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Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Chamber gives GEO staff Citizen of the Year honors

Staff Writer

In a surprise move Thursday evening, the Pecos Area Chamber of Commerce recognized a group instead of just an individual with the honor of Citizen of the Year, at the Pecos Chamber of Commerce Annual Awards Banquet.

Pecos Area Chamber of Commerce President Jimmy Dutchover presented the award to the GEO Group, manager of the Reeves County Detention Center, at the ceremony, in which the president of GEO, Wayne Calabrese, was the guest speaker.

“Although the winner may catch each of you off guard, this is not our intention,” said Dutchover, during the awards presentation.

“Over the past few years, Pecos and the surrounding area found itself aching for a way to deal with our economic troubles. We needed an infusion of ideas and money to help stabilize our community,” said Dutchover. “Little did we know such a partner would soon arrive in our neck of the woods.”

He said GEO came to the community’s aid, when they joined Reeves County in a venture, which has grown to be the world’s largest government-owned, privately managed correctional facility. “And because of their efforts, our community has begun to stabilize and prosper,” said Dutchover.

GEO was hired in November 2003 after the county was unable to find inmates for the new 960-bed RCDC III unit, threatening the county with default on the entire $89 million prison. GEO helped the county secure a deal with the State of Arizona to house inmates, and are now working with the county on a 400-bed expansion if a deal can be reached with the U.S. Bureau of Prisons to house inmates at RCDC III.

“You might tell yourself that the GEO Group has been compensated for their business investment. But hopefully, you can agree with me when it comes to volunteerism, which the GEO Group promotes, we see the teamwork that the employees and leaders demonstrate,” said Dutchover. “The encouragement and time the GEO Group gives its employees to help with Special Olympics is just one of the ways it practices what it preaches, community involvement.”

Calabrese accepted the award on behalf of the employees of GEO and their families. “It’s a difficult job, often a thankless job,” said Calabrese. “I think of them on holidays, when everyone else is at home with their families, and they are there on the job,” he said. Earlier, Calabrese had outlined the history of the company’s involvement with Reeves County in getting the prison and the county’s finances back in order, as well as the plans for the new deal with the BOP, which already houses over 2,000 inmates at the RCDC I and II units.

Other awards were presented during the evening, including the Law Enforcement Officer of the Year which was given to Reeves County Sheriff Arnulfo “Andy” Gomez, but was accepted by Chief Deputy Victor Prieto and other deputies of his department.

Gomez was unable to attend the ceremony, because he was at a training school, said Alva Alvarez, who spoke for Gomez at the banquet.

“He wanted me to tell you he was sorry that he couldn’t make it and to accept this award and present it to his deputies, who are the individuals who really deserve this,” said Alvarez.

Alvarez said that Gomez had told her that the deputies were the ones who truly deserved this award, because they were the ones out in the streets and in the community taking care of everything and everyone.

Other award winners will be recognized in Thursday’s Pecos Enterprise edition.

Director of the Year Award went to Bill Oglesby; Ruiz Profile of Courage/Hidden Hero Award- Emily Fernandes; Educator of the Year- Jerry Workman; Student of the Year, co-winners, Ashley Lucas and Evelyn Flores; Communications Officer of the Year - Elizabeth Arenivas; Correctional Officer of the Year - RCDCIII Warden Martin McDaniel; Agriculture Service Award - Tim Flanagan; Firefighter of the Year - Lynn Foster; EMS of the Year- Barbara Contreras and the Women’s Division Award of Service - Michelle Workman.

City mulls cut in Barstow water rate hike

Staff Writer

Pecos City Council members agreed on Thursday to temporarily cut 30 cents off the new water rate for the city of Barstow, pending discussions on a permanent rate for water sales to the city.

Council members agreed to a recommendation by city attorney Scott Johnson to cut Barstow’s rate from $2.80 to $2.50, and make the cut retroactive to the bill just received by the city, their first under the new water rates.

Pecos’ water rates were raised by the council in December, to both pay for state-mandated water and sewer projects and to prepare for the assumption of the repayment of a state loan to fund the city’s new South Worsham Field, which the city will take over from Reeves County in 2011. Under the new plan, average in-town water rates, based on 7,500 gallons monthly usage for residential customers will rise from $15.74 to $27.35, while families using 10,000 gallons of water a month will see their rates jump from $20.21 to $33.80.

Ward County Commissioner for Precinct 1, Julian Florez, spoke for the city of Barstow in asking council members to consider lowering the new rate from $2.80 to the rate commercial customers in Pecos will pay.

“We would appreciate it if you would at least give us the commercial rate given within the city limits,” Florez said. That rate would be $2.33 for the first 1000 gallons, while Barstow had been paying $1.57 for the first 1000 gallons under the past agreement.

Florez also said Pecos was late in sending out information on the new rates, and city finance director Sam Contreras did apologize to Barstow officials at the meeting for failing to send out details on the new rates until this month.

City manager Joseph Torres said he had appeared before the council in Barstow last year and told them about the impending increases, though the exact rates were not known at that time.

Barstow city secretary Jo Allgood said the new bill for January had come in at $6,000, double the past bills, and she had delayed paying it in hopes that a deal could be worked out.

She added that the city has 167 customers, all but one residential, while Florez said about half that total are senior citizens. Rates in Barstow are $10 for between 1,000 and 2,000 gallons of water, and $3 for each 1,000 gallons after that.

“That’s the only revenue we get,” Allgood said, noting that the funds help support the general fund for Barstow, which collects no ad valorem taxes.

Councilman Frank Sanchez noted that Barstow provides maintenance on its lines from Pecos to the city, and said that should be a factor in considering any reduction in the rate hike

“You all accepted the rates. You all can change them. It’s your call,” Johnson said. “It’s really a legislative situation … and something you all have to consider, looking at the big picture.”

Johnson then recommended lowing the rate by 30 cents a gallon, and Sanchez made the motion to do so, until further study by the Pecos City Council and negotiations with Barstow on a permanent rate.

Pyote families left homeless by Sunday fire

Monahans News

Fire broke out in a home in the housing area of West Texas State School in Pyote on Sunday afternoon, leaving two families there homeless.

The fire apparently started around 3:30 p.m. in the home of Jose Hernandez and Mary Garcia and then spread next door to the home of Mr. and Mrs. Mike Blair. Both families lost their homes, as well as two vehicles.

West Texas State School firefighters responded immediately and were joined by the Pyote and Wickett volunteer fire departments and members of the Ward County Sheriff’s Department. Firemen fought the blaze for more than two hours before it was completely extinguished. The wind made it difficult to bring the blaze under control.

Fire Chief Billy Riley said the source of the fire was a short in an electrical plug leading to the refrigerator in Hernandez’ home. “If it hadn’t been for the wind, they could have contained it to one house,” said Riley.

The Red Cross is housing the families at the Colonial Inn in Monahans for three days while they access the damage.

Friends and coworkers are working to help the families, who lost everything in the fire.Mike Blair and his wife are expecting their first child in a few weeks. They need to replace everything for a newborn. Greater Works of Monahans has assisted them in obtaining a crib.

Miss Garcia has a five-year-old son who wears a size 7 and an infant daughter who wears a size 12-months. She is a size 8 and wears a size 7 1/2 shoe.

Anyone wishing help can contact the Red Cross for the Permian Basin.

Barragan completes basic training

Army Pvt. Gilberto V. Barragan has graduated from One Station Unit Training (OSUT) at Fort Sill, Lawton, Okla. The training included completion of basic military training and advanced individual training (AIT).

In basic training, the soldier received instruction in drill and ceremonies, weapons, map reading, tactics, military courtesy, military justice, physical fitness, first aid, and Army history and traditions.

During AIT, the soldier completed the Field Artillery Cannon Crewmember Advanced Individual Training course. Trainees learned to maintain, prepare and load ammunition for firing; operate and perform operator maintenance on prime movers, self-propelled Howitzers, and ammunition vehicles; and perform crew maintenance and participate in organizational maintenance of weapons and related equipment. They also learned to establish and maintain radio and wire communications.

He is the son of Elodia Valles and Gilberto Barragan, both of Pecos.

The private is a 2005 graduate of Pecos High School.

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