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Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Friday, February 29, 2008

Pair bagged smuggling items into RCDC

Two persons were arrested in connection with attempt to smuggle illegal items last Friday into the Reeves County Detention Center III, according to the Reeves County Sheriff’s Department.

Deputies with were dispatched to the facility at about 8 p.m., on Friday, Feb. 22, to the facility, located on the east side of the three-unit RCDC complex, on a Code Black.

Upon arriving the deputies, Frank Campos and Joe Angel Gonzales, encountered an individual who had been trying to toss duffle bags into the recreation area at the facility.

Located inside the duffle bags were cell phones, tobacco products, BIC lighters, some clear plastic bottles filled with a yellow liquid inside that appeared to be liquor and MP3 players.

Arrested at the scene was Thomas Gomez, Barrera, 28, of Big Lake.

“A girl was arrested later, we had her under surveillance and we arrested her at a later time,” said Reeves County Sheriff Andy Gomez.

Deputies said two more bags of contraband were found on the North Perimeter Tower of the facility last Saturday. The bags contained more cell phones, gloves, batteries, cell phone chargers, calling cards and a bag of red pills, clear pills with a blue center, and a small bag of white powdery substance, (possible cocaine) and a small bag of green, leafy substance (possible marijuana), according to the sheriff’s report.

Gomez said that the other individual arrested was 54-year-old Adela Flores Guerrero, of Ft. Worth.

Both individuals were charged with possessing a prohibited substance in a correctional facility. Bond was set at $20,000 for both.

Guerrero has posted bond, while Barrera remains in the Reeves County Jail.

Third suspect jailed in failed store burglary

A Pecos man landed in jail Monday night, after landing on the floor of La Tidena Thriftway, in a failed attempt to escape after spending all day inside the supermarket following a failed morning burglary.

Richard Bart Adkins, 47, of 1801 Jefferson St., was arrested by police and charged with burglary of a building, a state jail felony, after being caught by store employees attempting to sneak out of the store, 14 1/2 hours after store workers allegedly surprised Adkins while he was inside the store.

Two other persons, Lacie Castillo and William Snipes Jr., were taken into custody after they were found inside a pickup parked behind the store about 5:20 a.m. on Monday, according to Town of Pecos City Police Chief Clay McKinney. That occurred after officers were called to La Tienda in reference to a man inside.

Law enforcement officers were on guard outside the store at 810 S. Eddy St., for several hours this morning while the suspect was believed to be hiding in the building. The store was eventually opened to employees and customers around mid-morning, and police were still receiving reports from workers early Monday afternoon that they were hearing sounds possibly being made by the suspect inside the store.

La Tienda manager Oscar Ramirez said Adkins was spotted by a worker cleaning up back in the meat market area of the store when he finally came down from the ceiling area about 7:30 p.m. and then attempted to leave the building.

“Apparently he jumped down in the market area, and that’s when he fell and hurt himself,” Ramirez said. “Then he tried to walk out nonchalant. But the clean-up guy over there saw him, came up and told management, and that’s when we proceeded to call the police department.”

Both Ramirez and Pecos Police Capt. Kelly Davis defended the decision to reopen the store, and to not have a police presence inside the building Monday afternoon.

“I told them we needed to open the store for business. They pretty much said, ‘yea, that would be OK’,” Ramirez said.

Davis said they had spend six hours searching the building. “We used an infrared scope to look into the dark, and of course used ladders and everything else.

“We felt he had gotten out early on, when we weren’t surrounding the perimeter. But because we hadn’t seen him there was a small chance he might come out later, but he wouldn’t come out while we were there,” Davis said. “We felt if we were inside and he came out, it might create a situation where someone gets hurt.”

He said police wanted to avoid an incident inside the store, in case the suspect was armed.

“Our planning in situations like this and in robberies, is we don’t enter the store. We stay outside,” Davis said. “If a person leaves the store or a bank, we avert a situation with the people inside, because all the bad guy wants to do is get away.”

He added that officers were in the area at the time Adkins was spotted by La Tienda workers, and were watching the store in case of a possible escape.

“The end result was exactly as if we planned it. Everyone was arrested and no one was hurt,” Davis said.

“I didn’t feel like we were in any danger,” Ramirez said. “We had let the employees decide if they wanted to come in and work. The ones who felt in danger didn’t come in, and we left the option up to them. The ones who didn’t feel threatened did come in to work.”

Ramirez said Adkins apparently had tried to break into the store’s safe and failed, then put about 30 cartons of cigarettes into a two trash bags. “He tried to get them out, but ended up leaving them in the dairy area.”

All three suspects were transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center following their arrests. McKinney said on Monday that Castillo and Snipes cooperated with officers in providing information about the burglary attempt between the time they were taken into custody and Adkins was arrested.

PEDC board OKs loan deal for PHA land

West Texas National Bank was awarded the bid by the Pecos Economic Development Corp. 4B board of directors to finance a loan to enable the PEDC to buy 34 acres of land from the Pecos Housing Authority, a section of which is already sought by a Fort Stockton motel owner for a new facility here.

The PEDC accepted the bid after hearing from Fort Stockton and Monahans motel owners seeking faster action on their bids for land to open new motels in Pecos, during the 4B board’s meeting Monday evening at City Hall.

Bids from West Texas National Bank and TransPecos Bank were opened during the meeting, and on the recommendation of new PEDC President Robert Tobias Jr., the board voted to go with the WTNB offer for a 10-year, $245,000 loan with a floating interest rate currently set at 6 percent. The TransPecos Bank loan was for $240,000 for 10 years at a fixed 7 percent rate.

Both bank presidents are members of the PEDC board, as is Leo Hung, who paid $15,000 an acre last week for land on the south side of Interstate 20, opposite to where the land the PEDC is seeking to buy from the Pecos Housing Authority is located.

“I think one of the board members kind of set the price on the land over there,” said board member and Pecos Mayor Dick Alligood, while WTNB president Paul Hinojos added, “To be honest, we’re going to pay this note off with the first four parcels, and then we’re going to have some free land.”

Board members noted that the land along I-20 would bring a higher price than the sections away from the highway and near the PHA’s Farm Labor Housing. Hinojos said after the loan is repaid, if the board wanted to it could offer up the back sections free as an incentive to companies seeking to relocate to Pecos.

“My prime concern is it’s a hot tract of land,” Tobias said. “What decision we make along the (I-20) corridor we are going to have to live with, and my recommendation to the board is always to make a good decision, not a quick decision.”

“My perception of this at this time is we will be able to develop this at a shorter term,” he said, before the board voted 4-0 to go with the WTNB offer. Hinojos, TransPecos Bank President Bill Oglesby and Hung, a WTNB board member all abstained on the vote.

Earlier in the meeting, the board had heard from Rachel Patel, who is building a Comfort Suites in Fort Stockton. She said she had been in talks since last August with former PEDC president Mike Burkholder about acquiring four acres of the PHA land for a similar motel here.

“He told me just to be patient and I would get part of the 34 acres,” Patel told the board. She said the Pecos motel would cost about $4 million and would employ 10-15 people on a full-time basis and generate about $95,000 in motel tax revenue annually for the city..

She added that the land she was seeking was a section along I-20 near the Country Club Drive underpass, but that she needed a decision on the plans now or she will seek another city for the motel project. “This is my last effort,” Patel said. “I talked to Mr. Burkholder, I talked to the city, I talked to the (county) judge.”

“In defense of everybody, the Housing Authority still owned the land,” Oglesby said, while Dutchover asked Patel if she could wait until the PEDC board meets at on Monday, when the land purchase will be finalized.

Patel agreed, and the issue will be taken up again at the 12 noon meeting on Monday at City Hall.

The other motel issue was scheduled to be finalized Thursday night, during the Town of Pecos City Council’s regular meeting. Andy Patel, one of the owners of the Best Western Motel in Monahans, is seeking 3.07 acres of land on I-20 at the U.S. 285 exit for a new LaQuinta motel.

“We’re waiting for the land deal to go through,” Patel told the board. “We’ve done our part, we’re just waiting for the land to be handed over to the Pecos Lodging Group.”

The 3.07 acres was bought last year by the 4A PEDC board from Reeves County, before being turned over to the 4B board for resale to Patel’s group. They plan a motel slightly bigger than the one in Monahans, with 65 to 69 rooms.

Patel added his project would cost about $5 million, and would generate an estimated $100,000 in motel tax revenue for the city each year.

“I think if we can get approval on that (site development plan), we’re ready to go,” said PEDC attorney Scott Johnson. He said the plan was required because the land was being turned over directly to the Pecos Lodging Group without being offered out for bids.

The agreement requires Patel’s group to begin construction within 180 days and to complete the motel within 24 months, or the land reverts to the PEDC. Patel said he expected construction to begin by May, pending approval of the deal by the city council.

Early voting ends for Tuesday’s primary races

Friday is the final day for voters to cast ballots early for the March 4 primary elections in Reeves County and across Texas.

“A lot of people wait until the last day,” said Reeves County Clerk Dianne Florez. Polls will be open from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Friday, and then from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday at the 11 voting sites in Reeves County, along with the Barstow Community Center for voters in western Ward County.

A total of 76 individuals cast their vote early on Wednesday in Reeves County, and the clerk’s office received 12 by mail on that day.

Almost all area votes are cast in the Democratic Party primary, which features all four local contested races, along with the party’s statewide primary races for president and U.S. Senate.

All four incumbents in the contested races are seeking re-election. Reeves County Commissioner Precinct 1 incumbent Roy Alvarado will be challenged by Samuel Urias, while Commissioner Precinct 3 Saul Herrera will be challenged by former commissioner Herman Tarin.

Tarin held the position of Precinct 3 commissioner for 12 years, from 1993 through 2004.

Longtime Democratic Party Chairman Bobby Dean will also have a challenger, after former Reeves County Judge Jimmy B. Galindo filed for the job. Galindo opted not to seek a fourth term as Reeves County Commissioner in 2006.

In the race for 143rd District Attorney, incumbent Randy Reynolds is seeking a third four-year term, and is being challenged by Ward County Attorney Kevin Acker. The two clashed last year, filing counter suits to remove each other from office in the wake of the sex abuse scandal at the West Texas State School in Pyote.

Request for state AG opinion weighed on track’s tax status

Do taxes have to be paid on a for-profit site developed through an economic development corporation, if the site has yet to generate any profits?

That’s a question the Pecos Economic Development Corp. may ask the Texas Attorney General’s office to decide, following discussions by both the 4A and 4B boards of directions on Monday at City Hall.

At issue is the former Smithers Tire Transportation Center east of Pecos, which the company closed eight years ago, giving the land to the PEDC. The corporation entered into an agreement two years ago with the Texas Transportation Institute and Applied Research Associates to refurbish and reopen the facility, both for automotive testing and for other tests that require a site away from any populated areas. However, the 4A and 4B boards were told that TTI has run into problems attracting new customers to the site, while at the same time Reeves County Tax Appraiser Carol Markham has sent out a tax notice to the Town of Pecos City for the reopened track, seeking payment on an appraised value of $1.3 million.

“The law states that property owned by an economic development corporation is not to be taxed,” said Joseph Torres, who gave up his position as interim president of the PEDC last week in favor of Robert Tobias. “At the same time, the law states that ad valorem taxes shall be levied on for-profit businesses.”

He added that while the attorney general’s office has said the land is non-taxable, it has never issued a legal opinion on this type of situation.

“A recommendation is to ask for an opinion. If we have not received any revenue from the property, does it go on the tax rolls?” Board member and Pecos Mayor Dick Alligood said during the 4B portion of the meeting.

“There are two questions – One, is it taxable at all; and two, is it taxable under the least agreement,” said PEDC and Town of Pecos City attorney Scott Johnson during the 4A meeting.

Johnson later told the 4B board he would probably have to go through the Reeves County Attorney or 143rd District Attorney’s office to get an opinion from Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office. TTI is scheduled to make payments of $40,000 a year to the PEDC as part of the agreement, but has requested a two-year delay in the start-up of its payments, to 2009, due to the problems generating revenue at the test track. At the same time, the outgoing 4A PEDC is looking to transfer title for the test track site through the city to the 4B corporation. But that would also transfer the potential tax liability to the new 4B group, which began operations in October after being approved by voters last May.

“They have got to have the two-year extension, and they have got to have their taxes straightened out. They, I don’t see a problem transferring it from 4A to 4B,” Johnson said.

The 4A board opted to take no action, in order to allow Tobias to get up-to-speed on the test track and its tax issues.

During the 4B board meeting, Torres said he had taken Tobias to the test track, and they had met with track manager Ben Carrasco and toured the facility.

“The facility is open, and it is clean, it is maintained and it has been painted,” Torres said. He said ARA has paid an environmental fee for the high explosives tests the company is doing in three bunkers constructed at the site last year.

Alligood said Markham sent the $1.3 million appraisal notice to the city, and that she planned to do a new appraisal at the site, based on the improvement made by TTI and ARA. The proposal to ask for an AG’s opinion then led to a dispute between Alligood, Torres and Paul Hinojos, a member of both the 4A and 4B boards.

Hinojos objected to action being taken without consultation from other board members. “Here we go ahead with a few select people,” he said, adding that he considered Torres and Alligood to be “wheeling and dealing” on the issue without consulting the rest of the board.

“When the city gets something, we’ve got to get back to the appraisal board,” Alligood said, adding the city had no plans to pay the taxes on the test track property. “It is going to be the 4A, or if you bring it over, it’s going to be the 4B.”

Torres said all PEDC board members received e-mails on the issue. “We didn’t wheel and deal anything,” he said. “I really feel that’s not a true statement.”

“It gets to the point you forget which hat you have on,” said Hinojos, who along with 4B board chairman Danny Rodriguez, said the issue should be handled though Tobias’ office from now on.

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