Newspaper and Travel Guide
Commissioners update juvenile tracking system
By ROSIE FLORES
Juvenile offenders who are placed on probation will be just a phone call away and can also be traced by officials via satellite, thanks to an agreement that was approved Monday morning during the regular Reeves County Commissioners Court meeting.
Commissioners met to discuss county business, including an agreement with Biometric, a company out of Dallas that offers an alternative method for electronic monitoring for individuals on probation.
Commissioners had tabled the item during their last meeting.
“At the last meeting, we had requested a presentation from the group,” said Reeves County Judge Jimmy B. Galindo.
Kurt Schuder, Director of Engineering for Biometric, outlined the company’s goals and the product they were suggesting for the Reeves County Juvenile Probation Department.
He told the group that the company was started in 1993. “That was when we used the ankle bracelets,” said Schuder. “Then in 1996, we came up with voice verification, this was less work for case officers, less expensive and time consuming.”
Schuder said that this new form of having probationers using the telephone as a method of probation, was also more accurate.
In 2003, the company formed a web site and won a Smithsonian Award.
“In 2004, we began using a GPS tracking system,” said Schuder. “We are able to locate the individual using the satellite system through voice verification,” he said.
Schuder said that this was a less expensive alternative for those on probation.
Schuder told the group that the system is used depending on how the probationer does. “The more accountable he is, the less monitoring is required,” said Schuder.
“He actually has to place these calls and answer the phone, as opposed to just wearing the ankle bracelet,” said Schuder.
Schuder said that they developed a method in which the probationer has to repeat one of 12 phrases and it also has to match his voice. “In other words, he can’t use a pre-recorded message to defeat the system,” said Schuder.
The time, where the phone call was made from and all other information on the probationer are also available on their web site. “An officer can access their information from anywhere he can get the Internet,” said Schuder.
“The time and place of his call have to match his schedule,” said Schuder.
“So the computer does all this for them?” asked Galindo.
“Yes, and the central location is Dallas, we’re as hands off as possible when it comes to the probationers, we leave that up to the county itself,” said Schuder.
Schuder said that the individual on probation can either have a phone or the company provides a cell phone for them.
Precinct 1 Commissioner Felipe Arredondo asked if the probationer had a choice as to whether or not he would be placed on this system. “Can he say ‘no’ I don’t want to be monitored like this?” said Arredondo.
Reeves County Juvenile Probation Director Louise Moore said that that decision is usually up to the judge who places the individual on probation.
“Usually when we go before the judge, the judge gives certain conditions to follow, so if the judge says he has to use this system, he’ll have to agree,” said Moore.
“Our fee structure is really simple, the minimum amount is written in there only for those counties who are using grants,” said Schuder. “The fees are based on the transaction system,” he said.
The transaction system means that the fee is 35 cents for each transaction, according to Schuder.
“Anytime a client calls the system, depending on how much you’re going to track the clients, that’s how you’ll be charged,” said Schuder.
“One client may have only one transaction a day, while another has three,” said Schuder. “We’ve found that most have an average of four transactions a day,” he said.
“The average cost would then be about $1.40 a day, as opposed to if they were in jail it would cost the county an average of $30-$50 a day,” said Galindo. “That’s a tremendous savings.”
He asked county auditor Lynn Owens if there was anything that would prohibit the county from using this system on the adult population.
“It would depend on whether they were pre-adjudication or post-adjudication and whether or not the judge would allow it,” said Owens.
“Some counties also refer the cost back to the offender, as part of their restitution or court costs,” said Schuder.
Robert Murray, with Biometric, told the group that this was for those individuals using a landline. “If they are using their own telephone, a land line, this would be the cost, but it would be more if we provided the cell phone,” said Murray.
Murray said that the cell phones are $70 per day, with an average use of $2.25 per day for the transactions.
“It ends up being about $4 per day, as opposed to $8 for the ankle bracelet,” he said.
“This system will text message us immediately if they are not complying,” said Moore.
Moore said that the officers do a physical check on the probationers. “That means we go to their homes and if they are supposed to be at home by 9 p.m., we go check and make sure they are there,” said Moore. “The problem is, some of these youngsters are in when we go check on them, then leave their home, say at 1 a.m. or something, because they know we already checked and will probably not be back.”
Moore said that on occasions they then receive a call from the police telling them the individual is in custody. “We know we checked them and when we did they were asleep, but they get up and go out after we’ve been there,” she said.
With the Biometric system, the officers would be notified immediately if the individual is not at home or where they are supposed to be, according to Murray.
“They could be monitored more continually,” he said.
Schuder told the court that individuals cannot use the cell phone for their own personal use. “The keypad is locked and the only numbers they can dial is ours,” he said.
Galindo said that the system would add tremendously to the probation department. “I hope we can introduce it to the adult probationers as well,” he said.
Murray told the group that this was a discreet method as opposed to the ankle bracelet. “This is good for those individuals who do want to change their lives, comply with the probation and not let everyone know about their problems,” said Murray. “They can become a more productive citizen and still be on probation,” he said.
In other action on Monday, commissioners tabled leasing of Reeves County property to outdoor advertising following a discussion on the matter.
“During the last couple of weeks, a person who works for Lamar Advertising, called that they are interested in leasing county property along the interstate to erect billboard signs,” said Galindo.
Owens told the group that it would have to be bid or advertised. “And sometimes the advertising of the bids costs more than the bid itself,” said Owens.
Galindo said that the company wanted to use the property located on I-20 near the Road and Bridges offices. “But we have other property that they could possibly use to place their billboards,” said Galindo.
“We do have one on Highway 285 just this side of the turnoff and a mile east on the north side of the Interstate, that we can eventually lease to this same company,” said Owens.
Galindo said that there is also the northside park. “There could be a sign erected there.”
Owens said that the best thing to do was advertise and then figure out which properties the company wanted to lease.
“There are also federal regulations to follow, they have to be so many feet away from the interstate or highway,” said Owens.
Galindo said that the group needed to study this and bring some options forward before deciding to advertise. “We can look at the property for potential leasing and come up with some options,” he said.
Austin students begin using new gymnasium
By ROSIE FLORES
First through third grade students at Austin Elementary have been enjoying a new gym for the past two weeks, something they didn’t have before.
“They started using the new gym about two weeks ago and they have really been enjoying it,” said Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD Superintendent Ray Matthews of the new facility, the first gym for the south side campus, which was completed just nine months after it was first approved.
School board members approved the construction of the new gym back in February, along with the synthetic turf and renovations to the track at Pecos High School. Prior to its opening, indoor activities at Austin had to be held in the school’s cafeteria.
Construction of the new facility was within the budget set. The total was $476,032.
“We even had a little contingency left over,” said Matthews.
The new gym includes a scoreboard, regulation volleyball court and speakers.
“The kids just love it,” said Matthews.
Basketball goals are set up as well inside the gym, even though the court is not regulation.
“We had some delays, they had to cover some metal columns with mats,” said Matthews. “It was delayed about a week,” he said.
The students have already enjoyed a pep rally and a magic show inside the new gymnasium, which is attached to the second grade hall.
“The coaches are really enjoying the gym,” said Matthews. “It turned out really nice and we’re really proud of it,” he said.
Both the gym and the turf installation projects ran slightly behind schedule - the gym was originally expected to be finished in September, while the field was completed in time for Pecos’ Sept. 10 homecoming game, but too late to avoid moving Pecos’ Sept. 3 home football opener to Monahans.
Although the field has been in use since early September, crews were back in Pecos last week to make some adjustments to the markings and to add additional rubber to the turf. Work still remains on resurfacing the stadium’s track, which was to be part of the $517,000 project.
Aside from cutting down on water and fertilizer costs, school officials and members of the Pecos Chamber of Commerce had hoped to attract playoff games to Pecos, due to the better condition of the field compared to grass surfaces following 2 1/2 months of football. However, for the opening round of the playoffs, none of the Class 5A playoff games opted to hold games in Pecos.
San Angelo Central will play Americus High School in El Paso, while El Paso Montwood will face Lubbock Monterey High School in Lubbock, and Lubbock Coronado and El Paso Franklin opted to play their bi-district playoff game in Artesia, N.M. this coming weekend.
Pecos could still get area round playoff games the weekend of Nov. 19-20. Three Class 4A games will be played, matching El Paso-area schools against schools from the San Angelo, Lubbock and Amarillo areas, along with Andrews, while El Paso area 5A teams could also be playing second round contests that weekend.
Early voting gets underway for school rollback election
Early voting began on Friday for the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD tax rollback election, and will continue through Nov. 18 for the election, which will take place on Nov. 22.
An increase of $75 million in valuations within the P-B-T ISD, due to increases in oil and natural gas prices, triggered the district’s second rollback election in four years. The election was approved by school board members in September and set for the Monday prior to Thanksgiving, at four locations within the district.
Early voting is going on for all district voters from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Pecos Community Center, 508 S. Oak St., according to Tracey Shaw, secretary to P-B-T Superintendent Ray Matthews. On Election Day, voting will take place at the Community Center for Pecos residents, along with the Barstow Community Center, the Saragosa Multi-Purpose Building and at Toyah City Hall.
P-B-T ISD currently has a tax rate set at the maximum state level of $1.50 per $100 in valuations. Matthews said last month the district needed to maintain that rate in order to continue receiving the maximum amount of state financial aid.
Under law, the rollback is triggered if a school district’s tax rate brings in 15 percent or greater revenues than the previous year. The rollback would bring the rate down to the amount that would net the same amount of tax revenues as last year.
“With the minerals going up $75 million, it would bring us down to $1.32 and budget-wise we need to stay at $1.50,” Matthews said last month.
Keeping the rate at $1.50 would net P-B-T ISD about an additional $1 million in tax funds, though that total will be deducted by the state next year from the amount of aid the district receives, whether or not local voters approve the Nov. 22 rollback vote.
P-B-T ISD has been at the $1.50 rate for nearly a decade. While it is the maximum allowable by the state for school districts, other area schools have higher rates due to funds needed to repay construction bonds.
In 2001, local voters defeated a tax rollback vote that would have cut the district’s rate from $1.50 to $1.19 cents. The additional $2.2 million in funds the district received in taxes that year was used for renovations to several campus buildings, and avoided having to issue construction bonds.
During the past year, the district also has used cash-in-hand funds to pay for construction of a gym for Austin Elementary students, and the installation of artificial turf at Eagle Stadium.