Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas
Friday, December 12, 2008
Keese hopes council to hear CVB-bed tax plan
Plans to reorganize the groups and usage of bed tax funds for the Town of Pecos City, along with venue tax funds for the Buck Jackson Rodeo Arena and Reeves County Civic Center were discussed by Pecos Area Chamber of Commerce members, during their monthly meeting on Tuesday
The group met at noon Tuesday, to discuss several issues, including the proposed changes to create a Pecos Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, and submitting names to serve on that board.
The proposal’s supporters say will better use funds from the Town of Pecos City’s bed tax and hotel-motel venue tax revenues and has been outlined to several governing bodies over the past two months.
The plan is being backed by members of all four entities receiving the bed tax money, and Chamber of Commerce board member and West of the Pecos Rodeo Committee president Joe Keese said would better direct funds current received from taxes on local motels.
Keese told chamber members on Tuesday, that he is having problems getting it on the city’s agenda as an action item.
“I’m due to give a presentation to the PEDC and the county,” said Keese. “This is not my project, it’s the executive board.”
Keese said that he had been stalled for the past three months, for whatever reason.
“I think we will be on the next agenda, for Dec. 18,” said Keese, who has attended several recent council meetings while getting only to speak during the public comments portion of the meeting, as opposed to an actionable agenda item.
“I now know more about the truck ordinance,” he said, referring to the issue that has taken up most of the recent city council meetings.
The plan as of now would consist of three members of the hospitality industry (hotels and restaurants), two local business owners/managers, one city and one county representative serve on the CVB board, which would make a total of seven members.
Names submitted by the board included: Jean Winget, Bobby Bhakta, Al Gomez, Jr., Nancy Martinez, Sebero Jaquez III, Gail Box, Rudy Villegas, Kristopher Terrazas and Harry Ghandhi, to represent the hotels and restaurants or business owners/managers, portion of the members.
The Board would oversee management of the bed tax fund, which currently goes to the West of the Pecos Museum, Chamber of Commerce, its advertising committee and the Pecos Main Street program. All would continue to be funded, but the Reeves County Civic Center would be rebuilt as a convention center. Most of that work would be done with venue tax funds, while the bed tax funds would pay for maintenance and operation of the facility.
Part of the presentation will be moving the CVB office to the old Missouri Pacific Railroad depot, according to Keese. The depot is currently designated as the future home of the Texas Rodeo Hall of Fame.
“That way we can man it, because we had five windows busted out,” he said. “If we have people in there, it will help.”
“His plan is a very good plan, what is important is that we should have a vote to support Joe, so he won’t feel alone, everything is based on accountability to the funds,” said Al Gomez.
Keese said that he needed the support of the chamber at next Thursday’s council meeting. “If we all show up together, we’ll be hard to stare down,” said Keese.
Chamber president Venetta Seals said that it was important for the chamber to show up as a group and show support for the proposal.
Also during the meeting Seals said that they wanted some input from all the directors as to who would be on the new board and added it would have to be approved by the city.
In other business, Keese said plans are going well for next year’s West of the Pecos Rodeo. He said that they are planning another Hall of Fame induction ceremony and hopefully additional space at the depot will be renovated for the Friday before the rodeo events.
“We’re set to go wit the entertainment and acts,” said Keese.
Keese said that they had just returned from a Vegas convention, held at the start of the National Finals Rodeo, where they received more information and input.
“Things are getting better and better and we are planning to go with electronic tickets,” said Keese. “Like on the website, we’re going to that too, especially because last year we had 400 tickets stolen.”
He said that they are planning a really good show and are going back to back with slack.
“Before they had to leave and then come back, but with the price of gas and other things, they just want to stay here and finish and then leave,” he said.
More volunteers will be needed because it will be four days of rodeo, with 700 cowboys, according to Keese.
D.A.R.E. Officer and chamber director Olga Keese told the group that she wanted to thank everyone that has helped make the program a success.
“This program is for the kids and they seem to really enjoy it,” she said. “There will be a graduation ceremony on Jan. 22 and we’ll have a guest speaker and door prizes.”
Odessa College, Pecos Campus Director Michelle Workman told the group that they will be starting the Spring Semester.
“We are going to try to encourage sophomores to start taking college courses,” said Workman.
Workman said that before juniors and seniors were allowed to take college courses if they wanted to. “Now, Mr. (P-B-T ISD Superintendent Manny) Espino wants to include the sophomores,” said Workman. “That summer that they are sophomores they can start taking summer college classes.”
She said that this is to get students to earn as many hours during their high school years and can earn an associates degree upon graduation.
“Mr. Espino is really pushing this and we’re really excited to work with the kids,” said Workman.
New report again threatens WTSS shutdown
Recommendations made during a November meeting of the Sunset Advisory Committee include reducing Texas Youth Commission central office salaries by 10 percent and closing three TYC facilities, including the West Texas State School in Pyote.
Victory Field in Vernon and Ron Jackson II in Brownwood are the other two facilities recommended for closure by the Committee, which also proposed combining the Texas Youth Commission and the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission into one agency, the Texas Juvenile Justice Department, to be headed by an 11-member board and with a review date by the Sunset Committee in 2015.
Officials in Austin first began talking about shutting down the Pyote juvenile detention facility in the Spring of 2007, after revelations of sexual abuse of the male students by two officials in charge of the state school, and the failure of local law enforcement officials to take action following initial reports of the abuse. WTSS remained open, but has had problems attracting employees and meeting staffing requirements.
The Sunset Committee is an advisory group made up of five members of the Texas Senate appointed by the lieutenant governor, five members of the Texas House of Representatives, two members of the public, one appointed by the lieutenant governor and one by the speaker of the house.
The current panel includes House Members Carl Islett of Lubbock; Dan Flynn of Van; Linda Harper-Brown of Irving; Lois Kolkhorst of Brenham and Ruth Jones McClendon of San Antonio and Senate Members, Glenn Hegar, Jr. of Katy; Kim Brimer of Fort Worth; Robert F. Deuell, M.D. of Greenville; Craig Estes of Wichita Falls; Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa of McAllen and Charles McMahen of Schulenburg.
Cherie Townsend, executive commissioner of TYC, was quoted in an article in the Austin American Statesman, as saying, “I don’t think this is the best thing for the State of Texas or for the reforms that are ongoing.
“TYC is undergoing massive reforms as an agency. Those reforms are not finalized. If we shift our focus from those reforms, to more the management of the bureaucracy, that will not benefit the youth we serve.”
Vicki Spriggs, executive director of the probation commission was also quoted in the Statesman report. “This is a bad idea,” she said. “We’re a functioning agency that has exceeded all expectations. TYC has a lot of problems that are being worked out. If you put the two together, you could end up with a lot more problems.”
Senator John Whitmire (D-Houston), co-chair of a special legislative committee that monitors TYC reforms, said the two were wrong.
“Anyone who wants to protect the status quo is going to have a very difficult time justifying their position now,” he said, according to the Statesman article.
State Representative Pete Gallego, whose district includes WTSS, sent an e-mail to The News on Nov. 20, saying he was protesting the efforts to close the Pyote campus.
“I have drafted an objection to the proposed closure and plan to personally meet with my fellow legislators on behalf of the employees of the WTSS and the citizens of Ward County. The West Texas State School is a quality facility staffed by dedicated employees,” Gallego said. “It provides a valuable service to the Texas Youth Commission and our state on a daily basis. The professionalism and commitment exhibited by the vast majority of WTSS employees is second to none. Their efforts have created and sustained a strong, viable program for the at-risk youth of Texas. Please know that I will continue to do everything within my power to keep the WTSS open and fully operational.”
The News went to Ward County Judge Greg Holly to ask what citizens of Ward County could do to show their support, and hopefully keep WTSS open.
Complying with the Open Records Act, Judge Holly produced a letter he received from Senator Carlos Uresti in August 2008.
Uresti’s letter stated he had met with then-TYC Conservator Richard Nedelkoff regarding WTSS. A quote from Uresti in that letter stated, “The Pyote facility is vitally important to our community, and keeping it open is one of my priorities.”
The letter explained that TYC has enough operating funds to keep the Pyote facility open through the 2009 biennium. The department is operating the facility using discretionary funds. The operational funds to run the facility were not included in the department’s budget during its last legislative session, but the department pulled the resources from elsewhere and has kept the facility open.
According to the letter, the department’s current Legislative Appropriations Requests, in which it asks for operating expenses for the next budget cycle, has the Pyote facility listed as an exception item. This means the department will be asking the Legislature to approve a budget for the facility next session.
Uresti did explain that the facility would undergo some changes, which include reducing the facility from 135 beds to 96 beds in an effort to combat the criticism the department has received about staff shortages at the facility.
“However, the conservator has assured me the reduction in beds will not mean a reduction in staff,” wrote Uresti. “I will continue to fight for our Pyote facility, and you can expect that I will call upon your help during the 81st Legislative Session.”
Holly recommends to the citizens of Ward County and to the employees of WTSS to write their legislators. “I know this sounds redundant, but that is what we need to do. We need to make our same arguments,” he said. “We have a much more difficult challenge now that studies are in place.”
Holly said, a year and a half ago, when Ward County citizens contacted their legislators, sent emails and made trips to Austin on behalf of WTSS, they were successful.
“At that time,” said Holly, “I was trying to keep them from making a knee-jerk reaction, and it worked. We’re in a different environment now.”
He said he wants legislators and all involved to understand West Texas is different from the big cities. “Not all youth are from Houston and Dallas,” he stated. If WTSS closes down, there won’t be a facility for youth from El Paso to Brownwood.
Holly said he would like to keep WTSS as it is, a facility for troubled youth. But, if that does not happen, he would like to see another type of facility come in so many of the staff would still have jobs.
“The worst thing that could happen would be to have that facility abandoned and sitting and have that loss of jobs. It’s a great facility and lots of folks could be employed in other types of facilities,” he said.
Area’s 2008 sales tax totals surpass $3 million mark
The final sales tax rebate checks for 2008 were sent out this week by Texas Comptroller Susan Combs’ office, and they showed the fourth decline in five months for the Town of Pecos City’s totals. But sharp increases over the first half of the year still allowed the city to report their fourth straight year of double-digit increases in sale tax revenues, and total sales tax rebates for all four taxing entities within Reeves County exceeded $3 million for the first time this year.
The city’s 1 1/2-cent share of the state’s 8 1/4-cent sales tax brought Pecos $134,392 this month, a drop of 8.32 percent from last year’s $146,595. However, for the year the city received $1,885,151 back from Austin in sales tax, a 21.98 percent jump from 2007’s totals.
December’s check is based on sales made during October within the city, and one sixth of the total, or $22,398, goes towards operation of the Pecos Economic Development Corp.
The city saw a sharp increase in its sales tax receipts beginning in the second quarter of 2007, and continuing through the second quarter of this year, when those numbers leveled off. The increase was due in large part to the rise in energy-related businesses operating in the Trans-Pecos area, which helped boost local sales, but drilling activity has leveled off in recent months, which combined with an overall slowing of the economy has led to a drop in the tax rebate check totals starting in August. But the 2008 overall total is still over $1.1 million above the annual total Pecos was receiving in 2003, the year prior to the start of the current energy drilling boom.
Balmorhea managed to eek out a small increase in their sales tax check for the month, while Toyah’s check for December came after receiving no check at all for the final month of 2007. Balmorhea got $3,373 this month as their 1 1/2-cent share of the state’s sales tax, up 2.22 percent from last year’s $3,300 total, while Toyah’s December check totaled $511.
That still wasn’t enough to keep Toyah from showing an overall decline in tax receipts for 2008, falling 1.91 percent from $10,627 to $10,424, while Balmorhea’s overall total this year of $38,092 was up 9.9 percent from last year’s $34,660.
Pecos’ decline for the month was matched by the Reeves County Hospital District, which had seen its sharp increases in sales tax rebate totals on its 1/2-cent sales tax continue into the second half of 2008. The hospital district received $101,374 back from Austin, a 15.9 percent drop from the $120,553 it received last December, but overall for the year the hospital received $1,165,368 back from the comptroller’s office, a 36.8 percent rise from last year’s $851,861.
The combined 2 percent sales tax within the county – the maximum allowed under state law – for the hospital district and all three cities netted $3,099,036 in sales tax rebates for 2008, the first time ever sales tax rebate totals within Reeves County have surpassed the $3 million mark. The total is 26.87 percent higher than a year ago, when combined tax collections for 2007 totaled $2,442.593.
December’s totals regionally were better than Pecos’ in areas to the east, with most cities continuing to see increases of 10 percent or more over their 2007 totals, though their annual increases came in about the same as those for the city and Reeves County.
Midland’s check from its 1 1/2-cent sales tax was $3.4 million up 31.66 percent from last year, and was the largest single check sent out for the area. Overall for 2008, the city had a 16.45 percent rise in its sales tax totals. Odessa’s 1 1/4-cent share of the state’s sales tax share brought in $2.09 million, an increase of 17.41 percent, while for the year, Odessa was up 12.55 percent.
For other cities collecting the 1 1/2-cent sales tax, Alpine received a $93,831 check, which was up 0.60 percent. Overall, Alpine was up by 7.26 percent in tax rebates this year. Crane received a check for $60,316, up 19.09 percent, while the city’s 2008 total rose 19.9 percent. Lamesa got a $91,937 check back this month, which was up 4.10 percent, and the 2008 total overall was up 11.60 percent. Seminole received a check for $100,234, which was up 15.63 percent, while overall, the city’s 2008 totals were up 10.88 percent.
Among cities collecting a one-cent sales tax Kermit received $45,428, which was down 9.84 percent from last December. The city was up overall for 2008 by 6.01 percent. Wickett received a $10,793 check, down 22.64 percent this month, but for the year the total increased 31.89 percent; Wink received a check for $12,233, up 43.81 percent for the month, and overall almost doubled their collections from a year ago, rising in 2008 by 98.71 percent; and Pyote, received a $670 check for December, a 25.63 percent decrease, but the city was up 24.81 percent for the year.
For area cities collecting a 1 3/4-cent sales tax, Andrews received a check for $385,767, a 34.42 percent increase for the month, while its 2008 overall total was up 21.97 percent. Marfa got a check for $22.650, which was up 16.54 percent, and for the year the city saw a 7.98 percent increase, while Van Horn got a check for $30,993, which was up 25.26 percent from a year ago, but not enough to keep the city from seeing an 0.72 percent drop for all of 2008.
For cities collecting the maximum two-cent sales tax, Fort Stockton received $238,105 this month, up 25.93 percent, while the city was up 35.96 percent overall this year. Big Spring received $476,571, a 16.71 percent rise for the month, while overall the city’s total improved 13.21 percent increase for the year. Monahans received a check for $149,196, which was up 25 percent, while the city’s increase for 2008 was up 22.12 percent. Grandfalls got a $2,150 check, up 2.5 percent for the month, and the city was up 16.15 percent for the year, while Presidio received $28,043 this month from Austin, down 1.92 percent from last December. The totals were partially affected by the Rio Grande flooding, which shut the crossing between Presidio and Ojinaga for most of September and the first few days of October. Overall for 2008, Presidio was down 3.54 percent in its tax rebate totals.
Statewide, Combs’ office sent out rebate checks totaling $328.6 million, compared with the $300 million last year, an increase of just over 9.49 percent. For the year, Texas cities and counties saw a 5.57 percent increase in their tax rebate checks. Houston’s check for just over $44 million was the largest single check and was up 17.28 percent from last December and 6.93 percent overall for the year, while Dallas’ check was next, at $15.3 million, which was down 12.38 percent from last December, leaving the city with a 1.5 percent net gain from last year.
Interest in numbers helping Urias in bank job
It’s a big jump from fast food to banking, but a knack for numbers paved the way for Aaron Urias. He has been a teller at West Texas National Bank for the past year.
Working the commercial teller window on Tuesday, Urias said he trained in the bank lobby, moved to the drive-in windows for four months, and now is back in the lobby.
“It is a lot easier once you know what you are doing,” he said.
Urias said he thought about a career in accounting when he was in high school, because “I am good with numbers; they just click in my head.”
He stayed with math through Algebra II, although “Geometry, with shapes and degrees, was hard for me.”
Working on cars to enhance their beauty and keep them running smoothly is Urias’ hobby. What he doesn’t know how to do, he asks a family member to help with. He said a 1967 Mustang was his favorite vehicle.
Night school at Odessa College gives Urias the opportunity to complete studies in the basic requirements while he considers what to choose for a major.
“I’m not sure what I want to do,” he said.
While living with an aunt and uncle, Roddy and Delma Chavez, in Arlington during his sophomore year, Urias worked at Six Flags over Texas.
“That was my first job,” he said. He operated a booth near the entrance “where you pay and do mini-games.”
He didn’t know many people in the big city, but met a few when he got involved in sports. He was a football quarterback until he broke a thumb in his senior year at Pecos High School, and had to switch to strong safety on defense.
“You can’t throw passes with a cast on your thumb,” he said.
His parents are Javier Urias and Favi Trujillo, but he lives with grandparents, Armando and Delia Urias.
Sister Di’Andra works at Sonic, and Tiffany and Jeffrey are still in school. His longtime girlfriend is Brittany Rodriguez.
In his leisure time, Urias likes to work out at the Reeves County Recreation Department, lifting weights, shooting basketball goals and walking on the treadmill. He hasn’t tried racquetball yet, but thinks it would be fun.
In his senior year, Urias worked at Dairy Queen. He enjoys working with people, and when he was offered the teller job, he jumped at the chance.
“I am hoping in another year or two I can move to another city and build my career … make a name for myself,” he said.
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.
Francisco Salcido Menchaca, 35, 708 S. Cherry St., was arrested by police on Dec. 7 on a charge of public intoxication (enhanced) a Class B misdemeanor. Police said the arrest was made at 8:50 p.m. near the Flying J Truck Stop, 100 E. Pinehurst St., on a report of a male subject asking for money. Menchaca was then transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.
Norberto Rodriguez Jr., 25, 2005 Ivey St., was arrested by police on a warrant for an unspecified charge, issued out of the Midland County Sheriff’s Department. Police said the arrest was made at Rodriguez’s home, and he was then transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.
Debra Sotelo Pando, 25, 309 N. Cedar St., was arrested by police on Dec. 6 on a traffic offense and a warrant for failure to pay a $200 fine on an earlier charge of failing to stop for a school bus flashing lights. Police said the arrest was made following the traffic stop at 9 p.m. at 12th and Cedar streets, and Pando was then transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.
Oscar J. Hernandez, 23, 506 W. ‘F’ St.; Jacob Bustamante, 28, of Imperial; Michael Hernandez Munoz, 24, 2345 S. Eddy St.; and Mario R.. Gonzales, 36, 1401 S. Oak St., was all arrested by police on Dec. 6 on charges of public intoxication, a Class C misdemeanor. Police said the arrests were made at 700 S. Palm St., after officers were called on a report of a male subject assaulting a female, and all four were then transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.
Kristopher Lee Terrazas, 30, 700 S. Hickory St., was arrested by police on Dec. 7 on a warrant out of Ector County for failure to pay a traffic fine, and on a charge of speeding. Police said the arrest was made after Terrazas was stopped at 12:06 p.m. in the 1000 block of Washington St., and he was then transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.
Zair Granado Estrada, 27, 608 N. Ash St., was arrested by police on Dec. 5 on a charge of assault, a Class A misdemeanor. Police said the arrest was made following an incident at 1111 1/2 S. Cherry St., and Estrada was then transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.
Feliciano Carrillo, 37, 2017 Scott St., was arrested by police on Nov. 30 on charges of assault under the Family Violence Act, Class A and Class C misdemeanors. Police said the arrest was made at Carrillo’s home, and he was then transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.
Jose Rubio Menchaca, 33, 1316 S. Oak St., and Ysmael Chavez Mendoza, 51, of 1415 W. Seventh St., were arrested by police at the Flying J Truck Stop, 100 E. Pinehurst St., on charges of public intoxication, a Class C misdemeanor. The arrests were made after officers were called to the restaurant at the truck stop on a report of a disturbance. Both men were then taken 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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