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Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Friday, July 25, 2008

2nd person in vehicle dies from July 11 east side crash

A second person has died from injuries suffered in a two-vehicle accident that occurred on Friday, July 11 on the east side of Pecos.

Mike Garcia, 23, who was a passenger in the vehicle, died on Wednesday at Medical Center Hospital in Odessa, where he had been in critical condition since the crash two weeks ago that also claimed the life of driver Joe Angel Hernandez.

The accident occurred at 11:36 p.m., Friday, July 11, in the 1300 Block of East 3rd Street.

Emergency personnel, including ambulance, police, fire and rescue were dispatched to the to the two-vehicle accident, which involved a Ford pickup truck and a red 1993 Nissan Altima, driven by Hernandez. Police officers Eric Mendoza, Ricardo Martinez and Sgt. Armando Granado investigated the accident. They said the maroon Ford pickup truck had sustained extensive damage to the front bumper area, while 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.

The police report indicates that the Altima was traveling east bound on the 1300 block of East Third Street, while the pickup truck was westbound on the 1400 block 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.

Jesus Mendoza, formerly of Pecos and now living in Midland, and the driver of the pickup stated that he was traveling 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. Reeves County Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace Jim Riley pronounced Hernandez, 24, dead at the scene at 1:27 a.m., on July 12.

Funeral services for Garcia have been set for noon, Saturday, July 26, at Santa Rosa Catholic Church with burial in Greenwood Cemetery.

Stephens gets hearing date on fed charge

Randall Lee Stephens has been given a court-appointed lawyer and a detention hearing date for this coming Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Pecos, in connection with federal charges for failing to file as a sex offender with law enforcement authorities.

Meanwhile, presentation to a 143rd District Court grand jury of the case against Stephens for the May 6 murders of local bar owners Rick and A.J. Cherry probably won’t happen until early this fall, pending completion of the investigation by Pecos Police.

Stephens, 50, was returned to Pecos from Alabama, where he was arrested on June 3 on a local warrant charging him with violation of the sex offender registry law. That charge was later superceded by the federal charge, while also allowed U.S. Marshals to transport Stephens back to Pecos for his initial hearing, held this past Tuesday before U.S. Magistrate B. Dwight Goains.

During the brief hearing, Goains read Stephens the charges against him, for failing to register as a sex offender between April 18 and May 6 of this year, in connection with his February 1990 conviction for burglary of a habitation. The conviction was enhanced as part of a plea bargain agreement in 143rd District Court, due to an aggravated sexual assault in an October 1989 incident involving a 25-year-old Pecos woman.

Stephens, who also had been convicted in 23rd District Court in Brazoria County in June of 1986 on a charge of aggravated assault, served 17 years in state prison on the 1999 plea bargain deal. He was released from a halfway house in El Paso last September.

Violation of the federal sex offender registry law carries a federal penalty of up to 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years supervised release, Goains told Stephens before asking if he would supply his own attorney.

“I cannot afford an attorney, so I will have to have the court appoint me one,” Stephens told Goains, who then named Pecos attorney Scott Johnson to handle the sex registry violation case. The magistrate then set Stephens’ detention hearing for 10 a.m. on Tuesday in U.S. District Court.

Robin McBride, with the Criminal Investigation Department of the U.S. Marshal’s Service in Pecos, said Stephens will remain in custody at the Pecos Criminal Justice Center while awaiting trial on the federal charges. Marshals returned Stephens to Pecos on July 17, six weeks after his arrest in Loxley, Ala.

Pecos Police Chief Clay McKinney, along with police investigator Kelly Davis, 143rd District Attorney Randy Reynolds and his investigator, Gerry Villalobos, traveled to Alabama following Stephens’ June 3 arrest.

After returning to Pecos, McKinney said Stephens gave both written and video confessions to stabbing the Cherrys to death the night of May 6 at D.J.’s Round-Up on West Third Street. “After the interview with Mr. Stephens, he did give us a written and taped confession concerning the murder,” McKinney said.

However, the police chief said on Thursday that his department is still investigating the case, and that, “It will be a couple of months before we’re ready to bring it to the grand jury.”

McKinney said in talking to Reynolds, they expect the grand jury will get the murder case sometime early this fall.

The bodies of the Cherrys were found on the afternoon of May 7 by A.J. Cherry’s brother and sister. Preliminary autopsy results showed the couple died from multiple stab wounds, with the deaths believed to have occurred between 10 p.m. and midnight on May 6, which was also Stephens’ 50th birthday.

Stephens grew up in Pecos, but had spent most of the past 30 years in prison. Police believe he stole Cherry’s 1995 Ford F-350 pickup, which was discovered the morning of May 11 by a U.S. Border Patrol agent abandoned on Interstate 25 between Truth or Consequences and Socorro, N.M., about 375 miles northwest of Pecos.

Aside from the 1989 and 1986 incidents, Stephens also has had previous arrests locally on vehicle theft charges. Records in 143rd District Court showed Stephens served two years on an April 1978 plea deal for theft over $200 and under $10,000 for stealing a vehicle.

At the time of that plea, a 1978 charge of attempted aggravated rape was dismissed in 143rd District Court. In July of 1980, Stephens pled guilty and was sentenced to three years in prison for unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, in connection with another vehicle theft.

Council OKs new housing lot sales deal

Town of Pecos City Council members approved an agreement with a Seminole builder for construction of the first two new homes on a site in the central part of town, during their meeting Wednesday evening at City Hall.

The agreement with Antonio Briones of Briones Concrete, Inc. is for two lots in the 800 block between Washington and Adams streets. “There are only going to be two lots, or maybe three lots to start up,” City Attorney Scott said. “If things go well, he’s going to contract with the PEDC for more lots.”

Johnson said the final agreement presented to the council had only a few changes, following Monday’s meeting of the Pecos Economic Development Corp. board. The PEDC board and Briones agreed to cut the completion time on the homes from 12 months to six months, and the fee per lot was set at $2,500. The deal also gave Briones options on nine of the 19 lots on the two-square-block site, with first right of refusal to build on the remaining 10 lots.

The site was originally planned for low-income homes in 2002, but only one of the 20 planned homes was ever built, because people with incomes low enough to qualify for one of the homes were unable to secure bank financing. The new homes are open to all buyers, and are initially planned to be in the 1,200 to 1,500 square foot range.

“This guy is ready to roll. He wants to start immediately,” Johnson told the council.

Council member Cody West noted that the cost per lot would bring the city $47,500 if all 19 lots are sold. Johnson said while that’s far less than the $350,000 the city still owes to the Office of Rural Community Affairs on the 2002 infrastructure development loan for the site, it was up to the council to decide on approving the deal.

“He’s built homes in Seminole, Midland, Lamesa and in Monahans he built an office building,” Johnson said. “He seems to have the ability, and there’s no cost for the city, and we need housing.”

“He’s willing to build, where others aren’t,” said councilman Danny Rodriguez, who also serves as chairman of the PEDC board that approved the plan on Monday.

“Let’s get the ball rolling,” added councilman Frank Sanchez. “In the long run, it will work out.”

In other action, the council again retained Lydia Prieto from the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD business office to calculate the city’s tax rate and rollback rate. Prieto also presented the council with the 2008 planning calendar and went over the June tax collection report.

Prieto, who has been hired by the city for the past 15 years, also went over the 2008 tax appraisal rolls, which were received by her office on Monday. They showed total valuations of $141.8 million in the city, a $17.2 million increase from last year, with an increase of just under $3.5 million in taxable property.

“That will put us in good shape,” Sanchez said.

Prieto told the council if there is no property tax increase sought, the council can adopt the rate at its Sept. 25 meeting. If there is a tax increase, hearings will have to be held on Sept. 11 and Sept. 16 after a notice is published in the Enterprise by Sept. 4. A second notice would then have to be published on Sept. 18 before a final vote is held on Sept. 25.

The council also approved second readings of two ordinances, on a city water conservation plan and on the annexation of 3.7 acres of land on the northeast corner of the U.S. 285-Interstate 20 interchange, where a new La Quinta motel is scheduled to be built.

Also approved was first reading of a zoning change for local resident Leo Hung, who plans to build a motel, food court and sports bar on Interstate 20 next to the Reeves County Golf Course. City building code officer Jack Brookshire explained that the land bought by Hung, which currently is part of the golf course, was formerly the site of the Pecos Army Airbase housing, and is zoned residential. The Zoning Board of Adjustment agreed in a recent meeting to rezone the land along I-20 as commercial, and to allow alcohol sales on site.

Sanchez asked if the council could make the change to all the former Airbase Apartment land along I-20. Johnson said by law the change applies only to the 15.3 acres requested by Hung.

“We need to look at rezoning I-20 commercial. The last zoning change made was in 1956,” said Zoning Board member Tom Rivera. He also told the council that because Hung’s motel is located in Precinct 3 of Reeves County, it could serve mixed drinks without a membership fee surcharge. Bars in the county’s other three precincts can only serve beer without private club membership fees.

Tabled for action at a later meeting was a request by Reeves County for 80 acres of land to expand the golf course to a full 18 holes, including replacement of three holes on land sold to Hung for development last year.

“They just gave me a legal description in the last 20 days,” Johnson said. He told the council while they had previously voted to transfer 111 acres to the county, lead abetment problems with the area around the former Pecos Rifle and Pistol Range led the county to scale down their request to 80 acres.

In the public comments section of the meeting, Main Street Coordinator Martin Arreguy gave the council a brief update on the program’s status. He said a board meeting is scheduled to go over by-laws and financials, and that work at been done on the area around the Judge Roy Bean Saloon replica that visitors to this Saturday’s Night in Old Pecos will be able to see.

Arreguy said he’s also working with John Rediger to secure grant funding for the Rodeo Hall of Fame project at the old Missouri Pacific Railroad Depot, and that could be one of the first projects downtown that the Main Street board decides to allocate funds for at a future meeting.

During discussion of the monthly budget numbers, Torres noted that the income from the city’s hotel-motel bed tax has gone up from the $5,000-$6,000 range to $8,000 a month. “As new hotels go in, we’re going to see that total go up,” he said.

P-B-T’s principals shifted following resignation

Five of the six campuses in the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD will be getting new principals this coming school year, following changes announced Wednesday by Superintendent Manny Espino.

“The departure of the principal at Bessie Haynes Elementary School, prompted the decision to re-assign everyone,” said Espino, following the resignation of Bessie Haynes Principal LaTonya Sadler. The change resulted in the return of one former principal at a new campus and the shifting of four other current P-B-T ISD principals to new campuses.

“The board voted to hire Cindy Duke as an administrator,” said Espino. “I decided to reassign the principals.”

The re-assignments include Duke, the former principal at Austin Elementary, as the new Pecos High School Principal; Steve Lucas moving from Pecos High School to Crockett Middle School; Victor Tarin from Crockett Middle School to Zavala Middle School; Jim Workman from Zavala Middle School to Austin Elementary School and Velma Torres from Austin Elementary School to fill the Bessie Haynes Elementary principal’s job held by Sadler.

Duke’s hiring came during the board’s Tuesday evening meeting, which was changed from last Thursday due to a lack of a quorum.

During the meeting the board discussed and approved several items, including the additional funding for the repairs at the Pecos High School swimming pool; while hearing updates on ongoing construction at the different campuses and listening to members of the Reeves County Commissioners Court talk about a grant opportunity for the golf course.

Board members were told that the cost to repair the swimming pool had gone up and board members approved the additional funding.

Espino told the group that they had already spent $125,000, but still needed to do more repairs and would need to double the funding.

“We need for the board to approve another $125,000 so that we can complete that project,” he said.

Espino told the board work to repair foundation and wall problems caused by a sinkhole under the pool is a week behind schedule after planners had to redesign the wall.

“The hole is gone and the wall completely demolished this week,” he told board members, adding that they hope to have everything done by Aug. 27, just after the start of classes at the high school.

Work is progressing on the new wing at Crockett Middle School and the high school track repaving and striping is almost done.

“Somebody threw a bike in there at the track and went over it, so the track is being re-done,” he said.

At Crockett they are pouring foundation and installing underground plumbing; while at Bessie Haynes construction workers are building a pad, Espino said. He added that the roofing at both Pecos High School and Austin Elementary School is substantially complete.

Reeves County Judge Sam Contreras, commissioner precinct 1 Roy Alvarado and golf course superintendent Peter Mora were on hand to tell board members about a grant that the county had applied for. But the board did not take any action on the county’s request for funding, while passing a resolution in support of their efforts.

Contreras told the group that they are trying to enhance the appearance of the golf course and make it an attraction to the community.

“We also want to make better so that everyone can use it and enjoy it,” said Contreras.

“We hope to have a bond issue in the November elections and haven’t narrowed down the amount on that yet,” said Contreras. “Peter has done a design and has been doing great with the little resources that he has.”

He said that they hope to add an additional seven holes and make it an attraction not just for golfers, but also for others that would like to use it as a bike or walking trail.

“The design includes a trail that can be used by bikers and the elderly or whoever,” said Contreras.

He said that the multi-purpose trail could be used by those individuals as well as the high school cross-country team.

The plan includes putting greens for student practice; picnic units; multipurpose trail; exercise stations; chipping area with sand traps; playscape; pavilion; sheltered benches; adult swings; multipurpose basketball court/rollerskating surface; washer-pitching pits; nature preserves (two-acre area); pond (storm water reservoir, for irrigation); lights and Xeriscape landscaping.

“The nature preserve could be used by students on field trips,” said Mora. “The students can also use the golf course for their practice, it could be closed on the days that they do practice.”

The grant is in the amount of $1 million and is a 50/50 match.

“We already superceded the matching half with the land that the city donated,” said Mora..

RCH board quizzes Spencer on clinic’s design

Reeves County Hospital District board members went over plans for a lease agreement with the company awarded the bid to build a 20,000 square foot medical clinic next to the hospital, but took no action during their Tuesday meeting, pending final negotiations on the contract.

The board met with Frank Spencer, who along with Greg Johns won the bid to build the clinic on eight acres of land owned by S&J Properties of El Paso on the north side of Stafford Boulevard, across from the hospital’s emergency room. S&J was awarded the bid after offering a deal to pay property taxes on the new medical facility, which allowed them to underbid the other two competitors by $3 million.

Spencer brought a diagram of the interior of the building, along with specifics on the exterior of the structure, but was told by board president Linda Gholson, “We do not have a final lease to proceed, but we do have some questions.”

Among the questions were the exterior design of the building, the renewal lease agreement and length of the initial lease and maintenance costs if the numbers exceed current estimates.

Spencer said his lawyers and those for the hospital have been meeting on the final design plans. “I would say by Monday we should send the revisions and changes back to you,” he told the board.

“Under the lease stipulations we will be taking care of the parking area (maintenance), the exterior, the walls and the roof,” Spencer said. He added that the work wouldn’t begin until his company gets approval from hospital CEO Al LaRochelle on all aspects of the building’s layout and construction components.

“It is in our best interest that whatever we put up will be durable and long-life, because we will be responsible for the roof and the walls,” Spencer said. “We don’t want to be coming over here to fix problems.”

Spencer also provided a chart for construction work, once the contract is signed, saying, “When we start the project, it’s in our best interest to finish as soon as possible.”

However, he added that fabrication of the metal for the building would take between 14 and 16 weeks. Spencer said starting work on the foundation and the plumbing for the facility before the metal frame is completed and shipped to Pecos could save about a week of construction time.

“The site work starts 13 weeks after the lease is signed,” he said, while estimating the time on the foundation and plumbing work at 4-5 weeks. But Spencer said he couldn’t give an exact date for completion of the facility.

“If we wanted something in writing, what would you do?” asked LaRochelle.

“I would set a date at 13 months,” said Spencer, which was about 5-6 months longer than LaRochelle said he hoped the work would take.

“I was hoping we would be done by next April at the latest,” he said.

The building itself will be metal construction with a stucco front facing Stafford Boulevard, and similar to the current hospital exterior. It will also have plywood and Styrofoam insulation on the walls, 33 exam rooms, and HVAC vents that can be redirected within the building, in case one air conditioning unit goes out.

Board member Jim Breese asked about doing all four sides in stucco and was told that would add to the cost of the building and take away some interior space, due to the need for extra supports on the other three sides of the clinic.

Breese also asked about the total usable space by the medical personnel within the clinic and was told by LaRochelle, “Anything that has to do with mechanical, electrical or engineering is not to be considered as usable space.”

Board member Leo Hung asked Spencer about the value of the building, which he and LaRochelle said would have to be reported to Medicare and would affect both the hospital’s lease agreement options and their Medicare reimbursement. Spencer said he couldn’t offer up an exact value, but told the board, “there will be appraisals on it when it’s done.”

Hung also questioned Spencer about possible problems for patients crossing Stafford Boulevard from the hospital to the clinic. He mentioned the 3.9 acres of land Hung’s HKA Corp. took an option on to the west of the hospital and whether or not that would be a better location for the clinic.

LaRochelle said federal rules prevent patients from using the ER entrance to access the main section of the hospital, so he expected most clinic users to drive between the two facilities. Spencer said utility lines were more accessible on the north side of Stafford Boulevard than on the south side of the street west of the hospital, and added that the 3.15 acre clinic would be limited on future expansions due to the size of the site on the south side of Stafford.

The discussion took up nearly two hours of the three-and-a-three-quarter-hours meeting, with Spencer and some board members getting terse towards the end.

“I don’t mind you sending a list of questions over there (to El Paso) if you have more questions. The thing is when do you stop asking questions, and when do we go forward with this,” Spencer said. “If we’re looking at 13 months, that’s a long time. We’re ready to get on with this.”

“We, the board, have to have time to look at it and not just be presented with it when we’re here,” Gholson said.

LaRochelle proposed creating a committee to oversee construction progress at the facility, which would include hospital staff and one board member. Breese volunteered to be the board member assigned to the new committee.

PEDC OKs payments for motel job creation

Pecos Economic Development Corp. members agreed to a financial benefit package with limitations for new motels going up in the city, and will consider similar job-creation subsidies for other businesses in the future, following actions taken at Monday’s board meeting at City Hall.

Members agreed to pay owners of new motels $2,000 per employee for up to 10 new full-time jobs created by the motels. The board capped payments at a maximum $20,000 per motel and limited the offer to motels not currently receiving state grants for infrastructure construction.

The action by the board was taken at the request of the owners of the new Holiday Inn Express, which is being built across from Wal-Mart on South Cedar Street.

PEDC President Robert Tobias said the plan is similar to one created in Fort Stockton, which began seeing a number of new motels open in town several years ago. Six new motels are planned for Pecos, with two currently under construction.

Tobias said four of the six motels under construction could qualify for the $2,000 per employee subsidies. He also said two of the hotels, which carry construction price tags of over $5 million and will include other services, may be looked at differently.

“There’s a difference between a hotel-only and a mixed use building,” he said, adding that the issue could be taken up again during the board’s scheduled Aug. 4 meeting.

Board member Leo Hung, who is planning to build a $7 million hotel, sports bar and food court complex on Interstate 20, asked Tobias about how the subsidies would work if the hotels faced a labor shortage and had to pay overtime.

“Maybe there is an average we can work out, if you maintain this certain amount (of jobs) over a certain period of time,” Tobias said.

City attorney Scott Johnson said the subsidy could be paid out to the motels at the end of each reporting period, to make sure the jobs in question could be verified. “That avoids the hassle of repaying us and guarantees the job for a year,” he said.

Board members then opted for a six-month reporting period, and a $1,000 payment to the motels for the jobs created at the end of each reporting period.

In other action, the board agreed to let Tobias look at developing the upper floors of two buildings owned by the PEDC at 217-219 S. Oak St., into loft housing. The lower floors are being set aside for the PEDC office and a small business office.

“After meeting with several major employers, I talked with them about loft housing,” Tobias said. “I think the PEDC is the appropriate group to move rental housing forward, and I think it will help us address our short-term needs.”

“If we wait for someone to make a commitment to downtown, it will be 6-8 months before we see anything,” he added.

Board members also approved the monthly financials, while asking Tobias to shift funds currently in a checking account to a money-market account, in order to earn interest. The PEDC is funded by a 1/4-cent share of the city’s 1 1/2-cent sales tax, which has averaged between $25,000 and $30,000 per month during the past year.

Pool repairs to have Eagles practicing outside

The Pecos Eagles swim team will start off pre-season practice on Aug. 4 in different surroundings from past seasons, while the Pecos High School swimming pool continues to undergo structural repairs that will also result in a new look to part of the pool over the next few months.

Construction workers began demolition of a section of the outside wall of the 25-year-old pool earlier this week, and also opened up a section of the pool’s interior wall near the diving area. The work is being done to repair cracks and shore up the foundation of the southwest side of the building, where a 13-foot deep sinkhole was discovered back in March.

“They’re planning on having the wall down by this week,” said Eagles’ swim coach Terri Morse. The crews from Mid-Tex Construction will then work on the new interior supports before putting the wall back up, and then fill in the hole under the pool with concrete.

“The last couple of days they’ve been concentrating on the outside part of the wall. Now they’re going to concentrate on the inside part,” Morse said.

A plywood wall has been set up blocking off the area from Morse’s office to the diving boards, where the most serious cracking occurred. Along with the repairs and to improve lighting inside the building, two windows will be put in behind the diving area on the south side of the pool as part of the wall’s rebuilding.

The work won’t be completed by Aug. 4, and so Morse said the swim team will do the same thing the summer learn-to-swim program did, and relocate to the Town of Pecos City’s Athletic Pool at Maxey Park.

“We’ll start two-a-days at the Athletic Pool to begin with, and then come back here to the gym and do dryland and use the weight room. But I don’t know where we’ll be when school starts,” she said. “If they can just get it safe to where we can get back in, we’ll be fine, because the pool’s untouched.”

“It will be a nice change of pace,” she said of practices at the park. “We did the summer program out there, and it worked out fine. We’ve already got the ropes out there, and we’re rigging up stuff so we can work out there.”

School opens for Pecos on Aug. 25, but it will be another month before the Eagles are scheduled to host their first regular season meet, on Sept. 23 against Fort Stockton. It’s one of three home meets on the Eagles’ schedule for the 2008-09 season.

Military tribute part of Night in Old Pecos

A tribute to members of the military will be a part of the festivities scheduled for Saturday in Downtown Pecos during Night in Old Pecos.

“Our first dance will be dedicated to all the members of the military,” said Dianne Florez, who is in charge of the Folklorico Dancers who will be performing that evening.

“We’ll be doing a tribute to the military, those who are currently serving and those who have served,” said Florez.

The group which was formed in 2000, and perform during the 16th of September Fiestas, will be on the Windmill Square stage Saturday at 7:30 p.m., and are inviting military personnel to come join them. “We performed when the First Lady of Texas (Anita Perry) was here with Main Street and the kids really enjoyed it,” said Florez.

Florez said that right now she has about 20-25 people in the group, but welcomes others, who would like to learn how to dance.

“We’ve been practicing every day, getting ready for Night in Old Pecos and everybody is excited about it,” she said.

Florez said that they will be performing new dances for the 16th of September Fiestas and are getting ready for that as well.

Night in Old Pecos activities will begin at 6 p.m. and continue until midnight in the downtown area. Vendors will be set up around the Windmill Square and on Oak Street, behind the West of the Pecos Museum.

Chamber of Commerce Director Linda Gholson said that the booths would be set up along Oak and down Second Street.

A blood drive will be taking place at the West of the Pecos Museum from 5-9 p.m.

To sign up contact, Venetta Seals at 447-3551, extension 350. Cholesterol testing is now available for all donors. Special T-shirts will be given to the donors. Individuals also have a chance to win a trip for two to Las Vegas. Must be 21 or older to win and some other restrictions may apply.

Oscar Ornelas Jr. will be the D.J. for the evening and the Roman Brothers will perform.

Bikes will be on display for photo opportunities; a train that will accommodate both children and adults will be on hand and a Cake Walk will take place that evening.

Some of the “goodies” that will be available during the night include: funnel cake, curly fries, caramel apples, roasted corn, hamburgers, brisket, sausage on a stick, hot dogs, fresh lemonade, nachos, cokes, water, turkey legs and a variety of other food items.

Novelties, toys, fad jewelry, wallets, purses, hand fans lighted and glow items and many more will be for sale at the different booths located in Downtown Pecos.

Labor force jump boosts June unemployment

Unemployment in Reeves County jumped 1.4 percent in June, according to figures released on July 18 by the Texas Workforce Commission. But the total number of jobs within the county surpassed the 4,000 mark for the first time in three years, the TWC said.

The jobless rate for the county climbed from 5.4 percent in May to 6.8 percent in June, due to an increase of 149 people in the local workforce, which offset an increase of 81 jobs last month. Reeves County had 4,294 people in the local labor force, and 4,004 with jobs, up from 4,145 workers and 3,923 employed in May. In June of 2007, the TWC said the county had 4,215 workers and 3,958 with jobs.

While the energy drilling industry boom over the past four years has brought a number of jobs to Reeves County and caused the area’s sales tax receipts to double since 2003, the new jobs have not shown up on the TWC’s employment figures. The last time the number of workers in the county surpassed June’s numbers was three years ago, when 4,025 workers were employed, and the state agency said the current number is still almost 15 percent lower than the levels reported for Reeves County in April of 2002, when McCain Foods closed its Anchor West food plant in Pecos, eliminating 700 jobs.

The loss caused a jump of over 10 percent in the county’s unemployment rate, though even after the shutdown the number of jobs in the county was still 150 more than the most recent numbers reported by the TWC.

Most other counties in the Permian Basin and Trans-Pecos area also reported increases in their jobless rates for June, with the end of the school year and new workers entering the labor market.

Midland County’s unemployment rate increased from 2.7 percent to 3.1 percent in June. Midland added 302 workers while losing 33 jobs last month, the TWC said. Neighboring Ector County’s unemployment rose from 3.1 percent to 3.7 percent last month. The county added 478 workers from May and 56 jobs.

Andrews County’s rate went from 2.8 percent in May to 3.2 percent in June. The number of workers increased by 66 and the job total was up by 35 for the month. Brewster County’s rate rose from 3.1 to 3.6 percent, as the county added 12 workers while losing nine jobs in June.

Crane County’s rate increased in June from 3.3 percent to 4.2 percent, adding 19 workers and three jobs. Culberson County saw its rate increase from 2.6 to 3 percent, with an increase of 67 workers and 59 jobs. Dawson County’s jobless rate rose from 5.3 to 6 percent, with the number of workers growing by 121 while the number of jobs was up by 80.

Howard County’s unemployment rate went from 4 percent to 4.6 percent in June. The county added 269 workers and 174 jobs. Pecos County’s rate was up from 4.4 to 5.0 percent last month, as the county’s workforce was up by 266 while the job total increased by 214. Presidio County saw its jobless rate go from 9 percent to 11.6 percent, as the county added 150 workers and 47 jobs last month.

In Ward County, unemployment was up from 3.5 to 4.1 percent in June, with the number of workers increasing by 164 while the job total rose by 125. Winkler County’s unemployment rate rose from 3.4 to 3.8 percent, adding 72 workers from May and 55 jobs during that same period.

Loving County saw its unemployment rate go from 9.3 to 10 percent, with the loss of three workers and three jobs. The nation’s least-populated county had 43 people in its workforce and 39 employed in May, and 40 workers, 36 with jobs, in June.

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