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Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Friday, August 4, 2006

Results mixed for P-B-T in new TEA ratings

Austin Elementary School received a “recognized’ rating from the Texas Education Agency, which released its rankings for schools and school districts across the state on Tuesday. But Bessie Haynes Elementary was rated “unacceptable” by the TEA, based on students’ results from the Texas Assessment of Knowledge Skills test.

More Texas schools have been rated academically unacceptable this year after a higher passing standard made it tougher for them to meet state requirements on the standardized test, Texas Education Commissioner Shirley Neeley said Tuesday.

The majority of Texas schools fall into the acceptable category, but those in the unacceptable range jumped from 264 in 2005 to 321 this year.

Pecos’ junior high and high school campuses both were rated “Acceptable” by the TEA, which is also the ranking most area schools fall into.

Balmorhea ISD joined Austin Elementary in earning the “recognized” label from the state agency, which is the second highest of the four levels awarded by the TEA. That was a step up for the district, which was rated “acceptable” in the 2005 listings.

The number of schools in the most prestigious category, exemplary, also increased from 304 to 555 campuses. That's 7 percent of the public school campuses in Texas.

Neeley called the increase in the number of academically unacceptable schools "disappointing." She attributed it in part to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and to an increase in the passing standard.

"This year was difficult," Neeley said at a news conference in the Houston suburb of Pasadena. "Not only did we face Katrina and Rita challenges, we also had the highest increase in state standards that we have had in 12 years."

Austin was recognized a year ago, while the three other P-B-T ISD that qualified for ratings all were listed as “acceptable”. The district’s other two campuses, Pecos Kindergarten and Lamar AEP, are not included in the state ratings.

P-B-T ISD officials were in meetings on Wednesday and Thursday, and were unavailable for comment on the district’s campus rankings.

The district’s ratings were about average for other area school districts.

Among those of similar size, Monahans ISD had two of its three elementary campuses and its junior high campus “recognized”, while the other two were “acceptable”; Fort Stockton ISD had its two elementary campuses “recognized” and its two middle schools rated “acceptable”, but the high school received an “unacceptable” rating; Alpine ISD had its elementary and junior high campuses “recognized” and its high school rated “acceptable”; Kermit ISD had both its elementary campuses rated “unacceptable” while its junior high and high school campuses were “acceptable”; Andrews ISD had all its elementary campuses “recognized” and its high school and junior high campuses rated “acceptable”; and Presidio ISD had all three of their campuses rated “acceptable” For the smaller districts, Marfa ISD had both its campuses rated “acceptable”; Grandfalls’ only campus was rated “acceptable”’ Culberson County-Allamore ISD had all three of its campuses rated “acceptable”; Fort Davis ISD had its high school rated “acceptable” and two other campuses “recognized”; and Wink-Loving ISD had its elementary school “recognized” and its high school rated “acceptable”.

This marks the second year in a row that more schools and school districts received the state's lowest academic rating. To receive an acceptable rating this year, at least 60 percent of test takers had to pass the reading, writing, English language arts and social studies portions of the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills.

The standard was 50 percent last year. The passing rate for math went up 5 percentage points to 40 percent, and the passing rate for science went up 10 percentage points to 35 percent.

Schools can appeal the ratings. Certain sanctions and interventions are taken against campuses receiving the academically unacceptable rating.

Districts and schools are labeled exemplary, recognized, academically acceptable or unacceptable based on a dropout rates, graduation rates and scores on the TAKS.

The passing rate for a label of recognized remained at 70 percent. And for an exemplary label, passing rates remained at 90 percent.

Private clients get cash back from Carrasco

Former Reeves County Attorney Louis Carrasco has already made restitution on money owed to clients all the private cases, following his plea agreement last week on misappropriation of funds charges, with only one county restitution case pending with the county.

“He had already paid every victim before he pled,” said 143rd District Attorney Randy Reynolds.

Carrasco was given three probated sentences ranging from five to eight years on July 28, 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.

Reynolds said that had Carrasco been sentenced to do prison time, he would not have had to pay anything.

“In this agreement, his victims received compensation and he is doing probation for his offenses,” said Reynolds.

Reynolds said that on Friday, Carrasco paid $43,000 towards his restitution fees.

“He paid every victim, the only account is the one with the county,” said Reynolds.

Reynolds said that he had received the funds from Carrasco on Friday and that he will be distributing those funds to the victims.

“He received deferred adjudication for eight years on the county charge, but it means if he doesn’t pay that he will go to prison for 10 years,” said Reynolds.

“This took care of every charge we had prosecuted him for,” said Reynolds. “The account at Quality Inn has also been paid,” he said.

“We had charged him with nine counts in February and we dismissed some of those, because they were the same as some of the others,” said Reynolds.

Reynolds said that there were three indictments, but that two were dismissed because they were similar to the first one, which was misappropriation of funds.

“He paid the $10,000 to the county fund that he owed, but there is still $22,018, which is the one he is on probation for,” said Reynolds.

Carrasco resigned from office last Oct. 31, as Reynolds prepared a petition to remove him as Reeves County Attorney. The move came five days after a raid on his office by Texas Rangers and Reeves County Sheriff’s deputies, who were investigating the allegations of misappropriation of funds.

City seeking new inmate work crew deal

Budget plans and “wish lists” were presented to Town of Pecos City Council members on Wednesday evening, in the first of a series of workshops on the city’s overall 2006-07 budget, and officials also discussed possible agreements with Reeves County and the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD on sharing resources as a way to save money.

Officials heard budget outlines for the city’s Parks Department, Main Street Program, Fire Department, Fire Marshal’s office and code maintenance department during the three-hour workshop, the first of three scheduled this week. The second was set for 5:30 p.m. on Thursday and the third at the same time on Friday night at City Hall.

Council members and Parks Department Director Tom Rivera discussed the possibility of working with Reeves County on hiring a jailer to supervise Reeves County Jail inmates on maintenance and clean-up projects for the city and county. A similar project begun two years ago with Reeves County Detention Center III prisoners was halted when the State of Arizona swapped the low-risk inmates they were keeping at the prison for high-risk inmates not eligible for trusty status.

The discussion came after councilman Danny Rodriguez asked Rivera why some planned projects at Maxey Park had not been completed. Rivera said he had only five workers available to handle maintenance of the city’s recreational facilities, which accounted for delays.

“I’m supposed to be up to six people,” Rivera said. “But I’m holding off that so I can hire a couple of part-timers.”

“I’m trying to work out an agreement with the county,” Mayor Dick Alligood said. “We’ve got a verbal agreement where if we can come up with half the salary for the year for a jailer, the county will come up with the other half.”

He said the jailer would supervise between four and eight Reeves County Jail inmates. The city’s base cost for the position would be about $15,500, Alligood said, though that wouldn’t include other expenses such as insurance and benefits.

“We’re getting a huge benefit, but we’re also getting additional costs,” said city finance director Sam Contreras.

“Even if we went down to four trustees, we’d have that number (of workers) that we don’t have for $15,000 a year, where we’re stretching out people on those projects,” Alligood said.

Rodriguez said if any agreement is worked out, he wanted to make sure the projects worked on were evenly divided between the city and county. Alligood said a project schedule could be created, and he and other city officials would talk about it further with Sheriff Andy Gomez and county commissioners.

Council members also continued talks about cutting water usage at the facilities maintained by the Parks Department, including Fairview Cemetery and the Jackson Boulevard traffic islands, where water leaks have been a major problem.

“We also have plans for desertscapes,” said city manager Joseph Torres. “We’re trying to get away from putting drinking water on the grass, because we’ve got to try something to hold down the cost of water.”

The council also talked about desertscaping areas of Fairview Cemetery not currently maintained by families who have plots in the facility. Rivera said a well at the site might not be useable, due to a Texas Commission on Environmental Quality rule that prohibits water wells within 500 feet of a cemetery. “I don’t know if the current well is grandfathered in,” he said, and any action on use of the well is awaiting a state ruling.

Alligood said the city is still seeking volunteers for a new Fairview Cemetery board, which could hold its first meeting as early as next week. Anyone interested is asked to contact City Hall at 445-2421.

All departments sought increases in their fuel budgets, due to the increase in gas prices since last year’s budget was drawn up. During the discussion on fuel costs for the fire department Fire Chief Freddy Contreras said that the number of fire calls is up sharply this year, due to the dry conditions over the past 10 months.

“We are over what we had last year. Last year we had 220 fire calls. This year already there have been 238 and we still have four months to go,” Contreras said.

Council members discussed raising the fire department’s fuel budget by $3,800, along with possibly setting up the city’s own bulk fuel storage facility. Torres said TCEQ regulations would cause problems there, but Sam Contreras said he had been contacted by P-B-T ISD transportation director Jimmy Dutchover to see about combining the city, school and county fuel costs into a unified bulk storage depot.

Freddy Contreras also asked the council to consider bonuses for top officials in the department, and to look at replacing a 1989 fire truck through a Texas Forest Service grant. The city paid 10 percent of the cost of a new $127,000 tanker truck two years ago.

“This is not a good year to do increases,” said councilwoman Angelica Valenzuela. “I’m just not comfortable giving increase to one and not to others in the departments.”

The council did talk about adjusting the withholding for fire department members, who are paid $8 per call and $7 for attendance at each meeting. They also asked officials to consider moving the fire department’s pager antenna from a site near Barstow in Ward County to an antenna just given to Reeves County Emergency Management on FM 2007 near U.S. 285. They said the move would save the department about $2,250 annually in lease costs.

The fire chief also asked the council for an additional $880 for new shirts for the department’s 44 members, saying they would be for special events.

For the Parks Department, Rivera said a $2,000 decrease in animal feed for the Maxey Park Zoo would offset other increases in fuel costs and the cost of cutting equipment for the parks. He said the cut is due to the zoo eliminating carnivores from its population. The zoo currently has only one carnivore out of its 27 animals.

Rivera did ask for a one-time expenditure of $8,000 for an aerator for the parks department. The council also discussed possible increases in party rental rates at the Athletic Pool in Maxey Park next year, to help pay part of that budget.

Rivera said the current rate for pool rental is $100, with a $50 deposit. “What offsets the rental is we have to have two lifeguards on duty,” he said.

Rivera told the council he would check on the fees charged by other area pools. “We should at least cover the cost of the pool parties,” Alligood said.

During discussion of the Main Street Program, Sam Contreras told the council members that the program’s financing through the city’s bed tax would be up almost 50 percent, due to the high occupancy rates in area hotels and motels. The program which shares the bed tax with the Pecos Chamber of Commerce, its Tourism Committee and the West of the Pecos Museum, expects to get around $50,000 this year, which would go towards funding matching grants for the downtown area.

Rivera and fire marshal Jack Brookshire told the council that nine building owners along Oak Street have not been maintaining their structures. Council members asked Brookshire to step up code enforcement on those buildings, which he said would be hard due to the added duties he and code enforcement officer Julio Quinones were required to handle. Brookshire also has been handling the city’s electrical work in recent months, with assistance by Quinones. Alligood asked if it would be possible to train another city employee to help Brookshire with the electrical work and free up Quinones for additional code enforcement duties.

In connection with that, Brookshire asked for a $1,550 increase in the city’s inspections budget, due to the increased cost of sending registered mail notices out to code violators. He also asked the council to consider buying a used 3/4-ton pickup so he could carry fire marshal and electrical tools, while his pickup would go to Quinones, to replace his 1993 police car. City officials were hoping to keep the cost of the pickup under $25,000.

Car show’s organizers hoping for big turnout

The Second Annual West Texas Heat Wave Car Show is scheduled for this Saturday at the Reeves County Civic Center.

“We’re expecting a good turnout,” said one of the organizers of the event, Garry Hill. Hill said that he hopes the weather cooperates and that everyone will be in Pecos for the big event.

“We’re expecting car clubs from Odessa, Midland, San Angelo, Carlsbad and maybe from El Paso,” said Hill. “We’re excited about the event, this is our second year to host it and the first one proved to be a real success.”

All proceeds from the event will go towards the Texas Special Olympics.

“We donated $2,500 that we made from the car show to the Special Olympics and worked on other fundraisers throughout the year that we also donated to them,” said Hill, who is an employee at the Reeves County Detention Center III.

He helps out with the many events that the facility sponsors throughout the year, with the proceeds going towards the Special Olympics.

“It’s a special project that we really enjoy helping out,” said RCDC Warden Martin McDaniel. “We like to donate money to this worthy organization,” he said.

Last year, the prison donated about $25,000 to the Special Olympics and this year they hope to exceed that amount.

First, second and third place trophies for all categories. Vehicle categories: car/truck/hot rod and euros-street, mild and wild low-rider bike categories-Metro and Harley Davidson/street and wild.

The event will be held from noon until 6 p.m., at the civic center.

Vehicles can move in from 6 a.m. until 11 a.m.

Entry fees will be $20 per vehicle, motorcycle, bike entry/two free passes and $40 per entry in carhop. The winner will receive $100.

Admission to the event is $6 per person and $1 for all children eight and under, accompanied by a parent/guardian.

All vehicles and clubs are welcome.

“We want to invite everyone in the community and the surrounding area to come out and see all the vehicles and enjoy the day in Pecos,” said Hill.

Refreshments will be available.

Council hires Spencer for new sewer line project

Pecos City Council members selected an engineering firm for the next stage of the city’s water and sewer line improvement project and gave final acceptance to work involving three of the city’s main water storage tanks, during their regular meeting on July 27 at City Hall.

Council members selected Frank X. Spencer and Associates to handle the project, which involves constructing and renovating sewers on the north and east sides of town.

Representatives from Spencer’s firm, which is based in El Paso, and Dallas-based GSWW each made PowerPoint presentations to the council during last Thursday’s meeting.

“We don’t select engineers based on money,” said city utilities director Edgardo Madrid, “It’s based on experience and how familiar they are with the program.”

Steve Dennis and Ramon Carrasco with GSWW spoke to the board first, and listed the company’s current projects, along with recent ones in the area, including within Reeves County. Dennis said Carrasco would be in charge of the project, and would operate from the company’s office in Midland.

Victor Enciso spoke for Spencer, who still maintains an office in Pecos. They noted they had worked on many projects with the city over the past 23 years, including the $8 million South Worsham Water Field construction project.

Madrid told the council both companies were qualified to handle the work, but he did not want to make a recommendation because he had worked for Spencer in Pecos before taking his current job with the city. However, the council ended up awarding the bid to his former company after city attorney Scott Johnson said he had problems with GSWW while handling business for the city of Toyah involving water line construction.

“I tried to get in touch with them for two weeks, and couldn’t get anyone to return my calls,” Johnson said.

Council members then awarded the contract to Spencer, based on a scoring system that gave the company a 400-315 point advantage, and included points for minority ownership of the company.

In connection with the new water project, the council also approved hiring Carlos Colina-Vargas to be the program’s grant administrator. Madrid said it was one of two proposals sent to the city, but the other, from Tera Consulting, was only in the form of a faxed message.

“I don’t think someone who is not going to take the time to submit a formal proposal is going to take care of business,” Madrid said.

The three tanks include the two 3 million gallon tanks at the city yard off Walthall Street and the 500,000 elevated storage tank on the east side of town. Work on the two big tanks was delayed when holes were found in the floor of one of the tanks, forcing the city to do repairs.

“The tanks have been inspected since they finished the project, and there have been no problems at all,” Madrid said.

During discussion on accounts payable, Madrid said the city was spending money to buy 100 additional water meters, to replace some of the older meters that were not changed out two years ago by Johnson Controls. “We do have money in the budget for the purchase,” he said.

He also said the city would be soon getting a new flatbed truck for their new welding machine, and that the city was currently leasing a bulldozer from Lindsey Bros.

Construction while their own bulldozer is being repaired. The equipment is being used at the city’s new landfill, which Madrid said is 95 percent complete.

“We’ve already gotten approval from TECQ to start dumping,” he told the council. The city will resume handling its own landfill in December, when the current contract with Duncan Disposal expires.

Alligood announced he would reappoint current members of the Pecos Housing Authority/Farm Labor Housing Board to their positions for another year, with the exception of the residential board member’s position, which has a mandatory term limit. Alligood said Tracy Fuentes would be named to fill that vacancy, and that she and the others would be sworn in during the board’s Thursday evening meeting.

Alligood also thanked city officials and other community members for their work in getting together a proposal for an area oil company to relocate operations to Pecos on just a one-week notice. “We have received nothing but positive e-mails from those who were here,” he said.

Benavides noted that other area cities have committees set up in advance to handle similar business inquiries.

“With something like this, as big as it was, we shot have a committee set, so everything is already in place,” he said. “I know we can pull a rabbit out of our hat, but it’s better t have it set up in advance, so we don’t get caught with our pants down,” Alligood said the item would be brought before the council at a later meeting.

Council members also approved the sale of four properties: at 510 Lincoln St., to Eddie Gomez for $900; at 209 W. 11th St., for $1,000 to Rosa Munoz; at 805 S. Elm St., for $100 by Raymond O. Natividad, Jr., and at 1608 W. Sixth St., to Sal Nichols for $1,000.

State shoppers getting holiday from sales tax

Local businesses selling clothing, shoes and certain other items will be joining those across Texas in participating in the eighth annual Texas Sales Tax Holiday, this Friday through Sunday.

Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn predicted Texas families would save $49 million in sales taxes during the eighth annual Sales Tax Holiday. The estimated savings include $38.5 million in state sales tax and $10.5 million in local sales taxes.

“I love the Sales Tax Holiday,” said Strayhorn. “It’s the one time hard-working Texans keep their money in their pockets for their families’ priorities.”

During the Sales Tax Holiday, most clothing and footwear priced under $100 are tax-free. Examples of items that can be purchased include kids’ clothes and school uniforms, adults’ clothes and work uniforms, shoes- including tennis shoes, socks and underwear.

Backpacks and school supplies are not exempt from sales tax.

“Regrettably, the Legislature has not acted upon my recommendations, and requests from parents across this state, to add backpacks and school supplies to the Sales Tax Holiday to help reduce the cost of getting the kids ready for back-to-school,” said Strayhorn.

Other items that cannot be purchased tax-free include handbags and wallets, jewelry, accessories, and athletic shoes, uniforms and safety gear.

Shoppers saved an estimated $47.4 million in state and local sales taxes during the 2005 Sales Tax Holiday.

“This tax break is real and it is available to everyone,” said Strayhorn. “Families save about $8 for every $100 they spend on school clothes for the kids and new outfits for mom and dad,” she said.

Strayhorn, who is running for governor as an independent this November, said she also wants to extend the Sales Tax Holiday from three days to five days.

“I also support creating a second Sales Tax Holiday during December to help families stretch their holiday shopping budgets. And I want to ease the sticker shock of buying college textbooks by exempting them from sales tax year round,” she said.

GED testing next Tuesday, Wednesday

GED Testing will be held Tuesday, Aug. 8 and Wednesday, Aug. 9, at the Pecos High School.

Registration is scheduled from 1-4 p.m., Monday, Aug. 7, at the Pecos High School Counselor’s Office.

Examinees must present a Texas Driver’s License or Texas Department of Public Safety ID Card.

For more information call Pat Cobos/Eva Arriola, Pecos High School Counselors at 447-7229.

OC offers courses in Pecos

Odessa College offers an affordable and convenient education to Pecos-area residents through Pecos Technical Training Center.

Online registration for the fall semester begins Friday, Aug. 4 and continues through Aug. 15 and then again from Aug. 19 through Aug. 25. A one-stop shopping day in Pecos will be from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Aug. 15. At that time students can register, speak to a financial aid representative and buy books, all at the Pecos Center, located at 1000 South Eddy Street. The center’s phone number is 432-445-5535.

Odessa College courses include: Art Appreciation, General Biology, Microcomputer Applications, Intro to Criminal Justice, Composition and Rhetoric, Basic English, Federal Government, Structures of College Math, Integrated Software Applications-II, Pre-Algebra, Introductory Algebra, Intermediate Algebra, Golf, Jogging/Walking, Medical Coding, Keyboarding/Document Formatting, Document Formatting/Skillbuilding, Basic Reading, College Reading, Advanced College Reading, Applied Psychology, Child Psychology, Public Speaking and Intro to Education/Schools and Society.

Course information can also be obtained online at .

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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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