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Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Tuesday, May 2, 2006

Gomez lawsuit seeking to void runoff election

Staff Writer

A candidate who lost his bid for the office of Reeves County Judge has filed a lawsuit against the winner of that race, seeking to either have the election thrown out or to be declared winner of the April 11 runoff race.

Alfred “Al” Gomez, who lost his bid for county judge by 15 votes to Sam Contreras in the run-off election that followed the March Democratic Primary elections, filed a lawsuit against Contreras on Thursday afternoon.

Monahans attorney Hal Upchurch filed Gomez’s lawsuit. Gomez has declined to comment on the lawsuit, and Upchurch has also declined to release a statement about the legal action.

Contreras, the Town of Pecos City finance director, placed second to Gomez, owner of Alfredo’s Restaurant and former Pecos Chamber of Commerce President, in the March 7 Democratic primary. The two top finishers out of the five seeking to replace Jimmy B. Galindo as Reeves County Judge then went into the April 11 runoff, the second using the county’s new optical scanning vote system.

A mix-up with the ballots led Gomez to file the lawsuit against Contreras, after the addition of uncounted ballots cut the margin of victory to less than one percent of the 2,412 votes cast.

The complaint centers on the uncounted ballots from Box 7 in the runoff election, and while Contreras is named as plaintiff in the suit, the complaint centers on actions taken by Reeves County Democratic Party Chairman Bobby Dean.

Gomez won just under two-thirds of the Box 7 ballots that were not included in the election night count, but needed to win 72 percent of those votes to catch Contreras. The final totals gave Contreras 1,213 votes to 1,198 for Gomez, a 50.3-to-49.7 percent margin of victory.

In his petition, Gomez has filed against Contreras, he cited the initial vote count in the election, which gave Contreras a 65-vote margin of victory. His petition states that the total votes announced by the Committee were substantially less than the total number of people having voted in the election.

On April 8, and prior to the canvass of the election results, Gomez telephoned Dean to determine the financial deposit required to request a recount. During that conversation, Gomez told Dean of the discrepancy between the Committee’s announced count of the total of votes received by the candidates and the records regarding the total number of people actually having voted in the election.

After that telephone conversation, the lawsuit states that Dean, without legal authority and contrary to numerous provisions of the Texas Election Code, opened the sealed election records and discovered votes that had never been counted. After questions arose to the legality of this conduct, the records were returned to the box.

The 143rd Judicial District Court of Reeves County to reopen the box. On April 19, Judge Bob Parks entered an order authorizing Dean and the Committee to open the sealed election records on April 20, and to count the previously uncounted ballots.

The petition claims that the outcome of the election is not the true outcome because illegal votes were counted. After discovery and the opportunity to examine the sealed election returns and ballots, The suit says Gomez will amend this petition to specify the name of each voter having cast an illegal ballot and the basis of such illegality. After deduction of these illegal votes, the suit asks the Court to declare Gomez the winner of the election and the Democratic nominee for the office of Reeves County Judge in the 2006 general election.

Pleading in the alternative, if the Court is unable to determine the true outcome of the election, then the runoff election should be voided and the Court should order a new election for the following reasons: (1) the number of illegal votes cast is in excess of the 15 vote margin of victory in the runoff election; and (2) the persons officially involved in the administration of the election committed numerous mistakes and violations of the Texas Election Code; from the beginning of the election process through the final counting of the ballots and sealing of the election records. After discovery and the opportunity to examine the sealed election returns and ballots, Gomez will amend this petition to specify each illegal vote and each instance of mistake and illegal conduct that now prevents a determination of the true outcome of the election.

Gomez needed to pick up 109 of the 152 votes cast in the uncounted Box 7 ballots, but fell eight votes short of that total. The figures released following the April 20 ballot count showed Gomez had gained 101 votes to 51 for Contreras in Box 7, which was located at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church at Fifth and Plum streets.

Box 7 was one of the locations where the ballots that can be counted using the county’s new optical scanners ran out, and emergency ballots that had to be hand-counted were used for the final 51 voters at that location. The ballots that were run through the scanners provided Gomez with most of his Box 7 margin. He received 74 votes to just 27 for Contreras, while among the voters on April 11 who had to use the emergency ballots, Gomez won by a 27-24 margin.

Box 7 was the second box that officials discovered had not been counted following the closing of polls on April 11. Votes cast in Box 4, which serves the Toyah area, were added to the final count, but that box alone was not enough to make up the initial 71-vote gap between Contreras and Gomez. The addition of the Toyah votes cut Contreras’ lead to 65, before the additional votes from Box 7 were added to the final total.

City receives updates on test track, airport

Staff Writer

Pecos City Council members received updates on the Pecos Municipal Airport and the Pecos Research and Training Center on Thursday, as part of their regular meeting at City Hall.

Pecos Economic Development Corp. President Mike Burkholder updated the council on plans at the PRTC, the former Smithers Automotive Testing Center 15 miles east of Pecos that is being taken over by the Texas Transportation Institute and Applied Research Associates out of Albuquerque, N.M. He said that aside from vehicle testing at the site, both TTI and ARA are looking at doing other types of tests at their new facility.

“TTI expanded its deal with ARA to do testing on roads,” Burkholder said, while ARA may also do testing on low-level munitions at the site.

“We had a call from their office asking what kind of permits they had to have. ARA has a lot of contracts with the government for doing testing on explosives,” he said. Tests could include working on better protective equipment from roadside bombs for U.S. soldiers.

Council member Frank Sanchez asked if the explosives testing would affect any of the city’s water field or infrastructure in the area. Burkholder said that while ARA was involved in development of the Air Force’s bunker-busting bomb, “We were very specific, and it’s in the contract that they can’t do any underground testing.”

Burkholder said PRTC has not yet received the first payment of the $1 million it received from the federal government, which is earmarked for purchase of an accelerated paving testing machine. “ARA builds those machines, but they’re not the only company. So TTI has to bid out with two other companies, plus it takes six months to build,” he said.

“TTI also has applied for an earmark to Congress for pavement markings testing,” he said. “There’s not another testing facility in the United States that does this, and if we get it, it should be a multi-million dollar thing.”

Right now, Burkholder said there are only two employees at the test track working full-time, but others should be added as addition projects are added at the site. “They said it would be 2007 before we’d see the full effects of it,” he told the council.

On the airport update, manger Isabel Blanchard presented a slide show on the facility to council members. She said that city crews helped out with repairs on the edge of one runway that, and are working to improve drainage in that area. She also said funds are being sought to repair doors on some of the 30-year-old airport hangars that have suffered rust damage over the years.

“It’s getting to where some of these doors you can’t move,” she said.

Blanchard told the council that federal funds administered through the state were being sought to fix the pavement on the driveway at the front gate at the airport, along with lighting the tetrahedron to show wind direction at the airport and for relocating the airport’s beacon from the Tra-Park area onto airport property.

“We’re looking at a 90-10 (percent) grant to move the beacon,” she said, adding that the current available funds for the airport expire on Aug. 31.

“TxDOT feels there’s enough money for all three projects,” she said, though the agency also wants the city to return the funds to the state for use at another Texas airport, if the money is not spent by the deadline.

Council members asked about the breakdown on spending by the city at the airport site, and councilman Danny Rodriguez asked why Blanchard and her husband were not being charged fees for their airport hangar rentals.

“Isabel is not a city employee. We have an independent contract with her,” said Bill Hubbs, president of the Pecos Municipal Airport board. “I don’t know if the (hangars) are in there, but we can write it in there.”

Hubbs told Sanchez that the $650 annual hangar rental fee was in line with charges at other area airports, and the charge is based on square footage, while the Trans-Pecos Weather Modification Program pays half that rate for their land, since they do not use any indoor space.

Sanchez said the rate issue needed to be addressed by the city and the airport manager, and plans were made to discuss the contract with Blanchard at a future meeting.

Council backs Country Club apartment plan

Staff Writer

Pecos City Council members supported a decision by the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission to reclassify a site south of Interstate 20 for construction of new apartments, during the council’s regular meeting this past Thursday at City Hall.

Council members also approved seeking a grant for the construction of five low-income homes, and approved a request for better safety markings at Pecos Kindergarten and other city schools, while taking no action on the selection of a new city accountant after a closed door session.

The board approved an action taken by the zoning board on March 30 to reclassify land located between the Reeves County Golf Course, Pecos Valley Country Club, the Town & Country Food Story on West Palmer Street and Country Club drive for construction of multi-family units. The change from single-family housing was made at the request of a developer who has already constructing apartments in Fort Stockton, and is seeking to buy the land from the Country Club.

“At the meeting, we had a couple of people voice concerns about safety and children,” Pecos Valley Country Club President Bill Oglesby told council members. He said the apartments that would be built on the 2.72 acre site would be two or three-story buildings, and that a total of 44 apartments were planned.”

“They’ve got an apartment complex under construction in Fort Stockton, and they’ve got about eight in Texas and about 20 in Oklahoma, Missouri and Arkansas,” he said, adding that the firm hoped to start work in Pecos by the end of this year.

Oglesby and city utilities director Edgardo Madrid said the company was also looking for state tax credits as part of the construction project. Mayor Dot Stafford said Paul Holden, who represented the company at the zoning board hearing, told board members there that the apartments are to be for moderate-income families.

The partnership agreement calls for the city to receive a Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs grant for $137,500, with the city providing $69,000 in matching funds. The money would go towards either the construction of new homes or the rehabilitation of existing homes of low-income families in Pecos. City crews would provide in-kind services, including the demolition of homes on the sites where the new buildings would be constructed to meet the $69,000 goal.

“If you go with the new homes, we can construct up to five houses,” Madrid said. “They don’t have to do anything. All they have to do is live there five years.”

Madrid said the city has talked with five companies, including three local contractors, about doing the construction on the new homes, which would include homes for the disabled and elderly currently on low-income budgets.

“If you deliver Meals on Wheels, you’ll see the indigent who are in need of housing,” said city manager Joseph Torres. “We would like to look at this grant to alleviate the problem with senior citizens and disabled individuals.”

The school zone changes were made at the request of Pecos Kindergarten principal Robert Garrett, who said vehicles traveling too fast around the school were a potential safety threat to both children and parents.

“I would support speed bumps. That’s a very short expense of street,” he said. “A stop sign on 10th Street (at Elm) would be a good idea. Right now they don’t stop until they get to the drive-around.”

Torres said Madrid and city street supervisor Martin Arreguy would look at the plan, and Arreguy said the city could buy stencils to place legends on the pavement near the schools, to go along with the speed bumps.

“Safety is the main concern, but not only for that reason, but if we act the city is not liable, because we’re doing everything within TxDOT standards,” Arreguy said.

In other action, the council approved the sale of three properties out of five on the list prepared for Thursday’s meeting, after city tax collector Lydia Prieto told members that those sites had been rejected for sale by the Reeves County Hospital District board in their meeting last Tuesday.

Council members agreed to sell property at 2416 Cactus St., for $500 to Sal Nichols; agreed to the sale of a lot of 815 S. Almond St., to Manuel M. Fuentes for $400; and sold a lot at 109 S. Mulberry St., to Roman Noriega for $510. The council also agreed to purchase new trash-hauling equipment from two companies, which will be put in use when the city takes over landfill operations from Duncan Disposal at the end of November.

City Finance Director Sam Contreras said Lubbock Truck Sales bid $69,076 each for the basic vehicle body on the two new vehicles, while Equipment Southwest bid $66,900 apiece for Packmore back loaders which will be used to haul trash to the landfill site.

Arreguy, who is also in charge of the city’s clean-up and landfill operations, said they received no other bid on the backloader and just one other bid on the vehicle chassis, which came in about $34,000 above Lubbock Truck’s bid. He added that the vehicles selected were based on specifications for similar vehicles operated by the City of Midland.

“It’s the best rear body you can get,” he told the council. “I don’t want to go sub-standard. I want to get 10-15 years of use out of this without a lot of repairs.”

The executive session was held to discuss a replacement for Mark Rushing, who left his job as city accountant to take a similar job in Kingsville at the end of April. But at the end of the 45-minute session the council took no action.

Hand counting to be used for May 13 election ballots

Staff Writer

Early voting for the city, school and hospital elections began at 8 a.m. Monday at the Community Center, located on Oak St. But the local elections set for May 13 will not be able to take full advantage of the new optical vote scanning equipment acquired by Reeves County for local elections.

“By law, we’ll need to have two, 12-hour days, for the city elections so we will be open from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m., Monday and Tuesday,” said elections clerk Debbie Thomas. “The rest of days it will be from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m.”

Thomas said that they will be using paper ballots during this election that will not have the coding that allows them to work with the optical scanners, which were used in the recent county primary elections. The April 11 Democratic Party primary runoff ran out of regular ballots and had to finish the election using paper ballots, while this time, the proper ballots didn’t arrive in time for the early voting period.

“We didn’t get anything from he new equipment vendor, and they weren’t going to send the disk until just before election date,” said Thomas. “To keep from confusing the voters, we got some ballots and we will be using these ballots only.”

Thomas said that the ballots will be hand-counted on May 13.

Thomas said that they will be accepting applications for ballots by mail until Friday. “Generally, we take up to 250 by mail,” she said.

Thomas said that they don’t expect any problems to arise during this election.

In the Town of Pecos City Mayor’s race, the current mayor is being challenged for that position on May 13.

Dick Alligood, owner of Oilfield Phone Service in Pecos, is challenging Town of Pecos City Mayor Dot Stafford for her position. Stafford has held for the past four years and for 10 of the past 12 years.

She filed to retain her post for another two years two weeks ago. She was first elected in 1994 and was returned to office in 2002 after losing her bid for re-election to Ray Ortega in 2000. She defeated Ortega in 2002 to regain the office and ran unopposed two years ago. Along with Stafford’s position, two council seats will be decided in May. Incumbents Michael Benavides and Angelica Valenzuela have filed to retain their seats, and are challenged by Mark Bragg.

Two seats also are up for election on the P-B-T ISD board, where one incumbent and three challengers have filed for the available three-year terms.

Incumbent Amy Montgomery Miller and challenger Vanessa Simmons joined John Grant and Ramiro “Ron” Garcia in entering their names for the three-year terms up for election in May.

Miller was first elected to the school board in 2003, while the other board seat currently is held by Steve Valenzuela.

In the Reeves County Hospital Board elections, only the three incumbents have filed for re-election, though for two, it will be their first election overall. Brenda McKinney signed up to retain her seat on the board in Precinct 1 that she was named to last year, following the death of Chel Flores. Terry Honaker earlier filed for a full two-year term as Precinct 3 representative. Honaker was appointed in late 2004 to replace Bill Wendt, who died in August of that year.

Leo Hung, who has also filed for a new two-year term, holds the other seat up for election. Early voting for the election runs through Wednesday, May 9. This year’s voting will be held on the second Saturday in May instead of the first Saturday, as the result of a measure passed by the Texas Legislature.

Registration set for credit exams

Credit for acceleration for grades 1-5 and Credit for Examination for grades 6-8 are being held at the different Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD campuses, with registration scheduled now through Wednesday, May 3.

Students in grades 1-5 need to meet some requirements and score 90 percent or above on a criterion referenced test for grade level to be skipped in each of the following areas: language arts, math, science, and social studies.

In grades 6-8 students must score 90 percent or above on a criterion referenced exam for acceleration for the applicable course.

Registration for the exams is now taking place at the different campuses and Wednesday is the deadline to register and students and/or parents can do so at the counselors’ office at the students’ designated school.

Test dates are May 16-18.

Sul Ross summer camp dates set

Sul Ross State University’s Gear Up Summer Camp will be July 23 through July 28.

This camp is for all 7th graders that will be in the 8th grade in the fall.

You may pick up enrollment papers at the Crockett Middle School office. All enrollments are due by May 5.

For any questions, call Gear Up Coordinator Anne Hess at 432-294-3925 or 432-448-1039.

Calderon selected for student of year program

Dominic Calderon, 12, son of Peggy Calderon and a 7th grader at Crockett Middle School, has been selected as an official state finalist for the 2006 Texas Student of the Year Scholarship and Recognition Program.

Students are chosen for outstanding achievement in school and community. All state candidates will be able to display their personality, intelligence, school honors, special development, creativity abilities, communicative expression, on-stage personality projection and writing skills as they are judged in nine all-around categories.

This State Program fosters fun, friendship, self-awareness, personal development, pride, self-confidence, and enhances social skills. The event will be held this summer in Houston.

Gonzalez named an All-American Scholar

The United States Achievement Academy announced that Jessica Gonzalez, of Pecos, has been named an All-American Scholar.

The USAA has established the All-American Scholar Award Program to offer deserved recognition to superior students who excel in the academic disciplines. The All-American Scholars must earn a 3.3 or higher grade point average. Only scholars selected by a school instructor, counselor, or other qualified sponsor are accepted.

Gonzalez, who attends Pecos High School, was nominated for this national award by school counselors.

Gonzales will appear in the All-American Scholar Yearbook which is published nationally.

“Recognizing and supporting our youth is more important than ever before in America’s history. Certainly, winners of the All-American Scholar Award should be congratulated and appreciated for their dedication to excellence and achievement,” said Dr. George Stevens, Founder of the United States Achievement Academy.

The Academy selects All-American Scholars upon the exclusive recommendation of teachers, coaches, counselors, and other qualified sponsors.

Gonzalez is the daughter of Rafael and Rachel Gonzalez from Pecos.

Grandparents are Rafael Gonzalez Sr. of Lamar, Colorado and Mercedes Gonzalez of Pecos and the late Martina Ronquillo of Pecos and Benjamin Prieto of Niceville, Fla.

Police Report

EDITOR’S NOTE: Information contained in the Police Report is obtained from reports filed by the Pecos Police Department, Reeves County Sheriff’s Office, or other officers of those agencies. The serving of warrants by an officer for outstanding fines of either traffic citations, animal control violations or other court costs are considered arrests and will be printed as such unless indicated that the fines were paid. In such instances we will indicate payment and release.


Gumaro Crispin Perez, 41, 2351 Madera Rd., was arrested by police on April 25 on a warrant charging him with assault, a Class A misdemeanor. Police said the arrest was made after they received a phone call, and located Perez at 2323 Texas St. He was then transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.


Juan Villalobos Serrano, 35, 1309 S. Willow St., was arrested by police on charges of driving while intoxicated with a prior conviction, a Class A misdemeanor, and failing to comply with requirements after striking an unattended vehicle, a Class B misdemeanor. Police said the arrest took place after Serrano’s 2005 Chevrolet pickup struck a 2000 Chrysler van parked outside the La Nortena Tortilla Factory in the 200 block of East Third Street. Serrano’s vehicle was stopped at Walthall and Cherry streets and he was then transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.


Corina Orona, 19, 2323 Sage St., Apartment A, was arrested on April 23 on warrants charging her with assault under the Family Violence Act, and no driver’s license both Class C misdemeanors. Police said Orona was arrested in the 200 block of South Locust Street, and she was then transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.


Benjamin Anchondo, 25, 701 S. Palm St., was arrested by police on warrants charging him with deadly conduct and assault, both Class A misdemeanors. Police said the arrest was made in the 200 block of South Sycamore Street, and Anchondo was then transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.


Joe Millan Gonzales, 33, 1603 Washington St., was arrested by police on April 22 on a warrant charging him with assault causing bodily injury, a Class A misdemeanor. Police said the incident occurred on April 15, and Gonzales turned himself in at Reeves County Jail on the warrant.


Jeanette Florez, 27, 311 S. Hickory St., was arrested by police on a warrant for motion to surrender principal on a possession of controlled substance charge. Police said the arrest was made after they received a report of a coupler arguing in the 1400 block of South plum Street, and a records check turned up the outstanding warrant. Florez was then transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.


Roger Daniel Matta Jr., 22, 424 S. Oak St., was arrested by police on a warrant for failure to appear on a charge of having an open container of alcohol, a Class C misdemeanor. Police said the arrest was made at 12:15 a.m. on April 21 in the 700 block of South Cedar Street, and Matta was then transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.


Jose Alfredo Lujan, 44, 412 Bois D’arc St., was arrested by police on a charge of public intoxication, a Class B misdemeanor. Police said the arrest was made on April 20 after they were called to his home at 6:29 p.m. Lujan fled the scene, but was located later hiding in some bushes at 624 S. Alamo St. He was then transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.


Cynthia Jaso Perea, 35, 2006 Wyoming St., was arrested by police on April 18 on a warrant charging her with theft by check. Police said the warrant was filed by the Reeves County Sheriff’s Office, and the arrest took place at 1:40 p.m. in the 1300 block of South Willow Street. She was then transported to the Reeves County Jail.


Ricardo Gamboa Carrasco, 18, was arrested by police on April 17 on a charge of possession of marijuana, a Class B misdemeanor. Police said the arrest took place at 8:18 p.m. after they were called to Carrasco’s home in reference to a disturbance. Carrasco was s then transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.

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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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