Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Hospital board approves minimum wage increases
Reeves County Hospital board members approved a new salary scale for their employees during a meeting held Thursday evening in the hospital’s classroom.
The board approved a two-stage increase in the hospital’s minimum wage, which will be increased to $8 an hour effective this Thursday and then to $9 at the beginning of October, when the hospital’s 2008-09 fiscal year budget takes effect.
“We’re facing a crisis with some of the turnover in the community and we did a workshop on what it will take to raise it up,” said Hospital CEO Al LaRochelle.
The hospital is faced with similar employee losses as other government and private entities in the area due to higher salaries in other industries, according to LaRochelle.
He presented the board with three options for increasing the minimum salaries at the facility, though he said even the higher pay levels would not be able to match those paid by some other area businesses, mainly in the oil and gas drilling field and related services.
“We did some comparisons and realized we don’t really have much to offer,” said LaRochelle, who told the board that they are not attracting quality employees due to the low wages.
He said that he wanted to do what the city did recently and increase the minimum wage for the employees, such as the clerks, office workers and maintenance employees.
“Of all the public workers in the community, hospital workers are at the low end of the scale, and we’re losing people. They’re going to different entities and to the oil patch,” LaRochelle said. “It costs money to recruit and then to train new workers and then to just have them leave, because they can make more money working elsewhere.”
LaRochelle said the hospital is still working to cut its annual budget deficit while increasing salaries to cut the attrition rate at the facility. “If we just raise it to $8 an hour that would affect 34 employees and cost $57,000,” he said. “At $9, it would affect 50 employees and cost $153,000.”
The third option was not considered at this time, due to the hospital’s current finances, which called for raising the minimum wage to $10 an hour; it would affect 63 employees and cost $274,000.
“We can do it in increments, but sooner or later, we’ll have to do something,” he said.
“How do we compare with the area?” asked Precinct 3 board representative Jim Breese.
“The other facilities are doing okay, but most of the competition comes from inside Pecos and we’re not getting the candidates that we would like,” said LaRochelle.
LaRochelle pointed out an ad that appeared in the local newspaper and said that the incentives being offered by other companies in the community were a lot better than those offered at the hospital.
Breese asked if the employees were going to another medical facility.
“Usually they go to the city, county and especially the prison,” said LaRochelle.
“I’m just trying to get a handle on why we’re losing them,” said Breese, who was appointed to the board at the start of Thursday’s meeting to fill the vacant Precinct 3 position, and is unopposed for the seat in the May 10 hospital district election.
Board members agreed to raise the minimum wage to $8 an hour beginning on May 1 and then to go up to $9 an hour on Oct. 1.
Along with the worker salaries, hospital board members discussed also looked at discontinuing acceptance of plans that supplement Medicare, saying that the facility was losing money on those plans.
“They tell them it’s like Medicare, but it’s not. It actually costs hospitals to use these plans,” he said, since the reimbursement rate is below that for Medicare.
The board agreed not to accept these types of Medicare plans sold by private companies.
During the public comments portion of the meeting, board member Leo Hung told the group about a recent experience he had when one of his young sons had an accident at home.
“They were playing around the pool and he had an accident and we had to take him to the emergency room,” said Hung.
Hung said that the staff was very professional and that they took care of his son in a very timely and efficient manner.
“I wanted to do something about this and let everyone know that our emergency room is just great and since they had my information already on file, things went even smoother,” said Hung.
Hung said that he didn’t whether to say anything about the incident since he was a board member and that people were going to think he was touting the emergency room, just because of that.
“But it’s not just because I’m a board member, but because I’m a citizen of this community and we do have a great hospital here and emergency room,” said Hung.
Hung said that this was the first time that he had to go to the emergency room and that he was really impressed.
Tobias briefs commissioners on PEDC plans
Creating jobs, creating wealth and enhancing the quality of life are three of the things that the economic development coordinator plans to work diligently on for Pecos.
PEDC president Robert Tobias was on hand for the regular Reeves County Commissioners Court meeting on Monday and talked to the group about his plans for the community.
“We have a lot of things that we need to do,” said Tobias, who said one of his greatest accomplishments was getting local government officials to talk to each other at the city where he used to work in.
“I got the city to talk to the county and the county with the university, because it takes communication,” said Tobias.
He said that we have a chance to start rediscovering Pecos and that we need to set our expectations higher.
“The expectations are low and that’s not what I want to have, if the private sector is not willing to raise their expectations, then we need to do it as a government,” he said.
“There is a need to get everybody together, try to develop a consensus of where we want to go,” said Tobias.
Tobias said that health care is very important, as well as education.
“We need to bring in some educated people, we have the logistics right here,” said Tobias. “This isn’t going to just be for five to eight years,” he said, referring to the oil and gas boom in the area that will eventually end.
Tobias said that the other element is tourism.
“When I started in economics, we talked about the importance of retail in the community,” said Tobias, who outlined several things that he plans to continue to work on to improve the economic situation in the community.
In other action on Monday, the commissioners approved a request by the Lion’s Club to close the Reeves County Golf Course on June 21 and June 22, for a tournament that will be sponsored by the group.
They also accepted a donation from the West Texas National Bank and the Reeves County Teacher’s Credit Union for the Reeves County Community Sports and Recreation Department off-season program.
The two entities are donating T-shirts to the program, which is open to all youngsters in the community in first through sixth grades.
Children can receive a T-shirt based on their attendance and how hard they work in the program, according to Danny Rodriguez.
Commissioners approved the RCDC I&II lease payment in the amount of $495,000; the RCDC I&II 2001 maintenance reserve payment in the amount of $29,166; the RCDC III 2005 lease payment in the amount of $346,144 and the RCDC I&II 2007 lease payment in the amount of $218,152.
The group heard a quarterly report on employee health insurance by Rogers and Belding/Wells Fargo Insurance Services.
Personnel and salary changes: GEO employee, new hire at the RCDC III, food service director, Louis Villalobos, at $42,500 a year; RI&II, new hires, Esequiel A. Gurrola and Karyn K. Stubblefield and Toribio S. Corralez, III, at $31,179 a year; promotions: Senior Correctional Officer, Stephanie Camacho, Ruben Campos, Ernestine Long, Joe N. Mendoza, Rosa Zaragosa, at $34,179 a year; Cinthia Ybarra, activities lieutenant, $40,053; Aidee Muniz, transfer from RIII to RI&II, academic instructor, $39,208; Cecilia Muniz, transfer, to RI&II, $31,179; Arturo Gomez, transfer, unit manager, $34,041; new hires at RI&II, Jerri Ornelas, James Barron, $31,179; promotions: Evangelina Abila, BOP clerk/records, $33,800; Jorge Fontan and Rosa Fontan, $32,115, case managers.
Company reports no injuries in Ward County rig blowout
Drivers along Interstate 20 and residents around Barstow and Pyote were treated to a smoke and light show Saturday night, after a drilling rig blowout just north of the Pecos River in western Ward County.
Nobody was injured in the blowout, which occurred on the KCH 33-26 unit, Well No. 1-H, located about 10 miles southeast of Barstow. Danny Miles with the Texas Railroad Commission’s office in Midland said workers were running line in the hole when they lost control of the well.
“They started clearing the equipment off, but the wind shifted. They got everybody off and about at that time the well ignited,” Miles said. Oil tanks located in the area of the rig also ignited, and burned along with the escaping oil and gas from the well hole.
Denver-based Cimarex Energy was in charge of drilling operations at the site. Roger Alexander with the company’s Midland office, said he wasn’t sure how many workers were on site when the blowout happened, but that no one was hurt.
Area fire department crews were called to the location, but were not allowed into the area due to the intense nature of the fire.
“For that type of fire it takes a specialty crew to take care of it,” said Ward County Sheriff Mikel Strickland. He said crews did go in with bulldozers on Sunday to clear away brush to prevent any further grass fires, after brush was ignited in the area by Saturday’s explosion.
Alexander said Cudd Well Control Services is being called in to handle getting the blowout under control. The blast and ensuing fire sent thick black smoke several miles into the sky, and the intensity of the fire caused the drilling rig to collapse.
“My understanding is today (Monday), they’re going to move some equipment from around the wellhead, and tomorrow they’ll move their equipment into place,” Alexander said. He added that the Cudd hopes to have the blowout under control by Wednesday.
“They’ve got to get the remains of the drilling rig out of the way and get the drilling pip cut off,” Miles said. “At that time they’ll do a stack and pack and get a well head back on it.”
“It was a good well that was flaring gas. It was just a normal well operation,” Alexander said. “We’re not sure what caused it to get out of control.”
Alexander also said he didn’t have any cost estimate on the damage caused by the blowout, or how long it would take to get the drilling operation running again.
“They have to get the well under control, and get it capped and make sure everything is safe before we can get back in there,” he said.
Council agrees to sale of land for RCH clinic
A new 20,000 square-foot Rural Health Care Clinic project is a step farther down the road after Pecos City Council members voted to sell three blocks of city land to the Reeves County Hospital District.
The city council discussed several avenues for transferring the tract at the Thursday evening meeting at City Hall that all councilmen attended.
Hospital CEO Albert LaRochelle was on hand to plead the hospital’s case for the land that is legally described as Lots 5,6 and 7 or Block 2, West Airport Addition, Town of Pecos City and is located on the corner of Stafford Boulevard and Highway 17.
Councilmen eventually decided to sell the land to the Pecos Economic Development Corporation that will then transfer the land to the hospital.
“All the options require that the city receive fair market value for the property,” City Attorney Scot Johnson told the council, but exactly how fair market value would be established was not discussed.
LaRochelle told the council that the hospital desperately needed a facility, and quickly, to help house medical providers coming to the community.
“I have three doctors on the way that need to be in a rural healthcare clinic,” he said.
Currently the hospital maintains a rural healthcare clinic within the main building, but it is full.
According to LaRochelle there are several benefits for the hospital in having doctors housed in the clinic.
The first is financial.
LaRochelle explained that recruiting doctors in this area was tough, and that many of the doctors willing to come to Pecos were foreign doctors on a J-1 visa who had to be on the hospital payroll to maintain their visa.
Two of the three doctors LaRochelle has recruited are J-1 visa holders and will be arriving in the next few months.
As well, many other doctors and providers willing to come to Reeves County want to be employees of the hospital as well, rather than working in private practice, he said.
LaRochelle said that a very large proportion of patients in the area are either Medicaid or Medicare. For example 68 percent of in-patients at the hospital are Medicaid, and another 9 percent are Medicare.
LaRochelle explained that Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement rates were much higher for patient visits to providers housed in Rural Health Care clinics, compared to seeing a doctor practicing outside such a clinic.
Medicare will reimburse a doctor about $64 for a patient visit if the doctor is practicing from a normal office, but, Medicare will reimburse the same doctor for the same visit about $164 if the doctor is housed in a rural medical clinic.
In essence, the doctors’ salaries have to be paid by the hospital, and the hospital can collect $64 each time the doctors sees a patient, or the hospital can collect $164 each time the doctor sees a patient, if it can house them within a rural healthcare clinic.
The numbers add up very quickly in the hospital’s, and taxpayer’s, favor, he said.
LaRochelle said that the hospital was looking to construct a 20,000 square-foot clinic on the land that would house 15-20 medical providers.
“This is the most efficient way to house physicians and other providers in the community,” he said.
The second advantage to having a larger rural clinic is psychological, he said.
“These doctors want to be together. They want to be able to talk with each other. The proposed clinic will provide that kind of environment and make recruiting quality providers easier,” he said.
LaRochelle also told the council that the hospital was looking for a partner in the deal and had spoken to two possible partners: Dr. Rihad Saied with New Dimension, Inc., which has an option on 24.4 acres of land to the south and west of the hospital, and Reeves County Hospital Board and PEDC board member and local businessman Leo Hung.
On Monday LaRochelle mentioned that a third group that may also be interested in going partners on the project had contacted him.
The hospital put the request for partners out for bids and the deadline for proposals is May 7.
Payne, Melendez exchange wedding vows
Daphne Dyanne Payne and David Jose Melendez exchanged wedding vows on Saturday, April 19, at the Barstow Community Center.
The bride is the daughter of Cara and Don Alligood of Barstow and Kenny and Sharla Payne of Spring, Tx.
The groom is the son of Janie and Joe Melendez of Midland.
A reception honoring the couple was held following the ceremony.
They plan to make Midland their home.
Marriages and Divorces
Editor’s Note: Marriage and divorce records are public record and may be accessed by anyone. All marriage records are kept in the Reeves County Clerk’s office, while divorce records can be located in the District Clerk’s Office located on the second floor of the courthouse.
Marriages for January 2008, as filed with the Reeves County Clerk’s Office.
Briar Scott Rangel and Micki Lynn Gollihugh.
Richard Leslie Kyle and Debora K. Carter.
Ruben Trevino Tagle, Jr. and Bianca Marie Mendoza.
Mario Urias and Mary Helen Vasquez.
Christopher S. Lara and Guadalupe R. Barragan.
Martin Hernandez Brito and Andrea Ann Herrera.
Marriages for February 2008, as filed with the Reeves County Clerk’s Office.
Juan V. Serrano and Felipa Z. Gonzalez.
Jesus D. Gonzalez and Emma G. Rodriguez.
Gerald Winford Spray and Karon James Shelton.
Robert Allen Wylie and Mayra Jasso.
Marriages for March 2008, as filed with the Reeves County Clerk’s Office.
Robert C. Pierce and Sandra R. Ratliff.
Jeffery Lee Bridges and Alicia Gayle Norris.
Gary R. Ruiz and Emilyn R. Perez.
Adolfo J. Prieto and Kristen M. Guerrero.
Victor Manuel Limas and Annette Bueno.
Roy S. Garcia and Jennifer Elaine Hibbitts.
Juan Martin Tarango Sr. and Naomi Rayos Mata.
Edmundo DeLa Rosa and Rosa R. Ramirez.
Marriages for April 2008, as filed with the Reeves County Clerk’s Office.
Oscar Ramirez and Priscilla H. Lopez.
Daniel Prieto Vasquez Jr. and Marisa Lopez.
Christopher B. Armstrong and Shanna Lyn Tredaway.
Martin Ladis Jackson and Misty Moon Begay.
Espiridion Florez and Juanita Carrasco.
Thomas Eugene Porter and Rita Michelle Puryear.
Divorces for January through March 2008, as filed with the Reeves County District Clerk’s Office.
Misti Carrasco and Sylvester Sandoval, Carrasco, Jr.
Maria Luisa Jurado and Sergio Jurado.
Sara Ann Hinojos and Isaac Baeza Hinojos.
Dorinda Granado and Kristopher A. Granado.
Priscilla Hinojos Lopez and Joe Larry Lopez.
Samantha Rayann Johnson and Donald A. Johnson.
Cynthia Hernandez and Jose Juan Garza.
York M. "Smokey" Briggs, Publisher
324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 432-445-5475, FAX 432-445-4321
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