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Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Friday, February 23, 2007

Cops jail pair after cocaine found in raid

Two men are facing drug charges after cocaine was found during a raid on a south side home last week.

Manuel Rodriguez Armendariz, 24, was charged with offenses of possession of a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a school (Austin Elementary School) and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Jesus Matta Morales, 24, was charged with the offense of possession of a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a school (Austin Elementary), following the raid, which took place on Feb. 15 at approximately 3:37 p.m., at 2117 S. Hackberry St.

Officers from the Pecos Police Department executed a narcotics search warrant on the home, according to Pecos Police Investigator Paul Deishler Once the occupants of the residence were secured by the SWAT Team members, he said the officers proceeded with their search.

“While searching one of the individuals at the home, Manuel Armendariz, the officers located several bags on his person which contained a substance believed to be cocaine,” said Deishler.

The suspected cocaine was taken from Armendariz and taken in as evidence, according to Deishler.

“The officers also searched Jesus Morales and found hidden inside of Morales baseball hat, a bag which contained a substance believed to be cocaine,” said Deishler. “The suspected cocaine removed from Morales was also taken in as evidence.

Officers said they also found scales, which are commonly used with the packaging of narcotics, inside of Armendariz’s vehicle.

“The evidence was removed from the vehicle and taken in as evidence,” said Deishler. Officers completed their search of the premises and Armendariz and Morales were placed under arrest.

Both were transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center and released to the jail staff for booking.

County’s water rate lawsuit dismissed by judge in Austin

A judge in Austin has ruled in favor of the Town of Pecos City, in a suit brought by Reeves County over the city’s increase in water rates to the Reeves County Detention Center.

Darlene Byrne presiding judge for the 345th District Court, issued her ruling on Feb. 9 following a two-day hearing that dismissed the county’s charges of breach of contract by the city, when it sharply increased all municipal water rates in December of 2005.

Byrne also ruled that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality did have jurisdiction to rule in favor of the city in its dispute with the county. “Further, the Court finds that the Town of Pecos City’s Motion to Dismiss for Want of Jurisdiction should be granted as to Plaintiff’s declaratory judgment claims and claims of damages,” she wrote, while at the same time denying the city’s claim that the court did not have jurisdiction over the county’s appeal of the TECQ ruling.

The city raised rates in order to fund state-mandated improvements to the city’s water and sewer systems. Rates for most customers doubled over the previous levels, and then-city finance director Sam Contreras said the increases also affect city offices and other city-owned sites around town.

“The district court in Austin granted 80-85 percent of the relief sought by the city,” said Scott Johnson, the city’s attorney. “There’s a small piece remaining of the county against the TECQ.”

The suit was filed by then-County Judge Jimmy Galindo and Reeves County Commissioners against both the city and the TECQ, after an agency examiner last year ruled in favor of the city on its rate hike. Galindo left office in December and was replaced by Contreras, who won election the previous month as Reeves County Judge.

Contreras was unavailable for comment, but Pecos Mayor Dick Alligood said that the city has entered into talks with Reeves County on some type of settlement, following Judge Byrne’s ruling.

During a 2005 public hearing on the water rate increases, Galindo said the city had failed to prepare for the future costs of new water-related construction projects, and had been using water fees to balance its general fund. Reeves County is currently paying the first 10-years on a 20-yard loan taken out by the city to fund development of the South Worsham Water Field.

“We were down to eight years of life in the water fields, and the community came together to create a new water field to provide 50 years of life,” he said, while questioning the council’s decision on the current budget to transfer $600,000 from the water and sewer fund to the General Fund.

Galindo said by spending the money on regular city operations, the council was taking away funds that should be used on the upcoming water and sewer projects. He added that the increase would have a major effect on the Reeves County Detention Center, which is the single-largest user of city water.

The county agreed after arbitration in 2001 to pay half of the $8 million loan for the South Worsham project in return for the city increasing water capacity for the prison, which is also the county’s single largest employer.

The ruling by Byrne both dismissed the county’s request for declaratory judgment actions and request for damages, along with the supplemental motion to dismiss based on lack of jurisdiction on the breach of contract charge.

“The city was very successful in this matter,” Johnson told Town of Pecos City Council members during their Tuesday meeting.

Reynolds says no delays in Pyote abuse probe

An investigation into several allegations at the Texas Youth Commission’s West Texas State School in Pyote is ongoing and things are progressing as they should, according to 143rd District Attorney Randy Reynolds, who has come under criticism from some sources following a story last Sunday by the Dallas Morning News.

The story said that following a year of quiet complaints within the TYC, the Texas Rangers launched an investigation in February 2005 under Capt. Barry Caver of Midland, but the situation didn't receive much notice until recently when news organizations and state legislators began asking questions.

Ray Brookins, former assistant superintendent at Pyote, and John Paul Hernandez, former principal, both resigned their jobs in 2005 in lieu of termination.

“This case has always been ongoing,” said Reynolds. “There are other cases that we have worked on, but this case has always been ongoing.”

The Dallas Morning News story detailed problems at TYC facilities across the state, but focused on allegations that surfaced two years ago at the West Texas State School. It included quotes from Caver and from other former employees at the school, which houses 250 male juvenile detainees.

“We’ve done our part in the investigation and we expect others to do their part in prosecuting it and moving forward with the case,” Caver told KOSA-TV on Tuesday. However, he added he had been working with Reynolds over the past month and they had have gotten the Texas Attorney General’s office to agree to take over prosecution of the case in Ward County.

Reynolds said that there were criminal allegations, but that there were other issues that they have had a problem with for years.

“The investigation has now traveled all the way to Austin,” said Reynolds.

He said additional resources have been made available to the district attorney’s office by the Prosecutors Assistance Division of the Texas Attorney General’s office in assisting in the continued investigation of the local allegations, and Legislative inquiries appear to be underway concerning the reported allegations against the TYC as a whole and state wide. A copy of the report that was provided to the Dallas Morning News stated that an internal investigation by the Texas Youth Commission accused high-ranking officials at the area’s state juvenile prison of molesting young male inmates. At Pyote, the reports said, many prison staffers there complained about the abuse to their immediate bosses and to officials in Austin, but for more than a year, no one in charge did anything to stop it.

Criticism focused on the 143rd District Attorney’s office over the past week has focused on why the case has taken so long to move through the system, and why no indictments or prosecutions have occurred.

“I have observed interested people make comments that seem to say that they want quick actions, a thorough investigation, and a desire that the investigation go all the way to Austin,” said Reynolds, who said that people have stated that these (WTSS) allegations are only “the tip of the iceberg.”

“Addressing the allegations made against TYC as a whole will take time,” he said, adding that right now, a decision has not been made to go to the grand jury.

Reynolds said that there times when he would have preferred that the case move at a faster pace, but the time it takes for all cases to move through the system is subject to certain inherent issues that usually have a potential of delaying any case from time to time.

“My office and the Rangers were made aware of the allegations of the agency-wide problems at the beginning of this investigation,” said Reynolds.

Since the beginning, the DA’s office has treated this case as having multiple parts, and not just a single isolated case of allegations against a few individuals, according to Reynolds. “The wide range of allegations being made against TYC as a whole have been taken very seriously by us,” said Reynolds. “At the early stages, it was our sincere desire that these issues be addressed.”

He said as with any case, it is the DA’s job to get to all the relevant truth, not only exposing criminal acts, but exonerating the innocent.

“If our only goal was to simply prosecute the initial complaint, narrow-mindedly, this case would be a lot further today, and possible disposed of,” said Reynolds.

The Rangers completed much of the initial investigation into the local complaint some time back. “However, concerns regarding TYC as a whole have remained a continuing factor in the process. My office hoped that all of the allegations and concerns would be eventually addressed and certainly, some may be found to be unfounded and some may be found to support a need for further administrative or legislative action,” said Reynolds. Addressing the allegations made against TYC as a whole has understandably taken some time beyond what an isolated complaint of an employee misconduct would take, according to Reynolds.

“My office not only wants to seek punishment for any criminal wrongdoing that can be proven, but also wants to do what it can to prevent and lessen the likelihood of similar wrongdoing taking place in the future,” he said.

Reynolds added that it has been his position that if there is an iceberg out there, the best chance of it being addressed is by involving others that have far more power than the DA’s office in the investigation while it is still active.

“If the TYC system is broken, perhaps those with the power to fix it will do so. And, perhaps this local case will make a difference,” said Reynolds.

The report obtained by the Dallas Morning News alleged the former principal of the school lured inmates into sexual acts with offers or birthday cake and promises of help getting into college. The former assistant superintendent was accused of sexual contact with several youths.

The investigation found that the men kept the inmates silent by threatening to lengthen their sentences.

Brookins, 41, who lives in Austin, declined to comment. Hernandez, also 41, asked if he committed the acts described in the reports, said, "Oh, absolutely not." He declined further comment on the advice of his lawyer.

Hernandez was the principal of the Richard Milburn Academy, a charter school in Midland until last week. On Feb. 15, he was placed on paid leave pending an investigation.

Agency officials were stunned when they learned the Texas Rangers had substantiated charges of abuse at the Pyote facility in 2005, according to TYC Executive Director Dwight Harris.

"Quite frankly, it was a shock and a surprise to us that this could ever happen," Harris said.

However an internal investigation, "Summary Report for Administrative Review," released last week to the newspaper, said that a West Texas caseworker raised the issue in a letter to Harris five months before the Rangers' investigation.

Caver told KOSA that the statements made by Texas Youth Commission officials about their knowledge of the allegations were wrong.

“I won’t say they’re lies, but they’re wrong in information they portrayed to the senate committee, and I think they realize that and realize what the truth is,” he said.

TYC houses the offenders, ages 10 to 21, who are considered the most dangerous, incorrigible or chronic. The West Texas State School has been an all-male detention facility for the past 20 years, after an earlier investigation into reported sexual contact between male workers and female detainees at the Pyote site.

Council gets updates on construction projects

Town of Pecos City Council members were updates on new construction projects planned for 2007, and approved seeking bids for the city’s sewer improvement project, during the council’s meeting on Tuesday at City Hall.

The sewer bids will be for materials only, and will involve installing or replacing over eight miles of lines in the city, mostly on the east side of town. Town of Pecos City Utilities Director Edgardo Madrid said final plans are still pending state approval, but “We can ask for authorization to start advertising, so we don’t delay the project more.” He said the advertising for bids would start on March 6 and run two weeks. Bids would be due by March 22, and a recommendation by the city’s consulting engineer should be ready by the council’s April 12 meeting.

The bids are for materials only. City crews will do the actual construction work, and the materials should be delivered about 30-40 days after the council accepts a bid, Madrid said.

Mike Burkholder, president of the Pecos Economic Development Corp., told the council that construction had begun on three concrete bunkers at the Pecos Research Training Center, the former Smithers Tire Testing Facility east of town.

Applied Research Associates will be conducting explosives testing in the bunkers, while the track itself may be used by Greyhound and the Texas Transportation Institute. “TTI is going to do some emissions testing,” he said. “The trouble is it’s only going to last about two weeks.”

He said a couple of new housing constriction projects are in the works, while the PEDC is working with Madrid to get water, electric and sewer infrastructure put in along I-20 in areas where investors are seeking to build new hotels.

“One of the hotel groups is planning two hotels; one to start by July and the other to start around September 1, hopefully,” he said. “We’ve also got a hotel group out of Lubbock looking to start, but the problem is the location. We don’t have enough placed to put stuff.”

Madrid later told the council they need to grant authorization for applying for a Texas Capital Fund grant, to pay for the planned improvements. He said the grant was for the entire project, but added, “The commitment comes from the investor, depending on the number of jobs created.”

He said the planned motel project on I-20 near Reeves County Hospital was expected to create 18 jobs, which would qualify it for a $450,000 grant.”

Madrid also said the city had received 38 applications for its low-income housing grant. In December, Pecos received a $275,000 grant from the Home Owner Occupied Housing Assistance Program to build five new homes for extremely impoverished families and individuals.

The grant is administered by the city, and a Citizens Review Committee will look through the 38 applications and oversee selection of the five families to receive the new homes, which will be built on the sites of their current residences.

In other action, Madrid told the council the city fell just short of receiving a $400,000 grant for improvements at Maxey Park, including a proposed splash pad water park on the east side of the site. Pecos came out 16th on a list of 32 cities and counties that applied for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Service Outdoor Recreation Grant, for which 15 requests were funded.

“We were just pretty much on the line,” said Madrid, who added “We’re going to be applying again.”

“At least now you know the procedure and know how to get points (for the grant),” said councilman Frank Sanchez.

Neighboring Loving County did receive funding for a community park out of the $4.53 million in funds given out under the program. Loving County’s grant request for $132,500 was the smallest of the 16 applications that were approved.

PHS grad to star in performance at Odessa theater

Jonathan Peter Martinez, son of Pete and Lorena Martinez, of Pecos, will be starring in the Globe of the Great Southwest’s production of La Boheme, and Italian opera translated in English, this weekend in Odessa.

Martinez will be performing on Feb. 23 and 24, at the Globe Theater on West 42nd Street in Odessa, and the alternate cast (subject to change) will be performing on March 2, and 4. Shows on Feb 23 and March 2 are Friday at 8 pm, and Feb 24 and March 4 are Sunday matinees at 2:30 pm. The house opens 30 minutes prior to each show, and tickets are going extremely fast.

The story is about four young men who live in an apartment together living in the chosen bohemian lifestyles of arts and poverty, in the grand city of Paris, France. As an audience member individuals will follow the comic hijinks of the boys as they live, love, and endure the hardships of everyday life.

Martinez was raised in Pecos for 18 yrs of his life and became an Eagle ex in 2003.

“Since then I have been living in Odessa attending Odessa College. It has been a blessing to get to work with the OC Music department where as music major, I have had the opportunity to take part in the new music program as a lead first tenor in the chorus and lead rolls in our musical theatre productions,” said Martinez.

“Under the direction of world renowned tenor, David Corman, we have been able to introduce classical musical theatre in the area,” said Martinez.

Some of the musical theatre productions include: Spring 2005 - “La Boheme” Act IV [Italian] (Concert Arr.) - Schaunard (baritone); Fall 2005 - “Amahal & The Night Visitors: An American Opera in English” - Kaspar (tenor) and Spring 2006 “I Pagliacci” [Italian] - Bepe/Harlequin (tenor).

“This year’s production is by far the biggest production of the year, and even our individual, career as music majors to date,” said Martinez.

“We started the musical foundation in the 2006 fall semester through our private vocal lessons with Mr. Corman, and started on stage choreography immediately this semester. Lots of blood, sweat and tears have gone into this production in both stage performance and costumes” he said.

The Globe took excellent care in providing the most authentic costumes for not only principals, but the entire chorus as well, making this one of the theatres’ major costume productions ever, with a whopping 70 costumes, according to Martinez.

“I hope that you choose to come out and support me as I represent the City of Pecos in the production,” said Martinez.

Lujan to compete in state pageant

Esperanza Lujan, six months old, competed in Abilene, on Feb. 3, for the America’s Cover Miss USA.

She placed first runner-up out of 13 other babies in the 0-11 month division and was awarded a $200 certificate to compete in the Texas State Finals, a three-day event to be held in Dallas on April 20.

She is the daughter of Nathan and Jennifer Lujan.

Grandparents are Rene and Maribel Guerra of Barstow.

Incumbents file for city, school races

All three incumbents have filed to retain their positions in the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD board election on May 12, while two of the three incumbents up for election in the Town of Pecos City Council race have filed for new two-year terms.

Elections for city, school and the Reeves County Hospital Board have been scheduled for May 12, with the one-month filing period for all full-term seats running through March 12.

Three of five seats on the City Council, two of five on the Hospital District board, and four of the seven seats on the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD board are up for election in May. The fourth seat on the school board will to fill a two-year unexpired term, left vacant when Amy Miller who moved to Lubbock last fall. Filing deadline for that election is March 6.

The other terms up for election are currently held by board president Lila Cerna, board members, Bubba Williams and Crissy Martinez, and all filed for new terms this week, according to superintendent secretary Tracy Shaw

Candidates picking up packets have to indicate which positions they want to run for, Shaw said. Deadline to file for Miller’s unexpired term is 5 p.m., on March 6, while the deadline to file for the full 3-year terms is 5 p.m., March 12.

The filing difference is due to the election for the unexpired term being considered as a special election, Shaw said.

In the Town of Pecos City election, incumbents Danny Rodriguez and Frank Sanchez have filed for new two-year terms, city secretary Crissy Barraza said. The term of mayor pro-tem Gerald Tellez is also up for election in May. All three were unopposed in winning new two-year terms in office in 2005.

In the Reeves County Hospital Board elections, board president Linda Gholson filed last week to run for a new two-year term as Precinct 2 representative. Gholson also ran unopposed to years ago in her bid for a new two-year term, as did Precinct 4 representative Pablo Carrasco, whose term also expires this May.

Candidates for hospital board have until 5 p.m., March 12, to turn in applications with Nadine Smith at the Reeves County Hospital.

The school office at 1302 S. Park St., will be open on Monday, March 12, even though it is Spring Break for P-B-T students and classes will not be in session. On Tuesday, March 13, candidates will draw for a position on the ballot and the office will again be open on that day.

Sign-ups also started last Monday for city elections in Barstow, Toyah and Balmorhea, as well as for the Balmorhea ISD board, and also run though March 12.

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