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Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Friday, February 10, 2006

Council studies apartment plan for housing site

Town of Pecos City Council members opted not to sell a section of land near Reeves County Hospital to the Pecos Economic Development Corp. during their regular meeting Thursday morning at City Hall, while agreeing to allow city officials to look at plans to construct 56 apartments on land originally designed for single-unit housing in the Airlawn Addition on Washington Street.

City Utilities Director Edgardo Madrid presented combined plans from two local individuals, Armando Hinojos and Ram Kunwar, to build eight- and 48-unit apartments in the 800 and 900 blocks between Washington and Adams streets. The 56 apartments would be in place of 19 single-unit homes Pecos has been trying to build since receiving a grant of over $400,000 from the Office of Rural Community Affairs (ORCA) in 2002.

The city was supposed to start paying the loan back last year, but received a one year extension after only one family could qualify to receive loans for the low and moderate income homes. Eleven of the planned 20 homes had to be in that category, but the city was not able to find buyers who could qualify for loans in the $55,000-$60,000 range.

The city is currently seeking another extension from ORCA on the remainder of the loan, and utilities director Edgardo Madrid told the council, “ORCA is demanding a plan for the housing or we will have to start paying back the money.”

The apartment plan was one of two options the city is looking at, Madrid said. The other was to have city workers build the homes to cut costs, but city attorney Scott Johnson had questions about the legal standing of that plan.

Hinojos plan would build eight apartments along Johnson St., south of the one existing home, while the plan by Kunwar, who currently is remodeling the Pecos Inn, would build 48 apartments on the remaining land east of Johnson Street. That plan would include a swimming pool, playground and recreation center within the complex.

Both complexes would be designed to look the same, and Madrid said renters at Hinojos’ apartments would have access to the pool and rec facilities.

“I still feel we need to do more research on the financials on the gentlemen with these proposals,” Madrid said, and added that the plans would still need approval from ORCA. He said as with the single-unit homes, 11 apartments would have to be set aside for low and moderate income families, under the terms of the ORCA grant.

Madrid also said the plans would allow for some spacing between the only home on the land and the proposed apartments. “We haven’t talked personally with the owner of the house,” he said. “But as a courtesy we need to talk to them about the plans.”

Hinojos told the council that his investors want to be sure that the city needs 56 new apartments before going ahead with any loans. He also wanted to know if the council could assure them that the rent scale on the two sections would be the same, but councilwoman Angelica Valenzuela said, “I don’t think we can hold them accountable on the rent, except on the 11 units.”

On the land owned by the city near the hospital, the council decided to retain the 27.5 acres between Texas and Arizona streets along Interstate 20 following the presentation by PEDC President Mike Burkholder. Members said Burkholder should continue to seek buyers for the property, while telling city officials to look at clearing the site for possible sale.

Burkholder said he had had the land assessed, and the value was put at between $500 and $1,100 an acre, depending on how close the sections were to the north I-20 service road. He added he had received one call last year about construction of a Ramada Inn on the land near Reeves County Hospital, but added there had been no follow-up in recent months. However, council members were reluctant to sell the property outright to the PEDC.

“I hope this doesn’t dissolve our friendship, but I can’t recommend we do this,” said Mayor Dot Stafford, while city attorney Scott Johnson told the council they could consider a provisional sale agreement.

“You can make the bid and deed subject to approval by the city,” he said, “Or you can deed it for a term of a year or five years, and then if nothing is done, you can deed it back to the city. There are ways to protect the city’s interest in it.”

“It’s your call,” said Burkholder. “The city has owned this since 1947, and it’s an eyesore that isn’t being used.”

He said as part of the sale offer, the PEDC would also agree to spend $5,000 out of its own budget to clear off the acreage. Stafford then asked Madrid if the city would have a chance to sell the land if it did the clearing work.

“It’s hard to say,” he told the council. “We don’t have anything formal, but if we hear or see anything formal we can bring it to your attention.”

“This is a prime location off the interstate. It isn’t undeveloped land,” said city manager Joseph Torres, noting the nearby water, sewer and utility lines, and the asking price for land adjoining Wal-Mart on South Cedar Street, which Burkholder had discussed earlier in the meeting.

“I understand Miss Prewit has raised her price out there to the point it’s prohibitive to buy it,” Burkholder said. He also noted Reeves County is marketing land along the interstate, but would have to put in fill to build the land above the water table in the area.

Torres told the council it was up to them to decide whether or not they wanted to sell the land to the PEDC, adding, “I’d like to get something developed and start charging ad valorem taxes.”

“Personally, I don’t see why there has to be a transfer of land to the PEDC,” said councilman Frank Sanchez. “We’re all on the same team, anyway.”

“I can make people aware that the city owns it, but that’s it,” said Burkholder. “It just makes it a little easier for us to locate people and negotiate it if we own it.”

One of the things council members discussed in connection with the land near the hospital was mineral rights to the property, after Burkholder told them the city may soon receive bids for drilling rights on land at the Pecos Municipal Airport.

“I was informed that the well they were drilling at Martinez Field is going to be a good well, and they’re getting close to city property,” he said. “I anticipate getting calls soon about drilling on airport property.”

Stafford talked about possible drilling on the land, though Burkholder said businesses wouldn’t want to set up in an area full of pump jacks.

“Seminole didn’t have any problem developing around the pumps,” said councilman Danny Rodriguez.

“The pumps went in after the development,” Burkholder said.

Burkholder also declined a request by Rodriguez that the PEDC spend the $5,000 to clean up the property without the city selling the land to the corporation.

Burkholder also told council members that the first projects were due to begin soon at the former Smithers Transportation Test Center east of Pecos under the new deal with Applied Research Associates and the Texas Transportation Institute, and top officials should be in Pecos in April to tour the test track and the city.

Burkholder said ARA has been refurbishing the buildings at the track, which was shut down for five years, and that a $1 million federal grant will go into buying a paving testing machine for the facility.

ARA and TTI members are due to meet on Feb. 21 about the track. “They’re going to encourage TxDOT to make this one of their prime testing facilities, plus ARA will have a contract with the Department of Defense to do explosives testing at the site.”

Burkholder said the explosives wouldn’t be large enough to cause problems with the underlying aquifer, which has been given to the Town of Pecos City for future development.

List of candidates cut to five for P-B-T superintendent job

Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD board members have narrowed the field of applicants for the position of superintendent.

The number of applicants has now been pared down to five applicants with the finalist to be announced on March 1.

Interim Superintendent Bob McCall said Thursday said the Texas Association of School Boards, which is advising the district in the selection process, will not release the names of the candidates until there are only a few candidates remaining, or until one person is selected by March 1. If so, the final approval of that candidate would have to wait another 21 days after the name is released to the public.

McCall said March 1 is also the date the school board hopes to announce its selection of a new head football coach and athletic director for the district.

The district search committee met on Wednesday and will meet again on Feb. 15, the last day to receive applications. “We will get a list of people the committee wants to meet on that date, and we can release the list of those names on Feb. 15,” he said.

Interviews will be scheduled the following week, and committee members will visit the campuses of the finalists before a final selection is announced.

Board members were scheduled to discuss the Athletic Director/Head Football Coach Screening Process and selection committee during their regular meeting on Thursday evening.

The board will also meet during special meetings and in closed session at 2:30 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 12 and at 5:30 p.m., Monday, Feb. 13, in the PBT Technology Center, 1301 S. Eddy St.

The group will conduct an interview and discuss the applicant for the superintendent’s position during both these meetings.

Follow-up interviews will be conducted the from Feb. 23-25; the board will vote to name a finalist, March 1 and the board will vote to hire a new superintendent on March 23.

The board is seeking to replace Patrick Willis as head football coach and athletic director, after members voted against renewing his contract on Jan. 3. The superintendent position came open following the resignation of Ray Matthews in December. Matthews left to take the superintendent’s job at Marlin ISD.

SWAT team member reprimanded for graffiti incident

A Pecos Police SWAT team member has been reprimanded for writing graffiti on the wall of a west side home, during a Jan. 31 drug raid, Police Chief Clay McKinney said on Wednesday.

The officer, who was not named by McKinney, received the reprimand following an investigation of the incident.

“It was determined that the conduct of the officer at the drug raid was counter to the department’s rules and regulations, and that officer has received the appropriate disciplinary action,” he said.

The investigation followed a complaint by Pam Juarez, at 1921 W. Fourth St., who said an officer wrote the graffiti on the north wall of the second floor of her home, during a warrant search of the upstairs area.

“They raided my house looking for somebody else who doesn’t even live here,” Juarez said on Feb 2. She said the person officers were looking for in connection with the sale of drugs was the boyfriend of her mother, Sheila Juarez.

She said officers did the warrant search just before 10:30 p.m. on Jan. 31, checking the upstairs area. The area where the graffiti was written was on the north wall of the home, and said “BPG 13 s---- XIII d---. Pecos PD was here.”

The family said at the time that no arrests had been made, but McKinney said on Wednesday that one man had been arrested following the incident.

Raymond Avila, 1201 Willow St., was placed under arrest on drug charges. “Officers found suspected marijuana during the raid and found suspected heroin at the time of the drug raid,” McKinney said. “One of the individuals at the home admitted to the possession of marijuana and he was arrested and charged.

“It was later determined the same individual was on felony probation for unlawfully carrying a weapon on school property,” he added.

Pam Juarez said on Feb. 2 that officers conducted the raid looking for her mother’s boyfriend, while her father, Jimmy Juarez, said, “They (police) said they saw him selling drugs there and did the raid.

“There was a 14 year old in there who just had knee surgery, and when the officers got there, they rounded everyone up and made him walk across the floor,” he said. “My daughter asked why they couldn’t carry him, and they said they weren’t allowed to do that.”

Questions still sought for candidates’ forum

After a slow start, questions have been received from local citizens for the issues forum planned for next Thursday evening. However, more questions are needed by Friday morning to present to candidates in the March 7 Democratic Party primary election, and the scheduled site of the event may have to be changed, according to the party’s county chairman.

The issues forum is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Feb. 16 at the Pecos High School auditorium. Local residents were asked to submit questions to John Grant at West Texas National Bank and to Joe Keese at TransPecos Bank, which would then be asked to the candidates by moderator Terry Gilmour, Midland College Associate Professor of Government.

Party Chairman Bobby Dean said on Thursday seven questions had been sent in so far, and Grant said, “I just picked up a packet from TransPecos Bank, but we still need more.”

Grant said the committee in charge of organizing the event would meet Thursday evening, while a deadline of 10 a.m. on Friday has been set to receive the questions, which will be given to the candidates prior to the meeting. Questions can be brought to either bank or e-mailed to jgrant@wtnb .

Grant said all five of the candidates for Reeves County Judge, along with several candidates for Reeves County Commissioner, have already agreed to attend the meeting, mostly from the race for Precinct 2 Commissioner. Also scheduled to attend is Carlos Ureste, who is challenging incumbent Frank Madla for the District 19 State Senate seat. Both men are from the San Antonio area.

Madla has not responded as of Wednesday, and Grant said, “Bobby is going to e-mail him and let him know that Ureste is going to be here.”

Dean said following a lunch time candidates event at the Pecos Senior Citizens Center on Wednesday that the site of next Thursday’s event might have to be changed, or the event cancelled, since use of the PHS auditorium was not on the agenda for the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD board at their Thursday meeting. The Reeves County Civic Center is another possible location for the issues forum.

Most of the candidates who have agreed to attend the issues forum were also on hand for Wednesday’s event at the Senior Citizens Center. All of the county judge hopefuls except for Israel Campos, who was in the McAllen area on Wednesday, spoke at the meeting. City finance director Sam Contreras, speaking first, explained the reasons for the city’s recent sharp increase in water rates, which has drawn opposition from outgoing county judge Jimmy Galindo. He also discussed diversification of jobs by attracting new businesses to the area.

“We need to be diversified besides the prison,” he said. “The primary goal everybody seems to be concerned about is jobs.”

Al Gomez talked to those on hand about securing a long-term agreement with the U.S. Bureau of Prisons to supply inmates for the county’s Reeves County Detention Center III unit, as well as trying to get the various taxing entitles to work together more to attract jobs. He also mentioned his work with the Pecos Economic Development Corp. in helping get the former Smithers Transportation Testing facility reopened.

“ARA should be operating at the test track by spring,” he said. “If I can get at least one more employer into town, that would be a good start for my four year term.”

Former commissioner Bernardo Martinez told the audience he would make it mandatory that RCDC employees live in Pecos, and noted that he was on the commissioners’ court in 1986 when RCDC I opened.

He also mentioned diversification by increasing local economic development, and said, “We need to create an atmosphere of trust,” between the county and city.

Grace Renteria noted her past employment at RCDC, and said she’d work on getting streets in Toyah paved, as well as pushing for construction of the Balmorhea Community Center. “I think the current administration has failed in listening to our citizens,” she said. “I intend to work with all the citizens and work with the existing entitles to bring jobs back to Reeves County.”

The addresses by the candidates for commissioner were briefer. Incumbent Precinct 2 Commissioner Norman Hill noted, “There are a lot of things that need to get done, but it takes money, folks.”

“I want to say it’s been a joy, but I won’t lie to you,” Hill said of his first term as commissioner, due to several problems, including the budget crisis caused in 2003 by the lack of inmates at RCDC III.

Challenger Gabe Martinez said he had worked 12 years at RCDC and was in charge of maintenance before starting his own air conditioning company. “When I was in charge of maintenance projects, I had to come up with realistic budgets. That will be a help as commissioner,” he said.

Alvesia “Tita” Tarin noted that her husband was affected by the shutdown of the Duval/Freeport sulphur mine, one of several large employers to leave the area in the past 15 years.

“If we join together, we can turn Pecos around and make this what it used to be,” she said. “I will vote not for what is right for myself, but what is right for everyone.”

Ramiro “Ram” Guerra was the only one of the four candidates for Precinct 4 Commissioner to attend Wednesday’s event. He said he was also affected by the Duval shutdown, and left Pecos for two years before returning home.

“We need to bring jobs here,” he said. “Anything to keep our kids here, or most of them are going to go like when Duval laid off.”

Grant said Guerra is also the only Precinct 4 candidate to have confirmed he’ll attend the Feb. 16 issues forum. All the candidates for the Precinct 2 position have said they will be at the event. Incumbent Gilberto “Hivi” Rayos, Conchita M. Hernandez and Alex Ramirez are the other three running for Precinct 4 commissioner.

Baby killed in accident near Toyah

A six-month old girl died and three other persons were injured early Wednesday morning in a one-vehicle rollover on Interstate 20 west of Toyah.

Zilyssa Chantel Starks was thrown from the Ford Expedition she was a passenger in and pronounced dead at the scene by Reeves County Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace Jim Riley at 6:53 a.m. on Wednesday following the accident, which occurred about 5:30 a.m., according to the Texas Department of Public Safety. The baby was the youngest member of a family from Tempe, Ariz., who were traveling eastbound on I-20 near the 16 mile marker when the accident occurred, and her body was taken to Pecos Funeral Home.

According to the report by DPS Trooper Cletus Tapp, the 2006 Expedition was being driven by Dianne Lynn Starks, 49, of Tempe when she veered off the road and into the center median. She then overcorrected, causing the SUV to skid and then overturn on its left side, before rolling onto its roof and coming to rest facing eastbound in the center of the roadway.

The passengers were wearing seat belts and the baby was in a car seat, but apparently was too small to be securely harnessed in by the seat, and was ejected when the Expedition rolled over, according to DPS Cpl. Emmitt Moore, who assisted with the accident investigation. Reeves County Sheriff’s Department deputies and Pecos EMS attendants were also called to the accident site, located about six miles west of Toyah.

Dianne Starks suffered severe injuries to her arm and was airlifted by helicopter from the scene to Medical Center Hospital in Odessa, before being transferred to Lubbock for surgery. She was listed in serious condition Wednesday afternoon, according to the DPS report.

The other two passengers in the vehicle were identified as Tamera Lavon Starks, 26, of Tempe, who was transported to Reeves County Hospital suffering from minor injuries, including cuts and abrasions on her back and arms; and Tychelle Lashawm Morgan, also of Tempe, who was listed in stable condition at Reeves County Hospital with a fractured left arm and wrist.

The accident was one of two involving a Ford Expedition rolling over on I-20 west of Toyah on Wednesday. No one was seriously injured in the second accident, which took place shortly after 2 p.m. on the Interstate, between mile marker 8 and Exit 7 on the westbound lanes of the highway.

Moore said the driver of the SUV stopped his vehicle after missing the exit ramp and then attempted to back up, but while going in reverse lost control of the vehicle and caused it to roll over, blocking the left lane of the highway to westbound traffic.

Deputies and EMS crews were also called to the scene, along with Pecos Volunteer fireman, but the driver and passenger in the car were not transported to Reeves County Hospital. EMTs did treat the passenger in the Expedition for a cut to the hand resulting from the rollover.

Navarette’s poem to be published in anthology

A poem submitted by Nicholas Navarette, a fourth grade student at Bessie Haynes Elementary School, to the Anthology of Poetry, Inc., has been accepted for publication. Earlier in the school year Navarette participated in a program designed to foster creative expression among young people by submitting a poem to the Anthology of Poetry, Inc. This poem has been selected as one of the most creative submissions and has earned a page in the 2006 edition of the Anthology of Poetry by Young Americans.

The 2006 edition will be the 17th year of publishing the Anthology of Poetry by Young Americans.

The Anthology of Poetry, Inc. was thrilled to receive the large number of submissions from students and teachers, and proud of the content of these submissions.

Because of teacher’s like Navarette’s, students of many school districts had the opportunity to explore new avenues of creativity and share their poems with many others.

The poems were submitted by Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD Gifted and Talented Teacher Anita Zubeldia.

Navarette is the son of Lorna and Pablo Navarette of Barstow.

Matta named to Dean’s List at ASU

David Jourmain Matta was named to the Angelo State University Dean’s List for the 2005 fall semester.

A 2003 graduate of Balmorhea High School, he is a sophomore and is majoring in Physics.

He is the son of David and Nancy Matta of Balmorhea.

Garcia completes basic training

Air Force Airman Raul M. Garcia has graduated from basic military training at Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio.

During the six weeks of training, the airman studied the Air Force mission, organization, and military customs and courtesies; performed drill and ceremony marches, and received physical training, rifle marksmanship, field training exercises, and special training in human relations.

In addition, airmen who complete basic training earn credits toward an associate degree through the Community College of the Air Force.

Garcia is the son of Raul and Isela Garcia of Pecos.

He is a 2003 graduate of Pecos High School.

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