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Friday, January 28, 2000

Air Force jets could drop $ into county

From Staff and Wire Reports
PECOS, Jan. 26, 2000 - Reeves County residents are going to have a decision to make soon, on whether or not to fight the proposed low-level bomber training flights that the United States Air Force wants to set up over West Texas.

The Realistic Bomber Training Initiative (RTBI) the Air Force is proposing has already drawn opposition from local officials, and is the subject of a lawsuit filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.

Ranchers and residents in the southern part of Reeves County as well as in the Big Bend area have joined others across the Western United States in the lawsuit, which asked the court to either ban all training flights lower than 3,000 feet or halting any expansions or changes in low-level flight routes until the study is complete.

Ranchers have complained for several years that the current low-level bomber flights run out of Dyess Air Force base shake homes and disrupt livestock, and the RTBI initiative - which would be centered around the Pecos area, would send its the lowest runs along a path that would start west of Orla, loop into the southern part of the County and then enter western Ward County.

The noise and jet fuel residue are the down side of the proposal, but the financial incentives the Air Force is offering could provide a major boost for the county, which saw it's unemployment rate jump to 12.3 percent last month and is facing the loss of another 25 jobs with the closing of the Brunswick bicycle warehouse in Balmorhea later this year.

According to information received by U.S. Rep. Henry Bonilla's office, the RBTI plan, if approved, would add over $1½ million to the local economy each year, once two electronic scoring sites are built.

Under the Air Force's plan, B-1 and B-52 bombers flying out of Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene and Barksdale AFB near Shreveport, La., would fly a training run over the South Plains and Big Bend areas, then fly a loop around Pecos, with two of the three scoring sites planned for the Alamo and Toyah Lake areas.

Cris Hawes, press secretary to Bonilla, said today that Air Force officials said the cost to build the scoring sites would be between $3.6 and $5 million.

Once built, Hawes said, "They would employ about 31 people and have a $1.6 million economic impact on Pecos annually."

Hawes said Air Force officials originally wanted to increase the number of flights over the area to as many as 1,200 annually, "But we were able to get them to cut that back down to what they're doing right now by combining flights. A person on the ground wouldn't know there was any difference from what they're doing today."

Still, the low altitude of the bombers, often flying within 200 to 300 feet of the ground, drew strong protests last April when a public hearing was held in Pecos.

Ellen Weinacht, a member of the Balmorhea Chamber of Commerce, said the flights would hurt Balmorhea's economy, which depends largely on nature tourism. Bird watching is the primary tourist draw.

"It is a major flyway," she said. Of 900 birds, 300 are in Balmorhea."

"I can't help but think this will impact that," Weinacht said.

She said the 42 jobs that would be created by the electronic scoring site would be "piddling" compared to what nature tourism can bring in.

At the time, the Air Force said the electronic scoring sites would add 42 jobs to the Pecos area.

Sue Toone told Air Force officials during the April hearing that home southeast of Saragosa is already in the flight path of B-1 bombers, and she can see the fallout from the jet exhaust settling on their crops.

When the big jets roar overhead at 500 mph, Toone's house shakes, pictures fall off the walls and antique items on shelves are rearranged.

Thursday's lawsuit said Air Force fighters and bombers fly as low as 100 feet from the ground and as fast as 650 mph. Those low-level flights can traumatize or kill birds and wildlife, stampede cattle, spook horses into bucking off their riders and damage rural homes, the lawsuit said.

Joe Vernon said last April that the electronic scoring site targeted for land near his country home at Alamo will bring in jet bombers at 200 feet and not only frighten his livestock, but will tear up his house and destroy the peaceful life he has built.

Vernon, a contract pumper, was also worried that the Cessna 150 he flies from his home to well sites where could either collide with the big jets or turbulence from their wake could force him to give up that mode of transportation.

Low-level flight training routes cover about 1 million square miles, mostly over public land in the West, the lawsuit said. The dozen groups joining the lawsuit include organizations of ranchers and rural residents in Colorado, Nevada, Utah and Texas.

"The complete cessation would be hardest for us to get," admitted Simeon Herskovits, the Taos, N.M. lawyer who filed the lawsuit. "We'd like to get it all, but we've also given a set of options. We want to make sure the (environmental study) is prepared."

A spokesman said Thursday the Air Force works with state, federal and tribal agencies to balance its training requirements "with responsible environmental stewardship."

"The Air Force analyzes the potential impacts of low-level flights when needed for training and does not believe that stopping training flights is warranted," Capt. Joe Della Vedova said.

Della Vedova said low-level training "provides the combat edge that enables victory in battle and reduces American casualties."

Herskovits said he is skeptical of such statements.

"Obviously you wouldn't want to seriously harm the country across the board in the name of defending it," Herskovits said. "I think it's still questionable whether there isn't already a sufficient level of training and preparation for what the nation might face."

The lawsuit said the Air Force violated the National Environmental Policy Act by studying the environmental impacts of flight routes individually, rather than as a whole across the country. While one route may not severely harm wildlife like migrating birds, the effects of several routes on some species could be dramatic, said biologist Peter Galvin of the Tucson, Ariz.-based Center for Biological Diversity, one of the plaintiffs.

Cumulatively, Galvin said, the low-level flights are harming numerous wildlife species, including bald eagles, peregrine falcons, bighorn sheep and antelope.

High-speed chase lands teens in jail

Staff Writer
PECOS, Jan. 26, 2000 - What began as a routine traffic stop Thursday afternoon turned into a high speed chase that lasted for almost an hour, covered over 70 miles through Ward and Reeves counties and ended with two teens being taken to the Reeves County Juvenile Detention Center.

Department of Public Safety Officers were trying to do a routine traffic stop on Interstate 20 just west of Monahans when the chase began after the driver of the Chevrolet Suburban refused to stop.

"Apparently, DPS was just trying to stop them for a routine traffic stop and they just took off," said Ward County Sheriff Jerry Heflin.

"Our officers tried to assist in the chase, but they quickly crossed the (Pecos) river," he said. "So, we just came back and waited to see if they needed us to assist further, since Reeves County Sheriff's deputies joined the chase."

The incident began at 12:43 p.m., mile marker 76, in Monahans and quickly moved into Reeves County and further on I-20. The driver headed west at speeds of up to 100 miles per hour, and were able to get around at least one roadblock with tire spikes that had been set out by law enforcement officials before the chase ended at 1:37 p.m., at mile marker 4 on I-20, almost an hour after it began.

Two juveniles were in the green Suburban involved in the chase and one was injured when the suburban ran off the I-20 service road and into a gully just east of the area of the junction with Interstate 10, where another road block had been set up by law enforcement officials

The two youths were found inside the vehicle after the accident. One juvenile was transported to Reeves County Hospital, while the other was transported to the Reeves County Juvenile Detention Center, according to DPS reports. The first youth was transferred from the hospital to the detention center Thursday night after being treated for his injury.

Officials were unable to say at press time why the two youths fled from the original traffic stop in the Suburban, which carried Florida license plates.

Completion date set for PHA rehab project

Contributing Writer
PECOS, Jan. 26, 2000 - The Pecos Housing Authority's $1.5 million '98 CIAP rehabilitation project is scheduled for completion by Sept. 31, board members were told during their monthly meeting Thursday night.

The completion of the project will make approximately 30 vacant units available for the waiting list of applicants, according to PHA executive director Nellie Gomez, who added that the housing authority plans to start renovating their units at a faster rate.

Also under '98 CIAP, the operating expenses for the Second Street repairs to date is $25,524, according to Gomez. "Right now, I don't see spending another $25,000 on it," she added.

In a related matter, the board chose to close out the 1999 by obligating the $2.38 million into operations. The funds were deposited to the general account under the board's instructions.

The PHA also discussed their annual report, which included a five-year agency plan. Two of the goals listed in the plan are to leverage private or other public funds to create additional housing opportunities and renovate or modernize public housing units.

The board also swore in Sandra Lira as their new resident commissioner, but are still in need of one to replace their latest resignation, according to PHA chairman Frank Perea, who added, "The mayor (Pecos mayor Dot Stafford) has several that she's considering."

In the Farm Labor Housing portion of the meeting, board members discussed a supervisory review by the United States Department of Agriculture's agency for rural development.

Gomez said that due to short-term stays, this is the last year the PHA will be running the FLH apartments. "Every year (migrant workers) come in but don't stay long," Gomez said, "they're here for less than three months."

The board plans to pass a resolution for a purchase request of the FLH apartments to HUD, according to Perea. "We want to run them and use them as subsidy funds," he said.

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.


Bobby Shawn Hood, 33, was arrested at 9 p.m., on January 4, in the 3000 block of South Cedar Street, for forgery.


Alonzo Munoz, 27, was arrested at 7:52 p.m., on January 5, in the 900 block of South Orange Street, on a warrant for theft over $50.


Nora Elia Pando, 25, was arrested at 9:10 p.m., on January 5, in the 1200 block of East Second Street, for failure to identify.


Mario Tarango, 54, was arrested at 1:59 p.m., on January 6, in the 600 block of Second Street, for public intoxication.


Alvaro Armendariz, 46, was arrested at 10:55 p.m., on January 6, at the corner of Third and Ash streets, for driving while license suspended.


Steve Green, 48, was arrested at 1:10 a.m., on January 7, in the 300 block of Willow Street, for assault under the Family Violence Act.


Freddy Ornelas, 27, was arrested at 7:56 a.m., on January 7, in the 300 block of Hickory Street, on a warrant for theft by check.


Laura Contreras, 30, self-surrendered at 9:04 a.m., on January 7, at the Police Department, on a warrant for criminal trespass.


Ricardo Cerna, 20, was arrested at 12:19 a.m., on January 8, in the 1100 block of South Ash Street, for criminal mischief.


A female juvenile was arrested at 6:49 a.m., on January 11, in the 400 block of Alberta Street, for simple assault under the Family Violence Act.


Lester Glen Bevis, 58, was arrested at 4:47 p.m., on January 11, at Flying J, for theft under $50.


Mark Madrid Renteria, 21, was arrested at 11:06 p.m., on January 11, in the 1800 block of Adams Street, on a warrant service.


Benjamin Muniz, 37, and Joel Muniz, 30, were arrested at 4:32 p.m., on January 12, in the 200 block of West Third Street. Benjamin Muniz was charged with driving while license suspended; Joel Muniz with possession of a controlled substance.


Eric Armendariz, 18, was arrested at 1:20 a.m., on January 13, in the 400 block of South Peach Street, for evading arrest.


Matthew B. Lara, 17, was arrested on January 13, in the 1300 block of Cypress Street, for assault under the Family Violence Act.


Armando Madrid Jr., 26, was arrested at 1:30 a.m., on January 14, at the corner of Monroe and Alamo streets, on a DWI refusal.


Jose Alfredo Lujan, 39, was arrested at 7:42 p.m., on January 14, in the 600 block of Alamo Street, for assault under the Family Violence Act.


Luis Armando Armendariz, 41, was arrested at 10:23 a.m., on January 15, at the corner of Highway 17 and North Service Road, for driving while license suspended.


Jose Barreno, 17, and Jason B. Abila, 18, were arrested at 1:33 p.m., on January 15, in the 1100 block of South Cherry Street, for disorderly conduct (fighting).


Jesus A. Villalobos, 29, was arrested at 4:06 p.m., on January 15, at the corner of Fifth and Oleander streets, on a local warrant.


AUSTIN (AP) - Results of the Cash 5 drawing Thursday night: Winning numbers drawn: 5-16-27-32-36. Number matching five of five: 1. Prize per winner: $76,516. Winning ticket sold in: Bryan. Matching four of five: 181. Prize: $634.


AUSTIN (AP) - The winning Pick 3 numbers drawn Thursday by the Texas Lottery, in order: 7-9-2 (seven, nine, two)


PECOS, Jan. 26, 2000 - High Thursday 59. Low this morning 32. Forecast for tonight: Mostly cloudy with areas of fog developing after midnight. Low around 20. East wind 5-15 mph. Saturday: Cloudy with areas of morning fog: Decreasing clouds by noon. High in the mid 50s. East wind 10-20 mph. Saturday night: Partly cloudy. Low in the upper teens. Sunday: Partly cloudy and warmer. Low in the mid 20s. Highs in the upper 50s.

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Pecos Enterprise
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