Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas
Friday, December 14, 2007
Carrasco’s mother, searchers still seek info on disappearance
The mother of a missing Balmorhea girl and a group seeking information on missing children are continuing to ask for leads into her 2003 disappearance, as the family marked her 21st birthday on Wednesday.
Monica Carrasco disappeared from her uncle’s home in Balmorhea in October of 2003. Her mother, Kathy Carrasco, has continued since that time to seek information on the then-16-year-old teen’s whereabouts.
On Oct. 2, 2003, Monica reportedly had attended a prayer service early that evening then returned to her uncle’s home in Balmorhea. According to statements, she went to bed early, but later got up to play video games with her twin cousins. After the games were done, Monica once again returned to the room she was using while staying there. From that time forward, no one knows what happened to Monica. She simply “disappeared.” Missing from her possessions were a Bible and the beige nightgown she wore to bed that night. She would have been barefoot because no shoes were missing.
“Her disappearance doesn’t make sense,” said Bob Walcutt, executive director of the Laura Recovery Center, which was asked to assist in the search for Monica in 2004. “The land she went missing in is dirt, rock and cactus. There was little or no lighting and it would have been extremely dark for anyone to navigate in. It leads to few explanations of what happened,” he said.
Monica’s mother has worked tirelessly to find her daughter. She e-mails fliers to anyone who might distribute them for her or who might know something about her whereabouts. “I’ll never rest until I have Monica,” said Kathy Carrasco. “She is my daughter, a granddaughter, a sister, a niece and a friend to so many. Please do not forget her. Do not give up hope for her return,” she said.
Anyone with information about what happened to Monica or Monica’s whereabouts are encouraged to contact the Midland CrimeStoppers at 1-800-7LOCKUP or the Laura Recovery Center at 1-866-898-5723.
The Laura Recovery Center – for missing children is a non-profit 501(c ) 3 organization that was founded in Laura Smither’s memory. The Center focuses on the education, search, and prevention in the area of missing children and has offered free abduction prevention programs to over 135,000 children throughout the greater Houston area and worked with over 1,300 families with missing loved ones.
Chamber to cut down awards at banquet
Fewer awards will be handed out during the Annual Chamber of Commerce Awards Banquet, scheduled for February.
The decision was announced at the regular Pecos Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors meeting held Tuesday at noon.
“The executive committee met and discussed the awards and decided to just narrow it down to four awards,” said board member and president-elect Joe Keese.
Keese said that all the organizations choose an individual to receive an award each year. “Everyone has their own banquets and hands out their own awards and we’re just basically duplicating those,” he said.
The number of awards had grown in recent years. Nine of the 14 awards handed out at this year’s banquet have been established in the past 20 years, and five had only been created only over the past seven years.
The group narrowed down the awards that will be handed out during the annual banquet scheduled for February 15, 2008, to four awards.
They will be handing out the Citizen of the Year Award, Hidden Hero/Ruiz Profile of Courage, Student of the Year and a Business Person of the Year, which will include agriculture.
“The executive committee of the chamber met and discussed this and decided to narrow it down to these four,” said chamber director Linda Gholson.
She said that the other award winners will be recognized during the banquet, but that the chamber will not be presenting them with an award.
“They need to contact us before the banquet and we will recognize them that evening,” she said.
“We can have the chief of police tell us who received their awards and then all the other major employers or all those individuals that give out awards each year,” said Keese.
In past years, the chamber has presented numerous awards during the banquet including the four major ones; EMT of the Year; Law Enforcement Officer of the Year; Communications Officer of the Year; Fireman of the Year and Correctional Officer of the Year.
“This will help the chamber banquet move along more smoothly and not drag it out,” said Keese.
In other business on Tuesday, Gholson said “The mayor and the city had asked me about having an employer’s appreciation day or days and at that time, we decided we couldn’t do it on such short notice.
“They wanted to do it before the end of the year, but I don’t think it will be possible,” she said.
“We definitely need to do it next year if want to do it,” said chamber president Venetta Seals.
“We need to talk to the city and see what they want to do, because if we do it and don’t do it right or they way they want to,” said board member Jimmy Dutchover.
The group decided that they would need at least three to four months to decide and then plan exactly what they would do. The group also opted to discuss it with the city and go from there.
Town of Pecos City Employees Jesus Silvas and Edgardo Madrid made a special presentation during the luncheon meeting on the many projects the city is currently working on and the grants the city has procured.
The Women’s Division of the Chamber is currently working on their Christmas Lighting Contest. The women will be out judging homes this Sunday, Dec. 16, from 6:30-9:30 p.m.
Judges will be divided into eight sections and choose one grand winner and seven runner-ups.
All seven runner-ups will receive a $20.00 “Pecos Bucks” gift certificate and the grand winner will receive a $100.00 “Pecos Bucks” gift certificate to be used at any local business establishment.
Judges will also vote on the best-decorated residential block and local business.
These winners will receive a memorable Christmas ornament.
No nominations are necessary, everyone is eligible.
For more information contact project chairperson, Mary Ann Gomez at 448-7389 or the Chamber of Commerce Office at 445-2406.
Board member Debbie Thomas told the group that the Christmas Trees are up and decorated at the West of the Pecos Museum and invited everyone to go and see them.
Ex-juvenile probation officer blames retribution for firing
A longtime Reeves County employee dismissed from her job last year has filed a grievance report with the Equal Opportunity Commission and claims she was asked to illegally provide juvenile detainees to do work at the home of Reeves County Court-At-Law Judge Walter Holcomb.
“I had been working there for 24 years and they can’t tell me why I was fired,” said Louise Moore, who had been the Chief Juvenile Probation Officer at the Reeves County Detention Center.
Moore has filed a formal complaint with the Equal Opportunity Commission (EOC), in January of this year and with the Texas State Commission of Judicial Conduct.
“I had gone to some training with the Texas Juvenile Probation Division in July of 2006 and one of the things they talked to us about is ethics,” said Moore.
Moore said that at the seminar they learned that if they know of someone that is doing something unethical and don’t report it, they were liable as well.
“Through the years, Judge Holcombe had been asking me to send him some kids over to his home to do some work and I always refused,” said Moore, who first made the charge in public to KWES TV on Monday.
She said that at this point it was very hard to keep up with the kids, because another probation officer did start sending the students that were on probation over to Judge Holcombe’s home.
State law bars inmates from doing work on private property. Former Reeves County Sheriff Raul Florez was reprimanded in the mid-1980s after it was discovered in 1984 he had Reeves County Jail inmates doing work at his home west of Pecos.
“In July, I mentioned it to both the probation officer and the judge that we couldn’t do that and by October 20, I was fired,” said Moore.
Moore said that she then asked for a reason for her termination.
“They never gave me a reason, as to why I was fired,” said Moore.
A probation officer, who was under her command, had filed a grievance against her in December of 2005.
“She filed that grievance because I wanted her to do her job properly and at that time the board didn’t take any action on the grievance,” said Moore.
Moore said that the judge always sided with that probation officer and believes it was a conspiracy.
“They (the kids on probation) were doing all these things for the judge, mowing his lawn and he even took one student out of town to pick up supplies,” said Moore.
Moore said that the probation officer in question didn’t do as she was told. “In one instance, she was supposed to purchase a ticket for a kid that was coming home and she never did,” said Moore. “When I got to the airport he wasn’t there, because he never received his ticket at the other end.”
Moore said that the probation officer at the other juvenile facility had problems with him because of it. “The student had a lot of anger management issues and when he didn’t receive his ticket to come home, he was really upset,” she said.
Moore cited other instances in which she had problems with that probation officer.
“I was her boss and she just didn’t want to cooperate,” said Moore. “She thought she could do anything and the other board members didn’t want to talk to me.”
Moore said that she hasn’t hired a lawyer because she believes in the system.
“I have EOC working on it and the department of judicial justice and I have faith in them,” said Moore.
Moore is also concerned about the budget and where the money is going to.
“There’s a lot of money in that department and it should be put to good use,” said Moore.
“That money should be used to keep these kids safe and the community,” she said.
“These kids and this community deserve the best and the money in that budget can be used for a lot of good things,” she said.
Tax rebates for city pass $1.5 million
After coming close to hitting the $1 million mark in sales tax rebates for all of 2006, the Town of Pecos City saw their final total for 2007 pass the $1.5 million mark, as tax collections and rebates jumped by over 54 percent from a year ago, according to figures released Wednesday by the Texas Comptroller’s office.
The final sales tax rebate checks for 2007 from Comptroller Susan Combs office showed Pecos’ December check on its 1 1/2-cent share of Texas’ 8 1/4-cent sales tax came to $146,595, a 78.51 percent jump from the $82,121 the city received back last year. For all of 2007, Pecos received $1,545,445 in tax rebates, up 54.69 percent from the $999,057 total for 2006.
One-sixth of the December total, or $24,433, is allocated to the 4B Pecos Economic Development Corp. for its operation. Overall this year, the PEDC received $257,574 in city sales tax funds, but the 4B EDC only received funding for the final three months of the year, following the conversion approved by local voters in May from a 4A to a 4B corporation.
Sales tax increases for the year in Balmorhea were about the same as in Pecos, while Toyah’s sales tax rebates more than doubled, even though the city received no check for December.
Balmorhea got a $3,300 check this month, up 95.86 percent from last December’s $1,685, and got $34,660 back for the year a 57.57 rise over last year’s $21,996 total. Toyah’s overall total for 2007 was $10,627, up 110.35 percent from last year’s $5,052 total. The city had gotten a $400 check last December, while getting no funds this time around.
The largest increase for the month was by the Reeves County Hospital District. Its 1/2-cent sales tax brought the hospital a December check for $120,552, which was up 190.53 percent from the $41,493 sent back from Austin last year. Overall, the hospital received $851,861 in sales tax rebates this year, up 78.63 percent from the $476,876 in tax rebates for 2006.
The increase in oil and gas drilling activity in the Trans-Pecos area accounted for most of the increase, and is the third year in a row Pecos has seen its tax rebate totals rise by 10 percent or more.
The city’s sales tax rebates have more than doubled from a low of just under $755,000 in 2003, before the start of the current drilling boom and the year after the shutdown of the Anchor West food processing plant, which cost 700 people their jobs. Anchor has since reopened as TransPecos Foods, though with about 25 percent of the former peak job totals, while the area’s current largest employer, the Reeves County Detention Center, also has added jobs in the last four years.
The development of the new gas fields in the Pecos area also has meant the increases in sales tax rebates in Reeves County have been above average for other counties in the Permian Basin and Trans-Pecos region. Almost all showed increases for the month and the year as a whole, but the numbers were lower to the south and west, in the Big Bend and Davis Mountains cities.
Area cities get over $700,000 in grant funds
Three grants totaling over $700,000 designed to help projects in Pecos, Balmorhea and Toyah were officially handed out on Wednesday by the Office of Rural Community Affairs, as part of presentations held across West Texas.
Water and sewer projects totaling $350,000 each were given to Pecos and Balmorhea, with Balmorhea’s grant going towards a project designed to improve its ability to provide water to the city of Toyah. The other grant, totaling $3,500, went to Balmorhea’s Emergency Medical Service.
Pecos’ grant is for the city’s project to improve and install sewer lines on the north and east sides of Pecos, and is part of a major rebuilding of the city’s aging sewer system planned over the next several years.
“It’s going to enable us to put in quite a lot of sewer lines,” said Pecos Mayor Dick Alligood, who was presented with the check during a ceremony on Wednesday at City Hall. Another presentation was planned at Thursday evening’s city council meeting.
The ORCA grant is part of over $4 million in grants the agency has handed out in the Permian Basin during the last year, according to a press release by the state agency. “Many of these grant programs are competitive, so it is appropriate that we honor the efforts of every recipient for their dedication to their rural community,” said Charles Stone, ORCA Executive Director.
The grants are designed to help with infrastructure development, health care accessibility enhancements, disaster relief and other projects that require significant funding. For Pecos, the grant was received only after the city devised a plan in September to repay the bulk of an ORCA loan from five years ago for which Pecos was unable to meet the required guidelines.
The council in September agreed to a five-year repayment schedule for the remaining $367,343 of the $400,000 loan, which the city obtained in 2002 to begin construction of 20 single-family homes on lots in the 700 and 800 blocks of West Washington Street. City Manager Joseph Torres said by agreeing to the repayment, it would both free up new ORCA grant funds needed by Pecos and allow the city to bid out the land, without the low-income housing restrictions mandated by the ORCA agreement.
The council agreed to a five-year repayment timetable with the funds to be repaid increasing each year through 2011. That came after Alligood told council members ORCA Executive Director Charles Stone rejected the 10-year repayment plan the city originally had sought.
Alligood said the $367,000 repayment would free up $700,000 in ORCA grants the city needs for its water and sewer infrastructure projects, including the $350,000 grant Pecos received on Wednesday.
Balmorhea’s $350,000 grant will go towards water system improvements on the 25-mile pipeline between the city and Toyah. Balmorhea brings in its water from the nearby Davis Mountains, and then resells some to the city of Toyah. The line has had problems in recent years, including a line break in late 2004 that was linked to flooding in the city earlier that year.
The EMS grant for $3,500 has already been used to buy new backboards and radios for the Balmorhea EMS Service, which provides ambulance coverage to southern Reeves County.
York M. "Smokey" Briggs, Publisher
324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 432-445-5475, FAX 432-445-4321
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