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Thursday, August 30, 2001

County, Banes OKs settlement of RCDC prison dispute

Staff Writer

PECOS, Thurs., Aug. 30, 2001 -- Reeves County has reached an agreement with Banes  General Contractors, Inc., the construction company in charge of the  Reeves County Detention Center II project, over a dispute about payments on  the 1,000-bed construction project at the prison that was completed  behind schedule last year.

Reeves County Commissioners met in an emergency meeting this morning on the third floor of the courthouse to discuss and take action on the agreement.

Disputes arose between Reeves County and Banes concerning entitlement to equitable adjustments to the contract price and the quality and timeliness of some of the work Banes performed and/or failed to perform on the project.

Banes was in charge of the RCDC II project, which was scheduled for completion around Labor Day of 2000. But work was not completed to the point where U.S. Bureau of Prisons inmates could begin occupancy until the end of the year, and the company had been having a dispute with Reeves County in regard to the problems arising at the facility because of the delay.

Those disputes resulted in Banes filing a demand for arbitration with the American Arbitration Association to which Reeves County filed a General Denial and reserved its objection to jurisdiction.

Reeves County then filed a lawsuit against Banes for Declaratory Judgment and Motion to Stay Arbitration in the 143rd Judicial District Court in Reeves County to which Banes filed an answer and counterclaim.

Reeves County Judge Jimmy B. Galindo said during the emergency meeting that an agreement had been reached with Banes.

"We've agreed that the amount that will be paid to Banes will be $1.248,165," said Galindo. "I believe it was fair to pay Banes $600,000 and continue to hold $600,000 until all the work is finished."

Galindo said that in the agreement Banes will drop all claims to arbitration and original claim of $900,000 and the county would drop all legal claims.

The parties agreed that the final contract balance shall be $1.24 million, of which $600,000 will be paid to Banes on or before Sept. 7. The parties have agreed to the following terms and conditions:

- Banes will certify under oath that all subcontractors and supplies who provided labor or materials for the project have been paid in according with the terms and conditions of their contracts from the amounts paid by the county within seven days of receiving payment under this agreement.

- Banes will be paid the remaining balance of $648,145 when all work on the project has been completed.

- The scope of work for completion consists of punch list items.

The parties have agreed upon the final contract amounts and changes.

- Banes shall receive payment for RCDC-1 Day Room Addition Pay in the amount of $30,250 on or before Sept. 7.

- Banes shall receive payment for RCDC-1 support services shell pay.

- Request #11 (DRG, architects extended duration cost), revised in the amount of $468,232 on or before Sept. 7.

Galindo said Banes has almost completed work on another delayed project, the racquetball courts next to the old Pecos High School gym that are being built for the Reeves County Community Sports and Recreation Department. Work on the courts was halted for several months during the dispute, after the support structure and outside walls were erected.

The original plan called for the extension of the front lobby of the gym west to connect with the racquetball courts, but Galindo said that was changed when it was determined to be too costly, and the new building will be a stand-alone structure.

In other action this morning, commissioners approved the vehicle registration road and bridge fee for 2001-2002 in the amount of $5, the same as previous years.

During the emergency meeting the group, approved the consolidation of voting precinct elections boxes for the Nov. 6 election.

Reeves County Clerk Dianne Florez told commissioners that under the plan, the voting precinct election boxes for the Nov. 6 election would be held at the Reeves County Civic Center.

Commissioners also approved a bill in the amount of $600 for water well services provided by Ramirez Well Services.

Anchor files lawsuit over 2001 appraisal total

Staff Writer

PECOS, Thurs., Aug. 30, 2001 -- Anchor West has filed a lawsuit in  143rd District Court against the Reeves County Appraisal District (RCAD) last week, the same day the  company announced it had agreed to be bought by Canadian-based McCain Foods.

Anchor West, in their lawsuit, claims that the Appraisal District placed the value of Anchor's property in Reeves County over market value and that the district did not apply their Freeport Exemption correctly.

Chief Appraiser of the RCAD Carol King-Markham said that she does not understand the basis for which Anchor is suing the appraisal district.

She explained that Anchor, a division of Anchor Food Products on Appleton, Wis., sent two employees, Bruce Salcido and Steve Cordova, to protest the valuations before the Appraisal Review Board (ARB) in June. The tax representative hired by Anchor was unable to show up for the protest.

Markham said that Anchor was concerned about the appraisal district placing some real estate valuations as personal property.

"They did say the RCAD was picking up real estate as personal property," she said. "They only protested the personal property accounts."

Markham explained that for the past 11 years Anchor has rendered all real estate improvements with the personal property (interior) improvements.

However, as a result of the protest the ARB transferred some valuations from real estate to the personal property accounts, according to Markham.

"The ARB used Anchor's rendition, their figures, the financial statement, etc. to transfer the real estate improvement values out of the personal property accounts," she said.

In response to Anchor's claim that the RCAD raised the valuations, Markham said that they did not change the numbers, they only transferred values.

"There was no increase in Anchor's values _ only transferring the real estate improvements out of the personal property accounts," she said.

According to the lawsuit, Anchor claims that the RCAD set the appraised value of Anchor at least 10 percent higher than other similar properties in the appraisal district.

Markham said that the only businesses that would come close in comparison would be the Anchor properties in Wisconsin and Mexico.

"There are no other properties in Reeves County comparable to Anchor _ or in adjoining counties," she said.

In the lawsuit, Anchor claims that due to an incorrect application of the Freeport Exemption by the RCAD, Anchor's personal property "that is entitled to exemption has been incorrectly subject to taxation" and Anchor is entitled "to have the exempt value removed from the appraisal roll."

Markham explained that in 1989, Anchor applied for an abatement, which was granted by the city and county for 12 years, the Reeves County Hospital for 10 years and Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD for five years.

She said that Anchor has had the abatement for 11 years with one year remaining, which will be voided if the Anchor sale is closed.

This is, however, the first year that the company has applied for the Freeport Exemption, which gives partial tax exemption to Anchor's inventory, according to Markham.

Markham said that Anchor has been granted the Freeport Exemption.

Anchor filed the lawsuit on August 22, just ahead of the deadline for filing appeals to the June ARB rulings.

Markham explained Anchor had 45 days to file a lawsuit after receiving the ARB's determination, which would have been on August 24.

Markham said that the RCAD has had two other lawsuits in the past, one in the early 80s and another in the early 90s, however both were dropped before they went to court.

"We've never been to court. This will be our first time," she said.

Markham is concerned about the cost resulting in the lawsuit, which she said would come out of the taxpayers' pockets.

She said that if there is not enough money in the RCAD budget, she would have to go to the taxing jurisdictions to ask for more money, which would result in a possible raise in taxes to cover that loss.

"This comes out of tax payers' pocket," she said, "because we are run with tax money."

Anchor West was contacted for comment to this article but company officials were unable to be reached at press time.

After several months of rumors that the company would be sold, Anchor announced on Aug. 22 that McCain Foods of Florenceville, New Brunswick, Can., had tentatively agreed to purchase the company, while the H.J. Heinz Co. of Pittsburgh, Pa., would buy the rights to market Anchor's lines of T.G.I. Friday's brand of foods and the Poppers brand of retain appetizer lines.

Anchor opened its processing plant in the former Pecos Cantaloupe Co. building in 1990 to process batter dipped onion rings, and since then has grown to be Reeves County's largest employer, with over 750 workers. In a press release announcing the sale, McCain Foods said Anchor's sales have grown from $47 million in 1991 to $503 million in 2000.

GED test dates, registration set at PHS campus

PECOS, Thurs., Aug. 30, 2001 -- GED Testing will be held at 4:45 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 12 and Thursday, Sept. 13, at the Pecos High School.

Registration is scheduled from 1-5 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 4 and Wednesday, Sept. 5, at the Pecos High School Counselor's office.

Examinees must present a Texas driver's license or Texas Department of Public Safety ID card.

For more information call Pat Cobos or Eva Arriola at the Pecos High School Counselors at 447-7229.

Deadline near for 2001 Eagle season tickets 

PECOS, Thurs., Aug. 30, 2001 -- The Pecos Eagles' 2001 varsity football season opens at home on Friday night against Kermit, beginning at 8 p.m., and season tickets remain on sale for all five home games at the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD business office, at 1302 S. Park St. The tickets are $25 apiece for the five games.

Following their opening two games against Kermit and Fort Stockton on Sept. 7, the Eagles' other home dates are Sept. 28 against Monahans, Oct. 19 versus Fabens and Nov. 9 against San Elizario. Homecoming will be against Monahans and is an 8 p.m. start, while the games with Fabens and San Elizario are District 2-4A contests, and will begin at 7:30 p.m.

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Pecos Enterprise
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