Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
RCDC workers to get overtime cash payments
Officers at the Reeves County Detention Centers will see a little “incentive” in their paychecks next pay period in the form of overtime pay instead of compensation time off, in hopes of stopping a growing number of employee resignations at the 3,150-bed facility.
An emergency meeting to discuss overtime pay for correctional officers at the RCDC was held Monday afternoon, and commissioners approved the overtime pay after the item was brought up during the morning’s regular meeting.
All four commissioners were on hand for both meetings. However, Reeves County Judge Jimmy B. Galindo was absent.
The commissioners decided to hold the emergency meeting after hearing from individuals during the regular meeting about the problem. Commissioners discussed the issue during the reports from various departments section of the 10 a.m. meeting.
Even though the item was not on the agenda the individuals were allowed to talk about the problem during the reports from various departments, but the group could take no action on it this morning, which resulted in the afternoon emergency meeting.
During the emergency meeting, RCDC III Warden Martin McDaniel was on hand, along with some members of his staff.
County Treasurer Linda Clark said that if the group approved the overtime pay they could see it in their next paycheck, which will be issued on Oct. 20.
“This money will come out of the funds from the prison?” asked commissioner precinct 3 Saul Herrera, who was also filling in for Galindo.
“Yes, it would have to come from that budget,” said county auditor Lynn Owens. “We’re talking about $650,000 for four months.”
The group also discussed who would receive the overtime, all the employees, and not just those that are exempt, such as those in supervisory positions.
“The ones that are exempt have to meet certain criteria, such as they oversee other employees, are in charge of making decisions and so forth,” said Owens.
“To ease your mind of overtime,” said Warden McDaniel. “We need to take into account the money we are saving on the vacancies.”
McDaniel said that between all the prisons, RCDC I/II and III, there are about 90 staff vacancies.
“There are no additional expenses, but if you are short-staffed, there will be overtime,” said McDaniel. “If we had the staff up to capacity we wouldn’t have this problem.”
He said that paying them overtime is something that the prison’s management company, GEO Group, does across the state.
“The only thing we need to clear up is the exempt employees,” said McDaniel.
Precinct 1 Commissioner Roy Alvarado made the motion to pay the overtime, but to receive more information on the exempt employees and see if they can be included in the overtime pay.
“We can look at them at the next commissioners court meeting and decide then, if we are going to include them,” he said.
“We can take a look at the position and get you a list and see which ones are exempt,” said McDaniel.
“We have some vacancies and I can use that money to pay the overtime,” said McDaniel.
McDaniel said that if they start paying overtime, maybe that will help recruit staff. “If we are fully staffed we won’t have this problem and this will go away,” he said.
Sammy Urias, an officer at RCDC I/II, was on hand during the morning session to talk to the commissioners about the problem at the facilities.
“We were led to believe that this issue was going to be discussed today, since it was tabled during the last meeting,” said Urias. “But we come to find out that it isn’t even on the agenda.”
Urias said that 223 officers have left RCDC I, and more are going to leave if you don’t do anything about it.
“This prison is going to fold if you don’t have the staff,” said Urias.
“My understanding is that four individuals with GEO from Florida are coming in to discuss this issue,” said Precinct 4 Commissioner Hivi Rayos.
“We would also like for the commissioners to be there, they said they will be here Thursday,” said Urias. “But something really needs to be done about this situation.”
Urias said that the officers are working 12-hour shifts on Fridays and Mondays.
“And sometimes we’re there for our 12 hours and we still don’t have anyone to relieve us,” he added.
Urias said that some of the officers call in sick when it’s they’re turn to work the 12-hour shifts.
Urias said that a lot of the officers are leaving to work at CiviGenics in Odessa.
“It’s very embarrassing that we can’t keep our people here,” said Urias. “If you start paying overtime, maybe they won’t leave.”
Urias said that a lot of the officers are afraid to go to the commissioners’ court for fear of losing their jobs or being targeted.
“Are they afraid of retaliation?” asked commissioner precinct 1 Roy Alvarado.
“Yes, they think they will get into trouble,” said Urias.
Clark agreed that this was a problem.
“We had eight more quit last week,” said Clark.
“I believe we have had 20 quit this month,” said Alvarado.
“And we can’t take our comp time, because we don’t have the relief, so I don’t see why they can’t pay us overtime, at least maybe that way they will stay,” said Urias.
“We can do an emergency meeting, because if we wait for Jimmy (Galindo) he’s always saying they’re working on the numbers,” said Rayos.
“We work over 200 hours a month for the same pay and volunteer, but we’re getting tired,” said Urias.
“And all the employees that have talked to me, say they don’t mind, but they’re not getting anything out of it,” said Clark.
Urias said that it was the younger ones that didn’t want to volunteer to stay and that were the ones quitting to go somewhere else.
“They basically do whatever they want, because they feel, like what can they do fire me, because they know we are so short-handed,” said Urias.
RCDC Officer Daniel Maruffo said that less officers meant less security and more problems.
“Even the inmates know this and it could lead to a dangerous situation,” he said. “This is not good for the security and safety of the officers.”
“They’re having the secretaries work as correctional officers,” said Urias.
“Well, they should be correctional officers,” said Rayos.
“Yes, but then they’re having to go in on Saturdays and Sundays, to do the paperwork needed to be turned in to me,” said Clark. “They are having the business office and the payroll staff and they are having them work in the back and getting behind on their work and we need their paperwork here.”
Clark said that it was causing a lot of problems because they are short-handed.
“Who’s doing the numbers for the overtime and all that?” asked commissioner precinct 3 Saul Herrera.
Clark said that the sheriff and the county judge were the ones working on the figures.
“But we can’t put this off much longer,” she said.
Clark said that they have paid so much overtime to the individuals who have left. “They’re the ones getting the overtime pay and then they just leave,” she said.
“So the people just cash in and leave,” said Alvarado.
“They leave because they are working so much overtime and we get comp time for it instead, but we can’t take the time off,” said Urias.
“We already have $1 million in the books for comp time,” said Clark.
Urias said that they are losing employees that have been there for years because of this situation.
Commissioner Precinct 2 Norman Hill said that he had spoken to the warden and that he had received the runaround.
Urias cited other issues that have become problems at the facility, such as lack of batteries for the radios.
“I spoke to the warden and he said he had ordered them,” said commissioner Herrera.
“Well how long does it take to order batteries,” said Urias.
“The solution would be to pay the overtime now and they would get it in their next paycheck,” said Clark. “The timesheets are due today,” she said.
Rayos said that they could meet in an “emergency” meeting, which just had to be posted at least two hours before the meeting.
Rayos asked Clark if she could come up with the figures by the time the group meets in the afternoon.
“It will be tough to do, but we can work it out,” said Clark.
Rayos said that he would like to get this situation straightened out today.
Weather finally cooperates for annual barbeque cook-off
Rain and cold weather stayed away from Pecos on the first weekend of October this year, and for the first time in several years contestants had good conditions to work with at the annual Reeves County Fall Fair Barbeque Cook-off.
A total of 50 entries were on hand for the cook-off, held in the Reeves County Sheriff’s Posse Arena on Friday night and Saturday.
Organizers for the event were pleased with the turnout, which was up over 20 entries from a year ago, and the weather cooperated beautifully. Cold weather plagued the event last year, while camp sites were damaged or destroyed by severe thunderstorms that passed through Pecos during the cook-off the previous two years.
The winners were announced Saturday afternoon, after cooks staying up all night preparing both brisket and ribs to enter in the contest.
In the Ribs Category: first place went to the Pena Camp, with Ray Pena as head cook; second place were the Cast Iron Chefs and third place went to Tri-Star Communications, with head chef, George Estrello.
In the Brisket Category first place went to the Colt Chevrolet Camp, head cook, Manuel Rede and sponsored by Margie Duke; second place and Grand Champions were the Pena Camp and third place were the Good Ole’ Boys, sponsored by Jackson-Hewitt.
First place winners in each category received $375; second place winners netted $250 and third place winners in each category received $125.
Top finishers in Fall Fair’s events named
Arts, crafts, quilts and more were showcased during the 62nd Annual Reeves County Fall Fair, held this weekend at the Reeves County Civic Center.
In the student art show, from Pecos Kindergarten, first place winner was Caleb Leonard; second place Zoe Rae Rodriguez; third place, Eric James Salcido and Honorable Mention, Aaron Dominguez.
First place, Moran Taylor; second place, Jordan Roman; third place, Savannah Lucero and Honorable Mention, Zander Pena and Kasandra Anchondo.
Also from Kindergarten were: Brennah Windham, first place; second place, Bryton Stewart; third place, Kayla Gomez and Honorable Mention, Hannah Sandoval and Yesenia Quinones.
Fourth grade entries from Bessie Haynes Elementary School who placed in the art show included: Amber Burleson, first place; second place, Matthew Seibert; third place, Chris Lease and Honorable Mention, Briana Muela, Monica Flores and Shaiden Abila.
From the third graders, Austin Elementary School, the winners were: first place, Kacy Villanueva; second place Kit Jaspe; third place, Esmeralda Lozoya; and Honorable Mention, Clarissa Flores, Claudia Quintela and Dalton Tucker.
Adult poetry winner was Olga Florez, with her “In The Desert,” poem.
Second graders from Austin Elementary School entered birdhouses in the fall fair.
First place winners were: Adalis Ybarra, Julian Nichols, Timothy Navarette, Kate Rubio, Adrianna Martinez, Kevin Ramirez, Samantha Rodriguez, Nathaniel Rubio, Ryan Herrera, Kristy Carrasco, Nathalia, Joel Ramos Jr., Angelica Fuentez, Francio Navarette, Anahi Alonso, Taylor Herrera, Graham, Jarithzy Chavez, Katherine Rayno, Mathach Rubio, Mac T- (Best of Show), Jazmine Aguilar, Kristy Carrasco and Christian Herrera.
Second place winners: Julian Baeza, Natasia Johnson, Elizabeth Orona, Myra Chavez, Bethany Evaro, Anthony Muniz, Miranda Valeriano, Jasmin Lopez, Alonzo Munoz, Albert Perez, Kandria Roman, Stephan Samaniego, John Benavides, Jacqueline B., Lindsay Cobos, Richi Pena, Genaro Guzman, Pablo Hidalgo, Shantea Fidal, Angel Munoz, Jonah L. and Cammie Johnson.
Third place winners: Isaiah Ornelas, Tessa Perryman, Christian Hinojos, Isabella Millan, Joshua Aguilar, Brandon Marruffo, Kelsie V., Michael Ramirez, Luz Gonzales, Kayla Martinez, Mikael, Manuel Dominguez, Alyandra Barragan, Lysandra Ramirez, Justine Mondragon, Ruben Ochoa, Dustiny Ortega, Jerry Estrello, Azia Wright, Makayla Niblett, Kendra A. and Marilgn.
Fourth Place Winners: Sachell King, Alegandro Hernandez, Jonathan Wate, Brookley, Kimberly Rubio, Clarissa Carrasco, Hilario, Angela Munoz, Juan Jasso, Angel, Jazello Prieto, Miguel Lands, Antonio Carrasco, Jesus Franco, Adrian Carrasco and Terry.
Fifth place winners: Guillermo Baeza, Sarai Mendoza, Isabella Millan, Mac Teague, Iris Mendoza, Marissa Martinez, Isabella Vasquez, Angel A., Jennifer Urias, Marco Nunez, Kristine Hernandez, Caren Campos, Avery Rivera, Gabriel Jurado, Mark Nunez, Ethan Gutierrez, Bernice Enriquez and Juan Tarango.
Winners in other divisions, including the Fall Fair’s livestock show, will be listed in Friday’s Enterprise.
Lack of people earns Mentone lots of readers
Los Angeles County is the most populated county in the United States. Lots of people know that.
Loving County is the least-populated county in the United States. Not a whole lot of people know that, let alone even knowing there is a Loving County.
But having the smallest population of any U.S. county is worth a bit of notoriety once and a while, and Loving County received some, when a profile of the county - along with a side trip to Pecos - was a featured article in the Sunday travel section of the Washington Post.
Staff Writer John Deiner did a profile of the county, which has long held the title of the nation’s least populated. Charles Kuralt of CBS news did a similar story back during the last oil boom in the early 1980s, when Loving not only was the least populated county, but due to oil and gas royalties to its landowners, also boasted the highest per-capita income of any county in the United States.
Deiner’s story doesn’t go into family incomes, but does talk about the current oil boom, and includes an interview with Loving County Sheriff Bob Hopper.
"I never thought I'd end up in Mentone," Hopper tells Deiner. "Life doesn't always shell out what you'd like. But I got no complaints."
The end of the story includes Deiner’s side-trip to Pecos. La Nortena Tortilla Factory and the West of the Pecos Museum’s collection of historical items get favorable review even if the Maxey Park Zoo does not, and his review of the city itself is “is not the prettiest place on earth, but I've rarely met more amiable people.”
The story is currently available for free on the Washington Post’s website - at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-
dyn/content/article/2006/10/06/AR2006100600595.html - though after a few weeks, the story will go behind the paper’s back issue subscription wall.
Gilliland knocks Bonilla’s efforts for Texas
Congressional candidate Lukin Gilliland made a stop in Pecos Friday afternoon, as part of a trip through West Texas in his bid to win election to Congress from the 23rd District in next month’s special election.
Gilliland is one of seven Democrats to challenge seven-term Republican Henry Bonilla in the special election, which was required after the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year ordered the 23rd District redrawn in order to include a higher percentage of Hispanic voters. Unlike a regular election, the Nov. 7 vote is an open election that will decide the race if one candidate receives at least 50 percent of the vote. If no candidate receives that, the top two finishers will compete in a runoff election sometime in December or early January.
A wealthy rancher and businessman who lives in the Alamo Heights suburb of San Antonio, Gilliland said this was his first visit to Pecos, but that an uncle had served here as a U.S. Marshal.
At the time of the filing deadline last month, the Associated Press reported Gilliland had contributed $500,000 of his own money to his campaign, and had raised $1 million overall in the race to claim the 23rd District seat, held by Bonilla since 1993.
Gilliland criticized the efforts of Bonilla in brining federal dollars back to Texas during his years in Washington.
“I would like to think that if I’m elected I can do more for Pecos than just send federal prisoners to Pecos,” said Gilliland, referring to Bonilla’s recent visit to Pecos to discuss plans to send more U.S. Bureau of Prisons inmates to the Reeves County Detention Center. “Tell me something hard to do. Even with Bonilla on the Appropriations Committee for the past 12 years, Texas still ranks at the bottom of the barrel as far as federal funds being brought back to Texas from Washington.”
He also said Bonilla has voted to cut veterans benefits and plans that called for consolidations and closings of VA hospitals.
With the Mark Foley scandal in the news last week, Gilliland said, “I think people are worried about values in Washington right now. The events of the last couple of days have really heightened that concern.”
Foley, a Florida congressman, resigned on Sept. 29 after reports surfaced he had sent sexually explicit instant messages to congressional pages. Republican leaders have claimed they only knew about the non-explicit e-mails sent by the congressman to pages, but Gilliland attacked Republicans for their failure to do anything about the congressman until news of the e-mails and instant messages became public.
“Congressman Bonilla has made no comments condemning this action,” Gilliland said, though he later said he was against efforts by the Bush administration to seek tighter monitoring of e-mails, which U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez said was intended to catch child sex predators.
"They did not need this legislation to find this out. The pages have been complaining about this for a long time," he said. "I want them (Republicans) to live by the law. If they want to eavesdrop and wiretap somebody, then there are ways to go though that.”
"I don't want it in our lives. I don't want it in our bedrooms. We need more values in Washington, not the other way around," Gilliland added.
On the issue of immigration, he said, “I haven’t found anybody that’s for the border fence. The border mayors are adamantly against it,” and added that Republicans were playing politics with the recently approved border fence plan. “They didn’t even fund the fence,” he said.
“Where walls exist people either go around them or dig under them or they just build a taller ladder,” he said. “My solution is to fund the people we have trained to do this job, the Border Patrol and the local sheriffs. We’re not backing them up right now. Why not back up the people trained to do their jobs, instead of voting for unfunded walls.”
On Iraq, Gilliland said “No matter what you think about what got us into Iraq, the fact is we’re there.” He said that while the Bush administration has destabilized the region, the U.S. couldn’t immediately pull troops out of the country without negative consequences.
“We have to be careful on how we handle the situation in Iraq. We need to set some milestones in the (Iraq) government and within the military,” he said, which include improved training of Iraqi military forces. “As these milestones are met, we can begin the reduction of our troops.”
York M. "Smokey" Briggs, Publisher
324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 432-445-5475, FAX 432-445-4321
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