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Economic Development


Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Friday, February 11, 2005

Chamber told motel tax would fund arena repairs

A plan is in the works for the restoration of the Buck Jackson Rodeo Arena in a joint venture project.

The item was discussed during the regular Pecos Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors meeting held Tuesday at lunch.

Town of Pecos City Main Street Director Tom Rivera told the group that the Main Street board had met and asked the city council to allow them to draft a tax abatement for the downtown area.

“We discussed a joint venture project, between the Town of Pecos City and Reeves County for the restoration of the Buck Jackson Rodeo Arena,” said Rivera.

Rivera said that the group would be meeting with the local motel operators, because this project would initially add two percent to the motel tax.

“We’d use this funds for specific projects,” said Rivera.

“We’ll propose that this item be placed on the ballot to fund the restoration of the rodeo arena,” said Rivera. The measure is scheduled to be part of the city’s May 7 general election.

He said that the purpose of the restoration was to have an arena that could be used several times a year, instead of just once during the rodeo events.

Rivera said that this would not raise local taxes.

“This would raise the (motel) tax rate as all other communities have,” he added. Rivera said that this could not happen unless the community approved during the elections.

“We need help with this project,” said Rivera.

He told Chamber members that during the 1997 Session, the Texas Legislature passed House Bill 92, the sports and community venue project legislation. The bill provides cities and counties with broad authority to finance a wide array of economic development projects in addition to the construction of sports stadiums. Cities and counties may choose to propose a venue project tax if they are interested in diversifying the sources of revenue they have to promote a specific economic development project.

The venue project revenue sources that can be adopted include a sales tax, a hotel occupancy tax, a short-term motor vehicle rental tax, an event parking tax, an event admission tax and a venue facility use tax.

In other business, Jason Garduno updated the group on the plans for the 2005 West of the Pecos Rodeo.

“We have all the contracts, the clowns, stock producers and now we have to start the sponsorships,” said Garduno.

Garduno said that this year the rodeo committee approved adding $7,000 per event. “Entries were up last year and hopefully they’ll be up again this year,” said Garduno. The rodeo will again run from Wednesday through Saturday in 2005, though that means it will not have a show on July 4 this summer.

“I think not having it on the fourth will help Pecos,” said Garduno, as holding a show on July 4 would mean ending the rodeo on a Monday night. This year’s rodeo will start on June 29 and end on July 2.

Garduno said that the PBR events are still in the works. The PBR event last year was held prior to the first official night of the rodeo.

Night in Old Pecos events were discussed during the monthly meeting.

Debbie Thomas told the group that if they wanted to continue to be the sole vendors for the sodas and water, they would need more volunteers. “If we don’t want to do it, we need to know now, so that somebody else can take over that booth,” she said.

Thomas said that last year they had very few people sign up to work and that some that did sign up didn’t show up at the Night in Old Pecos event.

“The few people on the committee had to work for those individuals that didn’t show up, instead of enjoying the evening,” she said. “If we don’t want to do it, we need to give the opportunity to other vendors.”

Thomas said that the event is a wonderful evening and that about 3,000 people turn out for the event.

“If everyone that signs up, shows up, it’s only an hour that they have to work,” said Thomas.

Women’s Division President Michelle Workman said that the group is working on a membership drive. “We’ll kick off this year, with decorating for the Annual Chamber Awards Banquet,” said Workman. “We’ll be decorating on the Feb. 22-24, at 6:30, if anyone would like to volunteer to help,” she said.

The group will meet next Tuesday and anyone wanting to join the organization is welcome to attend. “We’re asking the members to bring someone, because this is a membership drive,” she said. “Blanca Gallego (of Rancho Viejo in Downtown Pecos) said that we could have it at her place this time,” she said.

“We’re starting to work on the Golden Girl Pageant and there’s a possibility that 12 girls will run for the title this year,” said Workman.

Chamber President Jimmy Dutchover nominated Venetta Seals of Reeves County Hospital for the position of president-elect.

“This is someone who works very hard in the community and is very involved,” said Dutchover, and the board approved his recommendation.

Reeves County Detention Center III Warden Martin McDaniel introduced the new warden for RCDC I-II, Tony Garcia.

“I’ve been busy getting acquainted with everyone at the facility,” said Garcia, who began work last month.

Garcia said that it took a lot of teamwork. “They have two years on the contract and that’s what we’ll be working on.

“We want to satisfy our customers and keep them happy and we all want to make sure that happens,” he said.

Garcia told the group that at one time he wanted to be a Border Patrol Agent, but that he later earned his degree. “My mother always told me I would end up in the prison system and I did,” he said jokingly.

“I love my job, there’s never a dull moment,” he said.

Garcia said that he was looking forward to meeting everyone and becoming a part of the community.

Council approves venue tax vote, ambulance pact

Pecos City Council members approved a referendum on the May 7 election ballot that would institute a city/county venue tax on local motel customers. The 2 percent tax would be designed to fund renovations to the Buck Jackson Rodeo Arena and the Reeves County Civic Center.

The council also approved an agreement with Reeves County Hospital on a new ambulance contract, ending a two-year dispute over sharing costs for the ambulance service. Other items the council voted to approve during Thursday’s 75-minute meeting at City Hall included an ordinance on tax abetment for the Pecos downtown historical district, approved plans for a March 12 concert at Maxey Park, and following an executive session agreed to a 6 percent salary increase for city manager Joseph Torres. Council members were told by approving the resolution on the venue project tax during their regular meeting Thursday, it would allow it to appear on the May 7 ballot, along with the already-scheduled elections for city council, school and hospital district boards in Pecos. If approved, the tax would still need approval from Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn’s office, said Tom Rivera, the city’s Main Street Project chairman.

The city and Reeves County had to make emergency repairs to the south stands at the Buck Jackson Arena less than a month before last year’s West of the Pecos Rodeo, after severe termite damage was discovered in support columns at the rear of the stands. The 2 percent motel occupancy tax would bring in an estimated $47,000 annually, Rivera said. “Stretch it out over 30 years and that would bring in $1.3 million that could be used for this project,” Rivera told the council.

“I personally think a first-class arena at the Civic Center would improve our chances of attracting local events,” Rivera said. “Right now to be honest with you, I wouldn’t go out and promote these facilities with the shape they’re in.”

Council members noted the tax would be paid almost exclusively by out-of-town residents, and approved the resolution in a unanimous vote.

The ambulance service contract was a counter-offer from the Reeves County Hospital District board for a one-year deal with a base payment by the hospital of $60,000, with a $15,000 cap on any cost overruns. The previous agreement had the hospital paying a $40,000 base total with a $5,000 cap, while the city had sought a three-year deal with a $15,000 cap and the base payment beginning at $60,000 in the first year and increasing by $5,000 each of the next two years.

“I think we should approve this proposal,” said Mayor Dot Stafford, while councilman Danny Rodriguez added, “I think this is a real honest effort to come together with a solution.”

The council unanimously approved the tax abatement ordinance for the downtown area. Under it, building owners would receive abetments for up to five years on improvements made to their buildings of $2,000 or more. The improvements would receive a 100 percent abatement in the first year, and then decline by 20 percent each of the next five years, until the improvements would be fully taxed six years after completion.

Rivera said the move would make downtown buildings more attractive to buyers, since the new owners wouldn’t be hit with higher appraisals immediately after they made any improvements to the structures.

Torres said the plans for the youth-oriented concert were discussed on Monday, and a committee headed up by city secretary Connie Levario and Rivera was formed. The March 12 date was chosen because it falls at the start of spring break for Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD students.

“Basically, during spring break they have nothing to do,” said Torres, who added that several local organizations were to be involved in the March 12 event.

He said events like this had been held while he was in school back in the 1970s, and that the concert would be held during the afternoon, from about 1 to 6 p.m. In conjunction with that, the council agreed to close Cothrum Street between Palmer and Kerr streets within Maxey Park on the Saturday of the concert.

Torres’ 6 percent raise came following a 15-minute executive session to evaluate the city manager on the first anniversary of his hiring by the council. The council awarded him a $15,000 pay hike following his six-month evaluation in August of last year; Thursday’s salary increase will bring Torres’ pay to $74,200 annually.

Range’s wayward bullets found on airport’s runway

Town of Pecos City Council authorized the creation of a committee Thursday to look at improving safety measures at the Pecos Rifle and Pistol Range, after bullets from the range were found on a taxiway and runway at the Pecos Municipal Airport.

At the same time, the council approved an offer from local businessman Roy Lindsey to lease property north of town for a new shooting range for the Pecos Police Department, a move Police Chief Clay McKinney said would ease the current overcrowding problems at the south side facility.

City manager Joseph Torres, councilman Gerald Tellez and city attorney Scott Johnson were named to the committee, along with Pecos Police Capt. Kelly Davis, Pecos Municipal Airport manager Isabel Blanchard and Enterprise publisher Smokey Briggs, who is president of the Pecos Rifle and Pistol Club. The group will try and find a solution to the problem of stray bullets going over one of the berms on the southeast side of the range and landing on airport property.

“My concern is the stray bullets we’ve been finding on the taxiway and on runway 27,” Blanchard told the council. “It’s so glaringly hazardous. We’re fortunate nothing has happened at this point.

“During construction at the airport, construction had to be stopped while the rifle range was being used,” she said. “The construction workers eventually refused to work when there was shooting at the range.”

Blanchard said she had talked with Briggs and Davis a few years ago, when the problem was first discovered, and some changes were made, but she added, “Obviously, it’s not working.”

Briggs said the problem is on one of the three ranges, the 100-yard range on the east side of the range. “We identified the problem at the time and cleared up that you have to put your targets up against the berm,” Briggs said, but he added that despite the rule, bullets are still making it over the dirt and onto the airport.

He said two options are to close the east side of the range or to re-orient that side of the range so the shooters do not aim in the direction of the airport. He also said the council could solve its liability problem by deeding the range to the Pecos Rifle and Pistol Club. “If the city can deed the land to the rifle club, we would maintain the insurance and the city would be out of liability,” Briggs said.

He said if the club owned the range, outside groups could use the facility for a charge of $100 a day, to cover the cost of maintenance and insurance. Along with the club’s 40 members and the police department, others who use the range include the U.S. Border Patrol, U.S. Marshal’s Service and guards at the Reeves County Detention Center.

Improved fencing at the range was also discussed, though it was agreed that other than full-time police patrols, it would be impossible to completely keep people from getting onto range property, and that existing rules would have to be more strictly enforced. “If we’re going to have proper safety and proper command and control, someone has to be in charge and say what can and can’t be done,” Briggs said.

“I really feel strongly that the public needs a place to go shoot,” Davis said, while Tellez added, “It’s getting to the point you can’t go out into the country and shoot your .22s anymore. The public does need a place to shoot.”

Councilwoman Angelica Valenzuela said Starkey Warren with the Pecos Men’s Golf Association also has voiced concerns about the range, and stray bullets coming near the Reeves County Golf Course. Briggs said he believed any problems with the golf course came from shooters aiming at the same berm that is causing problems at the airport.

Both Davis and Briggs agreed the police department needed their own range, and after the council approved the committee appointments, its members then agreed to close the east range at the site to stop the problem of stray bullets landing on airport property while looking for a safer way to operate that range in the future.

The council also approved the lease agreement with Roy Lindsey for a police department shooting range, to be located a half-mile north of Acid Delinters on North Alamo Street. “*I’ve been talking to Mr. Lindsey about an agreement for some time,” said Police Chief Clay McKinney. He told the council Lindsey would lease the city 10 acres for a shooting range, on a five-year contract at a cost of just $10, and would be automatically renewable, Johnson told the council.

The range would be on the side of a hill that would create a berm to stop the bullets fired by officers.

“He has given us the right to cut the hill in half to create an embanbkment,” McKinney said, adding that equipment from Lindsey Construction could be used to make the cut. “I think this solves part of the problem of overcrowding at the rifle range,” McKinney said. “Kelly has some of the equipment already, and we can have it up at a relatively low cost.”

Prison helps post office capture national prize

Thanks in part to the Reeves County Detention Center, a $5,000 reward came in the mail to the Pecos Office on Tuesday, the result of local postal workers winning a nationwide contest to boost sales of packing supplies sold by the U.S. Postal Service. Postal officials from the Midland-Odessa regional office, along with others from San Antonio and Washington, D.C. were in Pecos to present the $5,000 credit for in-kind services to the local facility, which can use the money for a variety of things connected with the local post office.

“Last year we decided to hold a contest to increase sales of our ready-post products,” said Margot Myers, manager for retail in-store programs for the USPS’ headquarters in Washington. The contest was held in conjunction with the Hallmark Corp., and involved boosting sales of items such as tape, boxes and bubble wrap sold through post offices across the country.

The winner would be the post office that showed the biggest increase from June to September of last year, and Myers said postal workers Rebecca Foster and Larry Busby found a unique way to boost local sales. “They sold the ready-post to the prison.”

The sale of packing items to the Reeves County Detention Center allowed the Pecos Post Office to increase its sales from $2,049 in June to $4,906 in September. “The next biggest was over $1,000 less than Pecos,” Myers said.

Susan Thomas, business development manager for Hallmark, presented the money to Foster and Busby. The $5,000 Premiere Choice Award can be redeemed through 400 retailers nationwide for items to be used on behalf of the post office, she said.

Local officials were on hand during the presentation ceremony. Mayor Dot Stafford also made a statement as part of the presentation, and later asked Postal Service officials about the status of the planned new U.S. Post Office in Pecos.

Plans were made in the late 1990s to replace the 70-year-old Pecos Post Office with a new building at Eighth and Cedar streets. Land was purchased, but the plans were put on hold after budget problems led the Postal Service to put a freeze on construction of new facilities.

“He said he really didn’t know, but when he got back to Washington he’d look on the list and see where you are,” Stafford said during Thursday’s city council meeting about the current status of a new local facility.

Red Bluff gets $1 million list of lake projects

Red Bluff Water Power Control Board members were presented with a “to-do” list of just over $1 million in work projects in and around Red Bluff Dam during their regular monthly meeting on Tuesday in Pecos. But none of the projects were listed as urgent at this time, managing director Randal Hartman said.

“There’s not anything that’s coming up tomorrow, but it’s something we have to do,” Hartman told the board.

Board member Dick Slack asked Hartman if members could go up to Red Bluff Lake to look at the projects that needed to be done, including the most expensive, a $750,000 grouting of the nearly 70-year-old dam.

“We’ll drill holes and pour concrete in to fill the leaks, where water is seeping under the dam,” Hartman said. “Right now we’re OK, but we’re at the point where we’ve got more and more seeping through.”

Hartman said the $750,000 was just an estimate, and could come in higher or lower, depending on the report from HDR Engineering, the company that was involved in the replacement of the dam’s gates three years ago. Other repairs are also planned downstream at the Imperial Dam, but two-thirds of the cost there will come from Red Bluff’s sub-districts.

The second-biggest expense is projected at $125,000 for painting the spillway at Red Bluff Dam, though Hartman said, “I feel that’s kind of low. You have to go in there and sandblast it and paint it, and that’s expensive.

“It’s in good structural shape. There’s nothing major, just a little cement work we have to do,” Hartman said of the 200-foot long spillway.

The other projects listed included $25,000 for spraying the brush and salt cedars around the dam and Red Bluff Lake, $45,000 for purchase of a used backhoe and $60,000 for a new house for the district’s employee who lives at the lake. Board member Charlotte Wilcox said the current house dates from the lake’s creation in 1936, while Hartman said the flat roof on the building is subject to leakage.

“We need to put a priority on it,” Wilcox said.

In other business, Hartman said the board is planning to change the way it is paid for salt mined out of the Malaga Bend area. Loving Salt is pumping water into ponds at Malaga Bend, where the water is evaporated and salt then mined out of the ponds.

“We’re in the process of switching this deal around, so we’re paid as they pump, and not as they harvest,” Hartman said. He added that the salt spring which is being pumped away from the Pecos River contains about two pounds of salt per gallon, and the pumping project has lowered the level of salt traveling down the Pecos and into Red Bluff Lake. The lake’s level at the start of the month was put at just under 120,000 acre/feet, its highest level in over a decade but still at less than half the lake’s full capacity. Hartman said the lake is designed to hold up to 270,000 acre/feet, but that silting caused by flooding about 15 years ago probably lowered that total by 10,000 acre/feet.

The increase in lake water caused by last year’s rains will allow the district to have a regular water release schedule in 2005 for the first time since 2001. Water releases are scheduled to begin at the lake in March.

The board also approved cash disbursements totaling $32,376 for January; cash recpits totaling $75,496; a fund balance in the district’s account of $398,873, and accounts payable totaling $9,536.

Barstow’s Post Office opens following long wait

Barstow residents now have easier access to their mail, thanks to a new building that is open 24 hours a day.

The new post office is located at 315 S. Mackey and Postmaster Gloria Avila said that the customers are very happy with the new building and location.

“They especially like since they can come in whenever they want to,” said Avila. The new building has been open since Dec. 30 and the boxes have changed. “Everyone has a new box and I still have boxes available in all sizes,” said Avila.

Avila had been having to hand deliver the mail from a temporary location in the small Ward County community, as the town was forced to wait 3 1/2 years to get a new facility. Barstow had been without a regular post office building for several years, since the original building on FM 516 downtown was shut due to structural safety concerns. For a while, the Post Office operated out of a trailer next to the original building’s site, before moving into the Ward County Irrigation District’s building.

In April of 2001, Avila said that they had been told to move into the mobile unit by officials at the U.S. Postal Service’s main regional office in San Antonio because of concerns about the safety of the unoccupied building next door.

The mobile building only lasted until 2003. Since then, Avila had been operating out of the back of the Ward County Irrigation District No. 1 building.

“It was really hard because the customers need to get the mail directly from me,” said Avila. “They couldn’t just go to a box and get it.”

The new post office is open from 7:30 a.m. until 11:30 a.m. and from 1-5 p.m. The facility is also open on Saturdays from 7:30-9:30 a.m., but the lobby is open 24-hours a day.

The new post office is located on the other side of the water department. “The customers seem really happy with it and I am too,” said Avila. “Things are coming along really well,” she said.

Avila said that there are about 230 customers at the Barstow Post Office.

Barstow’s need for a new Post Office came at a time when budget cutbacks ended a period of construction of new facilities across the United States. Postal Service said in 2000 it was freezing more than 800 new construction and leasing projects across the country due to the agency’s budget deficit.

Charlotte Horne

Charlotte Ann Whitehead Horne, Juan Florez and Frances Waldrop

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York M. "Smokey" Briggs, Publisher
324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 432-445-5475, FAX 432-445-4321

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