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Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Friday, August 31, 2007

Government offices, businesses, Schools to close for Labor Day

Area businesses and government entities will be closed on Monday, in honor of Labor Day.

Both TransPecos and West Texas National Banks will close for the holiday, along with all Town of Pecos City officers and county offices in Reeves and surrounding counties.

Federal government offices, the U.S. Post Office and the Lucius D. Bunton District Courthouse will close on Monday. All government offices will re-open their doors on Tuesday.

The Pecos Enterprise office will be closed on Monday, but a paper will be printed on Tuesday afternoon.

Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD students will take a break on Monday and school will resume on Tuesday at the regular hours.

Balmorhea hosting cook-off, dance during annual festival

An afternoon cook-off and a nighttime dance will again be featured as part of Balmorhea’s Annual Oasis of West Texas Labor Day Festival, which will take place all day on Saturday in the downtown area.

Events will begin at 9 a.m., Saturday with the opening of the vendor booths along the canal, and the annual Frijole Bean Cook-off will be held during the afternoon, with judging scheduled for 5 p.m.

Booths will be set up all over downtown, featuring food items, arts and crafts, with additional shaded areas set up for daytime visitors.

Pat Smith with Keep Balmorhea Beautiful, the sponsors of the event said the cookoff would be held across from the canal, in the Shady Oaks RV Park, and would have a $25 entry fee. Entries will be taken through Saturday morning, and Smith added the trailer park would be charging a $10 fee for a cook-off camp space, and $20 for a space if contestants also were parking an RV for the event.

At noon festival-goers can enjoy D.J. music, which will continue through 8 p.m. At 9 p.m. Juan Martin and his band, Excellente, will perform on the downtown stage until midnight.

Smith said that a washer tournament, roping event and a softball tournament also are scheduled during the day in Balmorhea, and that some vendors will remain in the downtown area through Sunday morning.

Crimestoppers seeking leads on summer burglary incidents

Pecos Valley Crimestoppers, the Pecos Police Department and the Reeves County Sheriff’s Office needs the community’s help in solving several crimes that have occurred recently. “From July 1 through Aug. 29, we have 13 unsolved burglaries,” said Pecos Police Officer Mike Balog.

The locations of these burglaries include: 1000 Block of W. 5th St.; 500 Block of W. 11th Street; 300 Block of N. Cedar; 1224 E. 3rd (Beer Depot); The Snow Cone Stand, at 5th and Mulberry; 1401 S. Ash (Reeves County Posse Barn); 1000 S. Cedar (Alfredo’s Restaurant); 1320 Veteran’s (God’s Army); 500 Block of S. Almond; 3500 Moore (Athletic Pool); 601 S. Oak (Texas Gas Service); 205 S. Cypress (Dr. Pharaoh’s) Office and 1300 S. Eddy (Terrazas Restaurant).

“Please help us make our community safer by putting these criminals behind bars,” said Balog. “If you have any information about these burglaries or any other crimes please call Crime Stoppers at 445-9898 or leave a Secure Web-Tip on our website HYPERLINK "",” he said.

As always the caller will remain anonymous and the tips could be worth up to a $1,000 cash reward.

“There is no I.D. on this line. Thank you for your help,” said Balog.

Schools report slight rise in opening day attendance

Enrollment is up a little bit from last year at Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD campuses, during the first four days of school, and administrators hope to gain more students after the Labor Day holiday.

P-B-T ISD Superintendent Manny Espino said the district had 32 more students registered this year than they did at the start of school last August.

On the first day of school there were 237 students at Pecos Kindergarten; 509 at Austin Elementary School (grades 1-3); 301 in Bessie Haynes (grades 4-5); Zavala Middle School had 172 six graders; Crockett showed that they enrolled 303, eighth graders; Pecos High School, 573 and Lamar Alternative Education School, 32 students.

“That’s a total of 2,127 and compared to first day of school last year, there were 2,088 in 2005-2006 and 2,095 in 2006-2007,” said Espino.

Espino that that the numbers were a little bit higher than in past years, but that they are hoping for more students.

“It’s up a little bit. But it seems like there are a lot of people moving in to town, but no kids,” he said.

The Pecos area is in the middle of an energy-drilling boom, but a housing shortage has prevented many people from moving into the area, while filling local motels to capacity with workers. In the past Espino said the trend has been that more students come in to town after the Labor Day Holiday.

“We hope we get more students in then,” he said.

The district has one additional campus this year, with the reopening of Zavala Middle School, and is working on a lot of other things at this time in connection with construction of new facilities at the different campuses.

“The new people moving in has not made a big influx in the school system, but we have a lot of things going on right now,” said Espino.

This year, sixth graders, are attending school at Zavala and next year they will be at Crockett Middle School, when new classrooms there are completed.

P-B-T ISD school board members were scheduled to hold a special meeting on Thursday to discuss several items, including a review of the updated facility plan.

Other items on the agenda included first and final reading and possible action on FNA (Local) Student Rights and Responsibilities: Student Expression; consider and possible action to add an administrator to PDAS appraisers; consider and possible action to appoint a board delegate and alternate for the 2007 TASB delegate assembly; consider and possible action to set the superintendent’s salary; public meeting to discuss and hear public comment on 2007-2008 budget and proposed tax rate; consider and possible action on amending the 2006-2007 budget; consider and possible action on dedicating the 2007 fund balance; adoption of 2007-2008 budget by fund and function and adoption of 2007 tax rate by ordinance.

The group also was to meet in executive session to deliberate the appointment, employment, evaluation, assignment, duties, discipline or dismissal of a public officer or employee.

RCH board awaits budget before deciding on tax rate

Reeves County Hospital District board members were told the facility received a positive report on Tuesday from an inspection related to the changeover of the hospital to a critical access facility.

But uncertainty about when approval for the change will come has caused some delays in drawing up the hospital’s 2008 fiscal budget, and the board will hold a special meeting on Tuesday, in order to approve a preliminary budget in time to get the final proposal passed before the Oct. 1 deadline.

Board members were updated on the inspection by hospital CEO Al LaRochelle, and were given the 2007 valuation totals, along with the effective and rollback tax rates by Lydia Prieto, during their regular monthly meeting on Tuesday at City Hall. Preito said that due to a $50 million increase in valuations in Reeves County since last year, the hospital’s effective tax rate dropped from .3862 cents per $100 in valuations to .35947, while the rollback rate was put at .38848 cents per $100 in valuations.

The effective rate is the tax rate needed to raise the same amount of revenue as last year, using the new valuations. The rollback rate is the maximum the hospital district would be allowed to set without triggering the option of a voter-initiated tax rollback election. Two public hearings are required under law for any tax rate set above the effective rate, Preito told the board.

She explained the under state law, the hospital must have their tax rate and budget ready for publication by next Thursday, in order to meet the timetables for approving a budget by the end of the month and publish notice of the public hearings. However, LaRochelle said as of Tuesday, he couldn’t advise the board on where to set the rate, since hospital staff was still working on a proposed 2008 fiscal year budget.

“How do you set the tax rate without knowing what the budget is,” LaRochelle asked the board. “I don’t know how to advise you to set the tax rate, when I don’t know what the budget will be.” Chief financial officer Frank Seals said under the current funding system, the hospital was looking at about a $1.4 million loss for next year. But LaRochelle said approval of critical access status would increase Reeves County Hospital’s Medicare compensation by $62,500 per month, which would cut that deficit in half.

LaRochelle said when the crucial access designation, a program to help rural hospitals, is approved, the hospital will start receiving the higher Medicare reimbursements to help cut the projected deficit, but other potential costs, such as physician recruitment fees, could add to the future near-term deficit.

Seals said if the hospital opts to maintain the current tax rate or go with the rollback rate, it would bring in about another $192,000 a year. Board members then tabled any further action on the budget until Tuesday’s 5:30 p.m. meeting.

In other action, board members approved a $15,000 finder’s fee for Dr. K.M.L.S.T. Moorthi, the outgoing physician in charge of the hospital’s dialysis center. The fee is for Dr. Moorthi’s services in finding a new doctor certified to operate the center.

“This was a bargain compared to what we would have had to pay,” said hospital board president Linda Gholson.

Dr. Moorthi is returning to his native India. In June, the hospital signed a contract with Dr. Amir Memon to serve as doctor in charge of the facility. LaRochelle said at the time that Mermon would be coming into Pecos between two and four times a month to oversee the facility. He also oversees a dialysis center in Denver City.

The board also accepted a bid of just under $105,000 for a new transfer ambulance for the hospital. LaRochelle said Faye Lease, director of nursing, and Joe Tollett, the hospital’s outgoing EMS director, made the recommendation to purchase the vehicle from Frazer Ambulance.

The bid was one of three received, all within $800 of each other. “The difference here is they can keep the patient taken care of if it breaks down,” Lease said of the Frazer unit. “The city of Houston uses this type of ambulance.”

She added that the ambulance would be on a Chevrolet 350 body, which will allow the vehicle to be serviced locally, instead of having to be taken out of town for repair work.

Also approved was a rate increase request for visiting physician staffing of the hospital’s emergency room. “They’re having a hard time finding physicians to cover the ER at the rate we’re paying,” LaRochelle said, adding that the new rate for increase the fee from $90 to $115 an hour.

“I talked to another company as to the possibility of providing service. They said they’d be more than happy to do it, but the rate would be $144,” he told the board.

Another contact approved, at a cost of $10,000 was to Orchard Software, for their Harvest Library Information System. LaRochelle said the software would be used by the RCH lab department to integrate its system in with other hospital departments.

“Our goal is to decrease the time it takes to get the billing out,” he said.

The contract includes a $35 monthly fee for access to the company’s transfer system.

Wet year puts freeze on city budget

Uncle Sam and Mother Nature have teamed up to cause more budget headaches for the Town of Pecos City, which is looking at a freeze in both salaries and in department spending for their 2008 fiscal year budget.

Town of Pecos City Council members held budget workshops this week at City Hall as part of the process of preparing the new budget, which is due by the end of September. The final night of workshops was set for Thursday.

“By Friday we should have enough numbers to bring to the council to accept a new budget,” city manager Joseph Torres said.

Council members discusses budgets for various departments, the municipal airport and the city’s administrative department over the first three days of hearings with the idea that departmental budgets and salaries would stay the same as they were in the 2007 fiscal year budget approved last fall.

“We’re going to freeze this year’s wages and hold costs at this year’s budget levels,” Torres said.

The city has seen a sharp increase in its sales tax revenues this year, along with an increase in taxable valuations within the city. But while the combination will allow Pecos to cut its tax rate by about 8 cents per $100 in valuations, it also has left the city open to the possibility of a rollback election, since the effective tax rate of 73 cents is 10 cents above the new tax rollback rate. Meanwhile, Torres said a wet spring and early summer and ongoing problems in getting Pecos’ dispute with the federal government over payments to the city’s Criminal Justice Center have created new budget shortfalls.

“We’ve had a very wet year, and that has cut income from our water and sewer funds,” Torres said. He explained that because people have not had to water their yards much this year because of the rainy weather and cooler temperatures, the city’s water fee collections are projected to come in at just over $2 million, which is $421,000 less than anticipated.

“That is what we did not have for operating funds,” Torres said. “That is one of the determining factors on why the council decided to freeze spending.”

Torres said the city is still in negotiations with the U.S. Marshal’s Service to raise the man-day rate paid by the federal government to Pecos for housing inmates at the Pecos Criminal Justice Center. The Marshal’s Service helped finance construction of the 96-bed facility five years ago, as part of a 10-year contract for housing the inmates, based on a set payment rate for each inmate held at the facility.

But a year after the CJC opened, the U.S. Department of Labor ordered Pecos to raise the salaries of jailers at the facility to just over $31,000 a year, to match wages for guards at other federally funded prisons in the area. As a result, the city has been losing money annually on the CJC contract, and while an agreement was reached with the government to reimburse the city for back wages owed prior to the ruling, the city and the Marshal’s Service still haven’t worked out an agreement to increase the man-day rate to match the federally mandated wage hikes.

“We have not heard anything back, but we have a conference call scheduled for Friday, where we will discuss the new per diem man-day rate, based on a new system of calculations being utilized by the federal government,” Torres said.

Along with the budget workshops, council members also held a special meeting on Monday in which the city agreed to advertise for bids for two parcels of property in the Morris Addition.

Those included all of Block 6 and lots in Block 10, which are located just to the east of Eddy Street in the area near Pecos High School.

Along with Thursday’s budget workshop, the council was to discuss a request by the Texas Department of Transportation to transfer non-primary entitlement grant program funds to TcDOT. Torres said the funds were those allocated by the state agency for work at the municipal aiport.

Mata, Matta announce plans for October wedding

Maria Dolores Mata and Roque Evaro Matta announce their engagement and approaching marriage.

Mata is the daughter of the late Jose and Maria Mata, a 1990 graduate of Pecos High School and had been employed with Wal-Mart.

The future groom is the son of Enrique and Claudia Mata, a 1988 graduate of Pecos High School and is employed as a troubleshooter for Dawson Geophysical. He is a U.S. Army veteran and has been a volunteer firefighter for six years.

The couple plans to marry at 2 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 13, at Santa Rosa De Lima Catholic Church with Father Miguel Angel Sanchez officiating.

Maid of honor will be Pamela Ruth Szoke of Littlerock, Calif., the bride’s sister; best man will be Ruben Inostroza of Austin, the groom’s best friend and ringbearer will be the bride’s son, Jose Enrique Mata.

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Pecos Enterprise
York M. "Smokey" Briggs, Publisher
324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 432-445-5475, FAX 432-445-4321

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