Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Traffic stop on Interstate nets 160-pound pot bust
Over 150 pounds in marijuana was seized and a man was arrested following a traffic stop in Reeves County on Thursday on the southwest side of Pecos.
On Dec. 13, the Reeves County Sheriff’s Department Criminal Interdiction Unit initiated a traffic stop on a 1990 Chevrolet van on Mile Marker 39 on Interstate 20 for speeding.
A driver’s license check on the driver identified as Joel Villegas, 26, revealed that he had an outstanding warrant out of Navarro County for a probation violation on a charge of driving while license invalid, according to a sheriff’s department report.
“The warrant was confirmed and Villegas was placed under arrest,” said investigator Ernesto Lazcano.
Villegas was then asked for consent to search his vehicle, and he verbally granted consent.
“During the search of the vehicle, officers located two fabricated metal boxes concealed inside the gasoline tank each containing approximately 80 pounds of suspected marijuana,” said Lazcano.
A total of 160 pounds of marijuana worth approximately $80,000 in bulk price was confiscated at the time, according to Lazcano.
Villegas was subsequently charged with possession of marijuana over 50 pounds under 2,000 pounds, a second-degree felony and possession of a criminal instrument (when they fabricate a department to conceal the illegal drugs), a State Jail Felony.
“That’s an extra charge, because they took steps to conceal those illegal drugs,” said Lazcano.
Villegas is currently held in jail with a total bond set at $75,000.
Council given plans for usage of bed tax cash
Town of Pecos City Council members approved proposed budgets for three of the four entities receiving money from the city’s bed tax fund, and approved by-laws for the new 4B Pecos Economic Development Corp., during their regular meeting on Thursday at City Hall.
Officials from the Pecos Chamber of Commerce, the Chamber’s Advertising Committee and the West of the Pecos Museum presented their budgets, and a list of projects planned for 2008, to the council, which had voted last month to require the itemized lists, after sharp increases in the city’s bed tax revenues during the past year.
The council was concerned about use of the surplus bed tax revenues, which the city’s Bed Tax Committee discussed during a meeting earlier on Thursday. A new contract with the three groups and the Pecos Main Street Program, is awaiting final approval by the council.
Increased oil and gas drilling activity and the shortage of available housing in Pecos has caused local motels to operate at near capacity for the past two years. City Manager Joseph Torres said last month that combined with stricter audit controls, the bed tax funds are expected to be up to $300,000 this year, after bringing in only $180,000 in 2004.
The city sent the four groups 90-day notices that the 2005 bed tax agreement would be cancelled, though the city could maintain the current funding allocations. “Now is opportunity we’ve never had before with the sizable increase in hotel/motel bed tax funds. Let’s put the money into downtown. Let’s not just put it into outside advertising,” Torres said on Thursday.
He earlier had asked the groups if they needed the extra money, and at the Bed Tax Committee’s meeting on Thursday, members drew up a plan to use the funds towards primary and shared projects.
“The Bed Tax Committee takes any surplus revenues and prioritizes them to complete primary projects,” said City Attorney Scott Johnson.
Pecos Mayor Dick Alligood said the full project list would be given to the council at their next meeting, and Bill Oglesby, with the Bed Tax and Chamber Advertising committees said the council would be kept informed of how the extra funds would be used.
“If there’s excess bed tax funds, you all will know about it,” he said.
Chamber had a $53,000 balance in its account with a cash flow of $26,000, with $15,000 targeted towards improvements to the Millennium Park next to the Museum and the lighting on Oak Street during 2008. The Advertising Committee had a balance of just under $62,000 in its account and a cash flow of $15,000, with $17,500 budgeted for the park work, while the Museum reported a balance of $51,115, with $27,000 of that planned for outside painting of doors and windows in 2008.
“We’ll be coming back to you in January with a proposal to show you what we want to do with downtown,” Oglesby said.
Councilman Danny Rodriguez asked officials with the three groups a series of questions, ranging from specific details of their plans for their fund balances and cash flows to whether or not the advertising committee used paper or plastic on its billboards.
“Kevin (Duke, of Duke Outdoor Advertising) helps us. He has the expertise, but we’re working with somebody else,” Oglesby said of the use of plastic billboard signs, which are produced by an out-of-town company.
He said the Chamber’s Advertising Committee owns two billboards and leases others as far away as southern Arizona, and are using funds to both rent and maintain the current signage.
Gholson said the Chamber is “Finishing things up to go into next year, before we get more money,” with their current funds. She also told Rodriguez that the Texas Pecos Trail Program was separate from the Chamber’s regular budget, and had been paid for out of 2007 assets.
Councilwoman Angelica Valenzuela if the Chamber had any other ways besides the bed tax fund and membership dues to collect money, such as the Golden Girl Pageant. Gholson said that event was put on by the Chamber’s Women’s Division, and Oglesby said both that at the West of the Pecos Rodeo Committee have their own budgets.
Torres said the council already had approved the Main Street Program’s budget, and that auditors had found no problems with the financial statements of the other three groups.
New director of the program Martin Arreguy said he would be taking classes on how to best use the Main Street Program to promote tourism and economic development, and added that County Judge Sam Contreras is looking at starting a local historic commission.
“That will help to get funds for future projects,” Arreguy said.
In a related item, the council approved Jean Winget of the Swiss Clock Inn and Bobby Bhakta of Laura Lodge as new appointments to the Bed Tax Committee.
On the PEDC by-laws, Rodriguez, who is president of the group’s board of directors, said one change made was to mandate that anyone serving on the committee had to have all their tax payments up-to-date.
“The 4B board of directors has already approved it. State law says it has to be brought before council,” Johnson said.
The 4B PEDC was approved by voters in May and went into effect in October, replacing the former 4A PEDC. The 4B state law allows funds to be spent on a wider range of projects, including tourism-related projects and job expansion projects for already-established local companies.
“We want to make sure everybody has a chance to come into the community, local as well as out-of-town, to improve their businesses or bring in new businesses,” Rodriguez said.
Pay boost sought by city’s FD board
Town of Pecos City Council was asked by Pecos Volunteer fire Department Chief Freddy Contreras to redirect some of the department’s surplus funds to salaries for the department’s board of directors, but took no action during their council’s meeting Thursday evening at City Hall.
Contreras presented the council with a budget sheet that showed about $12,000 remained of the $58,000 budgeted for payroll this year. He asked the council to redirect about half of that to the board’s salaries.
“Fifty-eight thousand is always what it’s been, because the number of higher or lower calls during the year,” he said. “It’s kind of difficult to see how many fires we’ll have for the year.”
“Since we’re in an interlocal agreement, my instinct is to go to the commissioner’s court, since they provide part of the money, and see if they concur with us,” said mayor Dick Alligood. City attorney Scott Johnson added that the current contract with Reeves County calls for any surplus funds to go towards the maintenance of vehicles.
“It’s your call, if you want to do it, but I believe it can be done,” Johnson said. He added that the city would have to talk to county judge Sam Contreras, who is also the brother of Freddy Contreras, about changing the current allocation.
“Since the county is funding it on the current budget, I don’t think they’ll object to it, but we should give them a heads-up,” he said.
Freddy Contreras told councilwoman Angelica Valenzuela that fire department officers have to make 70 percent of the department’s meeting and 60 percent of the fires to avoid being placed on probation. He said all officers currently comply with those rules, while 10 percent of the department’s 40 volunteers currently are on probation.
In a related item, the council tabled action on a mutual aid agreement between the city, council and the fire department and Pecos EMS.
“We have concerns because these are volunteer people working with city equipment,” Alligood said of the fire department contract. “To sign this and forward it on to the county would be to obligate us.”
On the EMS contract, the mayor said it had already been approved by the council at a previous meeting, but had not yet been taken up by the commissioners court. Alligood added that consolidation talks between the city, council and Reeves County Hospital are continuing, and would be part of the hospital district board’s 7 p.m. meeting on Tuesday.
The council also approved an ordinance to tax non-exempt good in transit, after there were no comments at a public hearing during the meeting.
Members gave tentative approval to an easement request by Cimarex for a road right-of-way on land within the city’s water field southeast of Pecos. The council approved a rate of $15 a rod for the easement, and told Johnson to prepare a contract setting out the length of the easement and a requirement to restore the land back to its original form when the company is through with it’s operations.
“If they want the road, they will pay for it,” Johnson said.
Early gifts for kids get late marks off records
Children in the community will enjoy new toys this Christmas thanks to the Campus Crime Stoppers Program.
“This was a collaborative piece,” said Brian Carrasco, president of the Pecos Campus Crimestoppers, who said that he and his mother, Rosie Carrasco, one of the sponsors of the program, came up with the idea to have students donate toys for a charitable organization.
“The toys all go to the Tony Juarez Toys for Tots,” said Carrasco.
Carrasco said that students were asked to donate a toy, if they wanted one of their tardies to be cancelled.
“A lot of the students liked the opportunity to have one of their tardies erased, because they didn’t want to go to ISS,” said Carrasco.
“This benefits both the students here at high school and the younger kids.”
He said that all the students were really excited about the idea and that the toys started pouring in.
“All we asked was that it be a good, new toy that a child would really enjoy opening on Christmas Eve,” said Carrasco.
The event ran from Dec. 6 through Dec. 14 and collected 135 toys.
“This idea helped the less fortunate and it benefited both sides of the fence,” said Carrasco. “One toy cleared one tardy.”
“Some of the students donated from six to seven toys to clear all their tardies,” he added.
A lot of the teachers also contributed to the cause and donated toys, which were delivered this past Saturday to children on the list.
“I felt bad because I couldn’t go deliver the toys with them, but I had a swim meet,” said Carrasco, who was in Abilene on Saturday. “I would have loved to see the smiles on the children.”
The Campus Crimestoppers are a way to help solve crimes anonymously, according to Carrasco.
The board raises funds to pay out rewards for tips, promote the program and decide the amount of the reward that will be paid for these tips.
Pecos Campus Crimestoppers were named Campus Crimestoppers of the Year at the 13th Annual Campus Crimestoppers Convention, held recently in Cedar Canyon, near Amarillo.
“In the past two weeks, we have solved 10 crimes through this program,” said Carrasco. “It works really great in keeping the students and the community safe.”
Individuals can go online and do a double encrypted tip, call the tip in to the hotline provided (the individual will remain anonymous), or individuals can seek out members of the board at the campuses and turn in their tips about the crimes.
“There are several people on campus that they can go to and it will be a confidential tip, nobody else will know,” said Mike Balog Pecos Police Department officer in charge of the Crimestoppers program.
Balog said that the program was an excellent deterrent tool designed to have a safer learning environment for the students.
Anyone can join the crime fighters, as long as the student has a passing grade and never been in trouble.
The web site to contact crimestoppers is: crimestoppersweb.com/pecos.
Red Bluff told district’s funds in good shape
Red Bluff Water Power Control District’s finances are in good shape, auditor Randy Graham told board members last Tuesday, during their final monthly meeting of the year at the district’s office in Pecos.
“You all get a clean bill of health, “ Graham told board members, noting the district’s $5.1 million in assets are $5 million above its current liabilities.
He said a drop in oil and gas revenues did occur this year, and operating expenses were up due to funding for some projects, including $75,000 for salt cedar removal and $85,000 for the purchase of a new home for the district’s employee at Red Bluff Lake, but the district’s interest income for 2007 came to $195,000 and Red Bluff still has $13.8 million in the bank, as part of the 1989 Pecos River water settlement with the State of New Mexico.
Graham did say the district needs to increase the money put into its retirement fund. “If everyone was to retire today, you might have a bit of a problem, but for right now, it’s not a problem,” he said.
Graham said the five-year trend showed that oil and gas royalties are up, and water sales were up as well, after drought conditions earlier in the decade caused the district to stop water releases for irrigation from the lake for two years. Salt sales are down, due to the current suspension of the Malaga Bend salt alleviation project.
The district’s new budget includes $400,000 for grouting work at Red Bluff Dam, though board members were told by managing director Randall Hartman that the project is still in the planning stages.
“We’ll put the (dam) gate and grouting on the special projects list,” he said.
Board members approved the audit report, along with other financial reports for the month. That included $50,000 for the purchase of the building where the district’s offices are located. Red Bluff bought the building from Pecos Insurance Co. The district had previously been paying monthly rent for their Second Street office.
Christmas for Kids to deliver toys Tuesday
Elves will be making their yearly trek delivering gifts on Tuesday, thanks to a program that has been doing for area children and their families this for several years.
The Christmas for Kids volunteers will be delivering the gifts on Tuesday to the many children and families who qualified for the holiday gift program.
“We’ll deliver the gifts on Tuesday, but if they are not home they can pick up the items at the sheriff’s department the next day,” said organizer for the event Sophia Baeza.
Christmas for Kids has been raising funds throughout the year to be able to provide for the many who applied for the program.
The group is comprised of volunteers who raise funds to provide the essentials for children in the community, who would otherwise lose out on having a Merry Christmas.
“Our main goal is to provide a happy Christmas for as many children in the community as we can,” said Baeza. “We don’t just provide toys, but the essentials, such as coats and shoes.”
Riley, Waskow to exchange wedding vows
Mr. and Mrs. Jim Riley of Pecos are pleased to announce the engagement of their daughter, Kelsey Nicole Riley, to Private Curtis John Waskow, son of Sandy Waskow of Abilene and Charlie Waskow of Waxahachie.
The bride-elect is a 2002 graduate of Pecos High School. She graduated from Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene in 2006 with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in elementary education. Kelsey is currently working for the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah Independent School District as a third grade teacher at Austin Elementary.
The prospective groom graduated from Abilene High School in 2004. He is currently serving in the United States Army as a topographical engineer and is presently stationed at Fort Belvoir in Virginia.
The wedding will be held Dec. 29, at Willow Creek Chapel in Abilene while the groom is on Christmas exodus.
Study club hears piano recital at meeting
An Arts Department Program was held by The Modern Study Club of Pecos on Wednesday, Nov. 7, in the First Christian Church Fellowship Parlor with president Margie Williamson, presiding Etta Bradley serves as Arts Department Chairman.
The thought-quote for the meeting was – Angels, from friendships, gather half their joys –Night Troubles, Young.
Members and guests were welcomed by president Williamson to the piano recital presented by The Modern Study Club’s own Martha Jay. John Jay, son of the pianist, introduced each piece played by Mrs. Jay and gave a brief summary of each composer. Those present enjoyed the selections of “Etude” by Fredric Chopin, “Why” and “Whems” by Robert Schumann and “Laura” by Johnny Mercer.
Mrs. Jay began being taught at four years of age by her mother, who was a piano teacher. When teaching high school choral music at Fern Creek High School at Fern Creek, Kentucky, Mrs. Jay studied at the Louisville Academy of Music, Louisville, Kentucky.
After retirement, Mrs. Jay relocated in Phoenix, Ariz., where she studied with Dan Hooper, graduate of Julliard School of Music.
Catherine Travland, secretary, read the minutes of the previous meeting and Betty Lee, treasurer, presented a statement of club finances.
Margie Williamson, scholarship chairman, reported that she had talked to former scholarship recipient, Vanessa Valeriano, to see if she could qualify for the $800 Eleanor Tipps State Scholarship which is eligible this year for Western District competition and the ladies are working on the applications information in order to be ready prior to the deadline.
There was no Federation Report due to the absence of federation chairman Paula Fuller.
Catherine Travland reported on the Western District Fall Board meetings which she and Lena Harpham attended at Coahoma, Oct. 27. Mrs. Travland is president-elect of Western District and Mrs. Harpham is MSC vice-president. The club was appreciative of their representation at the meeting.
Plans were made to make the annual donations to the Christmas for Kids Project and to the Reeves County Library.
Roll call was answered by telling of a friend club members were especially appreciative of in their lives.
Lena Harpham and Pearl Gustafson served delicious refreshments to members and six guests.
The monthly project for the meeting was to contribute to the Alma Van Sickle Scholarship Fund of the Western District of the Texas Federation of Women’s Clubs.
York M. "Smokey" Briggs, Publisher
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