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Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

RCDC officials continue hunt for rental housing

Things are moving along smoothly in adding federal inmates to the Reeves County Detention Center III unit, with prisoners in the process of being transferred within the next month and new employees joining the workforce at the facility.

Both Reeves County Detention Center Warden for RI/RII Ed Gonzales and RCDC III Warden Martin McDaniel were on hand to talk to community members about the facilities during their quarterly meeting held at the RCDC II unit on Friday.

“We’ve been hosting these community meetings to keep the public informed about what is going on at the facilities, to listen to suggestions and ask for their help,” said Gonzales, who reviewed several topics from the previous meeting, including the lack of housing in the community for individuals coming to work at the facility from other places.

“Pecos has increased their population,” he said, telling those at the meeting that the prison recently had a training class, and another class of five individuals who will be working at the facility is currently in place.

“We appreciate the response we have received, about houses for sale or for rent,” said Gonzales. “There are some people who want to move to town, but only want to rent, they don’t want to buy anything yet.”

“It was reported last quarter, the need for apartments,” said Town of Pecos City Mayor Dick Alligood.

Alligood said that there was good news. “The last week in December construction will begin on an apartment complex,” he said. “There is no time period of when construction will be completed, but they will be located next to Town and Country, located on the Interstate.”

Alligood said that they had been asked to get a list of individuals who may need housing. “There will be 40 units,” he said.

“Hopefully as we see documentation we will know more and we will let your staff know,” said Alligood.

“You can’t imagine the people that want to move down here,” said McDaniel. “We went out to our competitors and put fliers up there and had a lot of responses, especially when they heard the salaries we are paying.”

McDaniel said that Lee Ann Lopez, from Human Resources and her staff went out to El Paso to try to recruit staff.

“We have one family out here living at the RV Park, in a trailer,” said Gonzales. “We have them living on wheels,” he said.

The staffing shortage is very critical, during this oil boom. “Hopefully, we’ll get back on track,” said Gonzales.

Gonzales said that one family is living out at the Farm Labor Housing Apartments and that they are very happy with the accommodations. “They really like it, especially the rent they pay,” he said.

“We had several stay out there and they really like it, especially the price,” said McDaniel. Gonzales thanked the community for letting them know about available rental homes and apartments. “We want you to continue letting us know if there is anything out there available, just call our human resources department and let Lee Ann know,” he said. Other than the housing, Gonzales said that there were no major changes at the prison to report on at this time. “No news at the prison is good news,” he said.

“Everything is going well at our facility, we just signed a 10-year contract with BOP, so we’ll be changing population status with the BOP,” added Warden Martin McDaniel. “We’re right on track, it’s almost like starting the prison all over again.”

The county, GEO Group and the U.S. Bureau of Prisons reached a deal earlier this year to add RCDC III as a contractor with the federal agency. The BOP has housed inmates at RCDC I since 1986 and RCDC II since 2001, but did not sign an agreement with Reeves County when RCDC III opened in 2003. The new deal will expand that facility by about 500 beds, and bring the total number of BOP inmates at all three units to over 3,500, pending a new deal with the federal agency on inmates for the R-I and R-II units.

McDaniel said that things are right on track and everything is coming along smoothly. “The first inmate will be transferred during the first week of January,” said McDaniel. “We’re trying to make the transition as smooth as we can,” he said.

Gonzales said that RI/RII would be following the same procedures as R-III. “He’s going through all the trials and tribulations, making it easier for us to follow,” he said. “The contract for CAR-6 will not be issued until the first of January,” said Gonzales. “It looks like we’re going to get it.”

Gonzales said that the prison had donated funds to the Christmas for Kids and that he was one of the guest readers at Austin Elementary during their Reading Carnival held last week. “We like to get involved in the community and it was great reading to the kids, because they are our future,” said Gonzales. “I really enjoyed it and even bought two books at the book fair,” he said.

A blood drive is scheduled for Friday, Dec. 22 at the facility and a bake sale to benefit Relay for Life will also be held before the holidays.

“Anyone can come out here and donate blood if they want to,” said Gonzales.

“As a member of the Lion’s Club, we will have a former board of director’s here in town on Dec. 19-20, we would really like to make these folks feel welcome,” he said.

Chamber of Commerce Manager Linda Gholson told the group that they are taking nominations for the Annual Chamber of Commerce Awards Banquet scheduled for the first week in February.

“Anyone can make a nomination, they just need to put what award they are nominating the individual for on the front of the envelope,” said Gholson.

Gholson told the group that a new nurse will be moving in to town. “She called and she is very excited about moving to Pecos,” said Gholson.

Bonilla, Rodriguez campaigns go on attack in run-up to vote

The majority party in Congress was decided last month, but Republican Rep. Henry Bonilla and Democrat Ciro Rodriguez are campaigning as if the balance hangs on the outcome of Tuesday's District 23 runoff election.

However, the race has drawn far fewer early voters in Reeves County than the special election last month attracted.

A total of 224 people in Reeves County cast their ballots during the five-day early voting period for Tuesday’s runoff election. Along with the 224 people voting in-person, a total of 62 ballots by mail have been received at the Reeves County Clerk’s Office.

A total of 80 individuals cast their ballot early on Friday, with 10 ballots received by mail on that day.

That’s well below the early voting totals for the Nov. 7 election, when ballots were also cast for Reeves County judge and other area races. That election drew over 1,000 people to cast their votes during the two-week early voting period.

Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday in Reeves County. In preparation, Reeves County Commissioners were to meet in an emergency meeting at 3 p.m., Thursday, to discuss the relocation of voting box 5, Balmorhea Fire Hall to the Balmorhea Library 102 S. Main Street, Balmorhea.

The last day to receive an application for a ballot by mail was Dec. 8 and the ballots by mail have to be in the county clerk’s office by 7 p.m., on Dec. 12.

For the incumbent Bonilla, a win Tuesday would give him his hardest-won eighth term in Washington representing Texas' largest congressional district.

For Rodriguez, it would mean a return trip to the U.S. Capitol after a two-year absence. Rodriguez served in Congress from 1997-2005 but was ousted in 2004's Democratic primary by Rep. Henry Cuellar. He lost to Cuellar, who has endorsed him in this race, again in this year's party primary to represent District 28.

Bonilla narrowly beat Cuellar in the 2002 general election, with the Democrat drawing heavily from his home town of Laredo for support, in response, the Texas Legislature in 2003 removed Laredo from Bonilla’s district and placed it with other sections of the city that were already part of Rodriguez’s 28th Congressional District.

The action, part of a complete redistricting of Texas by Republicans in the Legislature, was ruled to violate the federal Voting Rights Act in late June by the U.S. Supreme Court, which resulted in last month’s special election.

Bonilla fell just short of the 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff in the Nov. 7 special election, while Rodriguez placed second with 20 percent, but was expected to pick up votes on Tuesday from people who cast ballots for the other five challengers in the race. On Sunday, President Clinton campaigned for Rodriguez in South Texas, telling supporters in San Antonio, "You couldn't have a clearer choice. You couldn't have a better candidate. You've got just about 48 hours to go bring it home."

The campaign hasn't offered voters a chance to hear the candidates address each other. A debate scheduled between the candidates in Fort Stockton was canceled because of a Rodriguez scheduling conflict.

That has left the candidates to highlight their difference largely by spending money on television and radio ads and mailers.

Bonilla is airing television ads criticizing Rodriguez for past votes, including one against establishing the Homeland Security Department. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is airing ads for Rodriguez hitting Bonilla over what it says are cuts to veterans and military benefits.

Bonilla's campaign questioned Rodriguez's support of legislation that it said would have "crippled federal law enforcement's ability to detain or deport suspected terrorists." The campaign is running a television ad detailing the charges.

Rodriguez hit back at Bonilla by resurrecting reports that he employed an illegal immigrant British nanny for almost seven years, a small scandal that erupted in 1994. The Justice Department investigated, then dropped the case.

Bonilla and Rodriguez hold opposing views on immigration. Bonilla voted to build a border fence to fight illegal immigration; Rodriguez said he would not have.

"It's like war, the war should be the last resort," Rodriguez said. "The same thing applies to the wall, it sends the wrong message internationally."

Bonilla said plainly: "I'm worried about all illegal activity. And if there's anybody out there who's in favor of illegal activity, they need to stand up and say so."

For people in Reeves County planning to vote on Tuesday, voting Precinct number are listed below:

Pecos Community Center, 505 S. Oak; 2. Odessa College, 1000 S. Eddy Street; 3. Pecos High School Gym, 1300 Iowa; 4. Toyah Old High School Building, 120 E. 2nd, Toyah; 5. Balmorhea Fire Hall, 4th and San Antonio, Balmorhea; 6. Saragosa Multi-Purpose Center, Saragosa; 7. Reeves County Library, 505 S. Park Street; 8. Lamar Elementary, Rm. #1, Corner of Oak Street; 10. Reeves County Annex N-Side; 700 Daggett Street; 11. Reeves County Civic Center, 1000 S. Cedar Street; 12. Texas-New Mexico Power, 1126 Stafford Blvd.

City gets grant, to seek families for new homes

Five local families will be getting new homes sometime within the next 18 months, through a Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs grant the Town of Pecos City received last month.

The $275,000 grant from the Home Owner Occupied Housing Assistance Program will be administered by the city, and council members will appoint a Citizens Review Committee during their regular meeting on Thursday to oversee selection of the five families.

“This is a totally new grant the city received,” said city public works director Edgardo Madrid. “Right now we’re asking for permission to start the process to administer this grant.”

Discussion of proposals for the program’s management, selection of a service provider and a contract for services are also on the agenda for the council’s 5:30 p.m. meeting at City Hall.

Madrid said the grant is designed to provide new homes for families or individuals who meet the program’s guidelines. “The city will be able to relocate five families that are on extremely low income, elderly or disadvantages,” he said.

“We’re going to select five families, demolish their homes and put in new houses with no cost to the residents,” he said. “Right now, we’re going to appoint a committee, and those members will be screening applicants and selecting the five finalists for the housing.”

“Later on, we’ll have public hearings and give information to the newspaper, and we’ll work with local organizations to spread the word to get as many applications as possible, so we can make the best selection,” Madrid said. He added the city already has talked with local Meals on Wheels workers in an effort to identify some of the possible candidates, and would talk with others who can help with locating candidates for the new homes.

He said the committee would look at several categories in selecting the five who will receive the new homes. Those include income level, number of people in the home, fixed-income elderly and the condition of the home they are currently living in, in order to make their decision.

The cost per home will be similar to the homes built earlier this year for Toyah residents, whose homes were damaged or destroyed in the April 2004 flood. Madrid said the $275,000 grant requires no matching funds from the city.

“We will do some matching, but that is by in-kind services, by demolishing the houses, taking them to the landfill and clearing the site,” he added.

Madrid said as of now there was no exact timetable on the selection process, but added, “We do have milestones. We only have 18 months to complete the project.”

The 18-month period started in November, when the city was approved for the grant, which means the five homes have to be completed by May of 2008.

The housing project is one of a number of items on Thursday’s agenda, which is scheduled to be the council’s only meeting of the month due to the Christmas holidays. That including approval of submitting a use plan to the Texas Water Development Board for the city’s pending sewer line improvements and new wastewater treatment plant construction.

An executive session has been scheduled to discuss candidates to replace Sam Contreras as city finance director. Contreras will be sworn in as the new Reeves County Judge on Jan. 1. The council will continue their review of a proposed new city website, an action that was tabled at their Nov. 21 meeting, and they’ll have the second reading of an ordinance changing the city’s building permit fee, to lower the cost to the level of other neighboring towns.

Offers to purchase a number of local properties is also scheduled for review, along with regular monthly finance and the monthly juvenile report. Employees incentives for job safety during 2006 is also due for discussion.

After 100-year break, energy drillers back in Toyah

Texas has been known as a major oil and natural gas producer since the Spindletop discovery in Southeast Texas 105 years ago. But it’s been nearly that long since the last major rush of explorers came to the Toyah area to try and pull energy resources from out of the ground.

The explorers are back, only this time, instead of hunting for oil, they’re mainly in search of natural gas, to the point that the Texas Railroad Commission in October designating a new field northwest of the city.

The Railroad Commission approved a request by Petro-Hunt LLC for establishment of the Toyah NW (Shale) Field in Reeves County, while at the same time approving a two-year exemption to the state rule on size of acreage for each well site. The new rule limits well drilling to one site for every 1,200 feet and expanded well production acreage from the normal maximum of 640 acres to 1,280 acres.

Petro-Hunt made the request for increased acreage, and had sought a three-year exemption before the change was reviewed, because initial test wells in the area had not been as productive as drilling into shale formations around the Dallas-Fort Worth area in North Texas have been, along with the shallower levels at which those productive shale formations are located.

Along with Petro-Hunt, several other companies are involved in possible development of the Delaware Shale formations in Reeves County, and the exploration has contributed to a sharp jump in the county’s economy over the past 30 months - though unlike Toyah’s first energy boom 100 years ago, most of the drillers are setting up operations either in Pecos or other cities east of the county.

Oklahoma-based Chesapeake Energy is in the process of moving into the former GTE office on South Oak Street, and is involved in drilling activity to the north and west of Pecos. Earlier this year, the company paid $181 million for rights to drill into Barrett Shale formations around the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

The Texas Drilling Observer, in its August issue, noted that initial test wells in the Woodford and Barrett Shale plays in the Pecos area have not been productive, but also noted that has been a similar problem for other early exploration wells in other shale formations. Officials with Petro-Hunt said the difference in the shale’s composition between West and North Texas would require development on new fracturing methods to develop commercially productive wells.

Testifying for Petro-Hunt before Railroad Commission examiners in August, engineer John Roberts said success in the Delaware Shale was going slowly, but the company was expecting improvement.

“The Delaware Shale project at this point is just at the bottom of commerciality,” he told the examiners. “We have identified the shale. We have completed some wells and got some production. It wasn’t as successful was we wanted it to be.

“We are at the stage of --- the last stage of commerciality. We are refining our drilling costs. We have an infrastructure in place. And as we speak, we are having studies done to help us with our shale frac,” Roberts said.

The company is using drilling reports from wells in the area that date from the last energy boom in the early 1980s to determine their drilling prospects. The Toyah NW Field in an area where the company believes the Barrett and Woodford shale formations are the thickest, ranging between 1,000 and 1,200 feet, about two to three times the thickness of the single formations in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Other wells have been drilled into the formation in western Pecos County.

“We think … potentially is can be 2 1/2 million acres that to be potential The wells being drilled now are going about 2 1/2 miles down, which led Petro-Hunt to make the request for the larger acreage per well, to allow for wider horizontal well drilling. “(T)o be an economical play, it’s going to have to be a horizontal play,” Roberts testified, adding later that the plan to drilling two wells in the maximum and minimum stress directions could produce, “a tremendous amount of gas, if it works.”

The gas formations are far more difficult to get at than the oil formations were in 1903, when the first wells were drilling in the Toyah area. Oil was found to be seeping out of the ground by the area’s first settlers, and according to Alton Hughes’ 1974 book on Pecos’ history, J.D. Leatherman was drilling for water 15 miles north of Toyah when he encountered oil at a depth of only 190 feet. Once hit, the oil rose to within 30 feet of the surface, and gas was also brought up from the well hole.

Subsequent wells drilling, including two by a California company, produced oil at a depth of 250 feet, but not in a large enough quantity to be commercially viable, Hughes wrote.

However, other wells drilled in 1906 seemed to be slightly more promising, one producing five barrels of oil a day, and in 1909 two wells drilled to 1,000 and 1,800 feet in depth were started by The Texas Company (today’s Chevron-Texaco). The first well produced some oil at 1,000 feet but was later abandoned as a dry hole, while the second caught fire at 1,800 feet after producing 70 to 80 barrels of oil, and was later abandoned after a drill down to 3,000 feet.

Other efforts were tried over the next few years, and a small refinery was even built in Toyah, Hughes wrote. But none of the strikes proved to be commercially viable in the long-term, but the oil discoveries then, which Hughes said came from Block 59, Sections 8 and 9 of the PSL Survey, are in roughly the same area as the well Roberts discussed with the Railroad Commission, which is located in Block 59, Section 35 of the PSL Survey.

The early 1900s oil discovery prompted news reports in the El Paso Times, while the current natural gas play has been spotlighted in The Wall Street Journal, and the Texas Drilling Observer said Petro-Hunt planned to add one more rig in the area this month, and plans five more in 2007 as it works to improve the frac methods for the Toyah NW (Shale) Field.

Modern Study Club hosts librarian as guest speaker

The Modern Study Club met on Oct. 11, in the fellowship hall of the First Christian Church for an Education Department Program that was planned by Paula Fuller, Dept. Chairman, with President Juracy Ray, presiding.

Mrs. Ray introduced Reeves County Librarian Sally Perry. Ms. Perry began by telling a little about herself, growing up in Pecos and receiving a Bachelor’s Degree in Library Science from Our Lady of the Lake University. She is a reference librarian - knowing a little about everything; finds information and passes it on. She has experience in alternative energy, academic, school and law libraries.

Ms. Perry gave a brief history of the Carnegie Library that was built and donated to the people of Pecos in 1918. Pecos was the smallest community in the United States to receive a Carnegie Library. We had less than 1,000 population at the time. The front design of the library had several steps leading straight up to the first floor to knowledge and learning. The basement was used in WWII for making bandages.

Librarian Perry told of the problems she is having with the budget the county allows her and that her assistant is on medical leave. She said that Friends of the Library have been a big help in the past and recently donated $2,000. She also told that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation had donated computers, but that 12 of them are not operating at this time and there is no money for repairs.

Ms. Perry said that if the library does not have the books you are requesting she can get them through the ILL - Inter Library Loan from Dallas Public Library.

She said they have on line free service with Tex-Share data bases for genealogy, history, science, medical research, Texas History, school homework and research for all grades, and academic users taken from 28,000 eBooks.

They are continuing with the Children’s Story Hour since it has been so successful having had 80 children at the last one from Head Start, Pre-K, Special Education and Day Care. The children receive certificates and prizes. There continues to be increased interest in the children’s Story Hour.

Ms. Perry also stated that they assist the Balmorhea Public Library and the newly organized Public Library in Mentone.

Librarian Perry emphasized that volunteer help is needed with money, time, bake sales and other projects.

The Collect was led by Pearl Gustafson, and the Pledges of Allegiance the U.S. and Texas Flags were led by Margie Williamson.

Joyce Morton and Margie Williamson reported that they, along with Lena Harpham and Betty Lee attended the Western District Fall Board Meeting, where they head Laura Nodolf, employee of the Assistant District Attorney of Midland, speak on Family Violence. Also, there was a discussion on whether the Traveling Team should continue their visits during the summer after they are installed. There were 29 in attendance at the board meeting. Hostesses Pearl Gustafson, Lena Harpham and Margie Williamson served refreshments to 10 club members and one guest.

The Operation Smile collection was to donate 25 cents for each TV you own.

The bi-monthly project for this meeting was to donate to the Alma Van Sickle Scholarship Fund of the Western District of the Texas Federation of Women’s Clubs. The AVSS has been brought home to Pecos for the last seven years through the efforts of The Modern Study Club and numerous dedicated teachers, who assist in getting the AVSS letters of recommendation and other information together for the packets.

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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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