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Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Friday, June 23, 2006

Commissioners table action on roof repair, gate purchase

Staff Writer

Reeves County Commissioners discussed courthouse roof repairs, but took no action, during their regular meeting held June 16, in the third floor courtroom.

The group opted to table the item until more information can be gathered on Crenshaw Consulting Group and their fixed fee proposal.

“We had previously tabled it to get a fixed cost for the consulting fee,” said Reeves County Judge Jimmy B. Galindo.

Galindo asked Precinct 1 Commissioner Roy Alvarado if the company had a total cost for the project.

“It will come somewhere between $200,000 and $250,000,” said Alvarado.

“So at this rate the consulting contract is for 20 percent, if we look at that it would be $18,000,” said county auditor Lynn Owens.

“That’s 20 percent over the project,” said Galindo. “When we’ve done other projects we have been able to keep it at a set rate.”

“The percent is based on total cost,” said Owens. “I’m not sure what the $200,000-$250,000 range would be.”

“This entity serves as a consultant for a fee, plus a $20,000 fee,” said Galindo.

Alvarado said that woman with Crenshaw that he dealt with told him the group would design the specs and handle all the bidding.

“This is just a proposal, we still need to get an agreement with her,” said Alvarado. Galindo said that they don’t have a marked guaranteed price.

Galindo suggested that they revisit the proposal and get a guarantee of 8 1/2 percent or a set fee.

“That final consultant fee is slippery,” said Galindo. “As long as we can cap it at eight and a half percent that would be better,” he said.

The group tabled the item and agreed to let Alvarado talk to the consulting firm.

Also tabled following a discussion by commissioner was approval of installation of a gate for a land owner as part of the access to the new NOAA Weather Tower Location.

Reeves County Emergency Management Coordinator Ricky Herrera told the commissioners that the county had requested two phone lines and that it required them getting an easement from the landowner.

“The rancher had asked us if we could put up a gate, in return for the easement,” said Herrera.

Initially, Herrera, said that they could put up the gate through in-kind services.

“But he wants a guy that does some work around his ranch to put up the gate,” said Herrera.

Herrera said that the rancher wanted the county to pay for the new gate, which will cost $2,000.

“He wants that guy to do it because he knows what type of design and what type of gate he wants,” said Herrera.

Herrera said that there wouldn’t be any money left in the grant money to pay for the gate. “How often do people have to go in there?” asked Galindo.

“Actually there’s a cattle guard east of it,” said Herrera.

Herrera said that he would probably have to go out there once a week and the weather operator once a month.

“The rancher goes out there everyday,” said Herrera.

Herrera said that originally they were going to use the old gate, but that they would have to go through three property owners.

“We may have a little more luck with the other property owners,” said Galindo. “My sense would be to use the existing gate.”

Galindo suggested Herrera “touch base” with the other property owners and try to get an easement from them.

RCDC guards, inmate charged by grand jurors

Staff Writer

Six former Reeves County Detention Center employees and one inmate are facing charges, including bribery, providing contraband to inmates and providing sex to inmates, following an investigation that led to indictments in U.S. District Court in Pecos.

The seven appeared before U.S. Judge Durwood Edwards in U.S. District Court on June 15on the charges, and each had a bond set at $10,000.

The case was investigated by Office of Inspector General of Dallas and El Paso and the Reeves County Detention Center Internal Affairs, according to Daryl Fields, Public Affairs Officer, for the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney’s Office, Western District of Texas.

The trial for all seven is scheduled for Aug. 2, before U.S. Judge Rob Junell, at the Lucius Bunton Federal Courthouse in Pecos.

“The cases are P06-CR #166-171,” said Fields.

The first case, case #166, includes two defendants, Oliver Isaac Zermeno, 22, and Matthew Isaac Valencia, 23, both of Pecos. The two men both face one count of bribery, which upon conviction calls for a maximum of 15 years imprisonment, and a second count of providing/possessing contraband in prison. The second count is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in federal prison.

According to the indictment, while Reeves County Detention Center Zermeno received a total of $350 on three occasions to bring in CD player, CD’s and batteries for a federal inmate, Alfonso Woo-Rangel, between May 1, 2005 and December of 2005.

Fields said Valencia’s charges “is the same situation as Zermeno, with federal inmate Alfonso Woo-Rangel.”

In the second case Pablo Briones-Baca, 38, is also charged with bribery and providing/possessing contraband.

“He faces the same penalties as the other two defendants upon conviction,” said Fields. In the indictment it states that Briones brought in tight pills, along with T-3 pills (pills with enhancing testosterone level), Anabol pills (body-building pills), syringes with allergy medicine, shorts, toothbrushes, lotion, aspirin an candy, all prohibited objects for the federal inmates, to inmate Jaime Cervantes, between Feb. 1, 2005 and Jan. 31, 2006. He allegedly was paid between $160 and $300 in U.S. currency.

Cervantes is also facing charges in connection with the investigation.

“He is being charged with the same charge, bribery and providing/possessing contraband in prison,” said Fields.

Cervantes promised something of value to a public official between Feb. 1, 2005 and Jan. 31, 2006, between $160 and $300 in U.S. Currency. He faces the same penalties as Briones.

The other three cases involve former female employees of the detention center.

In the first, Vanessa Valles-Valenzuela, 23, of Pecos, is charged with one count of sexual abuse of a ward. Upon conviction, she faces a maximum of five years in federal prison. Between Sept. 1, 2005 and Jan. 31, 2006, the defendant, a correctional officer at the Reeves County Detention Center, had sexual intercourse with a federal inmate, Hipolito Mata-Picazo, the indictment alleges

In the second indictment, Magdalena Marie Mendoza, 24, of Pecos, faces two counts of abusive sexual conduct.

Upon conviction she faces a maximum of two years in prison per count.

The indictment states that the former correctional officer on count one, performed a sexual act on a federal inmate, So Somvang. Count two alleges that the former officer had a sexual encounter with a federal inmate, Juan Lezama.

The final indictment charges Sarah G. Mata, 35, of Pecos, with three separate counts. Count one, sexual abuse of a ward; county two, bribery and count three, providing/possessing contraband in prison.

Count one, upon conviction, calls for a maximum five years in prison; count two, calls for 15 years maximum and count three, calls for a five-year maximum prison sentence.

According to the indictment, the correctional officer had sexual intercourse with federal inmate, Rigoberto Mora-Ochoa, occurring between Jan. 1, 2003 and May 20, 2005.

Between April 3, 2003 and May of 2005, it alleges that she agreed to accept $1,000 in cash to provide contraband in to the facility (marijuana) to Mora-Ochoa.

“This is also goes with the bribery charge,” said Fields.

Valuations up for county, schools; city falls

Staff Writer

Higher oil and gas prices resulted in another double-digit increase in mineral valuations for three of Reeves County’s taxing entities, according to preliminary figures from the Reeves County Tax Appraisal Office. But five other taxing entities without significant taxable land in northern and central Reeves County saw their mineral valuations decline, and in part as a result, homeowners living outside the Pecos city limits saw sharp jumps in their housing valuations.

Valuations for Reeves County, the Reeves County Hospital District and the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD jumped nearly 20 percent in the last year, due to the increase in oil and gas valuations, according to chief appraiser Carol King Markham. Both the hospital and county saw their valuations rise by just under $100 million, to $636.7 million, while the P-B-T ISD, which includes central and northern Reeves County and western Ward County, saw its valuations grow by $130 million, to $693.1 million. In both cases, between 85 and 90 percent of the increase was due to mineral valuation increases.

However, the numbers were quite different for the other taxing entities. Town of Pecos City showed a $3.2 million drop in its mineral valuations while gaining only $1.1 million in real estate valuations, for a net loss of just under $2.1 million. Toyah lost $639,180 in mineral valuations and had a net loss of $394,620, while the three other taxing entities to show losses in mineral valuations - Balmorhea ISD, the city of Balmorhea and the Reeves County Water Irrigation District No. 2 - gained enough in real estate values to offset their mineral valuation declines.

Markham said part of the real estate increases were due to the elimination of a valuations discount on homes outside the Pecos city limits, and she said that was eliminated due to the overall valuations situation in the Balmorhea ISD, which saw its mineral valuations fall by $640,300.

“Everybody outside the city limits always got a 25 to 30 percent discount due to their location,” she said. “But when the state audited us, they put the little Balmorhea school district on a one-year grace period. If we didn’t get the valuations up, Balmorhea would lose state funding.”

“The state wanted it off, and I took it off,” Markham said. “It was very unfair to the people of Pecos.”

She added that the numbers could change, following appeals of the new valuations before the Reeves County Appraisal Review Board. The board will hold its first hearings on real estate appraisals at 9 a.m. on Monday at its office at 403 S. Cypress St., and will continue on Monday, July 10, also at 9 a.m. Appeals of mineral valuations will be heard at hearings scheduled for Tuesday, July 18, at 9 a.m.

“I don’t know how much of this is going to stay with the Appraisal Review Board. They could put the discount back on, but it’s up to them,” said Markham.

The increase in rural real estate values helped boost Balmorhea ISD’s valuations by $2.3 million, offsetting its mineral valuation decline. Balmorhea city saw its real estate valuations rise $710,150, Toyah was up $244,560 and Reeves County WID No. 2 rose $69,140. But the biggest gains were for the three taxing entitles already seeing sharp mineral valuation increases, as the county and hospital district gained nearly $12.9 million in real estate values and the school saw its valuations rise by $11.4 million.

The preliminary numbers on real estate show total valuations for the county and hospital district, which shares the same boundaries, came to $159.6 million, while mineral valuations were at $477 million. The school district’s real estate valuations were lower, at $129 million, but that was offset with higher mineral valuations due to oil and gas fields in the Barstow area. The school’s mineral valuations were put at $564.1 million.

Pecos did benefit enough from the oil and gas boom to see a one percent rise in its real estate valuations. They were up to $101.7 million, but the city’s taxable land netted only $8.3 million in mineral valuations. Balmorhea had $3.7 million in real estate valuations and just $396,350 in mineral valuations; Balmorhea ISD had $11.6 million in real estate and $15.4 million in mineral valuations; Toyah had just over $1 million in real estate and $318.690 in mineral, and Reeves County WID 2 had $701,900 in real estate and $2.8 in mineral valuations.

Since 2000, when the price of oil and natural gas first began rising, the valuations for the county, hospital district and P-B-T ISD have almost doubled due to the rise in mineral values. Total valuations in 2000 for the county and hospital district were only $356.8 million, while the P-B-T ISD valuations six years ago were $369.8 million.

However, the city has seen its mineral valuations cut by almost 50 percent during that same span, falling from $15.4 to the current $8.3 million, while its real estate valuations are up only $390,000 over the past six years. Balmorhea ISD since 2000 has seen its mineral valuations rise from $9.4 to the current $15.4 million, while real estate valuations are up $2.6 million, almost all of that coming in the new appraisal at the higher valuation rates.

Ex-guard pleads guilty in RCDC drug case

Staff Writer

A former prison guard in Pecos pled guilty to a federal drug charge in connection with an incident at the Reeves County Detention Center, the U.S. Attorney’s office announced on Wednesday.

U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton announced that former Reeves County Detention Center Prison guard Rodney Rodriguez Carrasco, 30, of Pecos, pleaded guilty Wednesday before United States Magistrate Judge L. Stuart Platt to conspiring to distribute marijuana within the confines of that facility in 2004.

The case was among three involving drugs that federal officials dealt with, the other two involving drug addicted robbers from Kermit and Odessa who plead guilty in home invasion case.

As part of his plea, Carrasco admitted that on three occasions in June 2004, he accepted Western Union money transfers from the relatives of three inmates as compensation for allowing marijuana to be smuggled in.

Carrasco faces up to five years in the United States Bureau of Prisons and a $250,000 fine when he is sentenced in September.

The Texas Department of Public Safety and agents employed by the Reeves County Detention Center investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Parras prosecuted on behalf of the Government.

In another case, Sutton announced that Tim Garrett Carter, 20, of Kermit and Elmo D’Shon Starling, 22, of Odessa, each face up to 10 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to a weapons charge.

Appearing before United States Magistrate Judge L. Stuart Platt Wednesday, Carter and Starling pleaded guilty to one count of being drug users in possession of a firearm. Both admitted that on Oct. 13, 2005, they were part of a gang of drug addicts that used a 12-guage shotgun to rob residents of an apartment in Odessa.

According to court documents, the other participants in the robbery were Michael McGinnis, 20, of Iraan, who pled guilty on June 1, 2006, to (the same charge), and two juveniles. As a result of his guilty plea, McGinnis faces up to 10 years in federal prison. Carter, Starling and McGinnis remain in custody pending sentencing. Sentencing dates have not yet been set.

The case is the result of an investigation conducted by the FBI West Texas Area Major Offenders Task Force (WAMO), which is comprised of federal agents, and local detectives who work together to investigate violent criminals in the Permian Basin area. Assistant United States Attorney Glenn Roque-Jackson is prosecuting this case on behalf of the Government.

Friday pageant starts off events for rodeo week

A total of six young ladies will be vying for the title of Golden Girl of the Old West and 16 little girls will compete in the Little Miss Cantaloupe Festival scheduled for Friday evening at the Pecos High School Auditorium.

The event kicks off Rodeo Week in Pecos, with an amateur team roping competition on Sunday and the first day of slack competition on Monday at the 2006 West of the Pecos Rodeo.

The pageant will begin at 7 p.m. on Friday at the auditorium and tickets are $8.

Nominees for Golden Girl include: Melissa Guerrero, Eleanor Mason, Jesseca Perea, Syra Mendoza, Delicia Ramirez and Tiffanie Rodriguez.

Little Miss Cantaloupe contestants are: Alexa Arreguy, Lila Benavides, Jaylin Burleson, Victoria Chacon, Liz Fierro, Shantea Flow, Kayla Martinez, Brookley Matta, Alexis Mendoza, Isabella Millan, Nathalia Natividad, Ysidra Navarrete, Makayla Niblett, Lissette Ortiz, Eileen Puertas, Kariz Rodriguez, Natalia Romo and Marie Urias.

The pageant will consist of the Golden Girl nominees showing off their 1880’s ball gown, a talent contest and the girls in their Western Wear.

The younger girls will introduce themselves, walk around the stage and perform a special routine.

One Golden Girl will be chosen at the end of the evening, along with a Runner-up. Scholarships will also be awarded that evening.

One Little Miss Cantaloupe will be crowned and a runner-up.

There will be fewer pre-rodeo events this year, with the shifting of Night in Old Pecos to late July, to be part of the Pecos Cantaloupe Festival, which was also returned to the end of July weekend it was held on when the event began 23 years ago.

Pecos students receive degrees

Several students from the Pecos are received a degree from Odessa College in May of the Spring 2006 semester.

Recent graduates include: Oscar M. Machuca, Aidee Muniz Madrid, Geneva V. Martinez, Dianna Maruffo Muniz, Edwardo F. Salgado and Susan Cravey Wimberly.

OC to offer Autism camp

For the first time in Odessa College summer camp history, OC will offer AutistiCats!, a camp for children diagnosed with Autism. The camp will include miniature golf, bowling, the Monahans Sandhills and livestock and horses. All activities and events are structured to help children benefit from their time at camp.

The camp will be from July 10 through July 13. Odessa College Community Recreation Director Betty Frederickson said she already has received a lot of interest from people, who want to send their children to camp. The idea behind the camp is to offer something different for children with needs. Occupational therapists and registered nurses will be at the camp.

There still is time to sign up for camp and the cost is $79 per person. For more information or to register call 335-6348.

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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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