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Weekly Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Friday, August 13, 2004

New search planned for Balmorhea girl

Staff Writer

Reeves County Sheriff Andy Gomez said his department plans another search in the near future of the area near Balmorhea for clues into the disappearance of Monica Carrasco, the 16-year-old girl who was reported missing from her uncle’s home on Oct. 2 of last year.

Gomez also defended his department’s efforts in searching for the missing teen, after reports in the past two weeks that the sheriff’s department had hired a psychic to help in the search drew criticism at a local website.

Carrasco, an Alpine resident, was staying at her uncle’s house in Balmorhea when she vanished sometime between the late night hours of Oct. 1 and the morning of Oct 2.

Searches that began just after her disappearance have failed to turn up any evidence, with the last major search coming in late April, supervised by the Laura Recovery Center Foundation of Friendswood, in cooperation with local law enforcement agencies.

Gomez said on Thursday that Carrasco’s mother, Kathy, was upset by comments posted on , the shared website of KWES-Ch. 9 and the Midland Reporter-Telegram. The comments, posted after the recent stories about the use of a psychic to aid in the search, charged that little effort had been made by the department in search for the teenager over the past 10 months.

After being contacted by Kathy Carrasco, Gomez and sheriff’s deputy Reno Lewis drew up a statement, outlining the efforts made so far and defending the department’s actions. The sheriff also defended the use of the psychic in a forthcoming search, but added the Little Rock, Ark., woman was not hired by his department.

“As a matter of fact, the psychic was free. It was her (Carrasco’s) grandmother who contacted her,” Gomez said. “She gave the grandmother some information, and she contacted us.”

He said the next effort using search dogs would try and look for areas that were described by the psychic. Lewis said in his statement that deputies were given the information after meeting with the woman in Pecos and Balmorhea.

“We’re going to do anything to help,” Gomez said. “If it was your daughter, you’d do anything. You’d spend money on 20 psychics; I’d spend money on a witch out of Mexico if it would help find my daughter.”

“We’ve spent a lot of money on this case, searching the area and getting all of the evidence to the labs,” Lewis said, while listing the efforts so far in the statement released on Thursday.

He said the initial search began on the day of her disappearance, and involved sheriff’s deputies along with local residents and members of the Balmorhea Fire Department and workers at the nearby Balmorhea State Park. The Department of Public Safety, Texas Rangers, Immigration and Naturalization Service offices, Reeves County Detention Center employees, Lynaugh state prison workers in Fort Stockton, Reeves County Water Improvement District No. 1 employees out of Balmorhea and members of the Carrasco family were also involved in the initial search, and two others that followed.

However, Lewis said those searches turned up no clues into her disappearance.

He said Monica’s name is entered into state and national law enforcement telecommunications databases, and her name and photo is in the DPS’s database of missing persons.

“There have been hundreds of leads from all corners of the United States,” Lewis said. “Each lead is investigated. None have provided Monica or information that can lead to the whereabouts of Monica. Some of the people that called in with information and have very helpful in distributing posters in communities.”

“The Federal Bureau of Investigation is assisting Reeves County Sheriff’s Department with computer forensics, and they have entered her into the FBI’s VICAP data computer. The FBI is assisting the Reeves County Sheriff’s Department in following leads associated with Monica,” Lewis said.

He added that several Internet sites devoted to locating missing children have posted Monica’s photo and information, and a $10,000 reward for information leading to Carrasco’s whereabouts had been offered through the Carole Sund/Carrington Memorial Reward Foundation and local donations to the Carrasco family.

“The Reeves County Sheriff’s Department will investigate any information that is provided in locating Monica Carrasco,” Lewis said. “Sheriff Gomez has made locating Monica the top priority. Most of this information is kept confidential due to the nature of the investigation. Kathy Carrasco is kept informed of the investigation; if you have any doubts, just ask.”

Gomez said the next search dog effort would be done in the near future. “We’re going to check out the information the psychic gave me and just confirm it one way or another,” he said.

Board seeks answers for turf project delays

Staff Write

Problems and possible solutions for the dirt work being put in place to support the installation of artificial turf at the Pecos High School football field were outlined during the regular Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD board meeting held Thursday evening at the Technology Center.

The $517,000 project to install FieldTurf and refurbish the Eagle Stadium track were scheduled to have been completed by this week, but concerns about the drainage of the rock and dirt support level have caused work to be halted several times over the past two months.

“We had a lot of fines and put it through a lot of different tests,” said Monte Hunter, engineer with Hunter Corral, of Midland.

Hunter told the group that the fines appear to be adequately removed. “Visual inspection indicates the drainage system is free flowing,” he said.

The second drainage base has been installed. “It appears to be an acceptable drainage base, but is not stable, it shifts with slight foot pressure,” said Hunter.

Similar problems have plagued the artificial turf field installed last year at Andrews High School. That field was put in place before the problems with the shifting drainage base were discovered. On the Eagle Stadium field, Hunter said that the contractor has been advised that the base is not acceptable.

“They agreed to dig out and we’ll see if it’s going to work out or not,” said Hunter. Hunter said that there are three different options they are looking at.

One would be to put the turf over the base. “The rock purpose is for draining,” said Hunter.

Hunter said that the first option would be to put more sand and turf over them. “Because that rock is not stable,” he said.

The second option would be to put a different rock in, but if they do that, it would be awhile until they finish, according to Hunter. Pecos has already had to reschedule this Thursday’s scrimmage against Coahoma from Eagle Stadium to Coahoma, and their regular season home opener is scheduled for Sept. 3 against Kermit.

The third option was to file with the bond company, and seek payment for the extra renovations that would be needed.

“That would mean they wouldn’t finish and it would take a long time to get things straightened out,” said Hunter. “After talking to Jeff (Breesee, the engineer overseeing the project for P-B-T), we decided the best option was to give them a chance.”

Hunter said that they could let them do part of it, then test it before installing the entire field.

“Let’s roll out just one section and everyone that wants to, can go out there and inspect, walk on it, drive something on it and see if it’s going to work, before installing the entire thing,” said Hunter.

“If it doesn’t work, go to option two,” he said.

Hunter said that that’s is what he would like to propose to the board.

Hunter said that if it does work, it ill be completed by Aug. 28.

“We just came up with this option today, which doesn’t give us much time, but I just now received the results,” he said.

The turf is already on site and will take approximately 10 days to install when the base is accepted.

“We requested Field Turf provide an updated schedule based on replacing the granular base and as of 3 p.m., today had not received the said schedule,” said Hunter. A sub-contractor was on hand to talk about the problems at the turf.

He said that the engineer’s specs were something that could not work at any other site. The sub-contractor said that they had installed that type in Andrews and it had not worked out well.

“We recommend option 1 and if they think it will work, show us, if it doesn’t work go back to what’s scheduled and see what we can do,” said Hunter. “And this has been used before,” he said.

Board president Billie Sadler asked the sub-contractor if they had looked at the specs before they agreed to work on the field. “If you did, then you should have spoken up then, but right now our engineer is offering us solutions and we’ll go with his recommendations,” said Sadler.

“You signed a contract that said the specs would work,” said Sadler.

“What I suggest is that they have it done by next week,” said Hunter.

“I think it’s better to get the job done right, than timely,” said Sadler.

“I agree with that as well, because we’ve put too much money into this not to do this right,” said board member Amy Miller.

“Yes, almost half a million dollars,” said Hunter.

The cost of the turf installation portion of the Eagle Stadium work was put at $489,000 by former P-B-T Superintendent Don Love. The remaining cost would be for the track resurfacing, though due to the problems with the subsurface work, the track repairs can’t begin until after the end of the football season in November.

Rebate checks jump across area in August

Sales tax collections took a big jump in June in the Town of Pecos City and Reeves County as a whole, according to figures released last week by Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn’s office.

After seeing the 2004 numbers remain virtually unchanged from 2003 during the first five months of the year, the August rebate check to Pecos, based on tax collections made during June, were up almost 22 percent, from $69,021 last year to $84,171 in June. The increase meant that through the first eight months of the year, the city has received $534,334 as its 1 1/2-cent share of the state’s 8 1/4-cent sales tax, a 5.85 percent rise from the $504,758 the city had gotten back from the comptroller at this time a year ago.

One sixth of the city’s sales tax total goes towards funding the Pecos Economic Development Corp. The PEDC will receive $14,029 out of the August rebate check. The numbers for the month, and for the year as a whole, were even better in Balmorhea. Strayhorn’s August rebate check there was $4,475.40, which was up 214 percent from a year ago, when Balmorhea got $1,426 rebated for its June sales tax collections. For the first eight months of 2004, Balmorhea has gotten almost double last year’s amount in sales tax rebates, at $13,991.

Toyah didn’t follow the other two Reeves County communities in seeing a big increase in their check. Toyah got $453 back from Austin, a drop of just under 31 percent from last year, when it got $657 in its August rebate check. However, for the year, Toyah’s tax rebates are still 5 percent ahead of last year, at $3,534.

The sales tax rebate check for Reeves County Hospital was also up sharply for August. The hospital district’s 1/2-cent sales tax collections for June totaled $57,650, which was up 127 percent from last year’s $25,385. For all of 2004, the hospital has gotten $248,206 in taxes rebated from the comptroller, a jump of 18.24 percent from last year’s $209,899. Double- and triple-digit increase in tax rebates were common across the Permian Basin this month. Monahans’ 2-cent sales tax netted the city $99,122, which was 139 percent above last year’s number. Fort Stockton’s 2-cent tax netted $152,144, a 24.69 percent rise, while Andrews and Wink, which have 1-cent sales tax rates, were up 11.11 and 16.67 percent respectively for the month.

Odessa’s 1 1/4-cent tax rate produced $1.59 million in rebates for the month, up 12.39 percent from 2003. Midland’s check this month was for $2.14 million, and was 11.12 higher than a year ago.

Statewide, rebates to cities and counties in August came to just under $292 million, a 10.78 percent increase from a year ago. Houston’s $34.6 million check was the single largest and 10.93 percent better than a year ago, while Dallas’ $20.1 million check was the second largest, and was larger by 10.44 percent than the one sent out in August of 2003.

P-B-T teachers connect with techno-bus

Staff Writer

Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD teachers and administrators got their first look this past Thursday at a mobile computer lab that will be making the rounds among Region 18 school district across West Texas during the upcoming year.

“Edlink 18” was parked in front of the P-B-T Technology Center on Thursday to allow school employees to get a look at the computer arrangement inside that will be available when the mobile lab returns to Pecos the week of Oct. 18. However, as of now, P-B-T Technology Director Jodi Exum said there were no set plans on what students and teachers would be using the lab at that time.

“The teachers will be able to send a lesson plan to Region 18. They will select a variety of those,” she said. “They just want a cross-section, and it depends on what kind of lesson plan they submit.”

Casey Ritchie, Region 18 Telecommunications Coordinator, said “The plan is to spend a week at a time in each district,” and added that the lab is open to classes between kindergarten and 12th grade, though “It’s up to the district to decide who uses it. “From what I understand, the government wasn’t targeting this to a specific age group,” Ritchie said, though he expects most of the students to come from the junior high and high school level.

Ritchie, along with technician Kendal Rogers were giving teachers and administrators tours of the bus on Thursday. He said the lab is the first of its kind, and was acquired through a federal Target Grant, in order to benefit the lower income districts within Region 18.

“The purpose of the grant is to target specific school district. In Region 18, there are 33 districts and the program will serve 18 districts with higher poverty rates and difficult conditions that makes technology harder to access for students,” Ritchie said.

Exum said the district asked Region 18 officials if they could bring the bus to Pecos before the start of the school year.

“If our teachers can see it, we thought it would really help them getting the lesson plans together,” she said.

“Edlink 18” looks like a RV on the outside, but with wheelchair access and an interior that has been converted into a technology lab, with 10 desks containing laptop computers facing the rear of the vehicle. A projection screen is also at the back of the bus, while LCD screens are over the students’ desks to allow them to view any presentations.

The rear area also includes an instructor’s laptop, server and color printer, while Ritchie said a black and white printer that doubles as a copier will be at the front of the bus. The vehicle is also equipped with graphing calculators, digital microscopes and digital cameras, while what would be the bus’ normal luggage area below the passengers contains another TV monitor and connections to hook up another 11 laptops outside the vehicle for classes with too many students to fit inside the bus.

The project has been in the planning stages for two years, though the bus itself has only been in operation for two weeks.

“We picked every piece of equipment for the bus, it’s all specially equipped,” Ritchie said. “When we bought the bus, it was just a white box.”

“We picked these Panasonic laptops, because they’re part of the Tough Book series, in case they get knocked around,” he said. The server on board has about 80 gigabytes of space - about average by today’s standards - but Ritchie added, “We have room to add three more hard drives if we need to.”

Exum said the school districts that will have the bus available during the year also had to help get the funding for the vehicle.

“We all as districts had to participate in the grant application,” Exum said. “We all had to meet certain stipulations.”

She added that the district has been preparing for the arrival of Edlink 18 for a while now. “We sent Debbie Florez last year for training, and she’s helping us integrate this into our program,” said Exum. “We send Debbie about once a month to Region 18 for training.” While P-B-T ISD has opened its own Technology Center and completed wiring all of the campus classrooms to the Internet in recent years, Exum said what the Edlink 18 bus has is more than what the district currently can offer.

“We have some good stuff here, but we can’t keep up with that,” she said.

Ray celebrates 95th birthday

Have you ever known anyone whose life has touched parts of two centuries?

Though a rare occurrence, Beatrice A. Ray, of Pecos, celebrated her 95th birthday with friends, and numerous calls from her sister in Tennessee, nieces in Mississippi, California and Anthony, Tx., with well wishes, their love, birthday cake, ice cream and punch.

Mrs. Ray was born July 27, 1909 in Hillsboro, N.M. and has resided in Pecos for over 50 years.

Various gifts were received from her friends and a special, which was a beautiful floral arrangements from her friends at the Security State Bank.

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