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Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Tuesday, August 8, 2006

County to thank congressman for RCDC help

A gathering is planned for Tuesday, Aug. 15, at the Reeves County Courthouse to honor U.S. Congressman Henry Bonilla, who has been working with county officials to secure federal contracts for the three-year-old RCDC III addition.

Reeves County Judge Jimmy B. Galindo announced that the event honoring Bonilla would be held next Tuesday in the courthouse lobby.

“We are honored that Congressman Bonilla has accepted our invitation,” said Galindo. “Over the last three years, Congressman Bonilla has worked tirelessly on behalf of Reeves County.”

Bonilla worked with Reeves County to secure a contract with the U.S. Bureau of Prisons to house federal inmates at the Reeves County Detention Center III unit. Under the 10-year, $200 million agreement, the BOP will use 1,400 beds at the RCDC III, which will require an additional 440 beds at the $40 million prison, which was built to house 960 inmates.

Reeves County Commissioners Court approved the submittal of a proposal under the BOP’s CAR-6 RFP (request for proposal) during a meeting last week. The agency is soliciting proposals for the housing of approximately 7,000 offenders.

“For the past 14 years, Henry Bonilla has been our voice in Washington. He has been a partner in every success and an essential advocate every time we faced a challenge,” said Galindo.

“This decision by the BOP to award a contract filling 1,400 beds in Unit 3 would not have been possible without Congressman Bonilla’s support. We are fortunate to have Representative Bonilla as our champion in Congress and know his continuing support will be essential in all our future challenges."

The solicitation is a 10-year award with a base period of four years and three 2-year renewals.

Council considers status of Pecos FD, EMS staff

Town of Pecos City Council members discussed the employment status of volunteers for the Pecos Fire Department and Pecos EMT Service during their first two days of budget workshop meetings last Wednesday and Thursday at City Hall.

The council was asked by both Fire Chief Freddy Contreras and EMT Chief Dennis Thorp to add withholding for their members in order to help them out financially, while also discussing whether or not the departments should be either full contact workers or city employees.

Contreras talked with the council on Wednesday, while Thorp spoke on Thursday, as part of their presentations on the department’s budget requests for the 2007 fiscal year, which begins in October.

Contreras said fire calls already have surpassed 2005’s entire total of 220, due to an increase in area brushfires. Firemen are paid by call, and in addition to that pay, he fire chief asked the council if they could provided bonuses for the department’s members.

“The way I look at it, I would like to give the first and second assistants up to $1,000 if we can afford it, and other others $250,” he said, adding he would also like to see an increase in the chief’s salary.

Fire Marshal Jack Brookshire said since the department’s personnel are considered contract workers, an increase would change the status of the fire chief to above a minimum wage level position. That would require a higher level of training and certification for the fire chief.

Contreras also asked council members to consider withholding Social Security taxes from the paychecks of the department’s 44 members, a request echoed by the EMS the following evening.

Thorp said Pecos EMTs are paid $4 an hour, which comes to $96 a day when crews are on 24-hour shifts. He said the volunteers average about 80 hours per week of work, and the service is handling around 95 calls per month.

Thorp said there is no withholding taken from the current payments, which he said hurts workers later when they have to make their tax payments on the income. “Everybody in the room either is paying the IRS or taking loans out to make ends meet. We need to do something.”

He asked the council to increase per-day pay levels to $125 with withholding for beginning level EMS workers. “That would come out to about $96 a day,” Thorp said, while also asking for intermediate level EMTs to have their pay rates raised to $135 and $150 for paramedics.

He also requested a pay raise for the chief’s position of $800 a month, and $500 a month stipends for the first and second chief positions.

“These things are not available to us, because we’re considered contract labor,” he said. City Manager Joseph Torres said the city had problems with having FICA taxes withheld for flat-rate contractors, because the group has its own board separate from the city government.

On Wednesday, Torres had told Contreras that city attorney Scott Johnson had said contract workers are not city employees. Thorp disagreed with Johnson’s opinion during Thursday’s hearing, saying the current system isn’t used by any other similar sized cities in the area.

“Pecos EMS is the only EMS service in West Texas that’s volunteer on call,” he said. “We’re the only one that gets paid the way we do, and we run more calls than any of them.”

“We can’t recruit new people. Right now, we only have eight on the service,” he said. “If we paid decent wages, possibly we could get more people into Pecos.”

He said the Pecos EMS has been making more calls in recent years to Balmorhea due to a shortage of personnel there, and could have to take over full-time operations in the future. Thorp said other EMS services have smaller coverage areas, and the ones in Monahans, Fort Stockton and Kermit pay their paramedics $18 an hour.

Thorp said the alternative would be to make the EMS a full contract service, which would receive quarterly payments and maintain its own bank accounts. He said that service would buy out the city’s ambulances over a period of time and operate as its own corporation. “The city sponsored the EMS all these years, and this is the first time I’ve seen a proposal like this,” said councilman Danny Rodriguez.

“We don’t intent to offend anybody on the council. We want to maintain as good a relationship as possible,” Thorp said.

He told the council under the contract plan, the EMS would try to work out a contract service with the city, Reeves County Hospital and Reeves County that would cost each group $70,000 a year. Currently, only the city and hospital contribute towards funding of the service, though about half the calls made are outside the city limits.

“We definitely need to look at it as far as morale,” said councilwoman Angelica Valenzuela. “The points made on the two categories are very explicit, and we need to make a decision one way or another.”

On hardware for the EMS, the council was asked to increase the equipment and supply budget to $16,000, in order to fund new power-lift stretchers for the service at a cost of $7,337. Thorp also asked the council to begin funding the purchase of new digital pagers for EMTs.

Thorp also asked the council to raise the EMT budget on vehicle supplies by $1,200, to make up for the cost of washing the ambulances, which previously had been done for free by the city at its yard. He also joined other departments in seeking an increase in the service’s fuel budget, due to higher gasoline costs

Federal court ruling keeps Bonilla in 23rd District

A decision by a three-judge federal panel on Friday will keep U.S. Rep. Henry Bonilla in the 23rd Congressional District. But the six-term congressman could be facing a new opponent come November - or a number of new opponents - as a result of changes to the district’s boundaries in the San Antonio and Laredo areas.

The judges drew a Texas congressional district map that reunited the city of Laredo in the 28th Congressional District, removing part of that city from Bonilla’s district. The court also took several Hill County counties out of the district, replacing those and the Laredo voters with residents on the predominantly Hispanic south side of San Antonio.

The move fulfills a demand by the U.S. Supreme Court on a decision involving the 2003 redistricting plan by the Texas Legislature. The court ruled that while most of the Republican-backed plan was legal, the revised boundaries of the 23rd District were unconstitutional, because they violated the Voting Rights Act by diluting Hispanic voting strength within the district.

Several plans from both Republicans and Democrats were brought before the three-judge panel, but none were fully used in their Friday decision.

The new boundary lines affect not only Bonilla’s 23rd District, but also four other districts in the Austin and San Antonio areas, and in the Rio Grande Valley.

A plan supported by Bonilla and two other Congressmen, including Bonilla’s 2002 election opponent, Henry Cuellar, would have moved the seven-term incumbent into the 21st Congressional District, leaving the 23rd District for Cuellar and matching the third congressman, Republican Lamar Smith, with Austin Democrat Lloyd Doggett.

The court-approved plan does not place any current congressman in the same district. Bonilla narrowly won re-election over Henry Cuellar in 2002. The 2003 Republican plan removed the section of Laredo where Cuellar lived from Bonilla’s district, which allowed him to score an easier re-election victory in 2004, while Cuellar opted to run for Congress in the 28th District. He defeated Democrat Ciro Rodriguez in the primary election, and did so again in March in the Democratic primary.

Cuellar is seeking reelection in November from that district, which now includes all of Laredo, while Rodriguez said he would consider running for election in the 23rd District, which now contains part of his former district’s area of southeast San Antonio.

Because the districts have been redrawn after the primary elections, the seats are open now to anyone who wants to run. Candidates have until Aug. 25 to file for the race. A special election will be held alongside the Nov. 7 general election for congressional seats in the affected districts.

“They have to have a majority to win,” said Scott Haywood, communications director for the Texas Secretary of State’s office. “If not, then the Secretary of State would set a date for a runoff.”

He said the runoff date had not been decided, but that it could not take place earlier than Dec. 7.

Bonilla, who had been scheduled to run for re-election against El Paso Democrat Rick Bolanos, said in a statement released on Friday he was happy with the decision.

"This is a great day. It stirs some of the most wonderful memories of my life. The court has given me the opportunity to represent my old neighborhood, the school I attended, the house I grew up in and so many old friends," Bonilla said. "Perhaps most importantly it has given me the opportunity to be my mother's congressman and trust me, she will make me work to earn her vote! I only wish two other great south-siders, my father and maternal grandmother, were still alive to see this development."

During a visit to Pecos in June, Bolanos said he hoped the election would not be decided in an open field, where Bonilla’s incumbency would help him in a multi-candidate field.

“There’s a 1986 precedent. They just had an open election, and everybody who wanted to run could run,” he said following the Supreme Court’s June 28 ruling. “I hope not, because I’m certain quite a few more people would throw their hats into the ring, which would dilute the vote.”

Other Democrats said they were happy with the changes.

"All we want as Hispanics is for everyone's voting rights to be respected," said state Rep. Richard Raymond, D-Laredo. "Not just ours but everyone's; and when you trample ours we won't stand by. I hope the Republicans learned a lesson."

The judges emphasized that they made the minimal changes possible to fix the violations ordered by the Supreme Court.

"These changes restore Latino voting strength to District 23 without dividing communities of interest," said U.S. District judges Lee Rosenthal, T. John Ward and Patrick Higginbotham. Rosenthal and Higginbotham were appointed by Republican presidents; Ward was appointed by Democratic former President Bill Clinton.

The new 23rd District has 61 percent Hispanic voting-age population, compared to the 51 percent Hispanic voting-age population in the district in which he was elected.

"This was not a good week for Tom Delay," said former U.S. Rep. Martin Frost of Dallas, a Democrat felled by DeLay's redistricting. "He still managed to get the state redrawn, although it cost him his own seat."

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, will get a slightly more Democratic population in his 25th congressional district because the court moved a largely liberal section of south Austin into his territory. Travis County remains split among three congressional districts, as it was under the redistricting map passed by the GOP-controlled Legislature in 2003.

The new map also makes Doggett's south Austin district more compact. Previously the boundaries snaked down to the Rio Grande Valley in an oddly shaped district that was nicknamed the bacon strip district.

District reconfigurations also slightly changed the 15th congressional district, represented by Rep. Ruben Hinojosa, D-Mercedes. His district remains heavily Democratic.

Killeen woman, teenager die in SUV crash

Two people were killed and four others injured in a one-vehicle accident that occurred Sunday on Interstate 10 east of Saragosa.

The accident happened at 7:05 a.m., on the interstate, 10.7 miles east of Saragosa in Reeves County, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Adrienne June Clardy, 29, an insurance agent of Killeen, was pronounced at 8:10 a.m., by Justice of the Peace Rosendo Carrasco, along with 13-year-old Christopher Roland, also of Killeeen. The bodies of both victims were taken to Peaceful Garden Funeral Home in Pecos.

According to DPS trooper Roy Lytle of Balmorhea, who investigated the accident, Adrienne Clardy was driving a 2006 Dodge Durango, eastbound on I-10, when the SUV drifted to the left and towards the center median of the highway.

The driver overcorrected to the right and then the left, the vehicle rolled several times, ejecting two of the occupants. The vehicle then caught on fire after coming to a stop. The four other injured in the rollover included a one-year-old baby, Ethan Lardy of Killeen, who was airlifted to University Medical Center in Lubbock. He is critical condition with lung contusions.

Also injured were one other adult and two children. Bahaiz Amoy Wilson, 34, a member of the U.S. Army stationed at Fort Hood in Killeen. He is listed in stable condition with abrasions and lacerations.

Javier Cardenas, 7, of Killeen, was airlifted to El Paso Thomason Hospital, with unknown injuries. Jabri Wilson, 4, was also airlifted to Thomason Hospital and is in stable condition with unknown injuries.

Navarette named third runner-up in competition

Nicholas Navarette, of Barstow, recently competed 2006 Texas Student of the Year Competition held in Houston on July 14-16. Navarette was chosen as an Official State Candidate Finalist for the 2006 Texas Student of the Year Scholarship and Recognition Program.

He was named the third runner-up in the top six students who competed in his age group.

Navarette competed with 60 other children.

He received five gold medals including, one for being a state candidate, for the helping hand program, the ads he sold for the 2006 program book, for being named in the top six candidates and for best over-all academic achievements. He also received a Blue Ribbon for reading.

The students were tested on the first day of the program and later that night they had a get-acquainted party.

The students then had two interviews on the second day, one on-stage and one with the judges asking them questions.

The final day was the awards ceremony. This was where the children were given their awards.

The 2006 State program was held at the beautiful Houston Airport Marriott , a weekend filled with fun, friendship, rehearsals, awards, recognitions and candidates “getting acquainted party.” All state candidates were able to display their personality, intelligence, school honors, special development, and creativity abilities at the state program.

Candidates were chosen originally from information received at the State Program Headquarters through one of several ways: primarily through public announcement of achievement, participation in various activities, teachers and from past candidates.

The program also has an enthusiastic staff that is very much aware of a variety of youth-oriented activities and events which take place throughout the state, and they continually receive requests for applications to be sent to best friends, neighbors, granddaughters, grandsons and etc.

Through this program, students are eligible for over $20,000 in cash Scholarship, awards and prizes.

Over 450 awards will be handed out. The Student of the Year State Winner will each receive $2,000 cash scholarship and their school $500 cash, along with numerous other prizes.

Navarette is a fourth grade student at Bessie Haynes Elementary School and the son of Pablo and Lorna Navarette, of Barstow.

TP Foods set to boost staff for new shift

TransPecos Foods is in the process of seeking new workers for its Pecos processing facility, after announcing on Friday that it is establishing another shift to accommodate recent business increases it has experienced.

Chief Executive Officer Patrick J. Kennedy, Jr. made the announcement, along with saying that salaries would be increased for the company’s current workers.

“We have been successful in selling our products nationwide and our customers’ business is increasing. As a result, we have immediate openings for a minimum of 15 people,” he said, adding that TransPecos Foods’ base wage rate was being increased to $7 per hour. Kennedy said a shift pay differential has been added to all existing employees, and that the company’s incentive bonus award program which was established in connection with an earlier wage reduction will continue to be available.

As a result, workers at the entry level stand to receive up to $15 per day more when bonus production targets are hit.

TransPecos Foods was established in July 2002 after McCain Foods closed the plant and terminated nearly 700 workers, moving its production to a similar plant in Nebraska.

McCain had acquired the facility only nine months earlier, when they bought out Anchor Foods, which had operated the Pecos facility on Interstate 20 since 1990.

Kennedy along with a group of investors purchased the plant and established TransPecos Foods as a high quality manufacturer of onion rings, breaded vegetables, and cheese and pepper appetizers. They were able to acquire several contracts to supply restaurants in Texas with onion rings and other items, though the total number of workers has been about 20 to 25 percent of the maximum levels reached under Anchor Foods.

Kennedy thanked employees for their hard work and loyalty to the company and predicted even more growth in business and jobs next year.

“We are making several substantial equipment upgrades during the next 60 days. This investment will increase our production capacity and plant efficiencies, Kennedy said. “We are grateful to all our associates for all their hard work in making the company a success. We have a lot of work ahead of us as we continue to grow the business, but the TransPecos name and reputation for quality is now known nationally within the industry and that certainly makes growth easier.”

“We want to thank all of our associates, customers, suppliers and the entire community for their continued support of TransPecos Foods.”

Qualified persons interested in applying for a position with the Company should contact: Consuelo Martinez at 200 E. Palmer St.

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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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