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Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Friday, February 2, 2007

Board to study school building improvements

Pecos-Barstow-Toyah school board members, the district’s superintendent and a committee were scheduled to tour two campuses Thursday evening as part of plans to expand or improve campuses within the district.

The tour is part of the district’s Facility Assessment Project, and the group was to begin its tour of two campuses as part of a special school board meeting at 6 p.m., Thursday, at the Technology Center.

“What we’ll do is open up the special meeting here at the Technology Center and then we invited some people, got together an advisory committee, and they will tour with us,” said Superintendent Manny Espino. He added that the committee will help board members with their decisions on what needs to be done at each of the campuses.

Board members discussed possible campus changes, which could involve calling a bond election as part of the district’s regular school board elections in May.

Thursday’s tour was to start at Pecos Kindergarten, followed by a trip to Crockett Middle School.

“We will do another walk-through on Feb. 5 and another one on Feb. 9,” said Espino. “Then we will have a workshop on Feb. 10.”

Espino said that they are asking the committee members to do the walk-throughs with the board, the superintendent and the principals of each campus.

“We want them to do the walk-throughs with us, so that we can gather input as to what to do and what they think needs to be done first,” said Espino. “They might see something we haven’t seen or have some new ideas.”

He said that the committee was just an “advisory” committee, and that ultimately, the board will decide on the changes for each of the campuses, while taking into consideration any new ideas or suggestions.

P-B-T ISD spent $2 million in 2001 refurbishing parts of Pecos High School and Zavala Middle School, after adding four new science lab rooms onto Crockett Middle School the previous year. At the same time, the district has closed four campuses over the past decade due to declining enrollment, including Zavala two years ago.

Sixth grade students at that campus were moved into the adjacent Bessie Haynes Elementary, in an effort to cut costs. During their board meeting in January, members discussed the possibility of reopening that campus, or expanding facilities at other campuses.

“Some of these buildings are 50 years old and the committee might suggest that it won’t do any good to do renovations, and think they need to torn down, but the board might think differently,” said Espino.

“I don’t know what they’ll do, but finally it will rest on the board,” he said.

Espino said that the advisory committee would provide them with “a new set of eyes.” “They will point out to us new ideas and suggestions,” he said. “They will be there as a fresh set of eyes and see things from their prospective.

“Hopefully they will help us put together something that we can all work with,” Espino said.

One project that received emergency approval was shoring up an unstable gym wall at Crockett Middle School. Work on that project will begin on Monday.

“They were supposed to start yesterday, but we wanted to get a fair price for that,” said Espino. “I spoke to Monte (Hunter, architect with Hunter Corral) and told him to go ahead and tell the company to order everything they needed to and start the remodeling,” said Espino.

Mid-Tex of Midland will be starting the improvements on Monday at the school, which was built in 1965.

“We ask for everyone’s patience as they work through the problem at that school,” said Espino.

Jury rules for officers, county in assault suit

Reeves County, Sheriff Andy Gomez, three of his deputies and Pecos Police officer Helen Vernon were held not liable by a U.S. District Court jury on Wednesday of conspiracy and assault charges filed by Vernon’s ex-husband, Joe Vernon, following a three day trial Pecos.

The seven person jury ruled the officers did not conspire to assault Joe Vernon, in an incident that occurred on April 24, 2002 near the couples’ trailer home southwest of Pecos, according to the U.S. District Clerk’s office. Vernon had been seeking $5 million in actual and $5 million in punitive damages in his lawsuit, which was originally dismissed, but then sent back for trial by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

Vernon’s attorney Brett L. Bigham argued that Helen Vernon had used her connections with local law enforcement officers to set up her husband for an assault by deputies, after they were called to the house the morning of April 24, two-and-a-half months after the Vernons’ divorce was finalized. Denis Dennis, attorney for Reeves County, Gomez and deputies Israel Campos, Richard P. Natividad and Lionel Garza, along with Helen Vernon’s attorney, Terry Wayne Rhoads, argued that Joe Vernon had created the incident by driving away from deputies, and that no excessive force was used when Vernon was arrested and taken to Reeves County Jail.

The incident took place after Helen Vernon had called Joe Vernon to pick up their young son, who she said was running a fever. Rhoads played a tape of her call to her husband, made while she was in Pecos, that said she would be at the house around 11:15 a.m. and he should meet her at the end of the paved road near the house. However, Joe Vernon arrived at the home about 30 minutes before then, where babysitter Sonia Stone refused to give the child to Vernon.

Phone records showed both Vernons had called deputies to be on stand-by, but jurors were told when deputies arrived on-site, Joe Vernon left the scene, before being stopped further down the road. He alleged that deputies then broke out the driver’s side window, pulled him from the pick-up and beat him, causing him to lose consciousness. Attorneys argued that Vernon was never unconscious, and that the window was broken after deputies lost sight of his hands below the dashboard.

The Vernons had been operating a pumping service off their property off County Road 336, with Joe Vernon using his airplane to fly to and from jobs. Jurors heard details of the couples’ divorce, which Helen Vernon said was filed after she returned from Houston in the middle of the night found her husband with an employee, Cindy Ray, at the trailer home. Joe Vernon denied he and Ray were in a relationship, and in closing arguments Bigham told jurors the April 24 incident was part of an effort by Helen Vernon to get her husband arrested. He cited an earlier incident, on Nov. 7, 2001, when Vernons were using each other’s vehicles, and Joe Vernon was stopped and the truck searched for two guns and a service revolver belt.

“What is very clear from the evidence is Joe Vernon was set up to be arrested by his wife,” Bigham told jurors. He later said Vernon was on the phone with Reeves County Attorney Louis Carrasco at the time his window was broken out in the April 24 incident.

“They did want to rough him up, and the way they did it was excessive,” Bigham said. “Joe Vernon claims there was a conspiracy to kill him on Nov. 7 and April 24. He said deputy Israel Campos was going to shoot him through the window, but lost his nerve,” Dennis said, in disputing the claim while adding that Carrasco testified in court that he told Vernon to give himself up to deputies.

Vernon and Ray had been arrested the afternoon before in an incident at the trailer, and Dennis told the jury the April 24 incident may have been an attempt by Vernon to get arrested again, in an effort to set up an assault claim.

“If Joe Vernon called them out there, why did he run? If he’s got a sick baby, why did he run?” he asked jurors.

Vernon claimed he suffered serious back injuries from the incident which required physical therapy treatment and left him s unable to fly his plane, Bigham cited past and future lost wages from his oilfield work, along with compensation from the medical costs, in seeking the $5 million in actual damages.

Dennis argued that Vernon caused the incident by arriving early and going to the house instead of waiting to pick up the child at the end of the road, and then by leaving the scene when deputies attempted to talk with him.

“Joe wants $10 million, but one person could have avoided all this, and that’s Joe Vernon,” he said.

Dennis added that Vernon failed to notify doctors immediately following the incident of his new back problems, and Helen Vernon said in the months before that, he had been complaining about back pain stemming from a 1978 truck accident.

“On behalf of the deputies who are still serving, please don’t let this divorce hearing be a lottery for Mr. Vernon,” Dennis said.

Rhoads said Vernon’s claims failed to meet the burden of proof, and noted that an earlier probe by federal officials into any possible civil rights violations found none by the deputies or by Helen Vernon. “David Zavoda, his own attorney, testified he saw no evidence of a conspiracy,” he told the jury.

Joe Vernon spent Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning on the witness stand before U.S. District Court Judge Robert Junell, while Gomez and Helen Vernon testified on Wednesday morning and the other deputies on Wednesday afternoon. The trial was delayed briefly on Wednesday when one of the eight jurors selected became ill. She was later dismissed after meeting with Junell and following agreement by the attorneys involved in the case.

Ex-NASCAR driver injured in I-10 wreck

A Roush Racing car hauler crashed into a motor home, setting off a chain-reaction accident involving other vehicles On Interstate 10 near Sierra Blanca Wednesday morning. One person was taken to an El Paso hospital while three others were taken to hospital in El Paso and Van Horn with miner injuries. The El Paso Times reported that former NASCAR driver Joe Millikan was one of two Rousch Racing Team members injured in the accident. He was in stable condition at Thomason Hospital in El Paso, Roush officials said Thursday. Justin Grebe, the driver of the car hauler, was treated and released, the Times reported.

The hauler, carrying two Nextel Cup race cars, was involved in the crash about 9 a.m. along eastbound Interstate 10 near a U.S. Border Patrol highway checkpoint west of Sierra Blanca. Border Patrol agents say the hauler crashed into a motor home, causing it to hit a tractor trailer, which then hit a second big rig.

Traffic was diverted to a nearby access road while the crash was investigated.

A spokeswoman for Concord, N.C.-based Roush Racing said it was unclear if the cars, en route to North Carolina from Las Vegas, were damaged in the crash.

The eastbound lanes of I-10 near the Border Patrol checkpoint has been the site of several previous accidents, normally due to drivers who fail to stop in time as traffic backs up from the checkpoint building onto the traffic lanes on the Interstate. On July 21, 2003, a four-vehicle chain reaction crash at the checkpoint station claimed the lives of five people, including two Pecos residents, while injuring four others.

The fatal wreck, which involved two trucks, a vehicle and a pick-up, resulted in additional warning signs being placed on the Interstate for eastbound drivers for 1 1/2 miles prior to the checkpoint.

City working to expand waste disposal facilities

The Town of Pecos City has just completed its first month of operating its own solid waste disposal facilities, after a 10-year break, and city sanitation director Martin Arreguy said things are going well, though there are still several new items the city needs to buy in order to make the service fully operational.

Pecos gave up collecting its own solid waste in 1992 and contracted the service out after the city was denied an arid exemption permit for its landfill by the Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission. That forced the city to install a rubber liner in its new landfill, which more than doubled construction costs for each trench.

Duncan Disposal contracted with the city to handle trash disposal for a number of years, but after the city was finally able to receive an arid exemption from the TNRCC’s successor, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the city opted to end its agreement with Duncan and handle waste disposal service on its own.

The contract with Duncan expired on Dec. 31, just after the city began dumping trash in its second Type 1 trench, located southwest of town, after the initial trench that received the arid exemption reached its capacity.

“We’re using the new Type 1 hole, which is for household goods. Our Type 4 hole is about one-third full. That’s all construction and hard goods,” Arreguy said. The Type 4 is also being used by city crews for debris from condemned buildings around the city that are being torn down.

Arreguy said the sanitation department has two drivers, along with two working out at the city’s Type 1 and Type 4 landfill southwest of town and a mechanic. “We’re hoping to add a third person out there for recycling,” he said.

“We’re purchasing 32 new dumpsters and setting up a place to repair the dumpsters,” Arreguy said. “The two trucks we purchased used from Midland are working quite well for us.”

He said the new trucks will arrive in about a month and would allow the city to do more outside ventures, while allowing the city to shift one of the used trucks for the new recycling facility.

Council members last week approved new rural residential rates of between $60 and $120 a month, while rural commercial rates are pending final approval at the council’s meeting next Thursday.

Arreguy said the rural customers will require one trip a week to the Charter regional landfill in Odessa, but that the city’s in-town trash was already right at the limit per week allowed by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. “We want to save it for city residents and maximize taxpayer dollars,” he said.

“We’re on the same schedule as Duncan, and we are working on getting a route map worked out,” Arreguy said. “We have the same drivers as Duncan, so it actually works out pretty well.”

The city is still finalizing plans to set up roll-off trailers at certain locations around town. The trailers will be available for people dumping large items who do not want to, or cannot take them to the city’s Type 4 landfill southwest of Pecos, instead of leaving large items in alleys. “This is a program we said we were going to do, and we will follow through,” Arreguy said.

He said local residents going to the landfill to dump heavy items can do one ton a month for free, if they present city workers at the landfill with a valid water bill. “I urge people to utilize that instead of dumping items on a county road,” Arreguy said.

Council members were told in January that the roll-offs would also be needed due to the planned new construction in the city, so that debris from those sites can be collected for disposal.

“Then we can pick it up for a nominal fee,” Arreguy said. “We’ll purchase several of them.”

The city hasn’t been doing recycling for several years, and the former recycling building at Second Street and Broadway Court burned in an arson fire last January. Arreguy said the city still has the blue dumpsters designed to handle recyclable paper items, but a location to handle the material still has to be built.

“We want to take (the blue dumpsters) back to their original intent,” he said. “It won’t be a big profit, but we can make some money off the tonnage on that.”

Along with household trash, construction and white good items, Arreguy said the city was also accepting old tires for recycling.

“We’ve sent several trailers to Denver City to recycle tires, and we’re also taking used motor oil. We have a catch basin for that,” he said.

Moore, Szempruch announce their engagement

Hardin and Teri Moore of San Angelo announce the engagement of their daughter, Allison Ryan Moore of Fort Worth, to Paul Edward Szempruch of Arlington. He is the son of Ray and Christy Szempruch of Arlington.

Allison received her Bachelors of Business Administration in Logistics from the University of North Texas. She is employed as senior sales coordinator with Bax Global. Paul will be completing his Bachelors of Science in Coastal Systems Engineering at Texas A&M at Galveston. He is currently employed as an inventory control specialist for Jared the Galleria of Jewelry.

They plan to marry May 12, 2007, at the First United Methodist Church in Arlington.

Graham achieves Dean’s List at The Citadel

Cadet Jerry Trent Graham, of Pecos, achieved Dean’s List status at The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina, for the fall semester of the 2006-2007 academic year.

Dean’s List recognition is given to those cadets and active duty military students registered for 12 or more semester hours whose grade point ratio is 3.2 or higher with no grade below a C for the previous semester’s work.

Graham is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Randy Jay Graham.

Women’s Division to meet Tuesday

The Women’s Division of the Pecos Area Chamber will meet at 5:30 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 6, at Odessa College, 1000 S. Eddy.

All members are urged to attend and new members are welcome.

Golden Girl signups will also be held at that time and girls wanting to compete in the Golden Girl Pageant scheduled for June are asked to come and sign up at this time. The girl’s parents also need to attend this meeting.

Class reunion group to meet

The Pecos High School Class of 1987 has scheduled at meeting for Monday, Feb. 5, at the Pecos High School Cafeteria.

The group will discuss a class reunion and all former classmates are asked to attend.

Kindergarten accepting gifted/talented students

Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD provides a program for the students in the district who are identified as gifted and talented.

Pecos Kindergarten is in the process of identifying students for this program.

If you have any questions about the G/T program, desire more information, or want to nominate a student for the program, please contact the campus principal, Robert Garrett at 447-7596.

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324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 432-445-5475, FAX 432-445-4321

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