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Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Fridy, October 8, 2004

First W. Nile case prompts local warning

Reeves County Hospital officials received notification last week from the Texas Department of Health Office in Midland of the first confirmed case of the West Nile Virus involving a human in the county.

The West Nile infection was confirmed on Sept. 29, and Reeves County Hospital Director of Public Relations Venetta Seals said the patient was transferred from Pecos to Medical Center Hospital in Odessa.

“It wasn’t like that person went to a mosquito-infested area. You just need for that one mosquito to bite you that is infected with the virus,” Seals said.

Reeves County Health officials along with the Texas Department of Health would like to alert the citizens of Reeves County to take precautions to protect themselves and their families from contracting West Nile Virus, which first arrived in the United States in the late 1990s and spread westward from its initial infection site in Queens, N.Y.

Several horses have been confirmed over the past two years to be infected with the virus in the Trans-Pecos area, and the first confirmed death from West Nile in the Permian Basin was reported last month in Midland.

Mosquitoes transmit West Nile Virus and people can do a great deal to protect themselves, their families and communities. Reeves County health officials and the Texas Department of Health Office urge people to remember the four D’s.

Dusk to Dawn - Stay indoors from dusk to dawn, times when those mosquitoes likely to carry the infection are most active.

Dress - Dress in pants and long sleeves when you are outside, especially in mosquito-infested areas.

DEET - (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide) - Apply insect repellent that contains DEET. Spray both exposed skin and clothing with repellent.

Drain - Get rid of standing water in your yard and neighborhood. Old tires, flowerpots, clogged rain gutters, leaky pipes and faucets, birdbaths and wading pools can be breeding sites for mosquitoes.

“Especially right now, we’ve had so much rain and the grass has grown, people need to be careful sitting out in the tall grass, because that’s where mosquitoes like to stay,” Seals said.

Most people infected with West Nile Virus will not have any signs of illness. “some people may have it, but they don’t realize they have it,” Seals said.

Twenty percent of people who become infected will have mild symptoms such as fever, headache, body aches and occasionally a skin rash on the truck of the body and swollen lymph glands.

The symptoms of severe infection include headache, high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness and paralysis. Only about one out of 150 people infected with West Nile virus will develop these more severe forms of the disease. If you have any of these symptoms, contact your health care provider right away.

For more information, contact Reeves County Emergency Management Office at 432-445-5418 or Texas Department of Health in Midland, at 432-683-9492, ask for Kathy Parker.

Officials at TransPecos Bank issue scam warning

TransPecos Banks (Security State Bank) has reports from customers of receiving phone calls from individuals fraudulently claiming to be with the FDIC.

The fraudulent caller reports that there has been a case of fraud involving customer’s checking account. The caller then requests information concerning the customer’s account.

TransPecos Banks has received an ALERT from the FDIC of consumers receiving e-mail contains a link () that serves as a gateway to a fraudulent Web site that is designed to look like a page from the FDIC’s authentic Web site, and asks respondents to provide sensitive information, such as bank or credit card account numbers, as well as personal identification and Social Security numbers.

The FDIC ALERT is intended to warn customers that the fraudulent e-mail, which could also possibly contain a computer virus, was not sent by the FDIC. Banks and consumers are warned NOT to access the link or submit personal personal information.

Additionally, as a reminder to all consumers, the FDIC strongly recommends that individuals safeguard personal information and refrain from responding to any unsolicited request for personal information either by e-mail or by phone.

School prepares ad campaign to oppose vote

Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD officials plan to use print and radio advertisements to educate the public and provide more information on the school tax roll back election, scheduled for next month.

Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD board members approved a roll back election during their last meeting. The election will be held on Nov. 22.

“We’ll try to get information for the public through advertisements in the paper and the radio,” said PBT-ISD Superintendent Ray Matthews.

Matthews said that their intent was to keep the tax rate at $1.50.

A $75 million increase in valuations forced the school to hold their second tax rollback election in four years. Under law, the rollback is triggered if a school district’s tax rate brings in 15 percent or greater revenues than the previous year. The rollback would bring the rate down to the amount that would net the same amount of tax revenues as last year. “With the minerals going up $75 million, it would bring us down to $1.32 and budget-wise we need to stay at $1.50,” said Matthews.

The effort to reject a rollback vote is designed to to maintain then ad valorem rate of $1.50 per $100 in valuations, according to Matthews. The school district faces a loss of state funding if it cuts its tax rate below $1.50, under the current state funding formula. P-B-T ISD has been at the $1.50 rate for nearly a decade. It is the maximum allowable by the state for school districts, though other area schools have higher rates due to funds needed to repay construction bonds.

In 2001, local voters defeated a tax rollback vote that would have cut the district’s rate from $1.50 to $1.19 cents. The additional $2.2 million in funds the district received in taxes that year was used for renovations to several campus buildings. During the past year, the district also has used cash-in-hand funds to pay for construction of a gym for Austin Elementary students, and the installation of artificial turf at Eagle Stadium.

Local poet’s entry gets 1st at Nevada event

A local poet is one step closer to having his work published after he won a contest in Reno, Nev.

This was Robert Ornelas third time to enter the poetry contest and he came home with a trophy, medallion and the promise to have his work published.

“I attended the poetry contest last year in Orlando, Fla,” said Ornelas.

He said that in Florida he had won a Shakespeare Trophy of Excellence and 2003 Poet of the Year Medallion.

Even though Ornelas only entered one poem, that was enough to bring home honors. His poem is entitled, “40 Some Odd Days of Hell,” a poet based on the first Gulf War. “It talks about Bush and Saddam,” Ornelas said.

He added that during his first time going to Reno, in 2001, there were about 1,500 poets in all.

“They were from all over the U.S. and England and as far as from Vietnam,” he said. Ornelas said that he had met a lot of people and made new friends during his trip. “It was a great experience,” he said.

Ornelas said that he also had the opportunity to meet a lot of celebrities and that all the poets attended a special workshop.

“We met celebrities like, like Larry McVilla, a famous screenwriter,” said Ornelas. This year Ornelas met actors Ed Asner and Leslie Nielsen.

“It was a good experience being out there and meeting different people,” he said. Ornelas received a $2,500 Publishing Contract from the Famous Poet Society. “They usually publish the poems in their own anthology book,” said Ornelas. Ornelas goal for the future is to someday become a published poet and writer. “I plan to concentrate on poetry, which is what I love to write,” he said. In 2001, he also won the Prometheus Trophy in Reno.

“I got invited to attend a history making event in China, the 1st World Congress of Poet in China,” said Ornelas.

Ornelas said that he would be trying to raise funds to go to China. “I would love to make history and become one of those people to participate in this event,” said Ornelas.

Ornelas said that it would be a nice experience to be able to go.

Ornelas was born and raised in Pecos and continues to live and work on his poetry in his home. He added that he is also seeking poems from other local writers for a book on poetry. He said he would be using about 135 poems in the book, and would probably be working with the help of Reeves County librarian Sally Perry on collecting the poems for the project.

Observatory gets grant for new telescope

A $2.8 million federal appropriation to The University of Texas at Austin McDonald Observatory, The University of New Mexico, and the Air Force will bring a new research telescope to McDonald and fund major upgrades to the Hobby-Eberly Telescope (HET), one of the world’s largest optical telescopes. These funds are an addition to an initial appropriation made in September 2003.

The appropriation funds a program called NESSI (the Near Earth Space Surveillance Initiative. It involves moving a 1.8-meter telescope from New Mexico to McDonald Observatory, located 75 miles southwest of Pecos in the Davis Mountains. This telescope, the CCD Transit Instrument (CTI), has a special detector array that creates a large-scale image of the sky.

U.S. Rep. Henry Bonilla (R-Texas) sponsored the appropriation. Mr. Bonilla represents the 23rd Congressional District, which encompasses much of West Texas, including McDonald Observatory. Bonilla’s role as a senior member of the Appropriations Committee and Defense appropriations Subcommittee enabled him to secure funding for the Observatory. The value that Mr. Bonilla sees in this initiative for the people of the 23rd District, the State of Texas, as well as the greater science community is gratifying, said Dr. David Lambert, Director of McDonald Observatory. The front-line technology that this will develop will be a source of great pride.

“A seat on the Appropriations Committee is an amazing position to hold,” said Bonilla. “I represent one of the largest districts in our nation (that’s a lot of people, businesses, and resources to take care of),” he said.

“My role on this committee gives me the opportunity to shepherd and secure funding for my home-district in Texas,” said Bonilla.

Locating CTI at McDonald rather than creating a new site for it will be a great cost-saver, because it will take advantage of McDonald’s infrastructure of skilled personnel, roads, and electricity. At McDonald, the telescope will also benefit from the darkest night skies in the continental U.S. for astronomical research.

The project will foster a productive partnership two state astronomy institutions. This partnership builds on longstanding scientific cooperation, as the CTI telescope was conceived and built by Dr. John McGraw of The University of New Mexico, who received his Ph.D. in astronomy from The University of Texas in 1977.

“CTI uses a novel detector array to create a large-scale image of one portion of the sky, night after night,” said McGraw. “If anything changes or moves, this telescope will catch it. Those things include nearby asteroids, middle-distance supernovae, and distant active galaxies containing huge black holes that eat stars and gas for lunch,” he said.

Putting CTI at the same site as HET will provide great opportunities for researchers. “The combination of an imaging survey telescope (CTI) and a dedicated spectroscopic telescope (HET) is really powerful and unique,” said McGraw. “Anything that CTI can detect, HET can get a spectrum of,” he said.

A spectrum of a star, galaxy, or other astronomical object provides information about its motion, temperature, and chemical content. A spectrum is made when the light from that object is broken into its component wavelengths, like a prism breaks visible light into a rainbow. HET specializes in this type of astronomy, called “spectroscopy.”

Proposed upgrades for HET include greatly expanding the useful field-of-view of the telescope, and major improvements to the control system for the telescope. Development will begin on a new instrument for the telescope that will survey the spectrum of objects in space much more efficiently than ever before. “These efforts will build on what is already a telescope with a novel design that is being used as a model for future large telescopes. The improvement to be made are similarly novel, and will set new standards for astronomy instrumentation,” said Lambert.

The upgrades will dramatically improve the research capabilities of McDonald Observatory. “I’m thrilled to make this announcement. I know the folks in West Texas have been waiting a long time for this funding and I’m honored to provide it,” said Bonilla. “I can’t wait to hear about the advances made with this great technology. Who knows what the fantastic scientists at the McDonald Observatory will discover next?” he said.

Improving the home can help increase its value

Your home is our number-one investment, and with mortgage interest rates still low, many homeowners are refinancing and investing in renovations. Bruce Johnson, author of “50 Simple Ways to Save Your House,” says, “Maintaining your home and protecting your investment should be a top priority.”

Here are Bruce’s 10 tips to increase the value of your home without breaking the bank. 1. Add a fresh coat of paint for a quick dramatic change. It is an inexpensive way to completely transform your home.

2. Rediscover the natural beauty of hardwood floors. Beautifully finished hardwood floors are the hallmark of an elegant home. To make the refinishing job easier, try using new Minwax Water Based Polyurethane for Floors. Its quick-drying formula is perfect for the do-it-yourselfer.

3. Replace hollow core doors with raised paneled doors. Paneled doors are incredibly versatile; they act as an excellent sound barriers, add architectural appeal, and can be stained to match any décor.

4. Remove particleboard cabinet doors and replace with solid wood doors. Solid wood doors are not only more attractive, but will endure the test of time.

5. Replace linoleum flooring in bathroom with ceramic tile. While many people consider it a luxury product, tile is actually affordable, durable and easy to keep clean.

6. Add new faucets in the kitchen and bath. New faucets can add a fresh and modern look at an affordable price.

7. Upgrade hardware on doors and cabinets. Subtle changes can make a big difference: While nickel and pewter finishes work well in traditional homes, high-gloss metallic finishes best complement contemporary styles.

8. Give your room some personality. Make your room your own by adding a burst of color to it. Choose from 68 custom water-based colors by Minwax to stain details such as wood molding, chair rails, and paneling.

9. Protect your deck. Wood pores absorb moisture; coat your deck with a sealer that dries “in” rather than on the wood.

10. Make your home stand out from the rest. Take a good look at the exterior. If you think it looks bland, give it some curb appeal by adding a different color stain to the shutters, refinishing the deck, or even planting a small tree. You can increase your home’s worth by taking the time to give it the attention it deserves.

For more wood-finishing tips and project ideas, visit the Minwax Web site at

Sisters face forgery charges over theft

Pecos police are continuing to investigate a forgery incident that was uncovered this summer involving two sisters and cash allegedly stolen from a local car dealership.

Police said the sisters were arrested on July 9, for forgery, after an initial investigation. Michelle Silvas Lara, 35 and Melissa Rena Silvas, 33, were charged with forgery, a state jail felony.

According to the police report, Ms. Silvas, who was employed at Colt Chevrolet would take company checks from the local GM dealership and bring them her sister, Michelle Lara, who was employed at La Tienda Thriftway.

Lara would cash the company checks at La Tienda for her sister, according to Pecos Police Investigator Paul Deishler.

“This is an ongoing investigation,” said Deishler.

Deishler said that at this time the two have been charged with cashing two checks in the approximate amount of $1,300.

“Charges are pending on outstanding checks,” said Deishler.

Deishler said that there is also a pending case with Colt Chevrolet, involving Silvas.

The case will be presented to the grand jury and it is up to the district attorney as to how he’ll handle the case.

Balmorhea ISD given award by feds

Balmorhea Independent School has been named a No Child Left Behind Blue Ribbon School of 2004, U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige announced. Schools across the nation show improvement under No Child Left Behind, Paige said in announcing the award.

“For years, many of our underprivileged children were ignored and pre-judged, moved to the back of the room and quietly pushed through the system, with their scores hidden in averages,” he said. “They were cast into the shadows, then cast out into life without the skills to succeed. This created a chronic achievement gap that mocked the promise of public education. So we must change our approach, incentives and expectations. We must foster a climate of academic excellence, enabling all students to reach the highest level of scholarship.

“No Child Left Behind is starting to generate some amazing results, transforming the educational landscape. Today, I am pleased to announce that Balmorhea has been named a No Child Left Behind Blue Ribbon School, and I congratulate you for your achievements,” he said.

The No Child Left Behind Blue Ribbon Schools program recognizes schools that make significant progress in closing the achievement gap or whose students achieve at very high levels. More than 250 of the nation’s schools have been named 2004 No Child Left Behind Blue Ribbon Schools.

The schools are selected based on one of three criteria: Schools with at least 40 percent of their students from disadvantaged backgrounds that dramatically improve student performance on state tests, as determined by the state school chief;

Schools whose students, regardless of background, achieve in the top 10 percent on state tests; and private schools that achieve in the top 10 percent in the nation.

Under No Child Left Behind, schools must meet “Adequate Yearly Progress,” or AYP, in reading/language arts and mathematics. Each state sets its own academic standards and benchmark goals-not the federal government-because each state knows best what goals and criteria are most appropriate for its school districts.

The No Child Left Behind Act is the bipartisan landmark education reform law designed to change the culture of America’s schools by closing the achievement gap, offering more flexibility to states, giving parents more options and teaching students based on what works. Under the law’s strong accountability provisions, states must describe how they will close the achievement gap and make sure all students, including those with disabilities, achieve academically.

More information about the No Child Left Behind Act is available at .

Toyah officials get private help

Six months after heavy rains caused breaks in a levee that flooded the north side of the city of Toyah, officials have turned to a private contractor to make emergency repairs in the structure, as fall storms push the area’s 2004 rainfall total to near-record levels. The area north of Interstate 20 between Toyah and Pecos was under a tornado warning from 7:45 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday night, and another warning was issued around midnight for the area north of I-20 near Barstow, as the southern edge of a line of storms stretching through New Mexico and into the Texas Panhandle passed through the Pecos Valley. The storm passed just to the north of Barstow, but it, along with Pecos and Toyah, were hit by a second line of less-severe showers in the early morning hours on Wednesday. The storm dropped 1.46 inches of rain at Pecos Municipal Airport, and .78 inch downtown at KIUN radio.

Another line of storms that passed through the area around 1 a.m. Thursday added .27 inches of rain at the airport, and .20 inches downtown in KIUN’s rain gauge, raising their year-to-date amount to 19.41 inches. That’s a little more than three inches below the record yearly rainfall amount of 22.55 inches, set in 1986.

The area’s sudden glut of showers, after over a decade of drought, began in April, with storms that not only broke the levee in Toyah, but collapsed the eastbound Interstate 20 bridge over Salt Draw, five miles east of town. Other rains that weekend to the north caused severe flooding in sections of Carlsbad, N.M., and added over 30,000 acre/feet to Red Bluff Lake.

The Toyah flood sent a wall of water between three and four feet high through town in the overnight hours of April 4, causing heavy damage to over two -dozen homes.

Floodwaters were also listed as a possible contributing factor to the collapse of the 92-year-old Toyah National Bank building 2 1/2 months after the flood. High winds that blew through the area triggered the two-story building’s collapse in June, but they may have been helped by foundation problems caused by the high water.

The broken levee was built during World War II by the Missouri Pacific Railroad Co. to protect both its tracks and the city from waters in San Martine Draw. Union Pacific now owns the line and the levee, and back in August company representatives and Reeves County Commissioners discussed, but failed to come to an agreement, on who would pay for the repairs to the 61-year-old structure.

Reeves County Emergency Response Director Ricky Herrera presented commissioners on August 11 with an agreement between Reeves County and the Natural Resource Conservation Service for repairs to the Toyah levee under the Emergency Waterhead Protection Program. But County Judge Jimmy B. Galindo had concerns, since the structure was still owned by Union Pacific.

“There’s a number of provisions in this agreement that call for the county to hire an engineer to make plans to repair the levee,” said Galindo. “I see a problem, because that is privately owned property.”

“The NRCC is aware of that, but will still provide 75 percent on repairs to the project,” said Herrera. “We would have to come up with 25 percent to complete this project.” The dispute left the project in limbo the latter part of the summer, and Toyah mayor Sandra Terry on Wednesday said that due to the delays and the ongoing stormy weather, “We have a private individual working on the levee.”

Terry did not want to give the name of the person they city had contracted, but said he had already patched the main 30-yard break on the northwest side of town. Work was also being done on building up a mile-long section of the levee, to keep all but the worst of any new flooding from San Martine Draw out of the community.

“The county and the railroad have kind of turned their backs on us, so we had a volunteer agree to go out and work on filling the breaks,” Terry said. “We’ve been trying to get the county out here to work in case the rain comes in and hits us again.”

“The dike belongs to the railroad, and they don’t want to do anything,” she added. “The county doesn’t want to accept responsibility for the dike, and I don’t blame them for that. But nobody taking responsibility leaves Toyah open for another flood.

“It ended up that a private individual cared more about the city than the county and the railroad,” Terry said.

Union Pacific Railroad spokesman Mark Davis said on Wednesday he would check with the company’s engineers to see why the railroad had not conducted their own repair work on the broken levee. As of Thursday morning, there had been no reply from the company. Aside from working on getting the levee fixed, Toyah officials are also working on finalizing two grants for construction of up to 18 new homes for families that were hit by the April 4 flood. The city also is seeking bids to repair streets damaged by the flooding, but Terry said, “We’ve only received one bid and we passed on it, because it was too expensive. We could have only fixed three streets, so we’ll wait until next spring.”

Terry said a grant is already in place to build six new homes for elderly and disabled residents, and two more could also be built. Meanwhile, she said, “We’re working on the environmental impact statement for the other home grant, which takes a while. Hopefully, we’ll have nine new homes out of that,” which they hope will begin construction in the next few months.

“We’ve been told we’ll have a lot of new homes in town by Christmas,” Terry said. “I think once they start building the first one the spirits of the city should be lifted quite a bit.”

The heaviest rains in the Pecos area in recent days have been in the northern parts of Reeves County, but heavy rains also fell south of town overnight on Thursday, causing flooding of roads around Fort Stockton and closing FM 1776 south of Coyanosa due to flooding.

The rains to the north have lifted the water level of Red Bluff Lake back up to 81,726 acre feet, according to Red Bluff Water Power Control Board secretary Robin Prewit, while water that has filled draws south of Red Bluff Dam have filled up Imperial Reservoir. The latest report came prior to Tuesday night’s heavy rains in Red Bluff’s basin of Reeves, Culberson and Loving counties in Texas and southern Eddy County, N.M.

Red Bluff has a 240,000 acre/foot capacity, but the drought that began in the summer of 1992 and extended north into the Pecos River Basin of New Mexico in the past four years cut the lake’s water level to as low as 40,000 acre feet in 2002. That forced the district to eliminate water releases to farmers along the Pecos River in both 2002 and 2003. The lack of water also cause the Pecos River to go dry in the Pecos area during the Spring of 2002 and 2003, while the recent heavy rains have brought the river’s level to within about six feet of the Union Pacific and Business I-20 bridges just east of the city.

The April flooding in Carlsbad forced New Mexico officials to release water downstream to Red Bluff, allowing a water release to farmers. But the surprise water windfall came too late for many farmers to plan for 2004 crops, and most of the allotment for this year has gone unused. However, the latest round of storms should allow for a normal water release schedule for farmers in 2005.

Police Report

EDITOR’S NOTE: Information contained in the Police Report is obtained from reports filed by the Pecos Police Department, Reeves County Sheriff’s Office, or other officers of those agencies. The serving of warrants by an officer for outstanding fines of either traffic citations, animal control violations or other court costs are considered arrests and will be printed as such unless indicated that the fines were paid. In such instances we will indicate payment and release.

*** Zane Kiehne of Moriarity, N.M. was arrested by police on Sept. 22 and charged wit h driving while intoxicated and unlawfully carrying a weapon. Police said Kiehne was stopped in the 400 block of South Hickory Street at 7:17 p.m. for a traffic violation, and refused to give officers a breathalyzer test. The weapons charge came after police discovered a .44 magnum handgun in Kiehne’s vehicle.

*** Pecos police arrested one juvenile and are investigating a second in connection with the burglary of an all-terrain vehicle from a building next to the Pecos High School Field House on Sept. 18. Police said they were called on Sept. 21 by Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD maintenance supervisor Joe Coody, who told them the 1987 Honda ATV, which is used to maintain the baseball and softball field at the high school, had been stolen from the building. Police said during their investigation, the received information that the stolen vehicle was at the residence of a juvenile, and on Sept. 24 investigators Paul Deishler and Kelly Davis went to the suspect’s home and found the ATV in the back yard of the residence. Deishler said the ATV was returned to the high school and one juvenile has confessed to the burglary, while a case is pending against a second juvenile.

*** Robert Frank Baca, 400 Magnolia St., was arrested by police on Sept. 25 following a traffic stop in the 700 block of East Second St. and charged with probation violation. The arrest was made following a records check that revealed a warrant for the violation, on a burglary of a habitation charge.

*** William Blaine Wolven, 22, and Erin Marie Twilley, 23, of Sierra Vista, Ariz., was arrested by police at 8:16 a.m. on Sept. 25 on charges of possession of a controlled substance (methamphetamine), failure to identify to a police officer and displaying a fictitious license plate. The arrest occurred at the Flying J Truck Stop on Interstate 20, after a check of the Chevrolet Geo they were in revealed the license plate belonged to a pick-up. Police said the methamphetamine was found in the car, and Wolven gave officers a false name when he was confronted.

*** Ruben M. Villegas, 1614 Morris St., was arrested by police on Sept. 28 and charged on a warrant with possession of marijuana/motion to adjudicate. The arrest took place in the 1200 block of South Cedar Street.

*** Luis E. Valeriano, Jr., 904 S. Elm St., was arrested on Sept. 30 at 8:10 p.m. on East ninth Street on a charge of driving without a license. Police said the arrest was made after Valeriano was seen driving a 1981 GMC Jimmy pickup on Ninth between Peach and Mesquite streets by an officer who knew Valeriano did not have a valid license.

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