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Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

One dead, one critical after Friday crash

One young man died and another is listed in critical condition at an Odessa hospital following a traffic accident that occurred at 11:36 p.m., Friday, July 11.

Emergency personnel, including ambulance, police, fire and rescue were dispatched to the 1300 block of East 3rd Street in reference to a two-vehicle accident. Officers Eric Mendoza and Sgt. Armando Granado, who were already at the location, assisted Officer Ricardo Martinez.

Officer Martinez reported that he immediately observed a maroon Ford pickup truck stopped in the middle of the right side of the roadway, which had sustained extensive damage to the front bumper area. This truck was facing east and he stated that he then observed a red 1993 Nissan Altima stopped in the middle the roadway in front of the Ford truck.

The Altima had sustained extensive damage to the driver’s side door area. Sgt. Granado said that the driver of the Altima was deceased, and the front passenger was transported to the hospital.

Jesus Mendoza, formerly of Pecos and now living in Midland, and the driver of the pickup stated that he was traveling east in the 1300 block of E. 3rd Street in his truck with his wife, Imelda, and noticed that a vehicle which was traveling west in front of them at a high rate of speed attempted to pass another vehicle on the right hand side.

Mendoza stated that the vehicle lost control trying to pass the other vehicle and started to skid towards him. Mendoza stated that he yelled out to his wife to “hold on” because the vehicle was going to hit them.

He stated that the driver’s side of the Altima struck his truck on the front bumper.

The police report indicates that the Altima was traveling east bound on the 1300 block of E. 3rd, while the pickup truck was westbound on the 1400 block of E. 3rd, when the Altima lost control and went into a skid striking the truck in the front bumper area, with the left side of the car, causing extensive damage to both vehicles.

Pronounced dead at the scene was the driver of the Altima, Joe Angel Hernandez, 22, of Pecos.

Injured was his passenger, Mike C. Garcia, 23, of Pecos, who is currently in an Odessa Hospital.

A witness identified as Rodrick Villanueva, 23, of Pecos, said he was traveling west bound, at about 60 miles an hour, when he observed the Nissan Altima come up on him at a high rate of speed. Villanueva said that the Nissan Altima was traveling at least 90 miles per hour, and that it had passed him on the right side at a high rate of speed and that he also lost control where he had to brake to keep from hitting the vehicle.

Villanueva said that he then saw the Nissan Altima lose control on the side of the road and came back on the roadway crossing in to the east bound lane and striking the Ford pickup.

Justice of the Peace Jim Riley was contacted and arrived a short time later pronouncing Joe Angel Hernandez Jr. dead at 1:27.m., on July 12.

“An investigation is continuing in to this accident,” said Town of Pecos City Police Chief Clay McKinney.

Two men dead in Ward County collision

Two Odessa men lost their lives in a three-vehicle accident at Texas 18 and Farm Market 1776 on Friday, July 11. Oscar Sotelo Torres, 63, and Jeremy Minjarez Torrez, 21, both of Odessa, were pronounced dead at the scene by Ward County Judge Greg Holly.

According to information from the Department of Public Safety, a 1988 Chevrolet Pickup driven by Oscar Sotelo Torrres was eastbound on FM 1776, when the driver disregarded a stop sign. His vehicle pulled into the pathway of a 2003 Kenworth tractor driven by Marcus Genison Taylor of Odessa. The tractor was towing a 1995 tanker filled with diesel. The driver of the tractor veered left trying to avoid a collision but struck the pickup in the left side. The tractor continued to travel southeast into the center median, where it jackknifed.

Jeremy Minjarez Torres, passenger in the pickup truck, left the vehicle and attempted to direct traffic. Phillip Gonzales, Jr. of Monahans was driving southbound in a 2003 Chevrolet pick up. He was unable to see the scene of the accident and struck and killed Torres in the roadway.

The accident was investigated by DPS Troopers John David Moya, Chris Ryan and Richard Jacobs.

Killer bees attack 5 on 5th St.

Four Town of Pecos City employees and and an elderly resident were taken to Reeves County Hospital Thursday afternoon, suffering from bee stings.

The bees attacked at 4:30 p.m., Thursday, at 520 W. 5th Street, when Town of Pecos City employees were attempting to demolish an abandoned home.

“They started tearing it down when they found two big swarms of bees,” said Reeves County Emergency Coordinator Ricky Herrera.

Herrera said that he was pretty sure the bees were Africanized.

The four city employees that were injured in the incident were Bobby Lara, supervisor; and members of the construction crew, Michael Baca, Manuel Navarrete and Israel Maruffo.

The city employees were released from Reeves County Hospital after treatment for the bee stings, according to city manager Joseph Torres.

“An elderly man was also stung by the bees and taken to the hospital,” said Herrera.

Herrera said that they were unable to collect the 50 specimens required to send to A&M to get them analyzed.

“We weren’t able to get the specimens because of the demolition and all the debris,” said Herrera. “Also our main concern was exterminating them because they were all over the neighborhood and we didn’t want anyone else to get stung,” he said.

Herrera said that at that point their main concern was the residents in the community.

“They were all over and we sure didn’t want children to get stung or anybody else,” he said.

Herrera said that from his experience with bees he could tell that these were Africanized.

“We have had some for the past two years in Reeves County so this should come as no surprise,” said Herrera.

Africanized honey bees (AHB), known colloquially as "killer bees", are hybrids of the African honey bee.

The Africanized bee in the western hemisphere descended from 26 Tanzanian queen bees accidentally released by a replacement bee-keeper in 1957 near Rio Claro, São Paulo State in the southeast of Brazil from hives operated by biologist Warwick E. Kerr, who had interbred honey bees from Europe and southern Africa.

Hives containing these particular queens were noted to be especially defensive. Kerr was attempting to breed a strain of bees that would be better adapted to tropical conditions (i.e., more productive) than the European bees used in North America and southern South America. The hives from which the bees were released had special excluder grates which were in place to prevent the larger queen bees from getting out but to allow the drones free access to mate with the queen. Unfortunately, following the accidental release, the African queens eventually mated with local drones, and their descendants have since spread throughout the Americas.

“These bees are far more aggressive,” said Herrera. “We have had them in Reeves County for the past two years and are becoming more common,” he said.

Pecos sales tax $’s still gushing

July’s sales tax rebate check for the Town of Pecos City showed a smaller increase than in recent months, but still was up by over 20 percent from the same period a year ago, according to figures released last week by Texas Comptroller Susan Combs’ office.

Pecos’ July check, based on sales during May and the city’s 1-cent share of Texas’ 8-cent sales tax, came to $151,354, an increase of 22.26 percent over the $123,787 rebate check the city received last July. Of this month’s total, $25,226, goes to the Pecos Economic Development Corp. for its operations.

The increase in July’s rebate check was less than half the average increase for the first seven months of 2008. Pecos has received $1,122,092 back from the comptroller in tax rebates this year, 48.61 percent above the $755,033 received between January and July of 2007. The decline is due to the sharp increases in tax rebates from increased oil and natural gas drilling beginning in the spring of a year ago.

The sales tax rebate check for Balmorhea this month almost doubled from a year ago, while Toyah’s July check was down by over a quarter from last year, but it’s overall total for 2008 is still up from 2007’s figures.

Balmorhea received a July check for $3,861, up 85.20 percent from last year. Overall, the city has gotten $22,212 from its 1-cent sales tax this year, up 29.7 percent from the $17,126 sent out by Combs’ office in 2007. Toyah’s check this month for $870 was a drop of 28.45 percent from last July’s $1,216, but the $5,792 received overall in 2008 is up 14.39 percent from last year’s seven-month total of $5,063..

The Reeves County Hospital District also showed a significant increase in its tax rebate check from last July, though like Pecos, it’s increase for the month was well below its average for the year.

The hospital’s tax rebate brought in $97,454 this month, up 45.31 percent from last July’s $67,064. Overall for 2008, the hospital is up 77.65 percent, going from $356,659 for the first seven months of 2007 to $633,607 for the first seven months of 2008.

Rebate checks for cities in the Permian Basin and Trans-Pecos continue to show larger increases than the state as whole due to the energy drilling surge, though there were a few July declines in the comptroller‘s latest report.

Midland’s July check from its 1 1/2-cent sales tax was up 8.62 percent from last year, and at $3.14 million again was the largest single check sent out for the area. Overall for 2008, the city has seen a 10.37 percent rise in its sales tax totals. Odessa’s 1 1/4-cent share of the state’s sales tax share brought in just under $1.91 million in July, an increase of 10.34 percent, while for the year, Odessa is up 9.1 percent.

For other cities collecting the 1 1/2-cent sales tax, Alpine received a $91,720 check, which was up 37.78 percent. Overall, after seeing its check decline from 2007 during the early part of this year’s Alpine is now up 6.65 percent in tax rebates from 2007. Crane received a check for $53,380, an 11.49 percent rise, while the city is up 22.55 percent for the year. Lamesa got a $92,117 check back this month, which was up 20.41 percent, and its 2008 total is up 12.73 percent. Seminole received a check for $88,188, which was up 6.14 percent from last July, while overall, its 2008 totals are up 7.61 percent.

Among cities collecting a one-cent sales tax Kermit received $43,655 and again was one of the few cities to show a drop from last year. It’s total fell 12.05 percent from last July but remains up overall for 2008 by 13.47 percent. Wickett received a $12,561 check, up 14.25 percent this month, while the city is up 68.77 percent for the year; Wink received a check for $21,653, up 140.53 percent for the month, and the overall 2008 total is up by 102.7 percent;and Pyote, received an $717 check this month, a 33.6 percent drop from last June, but the city is still up 27.82 percent for the year.

For area cities collecting a 1 3/4-cent sales tax, Andrews received a check for $323,463, a 17.58 percent increase for the month, while its six-month total is up 14.73 percent. Marfa got a check for $18,975, which was up 3.93 percent, while for the year the city is up7.31 percent, and Van Horn got a check for $27,689, which was down 3.12 percent from a year ago. Overall, Van Horn is down 7.9 percent for 2008.

For cities collecting the maximum two-cent sales tax, Fort Stockton received $203,736 this month, up 22.38 percent, while the city is up 38.47 percent overall this year. Big Spring received $531,055, a 32.01 percent rise for the month, while overall it’s up by 6.28 percent increase for the year. Monahans received a check for $129,993, which was up 10.17 percent from last July, while the city’s increase for 2008 is 16.86 percent. Grandfalls got a $2,509 check, up 33.14 percent for the month, and the city is up 9.4 percent for the year, while Presidio received $31,334 this month from Austin, a drop of 2.93 percent from last July, while the city is down 2.68 percent for all of 2008.

Statewide, Combs’ office sent out rebate checks totaling $311.9 million, compared with the $304.1 million rebated last year. Houston’s check for $38.9 million again was the largest single check and was up 7.33 percent from last year, while Dallas’ check was next, at just under $19 million check, which increased 2.89 percent from last July.

Taxpayers on the hook for attorney fees over county-city H2O fight

$59,354.29 — that is how much the on-going water rate squabble between the city and Reeves County has cost Pecos taxpayers in attorney fees according to tabulations by City Finance Director John Philip.

The issue came up during Thursday night’s regular Town of Pecos City council meeting regarding an agenda item proposing to share the cost of a private consultant in the matter.

“The figure does not include administrative time and travel for officials traveling to Austin regarding the matter,” Philip said.

“Both the city and county have paid large sums of money to attorneys in this matter and for nothing more than to get back at each other, point fingers and stab back and forth,” Mayor Dick Alligood said. “It’s a waste.”

“There is no reason we can’t sit down and work out these issues without costing our citizens even more money,” he said.

Alligood did not have a figure for how much the County has spent for attorneys in the matter.

Rather than approve the hiring of a consultant to help work through the issue the council instead voted to call a meeting of the Mediation Committee to try to find a solution.

The committee is made up of equal members of the city and county governments, Alligood said.

In other water-related business the council voted to approve a Water Conservation Plan so that conservation measures would be ready should the area experience prolonged drought or other water shortages.

City Engineer Edgardo Madrid told the council that adoption of a conservation plan is necessary for the city to obtain the loan for the planned wastewater treatment plant.

“The plan contains both goals for the future and measures the city can enact if there is a problem,” he said.

Regarding conservation of water resources Councilman Frank Sanchez questioned whether the city should continue to sell water to companies using it in the oilfield.

Madrid told the council that 5-10 percent of the city’s daily consumption went to oilfield sales and the council took no further action.

Meeting in a planned secret session to discuss the Health and Sanitation Inspector’s position left open by long-time inspector Al Gomez’ retirement, the council then voted in open session to hire both Fire Marshall Jack Brookshire and County Health Inspector and Emergency Services Director Ricky Herrera to split the $1,200/month contract position.

“It will be part-time for each of them and they will split the check,” Alligood said. “Both are pre-certified and will be able to go right to work.”

The council also chose to use Trans Pecos Banks for the city’s deposit needs, after disqualifying a second bid by West Texas National Bank.

“There were two bids. One was not qualified,” City Secretary Crissy Barraza said.

As well, the council took some action regarding the long-overdue audit by Tracy Tarter, the CPA hired to replace long-time auditor Dan Painter of El Paso.

The council voted to have City Attorney Scott Johnson to send Tarter’s Waco-based firm a demand letter threatening legal action if the audit remained overdue.

Mounted drill team’s performance just dandy

At age 14, Alexia Mendoza is one of the older members of the West Texas Dandies, a flag team that performs at the West of the Pecos Rodeo each year. In experience, she is one of the youngest, having joined the team this year.

“It is a rush,” Mendoza said of carrying sponsor flags around the arena at top speed before each rodeo event. “Right before you are about to go, you wonder if something is going to go wrong. You have to relax, because if you are nervous, you’re going to make your horse nervous.”

Alexia and nine other girls also performed at the Big Spring rodeo this year, and are invited back next year.

“It is something the town should be proud of,” said Fay Lease, who took over the group last year from long-time director, Lisa Fernandes.

“It has been going on 20 years,” Lease said. “This year the rodeo committee asked us to do something new, so we got new outfits and new music. We started training May 29. They would practice every night until we couldn’t see any more, through rain, dust and dirt. They were so cute!”

Members are Lenora Blanchard, Gia Garland, Kelly Lease, Dakota Long, Sierra Long, Alexia Mendoza, Emily Rodriguez, Bryce Salcido, Carrie Shores and Azalee Sotelo.

The Big Spring trip was their first out-of-town performance, and they were excited to be invited back, Lease said.

The new Reeves-Loving County agent has also asked them to enter drill team competition in Abilene.

“They are so young,” Lease said. “Most of them have four more years in it. We have three new ones this year. They can do all kinds of things.”

Each girl carried a flag during the opening drill at the Pecos rodeo. One night they performed to “The Yellow Rose of Texas,” wearing a yellow rose on their hats. Yellow roses also adorned the horses’ saddle blankets.

One night they wore pink in support of breast cancer research.

“We kind of landed on top of each other one night, but people didn’t seem to mind,” she said. “They just loved it.”

A special presentation of the history of the American flag at each different phase of America’s history highlighted the rodeo’s opening ceremonies. They also posted the American and Texas flags as a singer rendered “The Star Spangled Banner.”

Mendoza said she has five horses, but rode a mare called “Chiquita” in the drills.

“It is not special training,” she said. “It just comes to horses. The first few times, they are kind of confused, but they get the hang of it.”

The drill has to be timed perfectly to keep horses from colliding, so riders listen to the music and count “like dancing steps,” Mendoza said.

She would encourage any girl who likes to ride to “go for it” and join the drill team.

“You get to experience a lot of new things with your horse, and it is just fun,” she said.

Rains bring unwelcome visitors

The welcome and rewarding rains of the past couple of weeks have brought Pecosites a veritable host of unwelcome invaders -- more mosquitos than they have seen so far this summer, and they are causing us to put on more clothes than modesty demands.

Rain events in the parched West Texas landscape invite a sudden increase in the population of the pesky little creatures, just as most gifts from Mother Nature have a good/bad result depending on your point of view.

In other words as the level of moisture on the ground increases, so does the buzzing of the tiny pests that make picnics and other outdoor pleasure ventures a risky proposition, not to mention the harassment of folks who have to work outdoors day or night.

Night, of course, is the mosquito’s busiest time as they search for what they need to sustain their lives, and anyone out and about after the sun goes down needs to take some serious precautions to deny them a landing place on their bodies.

Long sleeve shirts and trousers, which cover most of the body, are highly recommended along with just about any commercial mosquito repellant that contains Deet, which has proven highly effective in fending off the nasty little buzzers.

How to they seem to appear so quickly after a rain?

“Actually it is just their normal life cycle,” Dr. Muegge explained. Muegge, Associate Professor and Extention Entomologist for the Texas AgriLIFE Extension Service, Texas A&M System has been working here in West Texas for the past 11 years.

The female lays the eggs and they go from the egg stage to the adult stage in about a week.

It is not unnoticed that the itchy, pesky bites are all delivered by the female of the species. The male, which does not bite, gets his nourishment from flowers and has a shorter life span than the female. But even the female only lives about two weeks.

“Only females suck blood,” Dr. Muegge said. “The female needs the blood to get the proteins that she needs to produce viable eggs.”

The state of Texas has noted only four cases of West Nile virus in humans so far this year and none in horses. Happily none have proved fatal and all have been in the eastern part of the state.

“That would seem to indicate that the combination of the lack of moisture and the anti-Nile Virus vaccine have combined to hold the spread down in farm animals, “Muegge said.

It comes as a surprise to outsiders that mosquitos can be a major nuisance, let alone a health threat, in our dry climate here in West Texas. But those who live here know they can be a big problem.

Local folklorists would agree with Mark Twain’s description of mosquitos when he wrote: “Two could whip a dog and four could hold down a man.”

Consider that the Trans Pecos region is home to more than 30 different species of mosquitos and close to three inches of recent rain, and you can be sure the area has a problem.

Ricky Herrera, who doubles as the Reeves County health inspector and the Emergency Services director, said that the recent rains have increased the mosquito problem locally, but not to the point of needing special action by the county.

“Our biggest source of problems is out at Mosquito Lake, but there is really not much standing water there,” Herrera said “Standing water and high grass around people’s houses are the biggest problems right now.”

The county sends out notices to the public to dump any standing water and mow high grass as a beginning step.”

While the county owns no mosquito spraying equipment at the moment, “If it gets bad enough we make arrangements with the city of Pecos to use some of its equipment to kill off the mosquitos in the larval stage before they can fly off,” Herrera said.

“Several times the subject of buying some equipment has been discussed, but no action has been taken,” he added.

Herrera is quick to admit that mosquito management is no easy task, however, with the cooperation of citizens and officials, the mosquito threat can be drastically reduced.

Even something as seemingly harmless as animal water bowls or tanks, even a dripping faucet can aid the pests in their survival.

In water gardens a person can get some “mosquito fish” (gambusia). These little guppy-like fish thrive on the larval stage of mosquitos known in the trade as “tumblers” and “wigglers.”

After they fly off from their hatching spots, the adults love to hide in high weeds until a target comes by and they swarm up and out to engulf the unsuspecting victim.

The city of Pecos has been without a health inspector since Alfredo Gomez retired at the end of June, but Jack Brookshire has been acting in that role.

Brookshire said the city was scheduled to spray Wednesday night, and again Thursday morning for the first time this year.

“Last year was a bit wetter and we started spraying in the month of May,” he said.

“Only last week, we got our first complaints, thanks to the rain a couple of days earlier,” Brookshire said. “It usually takes about three days after a rain for the complaints to start. Now that we have more rain and more mosquitos we will be spraying more.”

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324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
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