Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
County, feds reach $200 million RCDC III deal
Three years after its completion, Reeves County has secured a contract with the U.S. Bureau of Prisons to house federal inmates at the Reeves County Detention Center III unit, under a 10-year, $200 million agreement.
The Bureau of Prisons agreed last week to utilize 1,400 beds at the RCDC III, an effort that has been ongoing by both local and federal officials to secure a long-term deal for the $40 million unit, which has been housing prisoners under a contract with the State of Arizona since February of 2004.
Congressman Henry Bonilla (R-San Antonio) applauded the Bureau of Prison’s decision to award a contract to utilize 1,400 beds in Unit 3 of the Reeves County Detention Center (RCDC III).
“The Reeves County Detention Center in Pecos is a first-rate prison facility and I am glad these empty beds will now be utilized to alleviate our overcrowded prison system,” Bonilla said in a statement issued last Thursday. “More importantly, this decision will mean more jobs and revenue for the citizens of Reeves County.”
“For the past 14 years, Henry Bonilla has been our voice in Washington. He has been a partner in every success and an essential advocate every time we faced a challenge,” said Reeves County Judge Jimmy Galindo. “This week’s decision by the BOP to award a contract filling 1,400 beds in Unit 3 would not have been possible without Congressman Bonilla’s support. We are fortunate to have Representative Bonilla as our champion in Congress and know his continuing support will be essential in all our future challenges."
The solicitation is a 10-year award with a base period of four years and three 2-year renewals.
“This is a total of a 10 year award,” said Galindo.
The solicitation is worth $200 million and the contract will employ over 200 people.
The deal will result in both an expansion of the RCDC III unit by over 500 beds from its original 960-bed capacity, as well as boosting pay scales for guards and other workers at the RCDC III unit up to the federally-mandated rates paid for similar positions in the RCDC I and II units.
The county built RCDC III in 2002 and 2003, after successfully expanding the I and II units between 1986 and 2001 from a 300-bed prison to a two-unit facility housing over 2,100 BOP inmates.
Reeves County entered into an agreement with Wackenhut Corp., in November 2003 and now GEO Group, to manage all three units at the prison, and to help find inmates for RCDC III. Since 2004, RCDC III has operated as a separate entity from the RCDC I and II units, due to its handling of different inmates.
In his speech on immigration earlier this month, President Bush said the government would end its “catch and release” program for illegal immigrants, a move that would require additional bed space for low-risk federal inmates.
According to the solicitation the Reeves County Detention Center III could potentially begin bringing in inmates within 120 days. Reeves County’s current one-year contract with the State of Arizona expires on July 1. The county had been housing up to 864 inmates under the terms of the agreement.
Alligood takes oath as mayor between review of pool, parks
Parks and recreation issues were dealt with on both sides of the swearing in of a new mayor and returning council members on Thursday, during the town of Pecos City Council’s regular meeting at City Hall.
Mayor Dot Stafford presided over a presentation by Parks Department Director Tom Rivera on repairs made to the city swimming pool at Maxey Park as her final act as mayor, while Dick Alligood heard Rivera and Martin Arreguy outline the city’s plans for future park development as his first act after taking the oath of office.
Alligood defeated Stafford in her bid for a third straight two-year term and sixth term overall in the May 13 city election. Council members Angelica Valenzuela and Michael Benavides also were sworn into office on Thursday, after they won new two-year terms.
“I just want you to know I’ll miss you very much,” Stafford said in her closing remarks to the council and city officials. “It’s been difficult at times, and there are instances where I wished I was someplace else, but I want you to know how much I appreciate working with you.”
“They say dynamite comes in big packages, but this woman didn’t back down from any of the biggest mad dogs in the county,” said mayor pro-tem Gerald Tellez, who is now the longest-serving member on the city council. City Manager Joseph Torres also presented a plaque and flowers to Stafford, for her years of service to the city.
“I do appreciate the staff you have put together,” said Alligood following his swearing in by city secretary Connie Levario. “I really look forward to getting started together, and it’s all back to you.”
“I’ll be available if you need me,” said Stafford. “I’m very proud of the many, many accomplishments we’ve made.”
“I will be calling on you. Don’t think I won’t,” Alligood said.
Before the swearing-in ceremony, Rivera presented a slide show on work done to fix up the pool in time for its opening this past weekend. He said when the pool was drained three months ago, cracks and chips in the pool’s 4-year-old liner were discovered.
“Roger Crawford (Odessa Parks and Recreation Director) came down and looked at it and made some suggestions,” Rivera said. The liner had been installed four years ago at a cost of $119,000 in the 68-year-old pool to fix an earlier problem with cracks and leaks, but that work carried only a one-year warrantee.
Rivera said this time, instead of hiring an outside company to do the work, the city kept the repair project in-house. “All the departments worked together to get this thing fixed,” Rivera said, adding that the effort saved the city about $35,000.”
“The engineering department has really been instrumental,’ added city manager Joseph Torres. He said the city crews were able to follow the plans done by public works director Edgardo Madrid, which limited the cost to $5,500 in materials.
However, Rivera said the repair work on the pool could only continue for so long.
“Eventually we will have to shut the athletic pool down, just the way we had to shut the other pool at the park down and the one on the east side,” he said. “Those other pools only lasted about 15 years before we had to fill them in.”
Meanwhile, a splash park for younger children is the first plan for improving Maxey Park that Rivera and other city officials have in mind, as part of their overall park improvement program.
“We’ve come up with 13 priorities, most of which we already meet,” Rivera said, explaining that the priorities were part of a master plan for the parks the city has to submit to the state in order to qualify for grant funds. The city is working with its grant writer, Carlos Colina-Vargas, in getting the plan ready to submit to the state by the end of June.
“Until we have the master plan approved by the state, we can’t get any funds,” Rivera said. “We need to submit the plan by July 1 in order to qualify for a $500,000 grant.”
The splash park would replace the current miniature golf course on the east side of the park, while a state-mandated two acre area for nature conservation would come out of the rockpile area located just to the south of the miniature golf course.
Councilman Danny Rodriguez questioned the use of that area for the nature conservation site, and Rivera said an alternate location near the former zebra cage at the east end of the soccer field could be considered.
“The eventual plans will be up to you all,” Rivera said. “The first priority is to concentrate on the splash park.”
Councilman Frank Sanchez also asked Rivera about the situation at the Matta-Rodriguez Skateboard Park, where a fence had to be erected three months ago to combat graffiti problems at the facility, which was dedicated only a year ago.
“There’s not as much trouble as there use to be,” said Rivera. He added that the city it looking at additional lighting and camera to be placed at the site in order to identify those committing the vandalism.
P-B-T, Balmorhea graduate ’06 classes
Seniors in the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah and Balmorhea ISDs received their diplomas Friday night, as graduation ceremonies for the Classes of 2006 in both districts were held before crowds at the Pecos High School and Balmorhea ISD gymnasiums.
Dr. Vic Morgan, president of Sul Ross State University, was the guest speaker for this year’s PHS graduation, while former Balmorhea ISD teacher Jim Meredith delivered the guest speech to students and parents there.
“I was one of those late-bloomers,” said Morgan, who told the group that when he missed school, his teachers would send his parents a thank you note.
“I wasn’t in the top half of my class, which is why I find it admirable in those that are,” said Morgan. “I wasn’t a very good student until later in life, when I decided to go to college, received my BA degree, then my Ph and then my doctorate,” he said.
Morgan said that it is never too late to learn and the more you learn, the more you want to learn.
Morgan quoted Yogi Berra, who once said, “My future was ahead of me.”
“That’s the way it was with me, my future was ahead of me,” said Morgan.
He told the graduating class to stand up and give the teachers and administrators a round of applause for all their hard work in preparing them for the future.
“It’s important to grow and learn, important to the future and to future relationships,” said Morgan.
Valedictorian Evelyn Flores made a heartfelt speech during the special event, first thanking God, thanking her parents, outlining goals and encouraging everyone to follow their dreams.
In English, Flores thanked her stepfather, Jerry Dominguez, for being the best father figure a stepchild could ask for.
Speaking in Spanish, to both her parents, she first thanked her mother, Carmen Dominguez, for having her and for always allowing her to follow her dreams.
“In good times and bad, you have always been there for me and it’s because of you that I have been able to be who I am,” said Flores.
Flores then thanked her father, Eliazer Flores, for always being there for her despite the miles.
“It’s because of you that I am that little girl, that you are so proud of and that you boast about so much,” said Flores.
Flores talked to the graduates and the assembled group about goals and dreams.
She plans to attend college and become an architect.
Amanda Natividad gave the Salutatorian address during the ceremonies. She is the daughter of Larry and Debra Martinez and Eugene and Margie Natividad.
In Balmorhea, Meredith talked about deciding to travel to Spain to better learn Spanish while in college, and from what he saw there, deciding to learn horse training when he returned to the U.S. to attend Sul Ross State University.
“Don’t let anyone tell you what to do,” he told the graduates. “Have the courage to live your own life and follow your heart.”
In addition to the valedictorian and salutatorian speeches y J.B. Moore and Joel Natividad, scholarship awards were also handed out to students during Friday’s commencement ceremony.
Moore received the Floyd Estrada Memorial Scholarship, the West Texas National Bank Scholarship and the Reeves County Sheriff’s Posse Scholarship, while Natividad earned the Jerry Ray Machuca Scholarship, the Reeves County Juvenile Probation Office Scholarship, the Sul Ross Freshman Leadership Scholarship and the GEO Group/RCDC Scholarship. Both also received the Balmorhea Senior Scholarship, along with A.J. Garcia, Alexis Lozano and Angie Garcia.
Justin Machuca received the C.T. Gray Memorial Scholarship; Randy Galindo received the Balmorhea Spanish Club Scholarship and Michael Hernandez and Sabrina Lopez received the Reeves County Detention Center Scholarships. Hernandez was also given a $6,000 track scholarship to attend Lubbock Christian University to run cross country and distance races in the fall.
City outlines school zone upgrade plan
Town of Pecos City Council members were given the outline of costs and plans to improve school zone safety, and approved an oil and gas lease proposal they hope will bring in some added revenue, during their regular meeting on Thursday at City Hall.
City street maintenance supervisor Martin Arreguy presented the council with plans for improved safety zones around Pecos Kindergarten, after principal Robert Garrett told the council last month vehicles were speeding in and around the school at 10th and Hickory streets.
Arreguy said the project would cost $26,495 for putting in new signs, crosswalks and school zone street warnings around the campus. “Just for the materials for this part of the project alone is $15,324.
Arreguy said while he hoped to have the work done by the time school resumes on Aug. 21, he would talk with school officials to see if they wanted to help out financially.
“It’s not a budget item,” he told the council. “We’ll really have to get together with the school district and see if we can bang out something, because it benefits both parties.”
He added that the state’s Safe Routes to School grant program would require the city and school district to work together on acquiring funds for improvement at all the district’s campuses. The work would be carried out by the Texas Department of Transportation.
“It would give us two miles of sidewalks around the schools,” Arreguy said. “They would even design school drop zones.”
The bid for an oil and gas lease accepted by the council was for on three city properties, and came from Ramsey Petroleum. Mayor Dot Stafford said the company was one of several bidders for the leases, two of which are in Section 10 and one in Section 14 of the H & GN Railroad Co. Survey. High oil and natural gas prices since 2000 have caused sharp increases in mineral valuations for Reeves County, the Reeves County Hospital District and the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD, but until now, the city has seen little rise in their mineral valuations, due to the lack of drilling on city-owned land.
“The bids are the same as far as royalty and terms,” said city attorney Scott Johnson, who added that overall, Ramsey’s bid of a $28.56 bonus consideration per mineral acre and a 3/16 royalty was the best overall offer. However, he asked the council to delay full approval until he could talk to the company about reducing the five-year contract to a three-year offer.
“If there’s anything significant, we’ll put it that in the packet as an action item for the council,” Johnson said.
In other action, the council agreed to advertise for bids on audit services; approved $465,671 in accounts payable for April and the April tax collections of $27,420.
Suit, dispute, lands plans for golf course in rough
A proposed expansion of the Reeves County Golf Course to a full 18-hole layout should be tied to action on planned improvements to the Buck Jackson Rodeo Arena and Reeves County Civic Center though the city-county venue tax plan, Town of Pecos City Council members said Thursday evening.
The council was presented a proposal to deed over 27.39 acres of land south of the golf course to Reeves County, for the construction of four new holes to go along with the existing 14-hole layout. However, council members voted to table the issue pending new talks with county officials over plans for the stalled venue tax board, and other disputes between the two governing entities.
“I recommend we talk to the county and see if they can come to the table and negotiate,” said Dick Alligood, who handled the golf course question and a review of the city’s parks development plan as his first items after being sworn in as the city’s new mayor.
The land in question formerly served as part of the city’s landfill, and cleaning up waste left on the site was part of the talks between the city and county on deeding over the land for use by the golf course, according to Martin Arreguy, who supervises the city’s clean-up efforts.
“We had a meeting with Peter Mora (golf course manager) and Russ Salcido (county road and bridge supervisor) and we assessed the debris,” Arreguy told the council. “This has been accumulating for over 20 years, and both the city and county are responsible for the dumping.”
Arreguy said three proposals were made, including the one that would deed the land to the county. Under that, debris like old wood and other compostable items would be removed, while more permanent debris such as concrete blocks would be used to build up berms and be landscaped into the four new holes. The other options were for the city and county to simply clean up their own debris on-site, or to hire a private contractor to do the work.
“If we did deed it over to the county to make it an 18-hole course it would mean more golfers and more heads in beds,” said Arreguy, while Ken Winkles of the Pecos Men’s Golf Association later told the council that the number of tournaments and the number of teams entered in those tournaments could be expanded if there were more holes to play on.
“There’s really no other (surrounding) property we can go to,” said Mora, who was the only county representative at the meeting. “We can go to changing the (hole) numbers on the course, but changing the layout isn’t an option.”
Mora said if the land was deeded over, county crews could begin work on the course following the West of the Pecos Rodeo. He added that a well is being drilled on the northwest side of the course’s land to supply water to the course, and it could be used on the additional holes.
Use of city water on the golf course has been one of the many issues the city and county have argued over since 2004, and it was one of the problems brought up by council members and city officials, along with the lawsuit filed by Reeves County against the Town of Pecos City over the sharp increase in water rates approved by the council last year. The city also eliminated a $5 flat rate fee for the golf course water meter, and city manager Joseph Torres said, “Doing away with that $5 meter put a cost burden on their operation.”
“Until we get answers on these key points, I’m not comfortable with deeding over the land,” said councilwoman Angelica Valenzuela.
“There are too many issues unanswered,” said councilman Danny Rodriguez. “I feel like it’s a great idea, but there are so many issues unanswered.
“We’re not getting any co-operation from the other side. All we’re getting is hundreds of thousands of dollars in water litigation,” said city attorney Scott Johnson.
Both Alligood and outgoing mayor Dot Stafford mentioned the problems between the city and county with the venue tax board. The city has pushed for an agreement so board members could be selected, but county judge Jimmy Galindo has balked at any action, saying he wanted to have better financial information about who would guarantee the bonds for the project, if for some reason the 2 percent tax on motel room rates that would finance any venue tax construction came up short of expectations.
Voters approved creation of the tax in May of last year, and during her farewell remarks, Stafford noted that the vote would be voided if no action was taken by the end of this month. However, Johnson said that he understood that the city has not begun collecting the 2 percent tax yet, and if that was the case, the May 31 deadline to appoint a venue tax board may not apply.
Johnson said on Tuesday he had not yet had time to investigate whether the failure to collect the venue tax would allow the May 2005 vote to create a venue tax law to remain in force after Wednesday.
Council members were told the city and county have reached an agreement to do renovation work on the rodeo’s south stands over a three-year period. Emergency work had to be done on the stands in 2004 when severe termite damage was found in the supports, but a full renovation of the arena and the adjacent Civic Center would come out of the venue tax funds.
Council members also asked Mora for a more complete breakdown on the costs at the golf course, and for the costs to expand the facility if the land is deeded over. Mora said the golf course has relied on both $267,000 in county funding and the support of outside groups raising funds to make its budget, but he didn’t have an exact breakdown on expenses.
“Once we do open and get the holes to 18, you can change your structure and fees,” he said.
Councilman Michael Benavides, who earlier noted that Mora had expanded the course from 11 to 14 holes over the past two years, was the only council member to vote against tabling the issue until a later date.
“Lots of groups have had to wait for things because the local entities have not been able to work together,” said Pecos Chamber of Commerce Tourism Committee member Bill Oglesby, who added that the golf course and adjacent Maxey Park and Zoo were among the few things Pecos can use to promote year-round tourism.
Out of gas plane lands on highway
A family of three were forced to make an unplanned stop on a highway northwest of Pecos Sunday afternoon after it ran out of fuel on the way from San Diego to Midland.
Law enforcement officials were contacted about 3 p.m. Sunday that the Cessna 210, piloted by Mike L. Murray, was attempting to make an emergency landing 10 miles north of Pecos.
The initial report said the single-engine plane was attempting to land on U.S. 285, but the landing actually occurred on the Duval Road (FM 2119), about six miles northwest of town.
“We went out there with 10 gallons of gas and they were then able to fly into the airport,” said Pecos Municipal Airport manager James Blanchard. The plane, with Murray, his wife and child on board, was then able to refuel and continue the final 90 miles to Midland.
Texas Department of Public Safety officers were also called to the scene, along with city emergency crews, which were cancelled after the plane was able to land safely on the lightly traveled highway. DPS Sgt. Richard Jacobs handled the reporting of the landing, which was reported to the Federal Aviation Administration’s San Angelo regional office.
Summer School workshop Thursday
Parents of Summer School students in grades K-8th are invited to attend a Parental Workshop that will be presented by Region 18 at Crockett Middle School Library. The workshop will be on Thursday, June 1.
Time of the workshop will be from noon until 1:30 p.m.
Refreshments will be served and babysitting will be provided.
York M. "Smokey" Briggs, Publisher
324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 432-445-5475, FAX 432-445-4321
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