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Economic Development


Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Friday, December 10, 2004

Galindo used as contractor by truck firm

Staff Writer

The president of an Oklahoma-based trucking company has confirmed that Reeves County Judge Jimmy B. Galindo was an independent contractor for the company for a six-month period that ended earlier this year.

Mike Stone, president of Beaver Express of Woodward, Okla., said that Galindo had been hired as an independent contractor in September of last year.

“He then resigned, or terminated the contract in March of this year,” said Stone. “He was not an employee, but an independent contractor.”

Stone said that the company now services the Pecos area out of Midland.

Accusations were made in a petition filed in July by local resident Bobby Hanks alleging irregularities at the RCDC. Hanks made his charges against Galindo, commissioners Herman Tarin and Felipe Arredondo and several other county and RCDC employees alleging both mismanagement and of questionable actions related to the prison. That included an allegation of conflict of interest against Galindo due to his involvement with Beaver Express.

Randy Reynolds, 143rd District Attorney, said last week that he had received information about several documents that had been questioned concerning a bank account at the RCDC.

“We received information about certain documents at the RCDC that were questioned, as a result, this past summer I notified the Texas Rangers of the situation,” Reynolds said on Dec. 2.

He added that at present the persons involved whom they are looking at are certain employees at the RCDC, and that the DA’s office is awaiting completion of an outside audit which is part of the ongoing investigation.

Texas Ranger Brian Burzynski of Fort Stockton is assisting Reynolds with his investigation. Officials with the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas have declined to comment on whether or not there is any federal investigation into problems at the prison, which houses 2,000 inmates under a contract with the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.

Asked if the company had been questioned by either the Texas Rangers or the FBI in connection with an ongoing investigation in Reeves County on certain accounts at the Reeves County Detention Center, Stone said, “I am not at liberty to tell you that.” In his original filing in late July, Hanks said that Galindo and RCDC employee Randy Baeza were operating a service providing deliveries to the prison, which is a violation of Texas conflict of interest laws.

The petition goes on to allege that Galindo and Baeza coerced companies shipping to RCDC to use Beaver Express, in violation of both Texas Conflict of Interest laws and federal laws pertaining to shipments across state lines for profit by coercion of government officials.

Hanks said he sought information on Beaver Express LLC and was told by company employee Brian Stone that he did not believe the two were involved in a conflict of interest, though Hanks alleges Stone declined to send any information on the earned income or commission paid to Galindo and Baeza.

“I don’t recognize that name and no he does not have a contract with us,” Stone said on Wednesday, in reference to Baeza’s involvement in the company.

Reeves County Auditor Lynn Owens said no shipping forms connected with Beaver Express have passed through his office.

“I have never seen a freight bill from Beaver Trucking Company,” said Owens. “I really don’t know what they deliver to RCDC, have not seen any bills from them, so they would have to be pre-paid.”

Hanks’ original petition alleges several other violations of office by the county judge and the commissioners court under the Texas Statutes Local Government Code, Chapter 87. Most of the claims center around the construction of the Reeves County Detention Center III unit, a 960-bed facility that opened last year.

He claims the prison was built without any assurance of inmates to fill the facility, leading to the county’s current financial problems, including the depletion of $4 million from the county’s prison fund and the downgrading of the county’s rating to junk bond status.

The $40 million addition to the 2,000-bed detention center was built just after completion of RCDC II, with the idea of housing U.S. Bureau of Prisons inmates in the same manner as the prison’s first two units. However, after opening at the end of March, the county was unable to get the BOP to commit to sending new inmates to the facility, and by June of 2003 Reeves County was facing severe budget shortfalls due to the lack of income and payments that were required in connection with the prison project.

Hanks’ original petition was thrown out on Aug. 11 by 143rd District Court Judge Bob Parks on procedural grounds, but was refilled on Nov. 24. At the time, he claimed Parks had made statements to at least one Reeves County Courthouse employee disparaging Hanks and his petition two days after it was originally filed, and prior to the dismissal of the original petition.

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, and last week confirmed than an investigation into problems at the RCDC did begin during the summer.

Council told tank job bids under budget

Town of Pecos City Council awarded a contract for refurbishing the city’s 500,000 gallon elevated storage tank to a Kerrville company at a cost 40 percent under budget, and also received an update on activities of the Pecos Economic Development Corp. as part of their regularly scheduled meeting.

Abidur Kahn, of Frank X. Spencer and Associates, presented the council with the bid results for the tank project, which is to be funded out of a grant from the Texas Water Development Board. He said the initial low bid was from a North Dakota company, Deloughney Painting, and was for $133,250.

“But when they did the big tabulation it turned out to be in error,” Kahn said. “It turned out to be $148,750, which was not the lowest bidder.”

Instead, the low bid came from N.G. Painting out of Kerrville, at a cost of $140,600. “You’re probably familiar with N.G. Painting. They’re already working on one of our projects,” Kahn said, referring to the 2-million gallon storage tank at the city yard in Pecos. “I talked with Edgardo (Madrid, city utilities director) already, and Edgardo is placed the current job they’re doing with the city.”

N.G. Painting’s current work at the tank has been suspended, after rusting was found on plates at the bottom of the tank. “They’re willing to do the job, because they have equipment already in the city yard,” Madrid said.

He added that the final bid was well below what the city had been expecting. “The budget, based on the study we paid for, was estimated at $287,000. We were expecting bids at about $230,000, so this is very good,” said Madrid, who added the $140,000 bid also would keep the city from having to directly pay out money for the work.

“We discussed the amount we had left (in the grant) and TWDB said we only had $205,000. So we’re going to be within budget and have a little contingency money,” Madrid told the council.

The project involves sandblasting and repainting the inside of the 500,000-gallon tank, and coating of any corroded areas inside. The exterior of the tank will receive a high-pressure wash on the outside.

Following the discussion on the tank, council members heard from PEDC Interim Chairman Joe Keese and Interim President Mike Burkholder about the current effort to reopen the former Smithers Transportation Test Center, 15 miles east of Pecos. The facility was shut down four years ago, but currently both Texas A&M University and DaimlerChrysler are looking at using the nine-mile test track.

Burkholder presented the council with a tentative brochure designed by Texas A&M for the track, which was renamed the Southwest Center for Transportation Research and Testing. He said the current plan would be for the PEDC to lease the track to Texas A&M, which would then contract with Applied Research Associates of Albuquerque, N.M. to handle testing at the facility.

He told the council any project involving A&M wouldn’t begin until the third quarter of 2005 at the earliest, while the short-term project by DaimlerChrysler could get underway this spring.

“Currently the decision is being made in Germany. Whether they come or not, I don’t know, but I’d say the chances are better than 50-50,” Burkholder said.

The project would involve using three diesel Mercedes-Benz vehicles on the track in continuous 24-hour high-speed testing. It would involve 50 people over a 60-day period. “They want to test three cars on their five-mile track (at Laredo), but at the speeds they’re going that would mean a car going by every 45 seconds, and then they can’t do any of their other tests,” Burkholder said.

He added that Mercedes would do some repair work to the buildings, clear weeds along the track and patch sections of the track to run their tests, but that other improvements would have to be put in as part of the Texas A&M project.

“Originally they were talking about a five-year lease. Then they wanted to acquire the track,” he said. “We weren’t going to do that , and now they’re talking about a 50-year contract.”

He said initial expenditures would be in the range of $1.5 to $2 million, but that the long-term improvement costs would come to 10 times that total. “They said they couldn’t make that money back (with use fees), so we will have to approach the federal and state governments about assistance,” Burkholder said.

He added that a similar track in Mississippi has gotten government help in upgrading facilities, and that Keese would work with Texas Sen. John Cornyn’s office to acquire some of the money.

In connection with the work reopening the track, Keese said the PEDC board decided at their Dec. 1 meeting to delay any action on naming a permanent replacement for former president Gari Ward. Board members looked at over a half dozen resumes in executive session before deciding to take no action for the near future.

“We’re way deep in several projects,” Keese said. “Changing horses in mid-stream would be too disruptive for those projects.”

Burkholder will remain as interim president while working on the Mercedes and Texas A&M projects.

Other items on the 45-minute agenda were routine, including approval of accounts payable for $720,986, and approval of the October Municipal Court report. The council also approved new officers for the Pecos Volunteer Fire Department for 2004-05, and appointed councilman Gerald Tellez to the 143rd District Community Justice Council.. Tellez and councilwoman Angela Valenzuela were absent from Thursday’s meeting. The council also agreed to move up the date of their next meeting by three days, to Dec. 20 at 5:30 p.m., to avoid holding their meeting two days prior to Christmas.

Women jailed after pot found in walls of van

A Lubbock woman and her daughter were arrested by Trans-Pecos Drug Task Force officers on Sunday after 162 pounds of marijuana were found in the van they were driving on Interstate 20 west of Pecos.

Sgt. Joe Gonzales said Rufina Jurado Gamboa, 54, and Refugio Jurado Gamboa, 22, were arrested following a search of the van at mile marker 34 on Interstate 20, five miles west of Pecos. Gonzales said the younger Gamboa was driving the green Chevrolet van when it was stopped on a traffic violation at 8:08 a.m. on Sunday as the two headed from El Paso to Lubbock.

Gonzales said after they were given permission to search the vehicle, the marijuana was found inside the walls of the van. The street value of the marijuana was $72,900. Both women were taken to Reeves County Jail, where they were formally charged and bond on each was set at $60,000.

The Gamboas were the second and third women arrested in Reeves Country within the span of a week for transporting marijuana. A Juarez, Mex., woman was reportedly caught with 159 pounds of marijuana hidden in the tires of a Ford pickup on Nov. 30.

“Here lately we’ve been getting a lot of women and children,” Gonzales said of the recent traffic stops. “I guess they’re trying women and kids because they know officers don’t like to pick out kids.

“It’s a little trend they’re trying on us. They always change it up every year,” Gonzales added.

Group drafts bill to alter Red Bluff board

A draft of a proposed bill that would allow two of the seven sub-districts of the Red Bluff Water Power Control District to regain their seats on the district’s board has been drafted, though the group supporting the move is still seeking a sponsor of the measure in the 2005 Texas Legislature.

The three-page draft would permit Chapter 58 water districts to have voting rights on the Red Bluff board, after 143rd District Judge Bob Parks ruled in September that only Chapter 55 districts could have voting members on the board of directors for Red Bluff. A copy of the draft was provided to the Enterprise by Odessa veterinarian Michael J. McCullouch, whose family owns land within two of the sub-district of Red Bluff in Pecos County. McCullouch said in a letter he was representing the Pecos River Ecosystem Restoration Committee, and is asking local residents in support of their efforts to write State Sen. Frank Madla and State Rep. Pete Gallego to support the proposed bill. The proposed bill was drafted after Parks ruled in favor of Red Bluff that sub-districts had to abide by the Chapter 55 rules that were in place when the district was created in 1933. Red Bluff sued to block Tom Nance and Ava Gerke from being seated on the board, after the Ward County Water Improvement Districts 1 and 3 changed to water irrigation districts, under the Chapter 58 law.

The Chapter 58 law allows landowners not residing within the districts to vote in district elections. Red Bluff argued that having differing election rules for its sub-districts would be unfair to those remaining as Chapter 55 districts. Passage of the bill would allow Nance and Gerke to be seated on the board.

“If we can change the mindset of the board we can get a more positive program and do something about the Pecos River,” said McCullouch, who wants the board to commit to helping with a program to gain federal funds for work on both the water quality and the watershed of the river.

“I'm working with Sen. (John) Cornyn's office to appropriate money for the Pecos River in the 2006 (federal) budget,” he said. “The plan needs backing from the district.

McCullouch said Cornyn's office told him and plan for the Pecos River needed to have a determined cost estimate and a thorough plan, if it was to get Congressional approval. “Right now we don't have a determined plan. We need the Bureau of Reclamation and the Army Corps of Engineers to get together to improve the quality of the water and increase the watershed and collection, to make sure it doesn't go down to the Rio Grande” he said.

“In general, I want to improve the quality of the water and improve the habitat for wildlife,” McCullouch said.

Red Bluff board members voted in November to hire a political consultant to work in Austin. The board made the appointment without comment, but managing director Randal Hartman told Nance that the consultant’s job would be “anything that comes up to educate people to our business.”

Red Bluff officials have said those supporting the Chapter 58 change are seeking to sell water back to New Mexico that is mandated for release to Texas under the 1946 Pecos River Compact. Red Bluff won a lawsuit in 1989 against New Mexico for failing to release the required amounts of water, and due to drought conditions in recent years New Mexico has had to buy up water rights south of Roswell, N.M., in order to meet its water release requirements to Texas.

“There's been some animosity in selling water to New Mexico, but I think it would be a positive thing for both Texas and New Mexico, in that New Mexico has had a hard time meeting their commitment, and we've had a hard time maintaining our infrastructure.” he said. “We can use the money to improve our infrastructure.”

Hartman said earlier this year that Red Bluff’s fear was that if Texas water rights were sold back to New Mexico, the state could go to the Pecos River Special Master, appointed by the U.S. Supreme Court, and ask that Texas’ water allotment be permanently reduced, since the state did not need that much water.

McCullouch said that could be a consideration, but added, “If people are not putting things on the table to discuss I don't think anything positive can come out of it. The Bureau of Reclamation is interested in the situation. If we can get them involved, I think it's going to be a win-win for the State of Texas.”

The Pecos River Ecosystem Advisory Committee has met several times since being organized in June, and McCulloch said they have met once a month since then. Nance and Gerke’s husband Calvin have been attendees at the meeting, only one sitting Red Bluff board member, Richard C. Slack, has attended a meeting.

“Mr. Slack attended the first meeting,” he said. The group had requested both Slack and board member Jay Lee attend the meetings.

Others who have been involved include Charles Hart with the Texas Cooperative Extension Service, Phillip Dickerson with Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife, Miguel Rocha with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation in New Mexico, and J.W. Thrasher, the Texas representative on the Pecos River Compact Commission.

While the bill has been drafted, as of now, McCullouch said it did not have a sponsor for the upcoming legislative session, which begins in January. “I've gone to Austin and talked to Sen. Madla and to Pete Gallego,” he said. “Pete's the one who supported sending the letters (to both representatives). Pete feels that he needs to hear from more people on the subject and wants to get a grassroots feeling of what people want to do.” He added that he planned to go back to Austin to talk more with state officials before the session gets underway, and said people wanting to respond to the matter should contact Madla and Gallego before the Texas Legislature gets going in mid-January.

“Since this is the only water power control district left in the state, it's only going to affect our area. It won't affect anyone else,” McCullouch said of the Chapter 58 reform proposal.

Lighting contest opens next week

The Women’s Division of the Pecos Area Chamber of Commerce is having their annual Christmas Lighting Contest from 7-9 p.m., next Wednesday, Dec. 15.

Winners will be announced Tuesday, Dec. 21.

Judges will divide Pecos into eight sections and choose one winner from each section. All eight winners will receive a $25 “Pecos Bucks” certificate that can be used at any local chamber member business establishment.

Judges will also vote on the best decorated residential block and local business. These winners will receive a memorable gift.

For more information, contact project chairperson, Mary Ann Gomez at 445-7776 or Davie Morelan at 447-3666.

Christmas for Kids falling short on donations

Staff Writer

The number of donations is down this year, but Christmas for Kids elves are already busy working to get ready to deliver gifts to bring a cheerier holiday for children in the community.

Volunteers have been busy with several fundraisers to help raise money to buy Christmas gifts for children in the community who would otherwise not be receiving anything. As of right now, though, fundraising is about 20 percent behind last year’s total.

“Our main goal is to provide a happy Christmas for as many children in the community as we can,” said coordinator for the event Sofia Baeza. “We don’t just provide toys, but the essentials, such as coats and shoes.”

“We have less money to work with this year and some of the applications were turned in late,” said Baeza.

Last year the group raised $8,000 compared to this year’s funding of $6,600.

“We didn’t reach our goal, but we’ll try to help as many as we can,” said Baeza.

The group did fundraisers including a barbecue plate sale and a door-to-door drive, and Last minute donations are still being accepted and can be taken to the Reeves County Sheriff’s office or by calling 445-4901.

“All donations are greatly appreciated, the community is always very good to us and helps us out tremendously,” said Baeza.

The application deadline for this year’s program ended in mid-November, and Baeza said, “We have 487 kids on the list this year and 160 families.”

Last year the group helped out 511 kids.

“That’s 66 kids more that were turned in, but we had said that no exceptions this year, the applications had to be turned in by deadline,” she said.

Baeza said that 17 applications had to be turned down because they were turned in after the deadline.

“This year we just don’t have the money to help those that turned in the application late,” she said.

Gift deliveries will be made Monday, Dec. 20 and volunteers are needed to help the deliver the goodies to the families and children.

“Next year, we’ll just have to have more fundraisers,” said Baeza.

Baeza said that she wanted to thank everyone in the community, the businesses, organizations and especially the volunteers.

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