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Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Friday, March 7, 2008

Groundbreaking held for new Holiday Inn

Town of Pecos City officials and Reeves County Commissioners were on hand for a ceremony for the first of a series of new motels planned in Pecos on Wednesday, with groundbreaking for a new Holiday Inn Express.

The dedication ceremony was held at a site on U.S. 285 across from Wal-Mart. The 3.07-acre site is being developed by local motel owner B.J. Patel, and is one of up to six motels currently in the planning stages.

Patel said he expected the actual construction on the 70-room motel to start “any time now. It will open, I’m hoping, in December or January.” He said the three-story motel is budgeted at $3.5 to $3.6 million, and would include a pool and front breakfast area. The motel will employ between 12 and 16 workers, Patel said.

“Part of the land was owned by the county, and part was owned by Barbara Prewit,” said Precinct 1 Commissioner Roy Alvarado. “We ended up selling in to him (Patel) on a bid.”

Precinct 4 Commissioner Ramiro “Ram” Guerra added that the site was one of two along U.S. 285 sold for motel construction by Reeves County in the past year.

“We ended up selling off that other property to the PEDC,” he said, with the PEDC in turn selling it off to a group planning to build a La Quinta motel on U.S. 285 at the Interstate 20 overpass.

“It’s an exciting time, and it’s good to be a part of it,” added Precinct 3 Commissioner Gabriel Martinez.

Patel in January met with the City Council in order to get the land annexed into Pecos, so that water and sewer utilities could be provided. He said electrical utilities also are already in the area, which is between Motel 6 and the West of the Pecos Rodeo Grounds on the east side of U.S. 285.

Construction work began last month on an expansion of the Oak Tree Inn on I-20 next to the Flying J. Truck Stop. Along with the La Quinta, the other motels planned include a new three-story Best Western motel adjacent to the current Sunday House Inn, a Hampton Inn on the south side of I-20 at the State Highway 17 exit, an unnamed motel on land currently occupied by the Reeves County Golf Course bought last month by local businessman Leo Hung, and land across I-20 being purchased by the PEDC from the Pecos Housing Authority that is being sought for a new Comfort Inn.

Ballot woes blamed for delay in final results

Reeves County primary results didn’t encounter the problems following Election Day that they had two years ago, during the county’s first use of its new electronic voting system. But that didn’t mean there weren’t any problems with the new system, which delayed reporting of Tuesday’s final results until early Wednesday morning.

A glitch at the Reeves County Courthouse central counting station had the clerks up until just before 2 a.m., counting ballots.

“There was just some sort of glitch, I wasn’t in that room, so I don’t know all the details, but these things happen,” said Democratic Party Chairman Bob Dean.

Another problem had arisen earlier when voters in Balmorhea ran out of ballots. “We had emergency ballots and took those to them right away,” said Dean.

A total of 13 emergency ballots reportedly were needed for Tuesday’s election, which did not have the optical codes to be run through the electronic scanners. “The ballots were off-center. If they’re not printed exactly for the reader, they won’t go through the counter,” Dean said. Election officials had to manually count the ballots due to the problem. Officials also complained about the lack of counting equipment at each of the county’s 11 polling sites as other counties have. However, Ward County, which reported its results four hours earlier than Reeves County, used the same system of a central counting station for its election returns.

Voter turnout was similar in both counties, and the number of local contested races was the same in both counties.

Dean, who was given the final results at 1:50 a.m. on Wednesday, said that they had ordered enough ballots for the number of voters, based on previous elections.

“This time we had more voters in Balmorhea, but we had emergency ballots on hand,” said Dean.

Three of the four challengers in the local races, Sammy Urias, Herman Tarin and Kevin Acker, waited around for several hours in the lobby of the Reeves County Courthouse for the returns to be released. Acker left for Monahans about 20 minutes before the final totals were announced, while Tarin and Urias stayed to go over the box-by-box results of their races, which they lost to incumbents Saul Herrera and Roy Alvarado.

Two-years ago, problems with the new federally-mandated electronic voting system resulted in two boxes not being counted initially on election night. The changes in the final results then sparked a five-month lawsuit over the results of the Reeves County Judge election, which wasn’t decided until late August, when Sam Contreras’ 15-vote win over al Gomez was upheld in 143rd District Court.

Dean said missed votes were not a problem Tuesday night.

“Everything’s there. Everything’s been counted,” he said.

County voters give new terms to incumbents

Reeves County voters opted against ‘change’ on Tuesday, voting to return several incumbents to office in the Democratic Primary elections.

All four local incumbents in contested races won nomination to new four-year terms, and will be unopposed in November. Reeves County voters also went for Hillary Clinton over Barak Obama by a better than 2-to-1 margin in Tuesday’s primary race.

Incumbent commissioners Rojelio “Roy” Alvarado and Saul Herrera won their elections for new four-year terms, and Reeves County voters also re-elected Bobby Dean as Democratic Party chairman.

In the most watched local race, voters in Reeves County voted to re-elect Randy Reynolds as 143rd District Attorney by just over a 2-to-1 margin over Ward County Attorney Kevin Acker, and Reynolds also picked up better than 60 percent of the vote in both Ward and Loving counties.

In Precinct 1, Alvarado, was opposed by Samuel Urias, and won his bid for a second four-year term with 324 votes to Urias’ 218 votes.

“In finishing up my first term and new term I am looking forward to the following goals,” said Alvarado. “Improving our county road system to meet our fast developing oil and gas industry which is vital to our county’s economy, is one of my main priorities,” he said.

“I want to continue making sound decisions in administering our detention facilities, upgrading our recreational facilities and programs and to continue serving as board chairman of Community Council, which provides area residents the many assistance programs for the ones in need,” said Alvarado. “I would like to keep my close working relationship that I’ve established with many community leaders in resolving the different issues we are faced with,” he said.

Alvarado thanked his opponent Urias and his family for running a good, clean campaign.

In Precinct 3 commissioner’s race Herrera beat out former commissioner Herman Tarin, who had served in that position for 12 years before opting not to run in 2004.

Herrera had 362 votes to Tarin’s 289.

“My priorities are to keep jobs and fill the vacancy at RCDC 1,2&3 and to increase personnel on Road and Bridge until we have a crew that will only work on county roads,” said Herrera. “I, along with my fellow commissioners, want to continue to buy equipment that is needed to work on county roads.”

This year the county budgeted to do seven miles on county roads and increased the budget on infrastructure for county buildings and county roads, according to Herrera.

“We purchased a trash truck to haul trash from the Prison to Penwell, the trash truck will also be used to help clean up the trash on county roads and colonias,” said Herrera. “The Reeves County Courthouse is going to get a new roof and I will continue to work with all the organizations and entities.”

Herrera and Alvarado said they plan to continue to pursue all grants funding available to Reeves County.

Dean, the longtime Democratic Party Chairman won his race over former county judge Jimmy B. Galindo. Dean beat out Galindo in a 1156 vote to Galindo’s 1019.

“I’m just happy with the results,” said Dean.

In the 143rd District Attorney race Reynolds won Reeves County that race with 1414 votes to Acker’s 699. Overall in the three-county 143rd District, Reynolds picked up 2,854 votes to 1,682 for Acker, who has sought last April to have Reynolds removed from office over the West Texas State School sex abuse scandal.

“I’m very honored at the election results and will work hard to earn the support,” said Reynolds.

Reynolds was under criticism for his handling of a case at the Pyote school, but said, “I would like to point out that I am excited about the elections, the majority of criticism was from others outside of West Texas, so I am glad I have a lot of support in the area where I actually work.”

In the presidential race, which Clinton won in the state by a 51-47 margin over Obama, Reeves County voters gave Clinton 1,447 votes to just 628 for Obama, with 153 other votes going to candidates who previously had dropped out of the Democratic race for president, but whose names remained on Tuesday’s election ballot.

All other local races were uncontested including those of Reeves County Sheriff, Andy Gomez; Reeves County Attorney, Alva Alvarez; District Judge 143rd District, Bob Parks; county tax assessor-collector, Rosemary Chabarria; county surveyor, Tony Trujillo; constable precinct 1, Arthur Granado; constable precinct 2, Jerry C. Matta; constable precinct 3, Tomas “Tommy” Martinez and constable precincts 4, John C. Armstrong.

May elections attracting few local hopefuls

A newcomer has joined the race for Town of Pecos City Council, but the position of mayor still has no candidates, with only two filing days remaining before the March 10 deadline.

Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD teacher Bernadette Ornelas filed for a seat on the city council, one of two up for election on May 10. She is only the second candidate to enter n the council race, and no local races in Pecos are currently contested.

Incumbents Michael Benavides and Angelica Valenzuela have yet to file to retain their seats on the council, and Benavides said in early January he did not plan to seek a new two-year term on the council. The mayoral position is currently held by Dick Alligood, who also has not filed for a new term. Alligood defeated Dot Stafford in her bid for re-election in 2006, while Benavides and Valenzuela won re-election two years ago. Ornelas joins Tom Rivera, who had also filed for a position on the council. Rivera retired last December as the city’s Main Street Director, but said he plans to keep active in the community.

Monday is also the deadline to file for election in the races for P-B-T ISD school board, the Reeves County Hospital District board and for the Balmorhea ISD and city elections in Balmorhea, Barstow and Toyah.

The two incumbents in the Reeves County Hospital District race, Precinct 1 representative Brenda McKinney and at-large board member Leo Hung, have filed for new two-year terms and are currently unopposed, while no one has filed for the open seat in Precinct 3. That position has been vacant since last fall, when Terry Honacker resigned from the hospital board.

Two seats are up for election in the P-B-T school board race, where incumbents David Flores and Paul Deishler are the only ones to have filed as of Thursday morning. Both are seeking new three-year terms on the board.

Persons wishing to file can pick up forms from City Hall in the council election, the school administration office in the P-B-T ISD race and at the Reeves County Hospital administration office. Candidates for the Balmorhea ISD election can pick up their forms at the school’s main office, and city secretaries will have the forms for the council and mayoral races in Barstow, Toyah and Balmorhea.

Forms have to be returned by 5 p.m. on Monday to the appropriate office in order to qualify for a place on the May 10 ballot. If no races are contested by the Monday deadline, the cities, schools and the hospital district have the right to cancel the May 10 election under state law, in order to save money.

Ward, Loving results provide just one change

Voters in Ward County joined voters in Reeves County in returning incumbents to office in their contested races on Tuesday, re-electing Sheriff Mikel Strickland and Precinct 3 Commissioner Dexter Nichols to office, while giving a majority of their votes to incumbent 143rd District Attorney Randy Reynolds.

Reynolds also scored a win in Loving County, where his race against Acker was the only locally contested race voters there had to decide in Tuesday’s Democratic Primary election. And Ward County voters put just one new person into office, in an open election for tax assessor-collector.

Reynolds collected 1,420 votes to 973 for Acker in Ward County, while Loving County voters went for Reynolds by exactly a 2-to-1 margin, giving the two-term incumbent 20 votes to 10 for Acker.

Strickland won his bid for re-election in a primary challenge by John Stuessy, picking up 1,911 votes to 704 for Stuessy. Nichols won his election over Billy Redmond by a 430-234 margin, and in the only contested open race in Ward County, Vicki Heflin defeated Susan King in the race for tax assessor-collection by a 1,768 to 825 margin.

All other local races were uncontested, including the race for Precinct 1 Commissioner, where incumbent Julian Florez of Barstow was unopposed in the primary for a new four-year term.

In Loving County, the unopposed races included those for sheriff/tax assessor-collector, where Billy Hopper received 30 votes; and three of the four commissioners’ seats, where Harlan Hopper in Precinct 1 received seven votes, Tom Jones in Precinct 3 received 10 votes, and William Wilkinson in Precinct 4 received seven votes to fill out an unexpired term.

Sammy Roberts also ran unopposed and won the race for Democratic Party chair in Loving County, while the other unopposed winners in Ward County were constables Bill Clayton and James P. Hammond.

Hernandez seeks venue change, Brookins lawyer in WTSS case

Hearings were held on Wednesday in Monahans for the two men at the center of the sex abuse scandal at the West Texas State School in Pyote. But no action was taken in the case of one of the two former officials at the school, when his lawyer failed to show up at the Ward County Courthouse.

John Paul Hernandez, charged in the West Texas State School sex scandal, and his attorney Albert Valadez appeared before 143rd District Judge Bob Parks on Wednesday afternoon, March 5th at the Ward County Courthouse, to petition for a change of venue. But the pre-trial hearing for Ray Brookins hit a snag when 143rd District Court Judge Bob Parks announced that Brookins’ Attorney Scott Dolin of Austin was not present.

After a few minutes, it became apparent that Dolin was not going to show, so Parks proceeded with the hearing.

“Do you know where Dolin is?” Parks asked Brookins.

“No sir, I do not know where he is,” Brookins replied.

“When was the last time you talked with him? Do you have any idea as to why he’s not here?” Parks asked.

“No sir,” Brookins replied.

Parks said the court could not proceed in the absence of Brookins’ attorney even though his case was scheduled for trial next month.

Attorneys Lisa Tanner and Adrienne McFarland represented the State. Tanner said they had tried many times to contact Dolin through fax and phone calls, but they had not received any response from him.

“I tried calling his cell phone numerous times, but I couldn’t leave a message because there was no more room for messages,” Tanner said. “I know he was getting his messages because there were times when the box was not full, and I was able to leave him messages on his voice mail. I asked him to get in touch with our office. The last time I called was Sunday. I called repeatedly, but a phone message said his mail was full.” Tanner said her investigators had gone by his office or residence and left a business card on the door requesting he contact their office.

She went on to say that they had a phone number for one of Dolin’s relatives who lives in Virginia, and the state is currently trying to contact him through that number. She said Dolin had moved to Texas from Virginia in 2006.

Parks reset the pretrial hearing for March 14 at 1:30 pm, stating the hearing would be held by conference call to determine whether or not Dolin is still on the case or whether Brookins has found a new attorney.

Parks told Brookins to provide the state with a phone number where he could be reached for the conference call and told him that was the best the court could do at the present time.

The indictments for Brookins, the former assistant superintendent at Pyote, include two counts of improper relationship with a student, a second-degree felony, and two counts of improper sexual activity with a person in custody, a state jail felony.

Hernandez, the former WTSS principal, was indicted last April by a 143rd District Court grand jury on 11 counts in connection with the allegations of sex abuse against detainees at the all-male state school.

Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office said at the time of the indictments there were 13 charges involving six students. Hernandez was indicted for one count of sexual assault, a second- degree felony, nine counts of improper sexual activity with a person in custody and nine counts of improper relationship with a student.

During Wednesday’s pre-trial hearing, attorney Albert Valadez argued for Hernandez that certain laws provided for his client to have a change of venue.

“The law does provide that it must be changed, but the law does not specify as to which county,” Parks said.

“We want to endeavor on our own,” Tanner told the court, “If it is appropriate for the judge to transfer the case within his district or an adjoining district.”

Although Valadez objected to the State’s presenting witnesses in the case, Parks did allow the State to question two witnesses concerning a change of venue.

Laurie English, 112th District Attorney for Pecos County, told the court she and Hernandez were raised in Fort Stockton, and he attended school with her brother.

English said due to the large amount of news coverage of the case, and the fact that Pecos County also has a state-run site for delinquent youth, she did not believe Hernandez could receive a fair trial in Pecos County.

Attorney General Investigator Missy Wolfe told the court she had spent considerable time researching media coverage and interviewing members of law enforcement, businesses, chamber officials and members of the general public concerning the case. Her conclusion was that Hernandez could not receive a fair trial in Ward, Reeves or Pecos County.

Judge Parks ended the hearing by telling Tanner, McFarland and Valadez, he would decide as to whether or not he would admit information concerning a bill of request for a change of venue. He said when he reached a decision, he would notify them.

As of Thursday, no information was available to the press.

Modern Study Club holds Federation Day Program

A Federation Day Program was held by The Modern Study Club on Wednesday, Feb. 13, in the Verhalen home of Nan and Al Cate with Paula Fuller, Federation Counselor, presenting the program.

The thought-quote for the program was Volunteer – “1. A person who undertakes some task or sevice of his or her own free will. 2. Done or made by consent without consideration in the form of money or services – Webster’s Dictionary.”

President Margie Williamson presided and chairman Fuller presented an interesting and informative overview of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, organized in 1868, one of the world’s largest and oldest women’s volunteer service organizations.

Mrs. Fuller told of its beginning with a woman names Jane Cunningham Croly, a journalist, whose pen name was Jennie June. It started in a very seemingly simple way not in any “big” event happening. The Press Club of New York City was a men’s club and they were having a dinner party to honor Charles Dicken. Jane wrote for The Women’s Cycle Magazine and she wanted to attend the dinner but was discouraged from attending because she was a woman. It was finally decided that she and some other women could come if they sat behind a curtain or were out of sight. She declined the invitation.

As a result the Sorosis Club was organized, according to Fuller. Sorosis, a Greek word meaning “an aggregation; a sweet flavor of many fruits.” The Club would provide opportunities for women to become acquainted with each other and to work and learn together and reach out to larger aims. That club would eventually evolve into the General Federation of Women’s Clubs.

Mrs. Fuller recalled many of GFWC’s accomplishments throughout the years. To name a few, the American Library Association credits Women’s Clubs with establishing 75 percent of America’s public libraries. During WWII GFWC sold $154,459,132, in war bonds to purchase 431 planes and after 9-11-2001 GFWC members contributed $180,000 for a fully equipped ambulance for use by the New York Fire Department. In 1990 GFWC supported the passage of the Violence Against Women Act in 2006-2008 GFWC President Jacqueline Pierce’s Special Project is Domestic Violence Awareness.

Chairman Fuller ended her report calling attention to GFWC’s support and awareness of February being Black History Month and Heart Healthy Month, the Million Voices Against Domestic Violence campaign, Helping Hands Combating Youth Suicide beginning with education and awareness, Canine Companions for Independence, Women’s Health/the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance and Dollars and Sense – 12 percent of women over 65 are living in poverty compared with only 7 percent of men.

During opening ceremonies the Collect was led by Lena Harpham and Betty Lee led the Pledges of Allegiance to the United States of America and Texas Flags.

Minutes of January 23 were read by Secretary Catherine Travland and approved as read.

Treasurer Betty lee gave a report on club finances andCatherine Travland on the club’s Certificate of Deposit.

A communication from Relay for Life Organization was received requesting participation and the club voted to donate $25. Cancer survivor Pearl Gustafson will participate in the survivorship celebration May 16 at Martinez Field.

A thank you certificate was received from the Christmas for Kids co-chairs, Sophia Baeza and Linda Clark. Members were reminded of the upcoming fundraiser bake sale slated for April 4.

Margie Williamson, Scholarship Chairman, reported the following: the applicatin of Vanessa Valeriano for the $800 Eleanor Tipps State Scholarship has been sent to the District Scholarship Chairman; the application of Katherine Leigh Ramirez for the Western

District Alma Van Sickle Scholarship is almost complete and will be sent prior to the deadline; that 2007 AVS Scholarship recipient Sylvia Davis, is tutoring math at Sul Ross State University.

She also thanked Catherine Travland for her assistance with typing and preparing the scholarships. The Modern Study Club will be hosting the Western District 48th Annual Spring Convention of the Texas Federation of Women’s Clubs in Pecos on March 15, and many phases of the activity was discussed. It was voted that the May meeting date would be changed from May 7 to May 3.

President Williamson appointed Paula Fuller, Lena Harpham and Betty Lee to serve on the nominating committee for 2008-09.

Western District Presient-Elect Catherine Travland requested permission to name The Modern Study Club as District Fundraiser Chairman. She explained that members of MSC would be responsible for planning and carrying out any fundraising for district meetings.

Roll Call was answered by telling what volunteer activity you have participated in that was the most meaningful for you.

The bi-monthly projects for this meeting was to contribute to the Texas Federation of Women’s Clubs Scholarship Fund and to provide Valentines for the resident of the Pecos Nursing Home.

Nan Cate, hostess, served delicious refreshments to those in attendance.

Sotelos announce birth of daughter

Joel and Rachel Sotelo are proud to announce the birth of their daughter, Kynnedi Ann Sotelo.

She was born at 4:15 a.m., Feb. 23, weighed six pounds, 10 ounces, and was 19 1/2 inches long at birth.

Baby Kynnedi was welcomed home by family and friends.

Maternal grandparents are Enrique and Norma Rubio.

Paternal grandparents are Pablo and Evangelina Sotelo.

Tredaway, Armstrong announce April wedding plans

Suan and Steve Cross of Midlothian and Terry Tredaway of Big Spring are pleased to announce the engagement of their daughter, Shanna Lyn Tredaway, to Chris Armstrong.

Chris is the son of Paul and Debra Armstrong of Pecos, David Brantley of and the late Sherry Brantley.

Grandparents of the bride are Betty and Allan Cunningham of San Angelo and Barbara and Jerry Cross of Wichita Falls. Grandparents of the groom are Bana and Cole Armstrong of Pecos and Janice and Ervin Schwindt of Belton.

Shanna is a 2002 graduate of Pecos High School and a 2006 graduate of Texas Tech University, with a Bachelor of Science in Human Development and Family Studies. She is employed with the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD as a second grade teacher. Chris is a 2001 graduate of Pecos High School and is employed with Armstrong Steel and Welding Supply.

The wedding is planned for Saturday, April 12, at the First United Methodist Church of Pecos.

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