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Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Friday, May 12, 2006

School board asked to move graduation site

Several concerned individuals were on hand to discuss the site of this year’s graduation ceremonies, at the regular Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD Board meeting held Tuesday at the Technology Center.

Sylvia Quintana, a parent, spoke on behalf of a group of citizens unhappy about the choice of the Pecos High School gym as the site where this year’s graduation ceremonies will be held.

Quintana told the group that they were there to object to moving the ceremony from the original site at the Pecos Eagle Football Field.

Last year was the first year, since 1992 that graduation ceremonies were held indoors. Graduation ceremonies have always been held at the Pecos High School Football Field except in the case of bad weather.

“We know that one of the problems, is the heat, but could you consider having it an hour later,” said Quintana.

Quintana said that other concerns about having it on the field center around the fact that it is a turf field. “The other thing is that they’re worried that the field will be compacted or compressed, but they have liners that you can put on top, if not for this year, maybe for the next class so that we can continue the tradition of having it on the field,” she said.

Quintana said that if the janitors had too much work to do and couldn’t set up the field, that parents were willing to volunteer to help them do it.

“The group of students won’t be there long enough to cause damage to the field,” said Quintana.

The point of having a turf field wasn’t only to bring in revenue, but to promote pride in Pecos, she said. “This is also so that the students can experience a tradition that we have had for a long time,” said Quintana.

She said that they realize that other communities are having their graduation ceremonies inside. “We don’t have to do what everyone in the area is doing,” she said.

Quintana added that she hoped the school board members would deem it important enough to hold a special session to discuss this matter, before graduation.

Steele Ewing, another parent, also spoke on behalf of having the graduation ceremonies outside, like it has been done in the past.

Ewing told the group that he had a daughter that would be graduating also and would prefer that the ceremony be held outside. “We have more space outside and like she (Quintana) said, maybe we can have it an hour later if it’s too hot,” he told the board.

Ewing said that maybe they should ask other community members what they would prefer. In other action on Tuesday, the board discussed and heard the first reading of local policy GKG - Community Relations: School Volunteer Program.

“This is one of the things that McCall had left for me,” said P-B-T ISD Superintendent Manny Espino, referring to former superintend Bob McCall.

The policy involves volunteers that help out at the local schools.

“Anybody that comes in close contact with the kids we’ll do a background check,” said Espino. “This is something we just need to put in policy.”

He said that this was a good way to protect children from individuals that they don’t know and who might have a record.

“If they have had some problems with drugs, we’ll let them know we can’t use them,” said Espino. “If it’s something like a traffic ticket or something like that, we know that they can’t drive our vehicles or our students anywhere,” he said.

He said that individuals were usually honest about things like this. “We’ll give the person an opportunity to clarify their situation that they were involved in and everything will be kept confidential,” Espino said.

Board members approved the purchase of two vans to be used by the Special Education Department.

“We decided to purchase two vans instead of one bus, so for the price of one bus, we’ll be getting two vans,” said Espino.

Espino said that the vans will be used for various purposes. “We’ll get reimbursed from the state,” he said.

The vans will be used to transport children to Odessa.

Special Education Director Donna Davis told the group that one of the students that were being transported to Odessa received a Reader of the Year Award at St. Jacinto. “Because she reads all her AR books while on the bus enroute to Odessa,” said Davis. “They asked her how she could read so much and she told them that because she read on the bus all the way to Odessa and back,” said Davis.

Espino told the group that they have been discussing paying the school employees twice a month, instead of just once.

“I know it’s still the same amount of money, but sometimes it helps to divide it into two separate payments,” he said.

Espino said that it would take some time to figure everything out and that they also needed to hire someone in the business office before anything could be done. “Right now they are short-handed in that office and the first thing will be to hire a qualified individual to help out,” he said.

Finance Director Cookie Canon said that the individuals in that office are already too busy. “It takes five days to work out payroll right now,” said Canon. “We are really busy and doing the payroll takes a lot, because we have to do all the deductions such as insurance, child support and many other things,” she said.

“I invite you to come to my office and see all the paperwork we have to deal with,” she said.

Espino said that they were also looking at paying employees that are newly hired and began working in August, to see if they can get paid that month. “Right now, if they start working in August, they don’t get paid until September and that’s a long time to go without getting a paycheck,” he said.

He said that they would put together two to three options and bring them back to the board for their consideration.

Voters picking new council, school board

Voters will be going to the polls on Saturday to decide seats on the Town of Pecos City Council and Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD board, along with the position of Mayor of Pecos, after over 800 people cast their votes early in the May 13 election.

A total of 808 early votes were cast in the city and school elections. Elections were cancelled this year for the Reeves County Hospital District board, after no one filed to challenge the three incumbents. City elections. Elections were also cancelled too save money in the city of Barstow and for the Balmorhea ISD board due to a lack of challengers, while in the Balmorhea City election, three people are seeking the position of mayor and three others are running for the two city council seats.

Early voting ended Tuesday at the Community Center, located at Fifth and Oak streets. That’s also the polling site on election, when voters will be able to cast ballots from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m.

The highest profile race Saturday is for Town of Pecos City mayor, where Mayor Dot Stafford is seeking her sixth two-year term in office. Stafford, who was first elected in 1994 and then returned to office in 2002 after a two-year absence, is being challenged for the position by Dick Alligood, owner of Oilfield Phone Service in Pecos.

Along with the two candidates for Mayor, three others are seeking the two council seats up for election on Saturday. Incumbents Michael Benavides and Angelica Valenzuela joined Stafford in filing to retain their seats, and are challenged by local businessman 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 is being challenged by Vanessa Simmons, John Grant and Ramiro “Ron” Garcia in seeking one of the two three-year terms up for election on Saturday. Miller was first elected to the school board in 2003, while the other board seat currently is held by Steve Valenzuela.

In Balmorhea, Mike Rodriguez, Joy Lewis and former mayor Norman Roman are seeking to replace retiring mayor Ruben Fuentes, while in the council race incumbent Antonio Contreras and challengers Hector Rodriguez and Sammy Baeza are vying for the two available two-year terms.

This was to have been the first city and school election using the new optical scanning machines purchased by Reeves County last year. The machines replaced the old punch card ballot system, which was outlawed at the end of 2005 due to problems stemming from the 2000 Florida presidential election.

However, after problems with having enough ballots for the April 11 Reeves County Democratic Primary runoff election, and delays in getting scannable ballots printed up in time for certification before the start of early voting, Pecos elections clerk Debbie Thomas said that they will be using paper ballots for Saturday’s election. The ballots were designed by Thomas and will be on printed paper, but will not work in the optical scanners.

As a result, Thomas said that the ballots will be hand-counted on May 13.

Meanwhile, visiting judge Joseph Conley, Sr. of the 244th District Court has yet to take action on the lawsuit filed by Al Gomez to overturn the results of the troubled April 11 runoff election. Gomez filed suit on April 27 to either throw out the results or have him declared winner of the election for Reeves County Judge, which Gomez lost by 15 votes to Sam Contreras.

Gomez cited problems with Box 7, where Election Day ballots were not counted that night. Gomez and his attorney Hal Upchurch, allege that the Box was illegally opened by county Democratic Party Chairman Bobby Dean and then resealed, before 143rd District Court Judge Bob Parks issued an order to reopen the box and the counting station to add the 152 uncounted ballots.

Contreras and his attorney, Buck Wood, have asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit. Gomez won 101 of the 152 votes added to Box 7, but needed to collect 109 votes to pass Contreras. Both the lawsuit and reply were filed with the 143rd District Court Clerk, and then turned over to Conley after Parks recused himself from the case.

Council OKs pay hikes for low-wage staff

Raises for the city’s lowest-paid employees were approved Thursday morning by the Town of Pecos City Council, along with plans for improved school zone traffic controls around Pecos Kindergarten.

The council voted to lift a freeze of pay raises for its lowest-paid workers, after city manager Joseph Torres said they were in danger of losing those employees to other better-paying jobs.

Torres said the pay freeze put in last year to deal with the city’s budget shortfalls had made it tough for workers at the bottom end of the pay scale to deal with rising outside costs. The raises would affect city employees making $7, $8 or $9 an hour, he said.

“My recommendation to the council is to give these employees a step increase,” Torres said. “In addition, one police officer went from advanced to master certification. That accounts for a 14-cent an hour stipend.”

Torres said the increases would affect 15 city workers, along with the one police officer, and the funds would come from the elimination through attrition of two jobs at City Hall.

“I was told we used to start at $5.50 and hour, but we looked at that and couldn’t hire quality people with high school educations,” Torres said. “If we don’t do something about low-end (pay) a few may go off to the oilfield. We’ve already had two recruited by the RCDC.”

Torres presented the board with three options; to increase pay based on department head recommendations, increase pay based on the merit scale of 3, 6 or 9 percent, or take no action. Torres said the merit option wouldn’t help the workers much, because of their low starting salary levels.

“We’ve had someone on the payroll for five years, and if they started out at $7 an hour, they’d only be making $7.72 right now,” he told the council.

Councilman Frank Sanchez asked if the city had a set pay scale for its workers. Torres said it did not, though salaries for some jobs had to be raised two years ago in order to comply with U.S. Department of Labor guidelines for other jobs, which were financed through federal funds connected to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.

“If you would like us to put together a plan for wage ranges, we can do that,” Torres said, and Sanchez asked that a plan be put together as part of the planning for the 2007 fiscal year budget this summer.

The traffic control presentation followed a complaint by Pecos Kindergarten principal Robert Garrett at the council’s last meeting that cars were failing to slow down while passing the school, endangering both children and their parents. Martin Arreguy, who is in charge of the city street operations, presented the council with a list of changes to be made, along with a street map showing the location of the changes.

“As you can see, Mr. Garrett had some legitimate concerns,” Arreguy said. “Upon study, working with the state and reading up on (state) codes, we came up with a plan. … We hope to have this implemented by July.”

Arreguy said among the new signs to be installed would be ones warning drivers of a school zone further up the street. “We have flashing lights, but not until they’re into the zone, and some of the signs we do have are antiquated.

“I’m supporting putting in a couple of new stop signs and four-way crosswalks, and putting up pre-warning signs,” he said. In addition, “School Xing” logos will be painted into the streets around the school.

“He said the new signs would cost $22 a square foot. “It’s going to be expensive, but I’m sure we can finds the money within by street budget,” Arreguy said. “Right now we’re going to concentrate on the kindergarten, but in the future we’d like to look at other schools. Arreguy said the city can also look at getting state funds to hire crossing guards, while council members suggested working with the school district to hire volunteer crossing guards.

“We need to get with the school district to see if they’re interested. Even if they’re not, we’re still going to do it,” he said.

Red Bluff OKs new home at lake for employee

Red Bluff Water Power Control District board members voted to begin looking into construction of a new home at Red Bluff Lake for district employee Tommy Moseley, and into the purchase of a new backhoe at the lake for maintenance operations.

Moseley handles maintenance at the lake, along with keeping watch over the district’s properties and the dam at the lake. The house he currently lives in at the lake was built in 1937, just after the dam’s construction.

“It wasn’t very well built,” said managing director Randal Hartman, who said the roof needs major repairs, and other parts of the home’s walls and exterior also have been damaged over the years.

“We’re at the point we need to do something with it,” he said.

The tentative plan by the board is to tear down the existing house and build a new one on the current site. Hartman said Moseley would live in another home at the lake, but further away from the dam, which also is about 70 years old, while the new house is being put up. “He needs to be there at the (lake) entrance. The other one is quite a ways away,” Hartman said.

The cost of the new home, along with installation of a septic system, was estimated in the area of $100,000. Board member Ava Gerke suggested looking into buying a pre-fabricated home and moving it to the lake, but Hartman said, “We’re limited in space in getting the house in. Screwbean Draw (low water crossing) isn’t wide enough.”

On the backhoe, Hartman said, “The old one is worn out. We can’t even get a trade-in on it.”

Robin Lebouf with Ward County Water Irrigation District No. 1 in Barstow told the board her district had bought a pick-up through an interlocal agreement with the Houston-Galveston Council of Government for a lower cost than the district could get by asking for bids on its own, and said Red Bluff could do the same for their backhoe purchase.

“I just told them what I wanted and they faxed me a quote,” Lebouf said. The only fees were a $600 legal fee to the Houston-Galveston Council, and a $200 transportation cost by the dealer.

Board members agreed to seek an interlocal agreement with the council, after which a purchase order could be drawn up for the new backhoe.

In other action, board members signed a resolution in support of the Upper Pecos Soil and Water Conservation District No. 213. The resolution backed the district and said that Red Bluff would not be part of the Pecos River Ecological Advisory Committee.

“We’ve been working with them on the salt cedars since 1997, so we might as well keep working,” said board member Jay Lee.

Hartman told the board that while there were no new actions in the Malaga Bend there is some possible movement on the stalled salt alleviation project in the future.

“We are working with Malaga Bend on another project,” he told board members. “They asked me to go ahead and get a contract rolling. They want to move.

“It’s not a big money-maker for us, but we should be able to cover our expenses,” he added.

“We want to get the salt out. Anything else in the end is gravy,” said Lee.

Pecos, Toyah, RCH continue sharp rises in sales tax funds

The Town of Pecos City’s sales tax rebate check for May showed another double-digit increase, according to figures released on Wednesday by Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn’s office.

The city’s 1 1/2-cent share of the state’s 8 1/4-cent sales tax, based on collections during March, totaled $96,826, a 17.72 percent increase over last May, when Pecos received $82,250 back from the comptroller’s office. The total boosted the city’s total tax rebates for the year to $411,539, which was 12.18 percent higher than the $366,824 sent back during the first five months of 2005.

One-sixth of the city’s rebate total funds operations of the Pecos Economic Development Corp., which will receive $16,138 from this month’s check.

The rebate check for Toyah was up even more for the month, while Balmorhea’s May tax rebate check was down from last year, but the year-to-date total remains up sharply from 2005’s totals.

Toyah received a $605 check on its 1 1/2-cent sales tax, up 46.25 percent from last year’s $414 total. For the year, Toyah has gotten $2,281 back, a 42.36 percent rise from the $1,602 received over the first five months last year. Balmorhea’s check was $1,610 for this month, down 5.93 percent from last year’s $1,711, but the city’s total for 2006 of $6,557 is still 22.11 percent above the $5,369 from 2005.

Reeves County Hospital joined Pecos and Toyah in also reporting a big increase in their tax rebate check from 2005. The hospital’s 1/2-cent sales tax for March brought in a May check for $45,710, up 39.08 percent from last year’s $32,864. For the year, the hospital has gotten $218,788 from Strayhorn’s office, which is 54.93 percent above last year’s $141.212.

Those increases were common across the Permian Basin and Trans-Pecos regions this month, with both Midland and Odessa reporting tax rebate checks for the month of over $2 million.

Midland’s closed in on the $3 million mark check in its April rebate check, getting $2.87 million back on its 1 1/2-cent sales tax. That was up 20.28 percent from last year’s $2.38 million, while Odessa’s $2.01 million check on its 1 1/4-cent sales tax was up 15.16 percent from the $1.74 million check it received a year ago.

For other cities collecting the 1 1/2-cent sales tax, Alpine received $100,630 in its May check, up 17.4 percent from a year ago; Crane received a check for $46,128, up 11 percent from last year; Lamesa got $118,708 back from the comptroller’s office, which was up 13.58 percent; while Seminole joined Balmorhea in seeing a dip in their rebate, getting a check back for $79,571, which was down 2.63 percent.

Among cities collecting a one-cent sales tax Kermit received $41,106 in their rebate check, up 27.32 percent; Pyote received a check for $588, which was up 60.73 percent ; Wickett received a $7,081 check, up 41.36 percent, and Wink received a check for $4,700, which was up by 2.09 percent.

For area cities collecting a 1 3/4-cent sales tax, Andrews’ check for $254,967 was up 128.2 percent from last year, with about half of that rise due to an increase of 3/4-cent in the city’s sales tax since 2005. Marfa got a check for $23,842, which was up by 7.74 percent; while Van Horn got a check for $33,368, which was 6.53 percent higher than a year ago.

For cities collecting the maximum two-cent sales tax, Big Spring received $473,862, an increase of 3.21 percent; Fort Stockton received $163,496, up 7.65 percent; Monahans received a check for $117,657, which was 6.29 percent lower than last year; Grandfalls got a $2,348 check, up 8.04 percent; and Presidio received $39,633, up 33.46 percent.

Statewide, Strayhorn’s office sent out May rebate checks totaling $344.4 million, up 10.20 percent from $312.5 million last year. Houston’s $41 million check was again the largest one sent out, and was 8.57 percent higher than a year ago. Dallas’ check was next, at $21.6 million, which was up by 4.91 percent from last March.

Terry participates in honor’s group

Tiana Terry was part of a ceremony that recognized students who have a grade point average of 3.5 and better.

She is a member of Kappa De Ha PI, which is an honor’s organization for students majoring in education.

Terry attends Prairie View A&M.

She is the daughter of David and Debra Terry.

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Pecos Enterprise
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324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 432-445-5475, FAX 432-445-4321

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