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Weekly Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Hanks to re-file petition against county officials

Staff Writer

A petition against Reeves County officials over alleged incompetence and misconduct will be refilled, after the original suit was thrown out on Aug. 11 by 143rd District Court Judge Bob Parks on procedural grounds.

“Of course I’m going to re-file. I’m just kind of surprised nobody had asked before,” Bobby Hanks said Wednesday morning, a week after Parks dismissed the original filing without prejudice. Hanks said by doing that, “The judge basically gave me an invitation to file again.”

Parks dismissed the petition brought by Hanks, which was initially filed on July 29. His petition alleges both incompetence and misconduct in connection with construction of the 960-bed Reeves County Detention Center III project. He also claims several other violations against Reeves County Judge Jimmy Galindo, including refusal to make county financial information available under the Texas Open Records Act, violation of county government nepotism laws, and a conflict of interest between Galindo and a company hired by the county to make deliveries to the RCDC.

Hanks also cites the recent transfers of several county employees to RCDC III as having violated state law.

District Attorney Randy Reynolds said he would take the allegations under advisement, but on July 30, Parks sent Hanks a letter notifying him about problems with the sworn statement on the petition. Hanks then had the petition notarized, but Parks’ dismissal of the petition was based on a lack of a sworn statement on the original petition.

In his one-page dismissal, Parks said, “The Petition on Page 22 contains the following: ‘I certify that I have compared the foregoing copy of the petition with the original petition, ad I certify that it is a true and correct copy of the original petition’.”

The statement goes on to list Hanks’ name and that of notary Jeanette Herrera, but Parks said, “The foregoing does not verify the facts in the Petition are true as required by both Sec. 87.015(b) of the Local Government Code and by case law. Instead the statement merely is an attempt to state the amended petition is a true copy of the original petition. Case law makes it clear that the verification must be such as would support a prosecution of perjury if false.

“Accordingly, the court refuses to issue the requested order for citation, acting pursuant to Sec. 87.016(c) of the Local Government Code.”

Hanks filed the original petition without aid of an attorney, but said this time, “The paperwork has been sent to an attorney for review.”

“Do I swear the document is true? Yes it is,” Hanks said. He added that he is not angry with Parks for dismissing the petition, but was unhappy that he has not heard anything yet from Reynolds.

Under state law, the district attorney could investigate the charges in the petition, if he finds grounds for action. Reynolds said after the initial filing he was reviewing the allegations, but has not made any further comment on the situation. He was in court in Monahans on Wednesday and was unavailable for comment.

Galindo declined to comment on the dismissal of the petition. Earlier this month, he denied the allegations made by Hanks, and said they was working on getting a law firm out of Austin to represent the county if the petition is heard by Parks.

Marshals’ prisoner shortfall puts hit on county revenues

Staff Writers

U.S. Marshal’s Service prisoners have been keeping the beds full at times beyond the listed capacity of the Town of Pecos City’s Criminal Justice Center. But a lack of inmates from the Marshal’s Service at Reeves County Jail has created another big budget headache for Reeves County.

The inmate shortage came up on Monday, during a workshop held by Reeves County Commissioners on the 2005 fiscal year budget, and on personnel losses within county departments due to budget shortfalls this past year.

Positions within the Reeves County Courthouse that have been vacant due to budget restraints will be restored eventually, County Judge Jimmy B. Galindo said. Most of the departments lost one or two employees due to a shortfall in the General Fund this year caused by an absence of inmates in 2003 at the new Reeves County Detention Center III unit.

Funds had to be taken out of the general fund to meet payroll and fulfill bond payments on the $40 million RCDC III until the county was able to secure a contract in February to house inmates from the State of Arizona at RCDC III. But the county was still forced to move some personnel this spring out of departments paid through the General Fund and into RCDC III, where funds from Arizona could be used to make payroll.

Galindo heard requests from the different department heads during a budget workshop held Monday.

“The meeting was basically to get the departmental requests and to look over the budget,” said Galindo. “We had a number of requests, they’re mainly looking at salary increases,” he said.

Galindo said that department heads were requesting that some of their employees, who had been relocated to the Reeves County Detention Center, be reinstated at the courthouse.

“We hope to do that eventually, to get all the employees back here at the courthouse, if that’s what they want, or to fill empty positions within their departments,” said Galindo. With regard to the sheriff’s request to fill two deputy positions that are currently vacant in his department Galindo said, “There is a $400,000 shortfall in the sheriff’s department at this time.”

“The expectation was that there would be between 40-50 marshal service inmates,” said Galindo. “The expectation was that there would be enough U.S. Marshal inmates,” he said.

Now, the county finds itself with a $400,000 shortfall. “We haven’t been able to provide that. Half a million is a lot,” he said.

Galindo said that when you’re bringing in $700,000 a year and now it’s just $140,000 and it’s already August, “It’s a major shortfall,” he said.

“This is something we have to deal with, all public services begin with revenue,” said Galindo.

“We were counting on the sheriff’s department in bringing in $700,000 in revenue,” he said.

Galindo said the lack of expected money from the Marshal’s Service is a major hole in the budget at a time when Sheriff Andy Gomez is seeking to restore two deputy positions within his department.

“Before he asks for more deputies, we need to take care of this problem,” he said, explaining that that there are currently two positions open at the sheriff’s department. “These are positions that we asked him not to fill,” said Galindo. “Everyone has sacrificed and tightened their belt.”

“He needs to look at the revenue before he puts in a request,” said Galindo. “But when you have a half a million dollars that you need to make up, it’s hard to do it overnight,” he said.

Galindo said that what they are trying to do is restore the positions in the courthouse. “The revenue has to be there to restore those positions,” he said.

“I know that the sheriff’s department is really shorthanded at this time,” he said. “Like during the Toyah flood, when we needed to have all of them out there and we’ve had our share of bad weather.

“It’s understandable that he would want all his employees restored and we’re working on it,” he said.

Galindo said that hopefully by the coming fiscal year, beginning in January all the positions in the courthouse would be restored.

Reeves County Clerk Dianne Florez said that the department heads were all asking for their departments. “I’m just asking for a raise for my employees and I would like for them to bring back the other employee in my office from the detention center,” said Florez.

Gomez said that they are having problems procuring U.S. Marshal inmates. “The CJC is getting them all,” said Gomez. “They have to have a certain percent occupancy,” he said.

The inmates are kept in Reeves County Jail, directly across the street from the Lucius D. Bunton Federal Courthouse. But two years ago the Town of Pecos City opened up its 96-bed Criminal Justice Center, funded in part by a Cooperative Agreement Program (CAP) grant through the Marshal’s Service.

“They lent them the money to build the facility and now they provide the inmates so that they can have the revenue to pay that money back,” said Gomez.

Most of the prisoners being held for hearings or trial in Pecos have been kept at the CJC since then, and on Tuesday, the facility was housing 103 inmates, all but one from the Marshal’s Service.

“Periodically we do run over a little bit on occasion,” Pecos Police Chief Clay McKinney said. He explained that the 96-bed capacity is sometimes exceeded while the Marshal’s Service is transferring inmates in and out of the Pecos area.

At the time the CJC opened in February 2002 city officials discussed the possibility of expanding the bed space at the facility, but for now have no plans to add on to the detention area.

“We’ve had some discussions with the Marshal’s Service in the past about expanding, and they’ve told us to hold off, and we’ve taken their advice,” McKinney said. “We want to do the right thing for the community, and want to be on the safe side.”

Gomez said that the shortage in deputies poses a problem. “We have a lot of miles to cover,” said Gomez.

“In one week, we had the Toyah flooding, a five person fatality wreck and the bridge came down,” said Gomez. “My deputies have been working anywhere from 15 to 17 hours a day.”

Gomez said that the deputies have a lot of extra duties that require time. “It’s not safe for them or the public,” he said.

Two arrested after Barstow drug bust

Two individuals were arrested Tuesday morning, following a drug raid that happened at a home in Ward County.

The investigation was initiated by the Ward County Sheriff’s Office and several officers executed the warrant at about 8 a.m., Tuesday, at a Barstow home.

Arrested during the incident was Gilbert Rayos Ortega, 33, of Pecos, was arrested on a warrant for parole violation.

Owner of the home Crissy Sanchez Lopez, 34, of Barstow, was charged with possession of drug paraphernalia.

“They didn’t actually find any drugs at this time, but the investigation led us to believe there were drugs at the home,” said Ward County Sheriff Mikel Strickland. “She’s going to see the judge this morning,” he said.

Strickland said that some other arrests have been made or are pending in connection with this investigation.

P-B-T numbers show enrollment drop continuing

Staff Writer

Enrollment figures for Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD schools are down five percent for the first two days of the 2004 school year, compared with the first two days of a year ago, continuing the trend of recent years within he district.

The total number of students enrolled on the first day was 2,100, P-B-T officials said, as opposed to last year’s figure of 2,206, a drop of 106 from a year ago.

On the second day of school the figures were even lower.

Last year the total number of students enrolled on the second day of school amounted to 2,270 and this year’s number of students enrolled on the second day added up to 2,154, with a difference of 116.

P-B-T ISD has lost over a third of its enrollment over the past 15 years. The closing of the Anchor Foods plant, the Freeport McMoRan (Pennzoil) sulphur mine and the Smithers Tire Testing Center during that time period has cost the area over 1,200 jobs, while other sectors, such as agriculture and ranching, also have lost employees due to the drought that began in 1992 and lasted for a decade.

Figures for the first day showed 154 students enrolled at Pecos Kindergarten; 161 students in first grade; 140 in second grade; 164 in third grade; 144 in fourth grade; 159 in fifth grade; 185 in sixth grade; 153 in 7th grade; 168 in 8th grade; 218 in 9th grade; 133 in 10th grade; 130 in 11th grade and 105 in 12th grade. Students enrolled in special ed were 51 and on pre-kindergarten, 35.

Students enrolled on the second day of school at Pecos Kindergarten were 159; with 164 in first grade; 143 in second grade; 167 in third grade; 149 in fourth grade; 161 in fifth grade; 187 in 6th grade; 156 in 7th grade; 170 in 8th grade; 200 in ninth grade; 155 in 10th grade; 138 in 11th grade and 113 in 12th grade.

The number in special ed amounted to 54 and in pre-kindergarten, 38.

School providing info on child meal program

Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD announced its policy for providing free and reduced-price meals for children served under the National School Lunch Program and/or School Breakfast Program. Each school and/or the central office have a copy of the policy, which may be reviewed by an interested party.

The household size and income criteria will be used to determine eligibility for free and reduced-price benefits. Children from households whose income is at or below the levels shown are eligible for free and reduced price meals. Foster children who are the legal responsibility of a welfare agency or court may also be eligible for benefits regardless of the income of the household with whom they reside. Eligibility for the foster child is based on the child’s income.

Application forms are being distributed to all households with a letter informing households of the availability of free and reduced-price meals for their children. Applications are also available at the principal’s office in each school. To apply for free and reduced-price meals, households must fill out the application and return it to the school cafeteria or the Food Service Office. Applications may be submitted anytime during the school year. The information households provide on the applications will be used for the purpose of determining eligibility and verification of data. The school officials may verify applications at any time during the school year.

For school officials to determine eligibility for free and reduced-price benefits, households receiving food stamps or TANF only have to list their child’s name and food stamp or TANF case number. An adult household member must sign the application.

Households that do not list a food stamp or TANF case number must list the names of all households members, the amount and source of the income received by each household member and the Social Security number is not available by marking the box provided. An adult household member must sign the application.

Under the provisions of the free and reduced-price meal policy, the Food Service Director and/or Food Service Secretary will review applications and determine eligibility. Parents or guardians dissatisfied with the ruling of the official may wish to discuss the decision with the reviewing official on an informal basis. Parents wishing to make a formal appeal for a hearing on the decision may make a request either orally or in writing to the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD Superintendent, 1302 S. Park, (432) 447-7201.

Households that list a food stamp or TANF case number must report when the household no longer receives these benefits. Other households approved for benefits based on income information must report increases in household income of over $50 per month or $600 per year and decreases in household size. Also, if a household member becomes unemployed or if the household size increases, the household should contact the Food Service Office. Such changes may take the children of the household eligible for benefits if the household’s income falls at or below the levels shown above.

In accordance with Federal law and U.S. Department of Agriculture policy, this institution is prohibited from discriminating on the bases of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability.

To file a complaint of discrimination, write USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, Room 326-W, Whitten Building, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20250-9410 or call (202) 720-5964 (voice and TDD). USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

KMID official says satellite answer to local signal woes

Staff Writer

General managers for the two Midland-Odessa television stations that have been subjects of complaints over picture quality in the Pecos area said they have not heard from officials with the city’s cable company in the past week.

But while the picture quality for the area’s Fox Network station has improved since early August, anyone trying to watch the ABC affiliate out of Midland-Odessa might do better to buy a satellite dish in the near future.

Garry Pomonis of Cebridge Connections told Town of Pecos City Council members two weeks ago that the company has begun efforts to receive an ABC affiliate via satellite to replace KMID, the local ABC network station that has been unable to get a strong signal into the Pecos Valley since microwave service was ended three years ago.

Pomonis said Cebridge has sent a letter to KMID general manager Chris Pruitt notifying the station of its intention to remove the channel from the local cable lineup and replace it with a station out of Nashville, Tenn. On Monday, Pruitt said he had received the letter from Cebridge, but had not had any other contact with the company since the Aug. 5 council meeting.

But Pruitt also said he expects KMID will be available via satellite sometime in the near future - but not to cable television customers. He said EchoStar, the parent company of satellite provider Dish Network, plans to set up a system to transmit the Midland-Odessa area network stations to West Texas customers via satellite.

“They’re preparing to install land-to-land lines, which will be a fiber optic network that will sent the signal to Cheyenne, Wyo.,” Pruitt said. “From there it will be uplinked to customers.

“I would expect that once Dish Network does it, the other satellite provider (DirecTV) will do the same,” he added.

Pruitt said the company already has begun work laying the fiber optic cable out of KMID’s broadcast center between Midland and Odessa, and hoped the satellite connection would be in place by the end of the year.

Dish Network has been adding local channels to its satellite line-up for areas across the United States in recent years. Dish added Amarillo channels for the Texas Panhandle in June, and the Permian Basin channels to be added along with KMID are KPEJ, KOSA, KWES and KOCV, which are the Fox, CBS, NBC and PBS stations in the Midland-Odessa area.

As for cable TV customers, Pruitt said he has been informed of Cebridge’s plans, and while they were hoping the company would still keep KMID on the Pecos system on one of the upper channels, he said there was not quick answer to the problem.

“One option we’re looking at is setting up a microwave signal ourselves to get the signal down there, but we don’t know if that would be cost-effective or not,” he said. KMID could not own the microwave system, so someone else would have to pick up at least part of the cost for sending the signal down to the 2,100 cable customers in Pecos.

KMID was sent to Pecos for years via microwave, but when the area system was sold three years ago after its previous owners filed for bankruptcy, Pruitt said new owner the Williams Company eliminated the station’s microwave signal from its Notrees tower.

Pruitt said another option the station could look at is the one taken by KPEJ, the Fox Network station out of Midland-Odessa. KPEJ beams its signal from its antenna north of Midland International Airport down to Gomez Peak. Once there, the signal is rebroadcast over UHF Ch. 20 and then sent 40 miles back east to Pecos, where it is picked up by Cebridge’s antenna.

“I’m not sure how they’re doing that - it (Gomez Peak) looks to be about 130 miles from our antenna - but it’s another option we can look at,” Pruitt said.

KPEJ’s signal has been spotty at times in the Pecos area. It was off completely the day Pomonis met with the Pecos City Council, and he said he would look into the problems with that signal.

However, the Fox signal for Pecos has been much better over the past 10 days, and station general manager John Rockweiler said that, like Pruitt, he has not heard from Cebridge officials since the Aug. 4 meeting.

“We have not gotten and phone calls from them about having a bad signal, and we have not gotten any phone calls from people in that area,” Rockweiler said. “If there’s a problem down there we need to hear from somebody.”

He said the problem with the signal locally could be due to transmission problems from Gomez Peak, or it could be a problem with the “head end” equipment Cebridge uses to pick up the signal.

“Our engineer took a TV down there about a week ago and he was getting the signal with rabbit ears and was getting a good signal for a long, long way back,” Rockweiler said. He did say that weather could cause problems with the Gomez Peak antenna, which is located about 5,500 feet up the 6,500-foot mountain. “The rancher on whose land the antenna is on goes up there and takes care of it for us. But when he’s out of town we have to have someone let us know, and as soon as we find out, we’ll go down there and do something about it,” Rockweiler said.

He added he would also look into possible problems with KTLD, the new Telemundo station in Midland-Odessa whose signal was coming in over KPEJ’s signal in Pecos earlier this month. “They may be overmodulating. We’ll have to check that out,” Rockweiler said.

Concerns about the Fox and ABC signals have been common in August in recent years, as the start of the NFL season nears. All ABC stations will be carrying the same 16 “Monday Night Football” games during the season, but Pomonis told the council there were concerns about replacing KPEJ on the Pecos cable system, since Cebridge didn’t know if there was a Fox station available on satellite that would broadcast all of he Dallas Cowboys football games Fox will air in 2004.

KPEJ aired last Saturday’s game between the Cowboys and Houston Texans, which Pecos viewers had no problems watching. “The signal was good, but the Cowboys were bad,” Rockweiler said of Dallas’ 18-0 loss to Houston.

KPEJ will air 10 of Dallas’ 16 games during the 2004 season, and will also air Super Bowl XXXVIII at the end of January.

Monahans 2-year-old dies in accident

A Monahans child was killed in a traffic accident on Monday, when a truck pulling out of a driveway failed to see the toddler and ran over her.

Alissa Hernandez, 2, received fatal injuries when a 2001 Ford pickup driven by her cousin backed over her at 4:07 p.m. on Monday.

The accident occurred in the 800 block of Avenue “D” when Vanessa Calderon stopped at a residence to drop off a second child, according to a report filed by the Department of Public Safety.

Calderon was backing out of the driveway when she heard a ‘bump.” The report stated that Calderon then exited the vehicle, and found her two-year-old cousin lying underneath the vehicle.

Hernandez was flown by air ambulance to Medical Center Odessa, but died from her injuries just after arrival. The girl was pronounced dead by a Dr. Daniels at 5:42 p.m., according to the report.

The accident was investigated by Trooper Ross Bates. No charges have been filed in connection with the accident.

Firm says ad on installers’ pay not deceptive

Staff Writer

Officials with the company installing new water meters in the Town of Pecos City said their ad seeking workers for the job was accurate, after at least one complaint was lodged over the salary being paid for the two-month project.

Peddle Valve, Inc., the subcontractor on the project, began installing new water meters at homes and businesses around the city on Aug. 4, and placed an ad in the Pecos Free Press on Aug. 1 seeking workers for the project.

Johnson Controls won the contract in April to replace water meters in the city with new computerized meters, and subcontracted with Peddle Valve to handle the actual installation work, which is scheduled to last about two months.

The complaint, lodged with both the Pecos Enterprise and with Town of Pecos City Manager Joseph Torres, said the salary listed was not what the workers were paid, but company officials said the workers were to be paid based on the number of meters installed per day.

The ad said workers would be trained and could make $10 to $20 an hour, depending on speed and skill. Project Superintendent Scott Oalmann said the pay scale was based on the number of meters that could be installed during a one-hour period.

“As far as the pay goes, it’s $5 for a meter, $5 for the back flow and $5 if we have to plumb it,” he said. “Basically it’s piece work if they install the meter and the back flow.” “Some people can get it, some people can’t” said Peddle Valve Service Coordinator Jeremy Lee. “He just wanted to get paid a flat, hourly rate.

Lee said there were six installers working on the project, while Oalmann said, “The installers we have are averaging getting 8-10 a day, and the more experienced ones might to 10-14 a day.”

Another complaint lodged with the city was the failure to provide golf carts for carrying the old and new meters between houses. That was not part of the published ad, and workers were given pull wagons to carry the equipment between homes.

“Certain cities do need golf carts, others don’t,” said Robbie Gilbert, vice president of sales for Peddle Valve. He said the use of the motorized carts instead of the wagons depends on the size of the city and the space between homes.

“Other cities are spread out. Pecos is so close together we don’t need the carts,” he said. “Depending on the city, they can do 3-4-5 an hour, depending on the east of installation,” Gilbert said. He added that for those local hires who do well on the job, “After they get practiced at it, we give them the ability to travel around the country and work with us.” The new meters will allow city workers to read them without having to remove the covers over the meters, as has been the case up until now.

“You guys are going to have state-of-the-art equipment. They can be read in the snow and in the rain,” Gilbert said. “They can read the water meters in any weather. They’ll be able to read them with a laptop computer any time they drive by.”

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