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Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Friday, December 31, 2004

Parks drops part of civil suit against Galindo, commissioners

Staff Writer

District Judge Bob Parks dismissed one suit filed by Pecos resident Robert Hanks against County Judge Jimmy Galindo, two county commissioners and five county employees that sought removal of the elected officials, but left a second suit in place in a hearing Tuesday afternoon in the second floor courtroom of the Reeves County courthouse.

Parks presides over the 143rd Judicial District that encompasses Reeves, Ward and Loving counties.

Hanks represented himself in the matter, while County Judge Galindo had Austin attorney James P. Allison of Allison, Bass and Associates at his side.

At Parks’ request District Attorney Randy Reynolds also attended the hearing.

Originally Hanks filed one lawsuit suing Galindo, outgoing county commissioners Herman Tarin and Felipe Arredondo and several county employees numbered 04-11-18129-CVR (129).

In an order before Tuesday’s hearing Parks divided the lawsuit into two separate suits because Hanks sought “two kinds of relief which are incompatible in the same suit under the Rules of Civil Procedure and the statutes governing these causes of action.”

According to the order a new suit was created comprising Hanks’ request that Galindo, Tarin and Arredondo be removed from office for acts of incompetence and official misconduct.

It was this second suit, numbered 04-12-18151-CVR that was dismissed.

After Hanks and Allison presented their arguments Parks explained that the law required that he dismiss the suit for two reasons.

First, Parks explained, Arredondo and Tarin would no longer be in office after the first of the year and a suit requesting removal would be moot, as the voters had already removed them. Tarin did not run for re-election while Arredondo was defeated in March in his bid for a new four-year term as commissioner.

Second, Parks said that under Texas law, an elected official could not be removed from office under the forgiveness doctrine which, stated plainly, prohibits the removal from office of an elected official for acts that were allegedly committed in a previous term of office.

Hanks’ basic allegation in this part of the suit was that Galindo, Tarin and Arredondo were guilty of incompetence and official misconduct arising from the decision to build the third addition to the Reeves County Detention Center. He requested that Parks remove them from their positions by the authority granted to the District Court under section 87.012 of the Texas Local Government Code.

However, the decision to build the addition predated Galindo’s current term as County Judge and that was enough to cause the case requesting removal of Galindo by the District Judge to be dismissed.

Galindo was re-elected county judge in 2002, a year after the county moved to build the 960-bed RCDC III addition. It was completed in 2003, but the county was unable to find inmates for the facility for several months, causing it to dip into its General Fund to meet both payroll and bond obligations on the $40 million facility.

After contracting with GEO Group to manage all three units of the prison, Reeves County signed an agreement with the State of Arizona in February to house inmates from that state at RCDC III. The contract was renewed for one year and runs through June 30, 2005.

While explaining his decision to dismiss the case Parks also explained to Hanks that he had numerous avenues for pursuing allegations left in the original suit (No. 129). Parks said that Hanks had the right to pursue the remaining claims in the original suit in the District Court as a civil matter.

The remaining claims include allegations that Galindo and his office have refused properly made requests for public information and charges that Galindo is guilty of nepotism, that it was illegal to transfer numerous county employees to the prison to get them off the county payroll, and that Galindo is doing business with the prison without the knowledge of the Commissioners’ Court or the Reeves County Clerk.

Hanks named Beaver Express LLC as the company through which Galindo is doing such business.

Before the hearing Hanks also alleged Galindo was doing business as well though a company called L & F Distributing.

Parks also explained that Hanks had made criminal allegations in his first petition along with the allegations of civil misconduct and that he had several options available to him to pursue any allegations of criminal wrongdoing - but that a civil action in district court was not the proper place.

Parks told Hanks that he, like any citizen, could bring the matters to the attention of local law enforcement, or could address the current grand jury and present any evidence he had regarding any crimes.

Parks also said that he had referred Hanks’ petition to both District Attorney Randy Reynolds and County Attorney Luis Carrasco to investigate “at their discretion.” In an interview after the hearing Hanks said that he was relatively happy with the result.

“I’m not unhappy with the result. Judge Parks gave us several avenues to pursue what I think were criminal acts and there are elements of the civil suit left that I plan to pursue as well,” Hanks said.

In an interview on Thursday Galindo said that he thought Parks made the correct legal decision regarding the case but added that even if the forgiveness doctrine had not barred the suit he did not think Hanks’ arguments held water.

“The issue in question is the act of constructing RCDC III. That addition has created 180 new jobs and 12-14 million dollars circulating in Reeves County each year. Creating 180 news jobs is a great thing and I differ with Mr. Hanks’ conclusion that building RCDC was grossly incompetent,” Galindo said.

Galindo confirmed earlier this month he had worked as a private contractor for Beaver Express for a six-month period, but said the arrangement was legal. He has not commented on Hanks’ claims involving L & F Distributing, which is listed on invoices given to Hanks as having provided items to the RCDC III.

RCH board OKs offer on ambulance contract

Staff Writer

A two-year disagreement over funding for the Pecos Ambulance Service moved closer to resolution on Tuesday, after Reeves County Hospital District board members approved a plan to increase the district’s share of funding for the service.

Board members were also told during their final meeting of 2004 that the hospital ran a deficit of $1.36 million for the year, with most of that loss coming due to the start-up of the hospital’s new kidney dialysis center that opened this past summer but is still short of being fully staffed at this time.

The hospital has provided funding for the ambulance service, but the Town of Pecos City has picked up the majority of the cost of subsidizing the operation, which has run a deficit in recent years. However, the size of the deficit in the past few years had grown to the point that city officials asked the hospital district to increase their share of the funding past the current $40,000 cutoff with a $5,000 cost overrun cap.

Town of Pecos City Manager Joseph Torres and Mayor Dot Stafford were at the hospital board’s Tuesday meeting and presented the city’s financial position to board members. At the same time, the board was given a funding proposal by RCH officials that would increase the hospital’s share of funding over the next three years.

RCH Board President Linda Gholson said the proposal called for an increase in the base payment from $40,000 to $60,000 for the first year, with a $5,000 cap if the service runs a deficit. The base payment in the second year would rise to $65,000 and in the third year to $70,000, while the cap would remain the same.

Both sides would have the option to cancel the contract at the end of the year by giving 60-days notice, while Stafford said the agreement could only be by the city on a yearly basis, since the current council could not bind future councils to the financial agreement. “We’re looking at a loss of $129,018 for the city,” Torres said of the ambulance service’s audited cost for the 2003 fiscal year. That included the $40,000 payment given to the city by the hospital district.

Hospital board member Leo Hung noted that if the 2003 deficit of $169,000 was split evenly, the hospital’s share of the funding would come to just under $85,000.

“Eventually we’re going to get there. We’re just trying to protect our cash,” said RCH Interim Administrator Bill Conder. “We want to show an effort to come to a conclusion … We’ll up it in three years to $75,000 and then renegotiate it.”

Board members then approved the proposal by a 3-0 margin, and it will now go before the Pecos City Council for approval.

Conder told the board earlier in the meeting that the hospital was dipping into its cash reserves to balance the 2004 budget, which with tax revenues included ran a $216,716 deficit for November and was down $1,364,000 for the year. That compared with a loss of just $73,000 for 2003.

The hospital’s chief financial officer Frank Seals said “Compared to this time last year in-patient revenues are down $94,000, mainly due to lower census,” but added that outpatient revenues were up $188,000, with all but $3,000 of that total due to the new dialysis center.

However, Seals added that just under 60 percent of the center’s revenues ended up going to contractual benefits. Other additional costs included a $13,000 increase in utilities, which Seals said was due to the equipment in the new addition.

“If you took away what it cost to heat and cool the addition, the utility costs are actually lower,” he said. “Mostly that’s due to the (power) contract we signed with First Choice.” Conder said the increased start-up costs and the predicted losses for the hospital due to the new center and the overall additions and renovations to the hospital were not a surprise.

“I told them back a year ago to get ready for this, so it shouldn’t be a surprise,” Conder said following the meeting.

Seals said the dialysis center current is treating 17 patients. “We need to get to 23-25 patients, and the problem we have is a shortage of registered nurses to work back there,” he said. “There’s a shortage nationwide of RNs, which is even more acute out here, because it’s harder to get them out to this area.”

Conder said during the meeting that the hospital is looking to recruit nurses from outside the U.S. to work in the dialysis unit, and that those nurses would have to get their working papers before they could enter the country.

In other action, the hospital board approved tax sales of four properties in Pecos and one in Toyah.

Property at 218-220 S. Oak St. was sold at a cost of $350 to Dr. Juliet Ten; property at 515-519 E. Second St. was sold for $150 to Patsy Mendoza; the former Ben’s Spanish Inn at 815 W. Third St. was sold to Russ Lethlow at a cost of $2,750; property at 3000 Stanton St. was sold to Diana Tarin for $750; and property on Lampton Street in Toyah was sold for $150 to Severo V. Carrasco, Jr.

Dr. W.J. Bang told board members that the hospital’s medical staff approved a quality assurance report during their meeting on Tuesday, and Conder told the board that a state 100 percent inspection for Phase 5 of the hospital’s current renovation project is tentatively scheduled for January 7. No report was given by the hospital’s auxiliary, and Gholson noted that construction in the area at the front of the hospital has limited the auxiliary’s operations during the past month.

First Choice’s offer failed to meet city bid rules

Staff Writer

First Choice Power failed to submit a sealed bid for supplying power to the Town of Pecos City by the Dec. 17 deadline, and the preliminary numbers offered that day by the company were still higher than the bid submitted by eventual winner Tara Energy, the city’s finance director said on Tuesday.

Sam Contreras said he received only a one-page piece of paper from First Choice before the deadline two weeks ago for submitting bids to supply electricity to the city for 2005. City Council members were told of the failure to provide the bid by First Choice before they voted to sign a contract with Houston-based Tara Energy during their meeting on Dec. 20.

First Choice, the power -providing subsidiary of Texas-New Mexico Power Co., has provided the city with power since being spun off from T-NMP following the deregulation of utility rates in Texas five years ago. Jeff Schiefelbein, who was handling the bidding for First Choice out of its Fort Worth headquarters, said on Dec. 22 that a women representing the company delivered the bid to the city on Dec. 17.

“This was hand-delivered on Friday. She personally walked it to them,” he said. But Contreras said there was never a sealed bid submitted, as required in the public notice published by the city on the power contract bid.

“This is all they gave me, but it wasn’t sealed” Contreras said, referring to the one-page notice from the company. He added that he told the First Choice representative that the paper did not qualify as a bid.

“She said ‘Let me see what’s going on,’ and she would get back with me, but she never did,” Contreras said.

“I thought we would get a sealed bid, but this is all we received, and that’s not good enough,” Contreras said, adding that First Choice’s preliminary numbers “still wasn’t the lowest bid.”

According to a summary of the offers presented to the council at their Dec. 20 meeting, Tara Energy’s bid of 0.0695 cents per kilowatt hour was the lowest bid, while Cirro Energy’s bid of 0.07034 was second. First Choice’s bid was for 0.0736 cents, while the other bids were for 0.07499 by Texas Commercial Energy, 0.075286 by TXU and 0.0757 cents by Strategic Energy.

June Norman, with corporate relations/communications for First Choice’s office in Fort Worth, said the company has not had a situation like this before.

“We’re certainly going to try and clear it up as far as the city goes,” Norman said, but added the people involved with First Choice’s bid on the Pecos power contract were off from work until after the New Year’s weekend.

Norman said she also wanted to stress that First Choice “isn’t going away” from the area after losing out on the city’s power contract.

“This is just the city’s account for streetlights and things like that. Individuals and businesses still have a choice,” she said.

First Choice remains the power provider for Reeves County Hospital and the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD. Council members were told during their Dec. 20 meeting that Reeves County Commissioners also voted to change their power supplier from First Choice when the county’s contract came up for bid this year.

Contreras said that while the council agreed to sign a one-year contract with Tara Energy, the agreement hasn’t been completed.

“There was some language in there we wanted to get it before we signed the contract,” he said. “We’ve got some changes in the contract. Once they’re made we’ll go sign the contract.”

Community helps family facing holiday crisis

Staff Writer

Local community members came through for a Pecos woman during the past month, after she was faced with a crisis during the holidays.

Hattie Gordon was pleasantly surprised by all the help, love and support that came her way this past holiday season.

“This was just something that they did, without asking them,” said Gordon, who was forced to assume the care of several grandchildren in late November.

Gordon received bad news the weekend after Thanksgiving. “I received a phone call from my daughter, Tammy, the oldest,” said Gordon.

Gordon found out her daughter had been sick and had not gone to the doctor. “Of course, she doesn’t have any insurance or anything and she’s been in a lot of pain,” said Gordon. Gordon said that she contacted a doctor in Pecos, but that they were booked.

“I called Mrs. (Joseph) Darpolor, because I felt this just couldn’t wait,” said Gordon. “I explained to her that there was no insurance, no money and she told me don’t worry about it, we’ll take her.”

Gordon said that Darpolor’s husband saw her daughter, checked her out and ran many tests on her at the Reeves County Hospital.

“The hospital staff was just great, but she was then referred to Odessa to a specialist,” said Gordon.

The news was not good. “I went with her to the doctor last Tuesday and again yesterday,” said Gordon. “My daughter is very sick.”

Gordon will be going back with her daughter to the doctor on Jan. 13. In the meantime, she has been caring for her four grandchildren, her own child and one foster child.

“Through word of mouth, all these people found out what I was going through and this being the holidays they decided to lend a helping hand,” said Gordon.

Gordon’s four grandchildren range in age from 2 to 10 years old. She is also responsible for a daughter and a foster child and works at the computer lab at Bessie Haynes Elementary School.

“I had to take the children out of school in Odessa and brought them here,” said Gordon. Gordon has been a foster parent for the past 14-15 years. “I have another foster child that just graduated with my daughter, Teisha. Her name is Savannah, she was the drum major at high school,” said Gordon.

Gordon received gifts for the children, food and various items from those that found out about her plight.

“There’s a lot of good people in the community and they came through and helped me during this time,” she said. “I didn’t ask for help or anything, they just did it.”

Gordon said that she was pleasantly surprised at the outpouring of help and support. “This could only happen in Pecos, they just saw a need and came through and I’m very grateful to them,” she said.

Gordon said that Debbie Flores’ fifth grade class at Bessie Haynes especially got involved. “They all pitched in and bought Christmas gifts for my kids, for all of them,” said Gordon.

“Debbie and her girls even took care of the little one, Isis, the two-year-old, while I had to go to Odessa,” she said.

Gordon said that she just wanted to thank all of those who helped her and continue to do so. “At a time when so many negative things are going on, you see something like this, an outpouring of love and support,” she said.

“This is something so good I wanted to share it and let everyone know that the people in Pecos do care,” said Gordon. “They came out and helped without even being asked” Others who helped Gordon include: Marge Timmerman, Mr. and Mrs. Hugh Box, Birdie Slack, Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence “Bubba” Williams, Rev. and Mrs. Joe Terry II, Meg Timmerman, North Side Church of Christ, Mr. and Mrs. Merle Lenfest, Cindy Duke and First Presbyterian Church, Mr. and Mrs. Saul B. Roquemore, Mr. and Mrs. Randy Foster, Raul Molinar, Mr. and Mrs. Wendell Dade, Diana Teague, Mr. and Mrs. Randy Quisenberry, St. James Baptist Church of Midland and Melissa Box.

“I’m just so grateful to live in a community with so many people that care,” said Gordon. “I just want to thank everyone.”

Hospital staff helps provide for newborn

Staff Writer

The Christmas baby at Reeves County Hospital received a warm welcome from the staff in the form of necessary items to start his new life.

In the spirit of Christmas several RCH employees donated money to assist a new mother with clothes and other necessities for her new baby, who was born the Monday prior to Christmas.

Gabriel Matta, RN and Katy Rayos, LVN were both on duty when Tanya Flores Bustamante came in to the hospital and delivered her new son, Sean Paul, late Monday night, on Dec. 20.

While taking care of Bustamante and Sean Paul, Matta and Rayos quickly realized that little Sean Paul did not have clothes or other items needed for a new baby at home. They pooled their money and went to Wal-Mart where they purchased a basket and started filling it up with baby supplies.

Several other RCH employees heard about what Matta and Rayos had so generously done and also contributed money towards the basket. When presented to Bustamante, the basket contained several new sleepers, a snow suit, blankets, baby lotion and shampoo, diapers and a diaper bag.

The basket was presented to Bustamante the day she and Sean Paul were discharged from the hospital.

Crews work to resolve water line problems

Staff Writer

Town of Pecos City officials have had to cope with losing water and with losing water pressure on city lines over the past week, as cold weather and a blown fuse have caused problems with delivery of water to local homes since Christmas Eve.

Last week’s cold snap that dropped temperatures in Pecos into the low 20s, were blamed for a series of water line breaks that had crews out doing repairs over the Christmas weekend. The cold and wet weather also was blamed for delays in repairing a water line leak on Walthall Street, though City Manager Joseph Torres said that work should be completed sometime next week.

Meanwhile, crews were out early Thursday morning getting a booster pump back on line after it shut down overnight, cutting water supplies to the city’s elevated tanks. The shutdown left customers throughout Pecos and Barstow with very low water pressure, as the elevated tanks emptied out.

“About 7:10 a.m. we had it back on line,” Torres said, about two hours after the first calls came in about the problem.

Torres said that aside from getting the fuse fixed, city crews are trying to find out why they failed to receive an alarm when the problem occurred. “We didn’t get any telemetry signal at the elevated tanks. We’re investigating how it happened,” he said.

Thursday’s incident didn’t involve any water leaks, but the sub-freezing temperatures did play havoc with other water lines late last week.

City utilities director Edgardo Madrid said crews handled two water line leaks on Jackson Street, and one each on Walnut Street and Hackberry Street over the Christmas holiday. “There were three other leaks, but they were on the customer’s side” of the connection lines, Madrid said.

Torres said the leak on a 14-inch line on Walthall Street has been a more ongoing problem.

“We’re having a hard time with it. We’ve been working to put dry dirt in there and getting it packed down, but the wet weather has caused delays,” he said. “It’s a big line that’s under pressure and it’s hard to get it shut down.”

He said a special coupler also was needed to fix the leak problems on the 14-inch line. “We finally got it and should seal it up today (Thursday), but we won’t cover it up until it gets dryer,” Torres said.

He expected water department workers would be able to back fill the hole where the leak was patched sometime next week.

Barstow lighting contest winner named

Winners of the recent lighting contest sponsored by the Women’s Division of the Pecos Area Chamber of Commerce included a Barstow resident.

Barstow winners were Mr. and Mrs. D.A. Garcia, 500 Clements, Barstow.

Defensive driving class set for Jan. 15

A Defensive Driving Course will be held from 8:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 15, at the Quality Inn.

To pre-register call 325-655-1012 or 325-656-2750.

Alcohol education course announced

An Alcohol Education for Minors class will be held Friday, Jan. 14, at the Quality Inn in Pecos.

Registration will be at 4 p.m.

To pre-register call 325-655-1012 or 325-656-2750, leave a message.

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