Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas
Tuesday, April 5, 2005
Energy prices may cut county’s farm production
By JON FULBRIGHT
Energy price rises over the past year have generally been good for the local economy, causing a boost in exploration and drilling activity in the Trans-Pecos area. But the higher prices have been hard on drivers, and could be hard on some of the area farmers in 2005, according to reports from the local USDA office.
There aren’t any major changes seen in Reeves County’s agriculture production in 2005, where milks sales from dairies now provide the largest amount of income, according figures from the Reeves County Extension Service. But Tanya Rodriguez with the Reeves County USDA office said rising fuel prices could result in lower production locally for farmers pumping underground water for irrigation.
“We may not have as many cotton and cantaloupe plantings, and that’s mainly because of the cost of fuel,” Rodriguez said on Friday. “I talked to several of the producers and they said they weren’t going to plant cotton at all because of the fuel, plus the price of cotton was so low last year.”
Cotton remains the largest crop in terms of acreage within the county, with 4,044 acres harvested in 2004. However, the total value of the crop was only third among those produced in the county, at $1.57 million. That put it at just half the value of the county’s 2004 watermelon crop, which Reeves County Extension Agent Tommy Dominguez said may see an increase in acreage planted in 2005.
“We may seen some increase in watermelons this year, with a big producer down in Balmorhea,” he said. His report indicted just over 1,000 acres were harvested in Reeves County in 2004, producing $3.1 million in melons, making it the second largest total within the county behind cantaloupe farming, which produced $6.4 million in crops last year using almost the exact same amount of acreage.
A total of just under 46.4 million cantaloupes were produced in 2004, according to Dominguez’ figures, and he expects this year’s crop to be about the same in 2005.
Pecos Cantaloupe production got a publicity boost in 2004 when Blue Bell Ice Cream contracted with local producers for test marketing of cantaloupe-flavored ice cream. While the results were encouraging, Dominguez didn’t see it as making much of a difference in production for the upcoming season.
“Cantaloupe ice cream really doesn’t use that many more,” Dominguez said. “There may be some more from individual producers, but it’s too early to say.”
Rains boosted cotton production in the Texas Panhandle to record levels in 2004. But that also meant lower prices. Combined with the cost of irrigation in the Trans-Pecos region, where almost all farms are supplied by underground water sources, it means 2005 production could drop in fuel prices remain high.
“They’re really concerned about the fuel costs, and it’s really affecting the cotton, because the price is so low,” Rodriguez said.
The 2004 cotton harvest came in a little behind schedule, as steady rains returned to the Trans-Pecos area for the first time since the early 1990s. “The wet weather held us up quite a bit,” Dominguez said, as well as spoiling a few planted areas.
“A couple of people did pretty good with 2-3-4 boll cotton, but some of it just got ruined,” Dominguez said.
Milk prices have been better in the past year than they were in 2003, and Dominguez put the estimated 2004 milk sales from the dairies within the county at $17.3 million, which was up from $10.8 million estimated the previous year. The projections for 2005 are about the same as for this past year, and are over 150 percent higher than the cantaloupes, the county’s largest cash harvest crop.
The increase in dairy operations in the county also has meant an increase in need for forage crops for the cows, and Dominguez, “We’re going to start working with the dairies as far as forage quality, and any kind of silage issues they’ve got.
“I’m looking forward to working with those people. They’ve been very cooperative,” he added.
The crop first to come in, starting in May, will be onions, which Dominguez said would see little change from 2004’s totals.
“Onions are about the same as last year. They’re waiting for the soil temperature to get up to where they can start planting,” Dominguez said. The value of last year’s crop within Reeves County came to just over $600,000, with only 107 acres planted. However, many of the onions processed in Pecos come from the Coyanosa area of northern Pecos County.
“We’re doing some research projects,” he said, including one involving an effort to disrupt the mating scents of casebearer moths to prevent reproduction. “We’ll also have some test plots out at the Experiment Station as far as alfalfa field tests and probably cotton variety tests.”
“We’re also going to start doing work with the dairies as far as forage quality and any kind of silage issues they’ve got,” he said. “I’m looking forward to working with those people. They are very cooperative.”
Dominguez also was happy to get a new secretary for his office, beginning this past Friday. The Agriculture Extension Service office had been without one for over a year, due to budget cuts made by Reeves County Commissioners. “She’s very qualified and a very good lady. We’re lucky to get her.”
Toyah hopeful on anniversary of major flood
By ROSIE FLORES
Toyah residents are finally going to get their little town back in order, one year a flood destroyed or severely damaged many homes and buildings.
“Right now they’re tearing up the streets, getting ready to put in new ones,” said Toyah City Mayor Sandra Terry, of the flood, which damaged two dozen homes in the small town during the early morning hours of April 4, 2004, and later caused the eastbound lanes of Interstate 20 over Salt Draw to collapse when the support columns were washed away.
Although there were no deaths or injuries in the Toyah area due to the flooding, five persons were killed in an accident 10 hours following the bridge collapse, which was connected with the 83-mile detour vehicles were forced to take when the flood shut down the Interstate between Pecos and Toyah.
Texas Department of Transportation crews were able to reopen the highway 11 days after the collapse, and a new bridge was in place over the draw by Memorial Day. However, work on repairing the homes in Toyah, along with other problems caused by the April 4 flood, has taken a lot longer.
After an environmental study is complete, which are requirements by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, they will be ready to take bids, according to Terry.
“Dealing with the government is a long drawn out process,” she said. “But once this is complete the grant administrator will come and take bids to rebuild the homes that were completely destroyed in the flood.”
Terry said that 14 homes qualified for the grant funds, which takes care of everyone in the little community. “Some of the other homes, just needed cleaning up and minor repairs,” she said.
Terry said that everyone in Toyah is pleased and excited.
“We’ve been going through this process for so long, some people thought it was never going to happen,” said Terry. “It’s been a year and these people have waited for so long. They have been without a home for that long and they were getting impatient,” she said.
Terry said that hopefully in a couple of weeks, everything would be totally complete and the grant administrator could start taking bids.
“Some people had a little seed of doubt that this would ever happen, but they didn’t want to give up hope,” she said.
“We have completed all the work on two housing grants,” said Reeves County Emergency Coordinator Ricky Herrera. “We’re waiting on the last environmental study and they should be taking bids by the middle of April,” he said.
People who have been displaced will be back in their homes in about three to four months, according to Herrera.
“I know these people have been waiting a long time, but it’s finally coming together,” he said.
Along with the work on the homes, crews currently are in Toyah rebuilding streets, which were damaged by the floodwaters. The streets are being rebuilt down to the base by Jones Bros. Construction of Odessa, which began the project last week.
The north side of the small community was flooded when a 62-year-old levee on the northwest side of Toyah broke in two placed, sending a four-foot high wall of water from San Martine Draw into town. After an early dispute over who would be responsible for fixing the breaks, the levee was rebuilt late last year.
Terry said that she has heard a lot of bad comments about Toyah, but that the people that live there, care about their community and want to continue to live there.
Among the other problems that have been connected to the flood’s aftermath was the rupture of the city’s main waterline this past fall, and the collapse of the historic Toyah National Bank building in June. High winds collapsed the two-story building, after flooding was believed to have weakened the 92-year-old structure’s foundation, while the water line break was under the Union Pacific Railroad tracks, which also suffered damage in last April’s flood.
“The little town of Toyah has gone through a lot, but we’re still here and we will continue to be here,” said Terry.
“We’ve survived a lot,” said Terry. “About 65 percent of all the property owners are making an effort to clean up their property.”
Terry said that even some individuals that don’t currently reside in Toyah, but that have property there, have been cleaning up.
“It’s a big thing in itself,” said Terry. “We have pride and we will continue to care for our little town,” she said.
Jobless rate for area fell in February
Unemployment in Reeves County dipped by two-tenths of a percent in February, according to figures released last Thursday by the Texas Workforce Commission. But the new numbers, based on the agency’s reconfigured statistical data, still leave the local jobless rate at over 10 percent.
The TWC changed its methodology in computing unemployment rates beginning with the January 2005 numbers, which the agency said were based on 2000 U.S. Census data. The figures not only increased the jobless rate in Reeves County by over three percent from the previous numbers the TWC said were based on 1999 Census data, but also cut the number of people estimated in the county’s workforce by nearly 25 percent.
According to the commission, Reeves County lost another 83 people from its workforce in February, falling below the 4,000 mark, at 3,936. At the same time, the number of jobs in the county dropped from 3,597 to 3,530, but the smaller drop in jobs allowed the unemployment rate to fall from 10.5 to 10.3 percent.
The TWC’s employment numbers for the county stand in contrast to the sales tax figures being released by the Texas Comptroller’s office over the past several months. They show that sales within Pecos and overall in Reeves County are up 20 percent over the same period a year ago, based on tax collections made by local businesses.
Overall in the Permian Basin, unemployment fell slightly for the month, and statewide the jobless rate declined from 6.3 to 6.0 percent, according to the TWC. Ector County added both workers and jobs to its totals and saw its rate fall from 5.7 to 5.6 percent, while Midland County’s rate went from
Andrews County saw its rate fall from 5.1 to 5.0 percent, as the number of jobs and workers in the county remained stable; Brewster County added jobs and workers and saw its rate fall from 4.0 to 3.9 percent; Crane County also added jobs and workers and saw its rate drop from 6.8 to 6.5 percent; Ward County’s rate went from 6.9 to 6.8 percent, as a drop in the workforce offset a slight drop in the total number of jobs; while Winkler County’s job and workforce totals were virtually unchanged, along with its unemployment rate, at 6.2 percent.
Pecos County’s jobless rate held at 6.3 percent, as the workforce and job numbers dropped by about 90 from January, while Howard County was one of the exceptions in the area, as its rate went up one tenth of a percent, with a loss of both workers and jobs in February. The state’s least populated county, Loving, saw its rate stay unchanged, along with all of its numbers. The county had a 5.8 percent jobless rate, with three of its 52-person workforce unemployed.
Officials say turnout strong for Health Fair
Wonderful weather and a great turnout came together to make the Annual Reeves County Health Fair a success this past Saturday, according to event organizers.
“We had a really good turnout, for the complete test there were about 420 individuals assessed,” said Reeves County Hospital Board president Linda Gholson.
The EKG’s, blood tests, Dr. Orville Cerna’s bone density test, Subia Eye Clinic eye test, the Audio Acoustics hearing tests and the Sanofi-Aventis blood circulation test for the legs had to turn some people away, according to Gholson.
“The lines for those tests were just too long and eventually they just had to turn them away,” said Gholson. “Those were really popular tests.”
Vendors from Lubbock, San Angelo, Midland, Odessa and Alpine were on hand for the annual event.
“It was just a really good day and we’re looking forward to next year’s,” said Gholson.
The barbecue lunch was delicious and had a great turnout, as did the Lion’s Club pancake breakfast. “They did a fantastic job,” she said.
Gholson said that thanks went out to the Reeves County Road and Bridge Crew who helped a lot to get the event going.
“All the volunteers were great and the Reeves County Auxiliary did really well at their gift shop,” said Gholson.
The Reeves County Hospital District ambulance was on display and the Bloodmobile from Midland exceeded their goal in blood donations.
“We appreciate all those who donated blood,” said Gholson.
Things are shaping up at the hospital, which is still in the process of renovations, and the construction people were out of the way for the event held Saturday.
“They were really nice about it and the construction at the hospital is looking really nice,” said Gholson.
There were some new vendors at this year’s event.
Western Texas Eye Lion’s Eye Bank Alliance out of San Angelo was on hand to offer information on eye tissue and eye donations and donor cards were handed out, while 143rd District Attorney Randy Reynolds provided information on living wills and the kidney dialysis center set up their equipment and had part of their staff on hand to offer information and answer any questions.
“It was a successful health fair and we always enjoy it,” said Gholson. “People from all over come to it every year and it is full of health information.”
Taylor inducted into Who’s Who
Cheyenne Taylor, a junior at Ozona High School, was inducted into Who’s Who Among American High School Students.
According to the director of the organization, Taylor was in the top five percent of all students. This honor allows her to be eligible to receive numerous scholarships.
Taylor attended grade school in Pecos.
She is the daughter of Jana Harrison of Ozona and Steve Taylor of Midland.
Her Pecos relatives are her grandmothers, Colleen Beauchamp and Louise Taylor.
California woman dies, three hurt in crash
A California woman was killed and three other people were injured around sunrise on Friday in a one-vehicle accident on Interstate 10 near the Reeves-Pecos County line.
Virginia Lopez of Visila, Calif., was pronounced dead at the scene by Precinct 3 Justice of the Peace Rosendo Carrasco following the accident, which occurred 19.3 miles east of Barstow on I-10, according to the preliminary DPS report by trooper Roy Lytle of Balmorhea. A full report was unavailable, but the report said Lopez was in a Dodge Ram pickup headed east on I-10 when the accident occurred.
Those injured in the accident were identified as Jose Lopez of Visila, Calif., Rosa Lopez of Newark, Calif., and Maximino Lopez of Newark, Calif., All three were taken to Reeves County Hospital, according to Lytle’s report; Jose Lopez would later be transferred to Medical Center Hospital in Odessa, while Maximino Lopez was treated and released from Reeves County Hospital.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Information contained in the Police Report is obtained from reports filed by the Pecos Police Department, Reeves County Sheriff’s Office, or other officers of those agencies.
The serving of warrants by an officer for outstanding fines of either traffic citations, animal control violations or other court costs are considered arrests and will be printed as such unless indicated that the fines were paid. In such instances we will indicate payment and release.
James Lynn Robinson, 45, of 207 S. Plum St., was arrested by Pecos police on March 18 and charged with aggravated assault, following an incident at the Family Dollar Store, 1002 S. Eddy St. Police said Robinson was located in the 800 block of Palm Street after allegedly threatening two people at the store with a knife. Police said the two people identified Robinson after he was detained, and he was then transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.
Leopoldo Mendias Alvarado, 52, of 1414 Rancho Rd., was arrested by police on March 20 on a charge of public intoxication. Police said the arrest was made after Alvarado was found lying next to a dumpster in an alley to the west of the 700 block of South Almond Street.
Abron Muniz Venegas, 18, of 711 E. Ninth St., was arrested by police on March 20 and charged with driving with an invalid driver’s license. Police said the arrest occurred at 8:03 p.m. in the 800 block of South Eddy Street, after the 2003 Ford Mustang Venegas was driving was stopped for failure to yield right-of-way and failure to signal lane changes.
A female juvenile was cited by police on March 20 for leaving the scene of an accident and for no driver’s license, following an incident at 4:21 a.m. in the 1600 block of South Alamo Street. Police said the juvenile was driving a 2003 GMC pickup when she struck a parked 1995 Chevrolet pickup while northbound in the 1600 block of Alamo Street and then left the scene. Officers later found the GMC pickup and cited the juvenile for the violations.
York M. "Smokey" Briggs, Publisher
324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 432-445-5475, FAX 432-445-4321
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