Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas
Tuesday, October 12, 1999
Commissioners discuss N-waste, sewage concerns
By SMOKEY BRIGGS
PECOS, Oct. 12, 1999 -- The Reeves County Commissioners Court worked
its way through most of the posted agenda Monday but decided to address
two items in more depth in a special meeting scheduled for this morning.
The first item on the agenda was a request for the court to adopt a
resolution opposing a low-level radioactive waste disposal facility to
be located in Ward County near Barstow.
Envirocare of Texas is considering three sites, including one near Barstow
and one in Loving County, to build a low-level radioactive waste storage
site. They are seeking an area with no underground aquifers for their above-ground
site, after that problem blocked usage of land owned by the company in
western Andrews County earlier this year.
Several supporters of the resolution against the site showed up to voice
their opinion to the court.
"We're going to fight this the best we can," said Don Howell, a city
councilman for Grandfalls. "This is an economic thing and could be very
damaging to our ability to market crops and cattle. "
Howell also said that any comparison with nuclear waste and hydrogen
sulfide was misleading.
"About the only thing these they have in common is that they are both
dangerous," he said.
Howell made the remark in reference to Monahans Mayor David Cutbirth's
statement to The Monahans News that the hydrogen sulfide gas dealt with
in the oil and gas fields near Barstow is more dangerous than low-level
Also on hand to voice their support for the resolution were Laura Burnett,
chairman for the Friends of Ward County, a group founded to fight the storage
facility, and Clarese Gough, city council member and mayor pro-tem for
Liz Martinez, another member of the Friends of Ward County group and
a business owner in Monahans, was also on hand.
After hearing all public comments the court decided to postpone any
action on the resolution until Tuesday.
"We've been presented with a lot of information that we need to look
over before we make a decision," County Judge Jimmy Galindo said.
"This is an important issue for Pecos," Herman Tarin, commissioner for
Precinct 3 said. "The proposed site is between two aquifers and water is
very important out here."
Galindo also said that while the court did not have jurisdiction in
the matter, the resolution was a good idea.
The second item on the agenda involved a similar situation where the
court does not have legal jurisdiction — the proposed addition of two holding
ponds at the city sewage treatment plant and annexing more than 400 acres
of land between the plant and the east side of Pecos to be used an a effluent
Commissioner for Precinct 1, Felipe Arredondo, explained to the court
that the issue is of great concern to the citizens on the east side of
Pecos. The plant is located near the Pecos River east of Collie Road.
"It already stinks pretty bad right now and the fear is that the addition
of two more ponds will just add to the problem," he said.
Arredondo said that the Save East Pecos Committee sent a letter to the
Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission contesting the award of
the permit needed by the city to expand the plant. The letter also requested
a public hearing on the matter.
The committee was recently formed to address the issue, Arredondo explained.
"We had to send the letter to beat the 30-day deadline imposed by the
law," he said. "We aren't necessarily opposed to the idea. We just want
to find out what the effects will be before this happens."
Pecos city councilman Larry Levario addressed the court as well.
"This is a problem of great concern for the citizens of East Pecos,"
he said. "It needs to be addressed to the city council."
Levario also said that he intended to work with the Save East Pecos
Committee on the issue.
Commissioner for Precinct 4, Gilbert "Hivi" Rayos, stated that one possible
cause for the odor was that the aeration equipment that treats the sewage
before it is placed in the holding ponds might not be working correctly.
"If that is the case, the new holding ponds won't hurt," he said.
Levario said that he would check with the city water superintendent
and if the aerators weren't working properly he would find out what needs
to be done to fix them.
The court finally voted to table the issue until the expected TNRCC
hearing takes place.
Texas Department of Transportation officials were on hand to report
to the court about a proposed truck route connecting Interstate 20 with
U.S. 285. The route would run east of Pecos utilizing what is now County
Trucks using the road would include those carrying radioactive waste
from sites in the Eastern United States to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant
southeast of Carlsbad, N.M. Current plans have the trucks exiting I-20
onto U.S. 285, and then traveling through the middle of town on their way
to the WIPP site.
According to Galindo, the court had asked TxDOT to look into the idea
and report back to the court. After the report, Galindo said that he expected
the proposed route to be an agenda item at the next regular commissioner's
Engineering specialist with the local TxDOT district John Salcido addressed
the court and requested that the court adopt a resolution supporting the
"We would need something like this (the resolution) from the county,"
Salcido said that the route is currently part of the long range planning
for the Odessa district and if approved is slated to be built sometime
between 2006 and 2010.
Salcido also said that if funding were allocated by the Federal Department
of Energy that the timetable for construction could be moved up considerably.
"This is a great idea," Tarin said. "If there is an accident with hazardous
materials here on 285 we would have to evacuate all of the buildings that
are crucial to responding to the problem — the police station, the sheriffs
office, the fire department — we couldn't do anything," he said.
Commissioner for Precinct 2, David Castillo, said that he agreed with
Tarin as to the safety aspects of the plan, especially in connection with
the WIPP trucks, but expressed concern that such a route might divert too
much thru-traffic and have a negative effect on the economy.
Galindo told the court that the idea came from his office, and was not
a proposal of TxDOT.
"This is a safety issue that is very important to Pecos," Galindo said.
Salcido stated that the route would still be designated a farm-to-market
road and that probably wouldn't be very attractive to most motorists.
"The only people who might really use it are farmers and people that
live in the area," he said.
The court postponed any action until the proposal could be placed on
the agenda and for a time when Resident Engineer Paul Henderson could be
present to talk with the court as well.
Also postponed until today's meeting was the part of the semi-monthly
bills presented to the court that dealt with the Trans-Pecos Drug Task
The court failed to approve payment of the task force's bills and decided
to request that representatives of the task force present a full accounting
to the court on Tuesday morning.
Galindo said that the original plan to fund the task force is not working.
The grant received to create the task force requires that participating
entities match 25 percent of grant money. The original plan was for Reeves
County to pay all of the local matching funds, Galindo said. To do so,
Reeves County was going to house U.S. Marshal's Service prisoners at the
county jail and the anticipated revenue was to be enough to pay the local
match requirements for all participating entities.
The other participating entities were to house Reeves County prisoners
displaced to make room for the federal prisoners.
Unfortunately, he said, for a number of reasons, the plan has not worked
and Reeves County hasn't received the anticipated revenue.
"The first strategy has not worked from ground zero. We need a full
accounting of the situation and owe the same to the other counties that
are in this. This will give us a place to start thinking about different
ways to fund this," Galindo said.
In other business the court approved a motion to help the Balmorhea
Independent School District pave the dirt track at the Balmorhea High School.
The motion was made under the guidelines of the inter-local agreement
between Reeves County and the school district.
Under the motion the school district will buy $5,000 worth of emulsion
that will be used to treat and cure the track, which will be made of recycled
The county's contribution will be in equipment and manpower to be supplied
by the road and bridge department. The county recently helped the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah
ISD completely resurface its track for the first time in 16 years.
Contractors given info on Red Bluff rehab
By JON FULBRIGHT
PECOS, Oct. 12, 1999 -- The salt cedars have been sprayed, the salt
pond permits have been approved and the contractors are being briefed today
on what will be required in their bids for the Red Bluff Dam renovation
All in all, Monday's meeting of the Red Bluff Water Power Control Board
had more good news for board members than any meeting in a long time.
Rich Shoemaker of HDR Engineering told the board he planned to meet
with "about eight" contractors today to give them the specifications on
the first stage of the dam's gate replacement project, with bids on the
work due in on Oct. 26.
That came after board president Randall Hartman said Loving Salt Company
had finally been given approval for its reclamation ponds in Eddy County,
N.M., which will allow a salt spring at Malaga Bend to be pumped away from
the Pecos River.
Board members were also updated on last month's spraying of salt cedars
between Red Bluff Dam and the Mentone crossing of the Pecos River, which
is designed to kill the trees to increase water flow and lower the salt
levels in the river.
Shoemaker met with the contractors at the Swiss Clock Inn this morning
to give them the specifications on the work, which is the first step in
re-opening the east outlet tube of the dam and repairing the dam's west
outlet over the next two years, at a cost of about $750,000. Phase I will
begin on Nov. 15 and is scheduled to last four months.
"We'll be constructing a bulkhead and figuring out how to seal off the
inlet so we can de-water those and go in for inspection," Shoemaker said.
"The first phase requires a more diving-related contractor, while the
second phase (set for the winter of 2000-2001) is more piping and concrete
work," he said. The same contractor may or may not end up handling both
phases of the project.
Shoemaker said only contractors who are at this morning's meeting would
be allowed to bid on the project. "There are too many access and safety-related
issues to bid the project without looking at it," he said.
Shoemaker also explained that part of a $10,237 bill this month sent
to Red Bluff by HDR involved structural engineering studies of the dam
by the company's Dallas office.
He said the work was needed to estimate the structural integrity of
the 65-year-old dam when the water tunnels are blocked this winter. "As
long as the lake is at 2,817 (feet above sea level) or lower, we can drain
the tunnels and put people in there safely," Shoemaker said.
He also recommended the board try to shorten next year's water release
season by several weeks, in order to allow more time to complete Phase
II of the project. "With high liquidated damages (for failure to complete
the work on time) the more time in the bid for them, the better the price
will be," Shoemaker said.
At the other end of the lake, the Malaga Bend project may finally go
on to the next phase after Albert Wagner of Loving Salt Co. finally was
given permission by the State of New Mexico to build his ponds, where water
will be pumped and then evaporated to mine out the salt.
"The only problem he had was he had to cut the size of his ponds in
half," Hartman said. "So instead of three (ponds) he'll have six."
Hartman also said Wagner was seeking to buy the land where the ponds
would be built, instead of leasing it from the city of Carlsbad, in order
to avoid stricter state controls.
"As soon as he gets the land deal, he'll notify us, and we'll have to
get busy with something else," Hartman said, referring to drilling of a
well to pump out the salt spring.
The well would be a 10-12 inch hole with a thick plastic casing, to
avoid rusting problems, and would be about 300 feet deep.
"We should start getting better quality water sometime this winter,"
board member Lloyd Goodrich said.
The board also said they would continue to back Wagner over a plan proposed
last month by United Salt Co. to drill up to 10 wells at its site east
of Malaga Bend to pump out salt water from the underground formation.
"We need to stay with Albert. We made a deal," board member Charlotte
Wilcox said, while Miller again told the board United Salt backed out of
a similar deal with the district before they signed their contract with
As for the salt cedars, they were sprayed with Arsenal last month, and
while the results won't be known until the spring, Miller said, "It's going
to kill them. We've seen what it does up in New Mexico."
He added that Barney Lee and the Upper Pecos Soil and Water Conservation
Service are seeking grants to continue spraying south of Mentone, while
board member Manuel Lujan added, "I heard they're working on a $1 million
grant from the (U.S. Army) Corps of Engineers."
"The Corps in New Mexico is after that Texas (wetlands) label (for Arsenal).
They want to do the whole river," Goodrich said, though he and the board
were wary of allowing the Corps too much control of the Pecos River in
The board also approved accounts payable, cash disbursements and the
monthly water report, which showed the lake level at 79,000 acre/feet at
the start of the month. Water releases are scheduled to continue through
Nov. 15, and Miller said a notice would be sent out to area water districts
reminding them the lake water would be cut off for Phase I of the dam project
after Nov. 15.
Kermit woman indicted on drug charges
By PEGGY McCRACKEN
PECOS, Oct. 12, 1999 -- A Kermit woman who allegedly maintained a drug
establishment where cocaine was manufactured and sold is among 22 defendants
named in federal indictments Thursday.
Helen Revina Pando, 60, is charged with maintaining a place at 505 N.
Cedar in Kermit for the purpose of manufacturing, distributing and using
controlled substances and with distributing cocaine during June.
If convicted, she could be sentenced up to 20 years in prison on each
count and fined up to $1 million.
Charges were filed in federal court by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco
Tom Larry, 62, of Ridge Springs, S.C., was indicted for possession with
intent to distribute 722.56 pounds of marijuana.
Four other persons were charged with possession with intent to distribute
marijuana, four with illegal entry after deportation, three with transporting
illegal aliens, and two each with importing illegal aliens, importing and
possessing marijuana for distribution, and failure to appear.
A superceding indictment refines conspiracy/heroin possession charges
against three Odessa residents who were arrested August 23.
Drug task force arrests four in meth sting
Four Lubbock residents were arrested in Midland on drug charges stemming
from a drug sting operation conducted by the Trans Pecos Drug Task Force
this past Friday.
At approximately 12:30 p.m., on Oct. 8, officers with the Trans Pecos
Drug Task Force conducted the drug sting operation, which resulted in the
arrest of the four individuals and seizure of 17 ounces of Methampheamines
in Midland County.
Estimated street value of the Methamphetamine was set at $50,000, according
to Task Force Commander Gary Richards.
Arrested were Ernestina Martinez, Arturo DeLeon, Sandra Martinez and
Guadalupe Martinez, all of Lubbock. The suspects were transported to Midland
Trans Pecos Drug Task Force is under the direction of Sheriff Arnulfo
"Andy" Gomez (Project Director) and commander Richards.
Members of the Trans Pecos Drug Task Force consists of officers from
Reeves County, Winkler County, Ward County, Jeff Davis County, Reagan County,
Midland County, Andrews County, City of Pecos, City of Kermit, City of
Monahans, and City of Andrews.
PIP registrations ending Thursday
PECOS, Oct. 12, 1999 -- Registration continues through Thursday
for the PIPs youth basketball program at the Reeves County Community Sports
and Recreation Department.
The PIPs program is for boys and girls in kindergarten through sixth
grade and is designed to teach them both ball handling skills and the fundamentals
of basketball. The students will work on developing their skills during
in the weeks before the Christmas holidays and will then perform during
halftime of the Pecos Eagles' varsity boys and girls district games in
For further information on the PIPs program, call the CRD at 447-9776.
Terms handed down to drug ring members
By PEGGY McCRACKEN
PECOS, Oct. 12, 1999 -- Wrapping up one of the largest drug-smuggling
cases brought to trial in a federal court, District Judge Royal Furgeson
this morning alternated between maximum sentences for major players and
leniency for cooperative defendants.
One of the organizers of the ring that smuggled 750 kilograms of marijuana
a month into the United States from Mexico is already serving a term for
illegal entry after deportation. Judge Furgeson added 210 months to Martin
A. Alarcon-Iniguez's sentence, to be served consecutively.
Responding to Alarcon's plea for mercy because , "My children need me,"
Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom McHugh objected.
"He required the government to put on four days of testimony. There
is evidence in this court regarding his threatening other witnesses who
testified against him. He required them, before he pleaded guilty, to take
the stand and identify him," McHugh said.
McHugh said the smuggling went on for a substantial period of time and
involved a substantial network of people.
Judge Furgeson said that Alarcon could have been sentenced to 30 years
to life but for the good work of his attorney, Steve Hargrove, in working
out a plea agreement.
"You really did yourself a favor in entering a plea and accepting responsibility,"
Alarcon is also to pay a $60,000 fine and will be placed on five years
supervised release when he completes the prison term.
"Supervised release will be non-reporting, because you will be deported,"
Judge Furgeson said. "You can't come back without official written permission
to do so."
The man who testified against Alarcon and four other co-defendants had
99 months knocked off his sentence for his cooperation.
James Earl Luna admitted hauling 50 loads of marijuana for the organization.
After being arrested in Louisiana and again in Alpine, Luna began giving
investigators information on the smuggling operation.
Luna testified during the trial that one of the ring leaders took him
aside while they were in the Winkler County Jail and threatened to have
him killed if he testified.
Another defendant in the case was killed, said Luna's attorney, Spenser
Dobbs, and he thanked the court for protecting Luna.
Asking for a substantial reduction in sentence, Dobbs said, "It would
send the right message; let people know, if your life is on the line, you
will be protected and be rerwarded for the risk you take."
Luna apologized for his actions in the past and said he began trying
to live right after being arrested in Louisiana.
"I have a 15-month-old baby and I want to be the best father I can to
her," he said.
McHugh agreed that Luna should be rewarded for this cooperation, truthful
and believable testimony, and asked that he be kept separated from his
co-defendants while in prison.
Although he could have sent Luna to prison for 135 months, Judge Furgeson
sentenced him to 36 months, "because I think you have had an enormous impact
on this case. It is one of the largest drug smuggling cases that has come
through the federal courts in America."
Most of all, Judge Furgeson said, he made the decision because Luna
"just stepped up and told the truth and let the chips fall where they may."
Luna's wife, Hope Jones Lopez, also got a break because she played a
minor role in the ring by accompanying Luna on the Alpine trip that involved
more than 60 kilograms of marijuana.
In lowering her sentence to 12 months plus one day, Judge Furgeson said
he took the unusual action because Jones Lopez's family was decimated by
the arrest of her husband, mother and stepfather.
Jones Lopez was left with the care of her small children, plus two sisters,
when her parents were arrested in the same case.
"I have moving letters about what a good job Hope is doing as their
mother," Judge Furgeson said.
She was leaving a bad marriage when she met Luna in Atlanta, Ga. and
fell in love with him, said her attorney, Paul Williams "That's the only
way she got involved in it.
Judge Furgeson allowed Jones Lopez to remain free on bail until Jan.
6, 2000, when she is to report to the Carswell women's prison in Fort Worth.
Besides the 14 defendants in this case, Judge Furgeson had 28 other
defendants on today's docket for sentencing.
In the courtroom next door, U.S. Magistrate/Judge Stuart Platt had 16
cases on the docket for guilty pleas.
AUSTIN (AP) — Results of the Cash 5 drawing Monday night: Winning numbers
drawn: 15-18-20-22-28. Number matching five of five: 3. Prize per winner:
$28,398. Winning tickets sold in: Bonham, Irving, Odessa. Matching four
of five: 215. Prize: $595.
AUSTIN (AP) — The winning Pick 3 numbers drawn Monday by the Texas Lottery,
in order: 5-4-8 (five, four, eight)
Funeral services are incomplete for Harold Simpson, 77, who died Monday
at Medical Center Hospital in Odessa.
Services will be under the direction of Pecos Funeral Home.
PECOS, Oct. 12, 1999 -- High Monday 86; low last night 51. Tonight, clear.
Low 50 55. Light south wind. Wednesday, sunny. High in the mid 80s. Variable
wind 5-10 mph. Extended forecast, Wednesday night, clear. Low in the lower
to mid 50s. Thursday through Friday, mostly sunny days and fair nights.
Highs in the mid 80s.
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
Associated Press text, photo, graphic, audio and/or video material shall not be published, broadcast, rewritten for broadcast or publication or redistributed directly or indirectly in any medium.
Copyright 1999 by Pecos Enterprise