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Area Newspapers
Economic Development


Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Friday, April 1, 2005

PEDC approves test track repairs for ARA visitors

Staff Writer

The Pecos Economic Development Corp. will spent about $30,000 over the next few weeks to make repairs to the former Smithers Transportation Test Center track east of Pecos, in hopes of making the facility more attractive to a New Mexico company for long-term use of the facility.

Meeting Tuesday evening at the Security State Bank building, the board authorized interim president Mike Burkholder to pay for repairs to lights and structures at the facility, along with clearing off brush that has grown up around the 9-mile track since Smithers moved their operations to Laredo in 2000.

Burkholder said the PEDC is close to signing an interim agreement with Applied Research Associates of Albuquerque, N.M. to operate the facility. But a long-term deal has yet to be nailed down. Board members were told ARA’s chief operating officer and other officials will be touring the track next week, and that the corporation could help the overall look by doing repairs to items that have been idle for five years.

“It may be necessary for us to do some advance work to get the track up and ready to go,” Burkholder said. “It may be for us to finalize this thing, we may have to go out there and take the initiative on our own.”

He estimated it would take $11,000 to repair the lights, poles and electrical wires at the track, another $10,000 to clear the brush, around $5,000 each for the water pumps and $3,000 to $4,000 for fuel tank pumps. Other money would go towards cleaning up the bottom floor of the test track’s offices.

“I can do that in 3-4 weeks, if that’s what we have to do,” Burkholder said.

If an agreement is signed, ARA would invest $1.8 million to get the facility up to where it could handle most normal vehicle testing. A planned deal with Mercedes-Benz to test cars at high speeds this spring at the test track fell through, due in part to the poor condition of the track’s surface.

But Burkholder said Michelin did use the facility for four days to test a new type of truck tire, though they had to bring their own trailer to the site due to the poor condition of the offices.

“You can’t attract the big customers with the big budgets the way it is,” he told the board. “I really would feel more comfortable about the situation if the ARA chief could go out there and just turn the lights on,” said PEDC board chairman Joe Keese. “My recommendation is we seriously consider doing those three big items.”

“I think once the track is operating we’ll get more and more day rentals on it before the TTI deal goes,” he added.

The board opted against an idea by member Jimmy Dutchover to borrow some of the money to cover the repairs, though Burkholder told board member Al Gomez the PEDC was limited in how much refurbishing work they could finance at the track.

“We’ve got $60,000 in the bank, so we don’t have enough to get it all done. But if you get the brush cleared, the offices cleaned up and the lights fixed up, you’d be surprised how much better it would look.”

ARA is working along with the Texas Transportation Institute to reopen the facility, but initial repairs to the track would cost $1.2 million, while long-term improvements could be 10 times that or more over a long-term period.

“If you go out there and put about $1.2 million into fixing up the track, they said you’ll pick up some jobs and it will have 20-30 new jobs. But if you put a new track out there, with a nine-mile circle and brand-new pavement, they’ll be lined up, and you’ll have 100 to 200 new employees,” Burkholder said. “The problem is Smithers did no maintenance on it the whole time they were there.”

Both the TTI and the PEDC have been talking with U.S. Sen. John Cornyn and Rep. Henry Bonilla about getting initial funding approved as part of the current transportation bill before Congress.

Keese said the funding did make it into the preliminary bill passed by the House of Representatives, but it still has to pass the Senate and then make it through a conference committee that will seek to reconcile the spending in the House and Senate proposals. “The bill is coming out of the legislature (U.S. House) and President Bush has made it clear that $380 billion is the limit. He’s not going to sign anything higher,” Keese said. “What they’re doing right now is compromising and trading,” he added. “Hopefully, we’ll hear soon whether we’re in or out or if we just got part of it.”

Burkholder said he was in Dallas two weeks ago to talk with ARA officials about the fee structure. “We went over the numbers for two days, and they were extremely conservative with the numbers. Their estimates about cost, in my estimation, were high, and the people at A&M think their estimate of business if extremely low, but that’s what I would do if I were trying to figure out if you could make a profit on it,” he said.” “I’m reading this as any contract that comes up in the future,” said board member Angelica Valenzuela of the new powers granted to the PEDC president.

“It is,” Burkholder said, but added, “You can always jerk the authority later.”

In other action, the board made some minor changes to its development plans and to funds allocated in the budget, and were given a report by Burkholder about his activities over the past six months.

The budget changes involved cutting funds allocated for telephone and postage while increasing the funds needed for the health insurance policy Burkholder has as PEDC president.

In discussing the activity report, Burkholder said he has been looking into other leads on new businesses for the area, but added that some of the requests by businesses seeking to relocate or paperwork required by the government made several of the possibilities not worth pursuing.

“You get three days from the time the government gets you a proposal, but some of them are not worth getting into,” he said. “The regulations on some of them would take 4-5 months to prepare all the paperwork.”

Keese said the changes in the development plan were made to bring it into agreement with state law, and mainly dealt with finding or retaining primary jobs in the Pecos area.

Herrera named to handle work on county suits

Staff Writer

Reeves County Commissioners did not approve a resolution presented by County Judge Jimmy Galindo on handling lawsuits against the county, during the regular Reeves County Commissioners Court meeting held Monday, opting to go another route after objections from the court’s two newest commissioners.

Precinct 1 Commissioner Saul Herrera was appointed as the county’s official legal claims processor during Monday’s meeting, following a discussion regarding the county’s previous practice on handling legal claims.

“Formerly, the county would seek the advice of local attorney and former County Attorney Bill Weinacht,” said Galindo. “However, commissioner Herrera has now volunteered to coordinate legal services for the county.”

For the last 12 years, Weinacht has coordinated Reeves County’s legal defense by contacting the county’s insurance companies and engaging legal counsel to defend the county in lawsuits and claims that have arisen or that may arise against the county and/or its employees.

The resolution was intended to authorize Weinacht to continue to coordinate and assist Reeves County in the future. The work has involved coordinating Reeves County’s legal defense by contacting insurance companies and engaging counsel to defend lawsuits and claims that have arisen or that may arise against the county and/or its employees.

“In the process of discussing the matter, Reeves County Auditor Lynn Owens suggested that the current practice be formalized by the full court,” said Weinacht said on Thursday. “As I told the court, I was volunteered by Judge Galindo to provide this service for the county. However, as Mr. Owens suggested, we presented a formal resolution for the court’s consideration.”

“Over the last 10 years, when the county has been sued, the first thing I do is forward the claim to Bill,” said Galindo. “As a lawyer and former county attorney, he is better versed than I, to determine who the best counsel is to represent the county in a legal matter and he has taken the responsibility of coordinating insurance coverage for the county,” he said.

Herrera appointment came after made a motion to table the resolution formalizing the assistance of Weinacht. Precinct 1 Commissioner Roy Alvarado seconded the motion, which failed for the lack of a majority. Galindo and Precinct 2 Commissioner Norman Hill voted against the motion to table the item, and Precinct 4 Commissioner Hivi Rayos was not at Monday’s meeting.

Subsequently, County Judge Galindo made a motion to appoint Commissioner Herrera as the County’s Legal Claims Processor. The motion then was approved by Galindo, Alvarado and Hill. Herrera initially voted against the motion, but later said that he would take care of the legal claims processing.

Galindo explained the job involved finding the proper attorney to handle the various types of cases involving Reeves County.

“He finds the right attorney for the case and makes sure all the paperwork is filed and everything gets taken care of,” said Galindo. “He sees the whole process through and has not charged the county for providing these services.”

“As legal claims are filed, it is important for someone to oversee the resolution of those matters for the county,” said Galindo. “I have relied on Mr. Weinacht to advise and counsel me in those matters.”

“However, now, Commissioner Herrera has volunteered to be responsible for these matters and he will be looking for the county attorney, Luis Carrasco, to assist him in this process,” said Galindo. “I appreciate his interest and will help him in anything he needs,” he said.

Herrera said on Thursday that he understood what the job entailed.

“I explained to them that I wanted the claims reviewed the County Attorney,” said Herrera. Herrera said that he feels Carrasco is capable of taking care of all these items, instead of seeking outside representation.

“I feel this is the responsibility of the county attorney to do that. I think he’s very capable of doing this and that’s why I want to take care of this myself,” said Herrera.

Weinacht served as Reeves County Attorney from 1993 through 1996, the last two years with Galindo as Reeves County Judge. He has been in private practice since then.

Carrasco began serving as county attorney in 2001, and was re-elected to office in 2004. “I feel this is the responsibility of the county attorney to do that,” said Herrera. “I think he’s very capable of doing this and that’s why I want to take care of this myself,” he said. In other action on Monday, commissioners approved an amended contract for Reeves County and the State of Arizona Department of Corrections.

The State of Arizona qualifies to receive federal grant money for housing state prisoners out of state.

“In order for them to receive these funds, everyone needed to be on board,” said Galindo. The commissioners approved the amended contract, which also had to be reviewed and consented by the Department of Justice, GEO Group, State of Arizona, Texas Commission of Jail Standards and Reeves County.

“They all have to approve this and it will help the State of Arizona, to situate inmates in Reeves County and receive federal grant money,” said Galindo.

Commissioners approved the various payments for the Reeves County Detention Center facilities.

The group approved the 1999 lease payment; the 1999 maintenance reserve payment; the 2001 lease payment and the 2001 maintenance reserve payment.

School patches up Austin swing slide hazards

A complaint voiced by a local resident about the condition of playground equipment at Austin Elementary has resulted in repairs being made to lower the risk of injuries for the first through third graders at the school.

Deana Lara said rubber padding on the swings in the elementary school yard had separated, exposing the metal center. She also said there was a jagged edge at the bottom of a playground slide that she saw a girl get cut on March 17.

“I was walking across the street with my grandson, and a little girl came down the side and caught her little toe on a terrible jagged gash on the inside edge of the slide right at the bottom,” Lara wrote in an e-mail. “I had some paper towel in my pocket so I went over and she had a deep cut between her pinkie toe and the next.”

Lara said she later showed the edge of the slide to the girl’s mother, who went to talk with Austin Elementary principal Cindy Duke about the problem.

Lara said she noticed the problem in February, and also talked to Duke before sending photos to Pecos-Barstow-Toyah Superintendent Ray Matthews and to P-B-T ISD Maintenance Director Joe Coody.

Matthews said the problem was recognized in early March, but work was delayed due to spring break for P-B-T schools.

“We went over there and found there were some things that did need to be fixed,” he said on Wednesday. “We did go in there and replaced the swings and we fixed some slides over there.

“There’s a kind of rubber type cover over the metal part, and we put new covers on them,” Matthews said, adding that the school plans for more permanent replacements in the future.

“We have some plans to get some new equipment in there, but not until this summer,” he said.”

Dog put to sleep after attack sends man in hospital

A Pecos man required medical attention after a dog attacked during his early morning stroll last Saturday.

George Tillery was out for a morning walk at 8:35 a.m. on March 26, when a pit bull attacked him, according to a report filed by Pecos Police

“He did go to the hospital,” said Police Chief Clay McKinney.

McKinney said that the owner of the dogs, Bobby Ornelas, had no documentation or records on whether the dogs had received their shots.

“The dog was tested for rabies, we received the reports on March 28 and they were negative,” said McKinney.

He added that there were three dogs loose in the area -- the pit bull, a German Shepherd and a Blue Heeler, which all belonged to Ornelas.

“The put bull was put to sleep,” said McKinney.

The other two animals are under quarantine until April 4, according to the report. McKinney said that the owner of the animals received six violations, including three animals at large violation and animals with not city dog tags.

Study club tours Pecos High School art dept.

The Modern Study Club met recently at the Pecos High School Arts Department for a demonstration on casting aluminum.

Walter Holland, head of the Art Department of Pecos High School, teaches the class. Mr. Holland and students Skye Gabaldon, Edwin Lopez and Rhonda Landa conducted the demonstration.

Aluminum is melted at 1200*. The furnace was going when the members arrived. Another large piece of aluminum was added to that already melting as the group sat down for an overview of how mold is made.

The mold is made from a fine-grained Styrofoam that becomes a gas that dissipates when heated. This is called “lost foam” casting. Mr. Holland and Skye were going to make a doorstop.

A Styrofoam cup would serve as a funnel to pour the molten metal into a box containing the mold of the doorstop packed in sand.

When all was ready the aluminum was poured. Members especially noticed the many safety precautions taken during this procedure. Mr. Holland and the students showed us around the art building while the cast was cooling.

The Pecos High School Art Department had its beginnings in 1973 through the interest and efforts of the Pecos Art Association and the Modern Study Club. Pecos High School is the only public school that casts aluminum.

Pecos High School Art Department also teaches photography, working with clay, artistic welding, woodworking, computer graphics, drawing, oil, acrylic and watercolor painting, working with chalk and pastels, and glass blowing.

The group was introduced to Joe Rudy Rodriguez, another student, who was stretching a canvas in preparation for an oil painting. He has won numerous awards painting with acrylics and now begins working with a new medium.

After the casting had cooled enough to be removed from the sand, the mold had completely dissolved. The sand and cast were dumped out and there was a beautiful start shaped doorstop.

Modern Study Club members were very impressed with the created object and with Mr. Holland and his students who actively participate and win in contests over the U.S. They have been in a video created by the Texas Art Education Association and have sent work to be judged in Austin, Houston and New York.

In this age of cutting back and even eliminating music and art from the public school curriculum it is refreshing to know that 120 students in Pecos High School are being guided and encouraged to create.

After the casting demonstration and tour members met in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Don Morton for lunch and a business meeting. President Lena Harpham presided. Juracy Ray led the Collect and Betty Lee led the group in the Pledges to the U.S. Flag and Texas Flag.

A bake sale was set for 9 a.m., April 1, at the Security State Bank Lobby. Money raised will be used for a Pecos High School Senior Scholarship to be awarded in May at Senior Day.

Joyce Morton and Iris Reddick were hostesses.

City plans sessions on proposed motel venue tax

A pair of Town Hall meetings will be held the next two Mondays at the Reeves County Civic Center to discuss the proposed increase in the local motel occupancy tax by the Town of Pecos City, to fund repairs and improvements to the Buck Jackson Rodeo Arena.

The proposal to institute a city/county venue tax on local motel customers will be on the May 7 ballot, as part of the local area elections. Along with improvements to the rodeo arena, which required emergency repairs to the south grandstand just prior to last July’s West of the Pecos Rodeo, the 2 percent tax would be designed to fund renovations to the Reeves County Civic Center.

The first of the two meetings this Monday will be conducted in Spanish, while the Town Hall meeting in English will be on April 11 at the Civic Center. Both meetings will get underway at 7 p.m. “Mr. Edgardo Mardid will handle the meeting in Spanish,” said city manager Joseph Torres. Madrid is in charge of handling both city projects and supervising its utilities, but Torres said other city officials are also scheduled to be at both meetings.

“We’ll also inviting the county to be there, since this is a joint city-county endeavor,” he said. “At the last meeting we held on this, both commissioners Rogelio Alvarado and Saul Herrera were there, and the rodeo arena is in Roy’s precinct.”

Notices of the meetings have been placed on radio and TV, as well as in the Enterprise. Torres said anyone attending the meeting is welcome to speak during the session, and added the city is working on a presentation to give to those in attendance.

“We’re going to work on a plan this weekend,” he said. “We’ve got some numbers for the projections on what the tax proposition will bring in.”

He said he expected the local motel operators also to have someone in attendance during the hearings, though he didn’t think there would be much objection to the 2 percent tax increase.

“I think the only concerns are which program takes priority, how is the money going to be spend and who’ll sit on the (venue tax) district board,” Torres said. “But the voters haven’t passed anything yet. We can’t get ahead of ourselves until the voters pass it.”

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