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Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Council updated on EMS and code enforcement

Pecos City Council members were given updates on the city’s ambulance service and clean-up programs on Thursday, during the council’s regular meeting at City Hall.

The council listen to presentations by city code enforcement officer Mario Borrego on the city’s program to clean up weeds and debris from around the city, along with other health inspections, and from Pecos EMS Chief Dennis Thorp on the first half-year of the city’s ambulance service, following it’s merger with the Reeves County Hospital ambulance transfer operations.

The council also was given an update on the Pecos Emergency Medical Service and it’s new full-time paid operations by Thorp, who also introduced members from the EMS who were both holdovers from the former volunteer service and new hires since the service was made a paid operation by the council this past spring.

“The success of Pecos EMS is because of each and every one of these ladies and gentlemen here,” Thorp said. He added that except for about a one-week period, the transition has gone smoothly, and with the addition of anew transfer ambulance to handle moves from Reeves County Hospital to other medical facilities, the EMS now has four vehicles in its fleet.

“Hopefully, that will allow us to never be out of service for transfer vehicles,” he said. The new transfer vehicle was placed on an existing chassis, and came at a cost of $55,000.

“We wound up with two ambulances for the price of one because we did some investigating,” he said.

“I’ve heard some good things about your response time,” said council member Cody West. “I’m sitting in the office and hear the (paging) tones go off, and you’re right there.”

Thorp also said four EMS members spent four days in Presidio, helping out local emergency personnel with the Rio Grande flooding that caused many evacuations and forced closure of the international bridge to Ojinaga for three weeks. EMS used the Pecos Police Department’s mobile command center while down there and handed several calls, including two that required trips by aircraft to help victims stranded by the flooding.

Before hearing from Thorp, the council voted to write off $397,367 in bad debt on the books of the ambulance service. Pecos City Manager Joseph Torres said the debt was over four years old, and was “one of the things we need to close out in our last audit.”

Borrego had a slide show on some of the problem areas that have been cleaned up, mainly on the north and east sides of town and said that since he and fire marshal Jack Brookshire had teamed up to do 42 inspections in July and August, and were working more on their own now.

“Since then we’ve gotten enough inspections under our belts so that Jack can go out and do inspections on his side and I can go out and do mine on my own,” he said.

He said notices have been handed out to violators of the city’s laws on trash and weeds on private property.

“For years people just dumped their trash, weeds, tree trimmings outside, and thought it was all right. I’m going around educating people,” Borrego said. He added that he’s been helping those who are unable to remove large appliances, mattresses or other items from their property

“Lots of single moms aren’t able to get rid of stuff. I tell them drag it as close to the fence as you can and I’ll pick it up,” he said.

Borrego told the council he’s removed over 94,000 pounds of items to the Pecos City Landfill during the three month period from July to September.

He said he also has talked with some out-of-town property owners about cleaning up their old buildings, including the area along U.S. 285 on the north side of Pecos and on Business I-20 (old U.S. 80) though town.

“I‘ve been here all my life and this place has never looked good. There‘s some trash that‘s been out there since the 50s,” he said.

Council member Danny Rodriguez, who pressed Borrego on cleaning up the city‘s main entry portals, asked if the city couldn’t paint private buildings along those highways to make them look better, though other councilmen questioned whether or not that could be done.

West said part of the problem is the age of the buildings on Business I-20 and North U.S. 285. “It‘s an old community, and you see old buildings as you come into town,” he said. “I really don‘t know what the solution is, but I don’t think it’s code enforcement.”

“I like what he’s been doing because rather than being punitive, he’s being corrective,” said Torres. He and Borrego both told the council that a shortage of manpower has been slowing clean-up efforts.

In other action, the council approved an emergency request for wastewater treatment plant testing by the City of Balmorhea. Torres said Balmorhea mayor Joy Lewis asked for the help because the person they were using had run into problems and they did not have another person certified by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to conduct the tests.

“This is a short-term thing. They are trying to replace personnel, but our people meet the requirements,” Torres said.

Councilman Gerald Tellez asked if the city would be reimbursed for its services, which would be provided by city employee Ruben Contreras.

“We are required to recover our costs,” Johnson said, adding. “I don’t think we’re talking about much money.”

Council members also modified the city’s charges for rolloff trash dumpster rates, adding a $500 deposit fee for commercial users because of the increase in construction demolition refuse going into the city’s landfill.

City breaks ground on animal shelter

Ground was broken Friday morning for the Town of Pecos City’s new animal shelter, which the project’s construction foreman hopes will be ready to replace the city’s aging Walthall Street shelter sometime early next year.

City officials had to move to the back end of the old Pecos Army Airbase runway to find dirt for the morning groundbreaking ceremony. The new animal shelter will be built at the end of the concrete slab from the old Airbase runway and just behind the Pecos Criminal Justice Center on Moore Street, at a current cost estimate of $257,000.

It will replace the city’s Walthall Street facility, which has been subject to numerous complaints in recent years over the conditions of the animals’ pens and of the waste removal system. The current shelter also has been plagued over the past year by the lack of a quarantine facility, something that became more important with the outbreak of rabies in Reeves County.

“This has been a long time coming,” said Pecos Mayor Dick Alligood. “The council is very proud of the fact that we’ll be able to do this without needing a loan, a bond or anything.”

“Since February, along with the (city animal control) committee, representatives of the city council and the engineering staff have been working with the State of Texas on the animal shelter,” he said.

State inspectors cited the city’s current shelter for a number of violations, and have been working with state zoologist Cathy Parker on the design of the new facility, to make sure it meets state standards.

West Texas Concrete and Metal Buildings of Seagraves is the company that will build the new shelter. It is the sister company to West Texas Dream Homes, owned by Antonio Briones, which is currently building six new single family homes in the Morris Addition of central Pecos.

Tommy Williams, construction superintendent on that project, will serve in the same role in construction of the shelter, which will be similar to the one constructed by Briones for the city of Andrews. Norman Roman will be the project’s construction foreman.

“Basically, we will be using some of the same construction people as on the homes; block layers, brick layers,” Williams said. “We’ll have electricians come in, but basically we’ve got everybody already here in Pecos to jump on the project.”

Williams said he expected construction to take between 90 and 120 days, but added that the actual building work can’t start until city crews prepare the site for the new building.

“As far as construction, they’ve still got to do a lot of dirt work and put in the foundation before we do construction,” he said. “When that’s complete, I feel like we can build the shelter and get it done quickly.”

Aside from the dirt and foundation work, the city will also supply much of the equipment inside for the shelter, including a number of new items recently purchased for the Walthall Street shelter to bring it up to code until the new building is finished. City officials said that would cost about $20,000, and would be taken out of the $125,000 allready allotted by the city council towards the construction of the new shelter.

Conger finding success with cosmetics

Jennifer Byrne Conger veered from the law enforcement path chosen by the rest of her family to become a queen. Besides her crown, Conger sports a diamond ring received at the recent Mary Kay seminar in Dallas, where she paraded down the stairway with other ladies in the Queens Court of Sales.

“I want to thank all my customers who helped me get there,” said Conger.

She has enrolled over 200 customers in the four years she has been a beauty consultant, and she keeps in touch to learn their needs. Her in-home stock of cosmetics allows her to fill those needs immediately.

“I have people that book parties,” she said. “When there are at least five there, I give them 50 percent off.”

She recently held a customer appreciation event at the community center.

“My director came down in her pink Cadillac,” she said.

A director gets a pink Cadillac when she has five salesmen working under her direction. A smaller, black car is awarded for lesser achievement.

Conger said that her sister-in-law got her started in the business. Her brother is Jerry Byrne Jr., a Texas Ranger who recently was promoted to captain and transferred to Austin. Both sisters, Suzette and Robin, work in federal prisons. Her mother, Mary Byrne, is captain in the sheriff’s office in San Angelo. Her father, Jerry Byrne, is a retired Department of Public Safety trooper. She is married to Jarrett Conger, who manages Grady’s Western Supply. Their children are Quinten, 20, Dana, 13, and Lauren, almost 6.

The stunning redhead was born in Abilene, attended kindergarten in Balmorhea, then attended Pecos schools, where she played cornet in the band. She enjoys cooking, specializing in lasagna, and decorating cakes.

“I started decorating cakes when Quinten was a year old and have made every cake since then” she said.

She enjoys camping with the family and watching the girls’ swimming events and ball games.

Truck ordinance fight still rages at city hall

Town of Pecos City Council members will take another look at the city’s new truck ordinace, implemented two weeks ago, following protests from several truck operators and their families on Thursday, during the council’s regular meeting at City Hall.

The council passed the first reading of the ordinance in August, while hearing for over an hour from many of the same families, who said forcing them to park their vehicles away from their houses would be both inconvienent, and would leave those vehicles open to burglaries. However, there were no protests two weeks later, when the council approved the second and final reading of the ordinance during their Sept. 11 meeting.

Thursday discussion came during the public comments section of the meeting, when councilmen were told by ordinance opponents they were never contacted about the second reading and final passage of the measure.

“I feel at least we should be able to park at our houses without the (truck) trailers,” said Becky Millan, who along with her husband Julian operate their own trucking business. “I believe they should be able to stop at home and rest.

“I believe they’ve done a lot for this town. A lot of money is coming in because of the oilfield,” she said. “I don’t see how wrong it is for them to stop at the house bobtailing and just spend the night.”

The ordinance limits truck parking and truck travel to designated streets in the city, and Pecos Mayor Dick Alligood said it affects all vehicles with a gross weight over 26,000 pounds. “What we did is match the Texas Department of Public Safety. Whatever vehicles require a commercial operators license, we matched.”

The Millans said the front cab section of the truck when bobtailing only weighs in at 16,000 pounds. However city code enforcement officer Jack Brookshire said the vehicle qualifies because of how much total weight it can pull.

“Even though the weight may be 16,000 pounds, the gross weight may be about 80,000 pounds,” he said, adding that if the city did permit bobtail trucks, it would require another ordinance change.

Maria Millan was also angry about statements made by Alligood to KWES-TV, which she said blamed trucks for the problems with city streets.

“Our trucks did not do this,” she said. “You have not repaired the roads in I don’t know how many years.”

Millan also was angry over video used in the report showing the area in front of their home on the south side of Pecos, while Crystal Millan voiced the same complaint about video used by Ch. 9 around her home on Texas Street, where her husband Justin also operates a truck.

Alligood said the city couldn’t control what video Ch. 9 uses on its news show, and said the problem he was referring to was curb damage caused by trucks turning on Texas Street.

“It was brought to the driver’s attention and they moved down the street,” he said.

“There are a lot of streets without trucks that have potholes,” Maria Millan said.

Justin Millan told the council his schedule kept him from attending the Sept. 11 second reading, and that the city had also not contacted his family.

“You told me to wait, we’re going to call and send a letter, but you sent out one letter to one woman,” he said. “I did not find out for two weeks after that meeting that the law was passed.”

During the Sept. 11 meeting, Alligood said ,“I did go by to try and contact the ladies who were here,” but was unable to get in contact by phone on Thursday and left cards at the residences of the families who attended the Aug. 14 council meeting, when the first reading of the ordinance took place.

He repeated that to the Millanson Thursday, but did note that the city had lost a sheet of paper where opponents who had attended the Aug. 14 meeting provided their addresses and phone numbers.

Alligood said a section of the West of the Pecos Rodeo Ground had been designated as a truck parking zone, but told the truck operators the city couldn’t gaurantee the safety of items in vehicles parked there. He added that at least two people have begun setting up truck parking areas on lots along Third Street.

Council members did hear from two people during the meeting in support of the new ordinance.

Jesse Acosta, who first brought the complaint about truck noise in residential areas, thanked council members for passing the resolution. “That’s a good job. I know you went through very hard work, but you pulled it through,” Acosta said.

Justin Millan said his truck didn’t make any more noise than some other vehicles that are allowed under the city rules. “A truck is just as loud as a diesel pick-up. It’s just as loud as a big travel RV. It’s just as loud as a roustabout truck with a winch,” he said

Later in the meeting, former Pecos Chamber of Commerce and Pecos Main Street Director Tom Rivera said he had problems in the past with trucks parking on his street and washing the vehicles there.

In response to the Millans, Rivera said he had not gone down to complain to the owner of the truck, but added, “The law wasn’t in effect then, so I couldn’t do anything.”

“I want to hear this out to be fair to them. If there are some issues and some solutions, I want to hear them,” said councilman Danny Rodriguez, who voted to approve the measure on Sept. 11 and asked city officials to air ads on the new rule on KIUN Radio.

Councilman Gerald Tellez pointed out that ads were run on the new ordinance, but Crystal Millan said, “Not everyone listens to the radio here. I listen to XM.”

Alligood said the item could be put on the next council agenda, since no action could be taken on Thursday because the matter wasn’t a listed agenda item. Members then said they would continue the discussion during the council’s Oct. 23 meeting.

“Let’s look at it again. To me if the truck is under the weight already set, we might tweak the ordinance a bit,” said city attorney Scott Johnson.

RCDC gets good rating in audit

Good news came for the Reeves County Detention Center, after the facility was audited and given a good rating.

The Reeves County Detention Center was audited by the American Correctional Association during the week of Oct. 6.

ACA is the national recognized body in accrediting correctional facilities.

“RCDC has never attempted to gain accreditation in the past and this was a huge challenge for the staff,” said RCDC I-II Warden Martin McDaniel.

The audit is a very comprehensive audit that covers every area of the institution.

“Our auditors were Gail Zeek, Chairperson from New York, James Potiseck from Pennsylvania and Fletcher Morgan from Florida,” said Martin.

The facility scored 98.3 percent on this accomplishment.

“I could not be prouder of the staff, this is an outstanding accomplishment,” said Martin.

Martin said that every RCDC employee contributed in the success of this audit.

“To accomplish this score with the older facility is an outstanding feat,” said Martin.

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