Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas
Friday, December 17, 2004
Galindo defends truck pact; Rangers probe RCDC funds
By ROSIE FLORES
Reeves County Judge Jimmy B. Galindo is defending his association with an Oklahoma truck delivery company, following a story in the Enterprise last week confirming his association with the firm as an independent contractor.
Meanwhile, a captain in the Texas Rangers confirmed in a TV interview on Monday that money that was to be given to inmates departing the Reeves County Detention Center has turned up missing, following an investigation conducted by the state law enforcement agency.
“For the last year, Bobby Hanks has alleged that there is a conflict of interest with regard to my independent contractor services for Beaver Express Service, LLC, who acquired Tex-Pac, the former freight delivery company in Pecos,” said Galindo, in response to 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.
Mike Stone, the president of the Beaver Express, confirmed that Galindo was an independent contractor for the company until earlier this year. Stone 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.
Galindo defended his connection with the company, and denied there was any conflict of interest involved with his role as an independent contractor.
“On August 26, 2003, I signed a contract with Beaver Express to be their local agent for the delivery of freight in Pecos and the surrounding area,” said Galindo. “As Reeves County Auditor Lynn Owens has confirmed, neither Beaver Express nor I, in my private independent contractor capacity, have been paid by Reeves County for freight delivery charges,” he said.
Galindo said, “But more importantly, if I or Beaver Express chose to do business with Reeves County, the transaction would not be illegal. Reeves County Judges and Commissioners have legally transacted business with the county in the past.”
Galindo said that the Attorney General of Texas has ruled that county judges and commissioners have the right to participate in local economies and even do business directly with the county, as long as they follow certain rules and regulations.
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.
County Commissioners met Monday to discuss several items and to award bids to several vendors, while at the same time, Galindo acknowledged that the group had hired an Austin-based firm, Allison, Bass and Associates, LLP to represent them against the allegations made by Hanks.
Galindo said back in August, when Hanks’ original petition was filed, that the county was looking to hire an Austin-based law firm to defend it against the charges. The action was delayed when 143rd District Judge Bob Parks threw out the petition on Aug. 11 on procedural grounds, but Hanks filed a revised petition with the 143rd District Court on Nov. 24.
Most of Hanks’ charges center around the construction of the 960-bed RCDC unit, which was opened in 2003, but ran into problems when the U.S. Bureau of Prisons refused to send any inmates to fill the $40 million facility.
The BOP supplies Reeves County with over 2,000 inmates for the RCDC I and II units, but the county ended up having to sign a contract with the State of Arizona to house inmates at RCDC III, after signing a management contract with GEO Group to run all three facilities, and with Randy DeLay, brother of U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, to serve as the county’s Washington, D.C. lobbyist.
Earlier this month, 143rd District Attorney Randy Reynolds confirmed an investigation of the RCDC situation did begin this past summer, and on Monday the head of the Texas Rangers for the Permian Basin confirmed that money was missing from funds that were supposed to be given back to prisoners when they left the facility.
"One of the allegations is a lot of the money coming in is not on the books, it's not accounted for,” Texas Rangers Capt. Barry Caver told KWES-TV. “ Whenever that particular inmate is ready to be deported back to Mexico or set for release or to be sent to another prison, then the books don't appear to match as far as to how much money that particular inmate is supposed to have in his account."
Texas Ranger Brian Burzynski has been assisting Reynolds’ office with its investigation since mid-October. He replaced Gerry Villalobos, who retired from the agency and is now working directly for the 143rd District Attorney’s office.
In action during Monday’s commissioners meeting, the group agreed to table an item on rules and regulations for the Greenwood Cemetery.
Reeves County Commissioner Felipe Arredondo presented a copy of the rules and regulations to the commissioners that he said he would like adopted for the Greenwood Cemetery.
“I think we need to let the public know about this and give us their input,” said Galindo. “We can schedule a public hearing for the next commissioners court and get their opinion,” he said.
Galindo said that it was an item that should not be acted upon before letting the public be aware of the rules that might be implemented.
Chamber given nominee names for 2005 board
By JON FULBRIGHT
Pecos Chamber of Commerce members were given a list of nominees for the board of directors for 2005, and received updates on several past events and future projects, including the former Smithers Transportation Testing Center, during their regular monthly meeting on Tuesday at the Pecos Senior Citizens Center.
Incoming Chamber President Jimmy Dutchover presented the board with a list of eight nominees after outgoing president Al Gomez talked about his efforts during the past two years.
“We did accomplish a lot in these two years, mainly on how to be friendly again,” said Gomez, who thanked other chamber members and executive director Linda Gholson for their help. “We set some goals, and we accomplished some of those goals, and I’d like to say ‘thank you’.”
Dutchover said Town of Pecos City finance director Sam Contreras and Reeves County Hospital Interim Administrator Bill Conder were among the eight nominees, while four other names would be presented at the January meeting. The other nominees were Kevin Duke, Craig Hill, Joe Keese, Clay McKinney, Nancy Martinez and Vanetta Seals.
Dutchover said he was also seeking nominees for the annual Pecos Chamber of Commerce Awards Banquet, which will take place early in 2005.
Gomez thanked chamber members, the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD and the Pecos Lions’ Club for their help with the Nov. 20 playoff game between Frenship and El Paso Andress in the Class 4A playoffs. It was the first playoff game on the new artificial turf surface at Eagle Stadium, and Gomez said, “I assure you the pluses for Pecos were great.
“All of the restaurants were full, and I was happy to see that. I know a lot of us needed that,” said Gomez, one of the restaurant owners helped by fans in town for the game.
He added that a Veteran’s Day breakfast held at the Reeves County Civic Center last month also was a success, while Debbie Thomas told those the meeting the Pecos Peddlers Flea Market, also held on Nov. 20, drew a smaller turnout than in the past, but that the Chamber still made a $1,088 profit from gate receipts, booth sales and the auction that was part of the event.
“This was actually less than the past five we’ve had, but by no means was it a failure,” she said.
Burkholder told Chamber members that he was still awaiting word on plans by DaimlerChrysler to run five Mercedes-Benz cars on the test track for two months this spring, and on finalization of the plan to reopen the track full-time for use by Texas A&M’s Texas Transportation Institute and Applied Research Associates.
He said the Mercedes deal would bring about 50 people to Pecos for two months, while requiring about $500,000 in services. That would include work to restore utilities to the site and patch cracks in the track, which has been closed for the past 4 1/2 years.
The A&M plan would involve an initial $2 million in improvements to the track, and Burkholder said they predict $1 million in business annually for the first two years of operations.
“I don’t expect ARA or TTI to be stationing a whole lot of people out there, but it will require them to hire people to work out there,” he said, adding that A&M officials would talk with Odessa College about starting courses to help train workers for the track, if it does reopen.
Burkholder also said that the PEDC was hoping to get an additional $2 million annually for the next six years out of the upcoming Federal Transportation Bill to fully upgrade the track. He said A&M officials estimated it would take about $14-$16 million to bring the 43-year-old facility up to top standards.
Martinez updated the board on the recent Key Opinion Leaders meeting at the Reeves County Civic Center. She said the group agreed to continue focusing on the issues they had in the past to improve the area’s situation. Those included cleaning up debris, vacant buildings and the general appearance of Pecos; Encourage better cooperation between the various local government entitles and agencies; Increase employment opportunities and the quality of the labor force; Improve opportunities for new and existing businesses; Increase the availability of affordable housing and improve property values.
“We believe more work needs to be done on these, but in review of the work done in the last two years there has been some significant progress,” she said.
The KOL members also said they would seek a forum for governmental entitles to meet on a quarterly basis.
Gholson thanked the Town of Pecos City, Reeves County and Reeves County Detention Center employees for their help in putting up the Christmas lighting along city streets and at the Reeves County Courthouse prior to the Dec. 3 Christmas parade, while the Chamber’s Women’s Division President, Michelle Workman, outlined plans for this week’s Christmas Lighting Contest.
She said the eight winners from different sections of the city would be chosen by judges. “This year we also have something new. We’ll have Barstow as another section and the Lindsey Addition as another section.”
Judging was on Wednesday night and Workman said the 10 winners would receive $25 in “Pecos Bucks,” to be spent at participating local businesses. Awards were also to be given out for Best Decorated Business and Best Decorated Block.
Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD superintendent Ray Matthews told the board the district would be re-roofing Pecos Kindergarten and Bessie Haynes Elementary and putting new fire alarms in at Pecos High School in the near future, after voters opted against rolling back the district’s property tax rate from $1.50 to $1.31 in last month’s election.
He also said the failure rate among freshman at the high school, which has been the subject of three reports on KWES TV in the past two months, did improve after the second six-week grading period, “but not as much as I would have liked.” The number of ninth graders who failed dropped from 75 to 68 percent.
“We’ve put in tutorials, and we’re looking at putting them in if a kid comes to class and doesn’t have his homework assignment to hand in,” Matthews said. “I told the principal it’s not acceptable, and he’s told his teachers it’s not acceptable.
“What the teachers are going to have to do is motivate the kids,” he said, adding, “We need help from the home from the parents. If the kid comes home and says he doesn’t have any homework, don’t believe them.”
Rains allow Red Bluff board to OK regular water releases
By JON FLUBRIGHT
For the first time in four years, farmers along the Pecos River will be receiving their regular water allocation, after Red Bluff Water Power Control Board members voted to allocate 25,000 acre/feet of water to their seven sub-districts on Tuesday.
The decision, made at the board’s final monthly meeting for 2004, will allow the releases downstream from Red Bluff Lake beginning in March, and set the price of the water at $6 an acre/foot, which is a $2 increase from this year’s delayed release date. The release was made possible by the addition of about 60,000 acre/feet of water at the lake since April of this year, bringing its levels to their highest point in 11 years.
“We’ve got 116,000 acre/feet of drinking water - if you keep your teeth together,” managing director Randal Hartman said about the normally salty lake water. “It’s not bad - you can (drink) it.”
“We can safely go 25,000, which would make 50,000 total,” he added, referring to the amount of water needed for release to assure farmers that the 25,000 acre/feet would make it downstream.
Red Bluff’s last regular release of water was in 2001. Drought conditions had been in place in the Trans-Pecos for most of the previous seven years, but spread up into areas of the Pecos River basin in northern New Mexico in 2001. The combination left the lake with just over 40,000 acre/feet of water in 2002, which did not permit any releases downstream.
The situation remained unchanged until April of this year, when flooding around Carlsbad, N.M. raised the lake’s level by nearly 30,000 acre/feet. Red Bluff then authorized a water release later that month, but it came too late for most farmers to plan for the 2004 growing season.
Board members set March 1 as the day for the first release of water. Hartman said the date was set, “so anyone really interested in irrigating can go to the bank,” to secure loans for 2005.
The water price was raised from $4 to $6, on a motion by board member Charlotte Wilcox “against my better judgment,” though Hartman said even with the normal high-salt quality of Pecos River water, “Six dollars isn’t bad. You can’t pump it for that price.”
“Most of us are pumping water for up to $100,” he added. Ava Gerke, the non-voting representative from Ward County Water Irrigation District No. 3, said water-pumping costs in 2003 came to $114 an acre/foot for her district.
Hartman also said the $6 price would make sure any water purchases would be made by growers actually planning to harvest a crop, as opposed to collecting crop federal crop insurance funds. “We need to put a value on it,” he said. “And the possibility of making a good crop isn’t bad.”
“Six dollars is still the cheapest water in the state,” said board member Jay Lee, and the motion on the water release and the water rate was approved.
The water release items were the only major ones on Tuesday’s agenda for Red Bluff. Wilcox asked Hartman about relocating the weir for the Grandfalls area in Ward County closer to the release sites for Pecos County Water Irrigation Districts 1 and 2 near Imperial Reservoir; the board approved the monthly accounts payable for $13,813, cash receipts totaling $273,994 and the district’s fund balance of $430,326, along with the financial reports for December, and were told the Malaga Bend salt alleviation project was going along with no changes from November.
Local farmers can get USDA disaster funds
DALLAS (AP) - Jeff Davis County in West Texas, and six surrounding counties, including Reeves County, have been declared a primary federal agricultural disaster area, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced.
The USDA designated the county a disaster area Dec. 6 because of losses this year from drought, extreme heat and winds, according to a USDA statement issued Tuesday.
The USDA says neighboring Brewster, Culberson, Hudspeth, Pecos, Presidio and Reeves counties also were eligible for benefits because they adjoin Jeff Davis County.
The designation made all qualified farm operators in the area eligible for low-interest emergency loans from the Farm Service Agency. Farmers have eight months from the Dec. 6 proclamation to apply for the loans.
Each application will be evaluated on its own merits, including the extent of losses, security available and repayment ability, the statement said.
The USDA also made other programs available to help farmers and ranchers, including the Emergency Conservation Program, Federal Crop Insurance and the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program, the statement said.
TxDOT, DPS planning DWI holiday checks
Law enforcement throughout Texas will be providing free rides this month for Texas drivers who’ve had too much to drink - a free ride to jail that is.
The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) announced that all available state troopers and local law enforcement officers will be on Texas streets and highways during the long Christmas and New Year’s holiday weekends watching for drunk drivers.
TxDOT officials are expecting their “Jingle All the Way” annual holiday public education campaign to reach millions of Texans this month with messages that driving while intoxicated can lead to jail time.
“We want everyone to have a safe and happy holiday,” said Carlos Lopez, TxDOT’s traffic operations director. “If alcohol is involved in their holiday celebrations, we’re reminding people not to get behind the wheel if they’ve been drinking. Safe alternatives are to designate a sober driver before drinking begins, call a taxi or just stay where you are until you can drive home safely,” he said.
Though Texas continues to lead the nation in alcohol-related traffic fatalities, safety advocates credit stepped-up enforcement of the state’s DWI laws and ongoing advertising about the penalties of drunk driving with the recent decline in impaired driving fatalities. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports 100 fewer people died in Texas in 2003 in alcohol-related crashes than the previous year.
Besides DPS and hundreds of police departments and sheriff’s offices statewide, the Texas Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association, the Texas Restaurant Association and Diamond Shamrock are also participating in the holiday anti-DWI campaign.
Penalties for the first DWI offense include driver’s license suspension for up to one year, a fine of up to $2,000 and up to six months in jail.
Geraldine "Gerry" Reed and Oneita Stanton
York M. "Smokey" Briggs, Publisher
324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 432-445-5475, FAX 432-445-4321
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