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Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Friday, July 27, 2007

More names released in federal drug probe

Federal and local law enforcement officials have released additional information on a cocaine trafficking ring that led to the arrest of suspects in the Pecos area, and charges being filed against others, following a two-year investigation.

Two weeks ago, four Pecos residents were taken into custody, following the two-year investigation by federal law enforcement agencies working with local law enforcement. The probe led to 11 indictments for possession with the intent to distribute cocaine being returned in U.S. District Court.

Following the return of the sealed indictments, DEA agents, U.S. Marshal’s Service agents and Pecos Police Department officers executed a search warrant on July 10 at the home of Aldo Venegas and his family 1521 Johnson St. Officials were searching for documents in connection with the investigation.

Venegas already had been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of possession with intent to distribute cocaine when the raid occurred, Pecos Police Investigator Paul Deishler said.Other individuals that were arrested at separate locations in Pecos on July 10 and charged with Federal drug offenses, included Mark Madrid Renteria, 29; Jason Craig Sappington, 30; Augustine Gonzales, 46 and Aldo Venegas, 24.

Included in the list of sealed indictments are seven others who are being charged with possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute, aide and abet and money laundering. Several of those already are in prison on unrelated charges.

The other seven indicted were identified as Raul Gabaldon; Omar Medina, who is already serving 15 years on state and federal charges; Norma Barrera Avila, serving in state prison; Tressa Jenkins; Saul Alvarez; Teresa Gabaldon, who was taken into custody on Wednesday, July 18, in Presidio and Miguel Rivera.

According to the indictment the 11 were involved, beginning on or about Aug. 1, 2004, and continuing until on or about Sept. 28, 2006, in an effort to unlawfully, willfully and knowingly combine, conspire, confederate and agree together and with each other and others to distribute and to possess with the intent to distribute five kilograms (11 pounds) or more, of cocaine.

Other charges include: possession with intent to distribute marijuana and money laundering and transporting currency from Midland en route to Juarez, Mexico.

Deishler said that the local police department had been assisting agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration in the two-year investigation. The four individuals arrested in Pecos are currently being detained in the Pecos Criminal Justice Center, which normally houses prisoners awaiting hearings or trial in U.S. District Court in Pecos.

TransPecos Foods celebrates 5th anniversary of operations

TransPecos Foods celebrated the 5th Anniversary of its founding this week with a big Birthday cake that all employees enjoyed along with the company’s signature appetizers. Company founder and CEO Patrick Kennedy, Jr. addressed the TransPecos team at an event on Monday afternoon at the Company’s Pecos Texas plant.

“I am very proud of what our team has accomplished over the past five years,” Kennedy said. “We set out to establish a thriving business and a great place for our local citizens to work; we set out to provide the highest quality frozen appetizer products and we set out to take care of our customers and exceed their expectations.

”We continue to work hard every day on these goals and this hard work has resulted in a nationally recognized company. We are fortunate to count some of the largest and most progressive food companies in the United States as our customers. We are grateful to them for their support and partnership and we look forward to significant growth and development as we enter the next five years.

”Last year we invested significantly in our plant, which increased our capacity and efficiency. With the rapid growth of our business, we look forward to continuing to expand our capacity and range of products,” Kennedy said.

TransPecos Foods was established in July 2002 when the Company acquired the former Anchor Foods processing facility in Pecos from McCain Foods. TransPecos produces and markets a broad range of frozen appetizer products, including breaded and battered onion rings, cheese sticks and a variety of stuffed jalapenos.

The Company also produces a line of specialty vegetable products under it’s Pecos Valley Farms label. These include sweet corn nuggets, broccoli cheese nuggets and several other fruit and vegetable products.

Hospital hires consultant to study fee structures

Reeves County Hospital District board members agreed to spend $25,000 to have an assessment done on the pricing policies for the hospital’s various services, during their meeting on Tuesday in the hospital’s classroom.

Board members agreed to hire Parrish, Moody and Fikes, the accounting firm that has conducted the hospital’s audits in recent years, to do a full review of the RCH charges for various procedures, along with a 3-day education class for hospital employees on handling future adjustments to the hospital’s pricing system.

“We did find another service that’s cheaper, but they don’t have any clients in Texas,” said RCH administrator Al LaRochelle. He said the review by Parrish, Moody and Fikes without the education course would cost $17,500.

The second company offered a program for $13,000, but chief financial officer Frank Seals said, “The other company is located in Jacksonville, Fla., and they don’t do an on-site visit. It’s all done through e-mails and fax machines.”

“I hope as part of the education process we can do a lot of it in-house ourselves,” Seals told the board. The hospital will also assume a $250 monthly maintenance fee for ongoing consulting work by the accounting firm on the pricing policies.

The hospital review won’t begin until after RCH changes over its operations to a critical access facility, board members were told prior to approving the program.

The board also approved a change to the hospital’s paid time-off policy, following the presentation of the 2006 audit report by Bill Parrish earlier this month. The new policy increases the allowable number of paid leave days for workers with 15 or fewer years of service, in an effort to lower the number of unused paid time-off days the hospital staff has accumulated.

“At the end of the year, if they have not used that amount, we will automatically pay out down to the maximum number of days,” RCH secretary Nadine Smith told the board.

An adjustment to the district’s purchasing policy will allow the hospital administrator to approve any purchases of $5,000 or less, while the board can approve purchases from $5,000 to $10,000, and any purchases over that would have to be put out for bids. The changes do not apply to legal or architectural services.

In other action, the board approved an oil and gas lease agreement with Chesapeake Energy for land owned by the hospital in Loving County, with a 25 percent royalty rate, but rejected an offer to sell land owned by the district in Ward County for possible oil or natural gas exploration.

The board also agreed to retain Lydia Preito with the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD tax office to calculate the hospital’s effective and rollback tax rates for 2007, and agreed to finance LVN education for hospital employee Emily Natividad, with a four-year repayment schedule once she completes the course. They delayed taking any action on a new transfer ambulance for the hospital when all four bids came in after the July 18 deadline, and will rebid the vehicle at a later date.

Also approved was a new plan for standards of patient health care. “Lily Serrano (RCH privacy officer) and I came up with this,” LaRochelle said. “One of the things I’ve tried to instill in the staff is to talk to people, say ‘hi’ to people.

“It’s been said and talked about, and we thought we would put it in print,” he said. “We’re trying to make sure we don’t have any unhappy customers.”

No action was taken by the board following a 1:40 executive session to discuss personnel. At the recommendation of Dr. W.J. Bang, the board approved removal of Dr. Deborah Hilton and Dr. Gene Ewing from the RCH consulting staff, since the two no longer work for the pathology group the hospital contracts with for services.

Organizers set for Cantaloupe, ‘Night’ events

Plans are coming along for the Pecos Cantaloupe Festival and Night in Old Pecos, scheduled in Downtown Pecos, though more helpers are needed for this weekend’s events in downtown Pecos.

The Cantaloupe Festival Food Show is scheduled for Friday afternoon in the lobby of the TransPecos Bank building, while Night in Old Pecos activities will begin at 6 p.m. in the downtown area, and include a variety of food booths, along with a talent show, music and more.

The food show will begin taking entries at 2 p.m. on Friday, with judging scheduled for 3:30 p.m., according to event organizer Debbie Thomas. “We will also have a cantaloupe decorating contest for the kids,” Thomas said.

Night in Old Pecos was moved from the end of June to the end of July last year, when the Cantaloupe Festival was pushed back to its original weekend dates. The festival began in the 1980s, but was moved to the end of June as part of the West of the Pecos Rodeo events due to a shortage of volunteers. The event was moved back in 2006 both to avoid event conflicts with the rodeo and because later starts for the harvest in recent years have meant no Pecos Cantaloupes were available in late June.

Volunteers are still needed to help set up lights, trashcans and do other things to prepare for the big event, according to Thomas.

Over 30 booths will be set up along Oak and Second streets for the event, which will run through midnight on Saturday.

Two stages will be set up, with “Gunslinger” performing on the Windmill Square stage, while DJ Ricky Barreno will perform on the stage at Second and Oak streets.

Booths along Oak and Second will offer a wide variety of food items, novelties, toys and gifts.

Items that will be available at the many booths include, handbags, caps, t-shirts, sunglasses, toys, jewelry, crafts, ceramics, umbrellas, sports memorabilia and lighted up toys.Food booths will offer an assortment of “goodies,” from hamburgers to exotic food products such as “tripas.”

Food items available will be waffle cones, ice cream, hamburgers, funnel cakes, corn dogs, burritos, azado, brisket, caramel apples, roasted corn, turkey legs, gorditas, jalapeno wraps, hot cheetos with cheese, nachos, tacos and more.

Games are also a part of the evening’s events. A ring toss game will be available for interested community members and FunTime X-Press will feature a slide and a train for the younger crowd.Along with volunteers to help set up on Friday and Saturday, Thomas said organizers also are seeking help with Sunday’s clean-up efforts. The city crews do cleanup the following day, but volunteers can also help out.

One event that will not be part of this year’s Cantaloupe Festival weekend is the fly-in cantaloupe breakfast at the Pecos Municipal Airport. The event, which had been held the first week of August, was moved up to the final weekend of July last year, but will again be in August this year, from 7 to 11 a.m. on Sunday, Aug. 5.

Funeral home renovations set for display

Peaceful Garden Funeral Home will be showcasing changes and renovations Tuesday, July 31 with an open house including coffee and refreshments.

“We have added a second, full-time chapel, a new casket selection room and we have a new preparation room,” owner Mark Zuniga said.

“We would like to invite Pecos to visit and let us answer any questions about arrangements and pre-arrangement plans,” he said.

The open house will be from 10 - 5 at the home located at 1116 W. 4th Street.

“These renovations will help us in our goal to create a calming and soothing atmosphere for the loved ones of the deceased,” Zuniga said.

Peaceful Garden began in 1987 as Martinez Funeral Home. Zuniga purchased the business in 2001, renamed it, and has been operating it along with his wife Sofia ever since. Both Mark and Sofia are licensed counselors and agents for the pre-arrangement plan they offer.

Along with being a Pecos High School graduate Mark is also a licensed funeral director.

“The Texas Funeral Commission requires that all funeral facilities be licensed and that they have a funeral director who is licensed as well,” Zuniga said.

Zuniga also said that he encouraged people to shop around and to explore pre-arrangement plans.

“Pre-arrangement plans allow customers peace of mind when tragedy occurs since they do not have to worry about financial concerns. A pre-arrangement plan also freezes the price at today’s prices, provides for easy payment options, and shelters funeral funds prior to nursing home expenses,” he said.

The plans are also transferable to any funeral home in the United States and Canada, he said.

Increase in local workforce raises June unemployment

Unemployment in Reeves County for June was up over 1 1/2 percent from May’s total, despite an increase in the total number of jobs within the county, according to figures released this week by the Texas Workforce Commission.

The TWC’s numbers showed the jobless rate in the county last month was 6.5 percent, after dropping to its lowest level in over 20 years in May, at 4.9 percent. The county’s total number of jobs actually increased by 39 from May to June, climbing to 3,896, but was offset by an increase of 112 people in the local workforce, which was at 4,167 workers last month.

That’s still down by almost 130 workers from June of 2006, while the number of jobs is 100 lower than a year ago, according to the new numbers. That’s despite the continued increase in local drilling activity and an increase of over 10 percent in the area’s sales tax rebates compared with the same period a year ago.

Unemployment in June of 2006 was at 7.2 percent locally, while the current 6.5 percent rate is the same for the county as in May of 2006.

Other counties in West Texas also reported increases in their jobless rates for June, as additional workers entered the labor force with the end of the school year.

Midland County’s unemployment rate increased from 2.6 to 3.2 percent last month. The county added 800 workers from May while its job total was up by 325. In the past year, Midland County has added 1,408 workers and 1,852 jobs.

Ector County’s unemployment rate increased from 3.0 to 3.8 percent. The county’s labor force was up by 478, while the number of jobs dropped by 65. Compared to last June, Ector County has seen an increase of 1,447 workers and 2,141 jobs.

Andrews County’s rate increased from 2.7 to 3.4 percent in June, as the number of workers grew by 78 while the job total was up by 19. Compared to a year ago, the TWC says the county has added about 250 workers and 285 jobs. Brewster County’s rate went from 2.8 to 3.4 percent, as the county lost 68 workers and 104 jobs. The totals are still up from June of 2005, with an increase of 165 workers and 186 jobs.

Crane County’s rate was increased one percent, to 4.6 percent, last month. The county lost 10 workers and 26 jobs from May. Compared to a year ago, Crane County is down 12 workers while the total number of jobs is unchanged. Culberson County saw its rate go from 2.5 to 3.1 percent in June. The county added 26 workers and 31 jobs from April and is up by 75 workers and 84 jobs from last year. Dawson County saw its rate increase from 5.4 to 6.4 percent. The county added 42 workers but lost eight jobs, while it’s down by 344 workers and 253 jobs since June of a year ago.

Howard County’s unemployment rate jumped from May’s 3.9 to 4.8 percent in June. The county added 256 workers and 119 jobs. Compared to last June, the county’s labor force is down by 330 and the job total has fallen by 192 from a year ago. Pecos County’s rate went from 3.9 to 4.9 percent, as the county’s workforce was up by 285 workers while the job total rose by 200. Since June of last year, the county has 163 fewer workers, and 105 jobs.

In Ward County, unemployment increased from 3.3 to 4.4 percent, with the number of jobs up by 71 while the workforce increased by 128. The county is up 66 workers and 127 jobs from a year ago. Winkler County’s unemployment rate was up from 3.1 to 3.7 percent. The county’s workforce increased by 79 workers from May while the number of jobs was up by 58. Over the past year, the county has lost nine workers but added 17 jobs.

Presidio County’s jobless rate increased from 8.2 to 9.3 percent, still well down from the 12.5 percent rate of last June. The county’s workforce increased by 30 in June, while the number of jobs was down nine. Compared to a year ago, the county has lost 222 workers and 91 jobs. Loving County’s jobless rate held at 11.4 percent in June. The nation’s least-populated county has 35 workers, 31 who are employed, the TWC said, the same as in May and down by four from last June, when the jobless rate was 10.3 percent.

Triggs announce birth of daughter

Jonathan and Malia Triggs of Hattiesburg, Miss., announce the birth of their daughter, AnaBelle Dempsey Triggs.

AnaBelle was born May 18, weighed seven pounds, six ounces and was 18 inches long at birth.

Proud grandparents are Gayle and Sandy Terry of Toyah, also, Jack Dempsey Triggs of Hattiesburg, Miss. And Anne Woodward of Van Cleave, Miss.

Natividad promoted in U.S. Army

Jaime Natividad was promoted to staff sergeant in the U.S. Army on July 1.

Sgt. Natividad is stationed in Fort Hood.

He is back from his second deployment to Iraq and preparing for which might be a third deployment.

He graduated from Pecos High School in 2000 and enlisted in 2002.

Natividad is married to Rebecca Chaves and the couple have three children.

Natividad and two of his siblings are serving in the U.S. Army.

They are the sons of Ruben and Margarita Natividad.

WWW Pecos Enterprise

Pecos Enterprise
York M. "Smokey" Briggs, Publisher
324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 432-445-5475, FAX 432-445-4321

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