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Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

New candidates file in city races before deadline

Three newcomers and an incumbent have filed to participate in the Town of Pecos City Council race, while the other races remained the same in the final hours before Monday’s 5 p.m. filing deadline.

Town of Pecos City Mayor Dick Alligood has filed to retain his position on the council on the last day to file, while four newcomers, Tom Rivera, Bernadette Ornelas, Oscar Ramirez and Cody West, are seeking the two positions on the council.

Rivera retired last December as the city’s Main Street Director, Ornelas is a teacher for the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD, Ramirez is the manager of La Tienda and West, the latest to file, is the former news announcer for KIUN.

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. Alligood defeated Dot Stafford in her bid for re-election in 2006.

Monday was 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. They 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 Monday morning. Both are seeking new three-year terms on the board.

If any races are uncontested after 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.

Deputies report two arrested following drug raid

Two individuals were arrested two weeks ago after a narcotics search warrant revealed the two were in possession of drugs. On February 28, at about 12:30 p.m., the Reeves County Sheriff Department Narcotics Division executed a narcotics search warrant at the property of Tomas Salgado, Jr., 36, located at 502 N. Cedar St. in Pecos.

During the search, investigators discovered numerous amounts of trash throughout the property; which gave evidence that people were selling, packaging, and snorting and smoking cocaine everywhere throughout the property, according to the sheriff’s report.

As a result of the search warrant, Salgado, was arrested for possession of a controlled substance in a Drug Free Zone a Second Degree Felony for possessing approximately 12 grams of cocaine within 1,000 Ft from Lamar AEP.

Also arrested by deputies was Andres Ortega, on a change of being in the United States illegally. Ortega was in possession of drug paraphernalia and was turned over to Border Patrol for federal prosecution and deportation.

Subsequently, Salgado was transported to Reeves County Jail where he remains without bond for violation of probation on a possession of cocaine charge.

Seizure of the property is pending in an attempt to prevent future narcotics activity at the property and trying to keep kids in the area safe, according to the report.

Walker finds local demand for boutique’s special items

Boutiques like Needleworks are rare in West Texas, and folks traveling through on U.S. 285 are surprised to find she carries specialty brands, said owner Peggy Walker.

Spanx, a popular brand of wearables that has been featured by Oprah, are different, and Walker said, “People are surprised that any small town has them.”

She also carries Brighton accessories, Earth shoes, Simple shoes, Tribal and Double D clothing.

Offering specialty brands and one-of-a-kind fashions is what distinguishes a boutique from a chain store that buys in bulk, she said. “They shop more for pricing. I shop more for customers.”

When Walker goes to market, she carries sizes and colors for her customers and watches for outfits she knows they will like.

“I just had a lady from Odessa call for a box of stuff,” she said. “There are no boutiques in Odessa.”

Walker also has a store in Alpine, where she carries the same brands, but says, “There will be no more stores. It is too much work.”

Since relocating her store to the old Ford Motor Company building at 120 S. Cedar St., Walker has noticed an increase in traffic between San Antonio and Kerrville and points in New Mexico. She has repeat customers who break their trip by shopping for items they can find nowhere else.

“I have a lot of out-of-town customers,” she said.

But Walker doesn’t wait for customers to come into the shop: she goes to them.

“I do outside shows, little girls’ cheerleading uniforms; press downs: whatever it takes to keep the doors open,” she said. She specializes in linen; hosting two shows a year in Odessa. “I have a good following there. It is real good for me because they have nowhere in Odessa to buy linen,” she said.

Although the name is still Needleworks, Walker said that needlecraft is not a big part of the business anymore. “The lady who sewed for me retired, and I found out I don’t have time to do everything.”

She has “really good help” in Lucy Gonzales and Mary Poole, who kept the business operating when she was out last year recovering from injuries suffered in a wreck.

With little leisure time, Walker plays bridge and reads for relaxation. She is a rodeo committee volunteer and on the Hall of Fame board of directors.

Having helped Kevin Duke restore the Ford building after a fire, Walker knows the value of reviving downtown.

“It just shows what can be done with old, dilapidated buildings,” she said. “There are some possibilities for downtown. I would love to see it come back.”

County’s unemployment rate shows increase during January

Reeves County’s unemployment rate was up four-tenths of a percent in January, according to figures released on Thursday by the Texas Workforce Commission.

The jobless rate in the county increased from 5.2 percent in December to 5.4 percent in January, matching upward trends across Texas, and the common increase in unemployment in the month following the Christmas shopping season. But the number was down by two-tenths of a percent from a year ago in Reeves County, the TWC said, due to an increase in the number of jobs outpacing a rise in the total number of workers in the county from a year ago.

The January report showed Reeves County with 4,115 workers and 3,891 jobs, while the county had 4,078 workers and 3,850 jobs a year ago. That goes against the trend of TWC reports over the past several years that has shown continued declines in the county’s labor force and job totals, even while growth in the oil and natural gas industry has caused the area’s sales tax collections to more than double since 2003.

The January numbers are down from December’s totals, when the TWC said there were 4,164 workers in Reeves County and 3,949 with jobs.

Most other counties also reported increases in unemployment, following the Christmas hiring season for retail businesses.

Midland County’s unemployment rate increased to 2.9 percent, after holding at 2.7 percent for three straight months. The county added 41 workers but lost 160 jobs from December. Ector County’s unemployment rate rose from 3.1 to 3.4 percent percent, as the county lost 194 workers and 373 jobs.

Andrews County’s rate was 3.2 percent in January, up from 3.4 percent in December. The number of workers dropped by 59 and the job total was down by 74 from December. Brewster County’s rate of 3.4 percent was up .4 percent from December, while the county lost 103 workers and 133 jobs from December.

Crane County’s rate jumped from 3.2 to 3.7 percent, as the county saw an loss of 74 workers and 79 jobs. Culberson County saw its rate go up from 2.5 to 2.6 percent in January, but bucked the normal post-Christmas trend, adding 68 workers and 66 jobs, as did Dawson County, where the jobless rate went from 4.6 to 5.1 percent as the county added 102 workers and 69 jobs.

Howard County’s unemployment rate increased from 4.0 to 4.4 percent last month. The county added six workers but lost 55 jobs. Pecos County’s rate of 4.5 percent was half a percent higher than December. The county’s workforce was down by 26 while the job total dropped by 61 in January.

In Ward County, unemployment was up from 3.6 to 3.8 percent, with the number of jobs falling by 58 while the workforce declined by 45. Winkler County’s unemployment rate was up from a revised 2.9 to 3.5 percent, as the county’s workforce was up by 20 from December while the TYC said the county added one job from January.

Presidio County saw its jobless rate rise from 9.0 to 9.6 percent. The county’s workforce was up by 50, while the number of jobs grew by 26 last month.

Loving County, the smallest county in the nation, saw its unemployment rate to drop from 11.6 to 8.7 percent . The TWC revised the number of jobs and workers up last month from December’s original total, and said in January Loving had at 46 workers, 42 of whom are employed, an increase of three workers and four jobs from December.

PEDC board discusses sale of PHA land for new motel

Pecos Economic Development Corp. board members and the businesswoman building two new motels in Fort Stockton met Monday afternoon at City Hall to discuss the sale of a section of land along Interstate 20 for a new Comfort Suites, and possibly a second motel and restaurant in the future.

PEDC 4B board members and Rachel Patel discussed her land needs and the possible sale price of the land recently purchased from the Pecos Housing Authority, before agreeing to hold a second meeting at City Hall next Monday so that both sides can offer more definite ideas on the use of the property and the price of the land.

Patel began meeting with former PEDC 4A president Mike Burkholder about acquiring land on the north side of I-20 east of Country Club Drive last summer, and discussed her plans two weeks ago with the 4B board, after it finalized the deal to buy 34.5 acres of land from the Housing Authority.

“I need a minimum of 2.5 acres to build,” Patel said, while adding she was also looking at a larger 5.6-acre section to buy that would allow for a second motel and/or restaurant development. She told board members that due to the layout of the PHA land, the section she was interested in first was an area of approximately three acres along I-20 from Teague Street to a 8-inch sewer line the bisects the land between Teague and Country Club Drive.

Board member Jimmy Dutchover noted that land on the other side of I-20 was bought recently by board member Leo Hung, who plans to develop his own motel and restaurant along I-20, at a cost of $15,000 per acre. PEDC president Robert Tobias said a section of land on U.S. 285 owned by Barbara Prewit recently sold for $37,000 an acre, but Patel said, “We had a look at Barbara Prewit’s land and that’s just too expensive to develop.”

“I’m not saying I’m not going to pay anything for the land, but we’re the first ones putting anything in, so we’re adding value to the area,” Patel told the board.

“I don’t have any problem with 2.5 acres at $15,000, but we do have the corner lot that’s worth a lot more and we need to pay that (PHA) loan off,” said board president Danny Rodriguez. Patel said the land nearest country club drive went only 215 back from the I-20 service road, which was too narrow for her planned hotel, while the section near Teague Street was about 95 feet wider. She told board member Paul Hinojos that the front section would be paved for parking, with truck parking in the rear.

Tobias said the infrastructure for development is in place on the western section of the PHA land, but there are no sewer lines in place east of Teague Street.

“I’ve been talking with other developers about the balance of land, and it would be my intention to try and create a Tax Increment Finance District,” Tobias told the board. Under the plan, the developer would pay for putting in infrastructure for new projects, and would be reimbursed in the future by the city through sales and property taxes created by the new developments.

“That way we’re not out money to support the infrastructure for that development,” he said. “If we attract a development for that site … we would negotiate with the developer to pay for that cost, and reimburse them from future revenues.”

Patel said the PEDC needs to look at fronting some costs for development, and said the Fort Stockton EDC is putting up $25,000 for infrastructure improvements at the site where she is building a Comfort Suites and Sleep Inn along Interstate 20.

“You have to spend money to be able to create revenue,” she said. “If there are grants out there, you have to look at that. You just can’t say ‘Pecos is it’, because they’re taking a chance here.”

She added that an EPA study will also have to be done on the site, but she wouldn’t pay for that until a purchase of the land went through.

Board member Dick Alligood asked Patel to come up with a proposed layout for the Comfort Suites site along with an offer for the land, while the PEDC gets exact measurements on the land between Teague and Country Club Drive and on the smaller section from Teague to the sewer line for next Monday’s 12 noon meeting.

Tobias said the PEDC has been in contact with another developer looking at the remaining 29 acres of the PHA property for both business and residential development, and that a second developer who had been scheduled to meet with him this week had to delay his visit to Pecos until late March, due to a death in the family. That developer is looking at construction of single and/or multiple-family housing in the city.

Newest state test measuring students’ fitness

Pecos High School students were spending some extra time in the gym this week, as part of a new state program designed to measure the physical fitness of students in schools across Texas.

PHS students are among 4 million students across the state in grades 3-12 participating in the Texas Education Agency’s Fitness Assessment Testing. The testing began after it was approved as part of Senate Bill 530 by the Texas Legislature this past spring, and will be an annual event for students.

“The elementary students already have been working on it since they got back from Christmas break,” said Debbie Garcia, who is coordinating the program for P-B-T ISD. “Since we didn’t have a lot of these (high school) kids in athletics, we’re testing them this week.”

Garcia said boys are being tested in the morning and girls in the afternoons at the new Pecos High School gym. Seniors were tested on Monday, while juniors, sophomore and freshmen will be tested over the next three days, and make-up tests will be given on Friday.

The test is divided into four categories, she said, measuring flexability, core strength, endurance and body mass index. It involves measuring push ups, sit ups, running and other activities to see if students meet the required standards.

“The chart tells us based on age and based on gender what a child should be doing to be physically fit,” said Garcia. “The report goes to the parents, but it doesn’t count as a grade and it doesn’t go on their record. It’s just something to tell the parents.”

The district is using Fitnessgram to do the assessments, which Garcia said have to be completed and sent into the TEA by May 15. However, she said the local tests will be finished before that date.

“The parents should be getting their reports by the spring from their children’s PE teachers,” she said.

Commissioners OK festival event, RCDC pacts

Reeves County Commissioners approved several items during their regular meeting held Monday morning in the courthouse, including to close the golf course on March 15 for the Spring Break Festival Golf Tournament and items related to the county’s detention facilities.

A concert and other events are planned for Saturday at Maxey Park and this year there will be the first adult/student golf tournament.

The golf tournament will be held at the Reeves County Golf Course, while all the other events will be held at Maxey Park. The paintball tournament will be held at the soccer filed located across the street from the park and vendors will be set up at the park with the concert scheduled at the gazebo.

The festival has been held for the past few years for everyone to enjoy during spring break.

Commissioners also agreed to award the bid of dilution/dispensing systems for the Reeves County Detention Center to the Mayfield Company.

County Auditor Lynn Owens said that they had asked the vendors to supply them with the county could get in the different chemicals needed at the facilities.

“We asked for them to supply us with both the kind that you need to dilute and the kind that needs to be diluted,” said Owens, who said the Mayfield Company had the lowest price on four of the chemicals.

“It’s very, very hard to compare, but they seemed to have the quality and the price that we need out there at the prison,” said Owens.

He said that they would also need two different dispenser systems and that they needed to make sure that all the chemicals worked on both systems. “I think Mayfield provides both the systems and the chemicals,” he said.

Commissioners approved an agreement with Swank Motion Pictures, Inc. and the RCDC for video services.

“This is just a renewal agreement in the amount of $3,008 per year,” said Owens.

During the departmental reports, RCDC Warden for Units I and II Martin McDaniel told commissioners that they are at 66 percent staffed at the detention centers.

“The employees are still working a 60 hour week and they will continue to do so until we are at 70 percent staffed,” said McDaniel.

“We’re in line financially, but yes they are working a lot of hours,” he said.

County Judge Sam Contreras said that he would like to look at possibly putting the exempt employees on an hourly pay scale.

“As an incentive possibly put them on an hourly scale, that way if they have to go in and fill in for someone they can get some overtime as well,” he said.

Contreras said that they wanted to keep the experienced employees and didn’t want them to quit, because they were working too many hours and not getting paid for them, since they are on salary.

“Have any other employees stepped down?” asked Contreras.

McDaniel said that he had not had that problem, but would discuss providing an incentive to those seasoned employees.

“We can take a look at that and see what we can do for them,” said McDaniel.

Contreras told McDaniel that he had also been asked about the sewer problems on the south side of Pecos blamed on RCDC waste.

“The city said that they had found some items that looked like they had come from the prison,” said Contreras. “Torn pieces of orange cloths and other items.”

“They city had asked us to install a lift station to catch everything,” said McDaniel. “I thought that problem had been fixed,” he said.

“We need to check and see if it’s really us,” said Contreras.

“I’ll get Rico (Mariano Rico, maintenance at RCDC), to look at it again,” said McDaniel.

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York M. "Smokey" Briggs, Publisher
324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
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