Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas
Friday, March 30, 2007
Farewell reception for Bippes scheduled by WTNB
A farewell reception for a long-time West Texas National Bank employee, who is retiring after three decades of service, will be held Friday afternoon in the bank’s lobby.
Cheryl Bippes who began working at WTNB when it was the First National Bank of Pecos, is retiring after 30 years in the business. The reception will be from 1 to 3 p.m. at the bank at Sixth and Cedar streets.
Bippes is a customer service representative and considers her customers very important.
“I have seen a lot of changes throughout the years, such as on-line banking, debit cards, visa gift cards, a variety of checking account products and a variety of interest bearing accounts,” said Bippes.
West Texas National Bank locations include: Midland, Crane, Kermit, Denver City, Terlingua, Seminole and Alpine.
“We’re a one-stop bank,” said Bippes.
She is married to Donald Bippes and has two sons, Monty Medanich of Lubbock, Michael Medanich of Odessa and one daughter, Dawn Bippes of Gilmer.
Bippes plans to stay home and work on hobbies.
Pyote school backers rally in Monahans
BY MYRTLEANN ANDERSON
About 200 residents, employees of West Texas State School and political officials gathered at Ward County Courthouse on Tuesday for a rally in support of the Pyote school and its employees.
WTSS employs approximately 250 people, and the loss of that employment would have a major impact on Ward County and the surrounding areas.
Mayor David Cutbirth, Monahans-Wickett-Pyote-ISD superintendent Keith Richardson and Ward County Judge Greg Holly spoke during the rally.
“Our officials in Austin have not shown due diligence. They have not done their homework. If they had, they would know the WTSS is the best school in the Texas Youth Commission, and it has the best employees,” Cutbirth told the audience. “The state is responding to political pressure in condemning the school, but how many of them have actually visited the school facility? To date there has been a book, numerous newspaper articles, as well as television coverage, but there hasn’t been any indictments against anyone. The state must investigate the system. The problem is not the employees. The problem is with the higher ups.”
According to Cutbirth, State Senator John Whitmire, D-Houston, said when he visited Pyote earlier this month that the school needed pay raises and more staff.
According to an article in the Odessa American, Whitmire asked an out-of-state juvenile justice expert Tuesday morning how a town with 131 residents, Pyote’s population, could possibly attract qualified volunteers out in the middle of nowhere. Whitmire and others in Austin have focused on Pyote’s small population without checking on the population of the cities within a 50-mile radius of the facility, the Monahans mayor said. Including Monahans, Pecos, Kermit, Fort Stockton and Odessa, 130,000 people live within 50 miles of the West Texas State School.
Cutbirth also asked why other facilities weren’t similarly criticized, citing the lack of population surrounding the Sheffield TYC Unit. The Sheffield boot camp is much more isolated than Pyote, with a location 100 miles south of Midland and 75 miles east of Fort Stockton, yet there has been no mention of closing that facility.
“Punish those who are guilty, don’t punish the employees. Get the system fixed,” Cutbirth continued. “TYC is a friend of the people of West Texas. We appreciate the school and its employees.”
“We need a common sense solution, not a political solution for WTSS. We don’t need a scapegoat,” Richardson said.
He went on to say that closing WTSS would create a $250,000 year loss to the M-W-P ISD, since approximately 60 students associated with Pyote attend local schools.
“Our representatives in Austin need to know the decisions they make about WTSS affects real people and real families,” said Holly, who testified before officials in Austin on Wednesday against closing the facility.
“It is easy to say Pyote is the bad apple, but Pyote is not the problem. The system is the problem. We are going to ask the State Legislators to do the right thing. Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water,” Holly added.
Holly and Ward County Precinct 1 Commissioner Julian Florez, along with several TYC-Pyote employees flew to Austin Wednesday morning to address the state legislature about the closing of the facility. Holly carried thank you letters from former WTSS inmates that were written to the staff at WTSS and copies of a January 2007 Monahans News article, in which Austin TYC chose the Pyote facility as the model school facility in the State of Texas, even allowing Korean film crews to make a documentary.
City preparing to battle weeds, mosquitoes
Reeves County and the northern Trans-Pecos areas of West Texas just missed the latest round of severe thunderstorms to pass through the area Wednesday night, but last weekend’s rainfall totals of between 2 1/2 and three inches has Town of Pecos City crews preparing to battle outbreaks of weeds and mosquitoes next week.
Wednesday’s storms formed in the Permian Basin along a dry line east of Highway 18, from Fort Stockton up to Lovington, N.M., and moved east, sparking several tornado warnings, and at least one confirmed twister in the Lubbock area. Reeves County was under two tornado warnings last week, including one from a Sunday afternoon storm that was reported eight miles west of Pecos.
No major damage was reported from that storm or the others that hit the area between Friday night and Monday morning, but the rain from those storms left standing water in spots around the city, as well as at nearby Mosquito Lake and other low sections to the south and east of town.
“We already have the mosquito sprayer out,” said Town of Pecos City Streets and Sanitation Director Martin Arreguy, referring to maintenance work in preparation for its first use next week. “We also have a weed sprayer we purchased last year.”
He said the mosquito sprayer would be used in various areas of town, “especially areas where there is standing water around.”
Local residents are advised to check for items such as cans or used tires left outdoors that are places where standing water can collect and become breeding grounds for mosquitoes. High temperatures early next week are expected to be around 90, increasing the likelihood of mosquito larva hatching and causing problems in areas around the city.
As for the weeds, Arreguy said those will be a problem citywide due to the rains
“The weeds are going to be everywhere, on curbs, in alleys and on the center medians, so we’ll be spraying anywhere unsightly-looking weed are,” he said.
Along with getting the two sprayers ready for work, Arreguy said, “We’re still in the process of getting people trained to use the sprayer. We’ve got two already, Oscar Ornelas and our new parks supervisor, Adolfo Ruiz, and they’re getting the other people trained, because they’ll be working off their (spray application) licenses.”
Forecasts called for a 30 percent chance of showers in the Pecos area on Thursday night and into Friday morning. But the National Weather Service said skies should clear after that, with no rain in the forecast through the middle of next week.
Officials take efforts to save WTSS to Austin
Officials and other residents from Ward and Reeves counties were at the State Capital in Austin on Wednesday, in hopes that their testimony before legislators would help keep the troubled West Texas State School open.
However, some state officials remained committed to shutting down the Pyote detention center, and sought to get local officials to criticize 143rd District Attorney Randy Reynolds, who has been criticized for failing to act on the problems when they were first brought to his attention two years ago, during their testimony before a joint House and Senate panel.
The scandal involving two former administrators at the Pyote facility was revealed to the public last month, and prompted a report by state auditor John Keel on March 16 that recommended shutting down the facility on the grounds it was too isolated to find enough qualified workers and was too far away from medical facilities and from the families of the juveniles under detention.
Ward County Judge Greg Holley and Ward County Commissioner for Precinct 1, Julian Florez, were among the individuals that were in Austin to talk on behalf of keeping the state school open.
“It was a joint committee that was there to listen to everyone,” said Florez.
He said that they visited with individuals from the Criminal Justice Department, the senate and some state representatives.
“Basically, there have been more and more talk of closing the Pyote school and the auditor that was in Pyote recommended that they do that and we are very concerned about it,” said Florez.
He said that they wanted to talk to the lawmakers about keeping the facility open and letting them know that it was a vital part of West Texas.
“We wanted to let them know that there are a lot of employees there that need their jobs and that we have been providing this service for over 20 years,” said Florez.
Florez said that there are a total of 250 employees at the facility, many of them from Monahans and Pecos. “Some of these employees have been there for many years,” he added.
Florez said that they had heard about the committee meeting in Austin just at the start of this week.
“We found out about it on Monday and Tuesday we had the rally,” said Florez. “They told us we could discuss it, but that no action would be taken at that time.
“Actually we weren’t even going to be allowed to talk, but they said that since we had traveled so far they would give us a few minutes,” he said.
He said that staff members from other Texas Youth Commission facilities as well as from Pyote, along with parents of detainees and volunteers were on hand to testify.
Florez said that when the committee called Holley to testify they just wanted information and complaints about the facility.
“They didn’t want to hear about how we wanted to keep the facility open and that there were a lot of employees out there,” said Florez. “They just wanted to hear complaints and information to help improve the facility, and mostly they just wanted to hear from staff members.”
“Greg wanted to let them know also, that there is a medical facility close by, which is one of the things the auditor pointed out,” said Florez.
Florez said that the county judge wanted to explain that he was from Dallas and that while in a big city it took more time to get to a medical facility, it took less time in rural West Texas. “The medical facility is 13 miles away, it would take them 13 minutes here in West Texas, while in Dallas that could mean a 30 minute trip,” said Florez.
Holley also wanted to point out other pluses at the Pyote facility. “But they only let him talk for a few minutes.
However, Florez said the county judge was asked to go back in a second time and asked several more questions, especially questions about Reynolds.
“The second time that they called Greg in, they wanted to get him to say something bad about the DA, but Greg didn’t want to,” said Florez.
“They asked him if he knew the DA, how he felt about him and if he thought he was doing a good job,” said Florez. “They also asked him if he was interested in being the DA for this area.”
Holley answered that “no” he wasn’t interested in the position and stated that he thought Reynolds was doing a good job.
“These problems exist, not only in Pyote, but at other facilities,” said Florez. “I told them I’m from Ward County and support keeping it open.”
Florez said that nine staff members from Pyote were there and five were involved in the investigation as witnesses. Grand jurors met last week in Monahans to hear evidence in the case, and are scheduled to meet again on April 10.
“They tried to testify, but the attorney general has them as witnesses and they couldn’t testify,” said Florez.
Florez said that he only wanted to make one point, that the West Texas State School has provided this service to the state for 20 years. “They just wanted to hear complaints and gather information,” he said.
State Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, has been one of the most outspoken officials seeking closure of the West Texas State School. Last week, Whitmire said he was considering seeking $4.4 million in order to send juveniles to local detention centers, which would allow the TYC to close Pyote, which currently houses 250 male juveniles.
"We want to keep low-level offenders out of remote locations where they get little family contact and little professional contact and no press," Whitmire told the Austin American-Statesman. "We want to start getting them out of dorm-type settings which lead to abuse because they've got 24 students in 12 bunk beds and that's kind of crazy.”
Florez said that the individuals from Pyote who did get to testify provided good information and solutions.
“They did a wonderful job and we were pleased with the outcome,” said Florez.
“We felt our presentations and comments were well-taken,” he said.
Florez said that the Chamber of Commerce Director Teresa Burnet and the Monahans Economic Development Coordinator Morris Hayne were instrumental in getting the county, city and school in getting the rally organized.
“The next step will be to get the surrounding cities to get support from them to have more representation,” said Florez.
School board upholds Goff reassignment
A level III employee grievance was upheld by Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD board members during a special meeting, held Monday, in the P-B-T Technology Center.
Board members met in executive session to listen to the grievance from Pecos High School Head Band Director Bill Goff, who was reassigned from his position earlier this month.
“I had reassigned the head band director and this was to discuss his grievance,” said PBT-ISD Superintendent Manny Espino.
He said that the position for head band director had already been posted on the district’s web site and already have several applicants.
“I had him reassigned for last year and we will evaluate the contract renewal, but I have reassigned him as far as the head band director capacity,” said Espino.
Goff was returned to the position of PHS band director last spring, after being reassigned four years ago. He served as an assistant band director during that time, and Espino said, “Whether he’ll be in the band program will be up to the new head band director.”
Espino said that he was still an employee with the district.
The change comes after six consecutive years in which the PHS bad has failed to advance past UIL area marching competition, under Goff and Merle Lenfest, who resigned after the 2005 fall marching season.
“Rey Villareal, the new personnel director, and Steve Lucas (PHS Principal) will evaluate the applicants and we hope to have someone in place in April,” said Espino. “We’ll definitely do it before the school year starts.”
“I felt we needed to change direction and we needed to do this,” said Espino.
Positions have also been posted for two certified assistant band directors’ positions for Crockett Middle School and the Bessie Haynes Sixth Grade Campus.
Hospital renews Abdo pact, continues hunt for new docs
Reeves County Hospital District board members agreed to enter into a new contract with one of the hospital’s physicians, during their regular monthly meeting on Tuesday. But hospital CEO Al LaRochelle said progress is going slowly in the effort to attract new doctors to Pecos.
Following a 75-minute executive session, board members agreed to enter into a new contract with Dr. Ziad Abdo, after also accepting the hospital’s compliance report following a closed-door discussion. However, LaRochelle said earlier in the meeting that finding replacements for two doctors who left Pecos last year is a continuing problem.
“I wish I could say they’re coming running to Pecos, but that’s not the case,” said LaRochelle, who added RCH is currently employing four different companies to conduct physician recruitment searches. “We’ve had a few who want to come to Pecos, but they’re not the ones we want to bring here.”
He said the hospital is looking for three doctors, two of whom do obstetrics, but said due to the tight labor market for physicians, may settle for just one family practitioner who can deliver babies.
“On a positive note, we had a physicians assistant come to the community. We showed her all the positive aspects of Pecos and sent her a letter of engagement and she has accepted,” LaRochelle said. “We’ll have two new physicians assistants who will start working here this summer.”
He said the hospital also has seen the patient count in the three-year-old kidney dialysis unit increase in recent month, and in connection with that rise, board members opted to spend an additional $16,000 to purchase two new portable dialysis machines at $21,500 apiece, over an option to buy two refurbished units at a cost of $13,500 each.
“I would rather have a brand-new one than refurbished,” said board member Leo Hung. “Sometimes there are things they don’t tell you.”
“I feel the same way. You try to save money and it ends up costing you in the long run,” added board member Brenda McKinney.
Peggy Honacker, administrator for the dialysis unit, recommended the refurbished units with a one-year warranty. “With the staffing issues we have at the facility, we need one backup unit for every 10 patients on the floor,” she said. “We had a breakdown of one of the machines two weeks ago, and that caused a backup of the dialysis patients.”
She said the units were comparable with the current units used by the hospital, but could be moved around, and LaRochelle said that since they could be used to treat patients in the main part of the hospital, the cost could be charged off there, instead of through the dialysis center’s budget.
Honaker said the dialysis center has recently added new patients from Pecos, Monahans and Fort Stockton, bringing the total under treatment to 30. “We’re starting a new class to train techs,” she said, adding the center is close to having to go to three shifts and additional operating time per week. “If we get three more patients, we’ll need new techs.”
The board also reaffirmed a vote taken two years ago to purchase new cardiac monitors from DataScope, though the purchase price of $89,000 will be $4,000 above the originally approved amount.
“Part of the reason it was not done was because we didn’t have the money,” LaRochelle said, adding that the company that won the bid in January 2005 has since been bought out, and is no longer making monitoring units.
He said the DataScope bid was recommended, though it was $5,000 above a bid by General Electric, because those units would be compatible with other equipment already owned by the hospital.
“This is the latest equipment. It includes two bedside monitors, plus a monitor at the nurses’ station,” said RCH Nursing Director Fay Lease. “This is a much better system than the one you approved.
She added that while the GE systems are considered top of the line, “The main thing is the service. DataScope is way above the others in service, especially with us being way out here.”
LaRochelle also showed the board the hospital’s third revision of its planned bed reduction, in order to qualify for critical access hospital status. The changes would close three patient rooms and remove beds from four others to bring the hospital’s capacity down to 25 beds. Reeves County Hospital is licensed for 49 beds, but over the years as reduced that number to 32 beds.
The three rooms to be deactivated are towards the front of the hospital, and would have to have their nursing station call buttons and oxygen lines disconnected in order to meet state and federal requirements. The critical access designation is expected to increase the hospital’s Medicare reimbursements by about $600,000 annually.
Library story hour set Monday
Children’s Story Hour will be held at 10 a.m. and at 2 p.m., this Monday, April 2, at the Reeves County Library, 505 S. Park St.
All children are invited and must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.
Church plans Bible study class
First United Methodist Church will host an adult Bible study during Holy week, and will welcome any visitors who wish to attend.
Dinner will be served at 6 p.m., followed by the Bible study. Nightly meetings are set for Sunday through Thursday next week at the church, located at Third and Elm Streets. Pastor John Barrett, also an evangelist for On the Rock Ministries, will lead the Lenten series.
The study series will culminate with the Maundy Thursday service on April 5.
The church is also planning to observe Good Friday by keeping sanctuary doors open from 1-3 p.m., April 6. Anyone is welcome to “come and go” during these hours, for personal prayer, reflection and meditation.
Easter Sunday services on April 8 will be held at the regular morning worship service time, 10:55 a.m.
Wal-Mart hosts Easter egg hunt
Everyone is invited to the Annual Wal-Mart Easter egg hunt, this Sunday at 2 p.m., at the Wal-Mart parking lot.
A Spring Fest will also be held and all proceeds are going to the American Cancer Society Relay for Life.
Games, food and contest from 2-6 p.m.
Contest for the best decorated Easter Egg and Easter basket. Wal-Mart gift certificates will be awarded.
Sponsored by the Pecos Wal-Mart.
Rabies clinic set for Mentone, Balmorhea
The Pecos Animal Clinic will be at the Mentone Courthouse from 5-6 p.m., on Wednesday, April 4, for rabies shots and all other vaccinations.
The group will be at the Balmorhea Fire Hall from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m., on Saturday, April 7; at the Pecos office on Saturday, April 14 and from 5-6 p.m., on Wednesday, April 18, at the Toyah Fire Hall.
The cost for rabies shots will be $10.
Farm program deadline delayed
The County Executive Director for the Reeves/Loving County Farm Service Agency (FSA), Tanya Kiehne, announced last week that the sign-up deadline for the 2007 Direct and Counter-cyclical Program (DCP) has been extended to August 3, 2007.
“The extension is due to issues involving the performance of the Farm Service Agency’s web-based computer system,” said Kiehne. The late-file fee of $100 will only be assessed for farms that are enrolled after August 3, 2007 and before September 30, 2007.
USDA computes DCP payments using base acres and payment yields established for each farm. Direct payments provide no incentive to increase production of any certain crop, because the payments are not based on producers' current production choices. Producers receive direct payments at rates established by statute regardless of market prices.
Counter-cyclical payments provide support counter to the cycle of market prices as part of a "safety net" in the event of low crop prices. These payments are only issued if the effective price for a commodity (which takes into account the direct payment rate, market price and loan rate) is below the target price for the commodity. Counter-cyclical payment rates vary depending on market prices.
Enrollment in DCP for the 2007 contract period began on October 1, 2006, and was scheduled to end on June 1, 2007. Kiehne noted that the extension applies only to the enrollment time frame, and does not extend the DCP contract period.
For more information about DCP and other FSA programs, please contact the Reeves/Loving County FSA Office at 432-445-3196 or visit: .
York M. "Smokey" Briggs, Publisher
324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 432-445-5475, FAX 432-445-4321
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