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Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Tuesday, August 1, 2006

City seeks grant, discusses shut down of pool

Town of Pecos City Council members were given a briefing on the city’s proposed splash park for children at Maxey Park on Thursday, but were told the new facility may end up replacing the city’s 68-year-old swimming pool at Maxey Park within the next few years. The splash park discussion was part of action taken on applying for a Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife grant that would pay 50 percent of the cost to build the facility, which would be located at the site of the current miniature golf course. Tom Rivera, head of the city’s parks department , gave the council a slide show on the plan, and on a similar facility recently built in Rockwall, east of Dallas.

Rivera said the grant would be designed as part of a plan to turn Maxey Park into a regional recreation area, and that Pecos would be eligible for up to $400,000 over a three-year period.

“This would be great, not just for the city, but for the county,” Rivera said. “Nothing like this recreational has been done by the city since I’ve been here.”

Rivera said the facility would be low maintenance, requiring no lifeguards and would use far less water, which would be recycled through a filtration system. The park’s water pumps would also be connected to sensors that would shut the pumps off if the park is not in use. The Pecos facility would be 65-by-70 feet, and would have 15 features (water sources).

Rivera said an Odessa firm has offered to built the pad for $175,000 if their company does all the work, while city crews could handle the project, which would then count towards the 50 percent match needed as part of the grant rules.

“There are going to have to be other things built in conjunction with the splash pad to get this grant,” Rivera said. He and the city’s grant writer, Carlos Colina-Vargas, listed other items that could be part of the park under the TP&W rules.

“Your walking trails are counted as activities. Horseshoe pitching pits are counted as activities,” Colina-Vargas said

City utilities director Edgardo Madrid said a new covered basketball facility is also being looked at for the area across from the water park, while Rivera said there still would be enough space left on the current site for batting cages and a smaller miniature golf facility. Colina-Vargas said the city needed 10 facilities at Maxey Park to earn the maximum number of points in seeking the grant, and that a full 10-point project is projected to cost $765,000, with the city responsible for half that payment.

“We need to have good finances or be careful on how we manage the project,” said Madrid.

While the new projects for the park were discussed, Rivera told the council that one current recreation facility on the southwest side of Maxey Park, the city’s Athletic Pool, may not survive much longer.

“As you know the swimming pool was built in 1938, and won’t last that much longer,,” Rivera said, adding that the current operations cost for the facility could be transferred to the splash pad if the pool is shut down.”

He said the current $25,000 annual budget for maintenance and operations at the pool could go towards matching the TP&W grant.

“There are not that many of the younger kids who use the pool,” Rivera said, explaining that older children and teenagers mostly use the current facility.

Council members were wary of shutting down the pool, which has required numerous repairs in recent years and operates between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

“I think it’s important that you need to be able to maintain what you’ve got,” said councilman Danny Rodriguez. However, with a deadline of Monday to apply for the grant, council members gave city officials and Colina-Vargas their approval.

“As far as getting the application processed rolling, we can look at it, and if they do come back in February and say ‘you’ve got it’ we can decide whether or not we want to take it,” said councilman Michael Benavides.

“I have no problem in going forward. In January we can decide then,” said Rodriguez. “We don’t have many things, but what we have we need to keep.”

Council seeks cemetery board volunteers

Town of Pecos City Council members are seeking volunteers to serve on a revived Fairview Cemetery board, which will deal with the issue of both getting a new water system in operation at the site and improving the looks of the cemetery located in the central part of town.

Council members took that step during their regular meeting on Thursday at City Hall, following a discussion with several members of the public on how to water the facility, after leaks were found in Fairview’s existing water lines.

“I’ve been asking since 1996 and nothing’s been done about it since 1996,” said Rosemary Scroggins, one of those in the audience at Thursday’s meeting.

During the council’s meeting earlier in the month, city utilities director Edgardo Madrid said a water line leak at the cemetery was causing Fairview to use water at the rate of 1 million gallons a month, at a monthly cost of $3,000 to the city.

Similar leaks on lines that water the islands along Jackson Boulevard have cost the city $13,000 during the first four months of 2006. The costs of the leaks translate into higher water rates for local residents, said city Parks Department Director Tom Rivera.

Madrid said at the time there was an existing water well in the area the could be used said that there, but that it would cost $13,000 to install a new pump and watering system, while a second option, a traveling sprinkler that would be able to move through the cemetery, would cost $3,500. However, the water needed to run the sprinkler would not make a large dent in the overall water use at Fairview.

He offered the council an option of running new water lines only to the cemetery plots that are maintained, and metering those lines to be paid for by surviving family members. “The city would not be charged for the water. The customer could use as much water as they wanted,” he said.

However, that option drew protests from some of those in the audience.

Mae Martinez asked how plot owners could avoid having water taken from their lines for use on other graves, while Sparkman asked what the cost would be for people who maintain more than one plot at the cemetery.

Madrid said locks could be placed on the meters, and families could be charged for only one meter, which would be priced at $250 apiece.

“What we’re trying to do is come up with feasible ideas for you,” said mayor Dick Alligood, who noted that only about 10 percent of the plots at Fairview are still maintained by family members.

He also noted that due to the age of the facility, the plots and monuments at Fairview are not arranged to easily put in a new watering system, or to use other maintenance equipment at the cemetery.

“To undertake this would be a tremendous increase on our workforce, if we start mowing, watering and putting the right amount of water on there,” he said. Rivera said simply flooding the facility to water it could cause some of the older tombstones to fall over and the plots to cave in.

The city was deeded Fairview Cemetery in 1938 from its private owners, and a committee was supposed to oversee its maintenance. “A trust fund originally was used to pay for the upkeep, but when that fund started dropping down the committee didn’t want to pay for it,” Alligood said, and the costs were eventually added into the city’s general fund.

“I would like to see at the next council meeting if we can try to get a committee formed,” said councilman Michael Benavides. “We’re headed in the right direction, and we need to keep going forward. Now that we’ve brought it up, we need to get it done.”

Alligood said anyone interested in volunteering to serve on the new cemetery board can either come to city hall, or call city officials at 445-2421 to add their names to the list. He and Benavides volunteered to be the council’s representatives on the board.

“I have a list of at lot of people I’ve talked to the last three weeks who are interested and who are the maintainers of the plots,” said Scroggins.

RCH board sees added cost in digital imaging

The purchase of digital imaging equipment by Reeves County Hospital for its radiology unit was tabled by hospital board members during their July meeting last Tuesday, after the board was told the system will require additional computer hardware add-ons to make it fully functional.

The board also approved purchase of a new dye injection system for the radiology unit, along with signing an insurance contract with a new carrier, and renewing the hospital’s ambulance agreement with the Town of Pecos City.

RCH interim Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer Frank Seals said that while the new $79,000 digital imaging equipment allowed the hospital to save $31,000 annually on film costs, the hospital needed to buy high-resolution video monitors to allow Dr. Alexander Kovac to read the images, and they need a storage server and backup to keep the images.

Seals recommended a proposal by Novarad, which would be for three workstations and two monitors over a proposal by MMCI to store images on their server at College Station. “The implement fee is not too much, but it costs $4,500 a month to use their server,” he said. “And it doesn’t provide us with the server and workstations Dr. Kovac needs in the radiology department.

He said the Novarad offer included an off-site backup and 24/7 tech service, at a cost of $3,300 monthly. The $39,600 annual cost would come on top of the cost of the hardware at the hospital, which Seals said would come to $48,000.

“If we have to do it, I’d like to recommend Novarad. The two radiology techs and Dr. Kovac think we really need it, but I’m kind of hesitant to put the kind of money out right now because of our financial situation.

“This is kind of the last piece to be completely modernized,” Seals said, adding that the system would allow the hospital to transmit the images to be read off-site by a radiologist if Dr. Kovac was not available.

Board members were told the bids were only good for a limited time, and board president Linda Gholson eventually asked members to delay a decision until a special meeting of the board, which was later set for Aug. 9 at 6 p.m.

“We could table this and have a special meeting, because I feel well have need for a special meeting on other items before our next regular meeting,” she said.

The dye injection system will be a new one to replace one that the hospital bought about five years ago, and which is now 15 years old. Seals said the machine would cost $10,000, while it would cost at least $2,500 to repair the existing machine. “We’re starting to get some error messages, and we’re not sure what the problem is,” he said.

The machine injects dye into patients, which can then be read on the hospital’s radiology unit. Seals recommended against buying an extended warranty with the new machine, saying, “If it will fail, it will fail right out of the box when it’s still under warranty.”

On the professional/general liability insurance for the hospital, Seals recommended switching from Mid-Continent to CNA as the hospital’s insurer for 2006-07. “When you look at them side-by-side, CNA has better coverage for $7,300 less,” said Seals The board then approved the change. The hospital had used Mid-Continent as its insurer for the past two years.

The hospital contract with the city for ambulance service was renewed at the same rate as the past year. RCH will pay $60,000 for operations, and will cover up to $10,000 as its share of any operating losses.

In other action, board members voted to table action on an oil and gas lease, along with the same of one of four properties in Pecos, while approving three other delinquent tax sale bids.

Seals said the 126 acre oil and gas lease offer had a bonus of $250 an acre, but board member Terry Honaker was concerned that the bonus dropped to $175 at the end of the three-year lease.

Honaker and Gholson voted for a motion to deny the sale of a property at 608 W. Sixth St. to Salvador Nichols, on a bid of $1,000. Board members Pablo Carrasco and Brenda McKinney voted in favor, and the vote was taken before at-large board member Leo Hung arrived, after attending that evening’s meeting of the Pecos Economic Development Corp. “I guess we’ll put in back on the agenda,” Gholson said.

Other taxing entities have approved the sale of that property, along with the properties at 510 Lincoln St., 209 W. 11th St., and 809 S. Elm St., which were approved by the hospital board. Bids on those three properties respectively were $900 by Eddie Gomez, $1,000 by Rosa Munoz and $100 by Raymond O. Natividad, Jr.

The board approved hiring Lydia Prieto to calculate the effective and rollback tax rates for the hospital district, while taking no action following a 90 minute meeting in executive session on the position of hospital CEO, which was vacated in May by the retirement of Bill Conder. Seals has been serving as interim CEO for the hospital for the past two months.

The district also approved a $5 increase in hourly pay for its contract with Emergency Staffing Solutions for ER doctors. Seals said the increase to $75 an hour was needed because the hospital was having a hard time attracting doctors for relief ER duty under the current rate.

“Fort Stockton is paying their ER doctors $15 more an hour, and Denver City is about the same,” said Seals, though he denied a claim that ER visits in Pecos were up this year. Seals said the numbers so far in 2006 are about the same as in 2004 and about 20 below the per-month visits in 2005.

Cantaloupe Festival able to dodge showers

Outdoor events for this past weekend’s Pecos Cantaloupe Festival had to work their way around a problem Pecos hasn’t had to deal with for nearly 10 months --- rain.

After going almost seven months with just over an inch of rain, showers hit the Pecos area four straight days, tripling the year-to-day total but still leaving the city well below it’s annual average of just under 11 inches of rain per year.

The rains threatened to cause problems for the Cantaloupe Festival, which was moved back to late July for the first time in 15 years, and for Night in Old Pecos, which was moved along with the festival to the final weekend in July after taking place at the end of June as part of the West of the Pecos Rodeo.

However, showers that hit on Saturday went away in time for the evening’s events to take place, and held off in the mornings this weekend long enough to get in both the annual Pecos Downtown Lions Club Fly In Breakfast on Sunday at Pecos Municipal Airport, and the two day Pecos Rotary Club Adult-Youth Golf Tournament, held at the Reeves County Golf Course.

The Trans-Pecos and Permian Basin areas have been on the eastern edge of a storm system that has been centered over Arizona and New Mexico. Friday’s storm developed directly over the city and caused some minor street flooding shortly after 3 p.m., while Saturday’s storm also hit in mid-afternoon and arrived from the south, but came early enough to avoid affecting the Night in Old Pecos events later that evening.

Lines of storms also passed through the area on Sunday and early Monday morning, dropping less rain than the previous two days. Rain was also forecast for the area for most of the week by the National Weather Service, with the chance of thunderstorms increasing again by Thursday and Friday.

The Weather Service’s website listing temperature and precipitation readings at Pecos Municipal Airport did not register any rain during Friday’s thunderstorm, which built up over Pecos and then broke up after dumping an inch of rain on other parts of the city. Areas on the south side of town reported lighter rain, while the rain never made it to the Barstow area in western Ward County.

On Saturday, the Weather Service reported .82 inch of rain fell in town, and other sections of Reeves and surrounding counties also experience rain, while on Sunday the airport measuring site recorded .02 inch of rain from the shower that passed through Pecos, and an additional .11 inch of rain was recorded early Monday morning, when another storm hit the area at 2:45 a.m.

Downtown, KIUN’s rain gauge received 2.4 inches of rain over the weekend, after only getting 1.4 inches between January 1 and this past Friday. The combination lifted the city’s rainfall total to 3.8 inches for the year.

The city received almost double its annual rainfall total in 2005, and just above its yearly average last year, after going through a decade of drought conditions. Only two years between 1993 and 2003 were near or above the average rainfall amount, and hit a low of 4.02 inches for all of 1999.

The rains did have a little effect on the fly-in breakfast, according to Pecos Municipal Airport manager Isabel Blanchard. “We did have a few who were coming in from El Paso who didn’t make it, because the weather to the west was a concern” she said. However, at least one pilot did make the 200-mile trip to Pecos, and others flew in from as far away as San Angelo for the breakfast, and for the cantaloupe bombing run that pilots can participate in at $1 a toss.

“It’s a fun place for people to come on Sunday to talk about airplanes and t heir shared passions,” Blanchard said. About 100 people both from out of town and locally were served breakfast by Lion’s Club members during the event.

Not all the events held this weekend were threatened by weather.

Cantaloupe was the main ingredient in all the dishes at a food show held Friday afternoon. The 2nd Annual Cantaloupe Food Show was held Friday afternoon in the Trans Pecos Bank Lobby.

“It was great, we had a good turnout,” said one of the organizers for the event Dorinda Venegas.

There were 20 entries, featuring different food combinations, with all featuring the main ingredient, Pecos Sweet Cantaloupe.

Prizes were awarded and the award for Best Presentation went to Karen Hill, who made a cantaloupe and avocado salad.

The Judge’s Choice Award was given to Christa Falwell, for her cantaloupe pudding pie. The “MMMM Surprise Award” went to Venetta Seals for her cantaloupe jalapeno preserve.

In the Kid’s Cantaloupe Decorating Contest, in the 4-6 age group, Griffen Falwell took first place, for his cantaloupe turtle.

In the seven age group, Shawntea Flow placed first for her Little Miss Cantaloupe. In the 9-11 year olds, Cielo Ornelas placed first.

Carrasco to repay $75,000 in probation deal

Former Reeves County Attorney Louis Carrasco received probation Friday afternoon in 143rd District Court, after pleading guilty to three of five counts of theft and misappropriation of funds. On Friday, Carrasco was given three probated sentences ranging from five to eight years, and was ordered to repay over $75,000 in connecting with the thefts from accounts belonging to Reeves County and Carrasco’s private clients.

Carrasco was first indicted in February by a district court grand jury on nine counts, and five additional counts were filed against the attorney in June. According to 143rd District Court records, two of the five counts were dismissed as part of the plea deal.

Carrasco received two eight-year probation sentences for the first two cases he pled to and received a five-year probation sentence on the third case.

Restitution in the first case was assessed at $28,785; in the second case, $33,718 and the third case, $4,591. Carrasco was also ordered to pay $10,009 to the Reeves County Attorney Pre-Trial Diversion Fund.

Carrasco’s plea came a week after his pre-trial hearing was held in the 143rd District Court. He originally pled not guilty to the charges, and a jury trial had been scheduled for Aug. 21.

The indictments followed an investigation, which led to his office being raided on Oct. 26 by Texas Rangers and Reeves County Sheriff’s Department officials, in which both private and county records were seized. The action led to his resignation as Reeves County Attorney on Oct. 31 of last year.

Carrasco was first elected to the county attorney’s position in 2000, and was in the first year of his new four-year term of office when he resigned. Carrasco ran unopposed for re-election in 2004.

The first grand jury returned nine indictments against Carrasco. According to 143rd District Attorney Randy Reynolds, the 14 returned indictments involve allegations that Carrasco misused funds he held in both his capacity as a public servant as Reeves County Attorney and in his capacity as a fiduciary regarding cases he handled as a private attorney.

Reynolds said in February that he first learned of the problem in the summer of 2005. He then requested that Reeves County Auditor Lynn Owens review the expenditures and report his findings to Reynolds.

He also assigned his DA investigators, Freddy Contreras and Jeffery Baeza, to start an inquiry, and based on the findings of the auditor and the investigators, Reynolds requested that the Texas Rangers begin a formal investigation involving the Office of the Reeves County Attorney in late October of last year.

Reynolds prepared a petition to remove Carrasco from the office of Reeves County Attorney following the Oct. 26 raid on his office, but prior to the filing of the petition, Carrasco resigned from office. Reeves County Commissioners then appointed Richard C. Slack, a long time Pecos attorney, to fill the vacancy.

District County records did not indicate whether or not the other nine counts against Carrasco would also be dismissed. Reynolds was out of town on Monday and unavailable for comment.

Former telephone employees reunite

Some of the former employees of Contel Operator Services met at the Best Western Swiss Clock Inn Restaurant on Saturday, July 1, for dinner and a reunion.

This was the first time the group had gotten together since the Pecos office closed in 1990.

In the future, the group hopes to have more former operators and employees from other departments in attendance.

Former employees in attendance from Pecos included: Mildred Ferguson, Martha De La Garza, Norma Chavez, Eddie Rodriguez, Eddie Zuniga, Olga Florez, Susie Skelton of Barstow, Caroline Contreras from El Paso, Jenita Gough from Olney, Antonia Castillo of Odessa, Barbara Smith (ex supervisor) of Houston.

There were also 12 family members in attendance.

Everyone enjoyed remembering old times and catching up on what everyone had been doing for the past 16 years.

The group hopes to get together again next year.

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

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