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Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Friday, November 30, 2007

Fireworks brighten Christmas lighting show

Fireworks could be seen from miles around and the lighted Christmas tree and surrounding decorations garnered a lot of attention from travelers Tuesday evening, during the Annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, held in Maxey Park.

“We’re very excited, there was a big crowd,” said organizer for the event Leo Hung. “We’re very grateful to the supporters and sponsors who help make this yearly event a huge success.”

Hung said that some other businesses came forward after the ceremony and volunteered to join in support for next year’s event.

“We hope to do it bigger and better, thanks to our new supporters and welcome all volunteers,” he said.

Temperatures warmed up from last weekend’s snow and ice in time for Tuesday’s event, and Hung said that there had a been a great turnout for this year’s show.

“It’s thanks to everyone that helps out in any way,” he said.

“Vendors were very excited,” added Nancy Martinez. The vendors were set up in an area across the street from the actual ceremony along Interstate 20 on the north side of the park. “None of these vendors had ever participated in the Christmas Lighting or even see the fireworks show, but they were very pleased, very busy and had very successful sales,” said Martinez. “All the vendors ran out of food and most are planning to do it again next year.”

There was also a bigger crowd on hand this year and people even stopped on the Interstate to watch the fireworks.

“There were people parked next to the overpass,” said Martinez.

“This year, in regard to everyone’s safety, TxDOT closed Exit 40 and people were encouraged to exit at 39 (Highway 17) to see the show if they wanted to,” said Martinez.

Some travelers parked along the Interstate to watch it and some got off the highway to stop and see it, according to Martinez.

“This year we asked for a different show from Western Enterprises, of Oklahoma, (the organizers for the fireworks), and they assured us that it would be different,” said Martinez. Martinez said that the group requested something that could be seen even further and that the company used larger shells, so that when the fireworks went off they could be seen even further away.

“The larger shells allowed the show to be seen by more people, further away, it could be seen from 10 miles away,” said Martinez. “The larger shells went up 600 feet in the air.” She said that they have other events planned for next year.

“We have some very good sponsors, others have stated that they want to help and of course, we welcome everyone,” she said.

This year the decorated area was expanded to the south in the park, to include the putt-putt area.

“We bought bigger and nicer items this year, that are located in the putt-putt area and we lit up that area as well,” said Martinez.

Martinez said that they hope every year they can add more items and include more areas in the park. “We hope to eventually light up the entire park,” she said.

Martinez said that it takes a lot of work and expense, but that seeing all the children and adults’ faces during the event is well worth it.

“Just seeing their faces and hearing the ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs,’ is really worth it and we plan to work harder next year,” said Martinez. “It really is worth all the work,” she said.

March primary candidate filings to start Monday

Filing gets underway Monday for the 2008 primary elections, with a one-month period for candidates to enter their names to run in the March 8, 2008 primary.

All local candidates were elected following wins in the Democratic primary races in either 2004 or 2006, and most candidates are again expected to file on the Democratic side for the 2008 election. However, candidates can also file to run for local seats in the Republican primary, and there will be primary elections at the regional and state level for president, the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate on both the Democratic and Republican sides.

In Reeves County, candidates up for election include Reeves County Sheriff Andy Gomez, Precinct 1 Commissioner Roy Alvarado and Precinct 3 Commissioner Saul Herrera.

Alvardo and Herrera were first elected to the commissioners court in 2004, while Gomez have served four terms as Reeves County sheriff, having first been elected in 1992.

Seats also up for election include those for 143rd District Attorney, where Randall Reynolds is currently completing his second term, and 143rd District Court Judge, where Bob Parks has served for Reeves, Ward and Loving counties since 1986.

The other local elections are for Reeves County tax assessor-collector and all four county constable positions. The deadline to file for the March 8 primary is Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2008. Reeves County Democratic Party Chairman Bobby Dean said the filing fee would be $375 for the constable positions and $750 for all other county elections. He said candidates can also file by petition, based on the total number of voters locally in the 2006 gubernatorial election.

Dean said his office would be in the law office building in the 100 block of West Fifth Street, and he would be available by phone at (432) 940-4944.

Residents in Barstow seeking to run in the March primary have to file with Democratic or Republican Party officials in Monahans.

Anyone seeking to run in regional or statewide office has to file with the state Democratic or Republican parties in Austin. Area races include the 11th and 23rd Congressional District elections in Ward and Reeves Counties, and 74th Texas House District race, which covers most of the Trans-Pecos area.

County fight over insurance in Gomez suit goes to court

Reeves County and Sheriff Andy Gomez will be back in court on Friday, for a hearing on the dispute between the county and its insurance carrier in a dispute over a lawsuit filed by a bail bondsman claiming his company has been denied a chance to operate in the county.

The county is seeking to have Houston Casualty Co. and Lexington Insurance Co. fulfill what they say are its obligations to cover the county in a suit filed by Pascual Olibas, a former Pecos resident who now lives in El Paso and operates Freedom Bail Bonds. The insurance companies and their associates are asking for summary judgment in 143rd District Court, arguing that the current lawsuit filed by Olibas is a continuation of an original suit filed against Gomez and Reeves County in 2001.

A settlement between the two parties was reached in U.S. District Court in El Paso in 2002, but Olibas contends in his new suit that Gomez went back to offering preferential treatment to other bonding companies. The hearing on Friday covers the period from December 2004, when Reeves County entered into its policy with Houston Casualty, and to December 2005.

“Lexington (Insurance) and the other attorney from Houston Casualty, which insures the county have refused to defend the county,” said Ruben Robles, attorney with Robles, Bracken, Coffman & Hughes, L.L.P., of El Paso, in early October. “So I sued them to have a jury declare that they need to pay for the sheriff’s legal fees, which are considerable.”

Robles, represents Reeves County and Sheriff Andy Gomez in the lawsuit that will be heard at 10 a.m. on Friday in 143rd District Court.

According to a list of legal fees for Reeves County acquired by Olibas, the county’s legal bills on the lawsuit over the past 20 months has totaled just over $300,000.

Olibas has contended in his legal actions that Gomez has hurt his business by allowing other bonding companies access to inmates at Reeves County Jail, while denying the same opportunities to Freedom Bail Bonds. In the new suit filed in U.S. District Court in El Paso in April of 2006, he charges that Gomez allowed B&M Bonding to continue to write bonds despite being in default of its bonding obligations in 2002 and 2003, and that after Gomez agreed to stop allowing B&M to write bonds, he began offering preferential treatment to a new bonding company, A-Quick Out Bail Bonds, owned by local attorney Bill Weinacht.

Olibas said Weinacht as an attorney, has unfair access in the jail to inmates, and that he has professional relationships with Gomez and has donated legal services to the sheriff free of charge in the past. His suit also alleges that two other firms, Gringo Bail Bonds and All Fast Bail Bonds and bondsman Brian Chavez have been allowed to write bonds without posting any financials with Gomez’s office.

Gomez and Reeves County won a lawsuit earlier this year at the state level in El Paso, when the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a previous decision against Olibas.

In its Aug. 23 ruling, the court said that Gomez did reply to Olibas’ requests for information within the 10-day time period allowed under the Texas Open Records Act.

Olibas sent Gomez a letter on Jan. 19, 2005 requesting the names of all reserve deputies employed since January 2000. He also sought a list detailing how many hours each reserve deputy had worked since January 2002 and a list detailing any type of expense the county paid for and the cost for each reserve deputy, including but not limited to, uniforms and insurance.

Olibas sent the request pursuant to the Texas Open Records Act and the Freedom of Information Act, which Gomez’ office received on Jan. 21, 2005.

The court ruled that Gomez’s reply by letter on Feb. 3, 2005, met the criteria of the Open Records Act. Olibas received that letter and a second, dated Feb. 4, on Feb. 7, four days after he filed suit. Gomez’s second letter stated that, he had filed suit, alleging Sheriff Gomez failed to timely respond to his open records request under Section 552.221(d) of the Texas Government Code.

Hospital board OKs 15 percent hike in charges

Reeves County Hospital District board members approved a 15 percent increase in charges for services at the hospital, during their regular monthly meeting on Monday.

Board members voted to approve the increase after being told the current prices are far below average for other rural hospital of similar size, and hospital administrator Al LaRochelle said most of the hospital’s patients wouldn’t see the effects of the changes.

Frank Seals, chief financial officer for the hospital, said the increase was recommended following an audit of the hospital’s pricing by accounting firm Parrish Moody & Fikes of Waco. “They sent us a letter saying we would have to increase charges 53 percent to be at the 80th percentile of community hospitals in the country,” Seals said. “They recommend we do 15 percent immediately and bump it smaller amounts the next few years.”

Seals said the hospital hasn’t raised its charges in a number of years, and the increase wouldn’t include pharmacy and central supply costs.

“We haven’t even been doing regular CPI (consumer price index) adjustments the last several years,” LaRochelle said, noting that the Medical CPI runs higher per year than the overall consumer rate.

“Medicare and Medicaid recipients will see little or no impact at all,” he said. “The ones it affects the most are primaries who are self-paying.”

He said those who do pay out of their own pockets can still seek indigent or charity program acceptance to handle the higher rates.”

“We’re still going to be far below the 80th percentile even with this. We’re going to by playing catch-up for the next several years,” LaRochelle said.

“As much as I hate to do this, I don’t think we have a choice,” said board member Brenda McKinney, before the increase was approved unanimously.

In other action on Monday, the board approved granting privileges to Monahans dentist Terese Andino, at the recommendation of the hospital’s medical staff. “She’s applying to be the dentist for our swing bed (critical access) program,” Seals said, while RCH Chief of Staff Dr. W.J. Bang told board members the staff had approved granting Dr. Andino consulting staff privileges.

The board approved the sale of property at 419 S. Eddy St., to Angel Carrasco for $500, and approved holding a hearing at the board’s December meeting on a House bill on the exemption of goods in transit. LaRochelle said a recent discussion by tax attorneys on the measure was unclear on how it would affect the hospital, but holding the hearing would allow it to possibly implement the measure, while failure to approve the hearing would mean RCH would automatically opt out of any participation in the new tax law.

Board members also approved changes to the district’s employee paid vacation time rules. Under the new rules 240 hours are the maximum amount that can be carried over by RCH employees. Other hours will be compensated through cash payments.

“It’s more friendly to the employees in the instance they want to build up the time, in the event they become sick,” Seals said.

“At my age, I’m more interested in the days, so if I do have an illness I have something to fall back on,” LaRochelle said.

Crimestoppers offering reward for robbery information

Pecos Valley Crimestoppers and the Pecos Police Department are asking for the communities help in solving a crime that occurred the weekend prior to Thanksgiving at an east side beverage store.

On Nov. 18, at about 12:45 a.m., officers were dispatched to the Beer Depot, located in the 1200 block of East Third Street in Pecos, concerning an armed robbery.

According to a police report, a small male subject, wearing a beanie cap, came in and held a knife to the throat of the clerk and demanded her to open the register.

The subject took approximately $1,500 in cash and checks. He then fled on foot.

“Please help us make our community safer by putting this criminal behind bars,” said Pecos Police Officer Mike Balog.

If anyone has any information about this robbery or any other crimes, call Crime Stoppers at 445-9898 or leave a Secure Web-Tip on the website HYPERLINK ""

“As always you will remain anonymous and your tips could be worth up to a $1,000 cash reward,” said Balog.

There is no caller I.D. on this line.

“Thank you for your help and know that all tips are always welcome,” said Balog.

Contreras brings home awards from pageant

Iliana Mya Contreras participated in the West Texas Baby Pageant held Oct. 28, in Odessa.

Contreras placed first in the Photogenic Competition; first in the Royalty Age Class Division and third in the Beauty Competition.

Iliana is the daughter of Freddy and Monette Contreras of Pecos.

Police Report

EDITOR’S NOTE: Information contained in the Police Report is obtained from reports filed by the Pecos Police Department, Reeves County Sheriff’s Office, or other officers of those agencies. The serving of warrants by an officer for outstanding fines of either traffic citations, animal control violations or other court costs are considered arrests and will be printed as such unless indicated that the fines were paid. In such instances we will indicate payment and release.


Francisco Salicdo Menchaca, 34, 214 W. 14th St., was arrested by police on Nov. 9 on a charge of public intoxication, a Class C misdemeanor. Police said the arrest occurred in the 200 block of East 13th Street, and Menchaca was then transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.


Geneva Chavez, 30, 1309 S. Martinez St., was arrested by police on Nov. 7 on a charge of furnishing alcohol to a minor, a Class A misdemeanor. Police said the arrest was made at Chavez’s home, and she was then transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.


Jadson E. Ephriam, 32, 2200 Missouri St., was arrested by police on Nov. 7 on a warrant for aggravated assault, a Second Degree Felony. Police said the arrest was made in the 1300 block of Martinez Street for an incident that occurred at 1309 Martinez St., and he was then transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.


Manuela Leos Hernandez, 27, 514 S. Cypress St., was arrested by police on Nov. 8 on a charge of public intoxication. Police said the arrest was made in the 1200 block of South Cedar Street, and Hernandez was then transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.


Julian Isaac Rayos, 30, 201 Clarke St., was arrested by police on Nov. 11 on two warrants charging him with criminal trespass. Police said the arrest was made at the Suavacito Club, 900 S. Cedar St., and Rayos was then transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.


Allen Michael Ray Almunia, 22, 1419 S. Plum St., was arrested by police on Nov. 10 on a warrant for no insurance. Police said the arrest was made following an accident in the 300 block of South Cedar Street, when a records check revealed the outstanding warrant. Almunia was then transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.


Manuel Armendariz, 24, 2117 S. Hackberry St., was arrested by police on Nov. 11 on a charge of assault causing bodily injury, a Class A misdemeanor. Police said the arrest took place following an incident in which Armendariz reportedly assaulted his wife at 2106 S. Hackberry St. He was then transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.


Fernando Arce Vasquez, 19, of Kermit, was arrested by police on Nov. 11 on warrants for traffic violations, issued out of Ward County. Police said the arrest was made in the 1200 block of East Third Street following a traffic stop at 11:05 p.m., when a records check revealed the motion to revoke bond on a charge of driving while license invalid, a Class B misdemeanor. Vasquez was then transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.

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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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