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Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Friday, May 18, 2007

Missing kids face charges after being located at lake

Two teenagers who were reported missing Tuesday in Balmorhea were found unharmed Wednesday in the same area, but face juvenile detention for breaking into a trailer at Balmorhea Lake.

Marlena Nicole Baeza, 12 and Josiah Garza, 13, have been charged with burglary of a habitation, after being found 40 hours following the first report they were missing. “The first teen, a girl was reported missing at 1 a.m., and the boy was reported missing at 3 a.m.,” said Reeves County Sheriff’s Deputy Reno Lewis.

Flyers were posted all over Reeves County and the two were reported missing on the teletype.

Volunteers and members of the local law enforcement agencies also bonded together to look for the two missing teens, who were found at 6 p.m., Wednesday by Balmorhea Volunteer Firefighters.

“They were in a trailer in Balmorhea that we had previously checked and was empty,” said Lewis.

The two had broken in to the trailer and had been hiding out.

“Some of the volunteers heard some noise coming from that trailer and reported it to the Balmorhea Sheriff’s Deputy Manny Jimenez and he went and picked up the kids,” said Lewis.

He added that after being located, “They were transported to the Reeves County Juvenile Detention Center.”

Lewis said that once the teens were taken in to custody they could not ask them any questions.

“We don’t know why they chose to run away,” he said.

The teenagers were found unharmed and were in the process of cooking something to eat when they were located in the trailer.

“They were doing well and were busy trying to cook something to eat when they were found,” said Lewis. “Unfortunately, now they are facing that burglary charge.”

Minor violations cause rise in arrest numbers for police

The energy boom that has brought more money into the local economy has also brought a slight rise in the arrest rate for the Town of Pecos City, based on six-month figures from late 2006 and early 2007, as compared to the same period from the previous year.

Arrests by Pecos Police spiked during the fall, while they were virtually unchanged this past winter, as compared to a year ago, according to figures for the period of August 2006 through January of 2007.

“It’s up a little, but not much” said Pecos Police Chief Clay McKinney, as the bulk of the added arrests have resulted from minor violations, like public intoxication.

A total of 110 people were arrested in the three-month period from September through November of last year, double the number from the same period in 2005, when 55 people were arrested. Intoxication-related arrests were up from nine to 21 during that span, while arrests categorized as “other”, which include failure to appear warrants and other minor violations, rose from 12 to 27 for the September-November period. There were also three driving under the influence arrests for the three-month period, while none were made in 2005.

Drug arrests also increased slightly for the period. There were five arrests in 2005 for possession of controlled substances and one for marijuana possession in the September-November period that year, while in 2006, there were three controlled substance arrests and nine for marijuana possession, along with another for sale/delivery or marijuana.

Also showing a slight increase were assaults. Those were up from eight to 10, while police made four arrests for larceny-theft, versus none for that period in 2005.

The fall spike came after arrests were only up by two, from 29 to 31, in August of 2006 compared with August of the previous year. December 2006 arrests were up three, from 24 to 27, while arrests made by police this past January totaled 22, which was only one more than a year ago.

There were two controlled substance arrests and one marijuana arrest in August of 2006, versus none the previous August, while assaults and public intoxications were vitually unchanged. For the December-January period, there was an increase in public intoxication arrests, rising from 11 to 18, while arrests for possession of controlled substances increased from six to seven and marijuana possession arrests were unchanged.

Police made three arrests during the December 2005-January 2006 period for possession of synthetic drugs, like methamphetamine, and one for the sale/delivery of marijuana, versus just one synthetic drug possession arrest this past December and January.

Ft. Stockton man loses leg from Sunday cycle accident

A Sunday motorcycle accident just south of Pecos has cost a Fort Stockton man his leg, while the driver of the vehicle that allegedly struck him has been charged with driving while intoxicated.

Jose Manuel Sarabia Jr., was traveling north on U.S. 285, going to work in Carlsbad, N.M., from Fort Stockton shortly before 9 p.m. on Sunday when the accident occurred, just south of U.S. 285 intersection with County Road 116 (East County Road). Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper Cletus Tapp said Sarabia’s motorcycle was struck by a red Dodge pickup, driven by Jason Sanchez Chabarria of Pecos, causing it to leave the road on the west side of U.S. 285 and flip, throwing Sarabia into the barrow ditch.

Sarabia suffered a severe compound fracture to his right leg, he was transported by Pecos EMS attendants first to Reeves County Hospital, before being airlifted to Medical Center Hospital in Odessa.

“I called yesterday and they said they had to amputate his right leg,” Tapp said on Wednesday. “I don’t know if it was below the knee, but he did lose part of his leg.”

Tapp said Chabarria “was highly intoxicated” and was traveling from Pecos to his job with an oilfield company in Fort Stockton when the accident occurred. He stopped his pickup about two-tenths of a mile south of the crash site, and called 911 after the accident. He was later charged with DWI, but Tapp said as of Wednesday, no other charges have been filed. “There probably will be, but we haven’t decided yet,” he added.

P-B-T to review construction plans

New buildings, additions and upgrades will be seen at all the facilities of the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD, after voters approved a $30 million bond issue in last Saturday’s election.

“We’re super, super glad that the voters decided to approve the bond,” said PBT-ISD Superintendent Manny Espino. The funds will go towards the first major improvement for school buildings since 1983.

Espino said that they were very happy that the voters took time to go out and vote and that they were appreciative of them for voting for the bond. “We’re glad, with this community support we are able to do a lot of good,” he said.

The main projects are the reconstruction of two wings at Austin Elementary, and the construction of new classrooms at Crockett Junior High for sixth grade students.

Sixth grade students currently at Bessie Haynes Elementary will be attending school at another campus this coming school year, in preparation for the many upgrades that are planned after the bond passed.

Espino said that the board will meet again on June 7 and that the architect, Monte Hunter will be on hand.

“At that time, he will outline the various options or routes that we can take, such as going through sealed proposals or hiring a construction manager,” said Espino. “There are three or four different ways to go.”

He said that one of the main ways to approach the projects, is by hiring a construction manager at risk. “That may be one of his proposals and is one often taken,” he said. Espino said that ultimately it will be up to the board to see which option and then we’ll start laying out a plan to proceed.

“Southwest Security will also be here at the time and they’ll be addressing the board,” said Espino.

Other steps will have to be taken as far as the bonds are concerned, according to Espino. “There are some steps to take and the set an amount and close,” he said. “We’ll have to figure out what the 33 cents (per $100 in property valuations) will generate.”

Then the district will come back and have the actual bonds sale.

“It will take 30 days to close and if it closes by the end of July and make a payment then,” Espino said.

For the 2007-08 school year, sixth graders will be housed at the Zavala campus with Jim Workman acting as principal at that campus. Sixth grade classes were at Zavala until three years ago, and the building since then has housed Pecos Head Start.

Workman is currently the assistant principal at Pecos High School.

“We’re hoping to get the construction at the Crockett Junior High complete within a year, when all sixth graders will be moved over there with the seventh and eighth graders,” said Espino.

“He’ll (Workman) be there at Zavala this next school year and after that, when we move the sixth graders to Crockett, he will be the assistant principal there,” said Espino. “If there is an opening later at the high school, we will certainly consider him.”

He said that there were guarantees that he would be moved back to the high school.

Espino said that he has contacted Pecos Head Start workers to let them know that they will have to move their operations to another campus, where the program had previously been located.

“At this point, we don’t know exactly where we will move Head Start to, either the Carver campus (on East 12th Street) or the Pecos Elementary School,” he said.

Cantaloupe crop cuts linked to housing shortage

A short harvest season and a shortage of housing in Pecos are the reasons there will be a shortage of Pecos Cantaloupes in stores this summer, as fears of a lack of housing for migrant workers has resulted in a cutback in planting for the 2007 crop.

Pecos Cantaloupe Company, the area’s main grower, will produce fewer melons this year than in recent years, because of the shortage of housing for migrant workers. The company said it’s looking at an offer to use surplus trailers from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to house some of the workers, but the uncertainty on housing already led to a reduction in the number of melons planted this spring.

“We cut our amount way back just because we don’t have anyplace to put the help,” said Clay Taylor with Pecos Cantaloupe Co. He said they would inform buyers next month that production numbers would be down when the 2007 harvest comes in at the start of July. Migrants who in the past would have stayed at the Farm Labor Housing complex on West County road won’t be able to do so this year, as virtually all apartments are rented out to full-time residents. Pecos Housing Authority Executive Director Nellie Gomez said there are only a few remaining apartments that could house migrant families, and the PHA is awaiting word on if their offer to buy the apartments from the U.S. Department of Agriculture is approved.

The PHA has overseen operation of the Farm Labor Housing, which is made up of 56 units that which were built 20 years ago to house migrant workers during crop harvesting season. But with the harvest season only lasting 3-4 months in the area, and with the cutback in area onion production in recent years that has left those apartments vacant for even longer periods of time, it left the FLH with no source of income for upkeep of the facilities for most of each year.

In recent years, government officials have allowed the FLH to rent out some apartments to non-migrant workers for a nine-month period, actions that came during a period of declining jobs and high unemployment in Pecos. But the recent increase in oil and natural gas drilling activities in the Trans-Pecos region, combined with increased employment at the Reeves County Detention Center and TransPecos Foods has left the city short of available housing, and most of the apartments today are occupied by workers from either the prison or the food processing plant.

Problems with obtaining financing, a shortage of available construction workers due to higher wages being offered by oil and gas-related companies, and depressed housing valuations in Pecos caused by the economic downturn of the 1990s and the early part of the current decade left the city short of housing when the energy boom began three years ago. The influx of new workers since then made full-time use of the FLH apartments more important.

Gomez said she’s had calls from people who bring migrant workers to the area for the summer harvest season, but has had to tell them the housing isn’t available this year. “They want to come to Pecos to work the cantaloupes, but it would be sad to see them come in and have no place to stay,” she said.

“We have not yet turned it over,” said Nellie Gomez, executive director of the Pecos Housing Authority. “We are at the point that we have made a counter compromise off to the U.S. Department of Agriculture rural development people to purchase the apartments, to keep the Farm Labor Housing for the Pecos Housing Authority. But we have not heard from them.”

Gomez said the initial offer to purchase the FLH apartments was made following an April 2 meeting, but was rejected by federal officials.

“They did not accept our first offer, based on the fact they did not want to allow the management fee,” she said. “So they said they wouldn’t accept the $199,000 offer,” which included the management fee owed by USDA to the PHA, plus insurance costs.

“They came back and gave us a counter-offer of $230,000,” Gomez said. The PHA then sent back an application based on the counter offer, and are waiting for a reply.

Gomez said as far as she knows, there has been no other offer to the USDA for the Farm Labor Housing, but that there’s no guarantee that the government will accept the PHA’s new offer.

“They either accept us, or if they deny us, we turn it back to them and they’ll probably auction it off on the courthouse steps,” she said. “But we have first shot at it.”

Gomez said almost all the apartments on West County Road right now are rented, “except for three that I’m fixing to offer to the growers. I did talk to Clay and talked to some of the other growers about the apartments, but it’s going to take a lot of money to fix them up. That’s why we haven’t rented them.”

She said the vacant apartments need a number of repairs, including to plumbing and electrical lines. If the growers don’t take the apartments, Gomez said, “We do have a waiting list, but a lot of times by the time we call the next person on the list, they’ve already found something else, or they’ve left the area.”

Gomez said she found out about the FEMA trailers during a Migrant Expo conference in Austin, during a discussion on the shortage of migrant housing in the area.

“They talked about the Pecos Cantaloupe growers having problem housing people in any of the area towns, and they said there was this group of government officials who were willing to talk to the growers about getting FEMA trailers,” she said. “I gave Clay the number and told him to call.”

Taylor said they’re still talking with officials about the trailers, and have only a short time remaining to get a deal completed.

“We’ll have to have them moved in here and ready to go by the last week of June or the first week of July,” he said. “So we need to have it done by the middle of June, and that’s just 30 days.”

Watering, landscaping plans for Fairview Cemetery Oked

New plans for watering and landscaping Fairview Cemetery were approved on May 10 by the Pecos City Council, during their regular meeting at City Hall.

Council members accepted plans drawn up by city officials and members of the Fairview Cemetery Board, which was formed last year to deal with problems at the city’s in-town cemetery.

Water leaks in lines at Fairview led the city to cut off water to the facility last year. Local residents who have family members buried at Fairview then complained that they could not keep their plots in good condition without access to water.

City Attorney Scott Johnson said the plans call for a change in watering and going to more of a desertscape design, to lower the need for water at Fairview.

“It will be watered from well water rather than treated water. That alone should save the city a substantial amount of money,” Johnson said. The well water will be a drip irrigation system, and will also be used on the park at the Pecos Girl Scout Hut, across Eighth Street from the cemetery.

Changes in the cemetery’s by-laws will address the rules on care of plots and size of monuments, but mayor Dick Alligood said existing monuments at the cemetery won’t be affected by the changes.

Alligood added that the city is working with the Pecos Extension Service on putting less water-hungry plants at the cemetery.

Council members also approved first readings of ordinances on the Pecos Fire Department, and on annexation of property at 106 W. Daggett St., along with the second and final reading of an annexation ordinance for 819 N. Hickory St.

Council members discussed the appeals process for any problems within the fire department, and agreed that any questions should first go through city staff before coming to the council for a decision. The main change from current rules states that the constitution and by-laws of the PFD should be approved in advance by the city council.

“I defined it that way It was my decision,” said city attorney Scott Johnson. “But I got the impression you wanted more oversight on the fire department with the city.”

“I don’t believe we need another level, but they have the option to come before the council,” said councilman Frank Sanchez. “That’s automatic, because Joseph works at our discretion.”

Armstrong, Penry announce wedding plans

Mr. and Mrs. David Armstrong, of Monahans, announce the engagement and approaching marriage of their daughter, Erin Michelle Armstrong to Jason Coy Penry, of Stillwater, Okla. The future bride is a 2000 graduate of Monahans High School; 2004 graduate of Texas A&M University with a bachelor’s degree in science and a 2006 graduate of Texas A&M University with a master’s degree in science.

The groom to be is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Michael Penry of Cleveland, Tx. He is a 1995 graduate of Walker High School in Walker, La.; 2001 graduate of Louisiana State University in Shreveport with a bachelor’s degree in education and a 2002 graduate of Louisiana State University with a master’s degree in science. He is a 2007 candidate for a PhD in Higher Education Administration from Texas A&M University.

The couple plan to wed June 16, in Monahans with Rev. David Weyant officiating.

They will make their home in Stillwater, Okla. following the wedding.

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.


Juan Antonio Flores Jr., 28, of Dallas, was arrested by police on May 14 on a charge of public intoxication. Police said the arrest occurred after they were called to the Roper’s Motel in the 1200 block of East Third Street in response to a fight, and found Flores intoxicated on the parking lot of the motel. He was then transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.


Jose Luis Catillo Jr., 34, of San Diego, Tx., was arrested by police on May 15 and charged with public intoxication. Police said the arrest took place in the 1500 block of South Cedar Street, and Catillo was then transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.


Angela Tarin, 28, 415 S. Cherry St., was arrested by police at her home on May 15 on a series of warrants, charging her with no driver’s license, open container of alcohol in vehicle and allowing minor to consume alcohol, along with three other warrants for failure to appear on the original charges. She was arrested at 4:39 a.m. and was then transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.


Oscar Saenz Barrera, 43, 1512 Johnson St., was arrested by police on May 13 on a charge of driving while intoxicated, a Class A misdemeanor. Police said the arrest was made following a hit-and-run accident at 8 p.m. in the 100 block of North Cedar, and Barrera was located hiding in a garage in the 100 block of South Pecan St., after abandoning his vehicle in the 100 block of South Ash Street. He was then transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.


Cruz Salazar, 20, of Brownwood, was arrested by police on May 12 on a charge of public intoxication, and a warrant out of Brown County for failure to appear. Police said the arrest was made after police were called to the Roper’s Motel in the 1200 block of East Third Street in response to a fight. Salazar was then transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.


Rudy Granado, 72, of Fort Davis, was arrested by police on May 10 on a charge of public intoxication. Police said the arrest was made outside the Green Lantern Bar, 611 E. Second St., at 12:03 a.m. Granado was then transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.


Christopher Paul Sims, 32, 622 E. 13th St., was arrested by police on May 10 on a charge of assault under the Family Violence Act, a Class C misdemeanor, and resisting arrest, a Class A misdemeanor. Police said the arrest was made after officers were called to Sims’ home on a report that he had assaulted his stepfather. He was then transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.


Fred Rede Lara, 50, 817 S. Ash St., was arrested by police on May 8 on a charge of criminal trespass, a Class B misdemeanor. Police said the arrest was made after a complaint was filed by managers at Wal-Mart, 1903 S. Cedar St. Lara was then transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.


Miguel Garcia, 44, 611 S. Pine St., was arrested by police on May 7 on a charge of failure to signal turn. Police said the arrest was made at 13th and Elm streets, and Garcia was then transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.


Jose Alfredo Lujan, 45, 311 S. Mulberry St., was arrested by police on May 7 on a charge of driving while intoxicated and evading arrest or detention. Police said the arrest was made in the 500 block of West Fourth Street, and Lujan 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
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