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Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Friday, October 20, 2006

Sheriff, officers tout success of new task force

Reeves County’s fight against crime continues through a new agency, formed after the local Trans Pecos Drug Task Force was dissolved, and which has seized around $3 million in illegal drugs over the past year.

In September 2005, Reeves County, along with the board of directors of the Trans Pecos Drug Task Force agreed to dissolve the multi-county task force, effective Oct. 1, 2005. The action was taken after the state withdrew financial support for drug task forces across Texas.

“Many people in the surrounding communities felt that this was the end of a very successful era for this task force,” said Reeves County Sheriff Andy Gomez, who decided to create the Reeves County Narcotics Division, which would continue with the same focus on Highway Drug interdiction, but would only cover Reeves County.

“Since the Trans Pecos Drug Task Force dissolved, the number of officers has decreased, but the effectiveness of the interdiction efforts have continued,” said Gomez.

The Reeves County Narcotics Division now employs two narcotics investigators working highway interdiction and two administrative assistants for the narcotics division.

Since the formation of the new division in October of 2005, highway interdiction officers have seized approximately $3 million in illegal narcotics consisting of marijuana and cocaine. Since January 2006, the two-officer interdiction team has also seized just under $1 million in United States currency along with 20 vehicles, which resulted in 26 defendants arrested for felony offenses.

Officer Kevin Roberts stated that the disbanded task force and the new Reeves County Narcotics division still have a 100 percent conviction rate.

Reeves is the only county in West Texas with two major interstate highways and Roberts said that the Reeves County Narcotics Division and its members are dedicated to providing the surrounding counties along Interstates 10 and 20 with effective enforcement to make the largest impact as possible on those persons traveling through that are involved in illegal activity. “Every one of these cases was initiated from random traffic stops in Reeves,” said Roberts. “We do not like to publicize very often about what we’re doing due to officer safety concerns, but do feel that occasionally the community needs to be informed of what we are doing and what is being accomplished.”

Roberts said that the most impressive factor of the Reeves County Narcotics Division is that they are 100 percent self-funded from personnel salaries, equipment, maintenance and supplies.

“There is no cost to the taxpayers of this county or the taxpayers of this state, we fund ourselves,” said Roberts.

Pecos firemen to be part of national photo archive

Several Pecos Volunteer Fire Department members will join others from around the country to be featured in a photo archive of firemen from departments across the nation. Laura Yanes, a photographer who is going around the country taking pictures of firefighters to be featured in a national archive, was in Pecos this week and had the opportunity to take pictures of some of the local volunteer firefighters.

“We feel very honored that we’re going to be featured in a national archive,” said Fire Chief Freddy Contreras.

Yanes was an amateur photographer who had only been taking photographers for a year before Sept. 11, 2001, when the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center resulted in the deaths of 343 New York City firemen when the towers collapsed.

Since then she has gladly responded to nearly 7,000 requests from firefighters for portraits to share with their families and friends.

“My photos of firefighters have been featured in the New York Times, New York Post, the Today Show, Fox News, Ladies Home Journal, Fuji (Tokyo), VH-1, CBS News and more,” said Yanes. “I’ve been honored twice by Time Warner Cable’s NY 1 as a ‘New Yorker of the Week,’ for my work with firefighters.”

Yanes, who has family members in Odessa ended up in Pecos, due to the fact that there was no place to stay there this week, because of the Permian Basin Oil Show taking place at the Ector County Coliseum.

Without a hotel room in Odessa, Yanes came to Pecos and decided to take some pictures of the local firefighters while she was here.

Contreras said that initially she didn’t find anybody at the fire hall, since they are a volunteer department.

“She’s used to taking pictures at the bigger cities, where the firefighters are not volunteers, but actually work there,” said Contreras.

Luckily, she ran into Contreras’ brother, Javier Contreras, a Reeves County Sheriff’s Deputy.

“When my brother called me and told me to go to the fire station, because there was someone there who wanted to talk to me, I was really surprised,” said Contreras. “He called me and said that she would like to take a picture of me and possibly some of the other firefighters.”

He told Yanes that she wouldn’t be able to take pictures of all of them, but told him to pick out a few.

“I started making some calls and found three other volunteers,” said Contreras. “I was thrilled to death when she told us we would be featured on her web site.”

Contreras said it was an honor for Yanes to feature the local firefighters in her web site. “It was just such a great honor and we’re very excited,” said Contreras.

Originally from California, Yanes is a graduate of the University of California in San Diego. After graduation, she served as a consultant in the California Legislature and went on to establish a successful public relations firm based in Sacramento.

An interest in music and television led to the start-up of a developing cable television venture and a move to New York City. Frustrated by the lack of easy opportunities to golf in New York, she decided to take an old 35 mm camera out of storage and learn how to use it.

“Walking around Manhattan with a camera is in some ways like a round of golf,” said Yanes. “Choosing the right club, measuring the distance, wind, ground and other conditions of a golf course is just like choosing the right lens, measuring the distance, light, background and other conditions before taking the ‘shot,’” she said.

One fateful day in July 2001, she passed a firehouse and asked permission to photograph a firefighter. “He asked for a promise that he could have a copy of the photo.

The firefighter told Yanes that nobody ever showed them the photos that they take of them. “I explained that I volunteered in a darkroom in a high school and that I would print his photo when school started in September,” said Yanes.

“I was on my way to the school the morning of September 11, 2001, when the World Trade Center was attacked,” she said.

Fortunately, that particular firefighter survived, but 343 others did not. “When I returned to deliver his photo, other firefighters who survived 9/11 asked me if I would take their photos for their families, too,” said Yanes. “It led to an amazing experience and a collection of over 7,000 portraits of some of the most honorable and courageous men and women I’ve met.”

“I’m pleased to accept invitations from other cities to photograph firefighters across America and establish the largest, independent archive of America’s Heroes,” she said.

Yanes, who was heading to the Dallas-Fort Worth area after her stop here, said that she wanted to capture the nobility, pride and honor of the job.

Eagle band faces bigger field at UIL competition

Competing against nine other bands is something new this year for the Pecos Eagle Band, but they hope to make a good impression on the judges and come home with an award. “We’ve been working really hard and we’re hoping for the best,” said band director Bill Goff.

The Eagle Band will take the field at 3 p.m., Saturday, at Ratliff Stadium in Odessa. “We had four bands to compete against and this year, in our group, we’ll have nine bands, because of the new realignment,” said Goff. The bands will include those from Pecos’ District 2-3A, along with others from District 3-3A and 4-3A.

“We don’t know how we’ll do until we get there, but we have a great group of kids, that have been working very diligently,” said Goff. “Hopefully we’ll do good,” he said. Goff said that the drill the band is going to perform is a lot harder.

“All the bands are trying to imitate the bands from East Texas and our drill is a lot harder this year,” said Goff. “But hopefully we’ll do really well and bring home a good award,” he said.

The Eagle Band will also be sporting their new uniforms that were approved by the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD school board before the beginning of the school year and which have been used by the band members for the past several weeks.

The band will be leaving Pecos at 10 a.m., Saturday.

TxDOT bridge replacement work shutting road

Drivers in southwestern Reeves County will face detours over the next few months, as the Texas Department of Transportation replaces two 70-year-old bridges on the former main highway between Fort Stockton and El Paso.

TxDOT announced this week that the FM 3078, the former U.S. 290 west of Balmorhea State Park, would be closed to through traffic in order to replace the Toyah Creek and Cherry Creek bridges, along with a bridge for the relief channel of Cherry Creek. According to Glen Larum, public information officer with TxDOT’s Odessa office, the existing 24-foot wide bridges, which were built at about the same time as Balmorhea State Park in the 1930s, will be replaced with 34-foot wide bridges. Interstate 10 replaced U.S. 290 as the main east-west highway through the area 30 year ago, and the highway was downgraded to a Farm-to-Market road a decade ago.

Work will start at the Toyah Creek bridge on Monday, and through traffic will not be allowed to use FM 3078 during construction, which is expected to last about six months. “Only local traffic will be allowed between the Toyahvale intersection with State Highway 17 and Interstate 10 during construction,” said C.J. Zuniga, the assistant Area Engineer in the Pecos TxDOT office. Other traffic will be detoured along Interstate 10 and FM 2903 through Balmorhea.

“While we are replacing the Toyah Creek bridge, those people who live west of the bridges will have to detour out to Interstate 10 and into Balmorhea to go to Toyahvale or the Balmorhea State Park or to Fort Davis,” said Zuniga. “We have stressed to the contractor (Cherokee Bridge & Road) how critical it is to replace the Toyah Creek bridge as quickly as possible because most of the local people who use that highway live between Toyah Creek and Cherry Creek.”

Plans call for the Toyah Creek bridge to be rebuilt in 3-1/2 months, and barring bad weather, it should be open to traffic again on Feb. 5. Following the completion of the Toyah Creek bridge, the contractor will move to Cherry Creek and replace the two bridges at that location. The second phase of the project is scheduled to be finished by April 20 of next year.

“Once the Toyah Creek bridge is replaced, most of the people affected by the project will be able to use the highway to commute into Balmorhea,” said Zuniga. “But eastbound Interstate 10 travelers who want to use the highway as a shortcut to State Highway 17 or Balmorhea State Park will have to use the detour until we are finished.”

The cost of the project is approximately $2.3 million.

Red Bluff in dispute over reservoir’s repair costs

Red Bluff Water Power Control Board members discussed concerns by members of one of the Pecos River sub-districts over the cost of work planned at Imperial Reservoir, during their monthly meeting on Oct. 10 in Pecos.

The discussion centered on letters board members received from Ernest Woodward, president of Pecos County Water Improvement District No. 3. The letters questioned the cost of rebuilding a road to and on top of Imperial Dam and fencing around the gates at the dam, along with water measurements done by the district at the area’s diversion canals.

Managing director Randal Hartman said Red Bluff has been using a portable measuring device to measure the water diversions, and have been making adjustments monthly in recent years because the canals in the Imperial area have not been cleaned.

Hartman said the U.S. Geological Survey has offered to install permanent weir devices to measure the water levels, but they would cost $17,000 per device.

“I think Ernest would feel better if Tommy (Moseley) or George (Brandenberg) would call somebody to read when they go out there,” board member Ava Gerke said.

“Given the circumstances, I think we should call their office the day before, and tell them we’re going to be out there,” board member Clay Lee said. “If they don’t show up, we’ll just go on with our business.”

On the repairs around the dam, Hartman said, “We told them we would be rebuilding the top of the dam and rebuilding the fence area around the controls.” He said the district, along with Pecos County WID 2 and 3, had previously agreed to each pay one-third of the cost, but Woodward’s letter voiced concerns about not being informed of the cost of the work.

“As long as it’s under $15,000, no bid has to be taken,” said Hartman, who added the two sub-districts had discussed the plans to do the repair work with Red Bluff as early as 2001. “That’s not the way we set it up,” said Michael McCullough, a member of the Pecos County WID 2 board who was at the meeting. He told Hartman that while Red Bluff did sent a letter about their repair plans to the district. “It was two lines. You’re acting like you dictate to the districts.”

In other action, board members tabled a proposed drilling lease agreement on Section 10 at the lake, since the proposal on the 280-acre lease had not come in by Tuesday. Board members were also updated on a pilot burn of dead salt cedars along the Pecos River by the Upper Pecos Soil and Water Conservation District.

Gerke said the burn covered 2 1/2 miles of the Pecos River above Mentone, but that a lack of wind on the second day caused problems in getting the fire to spread. “Supposedly if they can get enough of it going at once, it will create its own weather system” she said.

Salt cedars that have been soaking up Pecos River water were killed off from Red Bluff Lake to Imperial over the past seven years, but the dead trees present a threat to dams and bridges downstream in the event of a major flood. The burn is designed to remove the trees, but a more extensive effort is awaiting a state grant. Red Bluff has agreed to contribute $75,000 to the project if the grant is approved.

Area’s sales tax collections, rebate checks continue rise

Sales tax collections for August were up for the Town of Pecos City, though not as much as the average for all of 2006, while Balmorhea saw an increase and Toyah a decline in their tax rebate checks, according to Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn’s office.

The comptroller sent out checks last week to cities, counties and special purpose districts across Texas, based on their share of the state’s 8 1/4-cent sales tax. Pecos’ check for October, based on sales made during August, totaled $84,059, which was a 2.63 percent increase from a year ago.

It’s the ninth time in 10 months this year the city has seen it’s rebate check increase from the same period in 2005, but this month’s rise was below the 11.78 percent average for all 10 months of 2006. Pecos overall has gotten $819,517 back as its 1 1/2-cent share of the state sales tax, up from $733,143 last year.

One-sixth of the city’s tax, or 1/4-cent, goes to the Pecos Economic Development Corp. for their operations. This month’s check will net the PEDC a total of $14,010, while overall this year, the PEDC has received $136,586 back in sales tax rebates.

Balmorhea’s rebate check for the month was $2,331, which was more than double the total from last October. The city’s rebate was up 104.65 percent from last year’s $1,139, and for the year, Balmorhea has gotten back $16,205, which is an 11.52 percent increase over last year’s $14,530 total.

Toyah continues to have the largest year-to-date increase of the three cities in Reeves County, but its $325 check this month was down just under 21 percent from last October’s $411. For the year, Toyah has gotten back $4,122 from Strayhorn’s office, up 14.83 percent from last year’s $3,590 total for the first 10 months of 2005.

The 1/2-cent tax rebate check for Reeves County was up 5.51 percent this month, going from $33,592 to $35,444. As with the city, the rise is well below the year-to-date increase for the hospital, which has gotten $393-546 back from Austin this year, a 29.39 percent rise from 2005’s total of $304,210.

Across the area, most cities continues to show increases in their tax rebate checks from a year ago, and most also saw double-digits jumps in October.

Midland again had the region’s single largest check, for $2.26 million on its 1 1/2-cent sales tax, which was up 15.75 percent from a year ago. Odessa’s 1 1/4-cent sales tax brought the city $1.52 million for October, a 16.6 percent rise from last year.

For other cities collecting the 1 1/2-cent sales tax, Alpine received $72,795 this month, an increase of 1.09 percent from a year ago; Crane received a check for $42,015, up 26.38 percent from last year; Lamesa got $71,208 back from the comptroller’s office, which was up 14.4 percent; while Seminole received a check from Austin for $79,136, which was up 43.59 percent.

Among cities collecting a one-cent sales tax Kermit received $40,547 in their October check, up 111.89 percent; Wickett received a $7,743 check, up 91.47 percent, and Wink received a check for $9,106, which was up 156.67 percent. Pyote received no check at all for October, the second time in three months the city has not gotten a tax rebate check from the comptroller.

For area cities collecting a 1 3/4-cent sales tax, Andrews’ check for $264,543 was up 185.5 percent from a year ago, with a 3/4-cent in the city’s sales tax since 2005 accounting for part of the rise. Marfa got a check for $17,714, which was up by 6.19 percent; while Van Horn got a check for $29,685, which was up by 6.31 percent from 2005.

For cities collecting the maximum two-cent sales tax, Big Spring received $382,621, an increase of 16.95 percent; Fort Stockton received $139,097, up 5.8 percent; Monahans received a check for $107,649, which was up 27.51 percent from last year; Grandfalls got a $1,567 check, down 43.27 percent; and Presidio received $28,481, up 38.88 percent.

Statewide, Strayhorn’s office sent out August rebate checks totaling $282.7 million, up 14.4 percent from $247.1 million last year. Houston’s $36.3 million check was again the largest one sent out, and was 19.4 percent higher than a year ago. Dallas’ check was next, at $17 million, which was up by 15.08 percent from last August.

Bessie Haynes hosting book fair

Bessie Haynes will be sponsoring a Scholastic Book Fair from 8:30 until 11:30 a.m. and from 1-3 p.m. next week in the school library.

The book fair will run from Monday, Oct. 23 through Friday, Oct. 27.

The fair will feature a wide selection of books for all reading levels and all grade levels. The event will feature the new Captain Underpants book and many award-winning books to choose from.

Posters, arts and crafts, software, pencils, pens, erasers and bookmarks will also be a part of the sale.

This will be a good time to do some early Christmas shopping.

Bessie Haynes is sponsoring a Classroom Wish List where parents can purchase books for their child’s classroom library. This is a wonderful way to support the classroom teacher and the class library.

Everyone is invited to come out and browse.

Range workshop set for Coyanosa

The Texas Cooperative Extension Service has scheduled to Far West Texas Range Workshops for next week, with the first set for Wednesday in Coyanosa.

The workshop will run for seven hours, starting at 9 a.m. and running through 4 p.m. The events are being sponsored by the Pecos and Reeves County extension services, and are also open to residents in Crane, Ward, Terrell, Upton and Crockett counties.

Alyson McDonald will conduct a session on stocking rates versus carrying capacity from 9 to 9:30 a.m., and on range and forage monitoring from 10:15 to 11 a.m. From 9:30 to 11 a.m., Dr. Bob Lyons will discuss grazing behavior and effective stocking rates, and the importance of riparian areas in the Trans-Pecos from 9:30 to 10:115, while Dr. Bruce Carpenter will lead a discussion on range nutrition in the final session before lunch, from 11 to 11:45 a.m.

The afternoon session will include one with Dr. Carpenter and USDA-NRCS native plane expert Steve Nelle on toxic plans and plant ID practices, from 12:30 to 1:15 p.m., and from 1:15 to 2:15 extension economists Stan Beavers and Joe Pena will discuss pasture, rangeland and forage risk management insurance programs. Hands-on field work is scheduled from 2:15 to 4 p.m.

For further information, contact Reeves County Extension Agent Tommy Dominguez at 447-9041 or Pecos County Extension Agent Jed Elrod at (432) 336-2541.

Natividad brothers serving in Iraq

Captain Ismael Natividad and Sgt. Jaime Natividad are on their second deployment to Iraq.

Capt. Natividad is with the 10th Mountain Division out of Ft. Drum, New York.

Sgt. Natividad is with the 4th Infantry Division out of Ft. Hood, Texas.

Both are Pecos High School graduates and the two just recently got together in Iraq.

Sgt. Natividad is due back in the states by next month.

They are the sons of proud parents, Ruben and Margarita Natividad of Pecos.

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324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 432-445-5475, FAX 432-445-4321

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