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for Pecos Country of West Texas

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Gomez weighs options after Contreras’ 15-vote win

Staff Writer

The runner-up candidate for Reeves County Judge in the Democratic Party runoff election two weeks ago was still deciding Monday afternoon whether or not to continue his challenge for the office, after the addition of uncounted ballots on Thursday cut the margin of victory to less than one percent of the 2,412 votes cast.

Uncounted ballots from Box 7 in the runoff election in the Reeves County Democratic primary cut the margin for Sam Contreras to just 15 votes over Al Gomez, who was weighing his options up to the 5 p.m. deadline on Monday to ask for a recount of the troubled April 11 election.

Gomez referred questions early Monday afternoon to his attorney, Hal Upchurch of Monahans. However, Upchurch was in court and was not available for comment. If Gomez does not file a recount request by the 5 p.m. deadline, he can still go to court and file a request to overturn the results of the runoff election.

The ballots missing from the final vote total were added on Thursday evening by election officials at the central counting office at the Reeves County Courthouse. It took about 40 minutes for the 152 additional ballots to be counted and the final numbers tabulated.

Gomez won just under two-thirds of the ballots that were not included in the election night count, but needed to win 72 percent of those votes to catch Contreras. The final totals gave Contreras 1,213 votes to 1,198 for Gomez, a 50.3-to-49.7 percent margin of victory.“That’s close” said Contreras, who tentatively will face Republican Robert L. Hanks in the Nov. 7 general election. “We may still have a recount.”

Contreras, the Town of Pecos City finance director, placed second to Gomez, owner of Alfredo’s Restaurant and former Pecos Chamber of Commerce President, in the March 7 Democratic primary. The two top finishers out of the five seeking to replace Jimmy B. Galindo as Reeves County Judge then went into the April 11 runoff, the second using the county’s new optical scanning vote system.

Gomez needed to pick up 109 of the 152 votes cast in the uncounted Box 7 ballots, but fell eight votes short of that total. The figures released following Thursday’s county showed Gomez had gained 101 votes to 51 for Contreras in Box 7, which was located at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church at Fifth and Plum streets.

“Obviously, it didn’t work out,” Gomez said Monday morning. “I’m a little disappointed, but I have no other comments at the moment.”

Gomez said he and his attorney, Hal Upchurch, were still studying their options early Monday afternoon, in the final hours before the deadline to ask for a recount. Canvassing of the ballots was done Friday afternoon, and Reeves County Democratic Party Chairman Bobby Dean said Gomez had until 5 p.m. on Friday to file any recount request.

Box 7 was one of the locations where the ballots that can be run through the county’s new optical scanners ran out, and emergency ballots that had to be hand-counted, were used for the final 51 voters at that location. Dean said the ballots that were run through the scanners provided Gomez with most of his Box 7 margin. He received 74 votes to just 27 for Contreras, while among the late voters on April 11 who had to use the emergency ballots, Gomez won by a 27-24 margin.

Box 7 was the second box that officials discovered had not been counted following the closing of polls on April 11. Votes cast in Box 4, which serves the Toyah area, were added to the final count, but that box alone was not enough to make up the initial 71-vote gap between Contreras and Gomez.

The addition of the Toyah votes cut Contreras’ lead to 65, and on the same day that change was made, election officials were first notified the number of ballots reportedly cast in Box 4 did not match the number of signatures for voters in that Box. The announcement of the discrepancy was not formally made for another six days, after which Dean contacted the Texas Secretary of State’s office, and was told a petition would have to be filed with 143rd District Court Judge Bob Parks to reopen the central counting office in order to add the 152 ballots to the final total.

Parks issued the order Wednesday evening, with a 24-hour waiting period, and the box was opened at 6:10 p.m. on Thursday by election official Nadine Smith. She displayed the ballots and tally sheets to the group gathered at the Reeves County Clerk’s office, after which the election officials, along with representatives from the affected candidates, went into the back room of the clerk’s office to finish the count.

Dean said because Gomez ran in the Democratic primary, he is not eligible to run as a write-in candidate in the November general election.

The Box 7 change also affected the final vote totals for three other races on the April 11 runoff ballot, but Precinct 4 commissioner, and for U.S. Senator and Lieutenant Governor in the Democratic primary. But none of those races were close enough so that the additional votes would affect the outcome.

Challenger Ramiro “Ram” Guerra widened his lead over incumbent Gilberto “Hivi” Rayos in the Precinct 4 commissioner’s race. Box 7 voters on Election Day gave Guerra 119 votes to 14 for Rayos, pushing him over the 75 percent mark in the total vote for commissioner. Guerra ended up with 503 votes to 159 for Rayos, who was seeking a third term in office.

In the other races, Barbara Ann Radnofsky received 995 votes to 773 for Gene Kelly after the Box 7 addition. Radnofsky won nomination statewide to face Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison in the November general election. In the Lieutenant Governor’s race, the final county vote total gave Maria Luisa Alvarado 1410 votes to 456 for Benjamin Z. Grant. Alvarado also won the election statewide and will face Republican David Dewhurst in the November election.

Reeves County was forced to implement the new optical scanning system due to complaints about the punch card ballot system, which had been in use locally for years. Punch cards were banned due to problems in South Florida related to the 2000 presidential election. Reeves was one of 13 counties in Texas using the punch card system.

Chamber eyes carnival event during Rodeo

Staff Writer

Another fun day in the park has been scheduled for Pecos over the Memorial Day weekend, and another outdoor event for children is being sought for Rodeo Week in late June.

The events at Maxey Park would be done by the Pecos Chamber of Commerce and the Town of Pecos City. “They held one in March during Spring Break, with a concert and games,” said Chamber of Commerce Director Linda Gholson, during their regular board of directors meeting held on April 18.

Gholson said that the city had sponsored the event and that it had been a success.

Now the city and the chamber will team up and sponsor another fun day at the park and spaces are available for anyone wanting to sell something during the event.

“We will have booth space for $50 and they can register at the chamber,” said Gholson. “Non-profit organizations can register at city hall with secretary Connie Levario,” she said. Town of Pecos City Mayor Dot Stafford said that the last event had begun in the morning. “This time we will open at noon and the activities will start at 1 p.m.,” said Stafford.

“We’re trying to do things a little later to see if we get more people out there,” she said. The event has been scheduled for Saturday, May 27 at Maxey Park.

Gholson told the group that four carnivals had contacted the chamber about coming to Pecos during the Fourth of July rodeo events.

Bringing a carnival to Pecos during the festivities was something the rodeo committee and the chamber had been working on and discussing.

“I talked to Joe (Keese) and we’re going to try real hard to bring one in this year, if it would be feasible, but if not definitely for 2007,” said Gholson. “The biggest question is how much space and fencing.”

Gholson said that bringing a carnival to Pecos might attract more people to the rodeo. “They can buy a ticket and come in and enjoy the rodeo, while the kids go to the carnival,” she said.

“If it comes together within two weeks, we can do it, if not then we will do it in 2007,” said Gholson.

“The idea is to pick the right one, a certain amount of money will go towards the rodeo for having it in conjunction with the rodeo,” said chamber president Jimmy Dutchover.

Board member Brenda McKinney told the group that the rodeo committee has been very busy preparing for this year’s show, which will run from June 28 through July 1.

“Everything has been approved and we still need about three or four more sponsors, if anybody out there would like to do that,” said McKinney.

McKinney said that the committee had decided to purchase its own scoreboard. The committee had been leasing a scoreboard, but none was in use at last year’s rodeo. “It will belong to the rodeo committee, anybody wanting to come on board, there are two sponsor spots left,” said McKinney.

McKinney said that the sponsors would receive two free years of advertising.

Local team roping will be held the Sunday before slack and special entertainment will be provided at the Reeves County Civic Center by David Lee Garza on Saturday night. “The sheriff’s posse will also be sponsoring dances every night during the rodeo,” said McKinney.

Board member Martin McDaniel, Reeves County Detention Center III Warden, updated the group on GEO.

“I really don’t have a lot today,” said McDaniel. “The good news is that we staff at about 500 and have 474 employees, we’ve lost a lot of people to the oilfield,” he said.

McDaniel said that they have been hitting the schools and trying to recruit new graduates. “We will also work with them if they are going to college,” said McDaniel. “The only requirement to work there is that they have a GED and are off drugs,” he said.

McDaniel said that they have also started recruiting in the area, Kermit, Wink and El Paso. McDaniel said that they would be awarding four scholarships of $2,000 to high school graduates in Pecos and one in Balmorhea.

“We’ve asked the students to write an essay on volunteerism and hopefully we’ll have them in the paper,” he said.

McDaniel said that they are also looking at part-time help and encourage their employees to go to college.

In other business, Gholson told the group that the Women’s Division would be having a style show for the Golden Girl and Little Miss Cantaloupe nominees.

“At first they said they wouldn’t have one, but the women at Austin Elementary will be taking care of everything and it has been scheduled for May 3,” said Gholson. “Each nominee will only have eight tickets to sell and there will be limited seating.”

Local unemployment falls, but county sees job losses

Reeves County’s unemployment rate in March dropped three-tenths of a percent, the Texas Workforce Commission reported on Friday, though the TWC’s numbers continue to show a decline in both the county’s jobs and in the number of people in the local workforce.

The commission’s March unemployment numbers show unemployment in the county fell from 7.7 to 7.4 percent in February. But the report also said the county lost 11 jobs in the one-month period, and that the lower unemployment rate was due to a drop of 27 people in the local labor force.

The TWC said the county had 4,189 workers in March and 3,881 with jobs. Along with being down from February’s totals, they’re also down from a year ago, when the county reported 4,320 people in the local labor force and 3,936 with jobs, for an 8.9 percent unemployment rate.

The job numbers continue to be at odds with the sales tax collection figures for Reeves County, as reported by the Texas Comptroller’s office. While March’s tax collection totals won’t be released until mid-May, the county and city’s sales tax receipts have been up by about 10 percent since the start of 2005, while at the same time the number of workers and jobs within the county are reported on the decline.

Unemployment generally was on the decline across the Permian Basin in March, according to the TWC’s figures.

Midland County’s jobless rate fell back to January’s 3.5 percent, from 3.6 in February. The area’s most-populated county added 305 people to its workforce and 330 jobs in March, according to the TWC. Ector County’s jobless rate fell from 4.3 to 4.2 percent. The county’s labor force grew by 538 workers and the number of jobs was up by 689.

Andrews County’s rate was up down 4.2 to 4.1 percent in March, as the number of workers was down four from February while the number of jobs increased by six. Brewster County’s rate dropped from 3.6 to 3.3 percent, as the workforce added almost 77 workers and 107 jobs for the month. Crane County’s rate fell went up from 5.5 to 5.8 percent as the county gained 13 workers and nine jobs. Culberson County’s rate dropped from 4.1 to 3.9, the same as in January, as the county’s labor force was unchanged while it added two jobs. Howard County’s unemployment rate was 5.7 percent last month, down from February’s adjusted rate of 6 percent. The county added 101 jobs while the labor force was up by 68 workers. Pecos County rate was 5.1 percent, up down from 5.2 percent in February. The county added 94 workers and 92 jobs. The rate in Ward County was unchanged for the third straight month, at 5.2 percent, with the number of jobs and the number of workers also unchanged from February. Winkler County’s unemployment rate was down from 5.3 to 4.9 percent in March, with the county’s workforce up by four people while the number of jobs was up by 14.

Presidio County’s jobless rate dropped from 10.5 to 10.3 percent in March Presidio lost 14 jobs and saw its workforce fall by 19 from February. Loving County, with the fewest residents of any U.S. county, saw its jobless rate fall to 12.5 from 14.8 percent. The TWC said the county held added both five jobs and five workers last month, bringing the labor force to 32 people, with four unemployed.

County seeking Geographic copies

The Reeves County Library is in need of National Geographic Magazines.

Anybody wanting to donate the magazines can take them to the library at 505 S. Park or call 445-5340.

Citizen’s Police Academy seeks applicants

Individuals interested in joining the Pecos Citizens Police Academy Class 7 can fill out an application and return it to Mike Balog at the Pecos Police Department.

The applications need to be turned in this week.

Marriages and Divorces

Editor’s Note: Marriage and divorce records are public record and may be accessed by anyone. All marriage records are kept in the Reeves County Clerk’s office, while divorce records can be located in the District Clerk’s Office located on the second floor of the courthouse.

Marriages for February 2005, as filed with the Reeves County Clerk’s Office. Arturo C. Rodriguez and Nancy Montoya Ortega. Benito Arango Concle and Virginia Veronica Reynoso Gonzales. George Hernandez Garcia and Blanca Patricia Lujan. William Emmitt Bale and Tiffany Nicole Jarrett Vires.

Marriages for March 2006, as filed with the Reeves County Clerk’s Office. Alberto Cervantes Martinez and Juanita Luna Contreras. Robert M. Abila and Sandra Alvarez Renteria. Valente C. Estrada and Manuela G. Garcia. Monseratt Q. Villescas and Luz Soto Villescas. Rogelio B. Pando and Nancy Garcia. Jorge Rene Saenz Lopez and Elizabeth Olguin Jimenez.

Divorces for February 2005, as filed with the Reeves County District’s Clerk’s Office. Cesario Urias and Erica Urias. JoAnn Matta and Roger Daniel Matta. Boyd Allen Brack and Jessica Jo Brack. Susie M. Saenz and Arturo L. Saenz.

Divorces for March 2006, as filed with the Reeves County District Clerk’s Office. Marie Carmen Thomas and James David Thomas. Randy Valdez and Denise Valdez. Cindy Sosa and Luis R. Sosa. JoAnn Olivas and Gerardo F. Olivas. Glenn Fierro and Lori Ann Franco. Rogelio Gomez Pando and Zoila Gomez.

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York M. "Smokey" Briggs, Publisher
324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 432-445-5475, FAX 432-445-4321

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