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Economic Development


Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Sunday winds, T-storms cause damage, outage

Staff Writer

Outages, structure damage and a tank fire kept volunteer crews busy last evening as a storm blew into the Pecos area.

The strong storm caused downdrafts of over 60 mph, causing damage inside the city, while lighting as blamed for a power outage and at least one tank fire that Pecos volunteer firefighters were called out to about 7 p.m. last night.

According to the National Weather Service, the early evening storm only dumped .67 inch of rain on the city, while early morning showers added an additional .19 inch of rain to the city’s total. Firefighters responded to the fire located about six miles north of Orla, where the storm hit before moving into the Pecos area.

“Three fire trucks responded,” said Town of Pecos City Fire Marshal Jack Brookshire. Brookshire said that the incident involved a fiberglass tank and that once firefighters arrived at the scene they put the fire out.

“Nobody was injured and it didn’t take long to extinguish the fire,” said Brookshire. Brookshire said that they had received another call at Flat Top Farms, where they had had a hay fire the night before.

“Apparently, there was a lot of hay and the night before they had had a fire,” said Brookshire. “There was just so much hay, they just let it burn out,” he said.

In town, a number of homes and buildings suffered damage from high winds, with the worst damage occurring at Speedy’s Restaurant, in the 200 block of West Third Street, which had it’s aluminum roof lifted off and thrown into the parking lot.

“I’m going to need to have someone cut this up, so we can get it out of the parking lot,” said owner Speedy Florez following the storm on Sunday. He said he already had contacted a welder about removing salvageable pieces of the roof, such as the exhaust vent fan, but didn’t know how much the clean-up or replacement of the roof would cost. Texas-New Mexico Power Co. workers also were busy, restoring power to homes on the north and east side of Pecos that was affected when lightning hit a transformer just east of Cedar Street.

T-NP officials said that also have fully restored electric service to the approximately 386 customers in the Toyah area who also lost power due to the severe thunderstorm.

The outage was caused when storms, which included heavy rains, damaging winds and severe lightning, knocked out service to transmission lines serving TNMP.

The outage occurred beginning at approximately 6:30 p.m., Sunday, and all service was restored by 11 p.m. Crews continued working Monday to clean up damage from the storm and replace damaged equipment.

“Because we maintain a local presence in Reeves County, our crews were on hand and ready to respond quickly to the outage,” said Donald Hunt, customer relations manage for the company.

While the outage has been determined to be storm-related, Hunt said that the company’s engineering and technical personnel are conducting additional tests on the system to ensure continued reliability.

Council OKs state loan effort to move restaurant downtown

Staff Writer

Town of Pecos City Council members have approved filing an application with the Texas Department of Agriculture to seek grant funds that would be used to relocate an existing Pecos business to the downtown area.

The council voted to seek the Texas Capital Fund loan through the state agriculture department’s Texas Community Development Program during their regular meeting on Thursday evening at City Hall. It was one of several topics covered by the council at their meeting, including a discussion of the 2006 budget, which will continue at a special meeting scheduled for this Wednesday evening at 5:30 p.m.

Al Gomez of Alfredo’s Restaurant, made the presentation to the council. Gomez and his family were at the meeting to outline their proposal to relocate their restaurant from 10th and Cedar streets to the old Ben’s Pharmacy building, at Third and Oak streets.

City Utilities Director Edgardo Madrid explained that the program is designed to offer loans to communities to encourage them to expand or relocate businesses, and that the building would be under city control under terms of the loan.

“You can renovate the building or construct a building, but the city receiving the money would be responsible for the building for the next 10, 15, 20 years,” he said. “The businessman is responsible for the load. He will have to pay the city and the city will have to reimburse the state.”

“In the event that the business in closes, the city will have the opportunity to do something with the building,” Madrid said.

The loan being sought is for $500,000, though an application can go as high as $750,000. Madrid added that this Friday, Sept. 2, was the deadline to apply for the loan, which carries a zero percent interest rate.

Gomez said under the rules, the restaurant would be obligated to employ at least 20 people for the $500,000 loan. “My estimate of the employees we’re going to hire is we’re obligated for 20, but we’re looking at 35-40 full-time or part-time jobs.”

He showed the council plans for the building, which would set 188 people under the layout shown at the meeting. “Personally, I’m looking at over 300 can be seated after the addition,” Gomez said. He added that they’re currently cramped at their 10th Street location, especially in the restaurant’s kitchen area.

Madrid said there’s no guarantee the loan will be approved, but city grant writer Carlos Colina-Vargas told him so far no business that has qualified for the TCF loan has failed, forcing the city to return the money.

As a downtown building, the site would also qualify for the five-year tax abatement under the city’s Main Street Program’s historical district tax abatement program, and Main Street Director Tom Rivera said the city can reuse the money as the loan is being repaid.

“The city can take the money paid back for a revolving loan fund,” he said.

Council member Frank Sanchez noted Reeves County had done something similar in the 1980s to reopen the former Goodrich Test Track, using a revolving loan fund to get Smithers Transportation Testing Co. to take over the facility. However, the county did have problems with other loans through the local revolving fund, which led to its discontinuation.

Gomez said while he was committed to improving the city’s downtown district, they could only make the move to the Oak Street location if the loan is approved.

“The building is in terrible shape. The architect said it’s a beautiful building, but it needs new plumbing, a new roof and we’ll have to completely do rewiring of the electricity,” he said. “It’s an expensive venture, no doubt about it.”

Gomez said there was enough parking downtown, including in the municipal parking lot across Third Street from the building, to handle the crowds they were expecting the new Alfredo’s Restaurant to bring in.

“I suggest we go ahead and apply for the grant, but keep good eyes on the situation” said city attorney Scott Johnson. “That’s the only problem I have, is the city is liable for the situation.”

Along with the budget discussion on Thursday -- which was continued in a Saturday morning workshop -- the council will also discuss a $5 flat water rate agreement with Reeves County during their special meeting this Wednesday. That item was also on last Thursday’s agenda, but was tabled until the city’s water rate analysis was completed. The council did ask for a meeting to be held by the Reeves County Community Sports and Recreation Department’s Board of Directors, and by-laws be updated for the program, for which the city contributes $20,000 annually. The county’s initial share of the program’s cost was $85,000, but that has since grown to $135,000, while the board has not held a meeting in two years.

“There needs to be amendments made. Some of the conditions are not being met,” said city finance director Sam Contreras. He recommended the board meet to review the changes, and councilman Frank Sanchez asked city officials to contact Reeves County Judge Jimmy B. Galindo to schedule a meeting.

Officials outline track plans after signing of agreement

A unique public-private collaboration was born this week when the final papers were signed creating the Southwest Center for Transportation Research and Testing, at the site of the former Smithers Transportation Testing Center.

The 5,800-acre complex is located 15 miles east of Pecos. It is an academic-industry-public collaboration between the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI), Applied Research Associates (ARA ) and the Pecos Economic Development Corporation (PEDC).

TTI Deputy Director Dennis Christiansen said the innovative collaboration would create a first-class testing facility. “The Southwest Center provides us with an opportunity for developing work with new sponsors as well as being able to do more kinds of research and testing for traditional sponsors,” he said.

The facility is now being staffed with researchers and technicians and will focus on many kinds of transportation research, including vehicle and component testing, state of the art intelligent transportation research, including vehicle and component testing, state of the art intelligent transportation systems (ITS), safety and environmental projects, and pavement materials research.

ARA Vice President of Transportation Curt Beckemeyer said he is excited about the future of the Southwest Center and the unique arrangement between the public and private sectors.

“I’m confident the Center will provide the transportation community with technological advancements that could not be achieved otherwise,” said Beckemeyer.

The Southwest Center has numerous tracks and road courses in place to help support various projects. There’s a 9-mile, 3-lane high-speed circular track allowing speeds up to 200 mph as well as several off-road courses consisting of crushed rock, gravel and caliche. The site also has a 1.2-mile serpentine road course, a salt bath pit, a hill climb and much more. There are numerous buildings on the property including a 30-bay garage. Armstrong Tire as a testing facility built the facility in 1961. It was later acquired by B.F. Goodrich, and then by Smithers after Goodrich moved their testing operations to Laredo following a merger with Uniroyal. Smithers moved their facilities in 2000 to the same location under a deal with DaimlerChrysler, which took over the facility from Goodrich/Uniroyal.

The dry climate of Pecos allows for year-round research and testing.

When President George Bush signed the Transportation Bill into law Aug. 10, $1 million was earmarked for the center. The funding was made possible through the support and leadership of the Texas Congressional delegation, especially U.S. Senators John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison and Congressman Henry Bonilla.

Pecos Economic Development Corporation President Mike Burkholder was pleased with the funding announcement and the finalization of a two-year process creating the collaboration.

“The PEDC is delighted with this funding and the improvements that will be realized at the facility. We all are focused on good things down the road. I also want to thank U.s. Senators Cornyn and Hutchison, Congressman Bonilla as well as State Representative Pete Gallego of Alpine for their efforts and support,” said Burkholder.

City puts heat on school to find new bonfire site

Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD officials have two weeks to find a new location for the 2005 Pecos High School homecoming bonfire, after city officials rejected using the longtime site at the former Town of Pecos City landfill during their Thursday meeting. City manager Joseph Torres recommended the council deny the school permission to use the landfill area, located between Pecos Municipal Airport and the Reeves County Golf Course, citing both liability concerns and problems with new Texas Commission on Environmental Quality burning rules.

“TECQ said you must comply,” Torres said about the outdoor burning rules. “They’ve been in place for a while, but they haven’t been applied.”

He said he had talked with Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD superintendent Ray Matthews and with Pecos High School administrators about the city’s concerns with the bonfire.

“I recommend this be turned over to the school district for several reasons,” Torres said, citing the state law and problems with last year’s bonfire. “Last year was a major turn of events. Some of the kids put aerosol cans in to watch them explode.”

Torres also cited the fact that the area is now closed off, after the shut down of the neighboring Pecos Rifle and Pistol Club site, and the security problems, with the bonfire pile being set on fire prematurely three times in the past five years.

“The school should take over this and operate it on their property,” Torres said, and other council members agreed.

“This is strictly an administration matter, unless they want to appeal the decision, said councilman Frank Sanchez, while councilman Michael Benavides said, “If we’re going to set the rules we need to stay the course.”

Torres said the new rules will require the school district to get a TECQ permit for their bonfire, while PHS principal Steve Lucas said the event would have to be held before sunset to comply with the new state rules.

Most of the land owned by the school is within the Pecos City limits, but there are other options for the bonfire, which is scheduled for Sept. 22, the evening prior to Pecos’ home game against Crane. The options include using county-owned land, such as the area around Martinez Field or in the south side parking lot of the Reeves County Civic Center. “We haven’t gotten together on it yet to see what we’re going to do,” said Matthews on Friday. School officials were scheduled to discuss the situation in a 9:30 a.m. meeting on Monday.

“I think the majority of it is the storm over the Texas A&M bonfire,” PHS assistant principal Jim Workman said, referring to the collapse of the bonfire pile six years ago that killed 11 A&M students.

“We’ll probably do some talking with the county and see what we’re going to do. It’s a big mess,” Workman said.

Torres said both at the beginning and end of the discussion he knew the decision wouldn’t be popular with students or local residents.

“If you see my niece Mimi Ornelas (a senior at Pecos High School), avoid her,” Torres warned the council.

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