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Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Friday, December 28, 2007

Teen charged with east side store robbery

Pecos police arrested a 17-year-old last Friday in connection with the Dec. 18 armed robbery of an east-side beer store.

Police investigator Paul Deishler said Jacob Ornelas Rodriguez, 317 S. Mesquite St., was arrested for the armed robbery at Mercy’s Drive-Thru, 305 S. Sycamore St. Deishler said a warrant for Rodriguez arrest was issued by Municipal Court Judge Amanario Ramon following an investigation, and Deishler and Pecos Police Capt. Kelly Davis arrested Rodriguez at his home and transported him to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.

The teen is alleged to have robbed a clerk at knifepoint at Mercy’s the night of Dec. 18.

Investigator Olga Lopez said last week that the robbery took place shortly after 10 p.m. that night “The clerk said a Hispanic male walked into the store while she was on a cell phone,” Lopez said. “When she turned around, he jumped the counter and pulled out a long kitchen knife and started screaming and yelling.

“He pounded on the register, and couldn’t get it open, so he took it with him,” Lopez said.

The man was described by the clerk as wearing a black beanie with a white cloth over his face. “The only area exposed was his eyes, and she wasn’t sure if he was wearing gloves,” Lopez said.

She added that a vehicle was in the store’s drive-through at the time of the robbery, and the driver chased the man south on Sycamore Street before losing track of him.

“The store’s owner came down and said there was about $1,200 in the cash register,” Lopez said.

The robbery was a second involving an east side beer store in a month. Police are still seeking leads into the Nov. 18 robbery of the Beer Depot, in the 1200 block of East Third Street, in which $1,500 reportedly was stolen.

Police warn rabies threat found in city

Pecos police are warning local residents to be careful around stray animals or animals acting strangely, after a coyote found on the southeast side of town earlier this month tested positive for rabies.

Pecos Police Chief Clay McKinney said the Texas Department of Health notified his office on Dec. 19 that the coyote discovered on Dec. 11 had tested positive for rabies, the latest in a series of rabies cases in Reeves County this year.

“There have been five confirmed cases in Reeves County this year; four in the county and this one in the city,” he said. “From a public health standpoint, we want to let everyone in the county know to please be careful not to have any contact with bats, skunks, foxes, raccoons and coyotes, and to make sure pets are vaccinated.” McKinney said the coyote was alive when discovered, and was not showing common signs of rabies.

“He was not foaming at the mouth, but we went ahead and tested it anyway, and the results confirmed our suspicions,” he said. No one had come in contact with the animal before it was captured, he added.

“Rabies is a viral disease that lives in saliva, the brain or tissue of the animal, and spreads through any broken part of the skin,” McKinney said. “Animals that do have rabies do have different symptoms. Some of them can be aggressive, but some can be shy.

“Anyone who runs across an animal acting strangely should contact the police department immediately,” he said. Anyone coming in contact with a strange animal or who is bitten by an animal should also call the police department at 445-4911 so that the animal can be quarantined and tested for rabies.

In early November, workers with the U.S. Department of Agriculture were in Reeves County dropping pellets to control a rabies outbreak that has spread north into the area.

“What we’re trying to do is establish zones, where there are possible cases of rabies,” said Hoppy Turman, Wildlife Biologist for USDA’s office in Fort Stockton said on Nov. 12. “There were some outside the drop zone.”

Turman said that throughout the area they were collecting pellets to see if any are positive for rabies and then see where to drop the bait.

“We found one in Reeves County on a ranch,” said Turman. “We have found a couple of positives, in Balmorhea and one in outside the area.”

The USDA has been doping drops in Pecos County and nearby areas for the past few years due to reports of rabies. Turman said that they have lately been covering Ward, Winkler, Loving, Reeves and a small portion of Jeff Davis County, and McKinney said additional drops are planned in Reeves County next month.

“After speaking with the Health Department we’d already lined up some oral rabies vaccine drops for the surrounding Pecos area, so we’re going to go ahead and proceed with that and be as proactive on this rabies situation as we can,” McKinney said.

He added local officials will also conduct some community awareness events for the public about the rabies bait drops just before the drops take place in January.

Matta files for constable’s seat as primary race deadline nears

Only one of the four constables in Reeves County has filed to retain his position in the March 8, 2008 Democratic Primary. But with less than a week to go before the filing deadline, no local incumbent has a challenger yet in the primary race.

Jerry Matta, was the latest incumbent to seek a new term, as he filed for the position of constable for Precinct 4 in Reeves County. The three other constable positions remain open, and next Wednesday, Jan. 2, is the last day to file.

Matta joins a group of incumbents who have already filed with both the Reeves County Clerk and Democratic Party Chairman Bobby Dean. They include: Reeves County Sheriff Andy Gomez; Reeves County Attorney Alva Alvarez; Commissioners Precinct 1 Roy Alvarado and Precinct 3 Saul Herrera.

Filing in Austin with the state Democratic Party for new four-year terms were 143rd District Court Judge Bob Parks, and 143rd District Attorney Randall Reynolds. They will also be on the March 8 ballot in Ward and Loving counties, and both are currently unopposed for re-election.

One other county-wide position up for election is Reeves County Tax Assessor-Collector, a position currently held by Elfida Zuniga.

U.S. Rep. Ciro Rodriguez and State Rep. Pete Gallego, both Democrats, also have filed with the state party in Austin for re-election. Both are unopposed in their primary races, but Rodriguez will have at least one Republican challenger in November in Quico Canseco, who has filed to run in the March 8 Republican primary. Gomez, Alvarado and Herrera were elected to four-year terms in 2004, while Alvarez had was appointed to the position in 2006 after Richard C. Slack announced his retirement.

Alvarez served as Slack’s assistant, after he was appointed in an emergency basis in 2005, following the resignation of County Attorney Luis Carrasco. Alvarado and Herrera were first elected to the commissioners’ court in 2004, while Gomez has served four terms as Reeves County sheriff, having first been elected in 1992. The three, along with other 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.

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.

Dean said the filing fee would be $375 for the constable positions and $750 for all other county elections. He said candidates could 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.

City to turn over land to 4B PEDC for La Quinta project

A land swap between the 4A and 4B Pecos Economic Development Corporation was scheduled for approval Thursday evening during the regular meeting of the Town of Pecos City Council, which would go towards the construction of a new motel on U.S. 285 at Interstate 20.

The 4A PEDC board discussed that move during a noon meeting on Thursday at City Hall, while saying it had no jurisdiction to grant a tax abatement request on another motel proposal on U.S. 285. Members also approved a budget for the new 4B corporation, but were told finding an executive director may take more time, after only two persons have applied for the job.

Reeves County sold 3.07 acres of land to the 4A PEDC board during the summer, at the request of then-executive director Mike Burkholder. He had been contacted by a group that built a new Best Western Motel in Monahans last year, that wanted to put a new La Quinta Motel on the land, located behind the former Gulf station on the northeast corner of the I-20/U.S. 285 interchange.

Pecos voters created the 4B EDC in May, and it began operations in October. The 4A board remains in operation to continue projects begun by that corporation, but earlier this month voted to turn the land over to the city, which in turn would give the land to the 4B corporation.

“That should be done this evening,” city attorney Scott Johnson said. The 4B corporation could then sell it for the motel construction, though under 4B laws the sale couldn’t be finalized until late February, due to a 60-day period required under state law for comment.

“Now we have a 60-day period for the public to petition the city council not to go forward with the project, though I’m not expecting any objections,” Johnson said. “The La Quinta people have been over a lot of times. They’re ready to move on it,” said interim PEDC executive director Joseph Torres.

The second U.S. 285 project is by B.J. Patel, who wants to build a Holiday Inn Express across from Wal-Mart. He is seeking a tax abetment for the site, but the PEDC board said it’s not their decision to make on the local level, after Patel’s petition for an abatement is reviewed by the state.

“The state decides on the length of the abatement, based on the number of jobs,” board member and Pecos Mayor Dick Alligood said. “Even if the state approves it, it’s up to the council, the county commissioners and the hospital district to allow the abatement.

Board member Jimmy Dutchover said if the PEDC is asked to make a recommendation on the abatement, he wanted one similar to the Pecos Main Street abatement plan for downtown improvements, which allow for a 100 percent abatement the first year, declining by 20 percent each of the next four years.

“If we approach it in that manner, the city starts collecting taxes within five years,” he said.

Board member approved the proposed budget by Torres, with only a few line-item adjustments on funding for travel by the executive director and members, along with cell phone use.

Torres said the position of executive director has been open since the fall, following the resignation of Burkholder in October, but that he was hoping to get more than the two current applications before making a decision.

Burkholder was executive director of the 4A corporation in 2006, when board members cut his $60,000 to $42,000. The board later raised it back to $52,000, but Burkholder said that salary would make it difficult to attract a qualified executive director to run PEDC. At Thursday’s meeting, Torres confirmed that the salary is a problem in attracting candidates.

“Other towns of similar size have executive director salaries of $60,000 to $90,000,” he said. “We can’t compete with what some of them pay.”

Company says medical clinic work to begin

A group that was awarded a bid last year by the Town of Pecos City to develop land near Reeves County Hospital is beginning work on the first of what they say are six phases of the project, with a groundbreaking ceremony tentatively scheduled for Friday.

Dimension Enterprises LLC began clearing the 27.57 acres of land earlier this month located between Interstate 20 and the hospital. Town of Pecos City Mayor Dick Alligood said Dr. Rahat Saied of El Grove, Calif., is present of the company, while Ram Kunwar, who won the original bid on the land, is a vice-president with the firm.

“The first of the six phases is a 12,680-square foot medical arts building,” Alligood said. “It would have offices for doctors, dentists and medical professionals, and will be located at the corner of Delaware and Meadowbrook streets, on the west side of Reeves County Hospital.

Alligood said the company was anticipating a 4-6 month timetable for construction, with a grand opening to be held around May of 2008.

Reeves County Hospital has been in discussions about the construction of a building outside the hospital that would be able to house both medical offices and the hospital’s rural health clinic. However, hospital CEO Al LaRochelle said the hospital does not have any connection with Dimension LLC’s proposed project.

“We would be willing to look at a lease agreement with them, if the price was right. But we don’t have any involvement at this time with their project,” he said.

Alligood said they originally had hoped to have an official groundbreaking ceremony on Thursday, but plans had to be delayed when Saied was delayed flying into Pecos from California. He was scheduled to be in town late Thursday afternoon, and was expected to attend Thursday’s meeting of the Town of Pecos City Council. In June of 2006, Town of Pecos City Council awarded a bid on the land to Kunwar’s Jaya Corp. He was one of two people to bid on the land and proposed to develop a number of different projects involving both business and residential uses, including a proposed medical arts facility.

Other plans presented to the council at the time included 120 town homes in the section located away from I-20, and business space along the interstate that included a motel, shopping center, fitness center, and a nursing home.

TWC says area jobs, jobless both up last month

Unemployment was up four-tenths of a percent for Reeves County in November, despite an increase in the total number of jobs in the county, according to figures released on Dec. 21 by the Texas Workforce Commission. However, the unemployment rate in down for the county compared to November of a year ago, despite a loss of jobs in the county.

The TWC said there were 3,783 people employed last month out of a workforce of 4,003, for a 5.5 percent unemployment rate. In October, when the rate was 5.1 percent, the county had 3,759 jobs, 24 fewer than last month, and 3,961 workers, 42 less than November.

Compared to a year earlier, the TWC said unemployment had fallen from 5.8 percent, due to a loss of workers. It said the county had 4,054 people in the labor force in November of 2006 and 3,839 with jobs.

The declining numbers over the past year continues a trend by the TWC since 2005, when the recalculated labor statistics removed nearly 2,000 people from the county’s workforce, based on the 2000 census. Using the new numbers, the agency has said Reeves County has lost 10 percent of its jobs since 2003 while figures from the Texas Comptroller’s Office show sales tax collections in the county have more than doubled during that same period.

Reeves County’s .4 percent increase was the highest for any area county, though most others either showed slight increases in their unemployment rates for November, or were unchanged from the previous month.

Midland County’s unemployment rate was unchanged, at 2.7 percent. The county added 243 workers and 180 jobs. Ector County’s unemployment rate was down up from 3.1 to 3.2 percent, as the county added 52 workers but lost 52 jobs.

Andrews County’s rate increased from 2.7 to 2.9 percent last month. The number of workers increased by 25 and the job total was up by 12 from October. Brewster County’s rate held 2.6 percent, as the county added 30 workers and 25 jobs from October’s totals.

Crane County’s rate also was unchanged from October, at 3.5 percent, as the county saw an increase of nine workers and nine jobs. Culberson County saw its rate go up 2.3 to 2.4 percent last month, while losing 14 workers and 16 jobs. Dawson County’s unemployment rate stayed at 5.2 percent for the second month in a row, while the county added 63 workers and 58 jobs.

Howard County’s unemployment rate increased to 4.2 percent last month, from 3.9 percent in October. The county added 68 workers and 26 jobs. Pecos County’s rate went from 4.0 to 4.2 percent, as the county’s workforce was up by 118 while the job total increased by 101.

In Ward County, unemployment rose from 3.6 to 3.8 percent, with the number of jobs increasing by 41 while the workforce was up by 51. Winkler County’s unemployment rate was up from 2.9 to 3.2 percent, as the county’s workforce increased by 43 workers from October while the number of jobs was up by 35. Presidio County saw its jobless rate drop from 7.7 to 7.4 percent. The county’s workforce was up by 42, while the number of jobs grew by 49 last month. The jobless rate for Loving County, the smallest county in the nation, dropped back to 11.4 percent from 11.8 percent. The TWC said Loving added back the one worker and one job it had lost in October. The county now has 34 workers and 30 employed, the same total as in September.

Students graduate from OC

Several students graduated in December of the fall 2007 semester from Odessa College including students from Pecos.

Those graduating from Pecos included: Simona M. Acosta, nursing; Lorena M. Dominguez, nursing; Hazel Ann Herrera, education; Michelle M. Martinez, office systems technology – medical emphasis; Adriana Mendoza, legal assistant; Ramon Ortega Natividad Jr., nursing; Kimberly D. Orona, office systems technology – medical emphasis; Noe G. Orona, associate in science in general studies; Terri Kaye Spence, associate in arts in general studies; and Lourdes G. Villescas, associate in arts in general studies.

Matta receives degree from UTPB

Laura Matta, of Pecos, received her degree from the University of Texas of the Permian Basin on Dec. 15.

Matta received a B.A. in Child and Family Studies.

Lara, Lujan exchanged wedding vows

Anthony Lara and Rebecca Lujan, along with their son, Anthony Landon Lara, exchanged wedding vows at Tuscany Chapel at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada during the Labor Day weekend.

The groom is the son of Ramon and Monce Lara of Pecos.

The bride is the daughter of Ramon Lujan and the late Silvia Martinez Lujan of Pecos.

The maid of honor was Elsa Olivas of Dallas, cousin of the bride.

The best man was Joe Borrego of Midland.

Other family members and friends that attended the wedding included: Angel and Gretchen Ramirez of Midland, Jennifer Rodriguez of Dallas, Michael and Kristi Rodriguez, Tyler and Avery, of Lemoore, California, Mr. and Mrs. Bob Paredez of Midland, Mr. and Mrs. Joe Borrego of Midland, Mr. and Mrs. Jesse Gonzales of Midland, Molly Harper of Midland, Gabriel Bautista of Midland and Larry Porras of Midland.

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Phone 432-445-5475, FAX 432-445-4321

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