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Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Commissioners eye rollback rate to boost funds

Reeves County is looking at setting its tax rate for the 2009 fiscal year at the rollback rate, in order to raise more funds for needed projects and salary increases. However, requests by various departments during a budget workshop on Friday exceeded the amount of additional funds the new tax rate would bring in next year.

Commissioners met for over five hours on Friday to discuss the 2009 budget, as well as the effective and rollback tax rates for the upcoming year. Increases in the county’s mineral valuation will allow the county to collect more money at the new rollback rate, which County Judge Sam Contreras said would still be lower than the county’s current property tax rate.

Tax Assessor Collector Rosemary Chabarria said the county’s effective tax rate, needed to raise the same amount of money as last year, dropped from .35325 cents per $100 in valuations, to .31252, while the new rollback rate would be .34648 cents per $100 in valuations. The rollback rate is the highest the county can set taxes at without requiring a rollback election.

Contreras said setting the tax rate at .34648 cents would raise an additional $261,236 for 2009. “That doesn’t leave us a lot to do,” he said. Among the departments seeking increased funding was the Reeves County Road and Bridge Department. Supervisor Russ Salcido asked commissioners to move the salaries of three workers currently assigned to parks and local maintenance out of his department and into the General Fund and the Recreation Department Fund, which would allow the county to hire three new workers who would be assigned exclusively to road and bridge projects.

Contreras said because of the increase in energy drilling in the county, roads are requiring more repairs because of the trucks traveling over them.

“Toyah is taking up a lot of Russ’ time,” Contreras said. Due to the development of the Toyah NW gas field, Toyah residents have been complaining about the poor condition of their roads, which are part of 650 miles of roads maintained by the Road and Bridge Department. “I could definitely start with three (workers), but I can use as many as the county can afford,” Salcido said. “We’re doing road improvements right now, but with all the (drilling) activity, we just can’t seem to get ahead.”

Salcido and commissioners also talked about putting $20,000 into a fund for stipends for department workers, in order to keep them from moving either to other county jobs or to oilfield-related jobs. The stipends would be based on skill levels of the employees.

Salcido also asked the county to look at buying a new motorized compactor, a water truck and a maintainer to expand the department’s current equipment inventory, some which is as much as 55 years old.

“If we get you this equipment we probably need to get you the extra personnel,” said Contreras, who asked county auditor Lynn Owens to look at getting three bids for the equipment.

Salcido also said higher oil prices would affect the cost of asphalt and the availability of construction materials. Owens said the state is having similar problems, which has led to delays in the Texas Department of Transportation’s Eddy Street reconstruction work.

Also seeking increased funding was Reeves County Attorney Alva Alvarez. She asked commissioners to increase the salaries of her office’s investigator and secretary, Annabel Orona and Crissy Contreras, to $42,000 and $30,000 a year. She said state law requires any salary changes for her department to go through commissioners.

“Belle is an investigator,” Alvarez said. “Freddy Contreras (143rd District Attorney investigator) makes that much, and she does the same work.”

“Are we comparing apples to apples?” Sam Contreras said, adding that Freddy Contreras has had more police training experience.

Reeves County funds the cost of two of the three investigators for the 143rd district attorney’s office. The Contrerases are brothers, but Freddy Contreras was hired by district attorney Randy Reynolds before Sam Contreras was elected county judge in 2006.

Chabarria also asked for an additional $5,000 for her department for continued training of her office’s workers, both in the election department and in the tax collection department.

Council decides to tie rifle range to golf land deal

Town of Pecos City Council members opted not to go along with a suggestion by Mayor Dick Alligood to sell Reeves County land sought for a golf course expansion project at market value. But at the same time, the Council opted during their special meeting on Thursday to hold the county to their original request, which includes giving the county over 30 acres of land it no longer wants.

Council members met in executive session Thursday night and following the closed-door discussion, voted to give the county 111 acres of land south of the Reeves County Golf Course for expansion of the facility to a full 18-hole layout. The council took no action on three other land donation requests by the county, for three projects that are part of a planned $17 million bond issue.

The county requested 111 acres back in December to build seven new holes at the golf course, after selling three holes along Interstate 20 to local businessman Leo Hung for his Paradise Plaza hotel, restaurant and entertainment center complex. But in March and April, county officials asked to scale back that request, after it was discovered about 30 acres of the site where the former Pecos Rifle and Pistol Club Range had been located could be subject o state lead abatement rules.

Thursday’s agenda item was for a request to transfer 80-plus acres of land for the golf course, and came just after Alligood released a letter asking that the county pay market value for the land, in response to the continuation of its water rate lawsuit against the city. Council members rejected that plan, but also told the county it would have to accept all 111 acres of land as part of the deal.

“All the council did last night was to reaffirm the vote of the April 2008 council meeting,” Alligood said on Friday.

“Currently all we need is 80 acres,” County Judge Sam Contreras said on Friday. He added that under the deal, the county could turn the unused land back to the city in two years.

However, Alligood and city attorney Scott Johnson said that under the terms of the original agreement, the city only would not be required to take back the rifle range land.

“Any property not used by the county within two years, shall by written notice by the city return to the city,” Johnson said. “It’s the city’s option to return any part of that property to city ownership.”

That would leave Reeves County responsible for any future cleanup of lead bullet fragments and the range, if it was demanded by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. However, Contreras said the lead situation wouldn’t be a problem unless the land is used by the county.

“Because we only need 80 acres, we have a buffer zone,” he said.

In March, Contreras told the council that golf course manager Peter Mora had designed a seven-hole layout that avoided the range area. “We’re looking to stay away from the berms,” Mora said. “We’re looking at making the (course) property line about 50 feet from it.” Mora said the county planned to test the area near the berms for any lead problems, and that the company doing the testing would have to file a report with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

“We would be testing 80-100 feet away from the berms, not the berms themselves,” Mora said. He said the test would be to make sure the areas where the course’s irrigation system would be put in would not have any lead contamination.

Alligood’s letter, published in Friday’s Enterprise, suggested that the city charge the county market rates for the land south of the golf course, due to the ongoing suit over the city’s 2005 water rate hike. Reeves County sued over the increased cost of water at the Reeves County Detention Center and has lost several decisions over the past two years. Alligood said the city remains a part of the county’s current appeal against the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, and that the suits have so far cost Pecos over $59,000 in legal fees.

On the other items discussed in executive session on Thursday, Alligood said, “We’re looking at trying to form a committee, as far as the use, and as far as how the plans would be set up.”

The other items would involve the donation of the old F.W. Woolworth Building at Third and Oak streets, which would be torn down in order to build a new Reeves County Library; the donation of Bessie Haynes Park on the east side of town to the county, and the donation of land at Maxey Park to the county for parking, as part of plans to redesign the area around the county-run baseball, softball and T-ball field at the park.

Alligood said the city is looking for local residents to volunteer to serve on the committee that would work with the county on those projects.

County OKed for $500,000 golf course grant

Reeves County was awarded a grant for improvements to the Reeves County Golf Course, and has received a new year of funding from another grant designed to provide extra security in the area.

Reeves County Judge Sam Contreras told commissioners during their Monday meeting that the grant that the county had applied for had been awarded to Reeves County in the amount of $500,000. Most of that money will go towards expansion of the golf course, which the county is looking to turn into a full 18-hole layout.

“We were very excited to learn that we had received the grant for the golf course,” said Contreras. “We also received the smaller grant that Toyah applied for, so they will be receiving some funds as well,” he said.

Reeves County Sheriff’s Deputy Gary Richards told the group that they had received an extension on a grant from Border Star grant.

“They extended the original grant from Aug. 15 through Aug. 15, 2009,” said Richards.

Richards said that they still have money left over from the original grant and that they plan to use it.

“I’ve also been adjusting their schedules and limiting their mileage, so that we don’t run out of funds before we get the new ones,” said Richards.

Richards said that in addition to funding for salaries and mileage, that the sheriff’s department was applying for a grant for additional equipment, such as radios, repeaters and license plate readers.

“As soon as we get the grant, we’ll deposit the money in the border grant money account, we don’t use any funds for this from the sheriff’s budget itself,” said Richards.

In other action on Monday, a contract for juveniles secure and non-secure placements for FY 2009 were approved.

“These are the same contracts that we have had in previous years, but the fees have gone up,” said Camila Blum with the Reeves County Juvenile Probation Office.

Blum told the group that the two most-used facilities were in Midland County and Garza County and that both had gone up in their fees.

“Midland County is now $110 per day and Garza County is $104,” said Blum.

Commissioners also approved comp time payments for Reeves County employees.

“I know that the transportation wants to keep some comp time on their books,” said Contreras.

Lee Serrano, with the transportation department, told the group that they were coming in to the slower months and would like to keep 200 hours of comp time on the books.

“The sheriff also had some employees that had accumulated some comp time over the past four to five years,” said Contreras.

The group also listened to a report from William R. Wren, M.ED., L.P.C. of the McDonald Observatory during their regular meeting.

Several young ladies crowned during Pecos pageant

A prelim pageant was held in Pecos this past Saturday at the Pecos Community Center.

The winners and runner-ups will advance to the Big State Pageant in San Antonio, June 13-14, 2009.

Each winner will receive a beautiful crown, sash and flowers. Runner-ups received a sash and a ribbon.

In the birth through 23 months age group: Pecos Baby Miss, Avery Smith; first runner-up, Catherine Cole (Catherine also won an award for best eyes); second place, Yliana Navarrete; third place, Kaelynn Salcido and fourth place, Kyleigh Smith.

In the two to three years of age category: Pecos Wee Miss, Gabrielle Dominguez; first runner-up Nevaeh Jasso; second place, Hannah Benad; third place, Taryn Garcia and fourth, Rosa Maldonado.

Four to five year old, Pecos Tiny Miss is Mariah Abila; first, Jenna Avila; second, Zailyn Sanchez and third, Andrea Cantu.

Kayla Martinez was named Pecos Little Miss in the six to nine year old division; first, Audry Evans; second, Honestee Maldonado; third, Ysidra Navarrete and fourth, Jazlynn Salcido.

In the 10-12 Division, Pecos Young Miss named was Valerie Carrasco.

Wink clinic helping kids learn riding

The Winkler-Loving County 4-H held its annual Horsemanship Clinic Saturday at the 4-H facility in Wink.

According to Marti Haws, who coordinates the event, 40-50 riders attended the clinic, along with their horses.

On hand to school riders and mounts were Russ and Kayla Slaughter of Wink, Silvio Cervantes from the Jal, New Mexico area, and Charlie White from Pecos.

“All of the instructors are ranchers and professional horse trainers,” Haws said.

The clinic covered the basics of good horsemanship and proper care for horses, Haws said.

During the clinic the instructors addressed topics ranging from where a rider should position his foot in the stirrup, to techniques for training a mount to respond to commands.

After the morning demonstrations, riders took their own horses into the arena to put some of their new knowledge to use under the eyes of the trainers.

Haws said that she was very pleased with this year’s attendance, and was looking forward to next year’s clinic.

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