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Economic Development


Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Oglesby, Graham join Cerna, Williams in election wins

Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD voters approved a $30 million bond issue for construction and refurbishing district campuses, while returning two of three incumbents and adding two newcomers to the school board, as the result of Saturday’s election.

Incumbents Bubba Williams and current board president Lila Cerna won new three-year terms on the board and will be joined by Bill Oglesby and Randy Graham, who will be serving a two-year unexpired term. Oglesby will replace Crissy Martinez, who finished fourth in the race for the three full terms on the school board.

Cerna won her seat on the board during Saturdays election with 741 votes; Oglesby received 691 votes and Williams received 659 votes.

Martinez ended up with 605 votes, and was followed by Alfredo Gomez, with 377 votes; Jay Haney with 327; Gome Olibas with 321 and John Grant, 129.

Graham won the unexpired term with 1,038 votes to his opponent’s, Manuel Munoz, Jr., 361 votes. Both Munoz and Grant dropped out of the election, but did so after the March 20 deadline to withdraw names from the ballot.

Voters also approved the $30 million bond election with 1,072 voting for the bond and 362 against.

The election was held to make needed repairs to the different facilities in the district, including upgrading all the air conditioning systems, adding classrooms to the junior high to accommodate the six graders, new science labs.

The bulk of the $30 million will go towards reconstruction of two of the three main wings of Austin Elementary, which houses first through third graders in P-B-T ISD, and the construction of new classrooms for sixth graders at Crockett Junior High School. Sixth graders currently attend class at Bessie Haynes Elementary.

Incumbents win re-election to City Council seats

Town of Pecos City voters returned all three incumbents on the City Council to office on Saturday, while approving a change supported by city officials that converts the Pecos Economic Development Corp. from a 4A to 4B corporation.

Voters gave councilmen Gerald Tellez, Danny Rodriguez and Frank Sanchez new two-year terms in the four-person race, as challenger Joanna McCormick-Lindemann finished 64 votes behind Sanchez in the race for the third available position on the council. Tellez received 870 votes, while Rodriguez had 655 and Sanchez 619. Lindemann ended up with 545 votes in her first bid for elected office.

The change of the PEDC from a 4A to 4B corporation won by just over a 2-to-1 margin, collecting 720 votes in favor versus 350 votes opposed. The approval will allow the PEDC in the future to spend funds on a wider range of projects than allowed under the current 4A corporate rules, as set up by the State of Texas.

Supporters argued that 4A economic development corporation rules are geared more for attracting industrial business, while the 4B corporations are geared more towards small businesses and tourism, and that the PEDC can now spend funds on established local businesses seeking to expand their operations.

Opponents argued that the PEDC has limited funds compared to other area economic development corporations, and funds spent in the future on local businesses and historical district beautification and infrastructure projects will leave the PEDC short of money to recruit new businesses to Pecos.

Most city officials supported the 4B conversion, and Pecos Mayor Dick Alligood said on Monday, “We were very pleased that the citizens of Pecos passed the 4B proposition, and we’re in the process of the conversion as we speak.”

The new PEDC will be under greater control of the city council, with a seven-person board as opposed to the five-person one that currently runs the PEDC. Opponents prior to the election worried that the council may waste the economic development funds on projects that don’t bring jobs to Pecos, and Alligood said he was happy voters rejected that complaint.

“We really appreciate the vote of confidence they gave the Town of Pecos City Council. The City Council will utilize the money in the proper fashion to help diversify economic development,” he said.

“Obviously I’m very disappointed,” said PEDC board chairman Joe Keese, who was one of those opposed to the conversion. “Basically, I’ll do my best to work with the city and the mayor with the 4B.”

However, he added, “I’ll do everything in my power to make sure the money is spent towards the long-term benefit of the citizens of Pecos.”

Alligood said the changeover from a 4A to a 4B corporation will take a little time.

“We’re getting a timetable together, and then we’ll get new board members to be appointed,” he said. “The by-laws of the corporation will have to be changed, and that is already in process, after the votes are canvassed.”

Pecos County deputy’s killer set for execution

A Kansas jail escapee convicted of the 1988 murder of a Pecos County sheriff’s deputy is scheduled to be executed on Wednesday at the state penitentiary in Huntsville. Charles Edward Smith was convicted by a Pecos County grand jury of the Aug. 20, 1988 murder of deputy Tim Hudson, 61, during a traffic stop on Interstate 10 between Fort Stockton and Balmorhea. Smith and his cousin, Carroll Bernard Smith, who also escaped from the State Release Center in Shawnee County, Kan., then fled in their vehicle through western Pecos County, but were caught by law enforcement officers on FM 1450 near Coyonosa.

“It’s been a long time coming, I know that,” said Pecos County Sheriff Cliff Harris, who was chief deputy of the department 19 years ago, when Hudson was murdered.

Then-Pecos County Sheriff Bruce Wilson said at the time of the incident that Hudson was killed after stopping a red van the two fugitives were in, following a theft of service from a gas station on I-10 in Bakersfield. The two were stopped around mile marker 252 by Hudson, who pulled alongside their vehicle.

The occupants of the van then fired at least three shots from a .357 magnum revolver at Hudson’s patrol car, hitting the deputy once, with the bullet entering though his right shoulder and continuing into his chest.

“He ran into the median and hit some cedar trees, but never did roll over,” Wilson said. The sheriff added that Hudson did not return fire, and was unable to call for help before he died.

“My dad’s last radio transmission was running the plates,” Hudson’s daughter, Gwynn Hudson-Simmons, told the Kerrville Daily Times earlier this year. “He just thought it was a gas thief. He never knew they were escaped convicts. He lived for about 90 seconds after he was shot, and we are thankful that he didn’t suffer.”

A DPS trooper found the empty patrol car and Hudson’s body a short time later, and roadblocks were set up on all highways leading out of Fort Stockton. After the shooting, Charles and Carroll Smith drove north on FM 1776 to Coyonosa, where they abandoned the van and set it on fire.

The two then stole a truck-tractor and attempted to drive east from Coyonosa on FM 1450, but ran into a roadblock at the State Highway 18-FM 1450 intersection. They made a U-turn and attempted to flee back west toward Coyonosa, but were apprehended four miles east of town.

“I was a long drawn-out ordeal,” Harris said. He added that he was out of town the night of the murder and the hunt for both Smiths, but said, “They ran several roadblocks, and eventually ran off into a pasture. They did shoot at the officers some during the chase.” Charles Smith made two videotaped confessions while in custody. According to the Texas Attorney General’s office, He was indicted on August 24, 1988 by a Pecos County grand jury for capital murder in the death of deputy Sheriff Tim Hudson, and he was later convicted and sentenced to death. However, on December 4, 1991, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals reversed his conviction.

Smith was retried, convicted, and sentenced to death again in 1992. On September 20, 1995, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed Smith’s conviction in but remanded the case for a new punishment hearing. Smith received the new hearing, and a jury sentenced him to death on November 17, 1999. Smith’s sentence was affirmed on appeal on May 8, 2002.

During the sentencing phase of the trial, several Pecos County Sheriff’s Department jailers testified that Smith had been both uncooperative and unremorseful following his arrest.

Mark Yates, who was incarcerated in a cell adjoining Smith’s cell in the Pecos County Jail, testified that Smith showed no remorse for the murder of Deputy Hudson and stated that he (Smith) had slept like a baby the first night in jail. Yates also testified that Smith told him that, by killing a police officer, he had fulfilled one of the goals of his life.

Cliff Harris, who supervised the jailers in Pecos County, testified about contraband found in Smith’s cell and in the maximum-security area where he was housed. He testified that they had numerous problems with Smith: he set his blankets on fire once; he fought with other inmates; he had a very short temper and when he lost his temper, he tore things up; he intimidated other inmates and dominated the maximum security cellblock; and he was a danger to other inmates and the jailers.

Jailer Darlene Archer testified that she saw Smith hitting another inmate in the face with his fist; and that she heard Smith singing, in a cheery manner, “I shot the sheriff, but in my case I shot the deputy.” In her opinion, Smith had “no good points” and “no redeeming virtues.”

The AG’s office said Smith had been serving a sentence in Kansas for burglary, theft and aiding a felony, when he and his cousin escaped a week prior to Hudson’s murder. At the time of the escape, Charles had approximately one month left to serve before he would have been eligible for parole.

After escaping, the two men stole a pickup truck in Kansas and drove to Houston. While in Houston, they burglarized several homes and stole credit cards, jewelry, license plates, and a .357 magnum pistol and ammunition. They abandoned the stolen truck and replaced it with a stolen van and began driving west toward New Mexico.

Harris said none of Hudson’s family still lives in Fort Stockton, but there are several sheriff’s department employees beside himself who were co-workers of Hudson. He said while he won’t make the trip to Huntsville for Wednesday’s execution, “The old sheriff, Bruce Wilson will go down for it, and I understand his (Hudson’s) daughter is also going down. I would like to go down, but I’ve got so many things going on. But we will be keeping tabs on it on the news.”

Council told major work set for Eddy St. this fall

Town of Pecos City Council members were given updates on the city’s Main Street program, during their regular meeting on Thursday at City Hall, along with plans by the Texas Department of Transportation for major construction along South Eddy Street starting this fall.

TxDOT maintains Eddy Street (FM 765) from Third Street to Stafford Boulevard, and Mayor Dick Alligood presented the council with plans TxDOT has for upgrading the street, which is the main street through the center of town.

“They’re going to do some real nice work at Washington and Eddy streets. They’re going to put in crosswalks, and close off that little area where people turn that doesn’t have a name, “ he said, referring to the block behind the traffic island in the 1200 block of South Eddy. “They’re going to close it off like a small mall.”

TxDOT also will make all the sidewalks on Eddy ADA compatible, and will put a traffic light in at the corner of Eddy and Washington streets. “That will control traffic north, south, east and west, control special projects at the school district (Pecos High School), and control traffic at Walthall and Eddy. We’ve had several bad accidents in that area, and at least one fatality that I know of,” Alligood said.

TxDOT also plans to widen sections of Eddy Street, which goes from four lanes to two between Third and Seventh streets. The work should get underway sometime early this fall.

“The work will be let to contract in August 2007,” Glen Larum, TxDOT public information director for the Odessa District, said on Friday. “Construction probably won't start for another 45-60 days after that.”

Alligood said before the road crews go in, the city plans to relocate some utilities beneath Eddy Street this summer, mainly in the Washington/Walthall street area. Some work was done last year in relocating one of the sewer lines at Eddy and Washington, after it partially collapsed.

Councilman Danny Rodriguez asked if TxDOT could do improvements to the area of Country Club Drive where a new 48-unit apartment complex is being built, but was told that section is not state-maintained. TxDOT maintains a two-block section of Country Club Drive, between Stafford Boulevard and Interstate 20.

City Manager Joseph Torres told the council he’s talked with Zimmerman Properties, builder of the complex, about street improvements, but said, “Right now that don’t have any plans for the curbs and gutters.”

Rivera discussed a number of items related to the Main Street Program and to the city’s Small Business Center. He noted that the local program received a national commendation for its work in 2006, but added that progress has been slowed due to four vacancies on the nine-member Main Street Board.

“We’re pretty strong in all area, and we had to be to get national recognition, “ he said, adding, “Our current board can’t do it on their own. We need more volunteers, and I think that will come once they see something happening downtown.”

Councilwoman Angelica Valenzuela criticized Rivera for not promoting the center more to current local businesses in Pecos. “Are we reaching the people that already have businesses or want to have businesses?” she said. “We’re not going out and seeing if we can do something for these businesses. We’re letting them fall by the wayside.”

Alligood said that state law prohibits the Main Street Program from operating outside of its designated areas, while Rodriguez said Rivera should go door-to-door to local businesses informing them about the Small Business Center, which can serve all areas of town.

“If they choose not to participate or whatever, but we need to go out and contact them,” he said.

Alligood later said the city and Pecos Economic Development Corp were working to attract a business through the city’s Enterprise Zone tax abatement plan that could provide over 60 new jobs to the community.

Rivera said an out-of-town businessman was looking at the old Woolworth Building at Third and Oak Street for conversion into small businesses and loft apartments. He also told council members the city should soon get some financial help for repairing the Buck Jackson Rodeo Arena and the Reeves County Civic Center, as an agreement with the county on a venue tax board is moving closer.

The venue tax will be a 2 percent hotel/motel occupancy tax. Rivera said the current occupancy tax has been up sharply over the past year, and the valuations of the motels themselves have increased due to the area’s oil and gas drilling boom.

“These motels, even the small litter ones, are being sold for $60,000 to $70,000 per room,” Alligood said.

In other action, council members approved the closing of streets in the Maxey Park area on May 26 for a Memorial Day weekend concert, along with the closing of the 2000 block of Wyoming Street from 7 to 10 p.m. on May 19 for a block party. The latter closing was pending the block residents meeting city guidelines on payments and liability fees, according to city attorney Scott Johnson.

City Parks Department Director Adolfo Ruiz told the council Eddy Kerr and Cothrun streets were the ones to be closed the Saturday prior to Memorial Day, from 2 to 10 p.m. Council members also asked Police Chief Clay McKinney to increase patrols in the Maxey Park area during the hours of the concert.

Council members also recognized Bessie Haynes students who participated in the UIL science fair competition

Shortage of local housing to cut ‘07 cantaloupe crop

The lack of available housing in Pecos has kept a number of local businesses from being able to fill vacancies and add staff in recent months. It also will have another affect on people outside the city this summer - a smaller available crop of Pecos cantaloupes for supermarkets in Texas.

City council members discussed that problem, as part of a discussion of where to house migrant workers who spend the late spring and summer months in Pecos harvesting cantaloupes and onions, due to the lack of housing caused by the oil and natural gas drilling boom in the Trans-Pecos region.

“The crop won’t be nearly as big as it was,” said Pecos Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Linda Gholson, whose brother, Randy Taylor, is the main grower of Pecos cantaloupes. “If we need to, the workers will be living in Fort Stockton and the money won’t be coming to Pecos.”

The discussion began when the council considered a request from the Pecos Housing Authority for waiver for payment in lieu of taxes for 2007 and 2008. City attorney Scott Johnson said the city has accepted a flat payment from the PHA in the past, in lieu of paying ad valorem taxes. “We know the housing authority is not rich,” he told the council. Mayor Dick Alligood then noted that the PHA has allowed the Farm Labor Housing on West County Road to go into default, and that those apartments are currently occupied by workers from TransPecos Foods and the Reeves County Detention Center.

“Farm Labor Housing is no longer there. They’re going into a situation where it’s going to be put on the courthouse steps for auction, “ he said. The Federal Housing Administration in Washington has received two counter offers, including one from the PHA, for the apartments.

The old FLH rules required the PHA to keep those apartments open for migrant workers. Federal officials had relaxed those rules in recent years to allow non-migrants to live there during the off-season, but Alligood said the short period of time that migrant workers were needed in the Trans-Pecos area was too big a strain on the FLH’s finances to maintain any further.

“Due to the short growing season, they can’t be a viable business,” Alligood said. He added that while the PHA would try and work with the migrants if they win the auction for the FLH homes, it would be tough to evict the current full-time local residents for tenants who are in Pecos for just three months out of the year.

“We’ve got employees at TransPecos Foods and the prison out there, and we could be put in a situation where we’d have Nellie knocking on the door telling them they have to move out,” Alligood said.

“We’ve met with some of the farmers and explained what’s going on and let them understand the situation,” he said. “It does mess things up for our farmers.”

Councilwoman Angelica Valenzuela asked Gholson how many more apartments they would need during the cantaloupe harvest season. “We would need about 20,” she said, adding that some mobile homes could be available through the Federal Emergency Management Administration.

“If an entity would write a letter, there are FEMA trailers available at a reasonable cost,” she said, adding the letter would be to assure Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s office that the trailers wouldn’t be misused if they were brought from Arkansas to Pecos.

“If we were able to acquire 20-40-50, whatever the number, someone would be able to say 20-40-50 (migrant workers) will come to town,” Gholson said.

She said the growers would have only a short window to requisition the FEMA trailers, and added, “There would have to be a place to set them,” once they arrived in town. Alligood asked for more information about the trailers. “Some of the liabilities we might have, the council needs to be made aware of,” he said.

In connection with the city’s housing shortage, Alligood said the city has gotten assurances from Ram Kunwar that he has received financing and will begin construction on a 96-unit apartment complex in the 700-800 blocks of West Washington Street in the near future.

The city awarded Kunwar the right to build those apartments last year, but no work has been done due to Kunwar’s delays in getting the project funded. The deal carried a one-year deadline to begin work, a date which is coming up at the end of spring.

“If they are in default, we have another company standing by from Austin Texas,” Alligood said. “They have built these before and are ready to come in. We told the (Kunwar) people in California to get it done, or you’re losing your property, and losing your investment.”

Alligood said the city has met with the Austin builder, and had a meeting on Friday with another builder from the Dallas area.

School board OKs expanded pre-K program

Opening pre-kindergarten classes to all four-year olds in the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD was the topic of discussion at the regular school board meeting, held Thursday in the Technology Center.

The group met to discuss several items, including the program that would allow more four-year olds to participate in pre-K classes.

Pecos Kindergarten Principal Robert Garrett told the group that there are currently 58 students in the pre-K program.

“These students qualify for the four-year old program because they are homeless, qualify for reduced lunch, their parents are in the military or they don’t speak English,” said Garrett.

The change would allow more four-year olds to qualify for the program, but a tuition fee will be imposed, according to Garrett.

“This opens it up to others that don’t qualify,” he said.

Board members approved the program and the tuition charge, and Garrett said that he had already talked to several of the parents and told them that it might require tuition, which would be under $100 a month.

“They said that they didn’t mind if we charged tuition,” he said.

“I think we can handle it, there will be four half day classes,” Garrett told the board. “I think it will run between 20-21 kids in a classroom.”

“We were planning to hire another teacher for kindergarten, anyway,” said PBT-ISD Superintendent Manny Espino. “The sooner we get those four-year olds the better.” Garrett told the group that a similar program opened up in Plano and that they were charging $2,500 per year.

“But that’s in Plano, not Pecos,” said Garrett.

“We have a lot of teachers and staff that have put in an application already,” said Garrett. “We also have some oilfield families and some that make a little bit more and they just don’t qualify.”

Garrett said that with the Head Start Program and the Pre-K program they will handle all the four-year olds in the community.

“This will get them into a structure and help them to be ready. If we did have a high number we will hire another para-professional,” he said.

Garrett said that those students who attend the morning session will be fed breakfast and lunch and those that attend the afternoon classes will have lunch only.

“We have so many positive things going on in Pecos and we want to show them our district is pro-active as well,” said Garrett.

“I see a problem with it, because when they are absent, they will say, well I’m paying for it,” said finance director Cookie Canon.

“Event when they qualify, we still have trouble with them showing up,” said Garrett. Garrett said that he received good responses from the parents.

“At least the ones I was able to visit with,” he said.

Espino said that they can try it for this coming year and if it doesn’t work out discontinue the program.

“I make the recommendation that we try it for a year and add another person,” said Espino.

Board members also approved retaining Choice Energy Group to solicit proposals for the supply of electricity to facilities owned by the school district.

Harrison Victors made a presentation to the board and outlined the company’s plan. He said that the services to be provided by Choice included preparation and distribution of a request for proposal, administration of the RFP process, including receiving and responding to questions from Retail Electric Providers, assistance in analyzing the various proposals submitted for the school district and in making a formal recommendation to the school district board of trustees, and assisting the school district in negotiation and execution of a final supply agreement with the selected retail electric provider.

“As is customary in Choice’s business, we will receive a consumption-based fee for our services, which will be added to the price the district pays the selected retail electric provider,” said Victors.

The retail electric provider, in turn, will transmit payment of the fee to Choice, according to Victors.

“This fee is our only compensation and the school district will not receive any invoice from Choice for our services in this regard,” said Victors. “If the school district rejects the procurement recommendation by Choice, the engagement is terminated and no fees will be due for the services provided by Choice,” he said.

“They go out and shop around and bring back recommendations,” said Espino.

Victors told the group that they would be bringing back information at each step of the process.

Poers announce birth of daughter

Russell and Betsy Poer announce the birth of their first child, a girl, Eilynn Rose Poer, born on March 20.

She weighed eight pounds, nine ounces and was 20 inches long at birth.

Girls participate in photography project

Three girls from the community participated in 4-H photography along with other counties in the area.

This has been the first year that Katelyn Aguilar, Lara Gonzales, and Karina Rodriguez participated in the 4-H Photography Project.

These girls represented Reeves County in the District 4-H Round Up in Ft. Stockton. These girls competed with Counties; such as Pecos, Crane, Presidio, Ward, Ector and many more. Each girl was assigned two categories consisting of Still Life, Animal, Natural Landscape, and People in which they all placed second.

Organizers for the event, said, “ Great job girls and thank you for taking the time to attend and participate in the 4-H program.. Thanks again Nelda Mondrogon, Senovia Rubio and Reeves County Agent Tommy Dominguez.

4-H is a community of young people across America, who are learning leadership, citizenship and life skills.

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