Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas
Friday, November 16, 2007
Abandoned home serves as SWAT training site
Pecos Police Department SWAT team members were busy at an abandoned home on the north side of town on Tuesday, practicing warrant entry and search procedures as part of their monthly training session.
The SWAT team was training at 207 N. Oak St., a building scheduled to be demolished by the city, practicing entry using both a battering ram and door-opening explosives. Pecos Police Capt. Kelly Davis went over safety procedures for covering windows and searching rooms with officers, who were equipped with high-powered paintball guns to simulate live fire.
“It took four hours. We train about four hours every month on different aspects and techniques,” Davis said. “Some of it is not this type of training. We may be at the firing range or working on tracking.”
Davis said the Pecos SWAT team includes 10 officers and three negotiators. Two of the officers during the training served as designated suspects, also armed with paintball guns, who were inside the house.
“We move the team leaders around, move who goes in first around and move the bad guys around, so everyone gets to do different duties,” he said.
“We also used flash-bangs as a diversion,” Davis said. “You throw them in during entry.”
Training includes confronting suspects during entry, sometimes at night, and sometimes requiring split second decisions on whether or not to use their weapons, depending on the actions of the suspects or others in the home being searched. Davis said Tuesday’s training couldn’t exactly duplicate normal conditions.
“Most of the time we carry flashlights with entry, but you can’t carry that with a paintball gun,” he said.
Businessmen plan to build new motel-restaurant-sports bar
Two local businessmen have announced plans for construction of a new motel in Pecos, along with a food court and sports bar at a location as yet to be announced.
In a press release on Wednesday, Leo Hung, owner of Professional Pharmacy, American Home Health and several other local businesses and properties, and Bobby Bhakta, owner of the Knight’s Inn/Laura Lodge on East Third Street, announced the creation of Hospitality Fusion, which will build the new motel, one of as many as five new motels planned in Pecos.
Hospitality Fusion, LLC plans to build a mid-scale hotel, a four-stall food court and a sports bar. “While the partnership will focus on establishing the 60 unit hotel initially, the other developments will soon follow,” the two said in their press release.
“The Food Court will be designed to hold four restaurants and will share a common eating area as well as a private party area. The Sports Bar and Grille will be located next to the Food Court and will be developed by Mr. Steve Valenzuela of 3V Rentals and Developments,” they said.
Hung has lived in Pecos since 1980 and currently owns two corporations, HKA Corp. and Health Select. Several businesses are contained within these two corporations, which employ approximately 150 people.
“Two of the businesses have been recognized by the Health care associations for outstanding quality service at least two years in a row. That accomplishment is extremely difficult to achieve in healthcare industry,” the release said.
Bhakta was born and raised in Pecos, and his family has been lived here for 30 years. They have been recognized annually for their quality service by receiving a Triple A rating from American Automobile Association.
Valenzuela is a local pharmacist who is employed by Professional Pharmacy and has lived in Pecos since 1992. He also owns and operates a local rental company called 3-V Rental and Development.
Two other motels, a new Best Western next to the Swiss Clock Inn, and a Hampton Inn on Interstate 20 near the Texas Highway 17 exit, have already been announced, an the owners of a new motel in Monahans are discussing construction of a motel on I-20 at the U.S. 285 exit. Local motel occupancy rates of between 90 and 100 percent for the past two years due to area oil and gas drilling have helped spur construction plans for the new facilities.
Teens charged with band equipment theft
Three Pecos High School freshmen have been arrested by police in connection with the theft of equipment and other items from a Texas A&M International University band bus, parked outside of Pecos High School early last Saturday morning.
The male juveniles were arrested following a tip to Pecos High School CrimeStoppers that they had been involved in the burglary of the band bus. Members of the Texas A&M International band had made a 500-mile trip to perform at halftime of Friday’s Pecos-Tornillo football game, only to discover Saturday morning that some of their equipment had been stolen.
The band students slept in the Pecos High School Band Hall and were unaware that one of their charter buses was parked just south of the band hall. At around 3:30 a.m., some of the students saw what looked like a brown or sable colored Ford Contour with three occupants inside.
The vehicle pulled up to the curb and a male subject about 5-feet-8, wearing a red shirt and a jeans got out of the car and made three trips in to the parking lot and came back carrying something and placing the objects in the car.
That morning the band director discovered one of the baggage compartments of the bus open. Items taken included about 21 flags with PVC and aluminum poles, the bus drivers’ ice chest with the name, Frank Lucio written on it, and a gray snare drum case with the Yamaha logo on it.
CrimeStoppers offered up to a $1,000 cash reward for information leading to the arrest of suspects connected to the burglary. Police said they and PHS school officer Jerry Matta were able to catch the three suspects and recover almost all of the items reported stolen from the bus.
The teens were transferred to the Reeves County Juvenile Detention Center following their arrests, and were charged with burglary of a vehicle.
County studies land purchase, property sales
A survey and topography were approved for property that the county is looking to purchase located south of Interstate 20, during the regular Reeves County Commissioners Court meeting held Tuesday.
The group had previously discussed purchasing the property, located on the south side of I-20 and east of Country Club Drive, which is currently owned by the Pecos Housing Authority.
“We had previously talked about this the last time we met and they approved our offer and are awaiting HUD’s approval,” said Reeves County Judge Sam Contreras.
Reeves County Commissioner Precinct 1 Roy Alvarado said that they had met with land surveyor Tony Trujillo.
“We will need two reports, one for boundary and one for improvements,” said Alvarado, who added that the county would have to pay for both the survey and the topography.
“The land is located on the other side of the freeway by the Town and Country Store,” said Alvarado. “It’s located partially on the north part of the golf course.”
Reeves County built two new holes at the golf course along I-20 three years ago on land that formerly served as part of the PHA’s Airbase Apartments. The apartments were torn down in 1984, but the land remained under PHA ownership and Department of Housing and Urban Development supervision.
Alvarado said that the next step is getting a survey and determining the boundaries. “Everything is still in negotiations and we still need the formal approval from HUD,” he said.
Alvarado said that the PHA has contacted HUD and that it would take about two to three weeks to find out their decision.
Commissioners also discussed a property bid on land located on the east side of Cedar Street, across from the Auto Zone, which was opened before the meeting.
“We only received one bid for this property,” said Owens. It came from B.J. Patel, of Brownfield, in the amount of $7,000.
“He has 30 days to show some kind of effort and start working on it or the deed will transfer back to the county,” said Owens. “The only other restriction will be to receive fair market value for the acre.”
Alvarado said that the owner had stated he planned to build a motel on the property.
“They have already started doing some soil testing at the site,” said Contreras.
Commissioners approved a contract with the Permian Basin Planning Commission and agreed to the $1,280 matching funding.
“We have always had a contract with them, they had never asked for matching funding before though,” said Owens.
The group approved funding for the Upper Pecos Soil and Water District #213 in the amount of $2,500.
“I’m pretty sure we have always had a contract with them as well,” said Owens.
The water district assists farmers. They also do land leveling and helped out during the rodeo and have also assisted the golf course.
This year the group also established a scholarship for a deserving Pecos High School Senior in the amount of $500.
A grant from Lone Star Libraries was approved during the regular meeting.
“We entered in to this agreement about three or four years ago and there are certain restrictions on how the money is used,” said Owens.
The grant is in the amount of $4,552.
Ratifications with contracts with American Corrections Association for all three prisons were approved.
“We need Statement of Work reports and we do receive those from the American Corrections Association,” said Owens. “The prison wanted to know if the county pays for those or GEO does,” he said.
Owens said that since the county is the one who requires them, they have to pay for all three at $9,400 for each of the facilities.
Red Bluff wary of Pecos River resolution
Red Bluff Water Power Control Board members reacted coolly to a request by Pecos River Compact Commissioner J.W. Thrasher to support a new study of the river, and disputed the need for a new study with one of their main critics among landowners within Red Bluff’s seven sub-districts.
Thrasher and landowner Michael McCulloch were in attendance at the board’s monthly meeting, held on Tuesday in Pecos, where Thrasher presented the resolution to members in seeking their approval only to see it tabled by the board.
“I want to get you to approve it to move on,” he told the board, explaining that funding for any projects to improve the water quality in the river would be more likely if the plan had Red Bluff’s support. “The sooner we get it approved, the better chance we have of getting funding.”
The study in question is the Pecos River Water Protection Plan. Hearings on the preliminary report by Texas A&M researchers are currently being held in cities within the Pecos River watershed. However, board members questioned the need for another study and the possible costs the district would face in funding it.
“My district does not approve. They do not feel we need another study,” said Ava Gerke, who represents Ward County Water Irrigation District No. 3 on the board.
“This is not another study. This is a continuation,” Thrasher said. He told the board the initial study only covered the area from Red Bluff Lake down to the section east of Pecos.
“We’ve got to go to the legislatures in both Texas and New Mexico and to Congress to get the money to implement it to get it done,” he said, adding that they don’t have enough information as of now to make that funding request.
Further studies are needed from Roswell, N.M. down to the lake, and from the area south of Pyote to the Rio Grande, Thrasher said. He told the board Red Bluff wouldn’t have to worry about the study south of Girvin, where Red Bluff’s authority ends.
“I have yet to hear Mexico or Falcon (Reservoir) come in to play on any of this,” said managing director Randal Hartman. “They need to do something.”
Gerke later added she wanted to hear from people at the southern end of the Pecos River Watershed and along the Rio Grande south of Amistad on their opinion of the project before approving any resolution.
The resolution stated:
WHEREAS, salinity content in the Pecos River has historically been a concern for all people who have depended on the waters of the River; and,
WHEREAS, many efforts have been made to study salinity in parts of the Pecos River, including portions that directly impact the waters flowing into Red Bluff Reservoir; and,
WHEREAS, it has come to the attention of the Board that parties with an interest in the Pecos River has proposed a comprehensive study of the Pecos from Amistad Reservoir upstream into New Mexico combining information obtained from previous studies and new information; and,
WHEREAS, the purpose of these proposed studies would be to identify projects that could be implemented to improve the quality of water in the Pecos River.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the Board of Directors of Red Bluff Water Power Control District, that the District supports efforts to improve water quality in the Pecos River and efforts to identify projects which could improve water quality in the River.
Hartman said Red Bluff is already helping fund two projects, involving salt cedar removal and burning of the trees along the river.
“Our name has been used a lot of times where we don’t particularly want it,” Hartman said. “I think we need to look at this for a while and see where it is going.”
“The water belongs to the State of Texas. I hope you remember that,” Thrasher said. “I’m in the job of seeing you get water from the state of New Mexico … They want to know what you do with the water, where it goes and who gets it, and I have to say I don’t know,” Thrasher said. He told the board the study was needed to help convince New Mexico to fully participate in Pecos River salt alleviation projects.
In response to board member Charlotte Wilcox, Thrasher said funds donated by the Red Bluff sub-districts would be spent in those districts. But the board also debated the overall cost, with Hartman saying he had been told it would take $300,000 to get the project started.
“I think we can get it done with a lot less than that,” Thrasher said.
McCulloch said that the preliminary study already noted that salt levels in the river rise southeast of Coyanosa, but that at this time the A&M researchers don’t know where the salt is coming from in that area.
“The salt is pretty high once you approach Girvin,” he said. “It would be nice to see that study completed.”
“Then pay for it,” Hartman said.
“You’re way off base, Randal,” said McCulloch, whose land is located between Imperial and Girvin.
“It doesn’t seen like you have a clear-cut idea of what you want to do,” Gerke said. “I don’t know how much you want, and how much it’s going to cost.”
“Can you rewrite it to see what you can support?” McCulloch asked.
“How would we know what we’re obligated to?” said Gerke. “To me, it’s inexcusable for us to support something that’s not concisely portrayed.”
“If you read the resolution, it doesn’t ask for a penny,” Thrasher said.
McCulloch and Allen Zeman of Reeves County Water Improvement District No. 1 have been at odds with Red Bluff board members over several issues, including the Pecos River Water Protection Plan.
In a Nov. 7 letter to the Enterprise, McCulloch criticized earlier statements made by Gerke and Hartman at Red Bluff meetings, and said their efforts had been blocked by the Red Bluff board.
“Mr. Zeman and I have no personal agenda. Our only agenda is to give back to the community that has given to us so that future generations can enjoy and appreciate the Trans-Pecos like we have,” he wrote in his letter, while voicing his support for Thrasher’s efforts.
“What Mr. Thrasher is asking the Red Bluff board to do is within the scope of the U.S. Supreme Court decree and state statutes that resulted from the $14 million settlement with New Mexico,” he wrote. “It is my belief that if Red Bluff Water Power Control District does not engage in more projects on the river to improve its quality and quantity of water, the State Legislature could confiscate the money, especially since the passage of Senate Bill 3 by the 80th Legislature.”
Chamber sets lighting plans for Christmas
Candy Canes is the theme for this year’s Christmas Parade scheduled for Friday, Dec. 7 and a Christmas Lighting Contest will again be sponsored by the Women’s Division of the Chamber of Commerce.
Both items were discussed during the regular meeting of the Pecos Area Chamber of Commerce lunch held Tuesday.
“This year’s theme for the parade is Candy Canes and lineup will start at 5:30 p.m.,” said organizer for the event Elsa Palomino.
Palomino said that she was encouraging more individuals to participate and that everyone would meet at the Pecos High School baseball field at 5:30 p.m., that Friday.
“The parade will start at 6 p.m.,” said Palomino.
Chamber manager Linda Gholson said that the Women’s Division would be sponsoring this year’s Christmas Lighting Contest, set for the weeks prior to the holiday.
“We encourage everyone to decorate their homes and businesses,” said Gholson.
The Women’s Division is also sponsoring a dinner for the local volunteer firefighters on Friday evening at the Reeves County Civic Center.
Plans are coming along great for the 2008 West of the Pecos Rodeo, according to committee members, and the group will be sending six individuals from the rodeo committee to the annual PRCA convention next month in Las Vegas.
“This is a great time to get new ideas from other rodeo people and to see how things work out with them,” said chamber director Brenda McKinney.
The committee has hired a new announcer, who has been the announcer for the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.
“He’s been in Pecos before, a long, long time ago and we’ve tried to have him here before, but were never able to,” said McKinney. “The Charro that we brought to Pecos this year (Tomas Garcilazo), won’t be able to make it next year, because he has a contract with Reno.”
McKinney said that they are now looking to contract another Charro, Jerry Diaz, who brings with him a number of horses and also includes his wife in some of his acts.
“His wife helps out, as well and he also puts on a really good show,” said McKinney.
The photographer for the Pecos Texas Trails was in town on Wednesday, taking several photographs in the area, chamber members were told.
“He’ll be taking many pictures before they decide which ones will go in the brochure,” said Debbie Thomas.
The Pecos Travel Guide, which is line with the Pecos Texas Trails, will feature several ads for Pecos.
“The museum will buy a page ad and the chamber has the back page, and then there’s a page and a half of community,” said Bill Oglesby. “That’s three ads that we will have.”
He said that this was a great opportunity for Pecos and that the travel guides would be available at all entry points.
“They will print 100,000 of these and next year when they work out the kinks, they will print 200,000,” said Oglesby.
He said that they needed approval from the chamber to pay for the community sponsorship. The chamber agreed to pay for the community page and Oglesby said that there are other ads that businesses can buy.
He also said that the advertising committee has been working on this and that all the billboards are okay at this time.
Gholson told the group that she had met with Mayor Dick Alligood and City Manager Joseph Torres. “They wanted to talk about having an appreciation day or days for all the oil and gas businesses,” she said.
Chamber members discussed the possibility and agreed that it would have to be something planned out appropriately.
“Whether we do it or not, it needs to be planned out and thought about and not rushed into,” said Oglesby.
Gholson introduced the new Town of Pecos City Main Street Director Martin Arreguy, who is replacing the retiring Tom Rivera.
Arreguy told the group that he was excited about his new position and many new ideas and plans.
An advisory workshop will be held and Arreguy said that everyone was invited to attend.
“We want to start looking at ways to get funding and I am trying to learn everything about main street,” he said. “This is a great town and if all work together we can restore it back.”
Local physician receives lifetime achievement award
United Way of Odessa recently recognized Dr. Suresh and Arathi Gadasalli with a Lifetime Achievement Award at United Way’s annual Pillars party held in October.
The award is given to those who reach a significant contributing milestone within United Way’s giving level.
Past recipients of the Lifetime Achievement Award include John and Carol Bushman and Clay and Louise Wood.
Dr. Gadasalli started his private practice in 1994 and is now the director and cardiologist of the Healthy Heart Center in Odessa.
The United Way has four priority impact areas for funding: helping kids succeed, assisting people in crisis, meeting basic needs and building strong families.
Campaign donations fund 29 programs in 17 agencies.
For more information, contact Brandi Alexander, community relations director at 332-0941.
York M. "Smokey" Briggs, Publisher
324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 432-445-5475, FAX 432-445-4321
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