Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas
Friday, May 26, 2006
Auditor gives RCH options for cutting $500,000 deficit
Reeves County Hospital’s financial numbers for 2005 improved over those from the previous year, board members were told during their regular monthly meeting on Tuesday. But the hospital still showed a net deficit for the year of about a half-million dollars, and the board was asked by its auditor to consider a change in the district’s organizational structure as a way to improve it’s financial numbers.
The board also swore three of its members in for new two-year terms as part of the meeting at the hospital’s classroom, and named chief financial officer Frank Seals as interim chief executive officer beginning June 1, following the retirement of current CEO Bill Conder next Wednesday.
Bill Parrish, auditor from the Waco firm of Parrish, Moody and Fikes, gave the board a PowerPoint presentation on the 2005 audit. He said net patient revenues were up by $1.7 million while expenses were up only $1 million last year, which lowered the hospital’s deficit from $1.284 million to $502,000. Out of that total, $196,000 was due to actual hospital operations, while $306,000 was due to physician-related recruitment costs.
“You all have improved significantly in operations from last year,” he said. “It’s still not when you want them to be, but you’re going in the right direction.”
Parrish also said the hospital had about 52 days cash-on-hand, which was down from previous years. “You still have more cash-on-hand than other similar hospitals,” he added. “You are more than double their average.”
He said personnel costs for 2005 were down, but still above the level of peer hospitals used for comparison in the audit, while purchased contract services were up for the year.
Parrish then discussed the effects of converting RCH into a Critical Access Hospital, and reorganizing the hospital district’s structure if the board opts for that change later this year. One of the changes would be to take the new kidney dialysis unit out from under the hospital and give it it’s own independent budget under the “Home Office” concept, along with the hospital’s ambulance service. In January, Conder told the board that because the dialysis center is not cost-based reimbursed, it would cut the positive aspect of the hospital’s critical access study in half.
Parrish said removing the dialysis center from the hospital’s books would improve the balance sheet by about $150,000. “If we elect to go critical access, we really need to consider getting set up this way,” he said.
“With the Home Office concept, the hospital’s costs would stay in the hospital,” said Seals. “The hospital’s costs would stay in the the hospital and we would have very few additional costs to allocate to the hospital. The more costs you keep in the hospital, the better the (government) reimbursement will be.”
Parrish added some federal funding changes for things like outpatient services would also have an effect on the district’s finances in the coming year. That included the potential loss of $455,000 in government outpatient funding due to a cut by Congress in the “Hold Harmless” law for rural hospital reimbursement.
“You do not have to make a decision on critical access tonight. We’re just giving you the information, so you can make a decision two to three months from now,” Conder told the board.
During an earlier discussion of the hospital’s monthly financial reports, board member Leo Hung asked about a drop of $200,000 in the income statement on outpatient services. Seals said the decline was due to a drop in the number of patients seen at the hospital.
“Our volume has fallen off a cliff,” he said. “Physical therapy has fallen by one-half. Our inpatient has fallen also, but not as extensively.”
During the administrator’s report, Conder told the board that the number of people using the dialysis center, which opened in 2004, is up to 30, but the increase will require additional personnel.
“It looks like we’ll have to go to a third shift,” he said. “If we do, we’ll have to get another charge nurse.” He added that until one is trained or hired, the district may have to get an agency nurse to cover for the additional patient census.
“We’ll try to hold it down to as short as we can,” he added.
RCH public relations director Vanetta Seals said the hospital hopes to continue to boost the number of patients at the center by doing more advertising in area cities, as well as having hospital personnel visit those towns to talk to organizations and local physicians about using the RCH facility, instead of going to centers in Midland, Odessa or El Paso.
The hospital did get some extra income through the approval of an oil and gas lease with Shaw Interests for land located in Section 22, Block C-18 of the PSL Survey in Reeves County. The lease calls for an initial patyment of $20,000 within the first 30 days, a $300 per net mineral acre bonus consideration and a 1/5 royalty.
“The big thing is they’ll pay within 30 days,” said board president Linda Gholson.
Following a 50-minute executive session, the board named Frank Seals as the interim replacement for Conder, who announced in February he would retire at the end of May. “This is my last hurrah,” Conder told the board. “I want to tell you again how much I appreciate working with you all, and for all your support and consideration.”
Vanetta Seals said a retirement reception for Conder would be held on Tuesday in the hospital’s lobby from 3 to 4:30 p.m., and would be open to the public.
Hung, Brenda McKinney and Terry Honaker took the oaths of office for their new two-year terms prior to the discussion of the 2005 audit. Hung was elected to the at-large position and McKinney and Honaker to the Precinct 1 and 3 seats on the board. All were unopposed for election, while Honaker and McKinney were appointed during the past two years to replace board members Bill Wendt and Chel Flores, who were elected in 2004 but died while in office.
The board also re-elected Gholson as president for the next year, while Precinct 4 representative Pablo Carrasco was re-elected as vice president.
Police jail mom in January child injury case
A 20-year-old Pecos woman was arrested by police on Monday on a warrant charging her with injury to a child, in connection with burn injuries suffered by her 2-year-old son in January.
Tanya Morales, of 1922 Missouri St., Apt. 4, was arrested by police on May 22, six days after police obtained a warrant for her arrest. Police investigator Olga Lopez said the arrest was the result of an incident that occurred on January 16 at 214 S. Hickory St. in which the 2-year-old suffered burns to his lower legs and feet.
Lopez’s report said the injuries occurred while the child was being given a bath. Police Chief Clay McKinney said the incident at first was handled by Child Protective Services, before being turned over to his department three months after the incident.
“We were notified on April 16 by Child Protective Services to assist them in the investigation of the immersion burns to the legs and feet of the 2-year-old victim,” McKinney said. “The child had been treated in Odessa on January 16 and subsequently taken to Lubbock due to the severity of the burns.”
McKinney said that while the burns occurred at the Hickory Street home, the child was not taken to the Reeves County Hospital emergency room for treatment. CPS personnel became involved after the boy arrived at the University Medical Center burn unit in Lubbock.
“CPS advised us the defendant was refusing to cooperate with their investigators. That is why we were requested to assist them,” he said. “The defendant gave conflicting statements regarding the incident to the medical staff and to law enforcement.”
McKinney said he did not have information on the current condition of the child or on the boys’ current family status.
Morales was transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center following her arrest, before being transferred to Reeves County Jail. McKinney said bond in the case had been set at $15,000.
High fuel costs cut onion crop; cantaloupes OK
The 2006 cantaloupe harvest in the Trans-Pecos area will go off as scheduled, weather permitting, in early July. But the onion harvest this year will be smaller than in the past, when it gets underway next week.
Pecos Cantaloupe Co. is not growing onions this year, owner Gary Taylor said on Wednesday, but it has leased out the onion shed on its Highway 17 property to Trans-Pecos Foods.
“We didn’t grow onions, because the fuel costs were just too high,” said Taylor. The cost to run irrigation pumps on the land in the Trans-Pecos, where over 90 percent of the crops rely on irrigation, has doubled along with other oil and natural gas-related costs.
Trans-Pecos Foods will be bringing trucks into the Pecos Cantaloupe Co. shed. That’s supposed to start on Friday, and workers were clearing out the shed in preparation for their arrival.
Meanwhile, local grower Roger Jones said he expects to begin harvesting his onion crop next Thursday. “I’ve got 90 acres, and 90,000 bags would be nice,” he said on Tuesday.
“The market’s good on onions. It’s $8 to $10 on a 50 pound bag,” said Jones, who planed 1015, Caballero, Cimarron, white and red onions. “But it’s not like A.B. (Foster) used to because everything’s so expensive.”
He said that while the cost of fuel for irrigation has hurt growers, it also has helped within the Texas market, because high fuel prices affect the cost of shipping onions into the area.
“The freight cost is $3,000 to $4,000 to haul a load in from California, and it’s $1,500 from the (Rio Grande) Valley, so we’re kind of in a pretty good spot here,” Jones said.
The cantaloupe harvest will get underway in early July, and Jones said prices also are good in that market.
“What’s helped cantaloupes is all the rain in California caused late planting,” said Jones, who planted 150 acres this year.
“They’re blooming right now,” he said. “The (early) hot weather is really not that good, because it can dry them out too fast, but it’s not too bad. We just have to water then and keep them healthy.”
Pecos Cantaloupe remains the largest grower in the area. There were rumors that the company wasn’t going to plant cantaloupes either this year after opting not to grow onions, but Taylor said, “We’ve got the same amount as we’ve always had.”
He said they have 900 acres planted, and “It looks real good right now. We’ll be ready right around the first of July.”
“Cantaloupes like hot and dry weather, so they’re doing real good,” Taylor added.
The cantaloupe harvest will get underway this year about four weeks before the annual Pecos Cantaloupe Festival. It began 20 years ago in late July, but was combined with the Night in Old Pecos events a few years later due to a lack of volunteers. However, for the past several years, the event has taken place a week before the first cantaloupes have come in from the field.
The new date will put the festival towards the second half of the 2006 harvest season, and while there will still be plenty of melons to go around, Jones said the numbers are down from years past.
“I remember when the whole area used to be planted in cantaloupes,” he said. “Now there’s only about 1,000 acres.”
Top grads names for Pecos, Balmorhea seniors
A young lady who was named first runner-up in the Annual Golden Girl Pageant last year and a co-winner of the Pecos Area Chamber of Commerce Student of the Year will give the Valedictorian Address during the Pecos High School commencement ceremonies.
Evelyn Flores will be speaking to all attendees at the Pecos High School graduation as Valedictorian, while Amanda Natividad will be giving the Salutatorian Address.
Graduation ceremonies are scheduled for 7:30 p.m., Friday evening, at the Pecos High School New Gym.
Meanwhile, graduation ceremonies for Balmorhea High School also are scheduled for Friday night, starting at 7 p.m. in the old Balmorhea ISD gymnasium.
J.B. Moore will be delivering the valedictorian address for the Class of 2006 in Balmorhea, while Joel Natividad will deliver the salutatorian speech.
Graduation rehearsal for PHS students is set for 10 a.m., Friday. All graduating seniors need to be at the new gym by 9:45 a.m.
That evening all graduating seniors are asked to report to the New Gym by 7 p.m.
Questions regarding rehearsal or ceremonies may be directed to Steve Lucas at Pecos High School, 447-7222.
Flores is the daughter of Jerry and Carmen Dominguez and Eliazer and Alma Flores.
She has been a cheerleader for five years, played golf for six, and was a member of the Mighty Eagle Band for seven.
Flores was a member of the Spanish Club for one year and the Latin Club for three where she has served as President for the last two years. She is a part of the UIL Math team competing in calculator and general math and has served as stage manager for the one-act play for the past two years.
Flores is vice president of the National Honor Society, served as Teacher Committee Chairman, is currently the Scrapbook Committee Chairman for the Student Council and has been a part of DECA for the last three years.
She has been on the Pecos Youth Advisory for two years where she is vice-president, has participated with Christmas for Kids for the last five years; is a lector and part of the youth choir at Santa Rosa.
Natividad is the daughter of Larry and Debra Martinez and Eugene and Margie Natividad.
Natividad was Drum Major for the Pecos Eagle Band from 2004-2006; Band Sweetheart 2006; a member of the National Honor Society from 2004-2006; UIL 2002-2003, 2005-2006; named to Who’s Who Among American High School Students; student council 2003-2005; Presidential Plus Scholarship Recipient; Carr Academic Scholarship Recipient; Kodak Young Leaders Award (2005); President’s Outstanding Academic Excellent Award (2006) and the Pecos Rotary Club Scholarship Recipient.
Along with Flores and Natividad, the other top graduates for this year’s PHS senior class include Jazmine H. Munoz, Ashley L. Orona, Jessica Gonzales, Roxxievette Mendoza, Candice M. Moore, Roger L. Quintana, John M. Elliot, Lindsey R. Shaw and Vanessa Valeriano.
Sheriff honored for activities by Adult Protective Services
Taking care of the elderly in the community has been a concern to an individual who received an award from the Adult Protective Services recently.
Reeves County Sheriff Arnulfo “Andy” Gomez was honored Tuesday in the Reeves County Sheriff’s Office classroom, with an award and a reception held by Adult Protective Services. The agency is saying thank you to agencies and citizens who have provided extraordinary care and service to APS clients during the past year.
Designated as “APS Honors,” the awards are a special project of two volunteer boards and the Region 2/9 APS staff.
Gomez is one of 19 recipients throughout the region.
He has worked closely with Adult Protective Services in meeting special needs of elderly and disabled clients, according to Tommy Reed, Regional Director, Adult Protective Services, Region 2/9.
The Region 9 Adult Protective Services Advisory Board (Midland/Odessa) and the APS Partners, Inc. Board (Abilene) are non-profit organizations whose mission is to support the Adult Protective Services caseworkers and clients in the region. These volunteer boards conduct fundraising and develop special projects to assist the elderly and persons with disabilities who are served through the Adult Protective Services Program.
“Gomez is part of the original advisory board,” said Reed. “He had been going to meetings in Abilene about 12-13 years ago, when I was in Abilene.”
Gomez readily assists APS workers with home visits in difficult situations, is ready to go the second mile to find solutions to complex problems, understands the sparse resources of West Texas and uses creativity to solve problems and take care of citizens, according to Adult Protective Services.
“We know our clients are best served when the private and public sectors work together,” said Reed. “We value our community partnerships and APS Honors is an opportunity for us to recognize and thank individuals and agencies for outstanding efforts,” he said.
Sheriff Gomez credited his excellent staff for the award.
“It’s because of them that we are able to do so many things for the community and to help as much as we can,” he said. “I have an excellent staff, who is always ready and willing to do anything to help,” he said.
Gomez thanked Flo Salcido, who is the local caseworker/investigator. “She really has a difficult job, because it is not always easy dealing with the elderly,” said Gomez. “She does an excellent job and is very kind and caring, she goes out of her way to help them.”
Also on hand for the special reception was Sandi Saringer, resource and external relations for APS; Debbie Robinson, supervisor out of Big Spring, who supervises several counties and workers; Flo Salcido and Tommy Reed.
Adult Protective Services is a program of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. The APS mission is to protect the elderly and persons with disabilities from abuse, neglect, and exploitation by working with clients, families, and communities.
State approval immanent for 80 mph speed limit
Approval was expected on Thursday from state transportation officials on raising the speed limit on West Texas interstate highways in 10 counties to 80 mph. But drivers in northern Reeves and Ward counties may not see many of the new 80 mph highway signs in place for a while, due to ongoing construction on Interstate 20 in both counties.
State officials were expected to approve the increase of 5 mph in Reeves and eight other counties and of 10 mph in Ward County, under a law passed last year by the Texas Legislature. It would be the highest posted speed limit in the country.
The law, sponsored by area Rep. Pete Gallego (D-Alpine), allows speed limits to be raised on interstates in counties with no more than 15 people per square mile. The change follows a bill Gallego sponsored five years ago that raised speed limits on all qualifying rural highways to 75 mph in counties with no more than 10 people per square mile.
And while state officials say the roads can accommodate it, safety and energy conservation advocates warn it will cost lives and hit drivers in the wallet at a time of spiking fuel prices.
"We studied it," said Transportation Commission Chairman Ric Williamson. "These are parts of the state where higher speeds is a safe decision."
The 80 mph limit will be confined to 10 mostly rural counties in West Texas: a 432-mile stretch of Interstate 10 between El Paso and Kerrville, and 89 miles of Interstate 20 from east of Monahans to the I-10 interchange at the cusp of the Jeff Davis Mountains.
However, while approval was expected on Thursday, work on repaving 21 miles of I-20 between Pyote and the Monahans Sandhills remains ongoing, and work is scheduled to begin on June 19 to repave 15 miles of the interstate between the Pecos River and FM 896 in Reeves County. The construction zones, to fix ongoing problems with rutted pavement, will keep area speed limits below their normal maximums through much of the summer.
Drivers in southern Reeves County on I-10 and on I-20 in the western part of the county should see the new speed limit take effect earlier, following evaluation of the roads by the Texas Department of Transportation.
While drivers on I-10 can blow by the sleepy town of Sonora, highway safety advocates warn the higher speeds will cause more fatal crashes.
"This will result in more deaths. The research is pretty clear about that," said Russ Rader, spokesman for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. "You get someplace faster but at what cost?"
"You can repeal the speed limit law, but you can't repeal the law of physics. People don't survive crashes at these excessive speeds," said Tom "Smitty" Smith, Texas director of the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen.
But state transportation officials say they wouldn't raise the limits if they believed it was a safety hazard.
The Legislature first approved raising the speed limit from 70 to 75 in 1999, then approved the bump to 80 by a unanimous vote last year.
Mike Behrens, executive director of the state transportation agency, noted the new speed limit will affect only a fraction of the 70,000 highway miles in the state.
The affected roads are mostly straight as they shoot through the West Texas flatlands and get little traffic compared to other parts of the state.
Agency studies found 85 percent of drivers on those highways are already cruising between 76-79 mph, said Carol Ranson, deputy director for traffic operations.
"We feel the speeds are safe for the driving public," Ranson said.
But Rader said many drivers push beyond the speed limit if they can do it without getting a ticket. Drivers cruising at 80-85 now are likely to push to 90 if they can, he said.
As for those high gasoline costs, the Department of Energy says that gas mileage decreases rapidly after 60 mph. The government estimates that every 5 mph over 60 costs drivers an extra 20 cents per gallon.
Williamson said the state isn't responsible for drivers "who choose to consume their wealth."
Congress set a national 55 mph speed limit in the 1970s but it was abolished in 1995. Thirteen states have speed limits of 75 or higher on some roads.
Pecos, Balmorhea hosting Memorial weekend events
Plenty of food, fun and games are planned for this weekend both in Pecos and Balmorhea.
Town of Pecos City is invited everyone out to the 2nd Annual Memorial Day Concert, scheduled to begin at noon Saturday at Maxey Park.
Master of ceremonies will be Tom Rivera, who will give the welcoming address followed by the Posting of the Colors by the 5th Battalion, 52nd Air Defense Artillery out of Fort Bliss.
The National Anthem will be sung by Skye Gabaldon; invocation by Ron Garcia and introduction of guests by Rivera.
Welcoming remarks will be made by the new Town of Pecos City Mayor R.L. “Dick” Alligood.
Special entertainments will be provided by La Familia Ornelas, Ricky Barreno-D.J., Local Christian Band and Leon Norteno.
Food booths will be set up offering a variety of food products and games are planned throughout the day.
In Balmorhea, the Annual Memorial Day Festival, hosted by Keep Balmorhea Beautiful, will take place in Downtown Balmorhea this Saturday and Sunday, May 27-28.
Food and novelty vendors will be featured, games the 2nd Annual Jerry Ray Mendoza Memorial Softball Tournament and the Fajita Cookoff.
D.J.’s will play everyone’s favorite music from 1-9 p.m. and a street dance will follow from 9 p.m. until 1 a.m., with Wayne West and Grupo Potrero.
Food booth and festival information call 432-940-0590.
Avila to graduate from Odessa High
Samuel M. Avila will be graduating from Odessa High School on Saturday, May 27.
He will be leaving to the U.S. Navy in July.
Avila is the son of Raymond and Esther Avila of Odessa.
He is the grandson of Benny and Gloria Avila of Barstow.
Franco graduates from kindergarten
Taylor Renaee Franco graduated from Cullender Kindergarten during a graduation ceremony scheduled for 10 a.m., Wednesday, May 24.
The ceremony was held at Jerry Larned Multi-Purpose Complex in Monahans.
A reception was held following the graduation ceremony.
She is the daughter of Cecilia Rodriguez and Trey Franco of Monahans and has one sister, Callie.
Tredaway receives degree from Tech
Shanna Lyn Tredaway, a 2002 graduate of Pecos High School, graduated May 13, from Texas Tech University during the commencement ceremony held in the United Spirit Arena in Lubbock.
She received a Bachelor of Science degree in Human Development and Family Studies.
Tredaway is currently enrolled in the graduate program at Texas Tech University, where she is pursuing a teaching certificate in grades Pre-K through Fourth, as well as a Master’s Degree in Elementary Education.
She is the daughter of Steve and Suan Cross of Midlothian, formerly of Barstow.
Grandparents are Betty and Allan Cunningham of San Angelo and Pecos.
York M. "Smokey" Briggs, Publisher
324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 432-445-5475, FAX 432-445-4321
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