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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Top Stories

Tuesday, April 18, 2000

Commissioners approve locks for jail

Staff Writer
PECOS, April 18, 2000 - The Reeves County Commissioners Court met in emergency session this morning and awarded a contract to fix the deficient locks at the Reeves County Jail, and discussed lowering the commission paid to the county by the Reeves County Detention Center (RCDC) inmate telephone contractor, Teletron Communications.

Recently, the Texas Commission on Jail Standards issued an order closing the jail because of continued deficiencies. One of the long-term problems cited by the Commission were inoperable locks at the jail.

A letter sent to County Judge Jimmy Galindo and Sheriff Andy Gomez on Feb. 29 by Jack Crump, executive director of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, indicated that recent overcrowding and ongoing problems with inadequate locks were the primary reasons the Commission decided to close the jail.

The letter states in part: "It appears that the jail is not abiding by the remedial order issued on July 30, 1998 issued by the commission limiting the population to 84 inmates… The report also indicates a lack of an adequate locking system… and …four (4) currently noted deficiencies have existed for the third consecutive inspection."

According to Galindo, the county is appealing the order and making every effort to remedy the deficiencies in the mean time in the hope of keeping the jail open.

Lorraine Dailey of DRG architects explained that she had contacted the lock contractor, ISI Detention Contractors Group of San Antonio, and that ISI was willing to begin work immediately on the jail.

Daily said that originally the work at the jail had been piggybacked with the lock work at the RCDC expansion project to attract larger contractors and to save money.

"ISI said that they could get the locks for the swinging doors immediately, and that they would begin fabrication of the locks for the sliding doors as soon as the county approved the contract," Dailey said.

The revised bid by ISI for the jail lock work was $167,000. The court accepted the bid, which reflects the same cost as ISI's original bid, with a unanimous vote, with Commissioner for Precinct 2, David Castillo absent.

"As I see it, this is a matter of getting the contractor on site as fast as possible," Galindo said.

The court also addressed a Bureau of Prisons (BOP) request that the county lower its commission rate on telephone service for inmates at the RCDC, in an effort to lower costs for telephone calls to inmates.

Galindo said that the neither the county nor the telephone contractor will loose money in the deal.

"The county will get less money on commissions from the inmate telephone calls, but the BOP will make up the difference by paying a slightly higher rate for each prisoner," Galindo said.

Galindo said that the telephone contractor could then lower the rate charged to inmates but still make the same percentage profit.

County lags in returning census data

Staff Writer
PECOS, April 18, 2000 - Less than half of the residents in Reeves County have returned their questionnaires for the Census 2000, according to the local coordinator for the nationwide effort.

Forms mailed out in March were due to be sent back by last Saturday, April 15, but coordinator Charlene Romero Wurtz said, "We ended up with only 46 percent of the questionnaires filled out and sent back to Census."

Fifty-four percent of all Reeves County residents did not mail the questionnaire back, according to Wurtz.

"Now, individuals are asked to hold their questionnaires, until a census person comes around to their home," said Wurtz.

State and federal funding for many projects is based on census data, so a failure to return the forms could cost Reeves County money when the new population numbers take effect next year.

The whole purpose of mailing out the questionnaire was to save tax dollars, so that census takers would not have to visit so many homes personally, according to Wurtz.

"This was to take actual count of their house, because now there'll be more homes to visit," said Wurtz.

She said during the time the Questionnaire Centers were open they did see a lot of people, that they normally wouldn't and that had not received questionnaires at all. "So this means that Reeves County is growing," she said.

The local Questionnaire Center was located at the Reeves County Community Council offices.

"Those might be some of the ones that live in rural areas and census just found out about them," she said.

Rural areas were not mailed out questionnaire forms, but instead individuals will be visiting these areas and helping them fill out the questionnaires personally, according to Wurtz.

Some of them did receive it in the first phase, according to Wurtz.

"Some questionnaires were left at some homes, that were right outside the city limits, but do not receive mail at home," said Wurtz. "However, census people just left the questionnaire, but didn't talk to anyone."

Wurtz said the Postal Service has gone to box delivery only in a lot of smaller towns, and when they transferred their mail the questionnaires were also sent to the boxes. "The post office didn't mail those out, though, so those people didn't receive one."

"We've had some stuff happen and that's some of the reasons why there was such a low response," she said.

The next phase, is census takers visiting neighborhoods to count those who have not yet mailed back their forms.

"That's the phase we're working on now," said Wurtz. "Also, we are still recruiting for jobs."

The census people that are in Pecos have stated that that is going along really well, according to Wurtz.

Participating in the census is a civic responsibility and it is critical to the well being of our community and to each of us individually, according to Wurtz.

The numbers produced determine how communities get their fair share of more than $185 billion in federal funds annually. They also determine how many seats each state gets in the House of Representatives and provide the means for states and localities to define their voting districts.

Census findings also inform decisions on where to build new schools, hospitals, senior centers and shopping malls, she said, and the numbers help various groups within our community receive adequate attention from federal, state and local programs.

Ideally, Census 2000 should be a 100 percent accounting of everybody who lives here. But participation has fallen for the past three census counts, said Wurtz.

"We can all contribute to making Census 2000 an accurate count for our community by welcoming census takers," said Wurtz. "We can let our friends and neighbors know that when that knock comes on their door, their cooperation is important."

She said local census takers have been hired from right here in Reeves County, in part, because they know our streets and our neighborhoods.

Although many of the census takers are friends and neighbors, safety and security are prime considerations during Census 2000. "Therefore, census takers undergo security screenings," said Wurtz. "And all census workers must obey the law mandating that no one outside the U.S. Census Bureau can be given personal information."

Individual response cannot be shared with other agencies or organizations at the federal, state or local levels and are held confidential for 72 years.

"Every census employee swears an oath to keep information confidential and to protect the privacy of the data collected," said Wurtz. "Employees face harsh penalties for breaking their oath or the law."

Main Street project info briefing set

Staff Writer
PECOS, April 18, 2000 - Pecos Area Chamber of Commerce and Convention and Visitor's Bureau is sponsoring a briefing session on the Texas Main Street Program at 7 p.m. tonight at the Reeves County Civic Center.

The main speaker for this presentation will be Genora Young, Main Street Manager for the city of Fort Stockton. That city received its Main Street designation in 1989. Other area cities accepted into the program during the past decade include Alpine and Odessa.

Each year, the Texas Historical Commission selects up to five Texas cities as official Texas Main Street Cities. Selected communities are eligible to receive a wide range of services, to include:

· Ongoing comprehensive training for Main Street manager and board members.

· Training communities in successful economic development approaches.

· Providing a three-day, on-site evaluation and full report with recommendations.

· Identifying and assisting with architectural elements, such as façade drawings, and educating building owners in proper maintenance techniques.

· Consulting with downtown merchants about visual merchandising and window display.

· Advising communities on heritage tourism programs and marketing.

Chamber Executive Director Tom Rivera told C of C board members last week that the continuing deterioration of the city's downtown area cannot continue as it has to date.

"We must be proactive in that regard and find a solution to the current problem as it pertains to our downtown area," Rivera said. "We look forward to seeing you at the presentation and more importantly, of working together to improve the quality of life in our community."

"I wish the entire community would get involved and attend this seminar. It's very important that we come together on this," he added.

Ag department banks on Imperial shrimp farmer

From Staff and Wire Reports
IMPERIAL, April 18, 2000 - On West Texas land famously free of oceans, Bart Reid is raising shrimp in the desert with the backing of the Texas Department of Agriculture.

"West Texas is a lot like a third-world country, only it is in America," said Reid, owner of Permian Sea Shrimp & Seafood of Imperial. "But it works pretty good for this kind of deal."

Pecos County is ideal for shrimp farming, he says, because its aquifers hold water with the same salinity as the fertile bays of the Gulf of Mexico. "It's perfect," he said. "The shrimp love it."

Texas Agricultural Finance Authority documents obtained by The Associated Press under the state's Public Information Act show that the authority is backing Reid's company by guaranteeing 80 percent of his $360,000 startup loan. Reid's loan is current, according to his lender.

TAFA officials hope businesses like Permian Sea and others will repay their loans to help pull the program out of an $8.7 million deficit, built up by 22 loan defaults since 1993.

Reid is a marine biologist who has been involved with shrimp farming at the Imperial Reservoir for the past several years. The Red Bluff Water Power Control District also retained him in 1998 to locate the habitats of Pecos River pupfish, whose fate could determine future water use of the Pecos River in Texas.

Permian Sea sold 190,000 pounds of shrimp last year to restaurants along the Gulf Coast and elsewhere, but it was in the red. Reid said it could sell 300,000 pounds this year and turn a profit.

"We probably lost money last year, to be honest, but we stayed afloat," he said. "Hopefully everything goes right this year; I should start getting into the black."

Even so, the company was expected to show an $81,600 net profit in its first year, according to financial projections filed with TAFA in 1998.

The plan to raise seafood 400 miles from the surf might seem an unlikely way to make the public forget the authority's previous and regrettable forays into emu ranching, but Reid is optimistic.

An old geological survey, he said, shows those aquifers contain 300 million acre feet of water, but because it's not fit for plants, cattle or humans, no one even remembers their names.

"There is a whole lot of water out here that is only good for shrimp farmers," he said.

Shrimp farming has been attempted in the Grandfalls-Imperial area several times during the past decade. In 1994 and 1995, officials at the Imperial Reservoir held a West Texas Desert Shrimp Festival during the summer at the reservoir, located 50 miles east of Pecos. But drought conditions lowered the level of the water in 1996 to the point that Pecos County officials consolidated the event with the Harvest Fest in Fort Stockton because the lake was not usable for recreation.

In 1997, officials with Ward County met with two businessmen with the Shandong Group Corporation of Fisheries Enterprises from China about establishing a shrimp farm in the Grandfalls-Imperial area.

By then, two area shrimp farms had been abandoned, but Texas A&M Professor Jim Davis, a respected specialist in aquaculture, told the businessmen that one of the facilities, run by A&M, was not really abandoned because it was established for a feasibility study of the possibilities for aquaculture in the abundant subterranean salt water.

Davis also said the other project, the Triton shrimp farm, was scrapped after the Florida family managing Triton found the West Texas climate intolerable.

Reid said his seven years' experience in the shrimp farming businesses, including a stint at another West Texas farm, probably was the deciding factor for the state and his bank approving the loan.

In documents by the Texas Agriculture Department, Mark Gatzki, president of First National Bank of Monahans, cited Reid's experience in the shrimp farming industry as a reason to grant the loan.

He still requested a 90 percent guarantee from the state loan program due to the inherent risks of a new business in a new industry, documents show.

Reid admits there is some financial risk in wrangling prawns, but he promised it would turn out all right.

"People look at the price of shrimp and think this is a gold mine, but it's not. It's still farming. There are low margins," he said, adding, "You'll see, they will be happy with this deal."

The AP used the Texas Public Information Act to obtain details of the loan, but Reid and First National sued the AP on April 3 to keep those details secret. They argued that the documents included trade secrets that might give a competitor an advantage.

State District Judge Margaret Cooper ordered the AP on April 5 not to reveal the contents of a summary of the loan terms on file with TAFA.

On Friday, District Judge Suzanne Covington dissolved Cooper's order after hearing arguments that prior restraint on publication was unconstitutional.


AUSTIN (AP) - Results of the Cash 5 drawing Monday night: Winning numbers drawn: 09-35-24-07-03. Number matching five of five: 3. Prize per winner: $25,522.


AUSTIN (AP) - The winning Pick 3 numbers drawn Monday by the Texas Lottery, in order: 7-0-5 (seven, zero, five)


PECOS, April 18, 2000 - High Monday 96. Low this morning 59. Forecast for tonight: Mostly clear. Low 55-60. Southwest wind 10-20 mph and gusty. Wednesday: Mostly sunny and windy. High near 90. West wind 20-30 mph and gusty. Wednesday night: Partly cloudy. Low 55-60. Thursday: Partly cloudy. High 85-90.

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Pecos Enterprise
York M. "Smokey" Briggs, Publisher
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