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Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Chamber studies rehab fund plans for Civic Center

A decision on the use of bed taxes for rehabilitation of the Reeves County Civic Center will be put off until next month, until Pecos Chamber of Commerce members can get a full look at the new proposal.

The Chamber’s Bed Tax Committee met Monday morning to discuss the issue, and then met with the Town of Pecos City’s Hotel-Motel Bed Tax Committee later in the morning to present their results to that group in a public hearing at City Hall.

The city is seeking $25,000 out of the hotel-motel bed tax to help with rehabilitation efforts at the Civic Center and the adjacent West of the Pecos Rodeo Grounds. City voters in May passed a 2 percent venue tax on motel room rates in the city to help fund the improvements to the nearly 70-year-old Buck Jackson Rodeo Arena and to the Civic Center, which was last upgraded 20 years ago.

The venue tax is expected to bring in about $42,000 annually for the Civic Center and rodeo arena projects, but the cost to rehabilitate both facilities is expected to be well above that amount, and local officials are looking for other methods of long-term funding to avoid going into debt on the projects.

Chamber members discussed amending the current contract to help the city and Reeves County with the planned improvements, but following the meeting, bed tax committee member Bill Oglesby said for now, “We’d like to leave it the way it is.”

“We still need to bring this before the board of directors,” said Chamber President Jimmy Dutchover, who added the group had met with City Manager Joseph Torres and Reeves County Judge Jimmy Galindo prior to Monday’s meeting at City Hall.

Dutchover asked that the city wait until after the Chamber’s Oct. 11 meeting before taking any action.

“For right now we need to review the contract, and we know we can do it as late as November, so we’d like to table it,” said Dutchover, who asked Galindo if the county could continue it’s current financial arrangement to fund the Civic Center operations until any changes are made.

“We can continue to fund it as we currently have it, but we don’t want to make the hole any bigger, or getting into a big loan to improve the facility” said Galindo. “Our concern is getting into debt by $1 million. We’d rather have it pay-as-you-go.”

Oglesby said bed tax funds are designed to be used to attract more visitors into Pecos, and that local organizations need to do more to attract out-of-town visitors to the Civic Center to justify the use of the tax to state officials.

“I asked the chamber for the list of who rented the Civic Center out for last year and this year, and there are only about one or two things that brought people in from out-of-town,” he said. “We have a civic center building, but we don’t have a convention center. “We do have weddings and things that do bring some people in, but it’s not a convention center,” Oglesby said. “I wouldn’t want to be called on by the (state) bed tax people on what is this use for, a civic center or a convention center.”

Dutchover said officials with the Texas Main Street program said grants may be available to work on the rodeo grounds, due to its landmark status, though mayor Dot Stafford was wary about going in that direction.

“Grants are few and far-between,” she said. “Most of them are matching and have a hitch in it.”

Stafford and Dutchover then set up an Oct. 12 lunchtime meeting at City Hall to discuss the situation. The meeting will be a day after the Chamber’s next meet and the day before the Pecos City Council’s first regular meeting for October.

Dutchover also said along with the Civic Center funding, he wanted to assure continued funding for the West of the Pecos Museum. Currently the museum receives 27 percent of the bed tax funds up to $160,000, with 36 percent going to advertising and tourism and 37 percent to the Chamber’s general fund.

Dutchover said he wanted to remove the $160,000 ceiling, so that the museum would receive a straight 27 percent of the bed tax revenues.

Local jobless rate, workforce down

The total number of jobs in Reeves County dropped to its lowest level in years, according to figures released on Friday by the Texas Workforce Commission, even as activity continues to increase in the area’s oil and gas industry.

The TWC numbers, which are based on 2000 U.S. Census figures using a formula revised earlier this year, showed that the county’s jobless rate dropped from 8.6 in July to 8.4 percent in August, matching the lowest number for the year, recorded in May. But the TWC also showed the county only had 3,818 jobs, the lowest total of year and 36 fewer than the agency reported in July.

Reeves County’s summer labor force numbers during the 1990s were around the 8,000 level, but the loss of several major businesses and the revisions to the U.S. Department of Labor’s calculations caused the TWC to cut that total by about 50 percent from a decade ago. Job totals during harvest season in Reeves County in the 1990s were usually in the range of 6,500 workers, according to figures released by the agency at that time.

The lower total coincides with the winding down of the 2005 harvest season for onions and cantaloupes in the county, while the 3,818 total is less than the previous low, of 3,871 reported in February. The high total for the year was reported in April, when there were 3,999 jobs in Reeves County.

The TWC said the loss of jobs in the county for August was offset by a drop in the area’s workforce from July to August, which allowed the unemployment rate to decline. The new report shows the county had 4,166 people in the workforce last month, 50 fewer than in June or July and 150 less than reported in Reeves County during May. As a result, the 348 people unemployed was also the low for the year, surpassing July’s 361 total.

Across the Permian Basin and Trans-Pecos region, the jobless numbers were relatively stable, with a some cities joining Pecos in reporting slight decreases in their unemployment rates, while others reported minor increases from July to August.

Andrews County’s rate went from 4.4 to 4.5 percent, as its total number of jobs outstripped a decline in its labor force, to just under 6,000 people. Brewster County’s jobless rate stayed and it’s total number of jobless stayed at 3.3 percent and 186 people for the third consecutive month, as it added both 89 workers and 89 jobs. Crane County’s rate rose from 5.4 to 5.6 percent, as it lost jobs and workers compared with July, while Culberson County’s rate remained at 4.5 percent for the third straight month, as a drop in jobs was matched by a decline in the county’s labor force.

Ector County was also stable for the third straight month, at 4.8 percent, while Midland, the area’s most-populated county, saw its rate rise one-tenth of a percent, from 3.8 to 3.9 percent. Ector County added both jobs and workers last month, while Midland County’s totals were down by about 1,000.

Pecos County also saw its rate climb by a tenth of a percent, from 4.7 to 4.8 percent. The county’s labor force dropped by almost 200, to 7,343, while the number of jobs fell by about the same amount, to 6,990. Ward County’s total fell from 6.1 to 6.0 percent, as its workforce added four jobs, to 4,100, while its labor force rose by two, to 4,326, while Winkler County saw a .3 decline in its unemployment rate, from 5.3 to 5.0 percent. The county added 25 jobs for the month, climbing to 2,926, while the workforce was up by 19, to 3,081.

Fiesta crows queens, picks float winners

Several floats, cars, and riding groups participated in the Annual 16th of September parade held Saturday morning in downtown Pecos.

The parade lasted for about 45 minutes as it made its way from the West of the Pecos Rodeo Grounds north on Cedar and Oak Streets to the West of the Pecos Museum, and then east to Santa Rosa Catholic Church, where the annual fiesta was held Friday night and Saturday.

In the float division, the La Hacienda Restaurant placed first, the float carrying the American Queen, Sandra Orosco placed second and third place went to Las Guadalupanas.

Austin Rubio, from Our Style Car Club, placed first in the car/truck division; Carlos Romo, with the Dominants Car Club, placed second and Joseph Torres, third place. In the Riding Groups Division, Esteban Losoya placed first; Cleofas Baeza placed second and Salvador Ramirez, placed third.

In other categories, Presidio High School Mariachis took first place; Elisa Chavez, second and Mariachis Angeles Dorados placed third in the annual event.

A queen coronation was held Saturday evening before a crowd at the Santa Rosa Church bandstand and parking lot that was slightly larger than in recent years. Jessica Nunez was crowned Mexican Queen; Sandra Orosco received the American Queen title and Daniella Contreras was named the Spain Queen.

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