Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas
Friday, October 24, 2008
Venue tax board looks to plug money leaks
Money has been going down the drain at the Reeves County Civic Center, and members of the Buck Jackson Rodeo Arena Venue Tax Committee approved what they think will be a cheap way to solve at least part of that problem.
Board members met on Tuesday to discuss several items, including the expenses for the building and the adjacent rodeo arena and a Town Hall meeting on facility renovations, currently set for 6 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 6 at the Civic Center.
The committee was created earlier this year to handle funds for the city’s new hotel-motel venue tax, which has already netted over $80,000 this year, and to plan for improvements using the funds to both facilities. But members were shown that average maintenance and operation costs for the facilities are current running at about $58,000 annually.
Board member and city manager Joseph Torres distributed a list of revenues and expenses over the past four years, compiled by County Auditor Lynn Owens. They showed that water costs soared from $541 to over $30,000 when the Civic Center and Buck Jackson Arena were taken off the flat $5 rate the city had been charging. Water costs dropped back to only $3,171 in 2007, but had climbed back to $7,426 through the first nine months of 2008.
“The $5 rate was a giveaway,” Torres said, while noting the change over to having Reeves County paying higher rates, “really impacted the costs for this facility.”
Board member Brenda McKinney said a leak two years ago was probably responsible for the big surge in water costs, but board member and Torres said the facility is still wasting too much water, especially in the men’s room, where there are no control valves on two troft urinals.
“Those urinals are running even when no one’s using the facility,” he said. “We could have bought five separate urinals with the money we’re spending.”
Pecos Mayor Dick Alligood, also a board member, said the group should look at installing more cost-efficient urinals like the metal ones with motion sensors used at rest areas by the Texas Department of Transportation. However, before then, the board approved installation of a new control valve, until more permanent changes can be made as part of the building’s renovations.
“A $5 valve will shut it off for now,” said board member and Reeves County Commissioner Ramiro Guerra.
Along with fixing the water problem, the board also approved a temporary fix to the water damage problem due to leaks in the front area of the Civic Center, by replacing the most heavily water-damaged ceiling tiles.
Venetta Seals, public information director for Reeves County Hospital, said the facility donated a number of its old ceiling tiles to the Civic Center following renovations of the hospital four years ago, but Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Linda Gholson said there weren’t that many remaining.
“It would make a difference if we could just replace 15-20 of them,” Alligood said.
In other action, Seals also briefed the board in place of Joe Keese on the plan formulated by members of the various groups receiving hotel occupancy tax funds from the city to combine those with the venue tax funds through establishment of a Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. That would involve relocated Chamber offices from downtown to the Civic Center and use of the building by out-of-town visitors for at least 51 percent of the events, but would allow HOT taxes to be used towards the facility’s maintenance and operation costs, while the venue tax could be dedicated completely towards renovations.
“Basically our mission is to put heads in beds and spend the HOT tax in a better way,” Seals said.
The plan would also call for the CVB to handle Centennial Park downtown, while funds would continue to be provided for the West of the Pecos Museum operations.
“All of this is going into bringing people into the community, instead of people here going to spend money in other people’s restaurants and other people’s hotels,” Seals said.
The Nov. 6 Town Hall meeting will be to update residents on work by the venue tax authority and to take suggestion on plans to improve both the Civic Center and the rodeo arena.
“We need to do this as soon as possible, because I’m catching lots of heat on why this isn’t getting done,” McKinney said. “We need to give the public a chance to have their ideas heard.”
The committee agreed to spend $500 on local advertising to promote the Town Hall event.
Reeves County early vote total surpasses 460
Early voting in Reeves County has averaged over 100 people a day for the first 3 1/2 days of the 10-day period, which runs through next Friday for the Nov. 4 general election.
A total of 460 people in Reeves County have cast their ballots early by personal appearance as of early Thursday afternoon, according to the Reeves County Clerk’s office, while the clerk had received seven by mail as of Tuesday.
Early voting will continue this on Friday and again next week, ending on Oct. 31. Voting this year is taking place at the Pecos Community Center, 510 S. Oak St., due to the overcrowding in the Reeves County Clerk’s office that has led to extra chairs and tables being placed in the front hallway of the Reeves County Courthouse.
All of the local races on the ballot are uncontested, but Reeves County voters will still have three propositions that are bond of the county’s $17.1 million revenue bond proposal on the Nov. 4 ballot, along with the contested national, state and regional elections on this year’s ballot.
Democrat Barack Obama, Republican John McCain and Libertarian Bob Barr are the three candidates on this year’s presidential ballot for county voters. In the U.S. Senate race, incumbent Republican John Cornyn is being challenged by Democrat Rick Noriega and Libertarian Yvonne Adams Schick, while in the race for 23rd District Representative, Democrat incumbent Ciro Rodriguez is challenged by Republican Lyle Larson and Libertarian Lari Connelly.
The other regional legislative race is for District 74 Representative, where incumbent Democrat Pete Gallego is being challenged by Republican Thomas Kincaid, Jr.
The uncontested local races all have candidates running on the Democratic Party line. They include sheriff Arnulfo Gomez; county attorney Alva Alvarez; county tax assessor-collector Rosemary Chabarria; county surveyor Tony Trujillo; Precinct 1 county commissioner Roy Alvarado; Precinct 3 county commissioner Saul Herrera; Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace (unexpired term) Grace Renteria; Constable, Precinct 1 Arutro Granado; Constable, Precinct 2 Jerry Matta; Constable, Precinct 3 Tomas Martinez, and Constable, Precinct 4 John Cole Armstrong. In addition, 143rd District Court Judge Bob Parks and 143rd District Attorney Randy Reynolds also are unopposed in their re-election bids in the three-county district that also includes Ward and Loving counties.
Magistrate weighs dismissing Stephens’ federal sex charge
A U.S. Magistrate will deliver an opinion sometime in the next several days on a motion to dismiss federal sex offender charges against Randall Lee Stephens, who was indicted last month in the May 6 stabbing deaths of a Pecos couple in their west side bar.
A hearing was held on Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Pecos before Magistrate B. Dwight Goins, during which Stephens court-appointed attorney, Scott Johnson, made a motion to dismiss that charge, which was filed under the 2006 Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, which increased punishment against convicted sex offenders who fail to register with local authorities.
Stephens was convicted in 1990 and sentenced to 17 years in prison in connection with a burglary of a habitation in Pecos in which he sexually assaulted a 25-year-old woman. A warrant was issued by Pecos police on a similar charge two days after Rick and A.J. Cherry were found stabbed to death inside D.J.’s Round-Up, on West Third Street, but following his arrest in southern Alabama a month later, the local charge was superceded by the federal charge, which allowed U.S. Marshals to return Stephens from Bay Minette, Ala., to Pecos.
Robin McBride, with the Marshal’s Service’s Pecos office, said he testified on behalf of the federal government during Tuesday’s hearing, when the motion to dismiss was heard by Goins.
“Basically the defense attorney filed a motion to dismiss and we replied,” McBride said. “It was over the indictment, and over what transpired leading us to file the indictment.”
“The challenge to the indictment is because of the lack of specificity,” Johnson said. “Whether or not the facts of this case required Mr. Stephens to register.”
Johnson said a second question involved whether or not Stephens violated the interstate commerce section of the law when he left Texas and was apprehended in Alabama. He added that motions similar to this have been filed in other venues, because the law is only two years old and legal decisions on its use have not yet been made in higher federal courts.
“My understanding is the 5th Circuit, which is the appeals court for this area, has not ruled on some of these issues,” Johnson said.
McBride and Johnson said Goins’ recommendation would be returned in the next few days, but it wouldn’t be released until U.S. District Court Judge Robert Junell had time to review the case.
Even if the court overturns the charges, Stephens is still facing capital murder charges in connection with the deaths of the Cherrys, though the federal indictment allowed officials to hold him at the Pecos Criminal Justice Center for 2 1/2 months, until a 143rd District Court grand jury returned the murder indictments on Sept. 24.
Police believe after stabbing the Cherrys, Stephens stole Rick 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.
Stephens was arrested on June 3 in Loxley, Ala., by an officer who questioned him and two other transients at an Interstate 10 truck stop. A records check turned up the warrant against Stephens.
Stephens, who turned 50 on the day officials say the Cherrys were murdered, grew up in Pecos, but had spent most of the past 30 years in prison. He had just been released in September of 2007 after serving 17 years as part of a plea bargain agreement on a 1989 charge of burglary of a habitation. The plea was on an original charge of sexual assault for an October 1989 incident involving a 25-year-old woman, and came after he had been convicted in 23rd District Court in Brazoria County in June of 1986 on a charge of aggravated assault.
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.
Officials field questions on bond issue’s projects
Local officials answered questions following a PowerPoint presentation to community members Monday evening on Reeves County’s $17.1 million bond issue on the Nov. 4 election ballot.
The presentation was part of a Town Hall event held at the Reeves County Civic Center by supporters of the three-part bond proposal.
“We decided it was necessary to have a town hall meeting, because as we have been conducting presentations for different groups and organizations on the bond issue many questions have arisen, and we realized that we have not captured everyone,” said Nancy Martinez, one of the promoters of the bond issue.
County Commissioners are seeking voter approval for up to $17.1 million in bonds to fund the construction, renovation, acquisition and equipment of parks, library facilities, offices, storage and other public business in the county.
The most expensive of the three is Proposition 1, which would raise $12.4 million for construction of a sports complex, along with golf course improvements, improvements to the Balmorhea Community Center and the creation of a North Side Splash and Fun Park. Proposition 2 would raise $4.4 million for the construction of a new Reeves County Library; and Proposition 3 would fund $500,000 in upgrades and improvements to existing facilities at the 4-H Grounds, south of Interstate 20.
Voters can choose to vote for or against one, two or all three propositions.
During the town hall meeting, architect Lorraine Dailey, with Dailey and Spear, did the PowerPoint presentation for the group and outlined the plan for the construction of the facilities.
The sports complex will consist of new regulation sized ball fields, new covered bleachers, concession, bathrooms, lighting, fencing and dug outs, irrigation and landscaping, parking for 300 vehicles, and kids play areas.
County Judge Sam Contreras on Tuesday clarified the location of the complex. It would be on the side where three of the current softball fields are located in Maxey Park, to the west of Kid’s City. The T-Ball and the former Pecos Pony League fields, located to the west of the softball fields, would also be fixed up, with new lighting for the T-Ball field and possibly converting the Pony League field into a soccer field, but would not be included in the complex.
Golf course improvements will expand the facility from 11 to 18 holes, and would include new water wells, water hazards, sand traps and total automatic sprinkler system for the course. It would also include an eight-foot high fence around the course and additional fencing provided to separate driving range from hole No. 1, which parallels driving range.
The bond would also fund additional driving range improvements, a small building added to accommodate ball washing machine and golf ball dispenser, landscaping, with cart and walking trails, two buildings on golf course to house toilet facilities, demolition of existing pro shop and locker room and replace it with a new 5,200-square-foot clubhouse including, men’s lockers, women’s and girl’s lockers, separate boy lockers, pro shop, lounge, pro’s office and storage area and outside covered pavilion area, new parking lot to accommodate 70 automobiles and bus parking area.
They would also dismantle the exiting metal golf cart building and relocating as storage and supply, build a new building to accommodate 40 carts, maintenance and storage building for golfing supplies, build covered shed area for all golf course maintenance equipment.
Also included in the $12 million bond would be a Balmorhea Community Center Park, which will feature sports, court, volleyball, playscape and shaded parent seating; and the North Side Splash Park, which will have a playscape for ages two to 12; jogging and walking trail with fitness stations and restrooms and shaded parent seating.
“It will also have a place for barbecuing and the splash park,” said Dailey. “All the kids love the water.”
She said that they would be using materials that would be environmentally friendly. “These materials will withstand the use and all kind of weather to last longer,” she said.
Improvements to the 4-H Barn will close in two of the exhibit buildings with overhead doors, provide cross mechanically ventilated system for each of the building stalls to be closed in, provide toilet facilities in a separate stand-alone building, provide painting of the existing to the building used for pistol range, provide mechanically cross ventilation for the pistol range building and provide A/C office for operation of 4-H facility in pistol building.
The original plan for the new library had it being built downtown, on the site of the old F.W. Woolworth building at Third and Oak Streets, However, local businessman Leo Hung told the group that they had narrowed the location of the new library to the old Showtime Video building located near the Odessa College campus in Pecos, on Eddy Street.
“It’s a great location because it’s by Odessa College and closer to the high school,” said Hung.
Pecos Economic Development Executive Director Rob Tobias told the group that this was a centralized location and that they were not looking at remodeling, but tearing it down and building a new library at that site.
Johnny Jordan, former owner of the shopping center that was located there, questioned why they couldn’t just remodel the building instead of building a new one.
“There are some structural problems that are worried about,” said Dailey.
“So did the old White’s building (now home to the Odessa College campus) and it cost them $1 million,” said Jordan. “I think it should just be remodeled and not torn down, it’s got a lot of advantages.”
“The 16 cent tax, does it take into consideration the bed tax from hotels?” asked Ken Winkles.
“No, the bed tax won’t go towards this,” said Tobias.
David Flores asked if the library was going to extend their hours, if the proposition passed.
“We’d have to visit with Sally (Perry, county librarian) and see what we can work out,” said Tobias.
Flores said that it would be more convenient if the hours were extended, so that students, from both the local schools and Odessa College could take advantage of the facility and utilize it more.
“If valuations stay as high as they are now, how many years will it take to pay all this off,” said Charlotte Slack.
“It hasn’t been determined yet, because it depends, on which propositions pass and the length of the years that you decide to have the note for,” said Contreras. “We’re looking at 20 years, but again it depends on which propositions pass,” he said.
“Do you expect all these buildings to last this long?” asked Slack.
“We plan to use the stable, sturdy material that will last a long time,” said Dailey.
“How many votes does it take for a proposition to succeed?” asked James Garcia.
“We have 6,000 registered voters in Reeves County, so it would have to be the majority,” said Tobias. “We’re hoping that everyone votes for all three propositions, because this is something good for the community.”
Sam Urias said that Reeves County didn’t need another swimming pool, in criticizing the North Side Splash Park option in Proposition 1.
“A splash park is not a swimming pool, it is something totally different,” said Tobias. “I think every project will be assessed on its own merit.”
“Ask the people before they pick up a ballot, ask a couple of questions and ask why is it that the community of Pecos can’t have something nice, while other communities can and ask (Pecos Enterprise publisher) Smokey Briggs these same questions,” said Steve Valenzuela. “Do we as citizen’s not deserve to have nice things in our community or do we have to drive 75 miles to do so?”
Valenzuela, who is involved with Hung on the $9 million Paradise Plaza project adjacent to the golf course on I-20, said that he was making a commitment to this community by building a restaurant out at the new hotel.
“This is my home and will continue to be, so I just want what is best for this community,” he said.
Early voting for the Nov. 4 general election started on Monday at the Pecos Community Center and will continue until next Friday.
Vasquez celebrates second birthday
Michael A. Vasquez Jr. celebrated his second birthday with a party held in his honor at Maxey Park.
Family and friends were on hand to help with the special occasion.
He is the son of Lezlie Rayos and Michael Vasquez Sr. who will be deployed to Iraq for a second tour.
Maternal grandparents are Irma Rayos and Jesus Barreno.
Paternal grandparents are Arturo and Sally Vasquez.
Crums announce birth of daughter
Jennifer and Richard Crum announce the birth of their daughter, Machinzee Aurora Crum.
Little Machinzee was born Thursday, Sept., 25, at 1:51 a.m. She weighed six pounds, 11 ounces and was 19 inches long at birth.
Wife of former area minister will be Harvest Day speaker
First United Methodist Church welcomes friends and guests to share in its 55th Annual Harvest Day celebration this Sunday morning.
Joy Garrett Goin will be guest speaker for morning worship services at 8:30 a.m., in Toyah and at 10:55 a.m., in Pecos. The noon fellowship dinner will follow at the Pecos church, located at Third and Elm streets.
“We hope to have a good crowd for this special day,” said pastor John Barrett. “Please make plans to come and share in this time of thanksgiving and fellowship.”
Harvest Day is unique to the Pecos church, which established the tradition as a special thanksgiving for the season’s harvest. In addition to friends and guests, former members of the Pecos church are invited, which makes the celebration like a homecoming as well.
Joy served the Methodist churches in Pecos and Toyah with her husband, the late Robert G. Garrett, who was pastor from 1991 to 1995. The Garretts moved from Pecos to New Mexico, eventually to the “mountains” of Sacramento in the south-central part of the state. Rev. Garrett died in 2000.
A Methodist lay speaker since 1986, Joy is now in her third year as pastor of Sacramento Mountain United Methodist Church at the United Methodist Assembly in Sacramento, New Mexico. She married Ray Goin, a Christian counselor, in February of this year.
Joy’s Harvest Day message at Pecos and Toyah this Sunday will be “Where Do We Go From Here?”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Information contained in the Police Report is obtained from reports filed by the Pecos Police Department, Reeves County Sheriff’s Office, or other officers of those agencies. The serving of warrants by an officer for outstanding fines of either traffic citations, animal control violations or other court costs are considered arrests and will be printed as such unless indicated that the fines were paid. In such instances we will indicate payment and release.
Abran Sandoval, 18, 1208 Yucca St., was arrested by police on Oct. 15 on a warrant for possession of marijuana a Class B misdemeanor, issued out of the Reeves County Sheriff’s Department. Police said the arrest was made in the 200 block of South Palm Street, and an additional charge of having a prohibited substance in an adult correctional facility, a third degree felony, was added when a search at the Pecos Criminal Justice Center turned up marijuana in his possession.
Leticia Florez Romero, 35, 311 E. 14th St., was arrested by police on Oct. 15 on a warrant charging her with child endangerment, a State Jail Felony, issued by Municipal Court Judge Lali Rivera. Police said the arrest was made at her home at 7:55 p.m., and Romero was then transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.
Hayden Dominguez, 21, 2211 Country Club Dr., was arrested by police on Oct. 15 on a warrant charging him with possession of marijuana, a Class B misdemeanor. Police said the arrest was made in the 200 block of South Palm Street, and Dominguez was then transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.
Javier Fuentez Hernandez, 35, 1512 S. Plum St., was arrested by police on Oct. 10 on a charge of public intoxication, a Class C misdemeanor. Police said the arrest was made in the alley behind the 1500 block of South Plum Street, and Hernandez was then transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.
Frederick Lee Gomez 38, 514 Ross Blvd., was arrested by police on Oct. 12 on five warrants issued by the Town of Pecos City. Police did not disclose the nature of the warrants in their report, but said the arrest took place at the Suavecito Club, 900 S. Cedar St., and Gomez was then transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.
Francisco Ornelas, 18, 1216 S. Elm St., was arrested by police on Oct. 10 on a warrant for failure to pay a previous fine for no driver’s license, a Class C misdemeanor. Police said the arrest was made in the 400 block of South Peach Street, and Ornelas was then transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.
Hayden Ray Dominguez, 21, 2211 Country Club Dr., was arrested by police on Oct. 12 on a charge of public intoxication, a Class C misdemeanor. Police said the arrest was made in the 500 block of South Peach Street, and Dominguez was then transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.
Ethan Christopher Dominguez, 18, 1202 Yucca St., was arrested by police on Oct. 12 on a charge of consumption of alcohol by a minor, a Class C misdemeanor. Police said the arrest was made following an incident at Sixth and Mesquite streets, and Dominguez was then transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.
Jose Franco, 56, 409 E. Second St., was arrested by police on Oct. 14 on a charge of possession of a controlled substance (heroin). Police said the arrest was made after they received a call at 4:20 p.m. on a man staggering in the street in the 400 block of South Locust Street and discovered Franco with heroin allegedly in his possession. He was then transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.
York M. "Smokey" Briggs, Publisher
324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 432-445-5475, FAX 432-445-4321
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