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Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Friday, May 23, 2008

County studies projects for fall bond election

Reeves County is considering a bond election this fall to fund improvements to county facilities, but county officials are still studying what work will be done and the total cost of the bond voters would be asked to approve in November.

A contract between Reeves County and Dailey and Spear Architects was approved during a special Reeves County Commissioners Court meeting held Monday at the courthouse. The contract with the architects went along with a discussion of the county’s proposed 2008 bond issue projects.

“There are several projects that we have been looking at and one of the main things we need to do is look at how much all this will cost,” said Reeves County Judge Sam Contreras. He said that they are looking to see how much all the projects will cost, or if they will have to scale back in order to move on in this bond issue.

“We have hired an architect to look at all the buildings,” said Contreras.

One of the projects the county is looking at is a new Reeves County annex building, to house some of the courthouse employees.

“There is limited space and we now even have people in the lobby, looking up records and trying to get their information,” said Contreras.

The old Reeves County Hospital, which houses several county offices, is also on the list for renovations.

“We are looking at what needs to be renovated at that building and want to make sure that proper maintenance will last for the next few years,” he said.

County offices located at the old hospital building, 700 W. Daggett St., include the office of the county emergency management, county extension agent, Meals on Wheels, adult probation, justice of the peace, Jim Riley and Eddie Rodriguez, Health and Human Services; TRACS and West Texas Opportunities.

“We need to consider all these buildings and how much it will cost,” said Contreras.

Improvements to the Reeves County Library also are being considered.

“We are looking at the library, either fixing it up or building a new one,” said Contreras.

A sports complex for public use and fixing the current county-maintained sports fields, also is on the list, as is completion of the expansion and relocation of the Reeves County Golf Course. The county plans to relocate three holes and add four more to create a full 18-hole course on land south of the current 14-hole layout.

Contreras said that the county officials, along with the architects did a walk-through of all the buildings, following Monday’s special meeting.

“We have $107 million in (property tax) valuations going up from last year, so we need to see how much the bond will be for and how many years,” said Contreras.

He said that the homeowners will be impacted very little, since most of the taxes come from minerals, 80 percent and 20 percent from residents.

“We can use the increase to offset some of the cost,” said Contreras.

“We just feel that this is a good time to make these projects happen,” he said, adding that they hope that by “packaging” all these projects, they can get a better price.

“Everything is going up, so if we wait and just do one project, it will become more expensive,” said Contreras. “This way, we get a bond for everything and work on the most critical and do the others as well.”

He said that the architects are trying to come up with some rough numbers, to give the county an idea of what it will entail.

“This will be to give us some general idea, before we get to the balance, firm up those numbers and then we hope to put the bond on the November ballot,” said Contreras, who added that commissioners will have to have all the information by August in order to put it on the ballot in November.

Contreras said that they are going to get some numbers together, before they make presentations to the different groups in the community.

“We will be keeping everyone informed, as we gather more information,” he said. “We are just in the initial stages at this point,” he said.

“Some things that still need to be taken care of out there, including possibly expanding the pro shop and lounge area,” said Contreras.

“But we’ll make the public aware of what we’re doing, as we get closer,” he said.

Expanded EMS utilizing new equipment, quarters

Christina Row surfs the Internet, peruses the digital photographs she has taken and stored on her laptop computer, emails friends and joshes her partner, Joe McCormick, while they await the next emergency call.

Both are certified emergency medical technicians recently hired to man the Pecos Ambulance Service around the clock. At the time of this interview, they had been on duty four days, sleeping and eating in what used to be a training room for the fire department and ambulance services.

A second shift backs up Chris and Joe, leaving their jobs or homes when they hear a page for their ambulance.

Town of Pecos City, Reeves County and Reeves County Hospital agreed to fund the expanded EMS service earlier this year, adding full-time positions and combining the city’s ambulance with the hospital’s transfer service.

Having a crew at the station ensures that initial response time is about one minute during the day and three minutes at night, said Dennis Thorp, PAS director. If the crew on duty leaves the station for a meal or to run an errand, they take the ambulance, so their response time is still minimal.

When the crew arrives at the scene, they are equipped and trained to handle any trauma that an emergency room at the hospital could handle, Thorp said.

“The only things we can’t do are x-ray and lab work,” he said. “Our goal is to bring the emergency room to your house as fast as possible. We have the latest cardiac technology, monitoring capabilities, ventilation…”

Dr. Orville Cerna is medical consultant to the crew, who relays vital signs and other information about the patient to him, then follows his instructions for treatment.

Thorp hopes to hire one more EMT to bring the staff to 12. He has hired five from this area, and six of the old volunteer crew have stayed on, either part-time or full-time.

Andy Hannah and Thorp have the longest tenure, with 17 years each. Both are paramedics. Blaine Hannah is an intermediate EMT, with 11 years service.

Sam Lujan has five years, Joe Tollett four, and James Rodriguez three years with Pecos EMS. Some have experience with other departments.

McCormick is a new hire, coming from Van Horn with nine years of service as an EMT. Row trained at Midland College, and has one year as an EMT in Odessa. Other new hires are John Bell, Kelly Hamilton and Michael Marquez.

Salaries account for about half of the service’s $657,000 budget, said Thorp. Reeves County and Reeves County Hospital District pay $60,000 each. The city of Pecos provides space in the fire hall to park the ambulances and the living quarters, and picks up the remainder of expenses over the estimated $450,000 revenue.

Since adopting a new price schedule that starts at $1,500 per call and rises according to miles driven and services provided, revenue and collections are way up, Thorp said.

Still, Reeves County residents pay nothing out of pocket for the service. If their insurance does not cover the entire cost, the remainder is written off.

Not so for out-of-county calls. “Even if they have insurance, we collect as much as we can from the patient,” he said.

One such call was to an oil rig north of Barstow on Monday, in which a worker from Odessa, received a fatal head wound. Thorp said he was still alive when the crew arrived, and they called for a helicopter to airlift him to Odessa, where he died.

Such calls put pressure on the ambulance crew, and Row said they talk about their calls to relieve the stress. Some, like the call Monday, are depressing, but others are funny. “We don’t use names,” she said.

When she’s not on call in Pecos, Row works for the West Odessa Fire Department. McCormick is also a paid fireman in Van Horn.

“I like it here,” said Row. “People are genuine and will help you learn anything you want to know.”

Both are looking for rental housing in Pecos.

Having a paid crew is something the Pecos EMS has been working on for four or five years, Thorp said.

“It all boiled down to funding and the ability to make transfers for the hospital and get that revenue. It looks like we are going to be able to support our budget 47 to 48 percent,” he said.

“We have enjoyed great support from the city for years and years,” said Thorp. “They have made sure we have the very best equipment and best training we could possibly get.”

Thorp said it was “quite an undertaking” to make the upstairs training room livable and to install a small kitchen and shower downstairs. They have more work to do on the stairway and a patio being enclosed between the fire hall and city hall. A vegetable garden with tomato and pepper plants is already flourishing.

McCormick said he enjoys cooking on the gas grill and looks forward to a new barbecue pit planned by city workers.

Technology plays a big part, not only in treating patients, but also in collections. Thorp said that online research on patients helps make billing more accurate and the revenue stream better. He can also track each ambulance by Global Positioning System.

“Within 10 seconds, I know where they are all the time,” he said.

Thorp said the ball is in the ambulance service’s court now, and “It is ours to screw up. We are not going to do it on purpose. It is really a pretty neat thing.”

Odessa man dies in accident on drilling rig near Barstow

An Odessa man died Monday afternoon at Medical Center hospital in Odessa, where he was flown following an injury in an drilling rig accident in western Ward County.

Raul Navarez, 20, died after being flown to Odessa by CareStar helicopter from the site of the accident, at CC Forbes Rig No. 109 between Barstow and Pyote.

The Ward County Sheriff’s Department said Navarez was working on a valve on the rig when the valve broke, and the pressure from the pipe pushed Navarez across the platform floor and he fell off the rig.

Navarez suffered head injuries in the fall. Pecos EMS was called to the scene but made no transport after the CareStar crew was called in from Odessa to fly him to Odessa.

There were no other injuries in the accident, which is being investigated by the Operational Safety and Heath Administration.

The accident is the second in a month in western Ward County that has led to an investigation. No one was injured when the KCH 33-26 unit, Well No. 1-H, located about 10 miles southeast of Barstow blew out on April 26, but the blast created a fire visible from over 15 miles away and took several days for crews to get under control.

Area highway resurfacing job starts Tuesday

Texas Department of Transportation officials say paving crews will be busy over the next few weeks resurfacing secondary highways through the Pecos area, beginning with the frontage roads along Interstate 20 in the days following Memorial Day.

According to Glen Larum, TxDOT public information director for the Odessa District, 30 miles of frontage roads will be resurfaced, running from west of Exit 52 (Barstow) to Exit 22 (Toyah).

That work is scheduled to begin on Tuesday, and barring cold weather or rain, the work in Reeves County could be completed during the first week of June, according to Jerry McGuairt, the Texas Department of Transportation’s project manager in Fort Stockton.

Other area roadways to get seal coats are BI-20 east of Pecos in Ward County, from the Pecos River to Exit 52 off I-20; Farm to Market 873 running northwest out of Barstow, and Ranch to Market 2355 from FM 516 north of Barstow to Pyote. FM 1927 from Pyote south to FM 1776 will also get a new seal coat.

Lipham Construction of Aspermont, Texas, is putting down new asphalt surfacing on 330.6 miles of highways across a 12-county area of West Texas this summer.

Motorists will encounter Lipham workers who will direct them through the work zone and there will be brief lane closures in those areas where seal coat work is being done.

“Drivers should always use caution and drive carefully to avoid inflicting windshield and paint damage on other vehicles,” said McGuairt.

This year’s work will cost $10,921,665. ‘Seal coat’ is a rock and asphalt layer put down on the highway to reseal the surface and keep moisture from damaging the road base.

PEDC seeking land from city for apartments

Town of Pecos City Council members were scheduled to take up a request by the Pecos Economic Development Corp. to buy five acres of land on the west side of town for possible future use as an apartment complex.

PEDC 4B board members voted to make the request to the council following an executive session on Monday, during their noontime meeting. The request was scheduled to be heard by the council during their 5:30 p.m. meeting on Thursday at City Hall.

“We voted to request the city sell the property to the EDC pending approval of the project and a performance contract for apartments to be built,” said board member and Pecos Mayor Dick Alligood.

“What we’re basically requesting is for the city to sell it to the EDC at fair market value,” he said. “Once that’s approved, then we’d have to have the land appraised.”

The land in question is Lots 1-4 of the Revised West Airport Addition, located along Stafford Boulevard on the far west side of town. Alligood said PEDC is in discussions with a company that it looking to build a 124-unit apartment complex in the area.

“In order not to hold it up, we’re asking the council too sell it to the EDC for that purpose,” he said. The sale would allow the city to avoid going through a bidding process, and would then allow PEDC to resell the land, subject to conditions that the apartments actually be built.

The lots under discussion are just west of three lots which the PEDC recently agreed to sell to board member Leo Hung, who is seeking to build a 20,000 square foot medical clinic for the adjacent Reeves County Hospital. Until now, the city has been seeking to find ways to build new middle-income housing in Pecos for the past three years, to help solve the area’s worker shortage problems.

Only one new housing complex, the Country Club Apartments, has been built in Pecos in the past 30 years. Those apartments opened at the end of 2007, but as federally subsidized homes, contain income restrictions that limit most local residents from qualifying.

Artist finishes Mata portrait for Memorial Day

A portrait of a Pecos native who was killed in the early days of fighting in Gulf War II was unveiled for his family members on Tuesday.

Jose Ortiz did the oil portrait of Chief Warrant Officer Johnny Villareal Mata, which was unveiled for his mother Elvira and sister Rosa Salinas at the American Home Health office on Oak Street.

“I had made a promise to Mrs. Mata a couple of months back that I would do a picture of her son,” he said. “She provided me with the photographs a few months back, and I said I would try to do my best.”

Mata was one of the first American casualties in Iraq at the start of the Gulf War in 2003. The 35-year-old was among members of the 507th Maintenance Company who were killed March 23 of that year in an ambush near Nasiriyah in southern Iraq.

“I just finished it, so the paint is still wet,” Ortiz said Tuesday. The painting was completed in time before the upcoming Memorial Day weekend, when members of the Mata family plan to travel to Amarillo for a memorial ceremony for fallen soldiers.

“It’s just my way of showing appreciation to the men and women in the military for all the work they do for us,” Ortiz said. “I worked on it for the last three months on and off. I’d look at it and say ‘What do I need to do?’”

Ortiz told the Matas he wanted to hang onto the painting for a few more days, “to do a few touch-ups one some spots that may be too small for you to notice, and to let the paint dry, and see if there’s some place to display it for Memorial Day weekend.”

Ortiz works for American Home Health in Pecos, but said he was raised in California. “In high school I was trained by a Disney artist, because my uncle worked at Disneyland, and they would have artists performing there,” he said. “He took me by the hand and tutored me.”

I-20 crash east of town kills Tornillo man

A Tornillo man died Wednesday evening following a one-vehicle rollover on Interstate 20 just east of Pecos.

According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, Jesus Manuel Palacios, 45, was pronounced dead at the scene by Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace Amanario Ramon at 9:59 p.m. on Wednesday, following the accident that occurred at 7:12 p.m. on I-20, near mile marker 43, between the U.S. 285 and Collie Road exits. DPS trooper Robert Orr of Balmorhea, who investigated the accident, said Palacios was driving a 1997 GMC Jimmy when he failed to negotiate a curve while westbound on the highway.

The vehicle went off the north side of the highway before Palacios overcorrected, causing it a cross the westbound lanes, the center median and the eastbound lanes before overturning in the barrow ditch on the south side of the highway.

Orr said Palacios was wearing a seat belt at the time of the accident. The trooper said next of kin was notified of the death, and his body was taken to Pecos Funeral Home.

Flores celebrates first birthday

Mia Flores celebrated her first birthday with a party held in her honor at the UTPB Park in Odessa, on Saturday, May 18.

Theme for the special event was Disney Characters.

Guests enjoyed pizza, refreshments and a Minnie Pinata.

She is the daughter of Michael and Amy Flores of Austin.

Grandparents are Noe and Lupe Rodriguez and Freddy and Rosie Flores, all of Pecos.

Serrano gets degree from TSU

Mr. Lee and Lily Serrano would like to announce the graduation of their son, Lorenzo Jesus Serrano.

Serrano graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Health Care Administration from Texas State University. He is a former Pecos High School graduate class of 2003.

He is the grandson of Felix and Norverta Jaso and the late Mr. and Mrs. Luis Serrano.

The Health Care Administration program at Texas State University is currently ranked among the top 10 in the nation.

While at Texas State, Serrano was chosen to serve on the 2006-2007 Texas State Student Health Center Advisory Committee.

Serrano will be attending Grad school in the upcoming school year.

Posse Barn hosts Saturday concert

West Texas Wireless and Hip Hop Trendz will be sponsoring the 2008 Summer Blow Out Concert, on Saturday, May 24, at the Reeves County Sheriff’s Posse.

The event will be hosted by comedian Rob Jenkins and will feature: Ghost, Carolyn R., Juan Gotti and Rasheed.

Doors will open at 7:30 p.m. and the concert will begin at 8 p.m.

Pre-sale tickets can be purchased for $15 at the Beer Depot in Pecos and will be $20 at the door.

An autograph signing will be held at 3 p.m., on Saturday, at 122 S. Oak.

Summer TAKS test dates set

Testing for the exit level retest TAKS/TAKS Accommodated and TAAS will be on: Exit level retest TAKS/TAKS Accommodated, ELA, July 15; math, July 16; Science, July 17 and Social Studies, July 18.

TAAS testing: writing, July 15; math July 16 and reading, July 17.

Out-of-school re-testers can register for the TAAS or TAKS retest by accessing the Texas Assessment website at HYPERLINK "" or by completing and submitting a paper registration form.

Registration packets can be picked up at Pecos High School in the counselor’s office. The appropriate registration form must be submitted online or returned in the preaddressed envelope and received in Austin, no later than 5 p.m., on June 13.

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York M. "Smokey" Briggs, Publisher
324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 432-445-5475, FAX 432-445-4321

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