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Economic Development


Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Tuesday, March 9, 2004

GEO, county discuss food buying pacts

Staff Writer

Food item bids for the Reeves County Jail and Reeves County Detention Center, and administration of the contracts was the topic of discussion at the regular Reeves County Commissioners Court meeting held Monday afternoon.

County Judge Jimmy B. Galindo said that in December the county had changed its method of procuring food item bids from a six month period to a one-month period for certain food categories.

“And others were changed to weekly, such as fresh meat, and everything else was done on a monthly basis,” said Galindo.

“For the past few years we have done it on a six-month or annual period,” said county auditor Lynn Owens.

Owens said that it was more time-consuming doing it this way and that some of the items were more costly, because they were not being awarded to the lowest bidder.

Galindo said that they hoped to change the bidding process to allow the county to bid on the food items, item by item.

“We are asking for the modification to purchase on an item by item basis, versus total vendor bid method,” said Galindo.

Owens told the group that for the past months that they have been purchasing items on a weekly or monthly basis, it seems to cost more.

“It has cost us more in time, and some bids were awarded to higher bidders,” said Owens. “It’s caused a lot of problems,” he said.

Don Houston, with GEO Group, the management company for the RCDC, was on hand to discuss the issue and offer input.

“We were amazed by what we could find, when we opened it up to more vendors,” said Houston. “It is more time-consuming, but in the long run it really pays off.”

Houston said it does take more time to do the bidding process this way, but that it was definitely worth it.

“In terms of procurement, do you see any obstacles?” asked Galindo. “No, I have discussed it with several vendors and I don’t think there will be a problem,” said Owens.

“If the commissioners court authorizes us to go on a per item basis, we will be able to do it,” said Galindo.

Galindo assured Owens that GEO would help out with the bidders and try to make it as simple and convenient as possible for the auditor’s office.

“We’ve been doing this and have seen our prices across the board or a reduction,” said Houston. “Just the past few years, we’ve seen a small increase, but that’s because of rising fuel prices.”

Houston said that they may see a little bit of a creep, but a good 20 percent reduction. “GEO will be able to put some competition into this area,” said Galindo.

“If we can keep costs down, I’ll deal with the extra work,” said Owens.

“GEO will be doing a lot of the work for you and what I’m asking the commissioners court is to allow us to buy item per item,” said Galindo. “Award the bid to the lowest bidder, per item.”

During the meeting, Galindo introduced John Hurley, GEO Group senior vice-president for operations, out of Florida, where the company’s U.S. headquarters is located. Hurley was on hand for the regular meeting and has been in Pecos for the past few weeks, according to Galindo.

In other action, Trans Pecos Task Force Commander Gary Richards provided the group with a racial profiling report provided by the Reeves County Sheriff’s Department. “This is a report that we have to submit and has to be provided to the court,” said Richards.

Richards read out the report to the group, which included the number of traffic stops done by the department and broken down into race, age, number of arrests, moving violations and other related items.

Election day turnout light for primary races

From Staff and Wire Reports

Reeves County voters were turning out to the polls in light numbers this morning for the Democratic Party primary election, after fairly heavy early voting in the two weeks leading up to today’s election.

Over 2,250 voters cast ballots early in the primary election, out of about 7,000 registered voters in Reeves County. That represented nearly a third of all registered voters, more than double the predicted 14 percent voter turnout for today’s Democratic and Republican Party primaries statewide.

But through the first five hours of voting today at polling sites in Pecos, turnout was low. As of 11:30 a.m., only 13 ballots had been cast at Box 1 in downtown Pecos, and just 39 at Box 10 on the south side of town. As of 11:30 a.m. both box 11 on the east side of town and Box 2 in central Pecos had recorded 31 votes, while Box 4 on the west side of town had just 21 people cast ballots as of 11:30 a.m.

Reeves County Democratic Party Chairman Bobby Dean said there had been a change in state voting rules, that mandates identification be provided to voting clerks for anyone who does not have a new voter registration card.

“You’ve got to have ID,” Dean said. “It used to be that you only had to be on the (voter registration) list, but now you have to provide a driver’s license or some sort of ID.” Dean added that persons without identification can still cast a “provisional ballot” that could be authenticated later.

The above average turnout for early voting was sparked by five contested local races, including two races for Reeves County Commissioner featuring one incumbent and 13 challengers. With nine candidates in the race for Precinct 3 commissioner and five others seeking the seat in Precinct 1, those two races will face a runoff in April between the top two finishers, if no candidate receives 50 percent of the vote.

The race for sheriff is the only contested county-wide election. Two-term incumbent Arnulfo “Andy” Gomez is seeking a new four-year term, and is being challenged by former Reeves County sheriff’s deputy Jeffrey P. Baeza. The race for 143rd District Attorney includes all county voters, but also voters from Ward and Loving counties. In that race, two-term incumbent Randall Reynolds faces former district attorney Hal Upchurch.

In the race for Precinct 3 commissioner, two-term incumbent Herman Tarin opted not to run for another four-year term. Nine candidates are seeking to replace Tarin. They are Abel Baeza, Lisa Lopez Boicourt, Rosendo Galindo, Jimmy Gallego, Saul Herrera, Manuel “Manny” Lopez, Joel Madrid, Joseph Peter Rodriguez and Bailey Wheeless. Five individuals are vying for the position of Reeves County Commissioner Precinct 1. including incumbent Felipe Arredondo, who is seeking a fourth term in office. The four challengers are: Rogelio “Roy” Alvarado, “Chel” Florez, Armando “Mondie” Granado and Robert C. Natividad.

Precinct 3 voters will also be casting ballots in a contested race for constable, where Alma Fleenor is challenging incumbent Tomas “Tommy” Martinez.

Elections will be held Tuesday, March 9 from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m., and all 11 polling places will be open at that time.

County voters also are casting ballots in the primary election for the 23rd Congressional District, where six-term incumbent Republican Henry Bonilla will be challenged by either Virigl W. Yanta of Bandera or Joe Sullivan of San Antnoio.

Polls opened early Tuesday in the first primary using congressional voting districts redrawn in favor of Republicans, who have tried to set up a battle of survival for incumbent Texas Democrats. Bonilla narrowly won re-election over Laredo Democrat Henry Cuellar two years ago, but the new redistricting plan cut part of Laredo out of Bonilla’s district, while adding more Republican sections of northwest San Antonio. Besides congressional races, voters will decide a primary race for Texas Railroad Commission and contests for the Texas Supreme Court, Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, State Board of Education and the Texas Legislature.

On the primary's eve, President Bush raised $1.5 million for his campaign at a Houston GOP event. Other politicians fanned out across the state Monday to put the finishing touches on their campaigns. Ten presidential candidates will be listed on the Democratic ballot.

However, Texas won't play a big role in choosing the Democratic presidential nominee because John Kerry is the only major candidate left in that race.

Without contested presidential primaries, one election official predicted overall turnout for the primary, to be on the low side despite some interesting local and regional contests. "These down-ballot races, they just don't carry the momentum to get voters out," said Dallas County elections administrator Bruce Sherbet.

But others say turnout is higher during presidential years. In two weeks of early voting that concluded Friday, a total of 272,722 ballots were cast in the state's 15 most populous counties, the Texas Secretary of State's Office reported Monday. The office estimated that nearly 1.7 million people, or 14 percent of the state's more than 12 million registered voters, will cast primary ballots.

Some of the heaviest early voting came along the U.S.-Mexico border in Hidalgo County, the southern population base of the new congressional District 25, and Austin's Travis County, the northern base of the district.

Some of the most hard-fought and expensive primary battles came in key congressional races where the GOP hoped to take seats away from Democratic incumbents and snare the advantage in Texas' evenly split 32-member congressional delegation.

Congressional districts were redrafted by the GOP-controlled Legislature in October and Texas' 32-member delegation is evenly split between the parties. Republicans hope that after November, they'll have the largest Republican delegation in the country with at least 22 seats.

Five-term congressman Lloyd Doggett from Austin chose to run in the heavily Democratic District 25 rather than risk staying in his old district, redrawn to include more GOP-leaning voters. In Texas, congressional candidates don't have to live in the district they represent.

Doggett and his primary opponent, former state judge Leticia Hinojosa, kept up their intensive battle on the airwaves and the campaign trail in the majority-Latino district, which stretches 350 miles from Austin to Brownsville, right up to election day.

Hinojosa, who, promoted herself as the hometown candidate from Hidalgo County, said voters were turned off by Doggett's choppy Spanish in a TV ad.

"You can't always have an interpreter around, and they want to be able to go up and tell you their problems," Hinojosa said.

Financial support for Doggett poured in from national groups of union members, car dealers and teachers. Doggett has collected more than $2.5 million so far for his campaign.

Doggett said Hinojosa's support in her home community was lacking. "If she were as strong as she pretends to be she would be talking about her accomplishments rather than slinging mud at me," he said.

The winning Democrat will face either Republican Rebecca Armendariz Klein or Regner Capener in November, but a Democrat is expected to win the seat.

In District 28, U.S. Rep. Ciro Rodriguez, a Democrat from San Antonio, faces a challenge from former Texas Secretary of State Henry Cuellar of Laredo. Cuellar almost beat Republican Rep. Henry Bonilla of San Antonio in 2002.

In Houston, Democrat Chris Bell, a congressional freshman, runs in District 9, where about 66 percent of the voters are black or Hispanic. Bell, who is white, faces two black candidates in the Democratic primary: Al Green, a former Houston NAACP president, and lawyer Beverly Spencer.

In the Republican primary, District 17, which includes Waco, College Station and President Bush's Crawford ranch, the race got contentious between front-runners Dot Snyder, a former Waco school board member, and Arlene Wohlgemuth, a state representative from Burleson.

An ad by Snyder accused Wohlgemuth of opposing efforts to clean up Lake Waco pollution caused by upstream dairy farms. Wohlgemuth accused Snyder of voting to raise property taxes the five years she was on the school board. Retired Army Col. Dave McIntyre is also in the race.

The Republican winner will face 13-year-incumbent U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards, a Waco Democrat.

U.S. Rep. Ralph Hall of Rockwall flew into Dallas on Air Force One with Bush for one fund-raiser. GOP leaders have poured money into Hall's campaign since he switched from Democrat to the GOP in January. Hall faces Mike Murphy of Frisco and Mike Mosher of Paris in the District 4 primary.

In the highest-level statewide race, Texas Railroad Commission chairman Victor Carrillo continued to show his big-name backing Monday. Carrillo, invited by the Bush campaign, was part of the official Republican welcoming delegation for the president in Dallas.

Carrillo's three GOP primary opponents are Robert Butler of Palestine, Douglas Deffenbaugh of San Antonio and K. Dale Henry of Mullin.

PEDC board discusses housing, dairy disputes

Staff Writer

The Pecos Economic Development Corporation met this morning to discuss the development plan for the upcoming year and to consider issues surrounding the appointment of its board of directors.

That included a dispute with the owner of a dairy opened last year south of Pecos, and discussion of usage of the former Smithers Automotive Testing Center track east of Pecos.

The board moved through the initial items on the agenda quickly, with board member, John Grant adding a revision to the minutes of the September meeting, in which the board approved the sale of property to Vaughn Mitchell, a developer interested in building state sponsored housing within city limits.

“I would just like the minutes to reflect that I voted no on the sale of the property to Mr. Mitchell because of a lack of information, not, as published in the Enterprise, because of Reecia’s commission,” Grant said this morning.

In an earlier story, Grant’s was quoted as saying that the commission that was to be paid to Reecia Pigman, $2,500 on a $5,000 deal seemed excessive.

The property sale would come up again, later in the meeting, when board member Frank Spencer was relating the details of the corporation’s development plan for the upcoming year.

Spencer told the board that the objectives that the PEDC was going to support the establishment of small businesses in town, with the proceeds that are hoped to be gained with the sale of PEDC-owned properties throughout the county.

“I see things happening here that some of you may not be aware of,” Spencer said. “We, as board members, are in a position to be criticized, and I am a firm believer that when you are criticized, you need to look at the criticism and determine the validity of it.”

“Odessa College was put in one and a half years after the inception of this corporation, directly due to the efforts of the PEDC,” Spencer said. “OC started out at 400 students and now it is up to 600. These students have been afforded an opportunity that they would not have gotten normally.”

“The PEDC has also acquired water rights for the Town of Pecos on nine sections of land adjacent to the South Worsham Water Field, valued between $400,000-$600,000, to alleviate the city’s water needs,” Spencer said.

“Now with the sale of some of the property, seed money for small business startup costs can be loaned at affordable rates, and we need to make plans and set guidelines for that disbursal,” Spencer said.

“I really hope that the community realizes that we had a potential economic boom, fall apart with the failure of the housing project, and we need to use that situation as a reminder.” Spencer added that the attitudes toward new projects must be forward thinking, not the type resistance that the proposed housing addition on the northeast side of Pecos faced from parts of the community.

The board also discussed the current situation with their efforts to attract dairy farms to the area. Board Chairman Oscar Saenz added that efforts were still continuing in that direction, however, board member John Grant said that he had had two phone calls in the past six months from a Mr. Woodard, the owner of a local dairy, expressing his negative attitude towards the PEDC.

“Mr. Woodard has said that he will fight to his last breath, any dairies moving into the area, because of the way he felt he was treated by the PEDC, specifically Mr. Ward,” Grant said.

He went on to add that Mr. Eugene Noorwood felt he was misled by PEDC president, Gari Ward, when it came time to try and request tax abatements from the local taxing entities.

Saenz explained that Norwood, of Goldwaithe, was not promised any help with the taxation entities when he started the new dairy at Flat Top Farms southeast of Pecos. “His problem is that we didn’t solicit the abatements for him, we told him that he would have to do that himself from the beginning. Everything was fine with him until the price of milk dropped, and he became angry with the county in general.”

Board member Mike Burkholder added that “He has had his dairy up for sale for the past six months, and I don’t see how he can offer for sale, while he badmouths the county to potential buyers.”

The board also considered a request from Captain Kelly Davis, of the Pecos Police Department, for the use of the Smithers Test Track for their training exercises.

Grant, a Citizens’ Police Academy graduate added “the current section of road that he PD uses is severely inadequate.” Grant then motioned for the PEDC to approve the PD’s usage of the track.

However, Ward said, “We have told Kelly that we could not grant the request because we have potential buyers for the track, who do not want the track encumbered with use, while they consider the purchase.

“We have had two inquiries in the past week on the track, by some serious investors,” Ward said. “They have asked that the track remain as is while they consider the deal.” “I think that we should as Kelly to submit a more detailed report on exactly how they are going to use the track,” Spencer said. “I don’t think we’ll have a problem with them using it, I just would like to see a plan.”

“I think that is an appropriate request,” Grant said. The board approved the motion to request a more detailed plan on the PD’s usage.

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