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Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

City facing major spike in water use

The Town of Pecos City went from worrying about not enough water use by local customers a month ago to worrying about too much use of water on Monday morning, during a special meeting of the council at City Hall.

Council members, who were concerned last month that rainy weather this year lowered water use by customers and cut back on the city’s income from water and sewer rate fees, leading to freezes on department budgets and salaries for the 2008 fiscal year, were presented with the problem on Monday of too much water use by commercial customers that could cause early depletion of the city’s existing water fields.

As a result, the council approved the first reading of a new ordinance designed to better monitor large commercial water users, while setting a higher rate for that use, and to put maximum allotments on the use if studies show the fields are being depleted before their projected 40-year lifespan.

“We had a request for additional 4-inch taps to the city water line,” said mayor Dick Alligood, noting the plans by Roy Lindsey for a water station on the west side of Pecos for trucks going out to drilling sites in the area, and another company seeking a similar project that would involve 52 water trucks with 500 barrel capacities filling up in Pecos twice a month.

Alligood said if the new projects are completed, “That’s 8 million gallons off the field we hadn’t anticipated … We need something to protect the water field.”

He said two local businesses that are bulk water users, M&W Hot Oil, Inc. and Water Works, have been informed about the change. Alligood added that until now, the city had not been keeping close tabs on the high-volume water use.

But public works director Edgardo Madrid presented the council with a water use estimate sheet. It showed that while water use dropped from 925.2 million to 843.4 million gallons from the 2006 to 2007 fiscal year, water usage is projected to hit 985.3 million gallons in the 2008 fiscal year, with 10 percent of that industrial use, and jump again in the 2009 fiscal year to 1.03 billion gallons, with 15 percent of that industrial use.

The changes approved to the city’s 1967 water use ordinance included increasing the water rate for high volume uses to the well rate, currently at $11.03 per 1,000 gallons, and that anyone wanting to re-sell city water will have to get a permit to do so from City Hall. Funds from the new rates would go into an escrow account to pay for future water development.

The city paid $8 million in 2001 for the development of the South Worsham Water Field. Reeves County is currently repaying the Texas Water Development Board 20-year loan on that, at a rate of over $400,000 per year, under an agreement by the city to provide water to the Reeves County Detention Center. The city will assume payment in 2011, when current water rates will increase about 20 percent.

Madrid said the city may also bring in a hydrologist in six months to study the current water usage rates and decide if limits need to be put on well users.

“Can we go back and limit the amount a customer can use?” asked councilman Frank Sanchez.

“You grant the permit, but the permit can always be resinded,” said city attorney Scott Johnson.

“As long as we’re protected. My main concern is the water field,” Sanchez said.

“The main thing is we don’t have city rate payers subsidizing those outside water users,” Alligood said.

Pecos man jailed in border marijuana seizure

A Pecos man was arraigned in federal court recently, after being charged with a drug offense that occurred on Aug. 10 at the Presidio border crossing.

Federal prosecutors said Oscar Garcia Archuleta, Jr., applied for permission at the Presidio, Port-of-Entry, driving a 2007 GMC Yukon with Texas license plates on Aug. 10.

Archuleta declared to be a citizen of the United States and made a negative declaration upon contact with the primary Customs and Border Protection Officer (CBP).

He stated to the primary CBP Officer that he was traveling from Ojinaga, Chih., Mexico to Pecos.

The CBP officer referred the vehicle into secondary for further inspection.

A negative declaration was again taken by the CBP officer assigned on duty in the secondary inspection area. The CBP Officers began to search the vehicle and noticed that the gas tank of the vehicle had a solid sound when tapped with a brass hammer. A K-9 narcotic detector dog alerted to the outside of the gas tank area.

The vehicle was placed on a hydraulic lift and the gas tank was removed. Upon removal of the sending unit, the gas tank was revealed to contain several cellophane wrapped bundles.

A bundle was removed from the gas tank and was cut open. The bundle contained a green leafy substance which field tested positive for the properties of marijuana. A total of 60 bundles of marijuana weighing 29.3 kilograms (64.6 pounds) were extracted from the vehicle. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agents were notified and responded.

Archuleta was advised of his Miranda rights and agreed to make a statement to ICE Special Agents.

According to the report provided by the agents, he stated he was going to take the vehicle to Odessa, at the request of a person whom he knew and worked with in running narcotics across the border. This individual made an arrangement with Archuleta that he was going to be paid at least $100 for each pound of marijuana inside his vehicle.

Archuleta wrote out $66,000 on a sheet of paper showing the amount he was going to be paid upon delivery to Odessa.

In the report, Archuleta states that he witnessed the narcotics being placed in to the gas tank of his vehicle.

Assistant United States Attorney Sandy Stewart is prosecuting the case.

On Aug. 27, Archuleta signed a waiver of personal appearance at arraignment and entered a plea of not guilty at the United States District Court Western District of Texas Pecos Division with Judge Robert Junell.

Crews looking to cap well following blow-out

A blowout on a workover rig Friday morning caused the evacuation of a site about 10 miles north of Pecos due to the presence of deadly hydrogen sulfide gas, but no injuries were reported as a result of the accident, which crews were continuing to try and get under control on Monday.

According to the Texas Railroad Commission, the rig was being operated by Petroplex Energy, Inc. and was working on an existing well located new a new drilling site, about 10 miles north of Pecos between U.S. 285 and FM 1216. “They reported to us at about 10:15 a.m. on Sept. 14 they were working over the well when it happened,” said Ramona Nye, spokesperson for the Texas Railroad Commission in Austin. “The workers were evacuated, but there were no injuries.”

She added that workers reportedly were pulling out tubing and packing from the well when the blowout occurred.

While no persons were hurt and the escaping gas did not ignite, livestock in the area reportedly were affected by the H2S in the gas, and a safety company was called in to do air quality testing at the site, as well as at the nearby drilling rig, one of several in the area just to the north of Pecos.

“We’re monitoring it. Cudd Well Control is on site monitoring it,” Nye said.

The blowout was the second to occur in the area north of Pecos in just over a year. In August of 2006 a blowout on the Helmerich & Payne 97 rig, located just west of U.S. 285 near the State Highway 302 intersection in Reeves County, blew out, sending mud and drilling oil spraying out of the hole and forcing over 30 workers to evacuate the area. That gas well blowout also did not ignite and the formation later sealed itself, cutting off the flow of gas.

Commissioners hit on pay hike, insurance shift

A majority of Reeves County Commissioners are in favor of finding a new health insurance provider for county workers, but the plan has led to protests by Reeves County Attorney Alva Alvarez about the process used by the county to find a new insurer.

Alvarez also charged that commissioners are seeking to raise county salaries, including their own, at the same time they are looking for cheaper health insurance and raising the county’s property tax rate.

Discussion of the health insurance change will be again on the agenda in a special meeting Tuesday morning at the Reeves County Courthouse. The insurance issue has been brought up at previous meetings, and commissioners have met with several insurance providers. Three of the four commissioners support the change, but the item was once again tabled during a special meeting last week.

Precinct 1 Commissioner Roy Alvarado; Precinct 2 Commissioner Gabriel Martinez, Precinct 4 Commissioner Ramiro Guerra and county judge Sam Contreras voted to obtain a new insurance. Commissioner Precinct 3 Saul Herrera voted against it and stated that he had talked to several people who wanted to retain the insurance the county currently has, Blue Cross/Blue Shield.

Herrera was also the only commissioner who voted against a 2 1/2-cent property tax hike that was proposed earlier this month. Commissioners are returning the tax rate to the same level it was a year ago, despite an increase of $50 million in county valuations during the past year.

In questioning the commissioners’ actions, Alvarez stated that in her opinion, the process surrounding the selection of employee health insurance benefits lacks integrity for several reasons.

“The 16-year-old bid/proposal procedure in which (Reeves County Auditor) Lynn Owens receives, reviews, and retains on filed all bid/proposal materials was changed without notice to anyone,” said Alvarez.

There was no agreed upon policy or procedure to replace the old procedure. In fact, no new procedure was employed at all, according to Alvarez.

After the proposals were received, they were not kept together in a place where interested persons could review the proposals, she said.

“The health insurance issue has become intertwined with the issue or raising salaries on the commissioners court. The court, through the judge and the likely cooperation of two commissioners is seeking a source of revenue to fund their own pay increase,” said Alvarez.

The revenue required to fund a pay increase for the judge and the willing commissioners is much more than the actual dollars needed to pay for the raise itself. In order to politically justify a pay increase for the commissioners court, a salary increase and other types of inducements must be given to elected county officials and other employees as well, according to Alvarez.

“This has created a Christmas at the courthouse atmosphere, where, in essence, all of those who might complain have been given what they want in order to stave off complaints about the commissioners court’s own pay increase,” said Alvarez. “The revenue for this county-wide give away is going to come from a tax increase and alleged savings from switching to a cheaper employee health insurance administrator,” she said.

According to information provided by Owens, the proposed change in health insurance administrators appears to generate some savings to the county by shifting additional costs to employees with dependent coverage, which will be taken from each employee’s paycheck each payday, according to Alvarez.

“Much of the discussion about these matters has taken place in private and includes the threat of retaliation against one commissioner who did not support the plan,” said Alvarez.

“For the reasons stated herein, it is my opinion that the integrity of the process has been destroyed. The employee health insurance item should be re-bid to insure that a fair procedure is followed and that the issue is separated from the vote trading and retaliation surrounding the proposed raises for the commissioners court,” according to Alvarez.

Armored car robbers caught after high-speed chase

A high-speed chase in Reeves County Friday afternoon ended with the capture of two persons in Van Horn who are linked to an armored car robbery in Dallas in which over $1 million was stolen.

On Friday, at 4:15 p.m., Lieutenant Kevin Roberts, with the Reeves County Sheriff’s Department, attempted to stop a black Mercedes Benz, which was traveling westbound, at mile marker 22 in Toyah on Interstate 20.

“At that time, a pursuit ensued when the vehicle refused to stop,” said Roberts, who said the chase westbound reached speeds of more than 130 miles an hour and continued for about 70 miles, into Van Horn.

“I called DPS in Culberson County for assistance,” said Roberts.

Roberts said that at the same time, a woman driving a Cadillac appeared to be with the Mercedes.

“I decided to stay with her, while DPS followed the Mercedes,” said Roberts.

The driver of the Mercedes, 51-year-old Freddy Lee Boots, along with his accomplice, Pamela Jean Bull, 40, both of Dallas were located and searched at the Econoline Hotel.

“They were both located at the hotel,” said Roberts. “They were traveling together in separate vehicles.”

Roberts said that money was found inside both vehicles.

“The money was wrapped in bundles that had the U.S. Federal Bank seals, while led us to believe that it was stolen,” said Roberts.

Roberts said that at that time, they contacted the Texas Rangers and both FBI from El Paso and Dallas came to the scene.

“They took over the investigation,” he said.

According to the Dallas Morning News, the money is believed to have come from a Sept. 5 robbery, in which more than $1 million was stolen from a Loomis armored truck at a Compass Bank branch across from the Lakewood Country Club. One of the guards told authorities that two masked robbers holding what looked like semiautomatic rifles approached him and demanded money.

The FBI believes that a third person was involved in the robbery.

“It was a lot of money and we’re proud of the work that Lit. Roberts does,” said Reeves County Sheriff Andy Gomez. “He has good instincts and works hard.”

Both Boots and Bull have been charged with aggravated robbery and are being held in the Culberson County Jail in Van Horn.

Council chooses 4B board, balks at deal for PHA land

Town of Pecos City Council members selected a new board of directors for the city’s new 4B economic development corporation, while rejecting a deal by the current 4A board that would have acquired land along Interstate 20 from the Pecos Housing Authority, in exchange for funds the authority needed to buy the adjacent Farm Labor Housing.

Council members made those decisions as part of their regular meeting on Thursday at City Hall. The seven members selected came following an 80 minute executive session, while the decision against supporting the Farm Labor Housing purchase was at the recommendation of city attorney Scott Johnson, who was unsure of whether the new 4B corporation could legally be made to honoring the $230,000 payment agreed to by the 4A corporation for the purchase of 34.23 acres of land owned by the Housing Authority along Interstate 20 between West County Road and Country Club Drive.

Johnson said the 4B EDC could take on the obligation if it wanted to after it officially begins operations on Oct. 1 replacing the. 4A EDC. But it’s president, Joe Keese, said the agreement between the PHA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, owners of the 56-unit Farm Labor Housing complex, was only good through this past Friday.

The current 4A Economic Development Corp. was created nine years ago, and had five members on its board. Of those, only two, Jimmy Dutchover and Leo Hung, were reappointed to the new 4B board. Both were named to two-year terms, as were city councilman Danny Rodriguez and city manager Joseph Torres. Named to one year terms were mayor Dick Alligood, along with Bill Oglesby and Paul Hinojos, the presidents of the local branches of TransPecos Bank and West Texas National Bank.

Dropped from the board were councilman Gerald Tellez, Al Gomez and Keese, the Chief Executive Officer of TransPecos Bank and president of the current PEDC board. He was in attendance at Thursday’s meeting, and said that, while the council rejected the agreeing to the $230,000 deal by the Sept. 14 deadline, the funds would be made available through his bank, in conjunction with the private sale of the 34.23 acres, which would allow PHA to then repay the loan.

“We will loan the Authority the money to buy the housing tonight, and we will then turn around and sell it,” Keese told the council. He said that by doing it through the bank, profits from any subsequent parceling of the I-20 frontage land for re-sale will go to a private developer instead of to the PEDC and the city.

“When a private entity steps up and sells that property, I don’t want to hear anything,” Keese told the council.

“You won’t,” replied councilwoman Angelica Valenzuela.

Town of Pecos City voters in May approved the changeover of the PEDC from a 4A to a 4B corporation. The main difference between the two is the 4B charter allows spending of EDC funds on more projects, mainly related to tourism and to expansion of existing local businesses. Opponents of the move argued that the current PEDC did not have the same sources of funding as economic development corporations in richer and larger West Texas cities, and that spending should be focused on projects that attract new businesses to the Pecos area.

Several other items related to the PEDC and the creation of the new 4B EDC were also discussed during Thursday’s meeting, while a special meeting was held at 7 a.m. on Monday at City Hall to discuss the sale of several pieces of property in the city, after the sales had been reviewed by PEDC president Mike Burkholder.

One item involved the official name of the new entity, which the council decided would be the Pecos 4B Economic Development Corp.

“You’ll approve the name and the directors,” Johnson said. “The directors approve the by-laws and the council also approves that.”

Burkholder said when the new 4B corporation officially goes into business, a meeting will be held in early October to elect officers and approve the new by-laws for the group. A new budget for the 4B PEDC will also have to be drawn up, to replace the 4A budget done by Burkholder for the 2008 fiscal year.

The votes on the sale of the commercial property was added to Thursday’s agenda, but Johnson said because it wasn’t posted 72 hours before the meeting, he said no action should be taken to avoid being in violation of state law.

Burkholder recommended approval of two of the four properties on the list; the site of the former American Motor Inn on West Third Street and the Balmorhea Highway, and land in the 1800 block of West Third Street.

He said Roy Lindsey of Lindsey Construction bid $3,200 for the American Motor Inn land. “His plan is to put a water stand there to load trucks,” Burkholder said. “He has quite an investment, and it’s sorely needed in he community.”

He said the $500 bid on the land in the 1800 block of West Third was by Eddie Rodriguez, who already owns other land on that block. The two rejected bids were on a property next to Sonic in the 500 block of West Third Street, with a bid of $1,500; and a $925 bid for two lots next to the former Pecos Ice House on Cypress Street.

“Somebody from California big $925 for that, but they’re just speculating on it. There’s got to be a better use for the land, and I recommend it not be accepted,” Burkholder said.


Editor’s Note: Marriage and divorce records are public record and may be accessed by anyone. All marriage records are kept in the Reeves County Clerk’s office, while divorce records can be located in the District Clerk’s Office located on the second floor of the courthouse.

Marriages for June 2007, as filed with the Reeves County Clerk’s Office. Nathan Mitchell Thornock and Angela Dawn Demor. Jesse M. Scott and Suzanne Mora Nichols.

Marriages for July 2007, as filed with the Reeves County Clerk’s Office. Marcial Lopez and Pilar Lujan. Saul Audelio Mendoza and Ronda Jo Hallum. James Paul Marquez and Maria Estela Duenas. Tony C. Trujillo and Heather Eileen Baeza. Luis Carlos Baca and Genoveva Munoz. Auden Rodriguez Corrales and Erin Joslyn Dominguez. Pedro Orona and Margarita Corralez. Cristian C. Reyes and Farrah R. Lozano.

Divorces Divorces for July 2007, as filed with the Reeves County District Clerk’s Office. John T. Rediger and Landa C. Rediger. Martha Leonard Rubio and Joel Bravo Rubio. Estela A. Alvarez and Eddie G. Alvarez. Elizabeth Reyes Franco and Dominique Granado Franco.

Divorces for August 2007, as filed with the Reeves County District Clerk’s Office. Jay Bob Haney and Jaclyn Toma Haney. Frank M. Orona and Susie Orona. Patricia C. Rodriguez and Brian Scott Rodriguez. Marina Guerra and Jason Guerra. Martha Ann Williams Overcash and Billy Ray Overcash. Daniel Sotelo and Maria Sotelo.

Hounshell graduated from DPS training

Clint Hounshell graduated from the Texas Department of Public Safety Academy on August 3, in Austin.

He is a 1995 PHS High School graduate and served in the United States Air Force for six years.

Hounshell served three overseas tours of duty: two in Iraq and one in Quatar.

He is the son of Joe and Sharon Coody of Pecos, and Larry Hounshell of Abilene, TX, and the grandson of John A Griffis of Pecos.

He and his wife, Dashielle, and son Clayton, are currently stationed in Crane.

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