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Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Friday, June 22, 2007

Pecos man jailed on charge of harassing county attorney

A Pecos man was arrested on Tuesday and charged with harassment, after Reeves County Attorney Alva Alvarez filed the charges in connection with calls to her office.

Steven Christopher Pineda, 40, was arrested off of a warrant for harassment, according to a Reeves County Sheriff’s report.

The report said Pineda called and left several messages on the county attorney’s cell phone, which were harassing, obscene and offensive.

Following his arrest, Pineda bonded out on June 19, on a $3,500 bond.

Alvarez said she had only had minor previous contact with Pineda before the harassing phone calls began.

“I sought a protective order against him in December on behalf of the mother of his children and that’s the only place that I know him of,” she said.

“The mother of his children came in here and the protective order was based on family violence,” she said.

Alvarez said that after that she began to get obscene voice messages from him and reported it to the Reeves County Sheriff’s Department and they recorded it.“He’s been arrested for it,” said Alvarez.

Pecosite home after long voyages, injuries with Navy

A Pecos resident is happy to be home after serving his country in different ports, and after suffering several on-the-job injuries over the past few years.

Jaxon Weidner has come after having served in the U.S. Navy for the past several years. Weidner joined the Navy in the beginning of 2002 and went into the service at the end of the year. He was discharged following injuries to both knees during his time in the Navy.

“I injured my right knee in Florida and had surgery in 2003,” said Weidner.

In the beginning of 2004, he boarded the USS Bonhamme Richard in San Diego, California.

“I was on the ship for three years and did a lot of deployments on the ship and tours,” said Weidner. “In December of 2004, I messed up right knee, in Indonesia, while responding to the Tsunami disaster,” he said.

Weidner said that they were doing relief efforts when he injured his right knee and back and had to have surgery in 2006.

“At that time, I was taken off the ship and put on shore duty,” said Weidner. “I received an honorable discharge for medical reasons in April,” he said.

The Pecos High School graduate completed his basic training in Chicago and then was transferred to Pensacola, Florida. “I got my diploma before that from a vocational school,” said Weidner.

He said that they went to different ports in the world.

“We went to Havana, from there to Guam and when the Tsunami hit, we rushed over there to do relief efforts,” he said.

Weidner said that they traveled to Malaysia, Indonesia, west of the Gulf, and then to Baghdad, Jubali and throughout the region.

“We just traveled everywhere,” said Weidner.

Weidner said that during this time they went 112 days without touching land.

“After we left the Gulf, we went to Australia and then to Thailand, from Thailand to Hong Kong and then to Hawaii,” said Weidner. “Every tour is different,” he said.

On the way back, the ship they were traveling in was called back to East Africa.

“They told us a tanker was supposedly hijacked,” said Weidner.

Weidner said that the ship would follow combat ships everywhere that they were needed, or where supplies were needed. The ship carried an assortment of supplies, from junk food, to bullets and other personal items.

“We were with combat cargo and had everything from regular supplies to supplies needed by the soldiers,” he said.

Weidner said that they saw a lot of suffering. “After the Tsunami, we saw them and they were starving and going through some really rough times, so we were glad to help out,” he said.

He also some of his own friends get hurt while on duty. “It comes and goes and it’s a roll of the dice, you just don’t know what is going to happen out there,” said Weidner. “A friend of mine got hurt really bad, when a mortar went off and the shrapnel go out through his stomach,” he said.“Some people get hit, some don’t,” he said.

Weidner said that while they were in the Arabian Gulf, they had to chase pirates.

“We received a distress call, there was a pirate group and we chased them off the Gulf,” said Weidner.

The group also had a frightening experience, when they woke up one morning to find their ship surrounded.

“They aren’t supposed to come within 400 yards of the ship,” said Weidner.

Weidner said that they sent out for Cobra and that the helicopters fired some warning shots. “They are called the scat team and they went to help us out,” said Weidner.

Weidner said that there was luckily not a confrontation and that they were left alone after the warning shots were fired.

“Everywhere you go, it’s a different culture, you see something different and the people are different,” said Weidner. “But when you leave, you leave with a lot of respect for that culture and it’s people.”

Weidner said that they had a lot of confidence, because they were all friends and knew they would defend each other.

“But inside, you’re also scared, because you don’t know what is going to happen next,” he said. “It affects you a little.”

Weidner said that they had a lot of good assault rifles, but that it was a little unnerving as well.

His wife Kathya was pregnant when he left and when he came back his son was already three months old.

“I also worried about my wife, because she was here listening to the news and I worried about my family,” said Weidner.

Weidner said that they make a lot of friends out there, because they have to look after each other.

“You become a family, because you see so much of each other, have to trust each other and help out,” he said.

Weidner said that he is glad to be back home, but happy that he had the opportunity to serve his country.

“We just love him and are very proud of him,” said his mother, B.K. Perea.

Welcoming him home along with his mother, were his wife, who is currently pregnant with their second child, his two-year-old Aaric Angelo; his two sisters, Jesseca and Janette Perea; his nephew, Jamin; his grandparents, James and Beverly Thomas.

“I’m just happy to be home and want to enjoy being around my family,” said Weidner.

City debates fix for ambulance’s staffing shortage

How to deal with declining ambulance staffing in Reeves County was a topic for discussion for the Town of Pecos City Council, during their meeting last week at City Hall. But a proposal to merger the current Pecos EMS service with the ambulance transfer service at Reeves County Hospital had a cool reception from the service’s chief, who is hoping funding from Reeves County can help solve the current problem.

The problems facing both Pecos EMS and the Balmorhea EMS were discussed during the open comments portion of the meeting. “How it will be handled, whether it’s a paid EMS that’s part of the city or look at the arguments for putting it with the hospital is what we discussed,” said Mayor Dick Alligood.

Alligood said there would be a $200,000 deficit difference with a combined ambulance service between the city, county and hospital district, but added, “All of this is in studies. Nothing is solid yet.”

Currently, Pecos EMS is a volunteer service. Members have been seeking to be classified as city workers, in order to qualify for the city’s insurance and benefits program, Pecos EMS Chief Dennis Thorp said.

The EMS handles calls inside the city limits and in all but the far southern section of Reeves County, which is covered by Balmorhea EMS. The hospital district helps finance the city’s service, and Pecos EMS also gets the bulk of grant funds given to the county for emergency service, due to their handling of a larger percentage of calls.

But Thorp said his eight-person EMS staff would lose one of their workers later this month, while the even-smaller Balmorhea EMS is also looking at the loss of one of their key members.

“Their last paramedic is retiring at the end of June, so they’ll have no paramedics and very few people,” he said.

Alligood said combining the EMS with the current hospital ambulance service would be one way to improve the service’s current financial situation. The hospital current operates two ambulances used for transferring patients. “If we put EMS under the hospital, all the funding (subsidies) could be put in one place,” he said.Thorp said EMS personnel were opposed to the move.

“In fact, the whole ambulance service is not excited about that in any way, shape or form,” he said, while listing changes in the EMS organization that he said would adversely affect the service.

“The hospital tends to bury the (EMS) cost in the nursing department, which means we would have to work within the nursing department,” he said. “It’s hard to walk away from a patient in the nursing department to handle 911 calls, so the response to those calls would probably be slower.”

“Second, I wouldn’t be running EMS. It would probably be under the nursing department and would be run by the director of nursing,” Thorp said. He added that he preferred the system continue to operate as a stand-alone service, and that its finances in that form have improved in recent years.

“Our red numbers have dropped on our books, and it looks 100 percent better than it did before,” he said, citing the work of the city’s new EMS collection service for cutting down the bad debt the ambulance service has been forced to absorb.

“It can be done. I just don’t feel like the people of Reeves County and the EMS will be well-served if it was moved to the hospital,” said Thorp. He added that less than 10 percent of the state’s ambulance services are operated through local hospitals.

Both Alligood and Thorp agreed something has to be done to maintain adequate ambulance service within Reeves County

“We don’t have anything covering the outlying areas. Balmorhea is losing people, and we don’t have anyone to replace them,” Alligood said.

“We’re going to lose one of our members this month. She had been averaging 115 hours a week and she’s leaving on the 26th of June, so from that point on, everybody in the ambulance service will be running all the time. There will be no down time,” Thorp said.

“We need down time to get a break. Just because you’re not on a run, that doesn’t mean t he stress level goes down when you’re on call,” he said.“There are serious problems with EMS services across the state,” said Thorp, who pointed to the shortage overall of ambulance personnel in Texas. “There are 54,000 EMS workers and 16,000 paramedics for 25 million people in Texas. That’s not a lot.

“We’ve got to do what it takes to make sure our service is competitive to attract these guys,” he said.

“The key issue towards getting this fixed is money, and the county is the key. They’ve gone 20 years without paying one red cent,” Thorp said.

Reeves County has not funded Pecos EMS since 1989, when voters created the Reeves County Hospital District. The EMS service does get $5,000 a year from Ward County, plus a portion of its EMS grant funds, for covering a 10-mile section of the western part of the county that is closer to Pecos than to Monahans.“We need additional support from the county,” Thorp said. “That would go a long way towards fixing the problem.”

County’s water suit hearing shifts council’s meeting date

Town of Pecos City Council has moved their regularly scheduled meeting for next week from Thursday to Monday, in order to avoid conflicts with both the West of the Pecos Rodeo and with a hearing on a lawsuit filed by Reeves County in Austin.

The council’s June 28 meeting was first moved up to June 26, then switched to Monday, June 25, in order for city officials to go to Austin for the hearing on the suit, which involves Reeves County and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

Discussion of the lawsuit is one of the items scheduled for discussion by council members at Monday’s meeting, which will begin at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall.The county sued the city over its sharp increase in water rates, which was passed by the council in December of 2005. On Feb. 9, Darlene Byrne, presiding judge for the 345th District Court, dismissed the county’s charges of breach of contract by the city over the rate increase.

The suit was brought after the TECQ ruled in favor of the city. The county also sued TECQ, and while Byrne ruled the commission did have jurisdiction to rule in favor of the city in its dispute with the county, she allowed part of the county’s suit against TECQ to continue.

“The TECQ was there for us when we had our hearing in court. Now they’re asking us to be there for them,” said Pecos Mayor Dick Alligood, one of the city officials making the trip to Austin on Tuesday.

Monday’s council meeting will include another attempt by the city to hear the presentation of the 2006 audit by Fort Worth CPA Tracy Tartar. The council heard a preliminary report on the audit in March, but there have been several delays since then in receiving the final report.

Other items on Monday’s agenda include updates on the plans for watering the traffic medians on Jackson Boulevard and Ross Boulevard, an update on the Pecos Housing Authority and an update on the Pecos Police Department’s firing range. The council will also consider an appointment to the Zoning Board of Adjustment; changes to the alignment of funding from the city bed tax; offers to purchase property; requests for bids on property and annexation of one property at 801 N. Hickory St.; and selecting a name for the access road to the Town of Pecos City’s landfill for a physical address and emergency services.

Line-item transfers, a consent agenda on regular reports and public comments also are on the council’s Monday agenda.

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