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Thursday, May 11, 2000

Ortega takes oath, gets advice from Stafford

Staff Writer
PECOS, May 11, 2000 -- Mayor Dot Stafford fired a parting shot at Mayor-elect Ray Ortega this morning at the regularly scheduled city council meeting before stepping down from the position she has held for three terms.

After taking care of old business and being presented with a plaque of appreciation from fellow council members Stafford told the assembled audience that she would like to say a few words.

"To the department heads and their staffs, I just want to say thank you. We couldn't have accomplished anything with out your hard work. Thank you also to the council members. You are a neat group of guys and I wish you the best of luck and challenge you to pursue our previous goals," Stafford said.

"Mayor Ortega, I hope you enjoy your staff and treat them kindly," she said.

"One thing I didn't understand, what you meant when you said _ and I can't quote this exactly _ but to the effect that if the voters elected you that city government would get a kick in the pants. I would suggest that you not do this and that you treat your staff kindly," Stafford said.

Ortega did not respond at that moment.

"We did have an ad cut to that effect but it was a political statement," Ortega responded after the meeting. "It was not intended for anyone in particular."

Friend and campaign manager Louis Matta swore in Ortega after Stafford's comments, then councilmen Ricky Herrera and Danny Rodriguez took their oath of office from City Secretary Geneva Martinez. The two were re-elected to new terms in last Saturday's election.

The first order of business for the new mayor was a parking area for the East Side Community Center.

City Manager Kenneth Neal advised the council that when they began the renovation project on the Center, the city believed it owned the adjacent land. Further research revealed that the land belongs to the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah school district.

Neal said that the Center is renovated, but that there is a lack of parking and the school district owns the land that would make a good parking lot.

The expense of building the parking area was also an issue for consideration.

"Right now we have put quite a bit of money into that building. I would like to see if the county or the school can help out with some of the construction work for the parking lot," Herrera said.

Rodriguez suggested that Neal get a cost estimate for the lot construction and also consult with the school district concerning the property and report back to the council at the next scheduled meeting. The council tabled the issue until that time.

The council also heard from Union Pacific Railroad Track Maintenance Manager Jeff Unbehaun concerning the railroad's suggestion that rail crossings at Willow, Alberta and Locust Streets be closed for safety reasons.

Unbehaun said that from a safety perspective, the closings would make Pecos safer since traffic would be diverted to crossings with gates and lights to warn motorists of approaching trains.

Although the council agreed that the crossings were more dangerous than the gated crossings, doubts were raised about closing the crossings.

"My mother lives on the North Side. I've had constituents tell me about near misses with trains, especially now that the trains are running faster and quieter on the new rails and I'm really concerned that were going to have a fatality in the future," Herrera said.

Herrera said that on the other hand, the issue of emergency service access to and from the North Side was also an issue.

County Commissioner for Precinct 4, Hivi Rayos told the council that he had had about 20 telephone calls last night opposing the closing of the Locust Street crossing.

"That's the only crossing the East Side has," Rayos says. "I go through there three or four times a day and there is a lot of traffic that uses that route."

Councilman Gerald Tellez agreed with Rayos saying that the Locust Street crossing was a necessity for the East Side.

City Health Inspector Armando Gil and Fire Marshal Jack Brookshire both opposed the closings as hindering for emergency service response.

"We need to keep as many crossings open as possible to keep communications and transportation open north and south," Gil said.

Brookshire agreed.

"When a car is hit by a train the train doesn't stop for right away. Sometimes there is only one crossing open in an emergency situation," Brookshire said.

Councilman Larry Levario advised the council that Texas Department of Transportation had earmarked $150,000 for installing gates and lights at the Alberta Street crossing, but no action had been taken regarding the three streets in question.

After the discussion the council decided to table the issue until further information could be gathered.

In other business the council approved appointments to the resurrected Plumbing Board as recommended by Jack Brookshire.

Appointed to the board were Manuel Rubio, master plumber, Carl Osborn, journeyman plumber, Bob Trammell, building contractor, Frank Spencer, city engineer, Armando Gil, City Health Inspector, and Leman Barmore as alternate master plumber.

The council also approved the city's participation in the Trans Pecos Drug Task Force for another year.

Police Chief Clay McKinney informed the council that with the recent arrests and seizures, that participation in the task force hadn't cost the city a dime for the last year, and that it looked like the next year would be just as cheap.

"Each participating entity has to pledge its part of the cash match for the grant," McKinney explained. "If enough money is forfeited, then that money goes toward the cash match. This year, we seized enough that we got the services of the task force for free and we are in good shape for next year."

The council also approved a request from the local Girl Scouts to reserve Maxey Park on July 15 for a Girl Scout Day.

Portions of the park will be off-limits to the public until about 4:00 p.m. that day, and one road will be closed so that scouts can walk to the restrooms without having to dodge traffic.

Border agents make $2 million pot bust

U.S. Border Patrol agents in Brewster County had a successful Sunday night, as they seized over 1¼-ton of marijuana worth over $2 million during a traffic check in Alpine.

Agents from the Marfa Sector made the seizure from a recreational vehicle driven by a United States Citizen on Sunday night, according to a press release by the agency. The two Border Patrol Agents immediately arrested the suspect, who was then turned over to the West Texas HIDTA Task Force, along with the marijuana and all other evidence. The task force accepted the case for prosecution and investigation.

According to the Border Patrol statement, the vehicle was traveling north from the border area through Alpine when the stop was made. Following a series of questions the driver of the motor home consented to a canine inspection that resulted in the seizure of 40 burlap sacks containing 2,693 pounds marijuana. The value of the marijuana was put at $2,154,400.

Chief Patrol Agent Simon Garza Jr. applauded the actions of his agents and other participating law enforcement officials. "Working together is critical when dealing with smugglers in the remote areas of West Texas," Garza said.

City's sales tax  check down 13 percent from 1999

PECOS, May 11, 2000 -- Sales tax rebates for Pecos took a hit this month, dropping nearly 13 percent from the same period a year ago, according to figures released Wednesday by State Comptroller Carole Keeton Rylander's office.

The city received $73,645 back from the comptroller this month, as part of its 1½-cent share of the state's 8¼-cent sales tax. That's down 12.98 percent from the $84,529 in got back last May, based on sales made in the city during March.

This month's decline comes after last month's check jumped by over 28 percent from a year ago. Combined, they left Pecos at just about the same place there were a year ago in sales tax rebates, according to Rylander's figures. The city has received $336,149 back from Austin, up 0.84 percent from the $333,348 received through the first five months of 1999.

A big payment a year ago to Toyah left that city's tax rebate numbers off sharply this time around. Toyah got back a $665 check from the comptroller, compared with the $4,649 check it received a year ago. That's a drop of 85.7 percent, while overall, the large check from last May left the city behind by $4,800 compared with a year ago.

Balmorhea had the opposite results. It's May check from $1,235 was 145.4 percent higher than last year's $503 total, due in part to a ½-cent rise in the city's sales tax. Overall, Balmorhea is up 43.16 percent this year, to $3,578.

Area-wide, sales tax results were mixed, with most of the larger cities showing either single digit gains or losses, according to Rylander's office.

The Reeves County Hospital District's check for $26,482 was off by 12.13 percent.

Overall for 2000, the hospital's ½-cent sales tax has brought in $126,910, down 4.6 percent from a year ago.


Helen Balog

Services for Helen Balog, 60, will be at 2 p.m. Saturday in Sunset Memorial Gardens, 6800 E. Eighth St., Odessa. She died Wednesday, May 10, 2000, after a long illness.

She was born Oct. 27, 1939 in Seagraves, graduated from Odessa High School in 1958, and moved to Pecos in March, 1970. She was a homemaker, an artist and member of the Pecos Pallette Club, and had worked as a clerk in the office of U.S. Magistrate for 10 years.

Survivors include her husband, Steve Balog of Pecos; one son, Stephen Balog Jr. of Plano; one daughter, Kim Balog of Plano; four grandchildren; and one sister, Margie Palmer of Odessa.

Inez Galindo

Inez Galindo, 86, died Tuesday, May 9, 2000, at Reeves County Hospital.

A rosary will be held at 7:30 p.m., today at the Pecos Funeral Home Chapel.

Mass is scheduled for 10 a.m., Friday, May 12, at Santa Rosa Catholic Church with Father Manuel Munoz officiating. Burial will be in Mt. Evergreen Cemetery.

She was born April 19, 1914, was a lifelong Pecos resident, a homemaker and a Catholic.

Survivors include two sons, Jose "Pepe" Galindo, Jr. of Carson City, Calif. and Larry Galindo of Los Angeles, Calif.; two daughters, Virginia Armendariz of Pecos and Carmen Machuca of Oxnard, Calif.; one brother, Pedro Ornelas of Santa Paula, Calif.; one sister, Delfina Carrasco of El Paso; 18 grandchildren and 31 great-grandchildren.

Pecos Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.


PECOS, May 11, 2000 -- High Wednesday 105. Low this morning 60. Forecast for tonight: Clear. Low around 60. West wind 10-20 mph and gusty. Friday: Sunny and cooler. High in the upper 80s. Northwest wind 10-20 mph. Friday night: Mostly clear. Low 50-55. Saturday: Mostly sunny. High in the mid 80s. Sunday: Mostly sunny day and clear at night. Low 50-55. High in the mid 80s.

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