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Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Tuesday, January 6, 2007

Police raid catches teen with pot, cash stashes

A Pecos teen was arrested Thursday on drug charges, following a narcotics search warrant that was executed at a home located on West Second Street.

Officers from the Pecos Police Department executed a narcotics search warrant at 816 W. Second St. on Feb. 1, at 3:44 p.m., according to Pecos Police Investigator Paul Deishler. “Once the members of the SWAT team had secured the premises the officers proceeded to search the residence,” said Deishler.

During the search of the residence, officers located a substance believed to be marijuana, inside the northwest bedroom of the residence, according to Deishler. The suspected marijuana was hidden underneath the mattress of the bed.

“Also found inside the bedroom were materials, which are commonly used with the packaging of marijuana,” said Deishler.

Officers completed their search of the premises and arrested 17-year-old Joshua Chavez Vela. He was charged with possession of marijuana within 1,000 feet of school property and possession of drug paraphernalia.

“Also seized from Vela was a large amount of U.S. currency, which is believed to be derived from the sale of narcotics,” said Deishler.

Vela was transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center and released to the jail staff for booking.

The marijuana charge on Vela is a State Jail Felony, according to Deishler.

Law enforcement still hunting pair in Wednesday bank heist

Area, state and federal law enforcement officers are continuing to search for two men who robbed a bank on the west side of Odessa Wednesday afternoon, which included following up leads in the Pecos area on Thursday.

Officials said they were looking for 28-year-old Adrian Barrera as a person of interest in the robbery of the Chase Bank at 16th Street and West County Road. Odessa Police said two men entered the bank armed with what turned out to be a fake explosive device, and left with an undetermined amount of cash.

The robbers left the bank in a white Cadillac, which was found abandoned about a mile southwest of the bank. The two reportedly left that vehicle next to a vehicle lot and escaped in a red pick-up, which was being sought by law enforcement authorities.

“We got a message from Texas Rangers and FBI agents following up some leads in the armed robbery,” said Pecos Police Chief Clay McKinney. “They were looking for it (the pick-up) and some other things.”

However, agent William Vanderland of the FBI’s Midland office said, “There is no indication the suspects involved are there.”

He said agent did visit Pecos on Thursday and met with police, but did not turn up any new information during their visit.

“We’ve been responding to leads all over the region to get this resolved,” Vanderland said. He added that the agency is also looking into the possibility the two robbers may have fled to Mexico.

“That’s a possibility we’re looking into,” he said.

The suspect officials believe is Barrera was described as a mustachioed Hispanic dressed in a blue jumpsuit, and about 5-foot-10. The other suspect was described by bank employees as an older man, about 45 years old, 5-foot-8 to 5-foot-10 and either white or Hispanic, with acne scars. Officials said he was dressed in a white jumpsuit and an Oklahoma University baseball cap at the time of the robbery.

School officials outline projects for committee

Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD school officials and community members were on hand Thursday to tour two campuses in an effort to evaluate the buildings and provide input to the school board and personnel on proposed improvements to campus facilities.

The group toured the Pecos Kindergarten first and then the Crockett Middle School campus. The district is looking to make renovations and additions to the schools and is currently meeting to assess each of the campuses to see what will be done.

Projects totaling $6 million at the two campuses visited on Thursday were outlined to committee members. The school is considering a calling a bond election in May in connection with the projects, and those at other campuses, depending on what items gain approval from the school board.

Superintendent Manny Espino thanked members for agreeing to serve on the advisory board and told the group that they would tour the other schools, one tour on Monday and another on Friday.

“Monte (Hunter, architect with Hunter Corral Associates) will be here at 10 a.m., Saturday (Feb. 10) for a workshop to discuss the various options and how much everything is going to cost,” he said.

Espino said after the walkthroughs, “Then we’ll be finalizing some things and have a workshop with Monte and go from there.”

He told the committee members that all final decisions would rest on the board.

“We certainly want your input and our goal is for you to look at things, maybe you’ll see things differently,” said Espino. “A new set of eyes to help us in making these decisions.” Copies of the Facility Assessment Update reports were handed out to the committee members. “There’s a couple of things that are not in here, that we have been discussing as well,” said Espino.

Renovation work was done on some buildings in recent years, but the last major construction project for P-B-T ISD was the addition of classrooms at Austin Elementary and construction of the Pecos High School gym and swimming pool 25 years ago. “We have already done a lot, but some of these buildings are really old,” he said. Espino said that one of the things that they will be looking at new HVAC’s at all the campuses.

“These will have control units and will be on a schedule,” said Espino. “For instance, if a teacher leaves everyday at the same hour the system will shut off at that time.”

He said that this would also keep the rooms at a certain temperature.

Other things that the group will be looking at, at each of the campuses are asbestos removal and lighting improvements.

Some of the items that will be looked at Pecos Kindergarten include a new gym; new lighting, electrical system and plumbing upgrades; asphalt paving; window replacement; accessibility, life safety, communications system and AC control system.

Probable cost has been set at almost $1.4 million.

At Crockett, items that are on the list at this time are: a new gym, dressing rooms and band hall; air conditioning, lighting, electrical system and plumbing upgrades; asphalt paving and roofing; accessibility, life safety, communications system and AC control system. The cost for that project has been estimated at $4.6 million.

Infrastructure problems hurt growth locally

A shortage of new housing, facilities for large equipment storage and utility infrastructure at some proposed building sites are some of the problems facing Pecos in its efforts to attract new workers and new businesses to town, Pecos Economic Development Corp. president Mike Burkholder told board members during their meeting Friday afternoon.

Burkholder went over current PEDC activities and discussed the 2006 budget and audit during the meeting at the TransPecos Bank conference room. Along with the housing problems, he also talked about current plans at the Pecos Research and Training Center, where Applied Research Associates is building three reinforced concrete bunkers to test explosives under a contract with the federal government.

He said a couple of drilling-related businesses were looking at opening area offices, but couldn’t find suitable existing structures.

“One of the things they wanted was a building with 14-foot doors, and there aren’t 14-foot doors in Pecos, but there are at the test track,” he said.

Burkholder said that deal involved a company called CW Wireless, which also had a problem with storing explosives, which is not allowed inside Pecos under a city ordinance. However, he added the company was seeking tax abatements, and that their new company representative is from Monahans, which is also seeking the office that would employ about 14 people.

“I think we’re going to lose that one,” he told the board.

He said the second company, Cougar Pressure Controls, also was seeking a large vehicle building, but he had not heard back from them recently.

Board members were also told by Burkholder that he had been in contact with him on building a new motel, but wanted to locate it on U.S. 285 near Interstate 20. One parcel of land is owned by Town & Country Food Stores, which does not want to sell, while the owner of the other section, between Lincoln Street and Wal-Mart, wants 80 cents a square foot, which comes out to nearly $35,000 per acre for the U.S. 285 property.

Meanwhile, plans to start work on a new Hampton Inn on Interstate 20 near Reeves County Hospital also have hit a snag, due to a lack of existing infrastructure at the site, and the submission of a grant application for between $600,000 and $700,000 to the Texas Capital Fund.

“They have to have a hotel plan, and once they get that, Edgardo (Madrid, city public works director) can start the (grant) application,” he said. The grant has to be submitted by March 12, but then work still has to be done on placing utilities in the area.

“We don’t know how much power will be required and how much water and sewer we’ll need,” said city manager Joseph Torres, who attended the meeting. He added the power lines would have to have be underground, due to the nearby Pecos Municipal Airport runway and the helipad at Reeves County Hospital.

Burkholder also said plans to build new housing in the city is going slowly.

“Randy Taylor was supposed to start houses after the first, but the contractor from Monahans couldn’t do it,” he said, due to a shortage of labor. He added that a contractor working on the bunkers at the test track site was scheduled to talk to Taylor this week about handling the job, which could involve as many as 60 new homes.

The shortage of housing is also causing a shortage of workers in the area. Burkholder said a mud company looking to move into Pecos, along with other established employers are shorthanded right now, since new employees can’t find housing in town.

“TransPecos Foods, the mud company, the prison, they can’t get enough help,” he said. The ARA deal involves 20-by-20-by-10 bunkers with three-foot thick walls and 1/2-inch steel reinforcement, where munitions would be exploded and measured by lasers.

Burkholder said he wanted to put funds into work out at the former Smithers Tire Testing Center, for work related to the construction of the bunkers, which included reinforcing an overpass at the facility that is needed to move materials to the construction site. He said the $50,000 deal would include the PEDC funding purchase of three ammunition magazines for the bunkers, but that the agency would still come out about $11,000 ahead.

Burkholder said that the past year’s budget came in with a surplus over $71,000. “Our budgeted income was $48,000, and our actual income was $120,000,” he said. The PEDC gets most of its funding from part of the Town of Pecos City’s sales tax, which was up by over 10 percent in the past year, and Burkholder said total assets came to $218,000. He said the PEDC would have to reallocate some funds for business recruiting and other expenses in the near future.

Burkholder said he would prefer the PEDC audit go through longtime auditor Dan Painter, but that they may have to do it through the city’s new auditing firm of Carter and Carter.

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