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Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Friday, November 9, 2007

Two caught in east side burglary attempt

Two individuals, including a juvenile, were arrested last week in connection with the burglary of a building belonging to a former relative and located on the east side of Pecos. The Reeves County Sheriff’s Department received a call at 1:27 a.m., on Oct. 31 of a possible break-in, in progress at Mercy’s Drive-Thru, 305 S. Sycamore St. Deputies Damon Compton and Javier Contreras responded to the call and found evidence of an attempted burglary at the store.

Orlando V. Munoz, 25, and a 16-year-old male juvenile, were located hiding in a vacant building just behind Mercy’s, with tools used in the attempted burglary, according to the sheriff’s report.

Both subjects were arrested and Munoz was transported to the Reeves County Jail and related to jail staff for booking, and the juvenile was transported to the Reeves County Juvenile Detention Center, released to the juvenile officer and later transported to the Midland County Juvenile Detention Center for further detention.

“This investigation is continuing,” said Reeves County Sheriff Andy Gomez.

Total damage to the building was estimated at $400.

Officials seek local input on Pecos River clean-up

Two Texas A&M officials met with area residents on Tuesday afternoon to discuss their proposed Pecos River Watershed Protection Plan, in the second of a series of hearings this month in communities in the Pecos River Basin about the draft proposal.

Lucas Gregory, manager for the Pecos River Basin Assessment Project, and Will Hatler, project coordinator, met with local residents and discussed the draft plan for cutting salt levels and improving river flow during the meeting, held at the Winker County Credit Union building on South Cedar Street.

Hatler said the hearings were on the draft proposal that was presented to Red Bluff Water Power Control District board members during their meeting last month in Pecos.

“From the comments we get, we’ll make changes to the draft, and then we’ll release the second draft and schedule meetings on that,” Gregory said. The second draft of the plan should be completed around January, following the latest round of hearings.

The Tuesday hearing in Pecos was the second in the current series. The first was held Monday in Fort Stockton and attracted about the same number of people. “They had about four out who hadn’t been to a (previous) meeting, and here I saw three out who I hadn’t seen at previous meetings,” he said.

Gregory said they have received comments on the plan both from returned forms and on the agency’s website. “There haven’t been any specific concerns. The general concerns have been ‘why was this not mentioned more in the plan’,” he said. “We had one about the salt cedar beetle and one that said the springs were flowing more in the area than we said they were. Different people have different concerns.

“There has been good feedback, too. People are saying someone’s finally doing something to improve the quality of the river,” Gregory said.

Earlier in Tuesday’s meeting, Pecos River Compact Commissioner J.W. Thrasher said, “We need the support of everyone,” to get the proposed watershed project funded by the federal government.

“This money is available through the Clean Water Act, and we need to get our share of it,” he said. “We have been screaming very loudly that Pecos is a forgotten river. Nobody’s ever done anything on a national level, but now we have a chance.”

He said communications between Texas and New Mexico on coordinating the clean-up efforts, mainly involving the removal of salt from the river north of Red Bluff Lake, have been going better in recent years than in the past, when salt removal took a back seat to the battle over water releases from New Mexico to Texas.

“We are getting things done between the two states, but we are going to need to get help from everyone,” Thrasher said.

School changes rules, pay levels for substitutes

Finding substitutes to fill in for teachers will be easier after new guidelines were put into place, Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD Board members learned Tuesday evening.

The group met for their regular meeting at 6 p.m., Tuesday, to discuss several issues including the problem with the shortage of substitute teachers and updates on construction plans for the different campuses.

P-B-T ISD Personnel Director Rey Villareal had expressed concern that the district was having trouble finding substitutes to fill in when teachers were absent from their classrooms. He provided the board a handout listing the 2007-2008 substitute pay in surrounding school districts, and board members then approved changes to the policy concerning substitutes. They include increasing the pay, in an effort to attract more personnel to fill in when needed.

The previous requirements to be a substitute teacher in the district stated that the individual had to have at least six college hours. During the meeting, the board agreed that substitutes no longer have to have any college hours in order to fill in for teachers.

“They changed the requirements and now substitutes no longer have to have the six college hours,” said Villareal.

He said that the other requirements would remain the same, including that all individuals applying to be substitute would undergo a criminal background check.

The construction update was presented by Monte Hunter, with Hunter Corral Associates. He went thorough the status of the various projects which were approved by voters as part of a $30 million bond issue in May.

“I know it seems like a slow process, but there are certain steps that we have to follow,” said Hunter.

The two campuses that will receive a “face-lift” first will be the Bessie Haynes Elementary School and Crockett Middle School.

Hunter said that the design development is in progress at Bessie Haynes. That includes developing detailed floor plans, equipment layouts, building sections, exterior elevations, structural framing, electrical/data outlet plans.

The same steps are being taken at Crockett Middle School and a property survey has been arranged for that campus, according to Hunter.

“The CATE and concession buildings are 80 percent done with the blueprints,” said Hunter. “We’ve already gone over doors, cabinets and what kind of glass will be installed in the windows.”

Hunter said that they have to have one more meeting before they can cut it loose.

“The Austin roofing project has been set to begin in early 2008,” said Hunter.

Hunter said that so far everything is on schedule.

“Things are going well,” he said.

PBT-ISD Board President Lila Cerna said that everyone is anxious to see something go up. “When do we start digging”?” she said.

“It will take two to three weeks for proposals and then after that two to three weeks to break ground,” said Hunter.

“Do we need to schedule a special meeting?” said Superintendent Manny Espino.

“We do have to have a meeting to do that, to release the blueprints for proposals,” said Hunter. “We can do that and then start two to three weeks later.”

In the next month Hunter said that they would finalize the blue prints on the CATE and concession buildings; release blue prints for proposals; design development on Crockett and Bessie Haynes and do a property survey and soil sampling of both Crockett and Bessie Haynes.

In other action, the district received good news from the Texas Education Agency. This is the fifth year of Schools FIRST (Financial Accountability Rating Systems of Texas), a financial accountability system for Texas school districts developed by the Texas Education Agency in response to Senate Bill 875 of the 76th Texas Legislature in 1999.

“This is the fifth year that we have received a superior rating,” said financial director Cookie Canon.

The primary goal of Schools FIRST is to achieve quality performance in the management of school districts’ financial resources, a goal made more significant due to the complexity of accounting associated with Texas’ school finance system.

The Superior Achievement rating is the state’s highest, demonstrating the quality of PBT-ISD’s financial management and reporting system. The rating is placed on the information audited for the 2005-2006 school year.

“This is a truly a team effort. It takes every staff member, board member and community member in the district working together to reach P-B-T’s financial goals,” said Canon. “Frugal and careful budgeting methods have been only one strategy for attaining ‘Superior Achievement,’” she said.

Canon said that with our ever-changing community, the administration is fortunate to be able to work with the board of trustees and make necessary alterations to budgets, plans and actions to accommodate the needs of our student populations.

“I want to commend everyone for this effort, we’re very proud,” said Espino. “Cookie does an excellent job of keeping us on the plus side,” he said.

“We commend her for putting in a lot of hours and doing such a great job for us,” said Espino.

Constitutional amendments OKed by county, state voters

Voters in Reeves County went along with voters across Texas on Tuesday, approving all 16 constitutional amendments on the day’s election ballot.

The amendments were the only items on the ballot for county voters.

Proposition 1 on funding Angelo State University projects passed by a 108-35 margin in Reeves County. Proposition 2 to issue $500 million in general obligation bonds to finance student loans was approved locally 114-35. Proposition 3 limiting the maximum appraised value of a residence homestead for ad valorem taxation was approved 121-33. Proposition 4 to authorize issuance of up to $1 billion in bonds for state parks, historic sites, crime labs and other state projects , plus money for potential new prison construction was approved 120-33. Proposition 5, which allows smaller cities to agree to tax abetments for five years under the Texas Main Street Pr0gram passed by a 122-35 margin.

Proposition 6 allows ad valorem taxation exemptions for one motor vehicle per person for profession and personal activities was approved 118-23. Proposition 7 forces governmental entities to sell property acquired through eminent domain back to the previous owners at the same price, passed by a 118-27 margin. Proposition 8 to clarify certain provisions relating to the making of a home equity loan and use of home equity loan proceeds. It passed, 91-36. Proposition 9 on partial or full exemptions for the residence homesteads of certain totally disabled veterans from ad valorem taxation was approved 137-11. Proposition 10, on abolishing the office of inspector of hides and animals passed 101-31.

Proposition 11 to require that a recorded vote be taken by a house of the Legislature on final passage of any bill passed 157-18. Proposition 12 for $5 billion in highway funds passed 104-27. Proposition 13 to deny bail to someone who violates certain court orders or conditions of release in a felony or family violence case passed 117-29. Proposition 14, allowing a judge at retirement age to serve out their term was approved, 124-25. Proposition 15 creating the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas and $3 billion in funding passed, 120-34. And Proposition 16 for $250 million in bonds by Texas Water Development Board for poor areas passed, 81-31.

Sales tax take for city jumps by 70 percent

Town of Pecos City sales tax receipts for November showed another big increase, jumping by more than 70 percent from a year ago, while the overall sales tax numbers for the first 11 months of 2007 are up by more than 50 percent from the city’s 2006 sales tax collections.

Texas Comptroller Susan Combs sent out checks this week for November, based on sales made during September, and they showed Pecos received $165,767 as its 1 1/2-cent share of the state’s 8 1/4-cent sales tax. That’s up 70.15 percent from November of 2006, when the city got a check for $97,419 from the comptroller.

One sixth of the city’s monthly total goes to the Pecos Economic Development Corp. for its operations. The city’s new 4B EDC began receiving the 1/4-cent of the city sales tax in October, and November’s check brought it $27,628.

Overall this year, Pecos’ sales tax has increased by 52.55 percent, following a 13.78 percent increase in tax rebates in 2006 and a 10.4 percent rise in 2005. The city has received $1,398,849 in tax rebates this year, up from $916,936 last year. Compared with 2003, just prior to the start of the current oil and natural gas drilling boom, sales tax collections have doubled. The city received $754,832 back from Austin four years ago, and should end up with just over $1.5 million in sales tax rebates this year.

The overall increases for the year are even higher for Balmorhea and Toyah, though Balmorhea saw only a slight rise in their rebate check this month.

Balmorhea got $4,360 back from Combs’ office, a 6.18 percent increase from last November’s $4,107. For the year, Balmorhea has gotten $31,360 in tax rebates, up 54.39 percent from last year’s $20,312. Toyah received $2,002 this month, a 277.97 percent jump from last year’s $530 check. For the year, Toyah has gotten $10,627 back from Austin, up 128.45 percent from the $4,652 they received in 2006.

The Reeves County Hospital District also saw a big jump in its check this month, compared with a year ago. The hospital’s 1/2-cent sales tax brought in $80,482 in November, up 92.37 percent from the $41,837 check of a year ago. Overall, the hospital has received $731,308 in 2007, a 67.96 percent increase from the 11-month total of $535,383 it got back from the comptroller last year.

The trend was mixed in the Permian Basin cities in November. Most of the bigger cities did see an increase in their tax rebate totals, though a few towns in the Basin and in the Trans-Pecos region did report drops from their 2006 numbers.

Midland had the area’s largest single check for November, at $3.32 million, based on its1 1/2-cent sales tax, which was 10.58 percent higher than a year ago. Overall, Midland has seen a 13.95 percent rise in its rebate checks in 2007. Odessa’s 1 1/4-cent sales tax brought the city $2.1 million in rebates this month, a 5.02 percent rise from a year ago. Overall, Odessa’s tax rebate checks are up by 12.37 percent in 2007.

For other cities collecting the 1 1/2-cent sales tax, Alpine received a $95,617 check, which was down 12.99 percent. Crane received a check for $47,896, a 15.10 percent decline from last year; Lamesa got a $120,656 check back this month, which was up 7.09 percent; while Seminole received a check for $100,691, which was up 11.11 percent.

Among cities collecting a one-cent sales tax Kermit received $50,786 this month, up 1.68 percent; Wickett received a $17,034 check, up 119.99 percent, Wink received a check for $6,376, down 8.42 percent, while Pyote, received a $1,348 check this month, a 13.69 percent drop from last year.

For area cities collecting a 1 3/4-cent sales tax, Andrews received a check for $304,130, a 13.75 percent decrease. Marfa got a check for $24,373, which was up 6.64 percent; while Van Horn got a check for $31,450, which was down 11.23 percent from last year.

For cities collecting the maximum two-cent sales tax, Big Spring received $524,840, an increase of 2.10 percent; Fort Stockton received $246,854, up 54.38 percent; Monahans received a check for $140,186, which was up 14.94 percent from last Novmber; Grandfalls got a $2,498 check, down 3.92 percent; and Presidio received $35,664, up 1.98 percent. Statewide, Combs’ office sent out rebate checks totaling $359.4 million, up 3.01 percent from the $277.6 million sent out last year. Houston’s check of $43.5 million was up 4.69 percent from last September. Dallas’ check was next, at $21.3 million, which was down 1.57 percent from their rebate check a year ago.

PEDC seeks to shift land to new group

The 4A Pecos Economic Development Corp. board of directors voted on Monday to see if they group can legally turn over 3.07 acres of land to the new 4B PEDC, as part of a proposal to build a new motel on a site on U.S. 285 at the Interstate 20 intersection.

PEDC 4A board members met at 1 p.m. on Monday at City Hall to discuss the project with the Pecos Lodging Group, Inc., to build a new motel between I-20 and the Quality Inn. Board members held an executive session before deciding to see if the land could be turned over to the 4B corporation, pending legal approval.

Voters in May approved converting the PEDC from a 4A to a 4B corporation, which allows funds to be spent on a wider range of projects. The 4B corporation began operations on Oct. 1, but local officials were told not to shut down the 4A corporation until all of its debut obligations are paid off. Officials also were cautioned on transferring any debts from the 4A to the 4B corporation.

Former PEDC executive director Mike Burkholder and Reeves County reached an agreement in September to turn over the county-owned land next to I-20 for possible as a motel site by investors who built a new Best Western motel in Monahans last year. Burkholder said the PEDC paid the county $3,070 for the land, was based on its appraised value.

Guerrero, Mendoza announce wedding

Juan and Geneva Guerrero announce the marriage of their daughter, Bianca Ann Guerrero to Mark Mendoza Jr., son of Mark A. and Hilda Mendoza of Pecos.

The bride is the granddaughter of Seledonia Meraz of Pecos.

She is a 2006 graduate of Pecos High School, and graduated with honors from the Southeast Career Institute of the Registered Dental Assistant.

The groom is the grandson of Ismael V. and Socorro Lara and Guadalupe A. Mendoza and the late Magdaleno Mendoza. He is a 2006 graduate of Pecos High School, was a local fireman and is currently employed by Universal Valves in Midland.

The wedding was held on Oct. 19, with the honorable Judge Jim Riley officiating. A reception and dance followed the ceremony, attended by many relatives and friends.

Coles’ announce birth of daughter

Sarai and John Cole announce the birth of their daughter Catherine Elizabeth Cole.

Little Catherine was born Friday, Sept. 14, at 4:20 p.m., and weighed seven pounds, six ounces and was 20 inches long at birth.

Proud grandparents are Bill and Paula Cole of Pecos and Santiago M. and Consuelo G. Garcia.

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

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