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Weekly Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Ex-Pecos resident dies in Odessa crash

A teenager and former Pecos resident was one of two persons killed last Friday in an accident that occurred in West Odessa.

The accident happened at 11:09 p.m., Friday at West County Road and West 16th Street in Odessa.

According to Odessa police, a 1996 Chevrolet Tahoe was southbound in the 1600 block of West County Road at a high rate of speed, when a 2003 Honda Civic eastbound on West 16th Street made a left turn to proceed north on West County Road. The driver of the Chevrolet Tahoe ran the red light and struck the Honda in the left passenger side.

Odessa Ambulance and police units responded to the scene, and the police department’s Traffic Unit was called to conduct the investigation, according to Sgt. Bob Forbus.

The driver of the Honda, Brian Lujan Sanchez, 17, of Odessa was pronounced dead at the scene by Ector County Medical Examiner B. J. White.

The right front passenger in the Honda, Andrew Rodriguez, 19, of Odessa, died later at Medical Center Hospital. Rodriguez was born in Pecos, and lived here before moving to Odessa.

Injured were three other passengers in the Honda including left back passenger, David Mejia, 21, of Odessa; back middle passenger, Ludivina Coy, 24, of Odessa and right back passenger, Anthony Rodriguez, 18, of Odessa. All were taken to Medical Center Hospital.

The driver of the Tahoe, Perla Olivas, 18, of Odessa, was transported to Medical Center Hospital, along with the back middle passenger, Javier Regalado, one month old, of Odessa.

Funeral services for both teens were held this week in Odessa.

Mass for Sanchez was celebrated Tuesday at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church and burial was in Rose Hill Cemetery.

Funeral services for Rodriguez were held Wednesday, at Odessa Funeral Home, with burial in Rose Hill Cemetery.

Teen critical after rollover near Barstow

A Barstow teen is in critical condition at Medical Center Hospital in Odessa, while a second teen was treated and released from Reeves County Hospital Tuesday night, following a one vehicle rollover on FM 516 about six miles north of Barstow.

Daphne Payne, 15, was flown by CareStar helicopter from the site of the accident to Medical Center Hospital Tuesday night, after suffering a broken collarbone, a collapsed lung and a severe scalp laceration and head trauma in the accident.

Payne was a passenger in a Pontiac driven by Roxanne Mendoza, 16, which was northbound on FM 516 when it left the roadway north of the MiVida Gas Plant. Mendoza was ejected from the vehicle in the crash, but was able to be released to her parents late Tuesday night after being taken to Reeves County Hospital for treatment of her injuries. An oilfield truck driver passing by discovered the accident about 8:45 p.m. and reported the crash to law enforcement officials. Two EMS ambulances were called to the scene from Pecos, along with Pecos Volunteer Fire Department members and the Jaws of Life, which was needed to cut Payne out of the vehicle.

Ward County Deputy Ben Deishler was the first officer to arrive at the accident scene. He said that when he arrived Mendoza was outside of the vehicle while Payne was trapped in the wreckage.

The Pontiac apparently was traveling north on FM 516 when it went into a skid and off the right side of the narrow, two-lane road before rolling over and coming to rest facing east alongside the road.

The accident is being investigated by Department of Public Safety Trooper Ross Bates of Monahans. A full report on the rollover was not available as of early Wednesday afternoon.

Commissioners seek funds for Toyah, rehash rodeo stands fix

Staff Writer

Work has begun on county roads in Toyah and a resolution was approved Monday, during the regular Reeves County Commissioners Court meeting, that will take them a step further in procuring funds for the little community west of Pecos.

The county is seeking disaster relief to help reconstruct Toyah, much of which suffered flood damage following heavy rains during the first weekend of April.

Reeves County Commissioners approved the submission of a Texas Community Development Program-Disaster Relief Fund Application for up to $350,000 to help county residents recover from the flooding.

“We were working with two different agencies, the Office of Community Rural Affairs and Natural Resource Conservation Services,” said Emergency Coordinator Ricky Herrera.

Herrera said that they had already submitted this application once but when it was learned that the levee belonged to the railroad, the Office of Community Rural Affairs couldn’t provide the match.

“But the NRCS told us that they would still provide the 75 percent, regardless,” said Herrera.

Herrera said that that meant that would have to find another way to fund the other 25 percent.

“The county was to provide in-kind work and they have already begun work on the county roads,” said Herrera.

“We can’t work on private property, which means that county equipment cannot be used on the levee,” said Reeves County Judge Jimmy B. Galindo.

Herrera said that he had spoken to the railroad and they said they would be glad to work with the county.

“They want to help, so I’m hoping that they will want to fix that levee,” said Herrera. “They were the ones who built it, so I would think they would have an interest in fixing it,” said County Auditor Lynn Owens.

The rains caused a levee on the northwest side of Toyah to break, sending floodwaters from San Martine Draw rushing through the town early on the morning of April 4. The same floodwaters later collapsed the Interstate 20 bridge over Salt Draw, east of Toyah. The two draws merge just north of the Interstate, and the floodwaters caused the eastbound section of highway to collapse into the draw.

Water from San Martine Draw reached as high as 4 feet in some areas of Toyah, and damaged more than two dozen homes.

However, on April 14 Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s office said the town would not qualify for designation as a major disaster area as the result of the flood. Perry’s office announced that it would ask for funding for the residents of the town through alternate means.

Herrera said at the time that Toyah did not qualify for the presidential/federal declaration that would have involved action on the part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The town of around 150 residents also failed to qualify for the state designation as a major disaster area, which would have required the assistance of the Small Business Administration.

Toyah did not qualify for the federal assistance under the guidelines that require at least 25 homes and/or local business must receive 40 percent uninsured damage in order to qualify for the Small Business Administration declaration.

“I’m still waiting for word from the railroad to see what part they will play in the construction,” said Herrera.

Meanwhile, Herrera said that work has begun on the county roads that sustained damage at that time.

“They completed two of them, roads 112 and 225,” said Herrera. “They’re drivable and do not pose a hazard at this time, but there are still a few things that need to be done to them,” he said.

In conjunction, commissioners approved a project agreement between Reeves County and the United States Department of Agriculture for the repairs on county roads 112, 126 and 225.

In other business commissioners agreed to let the law firm of Ray Bonilla take care of all the delinquent fees and fines collections.

The group approved LMD Architect request for payment invoice No. 334.

“This payment is for the work she did on the rodeo stands,” said Galindo.

Construction is currently underway at the Buck Jackson Rodeo Arena. Through an interlocal agreement the stands are being fixed and hopefully will be completed in time for this year’s rodeo events.

The interlocal agreement calls for the Town of Pecos City to contribute $7,500, Reeves County $7,500 and the West of the Pecos Rodeo Committee, $5,000.

“This bill is for the structural engineering costs,” said Galindo. “I was hoping it wouldn’t be this expensive, but we did ask them to stop what they were doing and come to Pecos to do this,” he said.

“I think it was too steep, we did it too quickly, instead of looking for options,” said Commissioner Precinct 1 Felipe Arredondo. “We could have gotten it done cheaper,” he said.

“They came up here and told us we had to do it and nobody knew what was going on,” said Arredondo. “The way they shoved it to us, they said you had already made a promise,” he said.

Arredondo said that they should have stopped at that point, because $7,500 was just too much.

Galindo said that they had needed to act quickly because of the timeline. “The rodeo is just two weeks away,” he said. “We have a partnership with them and this is something we have to do,” said Galindo.

“What happened to the partnership with the city, they haven’t helped us with the rodeo grounds in two years,” said Arredondo.

“I hope you take that in to consideration, that we have to fix those stands or the show won’t go on,” said Galindo.

Arredondo said that they could have cut the costs by a third.

“When they hold a rodeo, do we carry liability insurance, if something were to happen to someone,” said Arredondo.

“Not exactly, we have insurance but I don’t know exactly what it would cover,” said Owens. “And I’m sure the rodeo committee does carry some as well,” he said.

“I think that’s probably true, we’re still somehow liable, because we are the landlords,” said Commissioner Precinct 3 Herman Tarin.

“Half belongs to the city, but the city turned it over to us, so it belongs to the county,” said Owens.

Owens said that construction is ongoing at the rodeo grounds. “They called and said they needed some materials, but I told Russ (county road and bridges supervisor) that I had already given the rodeo committee the check and they have the money for all that,” said Owens.

Sections A,B and C are the ones that need the most repair and the group is moving along as fast as they can with the repairs, according to Galindo.

“Those repairs will be there for a long time,” he said.

“Only $13,000 is going towards repairs, the other $7,000 is for the architect,” said Tarin. “Deterioration, is that something that had never been brought up?” asked Commissioner Precinct 2 Norman Hill.

“Not here,” said Galindo, meaning the commissioners court. “I think this is a start and we need to move forward,” he said.

Local individuals show off their talents

A full course dinner and a dessert theater will be part of the festivities as local individuals show off their acting talents.

The Windmill Square Players will once again feature a play that will entertain the entire family.

This year’s play is “D.K. Molar the Devious Dentist.” The play was written by Billy St. John and will be directed by Holly Key.

A matinee performance will take place at 2 p.m., Sunday, June 27, at the Austin Elementary School Cafeteria.

All tickets for the matinee will be $10 per person.

An evening performance will be held at 7 p.m., Monday, at the school cafeteria. Tickets will be $15 for adults and $10 for children 12 and under.

“These are pre-sale tickets only, there will be no tickets sold at the door,” said one of the play organizers John Grant. “There is a limited quantity,” he said.

Tickets for the special event can be purchased at West Texas National Bank.

Ticket prices were up this year, because dinner will be included, according to Grant. “This is a new feature,” said Grant.

During the matinee, which will be a “dessert theater,” there will be dessert, coffee, tea and beverages served.

The evening will be a“dinner theater” a full course dinner will be served and catered by Roy Prewitt.

Cast and crew members will be serving as table waiters and waitresses.

A quilt raffle is also taking place in conjunction with the play. A handmade quilt by Roy Prewitt will be raffled at the final performance. Raffle tickets are $1 and are available at Pecos Insurance. The quilt is on display at Pecos Insurance.

Cast members include: K.D. Gulihur as Flossy Daily; Bill Moody as Phil D. Teeth; Darla Blackstock as Nova Caine; John Grant as D.K. Molar; Kathleen Hurley as Iva Paine; Crissy Escamilla as Polly Dent and Maxine Wickson as A Moth.

Everyone is invited to attend for an evening of entertainment and delicious food.

West takes over as leader of Downtown Lion’s Club

Staff Writer

To serve the community better than they have ever served it before is the main goal of the new Pecos Downtown Lion’s Club president.

Cody West accepted the gavel from immediate past president of the club Mark Zuniga, during their annual awards banquet and installation of officers.

West told the group that he would need everybody’s help in reaching his goal. “I’m going to need a lot of volunteers,” said West. “But that has always been our motto, to serve.” He said that this year the club had awarded three $1,000 scholarships to deserving seniors, help with many optometrics for the youth and many other programs.

“We have outstanding fundraising abilities and we want to use them even more this coming year for the community,” said West.

Several awards were handed out during the evening including the Lions of the Year Award. That award went to two individuals this year.

Paul and Sylvia Chisum were awarded the honor during the evening.

Chairman of the Year award went to Paul Hinojos; the Presidential Appreciation Award was given to Crissy Escamilla and Lupe Davis was awarded the Appreciation Award for Secretary/Treasurer.

The Lions presented an appreciation award to Wal-Mart which was accepted by the local Wal-Mart manager Olga Guebara. The award was presented for all the help they provided during the Toyah flood and with numerous other projects the Lion’s Club has worked on. Guest speaker for the evening was District Governor Frances Cherrry.

Cherry outlined the many projects that Lion’s all over the state work on and told about other things that fellow Lion’s members have been accomplished.

The installation of officers included the new president, Cody West; immediate past president, Mark Zuniga; first vice-president, Jerry Matta; 2nd vice-president, Belia Florez; secretary/treasurer Lupe Davis; lion tamer Criselda Escamilla; tail twister, Catarino Hernandez; membership director Richard Alligood; one-year director Paul Chisum; one-year director Pablo Carrasco; two-year director Elizabeth Perea; two-year director Jonathan Contreras; alternate director Jim Breese; alternate director Paul Deishler and parliamentarian Bill Allen.

Several of these individuals were unable to attend the awards banquet and will be recognized at a later date.

TxDOT honors employees, deputy

Reeves County Sheriff’s Deputy Frank Campos was saluted by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) at its annual Safety Awards banquet as a ‘highway hero’ for his alert action to stop traffic on Interstate 20 at Salt Draw just before the eastbound bridge spans collapsed after sustaining flood damage on April 4.

Following a storm that resulted in the evacuation of nearby Toyah, Campos observed the bride buckling under the weight of a tractor-trailer until just ahead of him on the highway. He blocked the driving lanes a few minutes before the bridge’s two center spans fell into the draw.

TxDOT District Engineer Lauren Garduno said Campos’ action probably saved the lives of Interstate 20 motorists - noting that several people died in two previous incidents involving major roadways in the southwest. Garduno pointed out that there were fatalities involved in the barge incident that destroyed a portion of the Queen Isabella Causeway in South Texas and when a portion of an Interstate 40 bridge was damaged in eastern Oklahoma.

“That did not happen here because Deputy Campos prevented it from happening,” said Garduno. “He may say that he was ‘just doing his job,” but he is a real hero,” he said. Garduno presented safety awards to other heroes ‘just doing their jobs’ - the TxDOT employees who had accident-free driving records over the past year.

The annual awards banquet, held at the James Roberts Civic Center in Andrews just as construction and maintenance activities on the state’s highways shift into high gear with the summer season, honored TxDOT employees in the 12-county Odessa District for outstanding safe driving and safe work records.

“Safety is our priority,” said Garduno, who handed out the safety awards. “Our goal is to look back at the end of a year and say, “We did not have a single injury or accident,” he said.

Through the first quarter of this year, the 350-employee district which covers a 12-county area in West Texas had not reported a single vehicle accident in nearly two million miles of driving.

Pecos and Balmorhea employees receiving safe operator awards included: Tommy Dominguez, 24 years; Manuel V. Gonzales Jr., 23 years; Larry G. Levario and Israel P. Rubio, 21 years; Guadalupe Rede, 17 years; Victor Mondragon, Samuel Natividad, Daniel Reyes and Mike Rodriguez, 16 years; Gilberto V. Gonzales and Ruben Salcido, 14 years; Jesus Matta, 13 years; Javier Lozano, Manuel Mendoza and Arturo Vasquez, 10 years.

Tree board helps with landscaping

The Pecos Tree Board is doing their part in helping the Reeves County Hospital landscape the grounds surrounding the facility.

Carolyn Winkles, on behalf of the Pecos Tree, presented a $6,000 check to Robert Vernor, RCH Administrator and Linda Gholson, RCH Board President.

This money will help defray expenses for the recent landscaping project at the hospital. Seventy-eight new trees have been planted. The Pecos Tree Board worked in an advisory capacity to help the architects select tree varieties that will do well in this area, such as Chinese Pistachio, Purple Plum, Aristrocat Pear, Afghan Pine, Flameleaf Sumac and Italian Cypress.

The purpose of the Pecos Tree Board is to promote the planting of trees and shrubs for beautification, shade and windbreaks. Since 1998, approximately 3,000 trees have been planted in the Pecos area. The Pecos Tree Board raises money by selling candles and caladiums, accepting donations and applying for grants. Community support is greatly appreciated.

Olibas to follow Love, Rodriguez into retirement

Staff Writer

A long-time Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD employee, who had served in many different capacities within the system, has become the third administrator to announce his retirement this year.

P-B-T assistant superintendent Gome Olibas will be retiring in July from a job that has taken him through many changes. Olibas’ retirement follows those of superintendent Don Love and Pecos High School principal Danny Rodriguez, who announced their plans earlier this year. Both are due to retire as of next Wednesday, June 30.

Pecos-Barstow-Toyah school board members are currently in the process of selecting a new superintendent and new PHS principal. The superintendent search resulted in over two-dozen applications to the Texas Association of School Boards, which is assisting in the district’s search.

TASB officials were then to cut that list down to a group of finalists, who would then be interviewed by the full board. The TASB has not yet released a list of the finalists.

Olibas is a former PHS teacher and principal, who has served as assistant superintendent under Love since 1998. His parents, the late Angel and Elvira Olibas, lived in Monahans, and even though he was born and raised there and, graduated from Monahans High School in 1961, he calls Pecos “home.”

“I began my teaching career with Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD in 1965,” said Olibas, who had only been working here for three months when he married his wife, Delia Polanco Olibas.

Olibas said that he had had the privilege of being in education for 39 years. “And I have spent my entire tenure in this remarkable school district,” said Olibas.

The couple have three daughters, Lanette, Lezlie and Lindsay, and a son-in-law, Chris. “We are blessed to have our newest additions to our family, our grandsons, CJ, five-years old and Jalen, three,” said Olibas. “They have been absolute joys in our lives.”

“The last 39 years have brought upon numerous opportunities to work with outstanding individuals who have positively impacted my career,” said Olibas. “One of the most rewarding facets of my professional life has been the unique opportunity to observe our most precious resources, our students, evolve and mature into positive role models and success stories.”

“I have always enjoyed children, and this profession has certainly afforded me a lifetime of extraordinary experiences and fond memories,” he said.

During his tenure at P-B-T ISD, Olibas has worked in various capacities.

He began as a band director in 1965 at East Pecos (Zavala) Junior High. He then worked as a history teacher and coach until 1977, when he was assigned his first administrative position.

Olibas remained in administration as an assistant principal/principal for 20 years at various campuses.

The last seven years of my professional career has been at the central office, where he has worked as the assistant superintendent of schools.

“My immediate plans for the future include enjoying my two grandchildren and traveling with my wife,” said Olibas. “I also look forward to having time to enjoy my hobby and interest in music,” he said.

Additionally, because he has two daughters who will attend Texas Tech School of Law, he also plans to spend more time enjoying Lubbock and being an avid Red Raider fan.

Hospital board selects Conder as interim CEO

Staff Writer

Reeves County Hospital’s Chief Financial Officer Bill Conder was named by hospital board members to serve as the hospital’s interim Chief Executive Officer beginning on July 3, following a 90-minute executive session Tuesday night, during the board’s regular monthly meeting.

Conder will replace Robert Vernor as the hospital’s administrator. Vernor announced in late May he planned to retire from the hospital’s CEO position, effective July 2. Only three of the five board members were at Tuesday’s meeting, and they voted unanimously and without comment to make Conder interim CEO, while also ordering him to begin a search for an interim chief financial officer for the facility.

Earlier in the meeting, the board voted to approve a new ambulance service contract with the Town of Pecos City, despite questions over one section of the new contract, and were told be Vernor that the hospital is in talks with the city over a potential problem with water pressure at the hospital.

The hospital board discussed the contract with Town of Pecos City Mayor Dot Stafford and City Manager Joseph Torres last month, but took no action at the time. In previous years, the hospital had paid the city $40,000 a year to run the service. However, this year the city is asking for more money in the new agreement, due to the fact that costs and uncollectible debt had risen so much recently.

The new agreement would make the hospital liable for payments of up to $5,000 more than their current total in order to help the city with its debt from operating the service. Conder said he wasn’t sure how the city’s debt was divided up in terms of cash and accrual amounts, but added if the debt was based on cash alone, the $40,000 added to the amount collected by the city, would result in a slight net surplus.

“My opinion is until we get better figures to accept the $5,000 cap,” Conder said, and the motion to approve the contract was then agreed to unanimously by board president Linda Gholson and members Leo Hung and Pablo Carrasco.

During an update on the construction of the hospital’s new addition and renovations to the existing 26-year-old facility, Vernor said the renovation work could create a problem for the hospital that might force additional costs onto the project.

“By renovating the hospital it has to be brought up to existing safety codes,” he said. “So it has to have a sprinkler system.”

However, he said duct work in the hospital’s ceiling means that the added twists and turns in the new sprinkler water pipes may reduce water pressure below acceptable levels. He said the hospital’s architect would be meeting with city engineer Frank Spencer, who would talk with the city’s water department about possible ways to boost pressure at the hospital.

“If not the other alterative we have is to put a fire pump into the system to maintain pressure,” Vernor said. “It’s going to be a major expenditure if we have to go with the fire pump solution.”

Vernor said other than that, the hospital’s new addition is finished, except for exterior sunscreens for the existing hospital building and the new addition. Those were due to arrive in Pecos next Tuesday.

Phase II renovation work inside the existing hospital has passed its Texas Department of Health inspection and can be occupied as of July 16, while the final inspection on the labor and delivery rooms is set for next Tuesday. Vernor said the former physical therapy area is now home to two new patient rooms, a doctor’s sleep room and a surgical waiting room, while other hospital departments are being moved around as renovation work is conducted.

Gholson said one of the hospital’s two new doctors, Dr. Ziad Abdo, arrived in Pecos on Monday night. “He’s picking his office furniture out, and seems very pleased with his office right now,” Gholson said. Abdo is the hospital’s new general surgeon. The hospital’s other new doctor will arrive next month, when the new kidney dialysis unit at the hospital will be put into operation.

Vernor also announced that the hospital scholarship committee had recommended awarding funds to Rosie Rodriguez and Susan Wimberley to continue their education. Rodriguez plans to work towards an LNV degree while Wimberley has been accepted to an RN program.

He said under the program, those accepting the scholarships agree to return and work in Pecos after completing their education. Wimberley and Rodriguez were among several applicants for this year’s scholarship program.

Vernor also told the board a session will be held sometime in July with a representative of the Texas County and District Retirement System, in an effort to lower the hospital’s Social Security payments. He said under the current system, in which the hospital is not part of the Social Security system but does match 6 percent employee payments, they have built up a $1.326 million surplus in their fund.

Vernor said the proposal would involve “A very sizeable reduction in the amount the hospital will provide,” while employees would continue to have 6 percent of their salaries withheld for Social Security taxes.

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