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Weekly Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Extension agent’s phone problems put on hold

Staff Writer

Several items were tabled and transfers and amendments made within the budget, during the regular Reeves County Commissioners Court meeting held Monday morning.

The group met at 10 a.m., Monday to discuss several issues including budget amendments and line-item transfers.

Reeves County Auditor Lynn Owens told the court that Reeves County Extension Agent Tommy Dominguez wanted to make some transfers.

“He wants to transfer $300 from supplies to vehicle expenses and $300 from supplies to fees,” said Owens.

Owens told the group that this would eliminate any further transfers in that department without having to move money from the General Fund.

“He also has a really high phone bill, it’s been running from $300-$400,” said Owens. Owens said that the number of calls had been extremely high. “He’s been having about 675 calls on his phone, there’s just too many business calls on that phone,” he said. “I mentioned it to him on a previous occasion, maybe we need to get him on a better plan,” said county judge Jimmy B. Galindo. “We need to find the best plan possible for him.”

The spike in phone calls was linked to county budget cuts, which cost the Extension Service office its full-time secretary two months ago.

“I realize that without a secretary all the phone calls are going through his phone,” said Owens.

The county extension agent’s secretary was one of the positions that was moved to the Reeves County Detention Center III in a reorganizational effort, designed to move some employee costs off the regular county budget.

“Let me talk to him again, now that we have a secretary up here again, we can help him with that phone traffic,” said Galindo.

Personnel and salary changes were approved as presented.

“The sheriff’s department is beginning to hold more U.S. Marshals in the county jail,” said Galindo. “They’ve had between 30-50 within the last two months,” he said.

Galindo said that two individuals that were transferred from the sheriff’s department to R-III had said that they would come back to the county jail.

“The sheriff is in need of some of his staff back,” said Galindo.

However, the transfers were not a part of the changes made during Monday’s meeting. “These individuals on the personnel and salary changes are still at the jail,” said county treasurer Linda Clark.

Clark said that what sheriff Andy Gomez was requesting was to move one individual up to the position of supervisor and fill the empty slot with another employee, also already on the payroll.

“One of the supervisors left and he moved a person up and moved another into that individual’s place,” she said.

Personnel changes at the Reeves County Detention Center include Jimmy Bradley received a promotion and will now be making $31,979 and Ernest Salcico, will be a recreation specialist at $21,590.

Board told field, gym projects on schedule

Staff Writer

Installation of the new artificial turf football field is back on track at the Pecos High School football field and completion date has been set for the first week of August.

“Last week, we had a couple of issues come up, but they got it back on track now,” said architect Monte Hunter during Thursday’s Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD board meeting. Hunter said that they would begin installing the actual turf beginning today. The installation is part of a $517,000 project to put in new turf and resurface the track at Eagle Stadium.

“If all goes according to plan they’ll be installing that for the next three weeks,” said Hunter. “Then we’ll have a meeting with (engineer) Jeff Bresee and everybody else and check they’re grades and inspect they drainage system to make sure they’re doing it right,” he said.

The field is one of two major projects involving athletics by P-B-T ISD this summer. Construction of the new gym and installation of doors at Austin Elementary School is going along great, according to Hunter.

“They’re doing a great job, this is the same company that did the work at Crockett Middle School,” he said.

This will be the first time the first through third grade campus has had a gymnasium. Athletic periods during bad weather in the past have been held inside the school’s cafeteria or in the hallways.

Completion of the $427,000 gym is projected by the start of school in mid-August. “You’ve already approved the most important doors that will be replaced at Austin, but there are some doors that are not used as much that we will be installing as well,” said Hunter.

“Those will be put in this summer,” he said.

In other action last Thursday, board members listened to a report on the Summary of Finances for the school year 2004-2005.

“It will be a little bit less this year, because we have less people, less students,” said interim superintendent Wayne Mitchell.

Finance director Cookie Canon went over the proposed budget and possible tax rate. “There are a few numbers not in the budget, those are E-rate numbers,” said Canon. “There are a few things that were asked for as well,” she said.

Canon said that the high school cheerleader program had requested an assistant for the cheerleader sponsor. “She’s also in charge of the DECA program and we need to pay someone to back her up when she’s not available,” she said.

There was an additional request for more UIL activities. “Those are not reflected here,” said Canon.

Canon said that they would be working on preparing the 2004-05 school budget based on using a 94 percent collection tax rate. “That’s what we’ve been using in the past,” she said.

The counselors have requested a copy machine and Crockett Middle School requested more sponsors.

“We’ve put all the sports under scouting, where before we just had football,” said Canon, referring to funding out-of-town scout trips for coaches in other sports.

Food service loss is coming down and Canon said that there would be $62,000 that would be needed for the new phones.

“The first year there is no cost, for the new IP Phones, but after that there is,” she said. Canon said that they have until Aug. 31 to adopt the budget.

“We need to be prepared at least 10 days before,” she said.

Next week the group will take action on the proposed tax rate, according to Mitchell. Tax assessor/collector Lydia Prieto told the group that they had not received the values yet.

“That calendar can be amended if we don’t get those values,” said Mitchell. Cafeteria guidelines and prices were discussed.

Food services director Helen Miller said that the price of milk would go up from 30 cents to 35 cents.

“The price of milk has been fluctuating so much, if we raise it just a little bit we at least won’t lose,” she said.

Board members approved renewing the election coordinator’s contract.

“This is a contract that has been in effect and just needs to renewed each year,” said Mitchell. “The election coordinator is Debbie Thomas.”

“She always does a really good job,” said Canon.

The group also approved Lydia Prieto as the officer to calculate the tax rate and appointed Crissy Martinez as the board delegate for the 2004 Texas Association of School Boards and Bubba Williams as alternate.

Foreclosed property bids were approved including one at 1321 S. Oak St.

“This lady had been renting this house and it was at auction, but she didn’t have the money for the minimum bid at the time,” said Prieto. “The tax attorney told her she could continue to live in the home and then come bid on it later since it didn’t sell.”

Prieto said that the woman and her husband had been renting the house, but that the owner had not paid the taxes on it, which is why it was being sold at auction.

“Now she’s bidding $1,000 on the home and is not a delinquent tax payer,” said Prieto. “I will never present a bid to you from a delinquent tax payer,” she said.

The board approved that bid from Mary Y. Matta, along with some others, including one for property at 410 E. Third Street, which is the home of Pete’s Body Shop.

“The appraised value is $19,680 and the bid is for $1,000,” said Prieto.

The group accepted the bid from Randall Blount.

Board members approved a property bid for property located at 2305 Lindsay Street in the Lindsay addition. The bid was for $800 from Magaly Pando.

PBT eyes superintendent after PHS principal picked

Different faces will be seen at the various campuses at Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD, following the hiring and reassignment of several employees to fill vacancies created by retirements last month.

The board approved several appointments and reassignments during the regular board meeting held Thursday in the Technology Center.

Board members went outside the district to choose Stephen D. Lucas as the new principal at Pecos High School, replacing Danny Rodriguez, who resigned at the end of June.

Lucas has seven years experience, has a mid-management administrator certification; a Bachelor of Science degree from Sul Ross State University and a Master of Education from Sul Ross. He has been serving as principal in the Louise ISD and previously was technology director for the Culberson County-Alamoore ISD in Van Horn.

Along with Lucas’ appointment, John Fabela has been moved from assistant principal at Pecos High School to Principal at Bessie Haynes Elementary School. Replacing him will be Jim Workman who moves from science teacher at Crockett Middle School to Assistant Principal at Pecos High School. Fabela replaced Ruben Cervantes, who resigned last month as Bessie Haynes principal.

Other appointments include Lucas’ wife Diane, who has a certification in Alternative Certification Program; and a Bachelor of Arts Degree/Our Lady of the Lake University. She will be a teacher at Austin Elementary School and has no previous teaching experience.

Raymond Lain, will be a special education teacher/coach at Pecos High School; certifications include, a Level Two Professional K-12 Special Education, Level Two 7-12 Coach License; received a Bachelor of Science, major-Education, minor-Biology/Texas Tech University, Master of Arts, major - Education, minor - Administration/Eastern New Mexico University.

Other reassignments include Sandra Fellows, from first grade teacher at Austin Elementary School to third grade teacher at Austin Elementary and coach at Crockett Middle School.

Debbie Garcia, from third grade teacher at Austin Elementary to third grade teacher at Austin Elementary and coach at Crockett Middle School.

Resignations accepted were from: Erin Campos, fifth grade teacher, effective June 30; Amy Chabarria, Spanish Teacher/coach, effective June 29; Suzanne Dominguez, speech therapist, effective June 29; Jim Reeves, counselor, effective July 2; Omar Salgado, History teacher/coach, effective June 29 and Lastacha Necole Williamson, special education teacher self-contained, effective June 30.

P-B-T ISD is still awaiting a final vote on naming the district’s new superintendent and assistant superintendent. Don Love resigned at the end of the 2003-04 school year as superintendent, and school board members met June 14 and accepted retirement requests and made several reassignments, including the retirement of Assistant Superintendent Gome Olibas.

Reassignments at that meeting included: Bernadette Ornelas, from District Migrant/ESL teacher to Spanish teacher at Pecos High School.

Frank Morin, from fifth grade bilingual teacher at Bessie Haynes Elementary to District Migrant/ESL teacher.

Lanette Portillo, from third grade teacher at Austin Elementary to sixth grade teacher at Bessie Haynes Elementary School.

Lawrence Williams, Jr., from speech/coach teacher at Pecos High School to DAEP/coach at Lamar.

Tammy Walls, from special education teacher/coach at Pecos High School to English/coach at Pecos High School.

Jonathan Fellows, from DAEP/coach at Lamar to special education teacher/ coach at Pecos High School.

All the teachers who were reassigned, asked to be reassigned, according to the minutes of that meeting.

Board members met for a special meeting on June 24 and approved several appointments. Appointments included: Gaylon Doan, certification in PE/History, has a BS degree from Sul Ross State University, 17 years teaching experience and will be an academic teacher/Lamar AEP.

Orlando Matta, certification, PE/Science; BS degree from San Angelo State University, no experience, assignment - 9th and 10th grade initiative teacher/coach/Lamar AEP.

Brenda Bingham, certification, EC-4 Generalist, BS degree, College of the Southwest, NM University, no experience, assignment - first grade teacher/Austin Elementary.

Joely Mohler Trujillo, certification, certification, Reading 6-8; BS Degree - UTPB, no experience, assignment - 7th and 8th grade Reading Teacher/Crockett Middle School. Elizabeth Will, certification, Speech Communication, BA degree, Sul Ross State University/Masters, Texas Tech University, no experience, assignment - Speech Communications/Pecos High School.

Windy Franks, certification, EC-4 Generalist; BS degree from New Mexico State University/Howard Payne University, no experience, assignment - first grade teacher/Austin Elementary.

Resignations: Sylvia Sadler, kindergarten teacher at Pecos Kindergarten.

Shirley Michelle Tucker - special education teacher at Pecos Kindergarten.

Rebecca Cervantes - librarian at Austin Elementary.

Ruben Cervantes - Principal at Bessie Haynes Elementary.

Kristen Carreon Willis - yearbook/journalism teacher at Pecos High School.

Ex-county resident killed in Ojinaga jail

Staff Writer

A former Reeves County resident was killed in a Mexican jail on July 6, following his arrest for kidnapping and raping a 10-year-old girl, a charge he also faced while living in Reeves County.

Juan Daniel Sanchez Rios, 39, a prisoner in the Ojinaga jail accused in the sexual assault of a the girl, died last Tuesday, according to a report in last week’s International newspaper in Presidio.

Rios had been beaten to death by a group of fellow prisoners.

According to the International, the Chihuahua State Judicial Police began a rapid investigation to determine who was responsible for the death of the prisoner.

On Saturday, July 3, Rios had asked for extra security, because he knew that his life was in danger.

According to Felix Rodriguez, Chief of the Department of Averiguaciones Previas, said that Rios had returned to Mexico about a month ago after being locked up in a Texas jail where he was serving time for transporting illegal aliens.

“He has a long case file, where he has been arrested numerous times for different things,” said Reeves County Sheriff Andy Gomez.

Gomez said that he had lived in Reeves County for a while, where he was arrested for kidnapping. Gomez said Rios’ arrest occurred on Aug. 9, 1999 for a kidnapping incident that took place in 1998.

He was then transferred to a federal prison and was deported to Mexico in April of 2003.. Rios had previously been arrested for resisting arrest, public intoxication, revocation of probation and numerous immigrations violations and the kidnapping charge, according to Reeves County Sheriff’s Department records.

Valentin Escontrias, Ojinaga Chief of Police, said that the beating incident happened in less than a minute, “and a guard was injured as he tried to help the prisoner and when other guards arrived, about 40 prisoners had beaten this person.”

Rios had been arrested Wednesday, July 7, after he allegedly kidnapped the 10-year-old girl from the area of town known as Calzada del Pacifico.

City’s July tax rebate shows slight rise

Sales tax receipts again were virtually unchanged for another month in Pecos, according to figures released last week by State Comptroller Carole Keeton Rylander’s office. But the tax rebate check for July was up by almost 10 percent for the Reeves County Hospital District, and up by almost 375 percent in Balmorhea, according to the comptroller’s report.

Pecos received $64,560 for the month, based on sales made within the city limits in May. That total is only $20 different than the check sent out last year, when Pecos received $64,540. The numbers have been almost the same for the city throughout the first half of 2004, though overall Pecos’ tax rebates are up 3.37 percent for the first seven months, at $450,164, compared with $435,737 last year.

All taxing entities within Reeves County are up in their sales tax collections for the year, with Balmorhea showing the biggest jump, thanks to a check this month for $3,629. That’s compared with the $770 check the city received last July, and represented a 371 percent increase.

The jump of nearly $2,900 makes up the bulk of Balmorhea’s $3,900 increase for the first seven months of the year. The city has gotten $9,515 back from Austin, a 69.4 percent increase.

Toyah’s check for $455 this month was down 7.07 percent from last year’s $490, but overall, the $3,080 the city has gotten over the past seven months is still 13.76 percent better than a year ago.

The Reeves County Hospital District’s check for July as it’s 1/2-cent share of the state sales tax was $27,646, which was 9.91 percent better than last July’s $25,151. Overall, the hospital has gotten back $190,555 so far this year, which is up 3.27 percent from a year ago.

Two cents out of the state’s 8 1/4-cent sales tax that is paid by Pecos, Balmorhea and Toyah residents is returned to the local economy. The combined city and hospital rebate on the 2-cent local sales tax this month was $92,186. Of the city’s 1 1/2 cent sales tax, one sixth of that, or $10,757, goes to fund operations of the Pecos Economic Development Corp.

Other area communities reported mixed results for their July rebate checks. Fort Stockton got $128,589 back for its 2-cent sales tax, up 4.74 percent; Crane, which received $25,753 on its 1 1/2 cent tax, a 6.2 percent increase; Van Horn, which got $33,028 back from Austin on its 1.75 cent tax, up 41.1 percent; Wink, which received $3,352 on its 1-cent tax, up 33.86 percent; and Presidio, which got back $22,267 on its 2-cent tax, up .95 percent.

As with Pecos, Monahans’ July check was virtually unchanged, though its total was down slightly from last year. The city’s 2-cent sales tax brought in $71,010, which was down two-tenths of a percent from last year’s $71.158. Monahans also is up almost the same as Pecos for the year, at 3.22 percent. Alpine also was slightly on the down side, but almost unchanged; its $64,446 check on a 1 1/2-cent sales tax was $53 less than a year ago, a drop of .08 percent.

Andrews’ check for its 1-cent sales tax gave that city a $61,538 rebate, down 8.25 percent from a year ago; Big Spring’s $305,758 check on its 2-cent sales tax was down 3.06 percent; Marfa’s check for $14.215 on its 1.75-cent sales tax was 10.38 percent below last year, and Kernit’s check for $25,021 on its one cent sales tax was down 6.94 percent.

The area’s two biggest cities, Midland and Odessa also reported mixed results for the month . Midland had the largest check in the area, at $1.57 million on its 1 1/2-cent sales tax, which was up 1.15 percent, while Odessa got $1.15 million back on its 1.25-percent sales tax, which was down 1.22 percent.

Statewide tax rebates to cities and counties came to just over $214 million for July, an increase of 2.69 percent. Houston’s $25.9 million check was the largest in the state and 5.34 percent about last July, while Dallas had the second-largest check, for $13.8 million, an 8.7 percent increase.

Red Bluff awaits ruling on disputed board seats

Staff Writer

Red Bluff Water Power Control Board members will wait for a ruling from 143rd District Court Judge Bob Parks before they decide on the status of the seat representing Ward County Water Irrigation District No. 3 on the seven member board.

As a result, the board voted to give the district’s newly-elected member non-voting advisory status for now, while hoping for a decision from Parks sometime within the next month.

The decision was made Tuesday, during a brief meeting in the Red Bluff district’s Pecos office, and centers around the status of a lawsuit filed two months ago by the district against Ward County Irrigation District No. 1 in connection with the May 15 board election.

Red Bluff sued the district to block the seating of Tom Nance as its representative on the board, after that district changed its structure from a water improvement district to a water irrigation district. Among the differences is the voting rights within the district itself.

“We can’t have two sets of guidelines,” said Red Bluff Managing Director Randal Hartman at the time. “You can’t have two voting standards.”

Hartman said following the meeting that the dispute involved the eligibility of voters within a water irrigation district, as compared with the eligibility of voters in a water improvement district, though Nance said this morning, “We couldn’t get Mr. Hartman to say anything at all while we were there.”

“We converted from a water improvement district to a water irrigation district in 2001,” Nance said just prior to the May 15 election. “We did that in order to give the landowners in our district a voice in the (Red Bluff) board of directors.

“With the way it is, with a water improvement district the landowners don’t have a say-so unless they live within the boundaries of the district,” Nance said. Under the water irrigation district rules, landowners residing outside of the Barstow area can vote in the Ward County WID 1 election.

The suit was filed for Red Bluff by Kermit attorney Robert Scroggins in 143rd District Court in Monahans. On Tuesday, the board discussed whether or not to add Ward County WID 3 to the suit, since it also has voted too change from a water improvement to a water irrigation district.

However, because of the timing of its change, Scroggins told the board there was a question as to whether the suit seeking to bar Nance’s seating would also apply to Ava Gerkhe, who was elected to replace Teresa Walker as Ward 3 representative.

Scroggins said while the district voted to change its status in December, papers doing so were not filed with the Ward County Clerk’s office until June 16, a month after the election.

“When we had a previous meeting, it was understood that with Ward County No. 1, Tom Nance would serve as an advisory director at this time,” Scroggins said. “That brings Ward County No. 3 in a different position. At the time of the election on May 15, they had not filed any papers.”

Scroggins said Pecos attorney Roddy Harrison has filed papers in 143rd District Court asking Parks to seat both Nance and Gerhke on the board. No date has been set for the hearing, though Scroggins said it could occur within the next 30 days.

“I think the court, when it hears this request from Ward 1 and Ward 3, the judge will have to make a distinction between the two directors,” he added. “If the judge says seat both of them we’ll seat both of them. If he said seat (Ward) 3 and don’t seat 1, we’ll do that, and if the judge says seat none of them, that’s what we’ll do.”

The Ward 1 position on the board has been vacant for nearly two years, since Manuel Lujan left the Barstow area, while Walker remains a member of the board, though she did not vote on items during Tuesday’s meeting.

“If the judge says seat the Ward 3 director, she’s out. If he doesn’t, she stays on the board,” said Scroggins.

The board then voted to approve giving Gerkhe advisory status, with board member Jay Lee voting against the resolution.

“I’m opposed just on the fact they didn’t file it right to start with,” Lee said.

The discussion took up over half of the board’s brief monthly meeting. Members were told work is continuing on adding new ponds in the Malaga Bend area as part of the Pecos River salt alleviation project.

“We’re still pumping water. Everything’s good,” Hartman said, adding that Loving Salt plans to build more 25-acre plastic lined ponds, where water from the Malaga Bend salt spring will be pumped and then evaporated, so that the remaining salt can be mined. “If they don’t line them, it’s not going to work,” Hartman said, explaining that the district planned to change the way Loving Salt it billed for its water pumped from the river. “We’re going to charge them for the salt as they pump it, regardless of if they get it into the pit or not,” he said. The liners are designed to keep the salt water from leeching back into the ground.

The board approved monthly bills and receipts for June, along with the financial report and accounts payable. They also were told the lake level was down to 67,066 acre/feet as of July 1 from 83,716 at the beginning of June, even though only 4,435 acre/feet of water has been used for irrigation.

“That’s quite a bit to get it down river. We’re filling up all the gopher holes,” Hartman said. This is the first year since 2001 Red Bluff Lake has had enough water in the spring to allow for irrigation releases, and the drought had caused the Pecos River to go dry in sections south of the lake each of the past two summers.

Padded seats earn driver marijuana arrest

Staff Writer

A Tahoe traveling through Reeves County on Tuesday had some really “cushy” seats in the second row of the vehicle, but the stuffing was not foam.

Trans Pecos Drug Task Force Officer Joe Gonzales stopped a 1999 Chevrolet Tahoe at mile-marker 32 eastbound in Reeves County, for a traffic violation, and ended up seizing over $5,000 in marijuana hidden in the SUV.

“The driver seemed really nervous, we saw some deceptiveness in his demeanor that led us to believe there was something wrong,” said Sergeant Gonzales.

Gonzales said that the driver’s story was inconsistent.

After talking to the driver, identified as Francisco Vasquez Esparza, 43, of Odessa, the officers did a search of the vehicle, and uncovered 12 pounds of marijuana inside the seats of the Tahoe.

“The second row seats were filled with the marijuana. It was just that one row,” said Gonzales.

Gonzales said that the driver told them he had stayed in El Paso for a week, yet he didn’t have any dirty clothing. “There were just a lot of inconsistencies that made us take another look at him and the vehicle,” said Gonzales.

Street value for the drug has been estimated at $5,400.

Esparza was charged with possession with intent to distribute five pounds and under 50 pounds, a Third Degree Felony.

“The vehicle was also seized,” said Gonzales.

He also thanked his fellow officer, Sgt. Jose Cabezuela, who assisted him in the investigation and arrest.

“When we work together, we really get things done,” he said.

Pecos man among four jailed in pot seizures

A Pecos man was one of four people arrested in three separate incidents last week by U.S. Customs Service agents from the Marfa Sector Border Patrol office.

Agents said the arrests involved over 4,800 pounds of marijuana, valued at $3.8 million. The arrests occurred between Thursday and Friday night at checkpoints south of Marathon and Marfa.

Sammy Dene Lindsay, 37, of Pecos, was arrested by agents as a result of the first incident, which occurred about 10:30 p.m. on Thursday. According to a press release by the Border Patrol, agents at the Marfa Checkpoint on U.S. 67 found 234 pounds of marijuana in a 1978 Ford pickup driven by Lindsay. The marijuana was hidden in cement bags in the back of the pickup and had a value of $187,680.

Lindsay was taken before U.S. Magistrate Stephen H. Capella in Alpine on July 8 were he was formally charged. Court officials in Alpine said bond was denied in the case. The second arrest took place about 10 a.m. Friday morning, when agents of the Alpine Station arrested a 45-year-old man from Krum, at a location south of the Post Park near Marathon. The man was driving a 2000 Ford pickup and had apparently dumped 2,980 pounds of marijuana in the area. Border Patrol Agents were able to back track the truck tires and the driver’s footprints from the place where the driver was arrested to where the marijuana had been dumped.

The truck was disguised as a work truck belonging to an area utility company. The value of the marijuana is almost $2.4 million.

The third incident occurred Friday night about 10:30 p.m. Two men driving a Penske 3-ton International Harvester entered the checkpoint south of Marfa. The men claimed to be transporting goods they had purchased in Presidio to El Paso. Border Patrol agents inspected the truck and discovered several pallet loads of six pound cans of jalapenos, 539 of which contained marijuana in sealed pouches.

The total weight of the drugs was 1,647 pounds valued at over $1.3 million. The two men, ages 33 and 47 are both U.S. Citizens.

In all three cases, the men, the vehicles and the narcotics were turned over to the Drug Enforcement Administration for prosecution.

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