and other related telecommunications costs in order for the qualified public schools to expand upon their existing network. These grant projects begin Sept. 1, 1999.

The public school applicants were required to complete a detailed application. These public school districts and campuses were also required to provide, in matching funds, a minimum of 10 percent of the funds requested from the TIF Board.

"We are very pleased to receive this award," said Balmorhea ISD superintendent, Dr. Carl L. Hoffmeyer. "We will use TIF Board funds, along with the matching funds we have committed to the project, to enhance our current infrastructure. This grant will give us the opportunity to purchase equipment for expanded Internet access and the means to move towards using distance learning as an advanced teaching tool," he said.

Since its creation by the 74th Legislature in 1995, the TIF Board has awarded approximately $202 million in telecommunications grants to 1,018 school districts and charter schools (out of 1,145), 57 community colleges (out of 57), 69 public and private institutions of higher education, 592 public libraries and branches (out of 789), 300 public and non-for-profit health care facilities (out of 742), 11 collaboratives of model projects, and 13 collaboratives of rural school districts.

The agency receives approximately $150 million per year in revenues from telecommunications assessments to disburse over a ten-year period.
 

SSB's directors staying on board

PECOS, Aug. 25, 1999 -- Security State Bank's directors will all remain on the board when TransPecos Financial takes over bank operations, said Dudley Montgomery, president and CEO.

Directors with Montgomery are Bill Oglesby, Ray Owen, Jim Kenney, Mike Harrison, Greg Johns, Bob Bickley, J.F. Pattee and Archie Scott. Pat Kennedy, chairman of TransPecos, and Joe Keese will also serve on the board.

Pattee, Bickley and Scott worked as an independent board committee to work out the bank sale after other directors made an offer to purchase a majority of shares from more than 60 shareholders, in an effort to consolidate ownership.

The TransPecos offer was the highest of several submitted, Pattee said.

Kennedy said that new ownership will mean a continuation of the existing management along with the quality of service citizens of Pecos have come to expect.
 

Lotto

AUSTIN (AP) Results of the Cash 5 drawing Tuesday night: Winning numbers drawn: 2-23-24-33-39. Number matching five of five: 2. Prize per winner: $39,090. Winning tickets sold in: Bryan, Tahoka. Matching four of five: 191. Prize: $615.

***

AUSTIN (AP) The winning Pick 3 numbers drawn Tuesday by the Texas Lottery, in order: 0-8-5 (zero, eight, five).
 

Weather

High Tuesday 94; low last night 69. Rainfall .14 at Texas A&M Research Station. Tonight, partly cloudy with a slight chance of evening showers and thunderstorms. Low in the upper 60s. Southeast wind 5-10 mph. chance of rain 20 percent. Thursday, mostly sunny. High in the mid 90s. Southeast wind 10-15 mph. Extended forecast, Thursday night, partly cloudy. Low in the upper 60s to near 70. Friday through Sunday, mostly sunny days and fair nights through the period. Lows in the upper 60s to near 70. Highs in the mid to upper 90s.



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