Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas
Thursday, September 30, 2004
Commissioners OK pay hikes, restoring jobs
Raises for all the county employees and the restoration of employees to jobs at the Reeves County Courthouse were some of the items discussed during the public hearing on the Reeves County Proposed 2005 budget held at the courthouse Monday morning, despite concerns voiced by the county’s auditor about the new budget expenses.
Reeves County Commissioners approved the budget during the lengthy meeting, restoring jobs they were forced to cut in the spring, due to financial problems created by the Reeves County Detention Center.
The county had to use money from the general fund to make monthly $420,000 bond payments on RCDC III until signing a contract with Arizona in February to house inmates from that state. However, the county was still short of funds, and as a result, transferred several workers to RCDC III, where their salaries could by paid by funds received from Arizona under the new contract.
An increase of $75 million in oil and gas valuations during the past year has helped the county with its budget problems, but Reeves County Auditor Lynn Owens again cautioned the group about over-spending and the new raises.
“I would like for us to build up the reserves and be more cautious,” said Owens.
Along with returning workers from RCDC III to their courthouse positions, commissioners also voted to give almost all county employees a 10 percent increase in pay.
Along with the budget and pay raises, the group set an effective tax rate of 40.5456 cents per $100 valuation.
The group went over the budget item by line-item and listened to input from the different department heads before approving the plan.
Most of the department heads were happy with their 10 percent raise and expressed their appreciation. The department heads also thanked the commissioners for restoring the positions back to their departments.
While discussing the pay raises, Reeves County Court-At-Law Judge Walter Holcombe told the court that everybody had received a raise, but him.
“I think you’re discriminating,” said Holcombe, whose salary was increased over 50 percent last year.
Holcombe said that County Attorney Luis Carrasco had received a raise and was earning more than him.
“When we made the adjustments there were $28,000 put into your salary,” said Galindo.
Holcombe told Galindo that that was money that came from the state and that the county attorney also received funds from the state.
“You gave him a raise, it’s certainly discriminatory and I’m entitled to a raise also,” said Holcombe.
“You’re salary is $30,000 more than the country attorney’s,” said Galindo.
“It should be more,” said Holcombe.
The budget showed that Holcombe was receiving $50,190 in 2003 and that amount went up to $78,189 and that same amount was budgeted for 2005.
“We’re talking about what the county pays its employees,” he said.
“I think the issue here is that with your salary and supplement you’re still earning about $30,000 more than the county attorney and everybody else,” said Galindo.
Holcombe said that they were paying the county attorney’s office $7,000 more.
“You’re counting what I get from the state, but not what the county attorney gets from the state,” he said. “That’s including what I get from the state and my salary is less than the county attorney’s.”
Holcombe said that he was talking about “county dollars. “The county is discriminating by giving the county attorney more than the judge,” he said.
Holcombe’s total budget is the amount of $134,021.
Carrasco, who was not present for the meeting, earns $52,040, including $35,090 in county funds and $16,950 from the state.
Reeves County Sheriff’s Department received raises in line with U.S. Department of Labor standards, which mandate pay scales for facilities housing federal inmates.
Jail staff will make $31,197 a year; the shift supervisor, $36,083; jail supervisor, $38,250 and deputies, $38,750.
Reeves County Commissioners did not receive a pay increase, however, commissioner precinct 4 Hivi Rayos, said that he would have requested one.
“But you didn’t turn in the paperwork, so you are not eligible for one,” said commissioner precinct 3 Herman Tarin.
The budget report showed Reeves County Detention Centers I and II made $3 million in 2003. The RCDC I and II budget is $38.78 million with $38.47 million in expenses and an estimated balance of $3.3 million. The two units house U.S. Bureau of Prisons inmates
RCDC unit III, that houses the Arizona prisoners, will have a budget of $18.9 million in revenues and an estimated end balance of $3.3 million.
Several individuals from the Balmorhea community were on hand for the budget hearings.
The group was upset because funding had been cut at the Balmorhea Library, but that funding was restored.
“Commissioner Herman Tarin has been working very hard in restoring that funding and he even put in money from his own budget to help out these last few months,” said Galindo.
Pat Brijalba of Balmorhea presented the court with a petition with a list of signatures from individuals supporting the library.
“That library is a very pleasant place to read and socialize, very well-kept,” said Galindo.
Galindo said that the group was anxious to restore that funding. “Funding has been restored for this year and next year,” he said.
Reeves County Librarian Sally Perry said she was pleased with her raise and the restoration of her full-time employee.
She told the group that she has some funding for a part-time employee and requested that she be permitted to use it.
“We just can’t do everything ourselves, it takes more people,” said Perry. “We’re busy all the time,” she said.
Fire Chief Lynn Foster thanked the group for their support.
Foster told the group that they had just purchased a new tanker that would benefit the county.
The Town of Pecos City Volunteer Firefighters received a grant from the Texas Forestry Service that had been applied for by the former chief, Roy Pena.
“We got $108,000 and bought the new tanker,” said Foster.
The vehicle cost $127,00 and the county and the city split the difference. Each put in $9,000 for the purchase of the new vehicle.
“We won’t be hurting for a while,” said Foster, who added that they are putting money aside in case they ever need to purchase another truck or other equipment.
Foster told the group that this year they have responded to 121 fire calls. “We’re about 30-40 behind what we had last year and half had been outside the city limits,” he said.
“We cut back on some things to get that vehicle,” said Foster. “We should be in pretty good shape with the same budget,” he said.
The group discussed the Reeves County Civic Center and Pecos Area Chamber of Commerce Director Linda Gholson expressed her concern about the roof. “It’s been leaking in some areas,” said Gholson. “We could get someone to look at that roof,” she said.
Galindo said that they could discuss the matter further later.
Salary rates increased to match jailers wages
By JON FULBRIGHT
Pecos Police were granted salary increases, and the base pay for starting officers was raised to match that of starting jailers at the Pecos Criminal Justice Center, in a 3-1 vote by the Town of Pecos City Council last Thursday in front of an overflow crowd at City Hall.
The council approved Plan B, one of four presented to members by Pecos Police Chief Clay McKinney and city accountant Mark Rushing. It calls for a base salary of $31,179 for starting officers, with $100 annual increases and $1,500 stipend increases, based on education and training levels.
“We looked at the federal pay scale to where the starting CJC (jailer) officer will be $31,179,” said McKinney, while briefing the council on changes to the original proposal. “Also on the pay scale we changed the longevity. It was 6-15 years, but we changed it to 6-10 and 11-15 year segments.”
McKinney said longevity was one of the five items dealt with in the plan. The others were the base pay scale, incentives, promotions and the annual salary increases for the officers. The raises will take effect on Oct. 1, and will increase the annual payroll for the police department by $62,274.
“This is a pretty good figure. We think it will work,” said McKinney. “I can’t say it’s a solid figure; we worked on it until 5:35 today to get it to work; but I think it’s a good figure.”
Councilman Danny Rodriguez noted that the new scale will only mean a difference of $1,000 between the current and future top salaries of the most veteran officers.
“We could have started at $26,000 and made the (average) pay more equitable to the top, but I feel with a situation where a starting jailer is making $31,000 and an officer is making $26,000, this is better.”
Council members had discussed the plan two days earlier during a budget workshop, and voiced their support for the pay raises, despite the city’s current budget shortfall. The council is set to raise property tax rates 10.769 cents during a meeting this Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall, and still faced a significant shortfall in balancing the budget as of their vote on the police salaries.
“My question is are we going to have the money to pay for this?” asked councilman Gerald Tellez, who voted against the pay raise. Tellez voiced similar concerns during the council’s Sept. 21 workshop and earlier voting against preliminary approval of the property tax increase.
“We’re looking at some scenarios of alterative funding, if we can work this through the CJC,” said Rushing.
The alterative plan involves seeking compensation from the U.S. Marshal’s Service, which contracts with the Town of Pecos City for housing around 100 prisoners at the CJC. Rushing said the request would be based on the fact that the Police Department is also housed at the CJC, which increases security at the facility.
“There’s a possibility we ca float this without taxpayer money,” he said.
City finance director Sam Contreras and city attorney Scott Johnson both were cautious about how federal officials would react. The city already is planning to seek an increase in the man-day rate paid by the Marshal’s Service to Pecos for keeping inmates at the jail.
“I think we’ll be in uncharted waters,” said Contreras, while adding, “The arrangement sounds very good to us. The CJC officers have to be paid Department of Labor wages. We can argue we can’t have officers making less than correctional officers.”
“I think we’re putting the cart before the horse,” said Tellez, in explaining his vote against the increase. “We’re not even sure what we’re going to get from the CJC, so we’re spending money we don’t have.”
“We’ve been putting them behind when money issues came up,” said councilwoman Angelica Valenzuela, who joined Rodriguez and councilman Frank Sanchez in voting for the pay raises. “I wish we could do more, but I want to start doing something, and this is where we can.”
Tellez said he also had been asked by some local residents about any possible conflicts of interest for Sanchez and Rodriguez, both of who have served as volunteer workers with local law enforcement agencies.
“As far as a conflict of interest with Mr. Rodriguez being carried by the D.A.’s office, there’s no conflict there,” Johnson said. He said he also didn’t see a conflict with Sanchez work with the Pecos PD because he has an unpaid position.
“We brought this up before. I asked if it was OK, and you all said it was not a conflict of interest,” said Sanchez, while Rodriguez said, “I’ve enjoyed working for Mr. Scott Johnson, the sheriff’s office and Mr. (District Attorney Randy) Reynolds for years. It’s a hobby of mine, and I’ve never received a penny for it. I wish more people would go out and volunteer.”
Arizona sees end to prison shortage in ‘05
By SMOKEY BRIGGS
Arizona is building prisons and when it is done it hopes to bring home approximately 2,100 state prisoners currently housed at out-of-state institutions in Okalahoma and Texas.
Reeves County Detention Center III is currently home to about 800 of those Arizona inmates under a contract between the prison and Arizona that runs through the end of June 2005. Whether or not that contract is renewed may depend on how far along Arizona is in its new prison construction by the middle of next year.
Reeves County and the State of Arizona signed a contract in February for Arizona to house up to 864 inmates at the county’s new RCDC III unit. The agreement was renewed for a one-year term this past June. Prior to that, the county had spent nine months scrambling to find inmates to fill the new 960-bed prison, built at a cost of $40 million.
Reeves County houses U.S. Bureau of Prison inmates at its RCDC I and II units, but the BOP balked at placing inmates in RCDC III, leaving the county short of income to meet the $420,000 monthly bond payments on the new unit. If Arizona fails to renew the contract, the county will again be faced with finding new inmates for the prison in July of 2005.
According to the Frequently Asked Questions document posted on the Arizona Department of Corrections website (www.adc.state.az.us), ADC plans on bringing all of the out-of-state prisoners home by spring of 2005.
Cam Hunter, Public Information Officer with the ADC confirmed the goal but said the details are still up in the air.
“Whether we will need to renew these contracts is just speculation at this point,” she said.
Hunter said that last year Arizona found itself about 4,400 prison beds short.
“The system was severely overcrowded and we were also 14 percent short in our correctional officer staff,” she said. “In a special session the legislature approved moving some prisoners out of state provisionally and construction of 1,000 more public and 1,000 more private beds,” she said.
At the time Arizona contracted with Geo Group that operates RCDC III under an agreement with Reeves County, as well as prisons in Watonga, Oklahoma near Oklahoma City, and Newton near Houston.
Hunter said that a new, 1,400-bed private facility in Kingman, Ariz., came on line August 26 and would be at full capacity in the near future.
As well a 1,000-bed state facility is due to open in December and another 1,000-bed facility should be ready early in 2005.
In short, in response to being 4,400 beds short Arizona contracted to ship 2,100 prisoners out of state.
By early 2005 there should be 3,400 new prison beds available in Arizona and while the details have not been worked out Arizona’s stated policy has been to bring the prisoners home when beds are available.
“We do see a light at the end of the tunnel regarding the bed shortage,” Hunter said.
Funds transfer, fee increases eyed by council
By JON FULBRIGHT
Town of Pecos City Council members will use a one-time funds transfer and increases in water and trash fees to close the remainder of an $800,000 budget gap for the 2005 fiscal year, when they vote on a new budget and tax rate Thursday evening as part of a special meeting at City Hall.
The meeting will begin at 5:30 p.m. and will cover both the new budget and property tax rates, along with a salary schedule for the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.
Council members already had given preliminary approval earlier this month for an 10.769-cent increase in the city’s property tax rate. During a workshop held Monday night, they took steps towards re-implementing a water policy plan approved four years ago, and combined with the increase in trash hauling fees, is expected to add between $7 and $10 a month to the average local resident’s tax and user fee bill.
Those increases are expected to cover only about 25 percent of the projected budget gap. The rest will come from a $600,000 transfer of construction funds for the Criminal Justice Center to the city’s general fund, after the city was given permission to use the funds by the federal government.
City Manager Joseph Torres said accountant Mark Rushing and police chief Clay McKinney have been working on the budget for the city’s two-year old jail, which was financed in part by the U.S. Marshal’s Service to house inmates awaiting hearings or trial in Pecos Federal Court. City finance director Sam Contreras said funds left over from that project will be used to finance the upcoming year’s budget.
“We’ve gotten approval from the U.S. Marshal’s Service to use that towards the general fund,” he said. “We’ll transfer $600,000 from the CJC to pay for this.”
“We’re not really robbing the CJC, we’re reimbursing the general fund,” said Rushing. But he added that the budget move is “just a one-time shot” and that it will eliminate the jail’s current financial cushion.
“You’re going to deplete the CJC. It’s going to have to operate like a business, lean and mean,” he said. “This allows us to get through 2004-05, and then hopefully we’ll get reimbursement.”
The city is seeking to increase their man-day rate paid by the Marshal’s Service to cover both increased costs at the jail, and the salary increases granted last week to Pecos Police. City officials are hoping that since the police department works out of the CJC, the subsidy can be justified by increasing the security level at the jail.
In addition, council members were also told they should be receiving approval for an increase in salary reimbursement for certain CJC workers.
“This is going to be reimbursed very quickly,” said Contreras. “It should be 30 days after we implement it.
“What we will do is add the salary increase to the per diem (rate),” he added, though Contreras said it would be a while before the city would find out about any other agreements by the Marshal’s Service to boost CJC-related funding.
Council members were scheduled to get a revised look at the water fee options by Wednesday afternoon, in order to go over the options at Thursday’s meeting. The plan includes increases in delinquent fees, after-hours fees and late fees, along with a rise in overall usage fees for residential and commercial customers.
Currently, residents pay $1.79 per 1,000 gallons after the initial $5.89 charge for the first 2,000 gallons of water used. The rate has not changed since 2000, despite a plan passed by the council at that time to move rates into closer compliance with the Texas Water Development Board’s study of Pecos’ water usage.
“The council has forgone Year 2 until this date. You can implement Year 2 at this point,” Rushing said. “You all have already accepted the study. All you have to do is implement Year 2.”
If implemented, the price would rise 26 cents, to $2.05 per 1,000 gallons. That’s slightly above the area average according to a handout given to the council, but Madrid said the $5.89 base rate would still be 60 cents lower than the lowest rate of the next comparably sized area city.
Madrid said an average family of four uses between 10,000 and 15,000 gallons of water monthly, which would translate into an increase of between $3 and $4 a month in their water bill. For a family using 15,000 gallons, Contreras said their monthly bill would rise from $29.16 to $32.54.
Councilwoman Angelica Valenzuela was wary of the increase, saying that it could not only hurt local residents, but also affect businesses just barely hanging on financially in the city. “I don’t feel like we need to hit them with it all at once. I want to phase it in,” she said.
A similar rise in commercial rates would boost local fees to $2.24 per 1,000 gallons over the $7.69 base rate. “We’re hitting them at home and now we’re hitting their business, and I don’t want to force them to close because of water rates,” Valenzuela said.
Council members were also told the failure to follow through on the 2000 water plan also has meant no increase in rates for the city of Barstow, which is paying $1.53 per 1,000 gallons for Pecos water.
Torres said he has been talking with Barstow city officials about the water rates, and noted that while the city marks up the cost of the water by 60 percent for resale to city residents, Barstow is also suffering through financial difficulties and a deficit budget situation.
Contreras said the city would be seeking a new rate for Barstow of $1.93. Pecos collected $44,000 last year from the city based on the current $1.53 rate.
Council members were told the new computerized water meters would offer up more accurate meter readings and could help spot water losses. In connection with that, the council supported a $20 meter-testing fee after an initial free meter test. The fee would be waived if the meter is found to be inaccurate.
The city’s revised contract with Duncan Disposal for trash collection gives Pecos more control over the operation to coincide with the opening of the city’s new landfill, but also comes with a 5.5 percent increase in the fee paid to Duncan. Contreras said that would come to about $32,000, which he said would come to just under a $1 average increase for residential customers.
The city’s new landfill just opened last week, and city utilities director Edgardo Madrid said the landfill generated $5,779 in funds during its opening week, with $200 of that going to the state. The landfill did take in 25 tons of garbage, five more than it’s projected allotment by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, but Rushing said that is rated on a monthly basis, so the landfill was still well below September’s limit.
The city faces the implementation of costly monitoring devices if the monthly limit is exceeded, Madrid told the council during their Sept. 23 meeting. That in turn could limit the amount of trash Pecos can allow the cities of Barstow and Toyah, along with the Reeves County Detention Center, to dump in the landfill.
“What I’m saying here is we’re going to have to be strict about what we can accept,” Madrid said on Monday. “We may only accept Pecos and we can’t do Toyah, RCDC and Barstow, but it’s too early to make those decisions.
He said the new trench would have a 2 1/2 year lifespan, and work already has begun on another trench in the landfill area, which the city expects to use through 2031.
Council debates status of utility disconnect fee
By JON FULBRIGHT
Are disconnect fees disconnect fees if the customer isn’t disconnected?
That’s the question the Town of Pecos City Council debated twice during the past week, once during their regular meeting on Sept. 23 at City Hall and again this past Monday during a special budget workshop.
The debate involved an ordinance relating to utility services. Councilwoman Angelica Valenzuela questioned the use of the term “Disconnect Fee” in the ordinance, noting the fee was charged whether or not the line actually was disconnected by city workers for non-payment.
“It’s a termination for non-payment, and they have to pay $20 to reconnect,” said city finance director Sam Contreras. “We have one meter reader, and we have 1,000 customers. He can’t get to all of them every month.”
“My thing is if they’re going to be charged $20 for disconnect of termination they have to be disconnected physically,” Valenzuela said.
The issue was brought up again during Monday’s workshop, as part of a discussion of the city’s water rates, though no action could be taken at that time.
City Attorney Scott Johnson said during last week’s meeting that the overall 1995 ordinance was “a little vague” and along with clarifying the fee charges, exact dates for disconnection should be added to the measure.
“I think some guidance to the water department on when to disconnect would be appropriate,” he said. Johnson later suggested a 20 business day past-due date for the charges to be imposed, and told the council he would work on rewriting the ordinance for resubmission to the council at a later date.
On the water meters being installed by Johnson Controls of Peddle Valve, Inc., council members were told the work was about 90 percent done last week, and that the work should be done by the end of this week.
The city is hoping to see an increase in water revenues with the installation of the computerized meters, though Contreras said a similar project recently in Lamesa has yet to produce any results, due in part to this year’s increases rains across West Texas.
City manager Joseph Torres added during the council’s Monday meeting that Pecos’ increase rain totals could have similar effects, since local residents will have less need for outside watering under current conditions.
Council members voted to set Saturday, Oct. 30 as the official night for trick-or-treating in Pecos. “We’ve noted on the calendar that Halloween falls on a Sunday and we’ve never had trick-or-treating on a Sunday, so I’d like to recommend Saturday,” said Mayor Dot Stafford.
The council was also told by fire chief Lynn Foster that the volunteer fire department had just taken possession of a new tanker truck.
“Most of it was paid for by the government . the Texas Forest Service paid for all but $20,000,” of the $128,000 cost, Foster said. “It will probably be used more in the county than in the city, but we’ve needed it for a long time.”
Council members also agreed to the sale of four pieces of property. They included a $600 bid by Mary Alice Benavides for a mobile home and metal building at 403 E. Second St.; a $3,000 offer by Lila Lee Blount for property at 1603 Cowan St.; a $500 bid by Raul Hidalgo for property at 221 N. Walnut St., and a $1,500 bid by Carlotta Salas for property at 1016 E. Second St.
The council also approved the reappointment of Stafford and the selection of councilman Michael Benavides to the Reeves County Community Recreation Department board.
Public surveyed for Main St. project report
By JON FULBRIGHT
More clothing stores overall, and more stores of any kind for downtown Pecos were some of the highest responses to a survey conducted recently by the Town of Pecos City, as part of the new Main Street program.
Pecos City Council members were presented with the result of the survey on Sept. 23 by Main Street Director Tom Rivera, who said the surveys were taken at several sites in town over a month-and-a-half period.
“They will be used by the resource team that comes down from Austin,” Rivera said. The team, which is part of the Texas Historical Commission’s Main Street Program, will study the downtown area and the results of the survey, in an effort to help the city attract new businesses to downtown. They will then visit Pecos in October to go over the results and meet with local residents.
Rivera said the team is made up of 5-6 specialists in various aspects of downtown planning and restoration. “The first day they’ll have a meeting with the mayor, city manager and city council, the (downtown) building owners and bank representatives. They’ll do a little question and answer session and take that data and merge it with the survey results and use that to get the Main Street program organized.”
Texas First Lady Anita Perry was in Pecos at the end of March of officially start the program, and unveil the first project, the restoration of the Missouri Pacific Railroad depot for use as the new home of the Texas Rodeo Hall of Fame. The Hall will be located next to the West of the Pecos Museum, which tops the survey list under places that local residents show visitors to town. But overall a lack of things to do and local resources are among the biggest complaints in the survey.
Outside of a few contrary answers - one survey responded said their favorite thing about Pecos was a lack of things to do - the results mirror those voices over the years by local residents. The top two things listed in the city’s favor is its people (54 respondents) and small size (39), with the weather (9) coming in third. The Museum (40 respondents) Maxey Park (29) and the West of the Pecos Rodeo Grounds (15) were listed as the top three sites visitors are shown.
But after the courtyard at the museum, which drew 37 replies, the No. 2 response to the question “What are the best things about downtown Pecos?” was “nothing”, which was the answer of 15 people. The park and historical buildings were third, with five responses each.
On where people current go to shop downtown, 29 said they don’t shop at all there, 28 said they go to Brownlee Hardware and 12 said Fonville Jewelers. In contrast, 68 people said they shop outside of downtown n the Midland/Odessa area, 45 at Wal-Mart, 40 at Bob’s or La Tienda and 20 at Gibson True-Value. Clothing was also the top reply in the survey on items that are bought out of town.
On things downtown that need too be improved the top three answers were similar. Nineteen people wanted more stores, 11 wanted abandoned buildings cleaned up, and eight wanted the buildings to be occupied. On what should go into the buildings, 26 wanted clothing stores, 13 craft and fabrics shops and 12 wanted restaurants. A bowling alley, theater and shoe stores all drew nine replies.
“It’s a pretty good little survey. It was pretty inclusive,” Rivera said. “We put some out at the chamber and we put some out at the hospital, and of course here.”
As part of the Main Street resource team’s visit to Pecos on Oct. 19-21, a public meeting scheduled for the final day of the visit.
“During that town meeting they’ll present their findings and show recommendations,” Rivera said, adding that the meeting would probably take place late in the afternoon on the 21st, at a site to be announced.
Weekend front adds 2 inches to rainfall
A low-pressure system that arrived in West Texas last Friday night and spent four days in the area added about two inches to the Town of Pecos City’s already above-average rainfall totals for 2004.
The system, which came in from California and Arizona earlier in the week, dumped about 1.3 inches of rain on Saturday and Sunday at the Pecos Municipal Airport, while another inch fell on the city Monday and Tuesday.
The rain brought the city’s year-to-date total to just over 16 inches, with three months remaining in 2004. That’s five inches above the normal 10.99 inch total predicted by the National Weather Service, and 12 inches above the amount Pecos received in all of 1999, during the height of the area’s decade-long drought.
The heaviest rains were reported to the north and east of Pecos over the weekend, and flooding was reported on several county roads in the Orla area of Northern Reeves County. Current NWS reports keep the chance of rain in the area forecast, but lower the odds to 20 percent for this Friday and Saturday, when the Reeves County Fall Fair will be held at the Civic Center, and the annual Barbeque Beef Cook-off at the Sheriff’s Posse Arena.
Parks rules for Red Bluff in board election lawsuit
By JON FULBRIGHT
Red Bluff Water Power Control Board won a victory last Thursday in 143rd District Court, when Judge Bob Parks ruled the district is within its rights to deny seating to two of its seven representatives, based on changes those districts made to their election laws.
In a ruling filed on Sept. 23, Parks said that Ward County Irrigation District No. 1 and Ward County Irrigation District No. 3 could not legally elect representatives to the Red Bluff board of directors after the districts changed from water improvement to water irrigation districts. WCWID 1 made the change three years ago, while WCWID changed over in December of 2003.
The change to a more limited form of water district also meant a change in the eligibility of voters in the district’s election to select a member to the Red Bluff board., and led to the lawsuit, which was heard by Parks in early August in 143rd District Court in Monahans.
Red Bluff attorney Robert Scogin of Kermit argued that because the new district limits voting to landowners who live within the water district, the status went against the charter for voting eligibility under which the water districts were originally created. Water improvement districts allow all landowners within the district to vote in the election, regardless of residency.
Officials with the two Ward County water districts, along with Reeves County Water Improvement District 2, which supported their petition, argued that the changes from water improvement to water irrigation districts, allowed under Chapter 58 of the Texas Water Code, did not prevent the districts from altering their legal status while remaining voting members of the Red Bluff board.
The attorneys for the districts argued that neither the original 1934 Master Contract nor the Chapter 58 addition in 1977 prevented the districts from making the changes while retaining their seats on the board. The argument was rejected by Parks in his decision.
“It is orders and adjudged and decreed that Ward No. 1 and Ward No. 3 are no longer member districts of Red Bluff Water Power Control District, and are not entitled to elect from their representative districts a member to the Board of Directors of Red Bluff Water Power Control District,” Parks wrote. He added the judgment does not abrogate the contract rights and obligations of Ward No. 1 and Ward No. 3 under the Master Contract between the seven member district of March 8, 1934, nor does it affect the rights of Ward No. 1 and Ward No. 3 to receive funds under the Pecos River Compact agreement, as set up by the 1991 Texas Legislature.
Parks also orders the two districts, along with Reeves County WID No. 2 to pay attorneys fees of $17,588, and were denied relief under their counter-claim.
In this past May’s elections for the Red Bluff board, Tom Nance was elected to represent Ward County WID 1 on the Red Bluff board, while Ava Gerke was elected the Ward County WID 3 representative. Both were given non-voting observer status on the board until the issue is resolved, and both were at the board’s Sept. 12 meeting in Pecos.
Reeves County WID 2 is represented on the Red Bluff board by former State Rep. Richard C. Slack. There is no change in his status on the board because Reeves No. 2 remains a water improvement district.
Officials for the two Ward County districts have not said yet whether or not they will file an appeal of Parks’ ruling.
Rock map removal draws TxDOT protest
A landscaping project underway at the U.S. 285 interchange on Interstate 20 in Pecos has caused a controversy among some local residents, after Texas Department of Transportation crews removed a rock map of Texas created by Zavala Junior High School students seven years ago.
Seventh grade students in Cindy Duke’s class at Zavala built the map of Texas in 1997. The map was done in the state colors of red, white and blue, including the white Texas star centered in the are representing the Permian Basin. The map was located on the northeast side of the U.S. 285 overpass, but when crews began work on landscaping all four sides of the bridge, the rocks were removed last week as part of the project.
Local resident Charlotte Slack noted the change last week, and said she contacted TxDOT officials about the change, as well as telling Duke, who is now principal at Austin Elementary.
“I talked to Kelli Williams (TxDOT engineer), and she said they would be putting a Texas map back there, but it’s not the same,” Slack said last Friday.
Meanwhile, officials with TxDOT said erosion problems on the overpass embankment, caused in part by this year’s rains, along with a lack of upkeep on the map, were among the reasons why the rocks were removed by crews last Thursday and Friday.
“The main problem was with the maintenance,” said TxDOT area public information officer Glen Larum. “They (P-B-T students and teachers ) were supposed to maintain it.”
The map was kept up for a while, but over the past year maintenance had slacked off, since the students originally involved in the project graduated from high school. TxDOT officials said the lack of maintenance, combined with the erosion of the surrounding dirt, was causing problems at the site, which is located in a section of town with a high salt content that makes growing plants difficult.
“In addition to the erosion, the only place where grass would grow on the embankment was inside the rock outline,” said District Engineer Lauren Garduńo, “and that added to the maintenance problem.”
The new project will replace the dirt embankment with concrete forms. The apron [called rip-rap] will prevent embankment erosion. Similar projects already have been completed along Interstate 10 in Fort Stockton and near Balmorhea.
Larum said TxDOT engineer Mohammad Mobed met with Pecos City Council members and with Reeves County Commissioners and County Judge Jimmy Galindo to outline the landscaping plans, though at the time there was no specific mention of plans to remove the rock map. However, Garduno said TxDOT is trying to maintain the Texas theme with their new design.
“It was really the students’ project that pointed us in the direction we took to landscape the interchange,” she said. “When we discussed our proposal at a meeting with county, city and school personnel, we showed an artist’s rendering of what we had in mind to build on their theme.”
TxDOT will place a plaque, commemorating the students’ efforts, among additional landscape features at the interchange -which will include native plants and “Welcome to Pecos” ironwork made by Pecos school students. The outline of Texas will also feature area brands, a project which students will be invited to participate in.
“We had to do something to keep it from eroding and we wanted to retain the spirit of the students’ work, so we will be painting an outline of Texas on one side and a waving Texas flag on the other,” said Garduńo.
Two set to compete in national debate event
Two speech and debate award winners from Pecos have been invited to participate in the National Great Debate to take place in Austin, on Oct. 28-31.
Pecos High School sophomore Francisco Ornelas and his debate partner qualified in Cross Examination and sophomore RJ Guerra took first place in the impromptu competition, and are looking forward to the community support to attend the event.
“The YLC was a great experience for me and I met a lot of new people…the greatest thing I learned is how to speak in front of a big crown,” said RJ Guerra, qualifier for the National Great Debate.
Both Guerra and Ornelas participated in Big Bend Great Debate speech and debate tournament operated by the National Hispanic Institute. The focus for the debate and speech tournament was on the cultural attitudes the Latino community holds towards health related issues.
Over 50 high school students from West Texas made the trip during July to Sul Ross University in Alpine. Four Pecos High School students participated in the speech and debate tournament in Cross Examination, Oral Intrepretation, Extemporaneous Speaking or Impromptu.
Along with Ornelas and Guerra, John Salcido and Evigael Navarrete participated in the intense six day program. They received training and instruction on how to formulate arguments to debate with their peers intelligently and effectively. Students explored health issues that concerned the Latino population - heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. In discussing the issues, they found that over 75 percent of their peers had an immediate family member suffering from health problems.
Over 900 students from Pennsylvania, Illinois, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, New Jersey and California participated in Young Leaders Conferences across the nation. Only 200 participants were awarded first place, second place, and All-State awards and received an invitation to attend the national event.
National Hispanic Institute (NIH) is an educational, non-profit founded by President Ernesto Nieto and Executive Vice President Gloria de Leon with 25 years of cultivating and developing leadership in Latino youth who are committed to stay involved in their communities.
With over 50,000 alumni worldwide, the Institute’s success rate includes 98 percent of its student participants enroll at the top accredited universities nationally and internationally; 65 percent continue their studies in fields such as law, accounting, medicine, architecture, and others; over 100 colleges and universities in the NHI College Register.
The National Hispanic Institute to date operates 18 programs nationwide and four international programs in Mexico and Spain.
Contact Marcie Longoria at 512-357-6137 or firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more information about the National Hispanic Institute. Visit our website at www.nhi-net.org .
Church holding 50th Annual Harvest Day
First United Methodist Church members invite friends and guests to their 50th Annual Harest Day celebration this Sunday.
“Harvest Day is a longstanding tradition in the Pecos church,” said Libby Horsburgh, who is chairing the event. “We hope to have lots of friends and former members come and share in the celebration,” she said.
Harvest Day was established in the fall of 1954 by Pecos Methodists who saw a need to celebrate and give thanks for the harvest of crops. Although farming is no longer the mainstay of church families, members have continued the tradition of Harvest Day as a special thanksgiving for their material blessings.
A luncheon follows the Harvest Day morning worship service, and a special offering is taken for a specific fund or project. Worship begins at 10:55 a.m.
Another tradition for Harvest Day is to welcome a guest speaker for the morning worship service. This year’s guest speaker will be Jim Reeves of Pecos.
Pastor Reeves has been a guest speaker at the Pecos church on several occasions the past two years. A licensed preacher and certified lay speaker, Reeves served in the ministry for 13 years.
Reeves was born Sept. 17, 1946, in Lubbock. He graduated from Lubbock Cooper High School and earned an associative arts degree from South Plains College. Reeves received his bachelor’s degree and his master’s of education degree from West Texas State University. He attended a course of study at Southern Methodist University to become a licensed preacher.
Recently, Reeves worked as a counselor for Pecos-Barstow-Toyah schools for two years. He is now pursuing further education as a professional counselor.
Reeves’ wife, Sandra, has also been active in the Pecos church. The Reeves have three children: Staci Ellsworth of Robert Lee, Jennifer Reeves of Pecos and Patrice Shaw of Port O’Conner. The Reeves have two grandchildren: Tristan and Shaelyn Ellsworth.
Fort Davis-born woman recounts 109 years of life
BY ANDREW POERTNER
Roswell Daily Record
Record Managing Editor
Her footsteps have slowed to a cautious shuffle guided by family members, but Perfecta Luera Rodriguez’s journey of 109 years continues to take her along the path God has laid down.
Deep lines furrow her face recording tales of more than a century of living as Perfecta sits quietly in her chair. Her small frame is dwarfed in her living room filled with paintings and sculptures of Jesus, Mary and saints. Crucifixes are in abundance mixed in with family photos and other cherished possessions.
Religion is a major part of her life and it is this along with her simple living and plain diet to which she credits her longevity.
Prayer is not simply another activity in her life; it is her life. While many devout people set aside time in their day to pray, Rodriguez takes time away from prayer to attend to her daily life.
It is her first activity of the morning and her final act at night.
Her life is an epic tale reaching back to a time of horse-drawn carriages and stretching to an age inconceivable in her life. Some have marveled her, some have left her untouched. She has many stories to tell, and while long past her prime, her sparkling eyes hold a promise of a few more tales to come.
As she begins to recount her life, her words are in Spanish as she’s never learned much English. In the three centuries and two millennium her life has crossed, Spanish has served her purposes well enough. Her niece, Lupe Castaneda, translates the whispered words that issue from Perfecta’s ancient throat. Lupe says with some concern Rodriguez’ health has been failing lately and at this point the family is “just letting the time run.”
Rodriguez’ memories stretch back to her childhood home near Fort Davis, and she continues to have family members living in West Texas.
Born April 18, 1895, she and her two sisters and four brothers grew up learning to care for themselves. Their father was a field worker and would be gone for long stretches. Their mother, a midwife, was also frequently absent for days at a time.
At six, Rodriguez took on household chores and continued to do so until she left the family home at the age of 18 when she married for the first of three times in her life.
Some of her most vivid memories from her early years are the raids by Pancho Villa, the Mexican revolutionary who invaded Columbus in 1916.
“During the war, the little boys - around seven years old - were carrying rifles and demanding food,” said Rodriguez. “I feel very sad about the wars that have happened in my life and all the people who have died,” she said.
She also remembers her first ride in an automobile, an exciting experience for a girl who grew up riding in carts pulled by horses.
But while she feels cars are an efficient way of getting around, she is less approving of other means of transportation.
Rodriguez has never gotten on an airplane and never will.
“I’ll go for the cars more,” she said. “You don’t have too far to fall,” she said.
The moon landing in 1969 astonished Rodriguez, since she found it hard to believe anyone would want to do something so obviously dangerous.
Over the years she has adopted electric lighting and modern appliances. There is one electric device Rodriguez shies away from: television. She says TV programs are filled with violence and hatred and there is very little on television that is of interest to her.
“There’s too many ugly things on there,” she said.
When she does turn on a television it is usually because the pope, whom she adores, is being shown.
The telephone is a different matter. She is well versed in its use. She uses it frequently to talk to her family members who are too far away to visit often.
Although she learned to read and write during her youth from a Spanish dictionary, the only reading materials she keeps are for the Bible and a few religious texts. She reads them without the aid of glasses.
She moved to Roswell in 1965 to be closer to her family. Living at first on the east side of the city, she later moved to the west because of the number of break-ins in her neighborhood.
As in her past, Rodriguez keeps her life today as simple as possible. She tends to her own needs and visits with her many relatives and friends who stop by her home to hear her stories and listen to her advice.
For Rodriguez, her life has been a winding highway paved with both joy and sadness. But it’s not over yet and she still has a few miles left in her and it is unknown what lays ahead beyond the next curve.
The future is not something she fears. She embraces it. She says she looks forward to the day when she finishes her journey and she will finally meet the God whom she has spent her life loving. On that day she will thank Him as she has thanked Him for the past 109 years for the gift of her life and those in it.
Rodriguez was born in a family that consisted of three girls and four boys and she is the last surviving sibling. Her sisters included: Pascuala Urquidez and Quiteria Vasquez. Brothers were: Marcos Aranda, Enrique Aranda, Aguedo Rodriguez and Merijildo Rodriguez.
Pecos surviving relatives include her niece, Lupe Mendoza. Other relatives are the Rodriguez family, Lalo, Alfredo and Efren Rodriguez.
She also many other nieces and nephews in New Mexico and Texas.
York M. "Smokey" Briggs, Publisher
324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 432-445-5475, FAX 432-445-4321
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