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Thursday, December 21, 2000

RCDC addition given final OK from inspectors

Staff Writer

PECOS, December 21, 2000 - State officials have completed their inspection of the Reeves County Detention Center, and will allow the prison to operate at its full 2,000-bed capacity.

"The Texas Jail Commission (Texas Commission on Jail Standards) was here Monday and all the buildings were certified," said RCDC Warden Rudy Franco.

TCJS certified all the buildings during their trip to Pecos and the facility is fully operational, according to Franco.

There are now 576 additional beds available with 1,464 already filled, mostly by U.S. Bureau of Prison inmates.

"We're going to try to fill those 576 additional beds as soon as possible," said Franco.

Construction began in May 1999, and plans called for five new prison housing units.

"We've been filling the beds in stages," said Franco. "We've been building them up since September."

Franco said they expect the facility to be completely full by January. "We'll keep those buses rolling," he said.

"This is a very important point for Reeves County in the sense that this is a big step forward to beginning to diversify the economy in Reeves County and moving away from our dependence on sulphur mine and oil and gas production," said Reeves County Judge Jimmy B. Galindo.

The expansion of the RCDC since 1995 has resulted in 300 additional jobs for Reeves County, Galindo said, but pointed out at one time there were 700 jobs at the sulphur plant Freeport McMoRan closed down last year, so there's no question that there's room to create additional jobs in Reeves County.

Galindo said that he was excited about the new facility and the additional jobs. "This is beneficial to everyone in the community, we're very pleased and excited," he said.

There are currently 420 employees at the 2,000-bed facility, working in the different areas at the newly remodeled facility.

"We have a turnover rate of 13 percent per year, which compares favorably to other facilities of this type," said Franco.

There are currently several openings still available at the facility, which is one of the biggest employers in Reeves County.

A Grand Opening/Open House has been tentatively planned for February. "We want to have representatives from BOP here at that time and have will probably do something then," said Franco.

The center was built in 1986 as a 500-bed facility and was expanded two years ago to accommodate 1,000 prisoners. About 75 percent of the inmates are undocumented immigrants serving federal sentences and awaiting deportation.

"I think our staff has done an excellent job, we're very proud of them," said Franco.

Representatives from the TCJS also paid a visit to the Reeves County Jail, located in downtown Pecos, during their Pecos visit this week.

"They looked at the locks, showers and toilets, things that needed to be repaired," said Reeves County Sheriff Andy Gomez.

The TCJS had threatened to close the jail earlier this year due to un-repaired violations, but Gomez said everything is in order and he expected a favorable report. "They told us they would send us a letter about the official inspection," said Gomez. "I think we'll be certified."

The sheriff said this would be the first time in a long time that the downtown facility will meet all inspection criteria. "I'm very pleased with the improvements and I do believe we'll get a good report," he said.

Family's Christmas saved after gift thefts

Staff Writer

PECOS, December 21, 2000 - Life sometimes gives you little tests to test your faith in others.

Pecos-Barstow-Toyah teacher Debbie Flores received one of those tests while she was shopping for her family's Christmas gifts on Tuesday.

Flores said she had gone to Midland by herself in order to shop for her whole family without wandering eyes looking on and had been there all day long.

As one of her last stops before heading home, Flores made her way into Wal-Mart Supercenter just off Loop 250.

Flores said the whole day she took special precautions such as carrying her purse close to her, covering the packages in her car, parking in well lit areas and having her cell phone with her at all times.

"I was very, very careful," she said.

As Flores walked out of the store she phoned a friend to keep her calm as she walked to her car in the dark.

She was still on the phone when she clicked open her truck with her keyless entry keychain and opened the back door on her suburban. But when she looked inside she discovered someone had stolen most of the presents she had spent all day shopping for.

"They were very picky," Flores said.

She explained that whoever stole the presents left certain ones behind for example some boxes, a sweater and even a few toys.

Flores called the police, and said the officer who arrived to take a report told her the thieves had probably used a keyless entry mechanism similar to hers.

"They didn't break in anything," she said.

The officer explained to Flores that those mechanisms are now being made and sold on the black market to people, and allow them to open various vehicle doors by sending out the proper signal.

But with every bad thing something good comes out of it, Flores said.

While the officer worked on taking fingerprints from her vehicle, former Pecos resident Rey Olivas and his family stayed with Flores and a true angel came up to her.

Flores said she was standing there in the parking lot when a total stranger came up to her and asked her if she was the woman whose vehicle was vandalized.

"I said `yes'," she said in a written account. "He pulled some money out of his pocket and said please take it and have a Merry Christmas."

After saying thank you Flores said she refused the money but the man's wife asked her to go ahead and take it and to have a Merry Christmas.

"All I could do was cry," she said. "I do believe in angels."

Finally Flores arrived back in Pecos with the help of her cousins who drove to Midland to pick her up.

Flores said her husband, Chip and her daughters; Sarah and Kelsey were upset about what she had been through.

"Sarah was really, really upset for not going with me," Flores said.

Flores' daughter Sarah got up Wednesday morning not knowing her teammates on the Pecos High School Swim Team would soon learn of her family's unfortunate ordeal.

Head Coach Terri Morse informed the team while Sarah was not there of what had happened to her mother.

Morse said she just mentioned what happened to the Flores family and suggested thinking of something nice to cheer them up.

"I just mentioned that this might be a good time to do something nice for someone," she said.

Morse said the team talked on their own about what they could do for the family and decide to prove the definition of family is not only parents and children but also friends.

At 1 p.m., on Wednesday the Flores family found out what the swimmers came up with to brighten their dreary holidays.

Flores said the kids showed up at her family's home with a living "money tree."

The swimmers had been able to collect money donated by themselves, their families and age-group swimming parents totaling in the amount of $546.

Morse said the swimmers bought the living tree so the Flores family would be able to plant it.

Flores said she was very moved by the kind gesture and is very grateful.

"I had to give them a big hug and kiss on the cheek," she said, adding that her family is planning to plant the tree so they would remember "my swimmers" far into the future.

"The tree will be planted by the Flores' and it will be called the `Eagle Tree'," Flores said.

Today, Flores plans to going shopping again with the help of some of her friends to buy presents to replace the stolen ones.

Morse said the swimmers also decided they wanted to help the Flores family more by offering to help wrap the new gifts on Friday morning so the family would have them ready for Christmas Day.

Morse said she never expected the team to come up with such a selfless idea.

"I'm just real proud of the kids for coming up with an idea and thinking more of others than themselves," she said.

Flores said she believes that with people like the swimmers living in Pecos makes it a great community.

"The looks don't make a community, it's the people who make the community," she said. "This is the true meaning of Christmas, people caring for others."

Unemployment in city, county continued to fall

Staff Writer

PECOS, December 21, 2000 - Unemployment in Reeves County continued downward for the fifth straight month, reaching 8 percent in November, according to the Texas Workforce Commission.

The TWC released jobless figures for Texas this morning, and it showed Reeves County's workforce continued its season decline, but a drop in the unemployment rolls offset the loss in workers. The county's labor force fell from 6,688 in October to 6,512 last month, while those without jobs fell from 553 to 524, which allowed the unemployment rate to fall .3 percent in November.

The unemployment rate for the county is 4.4 percent below the number at the start of 2000, when Reeves County had 83 more people in its workforce but 195 fewer jobs, which left the county with a 12.4 percent rate.

A year ago, the TWC reported a 10.1 percent jobless rate for Reeves County. There were 51 more jobs within in the county in November 1999, but the labor force included 207 more people, which meant 680 people were unemployed.

Unemployment for the Town of Pecos City was also down three-tenths of a percent in November, falling from 9.5 to 9.2 percent. The TWC said there were 469 people unemployed in the city out of 5,089 in the labor force, down from the 495 without jobs in October, out of 5,228 in the workforce.

The number for the city and county remain above those for the Permian Basin overall, but the decline last month was two-tenths of a percent more than the average for the region, as joblessness in the Basin fell from 4.6 to 4.5 percent.

Midland saw its unemployment rate fall from 4.2 to 3.8 percent, but that was offset by Odessa, where the jobless rate increased from 5.0 to 5.2 percent. Almost all area cities reported increases or declines of under one-half percent for the month, according to the TWC numbers.

The largest drop came in Presidio County, which continued to have the area's highest unemployment. Joblessness there fell nine-tenths of a percent, but remains among the highest in Texas, at 22.6 percent.

Unemployment for the state overall was at 4 percent in November, unchanged from last month but down from 4.4 percent a year ago. Bryan-College Station continued to have the lowest unemployment rate of the major metropolitan areas in Texas, at 1.9 percent, while McAllen-Edinburg-Mission had the highest rate, at 11.3 percent.

Third meeting set on Resource Team

PECOS, December 21, 2000 - The third Town Hall Meeting of the Resource Team will be held at 6:30 p.m., on Tuesday, Jan. 23, at the Reeves County Civic Center.

At this meeting, Fire Marshall Jack Brookshire will present his findings on abandoned and fire-damaged structures. Also at this meeting, the city council will organize community committees for various activities.

Everyone interested in improving our community is strongly encouraged to attend this meeting.


PECOS, December 21, 2000 - High Wednesday 71, low this morning 29. Forecast for Tonight: Mostly clear and cold. Low near 20. Southeast wind 5 to 15 mph. Friday: Partly cloudy. High near 60. Southwest wind 10 to 20 mph. Friday night: Partly cloudy. Low near 30. Saturday and Sunday: Partly cloudy. Low in the mid 20s to the lower 30s. Highs in the 50s. Christmas day: Partly cloudy with a slight chance of showers. Lows in the 30s. Highs in the upper 40s to the upper 50s.

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