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Economic Development


Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Holiday season starting off well for local stores

Staff Writer

The weekend after Thanksgiving has always been termed as the busiest shopping day of the year and this year as no exception.

“We’ve been busy all week,” said Beall’s manager Lidia Garcia on Saturday, including the days leading up to Thanksgiving. “This has probably been our slowest day so far.” Over at Wal-Mart, Support Manager Richard Franco said, “Things went great,” over the first weekend of the Christmas shopping season, even though nationally, the company reported Thanksgiving weekend sales fell slightly below expectations.

Franco said that the number of customers was down from 2003, but the amount of purchases increased over last year.

“We didn’t have as many people in the store, but the number of purchases was up,” said Franco. “It was great, sales were good.”

Franco added that beginning with the final week before Christmas, on Dec. 18, Pecos’ Wal-Mart Store will be open 24 hours and seven days a week.

“This was the latest thing we had been working on,” said Franco. “Fort Stockton and this store were the last in the district to go to being open 24 hours.”

Wal-Mart’s Supercenters in neighboring Midland, Odessa and Carlsbad, N.M. have been 24-hour stores since they were first opened, but the smaller stores such as Pecos and Fort Stockton have until now maintained 12- to 16-hour daily store hours.

Franco said that the next item the store will be working on is to get more food products. “We want to provide more food products for customers and more variety,” said Franco. At the Family Dollar Store on South Eddy Street, officials reported that sales at the store increased by just over one-third from last year.

“We had double the amount of customers on that day, than any other day,” said interim store manager Howdy Carrera.

“We were really busy,” said Carrera. “On that day we opened from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m., instead of closing at 8, so that extra hour really helped as well,” he said.

Carrera said that it looked like more people were shopping at home instead of driving out of town.

“We had a lot of customers on that day, but we’ve been really busy recently,” said Carrera.

“With the price of gas, more people are opting to shop at home and find their purchases here,” he said.

School tax rate staying at $1.50 as rollback fails

Staff Writer

Taxes for the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD will remain at $1.50, following the results of a rollback election that was held last Monday.

Figures for the rollback election show that just under 60 percent of the 583 voters opted to keep the school district’s tax rate at the $1.50 level, instead of lowering it to $1.32 cents per $100 in valuations.

Overall 311 voted for marinating the rate and 222 against, out of a total of 583 voters. In early voting, 189 individuals voted for staying at the $1.50 rate 128 were against it. On election day, 122 voted for and 94 against the current rate.

The rollback election was triggered by the $75 million increase in valuations within the P-B-T ISD over last year, due to increases in oil and natural gas prices. The increase and the defeat of the rollback will boost the district’s income by about $1 million this year, but the state will take away $1 million in funding next year, under the current school funding equalization formulas.

“We’re very pleased that it passed and the tax rate will remain at $1.50,” said P-B-T ISD Superintendent Ray Matthews. “This is what it had been.”

“It will allow us to stay on the budget as planned,” said Matthews, who added the district is looking at continuing their maintenance program with the addition funds.

Plans for the future in the district include new roofs for the Pecos Kindergarten and the Bessie Haynes campuses.

“We’ve got several alarm systems that we want installed in the district,” said Matthews. Alarm system will be installed at the Pecos High School in both buildings “A” and “B.” “Alarm systems will also go in at the new gym and the swimming pool,” said Matthews. Matthews said that the school would be ordering an SUV to be used by the District. “These are the main things we want to work on for the district,” said Matthews.

Matthews said that these items would be on the next school board agenda to go out for bid proposals.

The rollback vote was the second in four years for P-B-T ISD voters. A similar election in 2001 also ended with voters opting to keep the $1.50 tax rate, and the additional funds from that election went towards renovation of Pecos High School and Zavala Middle School, which is now used by the Pecos Head Start program.

RCH board weighing new ambulance pact

Staff Writer

Reeves County Hospital District board members were receptive to a new contract proposal from the Town of Pecos City for the local Emergency Medical Service operation, but took no action on the proposal during their Nov. 23 meeting at the hospital’s classroom.

“I’m not sure if we can go with this tonight,” said the hospital’s Interim CEO Bill Conder, after questions were raised about the status of the service and how much control the hospital and city would have over its expenditures.

The city and hospital have been operating the ambulance service that covers northern Reeves and parts of four other counties for the past year without a contract. A previous agreement had remained in effect, but city officials have argued that the $45,000 payment given to them by the hospital fell far short of an equal sharing of the expenses.

The new offer, which council members supported during their Nov. 18 meeting, calls for a base payment of $60,000 from Reeves County Hospital, and an additional payment of up to $30,000 by the hospital to cover any deficit the EMS service may incur each year. City manager Joseph Torres, one of several city officials at the meeting, said another provision added to the agreement would make the contract automatically renewable each year, unless either the city or hospital announced plans to terminate the contract before Sept. 1 of that year.

Torres said the new agreement was drawn up following talks between city and hospital officials. “What you have in front of your cleared the council both (city and RCH) accountants and the city attorney,” he said.

Hospital officials have complained in the past they didn’t want to raise the amount paid for the service, because they were unable to get accurate numbers from the city on the total cost for the EMS operations. The recent talks between the city and hospital involved the use of more accurate numbers on its operation, though city finance director Sam Contreras said some estimates were still used on the cost of a few items.

Contreras said the most recent numbers available for the EMS service showed a combined deficit of $84,000 for the most recent year. Non-payment of bills by many using the service was cited as the reason for the deficit.

He also went over some of the costs the city was bearing by itself for the ambulance, including maintenance of the vehicles and upkeep on the ambulance hall, which was estimated at $700 a month. He said the city would soon have to repair the roof of the hall, at a cost of $68,000. The EMS shares the hall with the Pecos Volunteer Fire Department, which is 50 percent funded by Reeves County.

“The budget is $300,000 for all of it. You’re not even covering half of the expenses,” Contreras said of the EMS costs. “If you look at 1999, the hospital paid $63,000, and then it went down to $40,000, and I don’t know if anyone knows why.”

“Even with thin it’s still not going to be 50-50 (split). It could be 60-40,” he added. “It never was a 50-50 partnership. We’re like a silent partner,” said hospital board member Leo Hung. “We don’t intend on asking how you’re going to spend the money or when you’re going to buy a new ambulance.”

“There are more thorough (numbers) than we’ve ever had,” said RCH Board President Linda Gholson. “But in providing ambulance service for the community there are EMT teams. Who are they accountable to?”

“They’re under a corporation, so it’s kind of a unique situation as to who’s over them,” Contreras said. “We have oversight on their finances, but because they’re a corporation, they have their own officers … They’re not employees. They’re more like contract workers.”

City councilwoman Angelica Valenzuela said the EMS situation was similar to that of the Pecos Economic Development Corp., which is funded through the city but has it’s own board, while Mayor Dot Stafford said only EMS Chief John Cravey received any benefit package through the city.

The agreement also calls for the city and hospital to share any surplus revenues, though Gholson asked, “Is there any chance at all there will ever be a surplus?” “There will never be a surplus because the same uninsured patients you have you bring to us,” said Conder.

Gholson added that because the hospital district already has drawn up a budget for 2005, it would be harder to rework the financial situation to accommodate up to an additional $45,000 in payments for the EMS service.

As a result, the board approved by a 3-0 vote a motion by member Pablo Carrasco to table any action on the contract until the next meeting. Gholson said the board could wait until their regular meeting in late December to resume talks, or hold a special meeting before then on the contract.

Hanks blasts Parks in refilled RCDC petition

Staff Writer

A petition against Reeves County Judge Jimmy Galindo and two outgoing county commissioners has been re-filed in 143rd District Court, 3 1/2 months after the original filing was dismissed by District Court Judge Bob Parks.

The petition, filed by local resident Bobby Hanks, was filed last Wednesday with Reeves County District Clerk Pat Tarin, and includes an attack on the district judge for his denial of the original motion.

The petition involves operations of the Reeves County Detention Center, and the construction of the RCDC III addition between 2001 and 2003. Named in the petition are the State of Texas, Galindo, commissioners Herman Tarin and Felipe Arredondo, Galindo’s secretary Sylvia Garcia, and RCDC employees Randy Baeza, Patricia Abila and Kimberly Gonzales, along with the county government as a whole.

Herman Tarin opted not to run for re-election this year to the commissioner’s court, while Arredondo was defeated in his bid for a new four-year term. Both will leave office on Dec. 31. Baeza no longer works at the RCDC.

Hanks’ original petition was thrown out on Aug. 11 by Parks on procedural grounds, an action Hanks alleges was pre-determined by the judge, in a statement made to Reeves County Courthouse workers on July 31.

“Two days after originally filing the petition for the removal of Reeves County Judge Jimmy B. Galindo, Reeves County Commissioner Herman Tarin and Reeves County Commissioner Felipe Arredondo, District Judge Bob Parks made a statement to certain employees in the Reeves County Courthouse as to how he felt about me personally and what he intended to do with this petition,” Hanks wrote in his newly-filed petition. “His feelings for me personally are irrelevant and his right to free speech, but his statement concerning the petition in front of these employees I question as District Judge.”

Hanks claims that Parks “has looked the other way for a number of years and allowed Reeves County Judge Jimmy B. Galindo, the Reeves County Commissioners Court and the “click” (sic) to financially destroy Reeves County,” and goes on to call the District Judge, “a coward with no backbone.

“I have found no compassion from this District Judge in protecting the people of Reeves County. I find District Judge Bob Parks only concerned with friends, certain personalities and those of social status he has chosen to protect,” Hanks writes in his new petition.

The names of the courthouse workers Parks allegedly made those statements to following the July 29 petition filing are not given by Hanks in his new petition.

Parks dismissed the original filing without prejudice, and Hanks said at the time he planned to re-file the petition, which alleges both incompetence and misconduct in connection with construction of the 960-bed Reeves County Detention Center III project. The petition alleges several other violations against Galindo, including refusal to make county financial information available under the Texas Open Records Act, violation of county government nepotism laws, and a conflict of interest between Galindo and a company hired by the county to make deliveries to the RCDC. Hanks also cites the recent transfers of several county employees to RCDC III as having violated state law. In his refilled petition, Hanks added three addition claims. They ask that Galindo and the commissioners’ court cease all nonessential non-budgetary expenditures, nonessential hiring, contracting or transferring any employee from an elected or appointed officials’ office. He also wants the renewal of the $120,000 annual payment to Washington D.C. lobbyist Randy DeLay invalidated, saying that the lobbyists employed by Geo Group can find prisoners for the RCDC III unit.

The county retained Geo after hiring DeLay in 2003 to find inmates to fill the RCDC III, after the U.S. Bureau of Prisons declined to place inmates in he facility. The county signed an agreement to house prisoners from the State of Arizona in February, a agreement renewed for one year in July. However, Arizona officials have said they expect to have enough bed space by next year to be able to bring back prisoners currently being housed in Texas and Oklahoma.

Hanks said employees transferred from various county departments to the RCDC III on April 12 of this year due to budget problems should have been reinstated before DeLay’s contract was renewed and salary increases were given to elected officials. DeLay is the brother of U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, and was originally hired on a one-year contract.

Galindo said following the filing of the petition in July that the county was working on getting a law firm out of Austin to represent the county. He also disputed the allegations made in the petition.

“The RCDC is the largest employer in this community,” said Galindo at the time. “A business of this magnitude doesn’t reach this level if the pilot is asleep at the wheel or are grossly incompetent.”

Funding for some county positions eliminated in April have been restored under the new county budget, which will take effect in January. The workers were transferred from their positions to the RCDC III in order to remove their salaries from the county’s General Fund and place them on the RCDC III budget, which is funded through the State of Arizona.

Under state law, 143rd District Attorney Randy Reynolds can investigate the charges in Hanks’ petition, if he finds grounds for action. Reynolds said after the initial filing he was reviewing the allegations, but has not commented on whether or not any investigation into the allegations has occurred.

Officials with Geo Group also said last week they could not comment on whether or not there is any investigations current being conducted in connection with the prison. “We cannot comment at this point,” said Pablo Perez, a spokesman for Geo Group based out of the company’s headquarters in Boca Raton, Fla.

PEDC to look over candidates for open president’s position

The Pecos Economic Development Corp. will hold a meeting in executive session on Wednesday to discuss candidates for the position of president, as part of their regular meeting in the second floor lounge area of the Security State Bank Building.

The board will look at resumes for the position and will create a short list of candidates to interview during the executive session, which will come at the end of their 6 p.m.

meeting. Earlier, the board will welcome new members Jimmy Dutchover and Leo Hung, and will receive an update on the status of the Smithers’ Transportation Test Center project from PEDC Interim President Mike Burkholder.

Burkholder said earlier this month that both Texas A&M and DaimlerChrysler were looking at the facility for use. Daimler was seeking the facility for short-term testing, while the Texas A&M officials looked at the site earlier this year as part of a possible longer-term project. The track itself has been closed for the past 4 1/2 years.

The only other items on the agenda include approving the minutes of the board’s last meeting, on Oct. 25, approving the PEDC financial statement and reviewing the proposed changes to the by-laws. The by-law changes, which will allow board members to serve no more than two consecutive three-year terms, were made in order to bring the PEDC into compliance with state law.

“Fun Night” helps school fund 100 workbooks

A fundraising effort by parents and teachers at Bessie Haynes Elementary helped the school purchase 100 new workbooks for the campus’ sixth grade students.

Bessie Haynes Principal John Fabela said Lacey Chesser of the Parent Teacher Organization helped organize the Fun Night on Nov. 12 that netted the school $1,008.30 for the new books, when their cost could not be included in the current school year budget.

“When she heard we were trying to raise some money for the sixth grade workbooks because of the budget crunch, she came forward to help,” Fabela said. “She knew the sixth graders were in need of workbooks, and got the teachers involved and got everything coordinated.”

He said “about 99 percent of the teachers participated” along with the parents in the Fun night, which included games and music for the students and parents.

The funds will be used to buy the $10 workbooks, which will be used to prepare students for the TAKS tests. “We actually have more than 100 students in the sixth grade, but they’re going to share the workbooks,” Fabela said

Triple-X rated as best bidder on new radiology equipment

Reeves County Hospital District board members voted 3-0 on Nov. 23 to approve purchase of a new radiography/fluoroscopy unit for the hospital’s radiology department, at a cost of just over $250,000.

Chief technician James Campbell made the presentation to hospital board members during their regular monthly meeting and recommended purchase of the equipment from Triple X-Ray of Stanton, at a cost of $256,520. The only other bidder on the equipment, Phillips, offered a bid of $333,921, Campbell said.

He added that the lower bid also came with a two-year warranty, as opposed to the one-year warranty offered by Phillips. “I’d say Triple-X is the one we should go with,” Campbell said.

RCH Interim CEO Bill Conder later said the hospital could take a four-year warranty on the machine, “to lock in the 2004 rate.” The warranty would be for 100 percent replacement of defective parts within 90 days, and pro-rated after that.

Conder explained that the cost was lower because part of the Triple-X bid used refurbished equipment. But he added, “Only the shell of the table and the shell of he overhead area old.”

“The metal will be tested for any pitting and rusting, and if it is, it will be sandblasted and repainted,” Campbell said.

He said the new machine will allow both for a better view of internal images, and will allow for remote viewings of radiological images, if the hospital’s regular radiologist, Dr. Alexander Kovac, is not available.

In other action, the hospital board approved tax sales of property at 908 N. Elm St., 409 S. Pine St. and 611-613 S. Peach St., which had previously been approved by the Pecos City Council and Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD. They also approved the monthly tax reports, funds statements and bills before adjourning early when member Pablo Carrasco had to leave for his regular job and the board no longer had a quorum.

Christmas lighting event set for Thursday

The Community Christmas Tree Lighting will be held at 7 p.m., Thursday at Maxey Park.

The event is sponsored by Pecos Rotary Club.

Donations can be made for a string of light, for $10 per string light.

Call in Donor’s names to any Rotary member in order to complete acknowledgement list. Donor’s name will appear on Channel 6 and the local newspaper.

Contact or visit Jean Winget (Sunday House) 447-2215; Ken Winkles (Winkles Trucking) 447-2108; Leo Hung (Professional Pharmacy) 447-2266; Bobby Clark (Security State Bank) 445-9000 or John Grant (West Texas National Bank) 445-9444.

PHS holds GED testing this week

GED Testing will be held Tuesday and Wednesday at 3:45 p.m., at the Pecos High School.

Registration date is Monday, Nov. 29, from 1-4:30 p.m., at the Pecos High School Counselor’s Office.

Examinees must present a Texas Driver’s License or Texas Department of Public Safety ID Card.

For more information call Pat Cobos or Eva Arriola, PHS Counselors at 447-7229.

USDA seeking groups to help with applications

USDA Rural Development serving Ector, Pecos, Presidio and Reeves has a need for public and non-profit organizations to package Section 502 Single Family Housing Loan/Grant Applications.

USDA Rural Development has a need for 20 complete applications.

Organizations wishing to package loan/grant applications must attend certification training to be eligible to participate. Certification training will be held on Thursday, Dec. 9, at the Pecos Civic Center, 1674 Airport Drive, Fort Stockton, or call 432-336-7585, ext. 4.

USDA Rural Development is an Equal Opportunity Lender, Provider, and Employer. Complaints of discrimination should be sent to: USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, Washington, DC 20250-9410.

Library’s story hour set for Saturday

Story Hour will be held at 10 a.m. this Saturday at the Reeves County Library, 505 S. Park.

All children in the community are invited to attend.

FNL book for sale at Library for holidays

The Friday Night Lights hardcover book is now available at the Reeves County Library.

The book on the 1988 Odessa Permian Panthers was made into a motion picture released this past October, and will make a special gift for someone.

Make a donation to the Friends of the Library at the Reeves County Library, 505 S. Park or call 445-5340 for more information.

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Phone 432-445-5475, FAX 432-445-4321

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