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Tuesday, July 10, 2001

Barstow councilman dies in train crash

Staff Writer

PECOS, Tuesday, July 10, 2001 -- A longtime Barstow resident and member of the city council was  killed this morning when the pickup he was driving collided with a Union  Pacific freight train on the east side of town.

Lucio Florez Sr. died at the scene after his Ford F-150 pickup was struck by a Union Pacific train headed eastbound from Long Beach to Memphis at the Brandt Street crossing in Barstow, at about 7:27 a.m.

Florez, 50, was headed southbound on Brant towards Business Interstate 20 when the train struck the pickup on its passenger side, separating the bed of the vehicle from the cab section and sending it rolling about 100 feet past the intersection on the north side of the tracks.

Florez, who was ejected from the vehicle, was pronounced dead at the scene. An autopsy on the body was requested by Florez' brother, Ward County Precinct 1 Commissioner Julian Florez, who along with Florez' son were among the first to arrive on the scene.

Spokesmen for Union Pacific, Mark Davis said the Ward County Sheriff's Department later confirmed the death of Florez.

"The crew of the train has requested Peer Support," Davis said. "We offer counseling to people when they are involved in an accident like this."

This morning's fatality occurred one block east of where a car carrying six people was struck by a Union Pacific train on May 11, sending four people to Reeves County Hospital.

That train was also eastbound when it struck a 1998 Pontiac Sunfire as it was crossing the railroad tracks going north into Barstow on FM 516. According to the Department of Public Safety report, that the driver of the vehicle, Martha Williams, of Cisco, was traveling East on Business 20 and turned left to cross the tracks on Farm to Market 516 when she was distracted and did not see the train coming.

There were six other people in the vehicle at the time of the accident including Williams' son Jesse, 2, who was airlifted to Lubbock for treatment of his injuries, and her baby daughter. Also in the vehicle was Jennifer Blake of Barstow and her three children, Reba, 6, Tyler, 4, and Nathan, 1.

Although there have been two accidents in Barstow in the past two months, there has been no talk about installing grates or lights at the Brandt Street crossing, Davis said.

Crossing guards and lights are in place at the FM 516 crossing, but Davis said those are not Union Pacific's responsibility. "We can not upgrade the lights or gates. The Texas Department of Transportation is the one that must approve the installation of them," he said.

This morning's fatality was being investigated by Department of Public Safety trooper Jeff Rickel, who would not comment on the accident at press time.

Florez has been a member of the Barstow City Council for the past several years and was just re-elected to a new two-year term in May. He was also a member of Barstow Volunteer Fire Department and a member of Our Lady of Refuge Catholic Church.

Flores is survived by his wife Elia Florez of Barstow, a son, Lucius Florez, and daughter, Monique Florez, both of Dallas; a son son Lucio Florez Jr. and daughter, Corina Florez, both of Barstow and daughter April Florez of Odessa.

Survivors also include his mother, Victorina Florez, brothers Julian Florez, Ralph Florez, Margarito Florez sisters Emma Lonzano, Marianita Baeza and Elva Contrares.

Commissioners agree to pacts for RCDC expansion project

Staff Writer

PECOS, Tuesday, July 10, 2001 -- Professional services contracts with architects and a  construction company for work on the latest Reeves County Detention Center  expansion project were approved during the Reeves County Commissioners  Court regular meeting held Monday.

Commissioners approved contracts with LMD Architects and Carothers Construction Company for RCDC III, the project to add an additional 960 beds to the facility.

Bill Weinacht, attorney for the county on Reeves County Detention Center business, was on hand to look over the contracts and make final changes.

In conjunction with those agreements, commissioners approved a contract between Reeves County and Frank X. Spencer and Associates for the RCDC III Project.

"He (Frank Spencer) will be finished with his drawings by Aug. 2," said Reeves County Judge Jimmy B. Galindo. "He said he was on schedule and would be finished by then."

"It's very critical that he comes in with those plans on that day," said Weinacht.

Extra steps are being taken that the project is completed on time and within the scope of the work outlined, according to Galindo. "We went over all the contracts with our attorney and everything seems to be in order," he said.

The last project, which was a 1,000-bed addition at the facility, which had been scheduled for completion in September 2000, came in three months late.

Commissioners tabled several items having to do with the construction company that worked on last year's RCDC II Project, Banes General Contractors.

Tabled were a change order for the support services building and a change order for the racquetball facilities project at the old Pecos High School gym, part of the county's recreation department operations. "At this point there are a number of things that they need to finish," said Galindo. "I did ask Banes for a schedule of when they would complete these items and they have not provided us with one."

Galindo said that he would like to wait to take any action on these items until Banes decides what they are going to do. "We plan to assert our rights under the contract," he said.

Commissioners approved change order #1 for the racquetball courts. "This is to add glass to the back wall of the racquetball courts, which we had talked about last year," said Galindo. "It will be about $12,600 for the glass walls."

A group of women from Balmorhea were on hand to discuss the Balmorhea Library and ask for assistance from the commissioners court.

Galindo said that his biggest concern was to have ample public access to the library.

"My concern is that we expand availability of books in the community and increase the public's access to the library," he said.

Galindo suggested that the group work with the Reeves County Library and possibly borrow books from them and then return them at a later date. "That way, you would have more books to offer at the Balmorhea library, without having to spend too much money. The other funds could be used to pay the individual to open more days a week," he said.

Galindo also suggested that the county help with a portion of the utility bills. "Because we do want you to stay open longer," he said.

Precinct 3 Commissioner Herman Tarin, who resides in Balmorhea, offered his assistance in any way. "If there's anything I can do to help, please let me know," he said. "The library is a big asset to the community and we certainly want to keep it open longer and give better access to the public."

The group approved several property bids, including property on Oak Street. "This is the old furniture store and the building in between," said county tax assessor-collector Elfida Zuniga.

She said that it would cost quite a bit of money to repair the roof on the building and that the offer was a good one. "The roof is really bad and that's the first thing they intend to do and this will help retain a business that has been there for awhile," Zuniga said.

She added that the other jurisdictions had already approved the offer made by James Brownlee in the amount of $12,500.

Precinct 2 Commissioner David Castillo said that an established business that wanted to remain in Pecos deserved all the help they could get. "It's great and if he wants to expand that's even better," said Castillo. "A business that's already established and really wants to stay in Pecos and in the downtown area, where it's really critical, I think we should do all we can."

Other property bids approved were the old Revco building, located on South Eddy Street.

Zuniga told the group that this was the only bid she has received on this property in a long time.

Commissioner Precinct 1 Felipe Arredondo voted against accepting the bid for this property because he said he thought it was too low.

The bid on the Revco property, located at 2030 S. Eddy St., was for $7,500 by an individual from California. "I think it's a good offer if somebody wants to re-open it and it would be great to put it back on the tax roll," said Zuniga.

Other properties were 501 S. Orange for $1,800; 804 S. Almond for $1,551; 420 Mulberry for $600 and 40 acres for $1,148.

Personnel and salary changes include promotions at the RCDC: Stephen Cox to Booking Officer III at $26,000 per year; Ruben Salinas, Booking Officer III at $26,000 per year; Isela Ortiz, Personnel Clerk III at $26,000 per year; Gilbert Ybarra CO II, $24,000; Katrina Robertson, to Lieutenant at $31,500 per year; Cara Alligood to Unite Counselor at $27,000 per year; Reynaldo Dominguez, Unit Counselor, $27,000 per year; Raul Salinas, Unit Counselor, $27,000 per year and Susan Moore, to COII at $24,000 per year. New hire at the facility was Jose Cano, as COI at $19,000 per year.

McDonald's armed robber gets over $1,000

Staff Writer

PECOS, Tuesday, July 10, 2001 -- Two employees of McDonald's received an early morning wake  up yesterday when an unknown man robbed the store of over $1,000.

Pecos Police Investigator Kelly Davis said that between 5:30 a.m. and 5:45 a.m., on Monday a man entered the McDonald's at Cedar and Walthall streets with a knife and demanded money from the clerks.

"He threatened them with a knife and placed the employees in the walk-in (refrigerator) and locked them inside," he said.

Davis said that the man is believed to be white and approximately six-foot with a stocky build.

He said that not much else could be determined, not even his age, because the robber's face was covered.

"He had a bandanna around his face with two eyeholes cut out," Davis said.

It is unknown either which way the robber headed after leaving the restaurant or what kind of vehicle he was driving, according to Davis.

Davis also said that the two employees did not know which way the robber came from because they did not hear him come in.

"The girls left the door open and he just walked in," he said. "They didn't even see him walk in."

Monday's robbery occurred about seven hours before another robbery occurred in a town just off Interstate 20.

Police in Stanton, approximately two hours east of Pecos, are looking for a suspect in a bank robbery that occurred at 12:45 p.m. on Monday. However, Davis said that the two rural town robberies occurring on the same day was just a conincedence.

"I can't see a connection there at all," he said.

The bank robber is believed to have used a gun during the Stanton robbery and Davis said that because of that he sees no reason why the McDonald's robber would travel to Stanton to rob the bank when he already had money from the Pecos hold-up, or why he would have used different weapons in the two incidents.

Davis said that the McDonald's did open later that morning but the two employees were sent home.

The Enterprise was unable to reach the area supervisor for McDonald's for comment on the robbery.

Davis said that he is still investigating the robbery and would like anyone who might have seen the robber to come forward with any information.

He said that the robber was wearing a pullover hood, black bandanna, a red-orange jacket and black pants.

Crimestoppers will give a reward to any person who has information that would lead to the solving of this case.

Davis said that it is unfortunate that the robbery occurred but he is grateful that no one was hurt.

"We're just relieved that no one was injured," he said.

If anyone has any information on the robbery, call Crimestoppers at 445-9898.

Red Bluff's menu for July heavy on salt

Staff Writer

PECOS, Tuesday, July 10, 2001 -- Salt, salt and more salt was the topic for the Red Bluff Water  Power Control Board on Monday, during their regular monthly meeting  in Pecos. 

The board members discussed a meeting scheduled for Wednesday in Austin to try and iron out problems with the district's Malaga Bend salt alleviation project, heard a proposal from Texas A&M University to desalinize water in Red Bluff Lake to making it available for drinking, discussed plating trees that withstand the ground's salt content at the lake, discussed the Pecos River's higher salt content entering Red Bluff Lake due to lower water flow from New Mexico this year, and _ on the brighter side _ were told water losses downstream from Red Bluff this year seem to be lower due to the killing off of salt cedar trees along the river during the past few years.

Board president Randall Hartman said he and local farmer Tom Nance would be in Austin on Wednesday to meet with Pecos River Compact Commissioner J.W. Thrasher, Tom Bohl, with the Natural Resources Division of the Texas Attorney General's office, and with Red Bluff lawyer Don Holcomb to discuss the district's proposed contract with Loving Salt Co. The company's president, Albert Wagner, and a Loving Salt Co. attorney from Chicago were also scheduled to be at the meeting, Hartman said.

"Mr. Thrasher and Mr. Bohl are not sure what is appropriate for us to sign. We're going to go to see if we can't overcome these little issues," Hartman said.

The district has been trying since the mid-1990s to enter into a contract with Loving Salt to pump water from the salt spring at Malaga Bend away from the Pecos River and into six man-made ponds, where the water would be evaporated and the salt then mined for sale by the company. Since that time, Red Bluff and Loving Salt have run into a series of problems, coming from officials in Texas, New Mexico and with the federal government, along with land owners along the Pecos River in southern Eddy County, N.M.

"The biggest issue (Wednesday) is the time element. Mr. Thrasher wants a pilot project run for one year," Hartman said, which would be a problem for Loving Salt. "You can't borrow funds on that."

Board member Dick Slack said he wanted to see any agreement that might come out of Wednesday's meeting. Hartman said the tentative contract would give Red Bluff right of approval on any company that might take over mining operations from Loving Salt.

"When we get something finished we'll have a contract here to sign, or we don't have to sign it," Hartman said.

The desalinization project was brought to the board by Frank Platt of Texas A&M, who is working on a petroleum engineering project dealing with the removal of salt from brine water. Platt said over 500,000 barrels of brine are produced in Texas every day from oil and gas drilling activities, and the project could be used to help Red Bluff Lake with it's salt troubles.

He said A&M is currently running a reverse osmosis test project near Mertzon, and he said if it is successful, "We're looking at under a nickel a gallon to desalt."

Slack pointed out that at $16,250 an acre/foot, that would be too expensive to do for irrigation water, but Platt said the project could have a more limited use, providing drinking water to the cabins and other facilities at the lake.

"I'd love to see drinking water at Red Bluff, and I'd love to see us pump well water to use as drinking water," said Hartman, who later added, "If we had good drinking water, we'd have 10 to 20 times the number of houses up there."

Red Bluff recently disconnected several cabins at the lake from a well pump there. Although the water was not used for drinking, the district was told to continue to do so to avoid Red Bluff operating as a municipal water district. Board member Lloyd Goodrich mentioned that problem on Monday, saying, "We don't want to be in the municipal water business," but Hartman said under the interpretation of state law, "As long as more than 15 people are tied to one source it's legal."

Earlier in the meeting, the board discussed improving recreational facilities at the lake. Hartman said a group of lake residents have done some clean-up work on their own, but that the district would have to put in some other improvements to attract more people.

"We have really let our stuff go down to a rundown state and haven't kept it up," Hartman said. "We've got mesquites growing up on top of the dam and the emergency spillgates need some cleaning and painting soon."

Among the items sought for the lakeshore are an extended boat ramp and the addition of about 100 new trees, at a combined cost of about $16,000. Hartman said work on extending the concrete boat ramp should be done soon, while the lake's level is low. The trees sought for the lake would be chinaberries, elms and/or eucalyptuses, which have shown the ability to tolerate the high levels of salt in the ground around the lake.

The water report given to the board showed only 43,145 acre/feet of water was in Red Bluff Lake as of July 1. However, the water loss down to the farmers along the Pecos River has been below the traditional 50 percent level the district is used to dealing with.

"It's been exceptionally dry. We haven't gotten any help (from rains), so it's got to be the trees," Hartman said. Arsenal spraying along the Pecos River the past two years have killed off most of the salt cedars between Red Bluff Dam and Interstate 20, which officials hoped would increase the water flow along the river.

Monday's meeting was the first for the board since the retirement of General Manger Jim Ed Miller, who submitted his resignation as of June 30. District secretary Robin Prewit said the board would probably begin a search for his replacement during their August meeting.

The office was also missing its computer on Monday, Prewit said, following a break-in overnight when the side door in the alley between Oak and Cypress streets was kicked in. No other items were reported missing in the burglary.

Teachers' suit against P-B-T to be discussed

PECOS, Tuesday, July 10, 2001 -- Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD board members will have a busy agenda tonight, during their regular monthly meeting, including a closed session to discuss pending litigation and action on Bauer vs. P-B-T ISD and personnel issues discussed under Section 551.074.

School board members will meet at 6 p.m., today, in the boardroom at 1304 S. Park. The public is invited to attend the open portion of the meeting.

The litigation deals with the district's failure to renew contracts with two teachers following the 1999-2000 school year, and questions surrounding the reasons for their non-renewals.

In other action, board members will discuss and approve a report from Pecos High School Campus Improvement Committee; Reeves County Juvenile Probation Department's sponsorship of a Pecos Eagle Drug Free-Crime Free Spirit Bell Ringers Group for 2001-2002 school year; student/athletic insurance competitive sealed proposals; swim score board competitive sealed proposals; fuel competitive sealed proposals; carpet/roofing competitive sealed proposals; fleet insurance competitive sealed proposals and property/casualty general liability competitive sealed proposals; milk/dairy products bid; bread/bread products bid; telephone system replacement; 2000-2001 budget amendments; request to purchase foreclosed properties; officer to calculate effective tax rate and roll back tax rate and calendar to discuss budget and proposed tax rate.

Also for discussion and approval are: 2001-2001 budget, possible tax rate and possible pay raise scenarios; salary and compensation plan for administrative, professional and auxiliary employees for the 2001-2002 school year; appointing two members to the Insurance Committee and lease/purchase of Xerox 480 copier for the administration office.

Regular items on the agenda:

Tax report.

Depository securities report.

Current bills and financial report.

Investment transaction report.

Reconciled bank balance report.

Reeves County Community Recreation Department report.

Date and time for next meeting.

Request for items for next agenda.

Firemen torch dilapidated building to learn a lesson

Staff Writer

PECOS, Tuesday, July 10, 2001 -- One of the abandoned buildings the Town of Pecos City has  been trying to get rid of served a useful purpose for the Pecos Volunteer  Fire Department (PVFD) this morning, when members conducted  some training exercises by setting fire to the condemned structure at the corner  of Seventh and Willow streets.

City Manager Carlos Yerena said that the structure was ideal for use in fire training for the PVFD because of the location and it was already scheduled for demolition.

"The structure was an unsafe structure and condemned by the city so we needed to take it down," he said.

Yerena said that the fire department was able to team up with the city and police department to control the fire that they purposely set.

"We saw very good cooperation," he said. "It was a team effort."

Fire Chief Roy Pena said that the fire was good training for the firemen and goes toward their firefighting certification.

"It was good training for all of the fire department," he said. "The hours spent at the fire will go toward their basic certification with the state Firemen and Fire Marshall Association."

Yerena said that Fire Marshal Jack Brookshire and the fire department did a good job in preparing for and controlling the fire.

Brookshire said that he had been preparing the house and area surrounding the house for about a week in order for the fire to be well controlled.

"We cleared off all the debris between the houses just to make sure that we didn't have any problems with the fire," he said.

Brookshire and the Town of Pecos City have been trying to contact the owners of the home for quite some time with little success.

Brookshire said that it turns out that approximately six people own the house and property and could never reach an agreement on what to do with the structure.

After condemning the property and sending letters to the owners with no action taken the City Council recently approved letting the city demolish the structure.

"The City Council gave us the authority to go ahead and get rid of it," Brookshire said, and by burning the structure it benefited both the city and fire department.

"We figured it would be good training for the fire department and plus get rid of an unsafe structure," he said.

Yerena said that the city does not plan to allow the fire department to use other condemned structures for training because of the proximity of those structures to other structures around it.

"This is an exception because the conditions were right to do this type of training," he said.

Brookshire said that they chose that house to burn because it was next to a vacant lot with only one home located to the north of it.

He also said that they decided to have the training during the morning when there is not as much traffic going along Seventh Street and the wind is not blowing.

In order to protect the house next to the burning structure, the firemen put up a "curtain" of water to keep the house cool and protected, according to Brookshire.

With the firemen starting the fire at approximately 8 a.m., it took approximately 30 minutes for the structure to burn completely down, according to Pena.

Brookshire said that the city would start cleaning up the area this afternoon and hopefully the area would be clear by tonight.

He said that they had no problems with the fire and are very pleased at how well the training went off.

"Everything went off just like we hoped it would," he said.


PECOS, Tuesday, July 10, 2001 -- High Monday 105. Low this morning 69. Rainfall last 24 hours  at Texas A&M Experiment Station .06 inch. Forecast for tonight:   Mostly clear. Low 70 to 75. Southeast wind 5 to 15 mph. Wednesday:  Mostly sunny. High around 102. South wind 10 to 20 mph.  Wednesday night: Mostly clear. Low 70 to 75. Thursday and Friday: Partly  cloudy. Lows 70 to 75. Highs around 100.


Lucio Florez and Eduvigen Rodriguez

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