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Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Family fight leads to assault on elderly charges

Four individuals were arrested last week and charged with assault causing bodily injury to a disabled and elderly.

“The incident happened at 325 N. Pecan,” said Town of Pecos City Police Chief Clay McKinney.

McKinney said that the altercation began with a family violence disturbance, at about 4:50 p.m., Monday, Sept. 22.

“It started out as family violence, and then others joined in,” said McKinney.

The name of the abused is not being released, since the case is still pending and under investigation.

However, the four arrested for assault causing bodily injury to disabled and elderly, a first degree felony include: Virginia Gonzales, 53, who was also arrested for criminal mischief, a Class B Misdemeanor; Lorraine Gonzales, 25; Kayla Mickelson, 18 and John Mickelson, 17 years old.

Perry recalls childhood life in Pecos area

Pecos cantaloupes played a large part in the childhood of Sally Williams Perry, whose father moved here from El Paso to farm northwest of town, where the land is fertile and the water is sweet.

Roger Jones still grows cantaloupe on the same acreage.

Jack and Lela Williams were young farmers near the end of the Great Depression, and went east instead of west to pioneer in farming cotton, cantaloupes and “just about anything else.”

“He was considered one of the best farmers here,” said Perry. “He had to clear his land. My older brother was working with him when he was 9 years old.”

Williams called his farm the “Hidden Treasure,” Perry said. “He had a great imagination. My mother helped run the office, shipping cantaloupes all over the world; to Presidents, politicians … they had a gift list.”

Perry said the business of shipping cantaloupes all over the world from a shed at the railroad depot was exciting.

“We lived on 7th and Cypress,” she said. “We were little and would walk downtown to the depot and bother them. The trains would come through, and that’s basically how things were shipped back then. They were packing all night.”

While at the depot and on train trips to El Paso, the children met soldiers who were traveling through. “They were finishing with Europe and going to the Pacific toward the end of World War II,” she said. “The base here was exciting. We had our friends stationed here. The base was separate from town. Eddy Street was a dirt road to the base.”

After the short cantaloupe harvest, the family turned their attention to the cotton harvest. He had little to do with that, because braceros imported from Mexico under a labor agreement with the Mexican government picked the cotton.

“The town started growing and growing with the bracero,” said Perry.

Pecos’ population tripled with the influx of farmers coming home from the war with their GI Bill loans available. It was bigger than Odessa and Midland in those days, and El Paso was the closest large city.

After the Korean war in the 50s, farming started to decline because of overuse of water from the deep aquifer and the great expense to pump it. “A lot of those people left,” she said.

Perry and her siblings, Mary Williams Harrison, John Williams and Sam Williams, enjoy reminiscing about their childhood in Pecos, she said.

“We walked to school. It was great. We went swimming at Boulder Courts. There was a polio scare, so sometimes when it was real hot, you didn’t go swimming.”

School was exciting, she said. They went first to Pecos Elementary, which had no air conditioning, then junior high in the old high school building on West Third Street.

“Suddenly it was the 50s, and we were all going to school together. I made many friends that way. There was no longer dissention between parts of town not mixing with other parts of town.

“On into high school. We were one of the first classes to go to the new high school,” she said.

Then she and her sister went to boarding school in San Antonio for two years, “because our grandmother wanted this. My brothers went to boarding school in Austin. There were other kids here in town doing that.”

Perry came back to Pecos and graduated with her class in 1955, then went to college. Between her junior and senior years in college, she spent a year in Europe, traveling and working as a secretary for Charles Thayer, a U.S. diplomat in Munich, Germany.

“He was the first to serve in Afghanistan, and opened the first embassy in Russia,” she said. “I helped get ready things that he published about his career.” After college, she married and lived in Dallas for a long time, volunteered at the museum of fine arts, worked with Scouts, taught private kindergarten. “I raised my family in Dallas, then went back to school for my masters in library science.” She received her degree from Texas Women’s University. Her career in libraries includes academic and large public libraries, but she decided she preferred a smaller community library.

She moved back here from Eagle Pass in the early 90s to care for her mother.

“I was single and had more freedom to come back here,” she said.

She worked as a substitute teacher, then took a job in the Monahans library for a short time. She worked at the Pecos Post Office for two weeks, sorting mail.

“Then I had the opportunity to apply for this job (Reeves County librarian) right after Mama died. By then I decided it was time to not move around.”

She has been librarian since Sept. 28, 1998. She and her staff are preparing for a bond election to build a new library that will more than double the space. People ask what there is to do in Pecos, but Perry manages to stay busy.

“It is a lot easier (in a small town),” she said. “You can go to the store in two minutes. It is less complicated. My washing machine broke down Monday. In one hour I had a new machine.

There is more time to spend on the different things that need attention or that you like to do. I have spent a lot of time refinishing furniture. I love to see something look good and show the quality of it.”

Hospital board OKs tax rate, benefit increase

Reeves County Hospital District board members approved retaining the 2008 tax rate for the 2009 fiscal year, and approved a cost of living increase for the hospital’s retirees, during their regular monthly meeting on Thursday in the hospital’s classroom.

Hospital CEO Al LaRochelle said the board voted to keep the current tax rate of .38602 cents per $100 valuation for the next year, although due to increases in property and mineral valuations, the rate could now be subject to a tax rollback election.

Board members were told during their August meeting that maintaining the current rate would bring Reeves County Hospital an additional $280,000 in revenues for the 2009 fiscal year, and LaRochelle said on Thursday, “We want to try and build up our (cash) reserves,” by maintaining the current rate. He said the change in retirement benefits would only cost the hospital about $1,400 for the upcoming year.

“We only have 16 people receiving benefits, and we’ve never done COLAs (cost of living adjustments) on these people. For one person, they’ve been on this since 1994 and haven’t had a COLA.”

During the budget report, LaRochelle said even though the economy locally has been doing well, the hospital’s bad debt is up sharply for the first eight months of 2008, from $902,367 to $1,614,544.

“Those are not charity cases. This is simply people not paying their bills or not being able to pay their bill,” he said. LaRochelle added he didn’t know why the number of people not paying their hospital bills had jumped from 2007 to 2008.

In other action, the hospital purchased 20 new beds for the facility at a cost of $110,000 and agreed to the purchase of a new colonoscope/endiscope, instead of leasing the equipment. LaRochelle said the move would give the hospital a backup colonoscope, so colon exams won’t have to be postponed if one machine breaks down.

He said the Stryker beds would replace the ones currently in rooms at the hospital, for which LaRochelle said they no longer could get replacement parts. “We had a chance to replace all 20 at a reduced rate,” he said, after being offered a 50 percent discount on beds that had been used as demonstration models, at a cost of $5,500 apiece. He said the new beds have built-in scales, better mattresses and more adjustability.

He said the hospital is still working on a lease agreement on the new 20,000 square foot clinic that is scheduled to be built across Stafford Boulevard from the current emergency room entrance. “We’re still working on a lease. We don’t have it done year, but hopefully we’ll have it done by the end of October at the latest,” he said.

Council expands medical benefits for city workers

Town of Pecos City workers will be able to get dental and optometrist work done in Mexico and have it paid for on their city health insurance, while the city’s total cost for coverage will go down in the upcoming year, council members were told during their regular meeting on Thursday at City Hall. Rick Holder, president of RH Administrators, briefed the council on the city’s new insurance plan for the 2008-09 fiscal year, and said because claims this past year came in about 40 percent below estimates, the city would see a drop in its premium cost despite the expanded benefits package.

“We went to approximately 25-30 insurers to get bids on your health insurance, and the one we want to recommend is $43,000 less than last year,” Holder said. He said the new policy would carry a deductible $5,000 higher than the current plan, with the city paying for the first $30,000 in medical costs.

Holder said medical claims filed by city workers last year came to about $519,000, while city finance director John Phillip said the current budget had estimated claims at $942,000.

The plan continues to allow city workers to include their families in their health insurance for an additional $125 a year, and will now allow them to travel to Mexico for dental and vision services.

“A lot of your employees asked us to allow them to receive dental service in Mexico,” Holder said. He told the council that while most plans don’t allow workers to actively seek medical services outside the U.S., he had found an insurer that would reimburse those costs, which are about 40 percent lower than the same fees locally.

“I would recommend you allow your employees to go to Mexico and let them be reimbursed at this rate,” he said. Employees will have to pay for medical services in Mexico out of their own pockets, but will be paid back later under the new plan.

Along with allowing optometrist and other vision services in Mexico, Holder said the new plan removes vision care from the wellness category, which includes expenses for check-ups. The vision benefit has a zero deductible and $25 for eye exams over a 12-month period, along with set costs for glasses and contact lenses ranging from $30 to $150.

“The vision plan is a little bit of an added benefit, but this probably saves money in the long run, because they’re skipping their wellness program,” he told the council.

In other action on Thursday, the council voted to seek bids for the 2008 audit, after hearing from city manager Joseph Torres that they had received a revised contract from Terry Tartar, who had conducted the city’s audit for the past two years.

Tartar has missed deadlines on finishing the audit each of the past two years, this past spring due to health problems. “This city is in a lot better shape because of the guidance he gave to out new transition team,” Torres said.

He added that the new contract would mandate penalties if the deadlines were missed again, but council members said they didn’t want to sign a new agreement without looking at other options. Councilman Danny Rodriguez asked if the city could talk to its former auditor, Dan Painter.

“I’d like to see us go out for bids, because Mr. Painter was always on time,” he said. “It was very disappointing, because it was one thing after another, one call after another. We were in meeting after meeting and we never got an answer.”

“He met all the criteria that were required,” Phillip said, adding that the city can run into problems getting loans and grants if it changes auditors too often. However, mayor Dick Alligood said the city ran into problems acquiring funding this year because of the delayed audit report.

“He put us in a real bad spot last year,” Alligood said. “I understand the health issue, but we kept hearing ‘he’ll be here next week’ and then no calls, no warning, he just didn’t show up. He did an excellent job with the audit, but he just put us in a bind with the state projects moving forward.

City attorney Scott Johnson said the city did not have to bid out professional services, but added, “All I know is if I acted like he did, you’d be looking for a new lawyer.”

Council members also gave final approval to the city’s 2008-09 budget and tax rate. The council approved a tax rate of .73460 cents per $100 valuation, slightly below last year’s rate, while Alligood said the new budget would not have to borrow money from the city’s water and sewer fund to make up for deficits in the general fund.

“As far back as we could find in the records, the 2008-09 budget will be the first time the city’s not going to have to transfer from water and sewer funds to keep our city afloat,” he said, in thanking Torres, Phillip and city workers for helping to fix the budget problems of recent years.

However, Phillip reminded the council that the city will be assuming payment of the $8 million South Worsham Water Field construction loan in 2011 from Reeves County, and the city will have to allocated about $500,000 per year through 2020 to repay that Texas Water Development Board loan.

Council members also approved three exemptions to the property tax, for over 65 residents, medical disability and veterans. Lydia Preito, who calculates the city’s taxes under a contract with the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD, said the exemptions were standard for the local taxing entities, and are $15,000 for persons over 65 and $10,000 for medical disability, while the veterans disability exemption is state-mandated, and depends on the percentage of disability.

Bids on shelter, sewer line OKed despite higher costs

Bids and contracts for several projects were awarded Thursday night by the Town of Pecos City Council, including one for the construction of the city’s new animal shelter.

The shelter and a contract for reconstruction of sewer lines on the east side of town both came in above the original estimated cost. But the council voted to accept the low bids on both projects rather than either redesigning the work or trying again to see a lower bid.

West Texas Concrete and Metal Buildings, a company owned by Antonio Briones, was awarded the bid on the shelter, at a cost of $262,525. Briones, who is currently building six residential homes in the Morris Addition, won out over Parco Contractors, which submitted a bid of $323,034. “We were expecting bids in the $240,000-$250,000 range,” said city public works director Edgardo Madrid. “We got a bid for $262,000, but Mr. John Phillip (city finance director) mentioned before there is $275,000 in the budget.”

“My recommendation is let’s go with this bid,” he told the council. “If we’re going to go back and redo the bid and modify the design, it will take time before we can begin.”

Council members have about $100,000 in the budget for construction of the shelter behind the Pecos Criminal Justice Center, while the remaining funds will come from a bank loan obtained by the city. The new shelter will replace the existing facility on Walthall Street that has been the subject of numerous complaints in recent years over the conditions of the pens and the building where stray dogs and cats are housed in by the city.

Parco, like Briones’ company, is already in Pecos, working on the construction of the new Holiday Inn Express on South Cedar Street. Madrid said West Texas Concrete and Metal was able to win the bid by agreeing to do most of the work in-house, instead of subcontracting out part of the job.

Madrid said city crews will do the dirtwork, along with water and sewer connections and any future application of epoxy-based paint inside the building. That, along with the cost to install an air-conditioning system, will probably raise the total construction cost above the $275,000 in the budget.

The city recently approved spending about $20,000 of the initial $125,000 budgeted for the new facility to fix up the current building to meet state standards. City officials say some of the improvements can be transferred over to the new building when it is completed.

Victor Enciso with Frank X. Spencer and Associates made the presentation on the bids for work on the East Third Street sewer replacement project, and recommended that Red Cliff, Inc., of El Paso, be awarded the contract, after they came in with a low bid of $388,625. The other two bids received were from El Paso Trench Safety Corp., for $475,000, and Key Enterprises of Austin, for $524,314.

Enciso said Red Cliff’s bid was still about $50,000 above the original cost estimate, but told the council, “We still believe this is a good bid. We checked the contractor’s references, and they are OK.”

He said they can make up the cost difference by delaying work on a one-block stretch of East Seventh Street that was designated for sewer line replacement in the current contract. That recommendation came after the council awarded Frank X. Spencer and Associates the contract for construction of a new sewer line along the remaining part of East Seventh Street, following presentations by the company and Parkhill, Smith and Cooper.

Both companies are currently involved in projects with the city connected with construction of new motels on the south side of town. Parkhill’s Ralph Truszkowski said his company is currently working on the new wastewater treatment plant, and was involved in the writing of new state rules on awarding Texas Community Development Block Grants for infrastructure projects, while Enciso said his company already worked with the city on the sewer line replacement project along West Third Street a decade ago, and is currently working on the same project along East Third Street.

Truszkowski said work on the project needs to be submitted by Oct. 17 to qualify for the latest round of the TCDBG grant application process. Enciso told the council that the lines along East Seventh Street are about 90 years old. “It is time to replace them,” he said.

Council members then voted to award the bid to Spencer, based on a scoring system that awarded the firm 555 points to 548 for Parkhill, Smith and Cooper.

They also awarded the administrative services contract for the TCDBG project to Carlos Colina-Vargas. He was one of two bidders on the contract, but council members noted while Colina-Vargas was at the meeting, there was no representative from the other company, Public Management, in attendance to make a presentation.

Earlier in the meeting, the council also voted to enter into an agreement on the issuance of bonds for the city’s new wastewater treatment plant. Larry Skiles, the city’s bond consultant, told the council that state officials had made a couple of changes to the zero percent loan agreement on the $6.7 million project involving limits on environmental contamination removal and absolving the state from any liability in connection with any action involving toxic waste removal done by the city through the Texas Water Development Board grant.

“From here forward all Texas Water Development Board agreements will have the same subsections,” Skiles said. He added that the changes have moved back the finalization of the bond issuance from now to the middle of October.

Council members also approved a Texas Department of Transportation grant for routine maintenance at the Pecos Municipal Airport. The 50-50 grant is an annual one, airport manager Isabel Blanchard said, and can go up to $50,000, but has been in the $3,000 to $5,000 range in recent years.

“We’ve used it for herbicide, and for tiles for the roof. It’s something we’ve been participating in for a long time,” she said.

New cycle club helping out in community

A new motorcycle group in town has already taken steps in helping out in the community and plan to continue their good deeds.

The “Centauros” were formed on July 5, of this year and already have 13 members, from Pecos.

“We heard about them having a group in other towns and decided we wanted to form one,” said Frank Campos.

Campos said that the mother chapter is in Juarez, Mexico and there’s another chapter in Chihuahua, Mexico; Las Cruces, N.M.; El Paso and now in Pecos.

“It’s close to 300 members with all the chapters combined,” said Campos.

The main goal of the group is to help people in the community and they have already been busy volunteering and helping out.

“We have been doing Meals on Wheels and other projects,” said Campos.

The Centauros were on hand at the Annual Night in Old Pecos and the 16th of September Fiestas raising money to help fund their worthy causes.

“We also plan to raise funds for various things, including helping people in the community who need it,” said Campos.

The group has been busy raising funds for the people of Presidio and presented a check to Reeves County Sheriff Andy Gomez, who is also a Centauros member, to take to the city of Presidio during his next trip.

“We just came back from Presidio, we were out there helping out,” said Gomez.

Campos said that they will be doing fundraisers throughout the year to have funds in case someone needs them.

“We will evaluate the cause first, it will be evaluated by the members, and if we think it’s a worthy cause we will donate funds and help them out in any way,” said Campos.

The group is looking for new members and everyone is welcome. “They have to be drug-free,” said Campos.

Aside from being busy raising funds and helping others, Centauros members also enjoy “fun-time” together.

“We take riding trips and support our sister cities on any events that they have going on, or fundraisers that they are working on,” said Campos.

He said that they will also be working closely with the sheriff’s department and police department and helping them out in any way that they can. “We will also be doing our own Toys for Tots and delivering them around the holidays,” said Campos.

The Reeves County Sheriff’s Department is still accepting donations of paper products, water and necessities that will be delivered to Presidio. Donations can be taken to the sheriff’s department or by calling 445-4901.

GED tests set at PHS next week

GED Testing will be held at the Pecos High School on Tuesday, Oct. 7 and Wednesday, Oct. 8.

Registration is scheduled from 1-4 p.m., Monday, Oct. 6, at the Pecos High School, Room 2.

Examinees must present a Texas Driver’s License or Texas Department of Public Safety ID Card.

For more information call Pat Cobos/Eva Arriola, Pecos High School Counselor’s at 447-7406.

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York M. "Smokey" Briggs, Publisher
324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 432-445-5475, FAX 432-445-4321

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