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New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - February 14, 2003, New Braunfels, Texas New Braunfels * FRIDAY February 14, 2003 14 pages in 2 sections mmmmm mmmmmm    14    pages    in    2    secHerald-Zeitung Vol. 152, No. 80Serving New Braunfels and Comal County since 1852 50 centsDrug trial opens with revelation of informant By Ron Maloney Staff Writer A 48-year-old New Braunfels man went on trial in District Court Thursday on drug and weapon charges that could see him spend the rest of his life in state prison. Arnaldo Aleman Gomez faces 25 to 99 years in prison if convicted on any of five counts he faces in a trial being conducted before 274th Judicial District Judge Gary Steel. Assistant District Attorney Joe Soane III has charged Gomez with engaging in organized criminal activity by the five following means: ■ Possession with intent to distribute heroin; ■ Possession with intent Fire tests out county’s new telephone warning system By Ron Maloney Staff Writer When the TEM-TEX warehouse on Engel Road exploded into flames one week ago, Comal County was able to test its new computer and telephone-based emergency warning system. Comal County Emergency Management Coordinator Carol Edgett reported to commissioners’ court Thursday that 75 messages got to area residents informing them that they should evacuate the area and telling them the location of an American Red Cross shelter. The fire was the first test of the newly installed, $75,(XX) to deliver cocaine; ■ Possession with intent to deliver methamphetamine; ■ Possession of between 4 ounces and 5 pounds of marijuana; and ■ Unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon. Gomez has prior felony convictions, which means that if he is convicted as a repeat offender, he faces a system. It came even before county officials had been trained in its use. That training will begin next week when Edgett and the supervisors of city and county dispatch go to Tennessee for a course at Dialogic Communications, the firm that produced the system. When the system was used for the Engel Road fire—just after midnight — Edgett reported 51 people the county attempted to caU were not reached. Another 23 listened to the first couple of words of the message and then hung up, according to County Judge Danby Scheel. minimum of 25 years in prison. Gomez, his brother, Rodolfo, 39, and sister, Sandra, 41, all face five first-degree felony counts of engaging in organized criminal activity. Rodolfo and Sandra Gomez are set to be tried at an undetermined later date. The charges stem from a months-long undercover investigation by the Comal County Metropolitan Narcotics Task Force into alleged narcotics trafficking in the West End. Using confidential informants, narcotics investigators allege they made a series of drug buys from members of the Gomez family at their home in the 2000 block of West Bridge Street. The Comal County Sheriff’s SWAT team raided the home Dec. 13, 2001, allegedly finding 4.04 pounds of marijuana, 26.5 grams of cocaine, 19.3 grams of high-grade “black tari’ heroin, and 2.35 grams of methamphetamine. In his opening statement See TRIAL/3A Violent crimes up almost 20 percent over previous year By Ron Maloney Staff Writer Fueled by an increase in assaults of all types, violent crime in the City of New Braunfels increased 19 percent in 2002. In fact, every major crime category except robbery showed significant upturns in 2002, according to statistics released by city officials. But the official who organizes National Night Out and other crime prevention programs says the statistics are cause for concern — but not for alarm. Assistant City Manager Don Ferguson called on citizens to practice “common sense crime prevention" and become involved with the police department in helping to reduce crime. Ferguson said the city’s index crime rate — the number of crimes reported — increased on average 8 percent. Property crimes, Ferguson said, were up about 5 percent, while violent crime increased 19 percent. The increases interrupt an overall downward trend in the city’s crime rate that reaches back to 1997. InCrime Stats , 2001, the city’s index crime rate dropped 6 percent. “This is still a very safe city,” Ferguson stressed. “The increase is consistent with what’s going on in communities around us.” New Braunfels had no murders in the city limits in 2001 and only one in 2002, which grew out of a dispute between two women and evolved into a fatal confrontation between their husbands. But significant increases in aggravated assault and in sexual assaults were reported last year. Sexual assaults, which stayed the same in 2000-2001, increased dramatically from 22 to 41 reports. “Any increase in these numbers is disturbing in my mind and is cause for concern,” Ferguson said. “It’s important that residents do everything they can to avoid falling victim to such crime." To some degree, Ferguson said, both crimes have traditionally been underreported, and officials are working to educate people and change that. Part of the increase, he See CRIMES/3A W"1 *—** Source: City of New Braunfels Comparison 2001-2002 sd ■ I Calls for police • 2002 — 2,943 I mk.jr service: Major crimes § i •2001 —42,330 I Murder: ; • 2002 — 989 • 2002 — 44,699 J •2001 —0 I I 911 calls: •2002 — 1 Total burglaries: I • 2001 — 763 •2001 —26,915 I Sexual assault: I • 2002 — 989 •2002 — 25,089 j •2001 —22 I I I I Total criminal •2002 — 41 • Theft/shopliftings: i *2001 — 1,700 offenses: Robbery: | *2002 — 1,597 •2001 —6,229 •2001 —30 I •2002 — 6,568 I I •2002 - 26 ; Auto thefts S •2001—166 Total arrests: Assault: ; *2002 — 172 • 2001 — 2,576 • 2001 — 744 I Inside Abby...................................5A Classifieds...........................3-6B Comics............. ...................7A Crossword....... ...................5A Forum.............. ...................6A Local/State...... ...................4A Movies............. ...................5A Sports............... ................1-2B Today.............. ...................2A Key a )de 76 s 56825 00001 I NBISD still reviewing Memorial options By Sean Bowlin Staff Writer Emerging from a two-hour special meeting Thursday, New Braunfels Independent School District Superintendent Ron Reaves said again, like he did Wednesday, that the Board of Trustees is still reviewing legal options before moving ahead with renovation projects at Memorud Primary, Memorial Elementary and Memorial Intermediate. And more exploration is scheduled, Reaves said. “They’re going to meet again next Tuesday at the regular board meeting to continue to explore those options,” Reaves said. In October 2002, trustees approved a take-over agree REAVES ment with Commercial Indemnity Insurance Company to finish renovation work on the Memorial Schools begun by Associated Able Inc. Board members terminated its construction contract with Associated Able Companies Inc. iii September 2002 after the bonding company declared Associated Able in default of its contract with the school district. The takeover agreement allowed Commercial Indemnity Insurance Company to take over as a general contractor on the construction job. School district officials list the top construction priorities as completion of the roofing work, restrooms and administrative office areas and corridors at Memorial Primary and Memorial Elementary. ‘Though the construction company has been declared in default, the district has not lost any money. That’s why the district requires the payment and performance bonds,” Reaves said Wednesday. NBISD requires all projects more than $25,0000 to be protected by an A-plus Treasury Department payment and performance bond in accordance with the law. WM rn Shirley McKenzie (right) tries to get Tiffany Soechting to convince the “prize patrol” at Thursday’s Winter Texan Reception that, although she doesn’t have the winning ticket, she should still get the prize. (Below) The crowd at the Civic Center has a whooping good time as prizes are handed out. Although some of the whooping was actually sarcastic booing, the pre-dominatly older crowd seemed to be having a good time. Reception pays tribute to town’s Winter tourists By Dylan Jimenez Staff Writer At 5:30 p.m. Thursday, the New Braunfels Civic Center was alive with music and dancing. The Greater New Braunfels Chamber of Commerce celebrated the city’s winter visitors with the annual Winter Texan reception. Ramon Chapa Sr., chair of the chamber, welcomed the visitors and thanked them for coming to their “home away from home.” Judy Young, chamber staff member, said the event welcomed lots of visitors from Canada, Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota who have been coming for several years. Winter Texans come both to escape the cold and because they love New Braunfels. ‘We love it here,” said Evelyn Ahlfield, 72, of Olney, 111. Photos by K. JESSIE SLATEN/Heraki-Zeitung “It’s not that we can’t survive the cold weather. We just want to get out of the cold weather.” Ahlfield said she and her husband have been coming down to Canyon Lake for four years. She loves the people and the community; he loves the golfing. Another Winter Texan agreed. Mary Ann McCuskey said they have great golf courses where she lives in Cloquet, Minn. But it’s hard to enjoy them “when it’s 30 below.” McCuskey and her husband, Harry, have been coming to New Braunfels for nine years to escape the Minnesota winters. They stay outside Gruene every year. And she said they come to the city because they prefer the quaint atmosphere of New Braunfels to crowded RV parks in other areas. They also said they love the community and its variety of people of all ages. “We kind of accept them as members of the community,” Young said. “They volunteer at our churches and in our community.” Tiffany Soechting, the event coordinator, said Winter Texans are important to the community because they keep area businesses prosperous during slow tourist months. Brad Wuest, Convention and Visitors Bureau chair, said the event drew about 600 Winter Texans. He said though the number Is lower than usual, he said it was a good turnout considering the weather and economy. ;