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Tuesday, October 12, 1999

Commissioners discuss N-waste, sewage concerns

By SMOKEY BRIGGS
Staff Writer
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 radioactivity.

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 Monahans.

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 disposal area.

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 Road 117.

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 court meeting.

Engineering specialist with the local TxDOT district John Salcido addressed the court and requested that the court adopt a resolution supporting the new route.

"We would need something like this (the resolution) from the county," he said.

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 Force.

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 road material.

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
Staff Writer
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 project.

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 Wagner.

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 Texas.

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
Staff Writer
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 and Firearms.

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 County Jail.

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 January.

For further information on the PIPs program, call the CRD at 447-9776.

Terms handed down to drug ring members

By PEGGY McCRACKEN
Staff Writer
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," Furgeson said.

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.

Lotto

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)

Obituary

Harold Simpson

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.

Weather

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.



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Pecos Enterprise
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
e-mail news@pecos.net

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