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Economic Development


Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Friday, August 22, 2003

FLH board asks feds to alter rules on apartments

Staff Writer

PECOS, Fri., Aug. 22, 2003 -- Pecos Housing Authority/Farm Labor Housing Board of Commissioners asked USDA Rural Community Development Specialist John Perkins to allow them to rent 25 units of the FLH to ineligibles in order to earn more money, during a discussion with Perkins at their monthly meeting, held Thursday at the PHA's office on Starley Drive.

The FLH apartments were built to house seasonal migrant workers in the Pecos area. However the migrants usually only occupy the apartments during the summer months, leaving the board in need of another source of income to finance the FLH budget during the other 8-9 months of the year.

The board reviewed a May 16 letter sent out by Perkins to the board, in which he pointed out that the 2003 budget is due 60 to 90 days prior to the end of the fiscal year.

"I understand it is hard to budget when things change," Perkins said, while adding that if the budget is sent on time the board could avoid pitfalls.

"So we are looking at mailing it in October," asked Vice-Chairman Jim Workman.

Executive Director Nellie Gomez explained that it had been hard to work on the budget due to the low number of occupants.

"I believe the budget was made on 15 rentals," Chairman Frank Perea said.

Perkins said that they currently have 10 projects through the FLH office in Fort Stockton and that he gets all their budgets by October 15.

He added that if the budget had not been approved by the beginning of the year they would then revert the FLH back to its old budget.

"If you receive the budget by October, how long will it take you to get it approved," Perea asked him.

"By January 1, it would be approved," Perkins said.

"Earlier you said that you could also help us financially or in what ever way you could," Perea said. "How?"

Perkins said that he could give them permission for an as-yet undetermined number of ineligibles (non-migrant workers) to rent for a nine-month period or have 20 to 25 units rented out for a 12-month period. The FLH has 56 units, which are primarily designed to house migrant workers during crop harvesting season.

Different marketing strategies could also be used, such as a marketing incentive of charging $100 for the first month instead of the full $190 or a coupon.

"I discourage free rent because it can be abused," Perkins said. "You could have tenants stay one month or damage the place."

He added that the income level of the ineligibles would have to be verified as well.

"Could you approve a 12 month rent contract for ineligibles, and if so how many units could you give us?" asked Perea, who told Perkins, "We never had a problem when we had a 12 month units. They would stay for a full year."

However, the problem with housing ineligibles is that if 56 applications were received for the next crop season, Gomez would then have to evict those living in the 25 units.

"If I receive 56 applications, I still have to give them one months notice for move out," Gomez said about the ineligibles living in a FLH unit. "This year I rented out 47 units but six did not show up. However, they did pay."

Not being at full capacity, Workman suggested that they weigh all their options on the whole program.

He added that before with the 25 units on a 12-month contract they generated a steady source of income on which they were able to base their budget.

Gomez said that they needed to do something, because with the uncertain budget situation, they would then not be able to meet her salary, the mortgage, the water bill or the insurance.

"Before we had families staying there for as long as I've been here," Gomez said about the 12-month contracts.

Perkins that said that the permission letter did not mean to read that ineligibles would be allowed to stay in a FLH unit for a long period of time. What the letter stated was that ineligibles would be allowed to stay on a 12-month contract and anytime after that they would then be placed on a month-to-month contract.

"We need to pay bills," Workman said. "And I don't see us paying the bills."

Currently they have spent $5,000 from the reserve fund to pay bills, leaving them only $8,000, Gomez said.

"We never had a cash flow problem," Perea said. "We misinterpreted the letter sent to us by USDA."

Gomez said that she showed City Attorney Scott Johnson the letter and he concurred what Perkins had stated, which is that the 25 units rented out to the ineligibles would be for 12 months. After the 12-month period they would then be placed on a month-to-month contract.

"That was a mistake in our part," Perea said.

The board asked Perkins if they could be allowed 20 units indefinite in order to generate an income.

"I can propose it to our new program director to look at," Perkins said.

He was also asked to find out if the board could buy the 56 units with the $4,300 they have.

"A restrictive clause would be used stating that they must continue to house an 'X' number of units for the FLH," Perkins said if the FLH were to purchase the units.

He then added that the board summit a letter to him and he would then present it to the board.

Junnell hands alien smuggler 51-month term

Staff Writer

PECOS, Fri., Aug. 22, 2003 -- A 48-year-old man was sentenced to 51 months in federal prison for the smuggling of illegal aliens in U.S. District Court in Pecos on Thursday, in connection with a attempt to smuggle illegal aliens into the country back in March.

Johnny Sutton, with the U.S. Attorney's Office of the Western District of Texas, announced yesterday in a press release that Kenneth Jack Pekel had been sentenced by Federal Judge Robert Junnell following his conviction by a federal jury in Pecos on six counts of alien smuggling on June 17, 2003.

"This investigation and its outcome reflects the commitment of the U.S. Attorney's Office to aggressively prosecute alien smuggling cases, especially when the lives of others are placed in jeopardy," Sutton said in the press release.

Pekel was arrested on March 10, 2003 while attempting to smuggle 21 illegal aliens past the U.S. Border Patrol Checkpoint in Sierra Blanca. The illegal immigrants were being transported form El Paso to Dallas.

Evidence presented at trial revealed that all 21 of the illegal immigrants were found inside a large wooden crate, which was tightly wrapped with a tarp and trapped to a flat-bed trailer. Border Patrol agents testified there was no fresh air or ventilation in the crate, nor was food or water available. They were locked inside the crate with no way to escape.

Another man, Arthur Verner Johnson, pleaded guilty May 9 to smuggling charges.

Authorities believe Pekel was assisting Johnson. Pekel also was given three years supervised release and fined $100 for court costs by Junnell.

The case was investigated by the U.S. Border Patrol Anti Smuggling Unit and was prosecuted for the government by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Gary Tromblay and Dwight Goains.

It was one of two cases involving large-scale illegal alien smuggling efforts heard in U.S. District Court in Pecos this summer. On July 14, 28-year-old Hugo Ricardo Ramirez of El Paso pled guilty to four counts of transporting illegal immigrants, with two of those counts hand the an added charge of life endangerment.

Ramirez was the driver of a moving van that had been stopped for speeding by Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper Arnulfo Rivas pulled over just before 2 a.m., near mile marker 33 on I-20, seven miles west of Pecos. A total of 18 illegal immigrants, some of which were children, were found in the van, 17 hiding in the back of the truck.

Ramirez is awaiting sentencing in U.S. District Court.

Commissioners set to discuss $422,000 water bill owed city

PECOS, Fri., Aug. 22, 2003 -- After trying to meet budget and bond payments of over $400,000 in recent months relating to problems at the Reeves County Detention Center, Reeves County Commissioners will discuss a water payment to the Town of Pecos City in the amount of $422,320 during their regular meeting scheduled for Monday.

The group will meet at 9 a.m., to discuss several items and the public is invited to attend.

Commissioners delayed discussion of the city water payment from July, due to concerns over filling beds at RCDC III, the 960-bed unit, which was completed in March but only has about 15 percent of its beds filled. Money from housing prisoners was to repay the construction bonds used to build the $40 million facility.

County Judge Jimmy Galindo was scheduled to have met with Department of Homeland Security officials in Washington on Thursday to discuss housing DHS detainees scheduled for deportation. There was no word at press time today on the result of that meeting.

In other action on Monday, commissioners will discuss and take action on Carothers Construction request for payment No. 20-RI-RCDC III; Samcorp request for payment No. 11, and waiver of penalties-RCDC III; Reeves County request for reimbursement for RCDC-III equipment purchases, -RCDC III; 1999 lease payment $420,077 and 2001 lease payment $411,117.

The group will discuss and take action on a contract between the Reeves County Juvenile Department and Pegasus Schools, Inc., for residential services; alternate judge for Box-6 Multi-Purpose Center in Saragosa and Election Eystems and Software, Inc., Post Warranty Software Maintenance and Support Agreement.

Regular agenda items include: reports from various departments; budget amendments and line-item transfers; personnel and salary changes (sheriff's department, county clerk's office); minutes from previous meetings and semi-monthly bills.

Pee Wee football, volleyball sign-ups end today, Saturday

PECOS, Fri., Aug. 22, 2003 -- Tonight at 9 p.m. is the deadline for regular registration for the Pecos Eagles Pee Wee football league, while sign-ups end Saturday for the Reeves County Community Sports and Recreation Department's girls fall volleyball league.

Both leagues are open to players in grades 3-6. Registration for the volleyball league costs $10 per player, while Pee Wee football costs $20 per player.

Sign-ups for football will continue until 9 p.m. tonight at the recreation department's racquetball courts next to the recreation department's office in the old Pecos High School gym. Late registration for football is $25 per player.

Returned registration forms must be accompanied by a birth certificate and signatures of both parents for both football and volleyball registration. For further information, call the recreation department office at 447-9776.


PECOS, Fri., Aug. 22, 2003 -- High Thursday 102. Low this morning 69. Forecast for tonight: Partly cloudy with scattered thunderstorms. Lows in the upper 60s. East winds 5 to 15 mph. The chance of rain is 30 percent. Saturday: Partly cloudy with a 20 percent chance of showers or thunderstorms. Highs near 90. East winds 5 to 15 mph. Saturday night: Partly cloudy with a 20 percent chance of showers or thunderstorms. Lows in the mid 60s. Sunday: Partly cloudy with a 20 percent chance of showers or thunderstorms. Highs near 90. Monday: Partly cloudy with a slight chance of showers and thunderstorms. Lows in the mid 60s. Highs 90 to 95.


Regino Vasquez

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