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Thursday, January 28, 1999

Council OKs land sale for TxDOT office

Staff Writer
No debate was needed this morning when the Texas Department of Transportation offered the Pecos City Council $127,500 for 15.5 acres of land fronting I-20 near Texas 17.

"Yes," said all five Pecos City Councilmen quickly on the motion to accept the offer made by Frank Schneider, right-of-way administrator for the Odessa TxDot district.

Schneider said the area office has outgrown its location at the intersection of Business I-20 and Texas Highway 17, where the district office was also located until it was moved to Odessa about 40 years ago.

Maintenance supervisor Larry Levario had previously approached the council for permission to examine the land for environmental issues and talked to the FAA about clearance for aircraft at adjoining Pecos Municipal Airport, he said.

"We are limited to 40-foot structures, which would eliminate the radio tower, but we can leave it at the old location and use telephone lines," Schneider said.

TxDot originally sought to buy a square tract adjoining the Colt Chevrolet-Buick lot, but research revealed that the U.S. government had purchased 1.6 acres for the Immigration and Naturalization Service in 1972.

So they chose a narrow strip behind Colt Chevrolet as a replacement to make up the 15.5 acres the state requires for a combined engineering and maintenance office.

Schneider also asked the city to eliminate a 60-foot utility easement across the land or to narrow it to 30 feet and restrict it to present use, which currently is a sewer line to the Reeves County Detention Center.

Utilities Director Octavio Garcia said the city may need to install a water line parallel to the sewer line, and that could be done before the sale as requested by the state.

City Attorney Scott Johnson said the city has abandoned a dedicated street on the easement, but that the street continues beyond the tract in question so that TxDOT could have ingress and egress from behind Colt Chevrolet.

Schneider said he obtained an appraisal and comparable sales prices on land purchased by Flying J Travel Plaza, Wal-Mart and McDonald's to arrive at the $8,100 per acre value of the tract. His offer to allow the city to hire their own appraiser and make a counter offer was graciously declined.

Minerals rights will remain with the present owner, a Mr. Baxter of Houston, but the state will own surface rights, Schneider said. Baxter agreed to release surface rights.

"We have to have release of surface rights of mineral owners," Schneider said. "We don't want any oil wells drilled on the land."

Kevin Duke, Colt Chevrolet owner-manager, supported the state's offer.

"TxDOT is a good neighbor," he said. "We are trying to increase economic development. They are wanting to get on I-20. They have spent a lot of money, and they have a time frame . I would like to see the council act on it even if we give them the land."

Engineer John Salcido said TxDOT will clean up and dress up the property.

"Our town is really in dire need of it," he said.

An unrelated easement on the north side of I-20 for Dr. David Lovett and Dr. W.J. Bang was not ready for action, said Mayor Dot Stafford, and the council tabled that matter.

Traffic stop nets $179,200 coke bust

Staff Writer
A traffic stop landed a Pecos man in jail Tuesday after officers confiscated a little over five pounds of cocaine, valued at nearly $180,000.

"We received information that an individual was transporting narcotics and we contacted the border patrol units to be on the lookout for him," said Pecos Police Investigator Paul Deishler.

The suspect, idenitified as Ruben Garcia, Jr., 21, 238 W "C" Street, was stopped coming into Pecos, at 5:46 p.m., Tuesday, on Interstate 20, for a traffic violation. Upon checking, officer Jeff Green found that his driver's license was suspended. He then placed Garcia under arrest, according to Deishler.

"Officer Green was checking the subject for weapons, when he noticed a bulge in the suspect's stomach area," said Deishler.

The bulge turned out to be ace bandages wrapped around his stomach, containing two large bricks believed to be cocaine.

The drugs tested positive for cocaine.

Deishler stated that the local officers are working with the federal government on this particular case. "Custom agent Shawn McGraw and prosecutor Jeff Parras have been very helpful with the case," said Deishler.

Street value of the cocaine was estimated to be about $179,200.

Garcia made his initial appearance before U.S. District Court Judge Lucius Bunton and is being held without bond. A detention hearing has been scheduled for Feb. 2, by Judge Bunton.

U.S. Customs seized the 1986 Ford Custom Pickup Garcia was driving at the time.

Deishler explained that one gram usually is sold for about $80. There are 28 grams to an ounce and 448 grams to a pound and that amount is multiplied by five. "That's the amount of cocaine that was seized, five pounds," said Deishler. "This is before the cut, they could probably make more money than that once it hits the streets."

Psychiatric exam sought for Bigham

Staff Writer
District Judge Bob Parks will consider on Friday whether to order a psychiatric examination for Christopher John Bigham, who is charged with murdering his girlfriend.

Bigham's attorney, Adrian Chavez of Odessa, filed a motion for the exam. Based on personal observations and conferences with the defendant, Chavez said he believes Bigham is afflicted with a mental disorder that may have destroyed his ability to perceive the wrongfulness of his conduct or his capacity to conform his conduct to requirements of the law.

Chavez filed notice that he intends to use insanity as a defense at trial, presenting evidence that Bigham was insane at the time he shot Lora Ann Brooks on Dec. 1, 1997.

Bigham left his ranchette north of Pecos after Brooks disappeared, moving with her daughters to Washington state. District Attorney Randy Reynolds obtained a murder indictment against Bigham and had him extradited from Washington. He has been in Reeves County Jail since September, 1998.

Chavez also filed a motion to suppress a statement made by Bigham that he shot Brooks after she stuck a pistol in his back and threatened to shoot him. He said he burned her body in a barrel, then disposed of the remains in a dumpster in Pecos.

A Texas Department of Public Safety dive team found a barrel in the Pecos River where Bigham said he put the burn barrel. Analysis of its contents supported Bigham's story, Reynolds said.

Texas Ranger Jerry Villalobos said he believed the body may be buried on the 20-acre riverside property that Bigham had purchased. However, searchers have not found a body nor a suspect weapon.

Suspect faces drug charge

Reeves County Sheriff's deputies and Pecos Police members of Multi-Agency S.W.A.T. team arrested a Pecos man on possession of cocaine charges Wednesday night.

The team was out at 9:45 p.m. Wednesday, executing a search warrant issued by Municipal Court Judge Phyllis Salyer for a residence located at 2465 Madera Rd., in the Lindsay Addition of Pecos.

According to police, a baggie containing a white powder substance believed to be cocaine was located on the ground of the front yard during the search, after Pecos Police Sergeant Cosme Ortega observed Marco Barreno throwing the baggie.

"The powder was field tested, and it tested positive for cocaine," said Investigator Ernest Lazcano.

Barreno, 35, was arrested for possession of cocaine over one ounce but less than four ounces, a third degree felony, and was transported to Reeves County Jail.

Barreno's bond was set at $10,000.

PEDC holds first official meeting

Staff Writer
The Pecos Economic Development Corporation is officially in business, following its first meeting Wednesday at the Security State Bank Building.

Officers were elected for the corporation, which was formed after the approval of the 4A Sales Tax initiative by Pecos voters in November. Final certification was granted to form the corporation earlier this month by the Texas Secretary of State's office, and members now face the task of getting both funding for the next 10 months, and determining ways to attract new businesses and a campus of Odessa College to town.

Along with corporation president Gari Ward, those in attendance Wednesday were PEDC officers Gilbert Abila, Mike Burkholder, David Dutchover, Bernardo Martinez, Oscar Saenz and Frank Spencer. They approved the corporation by-laws with only slight changes, then discussed funding of the PEDC for the next 11 months, until 4A sales tax revenue is available.

Ward projected expenses at $83,000, with current funds in the bank at $5,178, plus a possible $8,000 grant from Wal-Mart. When the PEDC begins receiving its 1/4 cent share of the state sales tax in November, it's expected to bring in $127,000 annually.

Spencer suggested talking to Reeves County Judge Jimmy Galindo about getting a loan from its industrial fund to carry the corporation through until November. "I discussed it with Judge Galindo and he did not appear to be in favor of it," Ward said, after which Saenz said "We can make a formal request," and asked Ward to draw one up to present to Galindo and Reeves County Commissioners.

"It would be nice to see if we can establish a line of credit," Spencer said. "We could pay interest on a monthly basis as we go along."

Ward said the PEDC probably would spend all the money in any loan it does acquire, but said "We need one piece of software so bad it's scary" _ Standard & Poors database to track companies that might be interested in relocating operations in the area.

The board decided, on a motion by Saenz, to delay action on PEDC funding until the next meeting.

Ward then briefed the board on the Individual Team Training Program, which is designed to help local residents develop expertise in categories needed to attract businesses to Pecos.

"I feel like it takes about nine weeks to go through each at two hours a session," Ward said. "It trains people to know what questions individual prospects will ask."

"We need to get a good representation of people involved," said Ward, who wants to hold another meeting next week after officers talk to various local residents about getting involved in the program.

"I discussed it with people in the old economic development program, and they like the idea," said Martinez, who was one of a handful of people to attend a training session on Tuesday. "This is the first time I've seen something like this."

The board then took up the subject of new business prospects and the Odessa College satellite campus.

Ward said he and Saenz met with one prospect last week who did not want to be identified about relocating to Pecos. "He's being courted by other towns in the area and doesn't want to tip his hand," Saenz said.

Another prospect Ward and Saenz mentioned was an East Texas barbeque sauce manufacturer. "He wants to be associated with a western motif. He talked to Gary and he had him talk to me," Saenz said.

"I sold him on selling our (Anchor West's) scrap onions, and he liked that," Saenz added. Ward said the plant would employ up to 90 people on two shifts, but cautioned that the man's financial loan and building demands would be tough to meet.

Ward said meeting Odessa College's demands would be the subject of a meeting today. "The (Pecos-Barstow-Toyah) school people will be here tomorrow, and they'll bring plans for Building B, but that would be for night courses only."

Ward said OC was seeking a full-time building with a large door for vehicular entry, which would be used by vocational classes. The college was against converting Pecos Elementary to that use due to its age and location, and Ward said the old group of buildings formerly owned by Billie Sol Estes on the Balmorhea Highway was another location being considered.

Burkholder said he would donate land just to the south on the Balmorhea Highway and Stafford Boulevard if funds could be found to build an entirely new building for the college.

"If we can get people excited about bringing Odessa College to town, we can get things done," Spencer said, while Burkholder added that having the people associated with the college in town would also help Pecos' prospects for attracting new industry.

"If we can get some highly educated people in here working for the community it makes a big difference," he said.

On the by-laws, Spencer suggested the PEDC use the city's auditor instead of incurring expenses to hire its own auditor, which Rodriguez, a member of the city council, said "is OK, if it's legal."

Burkholder said the PEDC audit would have to be added on to the city auditor's job description.

Spencer also proposed a motion, seconded by Burkholder, that the positions of secretary and treasurer for the PEDC be combined. The motion to approve the by-laws was then made by Dutchover and approved after a seconding motion by Spencer.

City changes call policy for wrecker services

Staff Writer
Pecos Police will rotate calls to the three local wrecker services as each incident occurs rather than on a weekly or monthly basis, the Pecos City Council agreed this morning.

Police Chief Clay McKinney presented an updated wrecker policy outlining qualifications for the provider and how calls will be handled.

The policy does not affect calls by Reeves County Sheriff's deputies, although the police department does their dispatching, McKinney said. Sheriff Arnulfo Gomez's policy is to allow each deputy to decide which wrecker service to call, he said.

He said he came up with the call-by-call policy after talking with various cities and departments and found the majority use it.

McKinney said he researched the policy after Hector Garcia complained that I-20 Wrecker Service, operated by Dewayne Belaire, is a "satellite" location for B&B Wrecker Service.

Belaire said that he leases a truck from B&B, and that is nobody's business but his own. He said he objects to the call-by-call rotation because that would force him to drive his expensive wrecker everywhere he goes so he can answer calls within the 20-minute time limit.

McKinney said that Weldon Brookshire, B&B owner, also opposed the policy, but that Garcia is for it.

"Either way, one is not going to be pleased," he said.

Johnson said the idea of rotation is to avoid favoritism. Weekly rotation can be unfair because a number of calls may come in one week and few the next.

Garcia said he likes the call-by-call rotation because he is always available.

"Everybody benefits from it if you are there to take care of your business," he said.

The vote to adopt the revised policy was unanimous.

Utilities director Octavio Garcia reported that sewer replacement work is going slowly on the first 1 1/2 block of Third Street because the contractor had to install a manhole. It should go faster once they get past that, he said.

Finance director Steve McCormick said that conversion to new software for bookkeeping and billing is also going slowly, "but it is getting better."

Pecos Ambulance Service Chief Bill Cole reported that billing software has been installed and is working.

"We are very pleased with it. We are on the way to recovery," he said.

Nellie Gomez, executive director for the Pecos Housing Authority, gave council members a copy of the annual report, which showed completion of a $1.29 million CIAP project and another for $1.3 million in the works.

"You should be commended on your hard work and success," said Councilman Gerald Tellez Jr.

Engineer Abidur Khan of Frank X. Spencer and Associates reported that the Texas Water Development Board has held up an EDAP grant application that the city has been pursuing for eight years.

The board wants the city to supply additional information that is estimated to cost $7,000, Khan said.

The council voted to approve field work to obtain information on the 40 houses targeted for sewer connections, with city employees to do much of the work.

Spencer said that the water board has cut the original grant from $8 million to $200,000 to $300,000 and is not following through on the EDAP program.

"They are not being very cooperative at all," he said, recommending the council contact board members individually.

However, Johnson said that may be illegal and instead advised the council to approach the board as a whole.

Valerie Cox of Graham, west of Fort Worth, submitted a grant-writer application, and the council agreed to extend her a contract proposal. Others seeking grants for the city are "The Firm," (Steve McCormick), and Carlos Colina-Vargas.

"I would like to give her a shot and continue to look for someone with experience in private foundation grants," said Randy Graham.

City Manager Kenneth Neal reported that the Type IV landfill committee is still working on a recommendation and should have it by the next council meeting.

Octavio Garcia reported his staff is ready to install new street signs and were just waiting for the council to choose a color. They choose a purple background with white letters and suggested that they be installed first at entrances to the city.

Rogers Ford of Midland won the bid to sell the police department two new units at $20,203.55 each. Harlows Ford-Mercury of Van Horn bid $21,236.

The council agreed to contact the San Antonio firm that straightened up the record archive several years ago for help in getting them back in order.

City Secretary Geneva Martinez, who had been appointed to oversee records management, said other departments have not been cooperative in turning in their records for her to store.

"I am the only one supposed to have a key to the storage room, and they are putting more stuff in there that does not need to be there," she said.

Following a closed session on the question of replacing retiring shop foreman Dog Cox, the council voted to promote Ray Diaz to shop supervisor with a $1,500 increase in salary. He has worked in the city shop for $25 years.

Mayor Stafford presented Cox with a plaque in appreciation of his 13 years of service to the city, then hosted a reception in his honor.

Colt's second stolen vehicle located

Colt Chevrolet-Buick has recovered both new Chevrolet Tahoes stolen from the dealership on I-20 Jan. 17, said owner-manager Kevin Duke this morning.

One was recovered the next day near Collie Road, and the second was later found in Cedar Park, near Austin, Duke said. Both were in good condition.

Police are still searching for a new Chevrolet Monte Carlo taken in the same burglary, along with license plates and inspection stickers from the shop building.

Thieves broke into the building after trying unsuccessfully to hot-wire a Suburban on the lot, Duke said. They obtained keys to the new vehicles and drove them off the lot.


David Madril

A Memorial Service is scheduled for 1 p.m. Friday for David Madril, 35, of Pecos, who died Monday following a car accident.

The memorial service will be held at Martinez Funeral Home Chapel.


PECOS, Jan. 28, 1999 - High Wednesday 75; low last night 42. Tonight, cloudy and turning colder with rain likely. Rain may mix with or change over to snow before daybreak. Low in the mid 30s. northeast wind 10-20 mph. Chance of precipitation 60 percent. Friday, cloudy and cold with snow likely. Accumulations of 1 to 2 inches possible. Temperatures steady in the mid 30s. Northeast wind 10-20 mph. Chance of snow 70 percent.

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