Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Postmaster faces theft indictment
The postmaster in Barstow was taken into custody by U.S. Marshal’s Service officers last week, following her indictment on charges of misappropriation of postal funds.
Deida Tarin was charged in U.S. District Court in Pecos with the theft of approximately 10 postal money orders, according to the indictment, which was returned on May 8 by a federal grand jury and unsealed last week. According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Kerry Ann Fleck, the thefts took place between February 1 and April 1 of this year, and the stolen money orders had a total value of over $1,000.
According to information provided by the U.S. Attorney’s office with the indictment, the charge carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison, with up to three years supervised release, and a fine of up to $250,000.
County, hospital valuations jump by $108 million
Higher energy prices, which have increased drilling activity and improved the Pecos area economy over the past few years have also continued to increase local valuations, based on preliminary numbers released on Monday by Reeves County Tax Appraiser Carol Markham, with two local entities seeing increases of almost $108 million.
Markham released the preliminary numbers for 2008 during the meeting Monday morning of the Reeves County Appraisal Review Board, which show increases of about 13 percent in the valuations for Reeves County, the Reeves County Hospital District and the Town of Pecos City.
Both the county and hospital district saw their valuations rise by $107.8 million over the past year, climbing to $844.8 million. Most of that increase was due to the rise in energy prices, with $94.6 million of the increase coming from higher mineral valuations.
Another $13.3 million came from increases in real estate valuations, while the city saw an $11.8 million rise in its valuations for real estate and an increase of $6.7 million in its mineral valuations. Total valuations for the city came to $143.1 million in the preliminary appraisal numbers.
Markham was not able to provide full valuations this year for the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD, which includes western Ward County.
“We don’t do overlapping properties anymore,” Markham told the board. “We’ve got a new law that says you can’t do appraisals in neighboring counties, after I’ve been doing it for 28 years.
“The school still gets its valuations, but it just doesn’t come from me, it comes from Monahans,” she said.
P-B-T ISD tax assessor-collection Lydia Prieto said Monday she had not yet received the numbers from the Ward County Tax Appraisal District for the area of that county within P-B-T ISD.
Without Ward County and the mineral valuations in the Barstow area, the school shows a drop of $31.3 million in its valuations, with $40.1 million lost from mineral numbers offsetting an $8.8 million rise in real estate values for the school district within Reeves County.
Other numbers for taxing entities within Reeves County show Balmorhea ISD picked up $2.4 million in valuations, with just over $2 million of that coming from increased mineral valuations. Balmorhea ISD’s total valuations are tentatively put at $33.1 million. The City of Balmorhea’s valuations were up by $350,750, to just under $4.8 million, while Toyah was up by $74,380, to $2.2 million.
Reeves County Water Irrigation District No. 2 reported the only actual drop in valuations for the year. The district, which serves southern Reeves County, lost $1.1 million in mineral valuations while gaining just $6,130 in real estate valuations, according to the preliminary appraisal numbers.
Markham told board members that the numbers would now be sent out to property owners, who can challenge the appraisals in June, during the Appraisal Review Board hearings. Appeals of mineral valuations will be scheduled for June 24, while real estate appeals are on June 25-26 at the district’s office on South Cypress Street.
Markham said the final numbers should be set by July. They will then be sent out to the area taxing entities, which will set their 2008-09 budgets and tax rates based on the property tax valuations.
Along with presenting the numbers, the Appraisal Review Board also welcomed West Texas National Bank President Paul Hinojos as its newest member. Hinojos replaces Bob McNutt on the board, and joins Reccia Pigman and Charlie Mitchell. Pigman was named chairman, Mitchell vice-chairman and Hinojos secretary for the 2008-09 term.
Repairs to pool won’t halt PHS summer swim classes
By JON FULBRIGHT
Registration for the Pecos High School summer learn-to-swim program will be held next week at the Pecos High School new gym, while workers hurry to try and get repairs to the adjacent PHS swimming pool foundation completed before the first session is scheduled to start in two weeks.
Workers from Mid-Tex of Midland were at the pool Monday morning to begin repairs on the 25-year-old pool, after a 13-foot deep sinkhole was discovered beneath the pool in early March, causing cracking in the west and south side walls of the building. Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD board members approved the emergency repairs last month, with a current cost estimate of about $90,000
“We’re going to have swimming lessons, if we’re going to have them here I’m not sure,” said PHS swimming coach Terri Morse. “Right now Mr. (P-B-T Superintendent Manny) Espino is telling me the pool will be ready. If not, we have the Athletic Pool as backup.”
Morse said the schedule would be the same, but the lessons would be moved to the city’s outdoor Athletic Pool at Maxey Park. “I talked with Adolfo Ruiz (city parks superintendent), and he’s assured me we’ll have a backup,” she said.
The signups will be next Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, May 27-29, from 4 to 6 p.m. in the foyer of the PHS gym. The first swimming lesson session is scheduled from June 2-12, while the second session will run from June 16 through June 26. Classes will be held Monday through Thursday, with a registration cost of $30 per child.
The time schedule for the lesson will have both 3- and 4-year-olds going daily from 11:15 to 11:50 a.m. Lessons for 5-year-olds will be in two time periods, from 9:35 to 10:20 a.m. and from 10:25 to 11:10 a.m. Boys and girls listed as Level 1, 2, 3 and 4 swimmers will have their lessons from 8:45 to 9:30, 9:35 to 10:20 and 10:25 to 11:10 a.m., while those in Levels 5 and 6 will have classes from 8:45 to 9:30 a.m.
For further information, contact Morse at the PHS pool at 447-7242.
PEDC eyes proposal to fund infrastructure improvements
A proposal to direct an undetermined amount of new property tax revenues in the Pecos area towards infrastructure improvements was discussed by the Pecos Economic Development Corp., during their regular meeting on Monday at City Hall.
The PEDC board and president Robert Tobias discussed creation of a Tax Increment Financing District (TIFD) as a way to finance improvements to infrastructure within the main highway corridors through the city. The board also gave final approval to the sale of land on Interstate 20 at Teague Drive for a new Comfort Suites motel, one of six new motels in planning or under construction in Pecos.
Tobias explained to the board that the TIFD would involve local taxing entities outside of Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD to commit a designated percentage of any new construction within the city’s economic development zones towards improving infrastructure and aesthetics within those zones, which run along U.S. 285, Interstate 20 and State Highway 17 in Pecos.
“You look at the needs up here and the financing is down here,” Tobias said. “This will help fund the infrastructure needs.”
“If we look at the projects and the hotels that are coming into the area, the hotels that are expanding and the new apartment and other projects, we’re looking at $75 million in new property valuations,” Tobias said. He added that at current tax rates, that would mean an additional $500,000 in taxes for the Town of Pecos City and $250,000 for the county and hospital district.
“I think if you look at it, this could raise more money than the economic sales tax does today,” he added. The PEDC currently operates off a 1/4-cent share of the city’s 1 1/2-cent sales tax.
Tobias said the taxing entities are allowed under the TIFD to designate anywhere from zero to 100 percent of the new tax revenue to economic development along the designated corridors. “Certainly some of the funds can be used for acquisition, demolition and rehabilitation of properties,” he said.
“At the end of the day the program should begin to raise the valuations of the designated areas of the city,” Tobias said. “And eventually, the whole city should begin to see increases in valuations.”
The TIFD would require creation o a five-person board to oversee use of the funds. Tobias said one member each could come from the four main taxing entities and the fifth could be chosen off the PEDC board.
“Are there any towns between 5,000 and 15,000 in our area that are using this?” Board member Jimmy Dutchover asked.
“In this area no,” Tobias said. He added that Midland and Odessa have looked at the plan and Lubbock is implementing its own TIFD, while it has been used in smaller cities in the San Antonio area, including in Live Oak, where Tobias served as EDC director before moving to Pecos.
“It is certainly imperative that we take as much of a leading role in this development as possible,” said board member and Pecos Mayor Dick Alligood. “This may not end up being appropriate for us, but from people we’ve had in from Austin, they’ve talked very, very highly about it. They say we need to implement the TIFP program while we’re in this current economic growth situation.”
The sale of the land to Rachel Patel of Fort Stockton at a cost of $25,000 per acre was approved by the board prior to the TIFD presentation. The agreement in expected to cover just under three acres of land for the Comfort Suites, at a cost of $69,500, with a covenant for the remaining area between Teague Drive and Country Club Drive that would prevent construction of another hotel on the site by anyone other than Patel for the next 10 years.
As part of the agreement, Patel agrees to employ at least eight people for the first 36 months the hotel in is operation.
PEDC board member Leo Hung, who is developing his own hotel on land on the south side of Interstate 20 across from Patel’s site, abstained from voting on the contract, which was unanimously approved by the other board members. Along with those two motels, construction is already underway on a new Best Western motel next to the current Swiss Clock Inn on the south I-20 service road, and on a new Holiday Inn Express across from Wal-Mart on U.S. 285. A Hampton Inn on I-20 at the Highway 17 exit, and a La Quinta motel on I-20 at the U.S. 285 exit are the other projects, while final work is being done on the extension at the Oak Tree Inn on I-20 next to the Flying J truck stop.
Council swears in members, approves summer jobs funds
Town of Pecos City Council’s two newest members took their oath of office on Thursday, and went through their first votes as part of a special meeting of the council at City Hall.
Council members Cody West and Bernadette Ornelas were sworn in to their first terms in office, along with Pecos Mayor Dick Alligood, who took the oath for a second two-year term in office. West and Ornelas won election to the council on May 10, replacing Michael Benavides and Angelica Valenzuela, both of whom opted not to seek new council terms.
Benavides was in attendance for the start of Thursday’s meeting, when the council canvassed the votes from the May 10 election, and was presented with a class pedestal clock as a going-away present by the council members and Alligood.
“When councilwoman Valenzuela gets here, she’ll get her’s as well,” the mayor said.
The two new members’ first vote was on approving the second reading of a change to the city’s employee handbook, which better defines when city workers can talk with council members. The new rule allows contact except when employees have a grievance hearing pending before the city.
Council members also approved summer intern hiring plans. City finance director John Phillip said the city plans to hire eight students for summer jobs this year at a cost of $6,867, an increase of just over $1,000 from the cost of last year’s summer intern program.
“We’ll take eight kids, plus two kids for the (city) pool,” he said. In response to a question by Ornelas, Phillip said the students would be paid $7.50 an hour. He told West that the eight not assigned to work at the Athletic Pool would be used in various city departments.
All five council members and the mayor were also given identification badges at the meeting. Alligood said the badges would allow people to identify them as city officials in the event of an emergency situation.
The council will have its first regular meeting with its new members this Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall.
‘Relay of Life’ fundraiser nets over $40,000
Teams and individuals raised over $40,000 for the fight against cancer during the Annual Relay for Life held Friday night and Saturday morning at Martinez Field in Pecos.
The groups raised a total of $42,438 and are hoping to raise at least $2,500 more to reach their goal by the end of August, according to Karen Hornberger, one of the coordinators of this year’s Relay for Life event.
Awards were handed out to the different teams including the Best Campsite Award, which went to TransPecos Bank and Best Car which also was won byTrans PecosBank. Best Stick Figure went to Reeves County Hospital; Super Team was Pecos Nursing Home; Spirited Team, West Texas National Bank and the Team Truest to Relay Theme was Austin Elementary School.
Most Enthusiastic Fundraisers were Wal-Mart and Relayers of the Year were Texas-New Mexico Power Company.
Celebrated Fighters of the Year were American Home Health and Special Event for Spirited Battle Against Cancer, Reeves County Detention Center.
Bill Shipman, with the American Cancer Society of Midland, donated a Texas Wellness Sign to Billy Mac Jobe of Pecos, a cancer survivor, after Shipman’s name was seleced in a drawing.
Virginia Gibson guessed the closest to how many jelly beans were in the jar. The amount in the jar was 2,287 and Gibson guessed 2,250.
The top team that raised the most money was TransPecos Bank who had three individuals who raised over $1,000 apiece, Dominga Villegas, Senida Mendoza and Belinda Molina.
Jody Williamson was the other adult who raised over $1,000 and the youth that raised the most was Bradley Shaw who raised $713.
Scholarships handed out to PHS seniors
Senior Scholarships and Awards were handed out last week to deserving seniors from Pecos High School.
This year’s scholarship award event was held at this past Thursday, at the Pecos High School Auditorium. Seniors received most of the awards, while some juniors also received scholarships during the ceremony.
Scholarships awarded included: the Association of Texas Professional Educators, Maritza Acosta, $500; Bill Carrico Award, Kayla Natividad, $1,710; CWII Johnny V. Mata Memorial Scholarship, Katherine Ramirez, $400; Delta Kappa Gamma Scholarship, Kayla Natividad, $250 for second semester; Evelyn Turpin Dowling Endowment Scholarship, Katherine Ramirez Trust Fund; Floyd Estrada Memorial Scholarship, Elias Valenzuela, $500; Flying J Scholarship, Maritza Acosta, $2,000; Golden Girl, Katherine Ramirez, $1,000, Dorothy Lara, $500 and Claire Venegas, $400; Hispanic Organization of Postal Employees Scholarship, Joe Villalobos, $1,000; Jaime Rodriguez Courage
Award, Diana Parada, $2,000; Jose Reyes Memorial Scholarship, Justin Contreras, Joe Gabaldon and Katherine Ramirez, $500; Judge Lee S. Green “Neat Kid” Scholarship, Joe Gabaldon, Marcus Luna and Monica Palomino, $500.
The Knights of Columbus, Kayla Natividad, Rica Pino, Katherine Ramirez, $500; Ollie Springfield Nunn Scholarship, Matthew Florez-Trust Fund; Panhandle-Plains Higher Education Authority, Rica Pino; Pecos Athletic Booster Club Scholarship, Justin Contreras, Katherine Ramirez; Pecos Downtown Lions Club Scholarship, Ella Davis, Monica Palomino, $500; Pecos High School Band Boosters Scholarship, Lily Martinez, Alexis Marquez, $1,000; Pecos Police Department Scholarship, Hope Mora, $500; Pecos Women’s Golf Association, Rica Pino, $500; Pecos Valley Masonic Lodge 736 Scholarship, Monica Palomino, Elias Valenzuela, $500; Reeves County Detention Center Employee’s Club, Justin Contreras, Hope Mora, Alexis Marquez, Jasmine Rayos, $500 and Margarito Luna, $1,000.
Reeves County Detention Center GEO Group Inc. Scholarship, Matthew Florez, Joe Gabaldon, Katherine Ramirez, Elias Valenzuela, $2,000; Rotary Club Citizen Scholarship, Matthew Florez, Joe Gabaldon, Kayla Natividad, $500; Texas State Teacher’s Association Local Scholarship, Vanessa Galindo, $300; The Modern Study Club, Joe Villalobos; Twentieth Century, Matthew Florez, $500; Wal-Mart Foundation Scholarship, Matthew Florez, Rica Pino, $1,000; West of the Pecos Rodeo Scholarship, Monica Palomino, Katherine Ramirez, 4500 and Winkler County Credit Union Scholarship, Elias Valenzuela, $250 per semester, four years.
College and University Scholarships: Angelo Sate University, Rica Pino, $4,250, Katherine Ramirez, $3,750; Permian Honor Scholarship, Maritza Acosta, $9,600; Stephen F. Austin State University, Matthew Florez, $3,000; Texas Tech University, Katherine Ramirez, $1,000, Kayla Natividad, $2,500; Texas Women’s University, Rica Pino, full tuition and fees/ four years; The University of Texas at Austin, Maritza Acosta, $2,500.
Recognition for leadership and excellence performance: University of Rochester George Eastman Young Leaders Award, Paul Zubeldia, $7,500 per year/four years; University of Rochester Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony Award, Carina Cerna, $7,500 per year/four years; President’s Education Awards Program Outstanding Educational Excellence, Maritza Acosta, Kayla Natividad, Rica Pino and Joe Villalobos; Outstanding Educational Achievement: Carolina Briones, Matthew Florez, Vanessa Galindo, Ray Lee Gonzalez, Heather Lamka, Maressa Lyles, Lily Martinez, Sarahy Mendoza, Yezenia Navarrete, Ashley Ornelas, Katherine Ramirez, Jasmine Rayos, Ronald Shaw, Elias Valenzuela and Samantha Villareal.
Lujan recognized for superior academic achievement
The National Society of High School Scholars (NSHSS) announced that Pecos High School student Aaron Lujan, of Barstow, has been selected for membership. The Society recognizes top scholars and invites only those students who have achieved superior academic excellence. The announcement was made by NSHSS Founder and Chairman Claes Nobel, a senior member of the family that established the Nobel Prizes.
“On behalf of NSHSS, I am honored to recognize the hard work, sacrifice, and commitment that Aaron Lujan has demonstrated to achieve this exceptional level of academic excellence,” said Nobel. “Aaron Lujan is now a member of a unique community of scholars – a community that represents our very best hope for the future.”
“Our vision is to build a dynamic international organization that connects members with meaningful content, resources, and opportunities,” stated NSHSS President James Lewis. “We aim to help students like Aaron Lujan build on their academic successes and enhance the skills and desires to have a positive impact on the global community,” he said.
Membership in NSHSS entitles qualified students to enjoy a wide variety of benefits, including scholarship opportunities, academic competitions, free events, member-only resources, publications, participation in programs offered by educational partners, online forums, personalized recognition items, and publicity honors.
Formed in 2002, The National Society of High School Scholars recognizes academic excellence at the high school level and encourages members of the organization to apply their unique talents, vision, and potential for the betterment of themselves and the world. Currently, there are more than 300,000 Society members in over 120 countries. NSHSS provides scholarship opportunities for deserving young people.
Lujan is the son of Manuel Lujan Jr. and Olga Lujan of Barstow.
Grandparents are Manuel and Lorena Lujan.
TWC reports slight rise in county’s jobless rate
Unemployment was up by a tenth of a percent in Reeves County for the month of April, according to figures released on Friday by the Texas Workforce Commission, while the jobless rate is four-tenths of a percent above the level a year ago, according to the TWC, with the county losing jobs while maintaining the same workforce.
The April jobless rate was 5 percent for the county, up from 4.9 percent in March and from 4.6 percent in April of a year ago. The TWC said the county added 46 workers and 42 jobs from March to April, rising to 4,136 workers and 3,930 with jobs, while compared with a year earlier the county had one more person in the local workforce by 13 fewer with jobs.
Most other area counties showed slight drops in their unemployment rates from March to April, and the drop in total number of jobs from April of 2007 to this year goes against other local economic numbers, which have shown a sharp increase in the area economy since 2004.
Midland County’s unemployment rate dropped from 2.6 percent in March to 2.4 percent in April. Midland added 232 workers and 398 jobs last month, the TWC said. Neighboring Ector County’s unemployment rate dropped from 3 percent to 2.8 percent last month. The county added 366 workers and gained 527 jobs from the previous month.
Andrews County’s rate was dropped from 2.9 percent in March to 2.7 percent in April. The number of workers increased by 82 and the job total was up by 96 from March. Brewster County’s rate also was at 2.7 percent, down a tenth of a percent from the previous month. The county added 194 workers and 197 jobs last month.
Crane County’s rate went from 3.2 to 3 percent last month, with the loss of five workers and one job. Culberson County saw its rate drop from 2.4 to 2.3 percent, with a loss of 20 workers and 17 jobs from March to April. Dawson County’s jobless rate dropped from 4.7 to 4.6 percent, with the number of workers slipping by nine while the number of jobs dropped by two.
Howard County’s unemployment rate dropped from 4 to 3.6 percent last month. The county added 65 workers and 122 jobs. Pecos County’s rate was 4 percent last month, down from 4.1 percent. The county’s workforce was dropped by 36 while the job total fell by 26 from March. Presidio County saw its jobless rate fall to 8.7 percent last month, after a jump to 9.4 percent in March. The jobless rate was at 9.6 percent in January and 8.5 percent in February. Presidio County lost 29 workers and three jobs last month.
In Ward County, unemployment was down from 3.4 to 3.2 percent, with the number of jobs increasing by 34 while the workforce was up by 42. Winkler County’s unemployment rate fell from 3.2 to 2.7 percent. The county’s workforce was down one from March, while the number of jobs in the county was up by 15.
Loving County saw its unemployment rate jump from 8.5 to 9.8 percent, with the loss of six jobs and six workers. The nation’s least-populated county had 41 people in its workforce and 37 employed in April, while the four people jobless was the same as in March.
Ramirez recognized by achievement academy
The United States Achievement Academy announced that Katherine Ramirez of Pecos, has been recognized by the United States Achievement Academy as a student of excellence in the Honor Roll.
This is a prestigious honor very few students can hope to attain. In fact, the Academy recognizes fewer than 10 percent of all American high school students.
Ramirez, who attends Pecos High School, was nominated for this honor by Eva Arriola, a counselor at the school. She will appear in the United States Achievement Academy’s Official Yearbook which is published nationally.
“Recognizing and supporting our youth is more important than ever before in America’s history. Certainly, United States Achievement Academy students should be congratulated and appreciated for their dedication to excellence and achievement,” said Dr. George Stevens, Founder of the United States Achievement Academy.
The Academy recognizes students upon the exclusive recommendation of teachers, coaches, counselors, and other qualified sponsors and upon the Standards for Selection set forth by the Academy. The Standards for Selection include academic performance, interest and aptitude, leadership qualities, responsibility, enthusiasm, motivation to learn and improve, attitude and cooperative spirit, dependability, and recommendation from a qualified sponsor.
Ramirez is the daughter of Alex and Norma Ramirez of Pecos. The grandparents are Carlos and Juanita Herrera of Pecos and Frank and Nativida Ramirez of Saragosa.
Summer reading program set
The Summer Reading Program, sponsored by the Reeves County Library, will be held beginning June 9 through July 31.
A pizza party and awards will be handed out at 4 p.m., Friday, Aug. 1, at the library, located at 505 S. Park.
For more information call 445-5340.
York M. "Smokey" Briggs, Publisher
324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 432-445-5475, FAX 432-445-4321
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