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Thursday, February 10, 2000

Settlement near in city-county water rate fight

Staff Writer
PECOS, Feb. 10, 2000 - The big news of the day wasn't on the agenda at this morning's regular meeting of the Town of Pecos City Council, but it was a topic of discussion outside council chambers.

Members of the council and city staff spent Wednesday in mediation with Reeves County concerning the ongoing out-of-town water rate controversy, Mayor Dot Stafford said.

The mediation, ordered by the Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission, was the next step in the controversy that began when the city discovered that it had not used the correct rate when it billed the county for water used by the Reeves County Detention Center, and then presented a revised bill to the county for the correct and higher rate.

"The mediation was successful," City Attorney Scott Johnson said.

Johnson said that the agreement had not been finalized but that common ground had been reached for the bulk of the issues.

"The attorneys are still working out the details, but the biggest part is done," Councilman Gerald Tellez said.

Mayor Stafford stated that more details of the agreement could not be released until after the agreement was finalized.

In other business the council authorized the city attorney to contact the owners of the old F.W. Woolworth building at Third and Oak streets, in regard to a proposed Christian Youth Center.

Richard Crider briefed the council on the project.

"The owner had told me that he won't lease the building to an individual or group, but he would lease it to the city," Crider said. "He also won't proceed any further without an indication from the city that it was actually interested in the project."

Crider said that the project was a joint effort between local churches to create a place where area youngsters would have something to do.

"We need something like this for the kids. Something for them to do at night," he said.

"At this point, we're only asking the council to consider leasing the building and communicating that to the owners, so that we can proceed," Crider said.

Crider also explained that the center would be funded by donations from the churches and that there shouldn't be any cost to the city.

Mayor Dot Stafford also appointed a Waste Water Committee to deal with problems concerning the proposed expansion of the city's wastewater treatment facility.

Councilman Gerald Tellez, Mayor Pro Tem Danny Rodriguez, City Attorney Scott Johnson, and Water Superintendent Octavio Garcia were named to the committee.

Stafford said that the main job of the committee would be meeting with the Committee to Save East Pecos, and resolve concerns about the wastewater facility.

Eleuterio Garcia, chairman for the Committee to Save East Pecos, stated that the committee was formed in response to the city's request to the Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission to expand the waste treatment facility.

The council also entered into a contract with the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) to proved fingerprinting services for INS.

Police Chief Clay McKinney told the council that the police department had the manpower to perform the contract.

McKinney said that INS estimates needing about 300 people fingerprinted next year and that the city would receive $15 for each person fingerprinted, for about $4,500 in anticipated revenue.

McKinney also said that INS would pay all costs associated with training a police officer to do the finger printing.

New drug dog Czechs into service

Staff Writer
PECOS, Feb. 10, 2000 - A female from the Czech Republic has joined the Pecos Police Department and will also be helping out at the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD schools.

"Nouska," a female German shepherd is the newest acquisition at the police department to help in combating the war on drugs. Nouska was born in Central Europe and funding to acquire the dog came from both the city and the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD.

"We split the cost 50-50 and are very excited about this," said P-B-T Superintendent Don Love. "I think this is something positive for our schools and the community."

Nouska had been at a training facility at Globo in Somerset, Tx. Officer Oscar Machuca traveled to Somerset where he spent three weeks training with the new drug dog recently.

"She had been there training and when I got there they matched her up with me," said Machuca. "From there we trained together in searching for drugs in vehicles and buildings."

Machuca will also get together with Investigator Billy Hull and his dog, Leo, for further training.

"We'll also be going to the schools for locker searches and assist them in any way that we can," said Machuca.

Machuca and Nouska will also be assisting in traffic stops and helping out the Trans Pecos Drug Task Force.

"She's also trained for searching for explosives," said Machuca.

Nouska is on a certain diet that allows her to maintain her physique. "They have her on a special diet, so that she'll stay fit and active," Machuca explained.

Machuca and Nouska, along with Pecos Police Chief Clay McKinney were on hand for the regular school board meeting held Tuesday evening. "We wanted to personally thank the board for helping us procure this dog," said McKinney. "We're very excited about it and we know it will be something good for the community and the schools," he said.

Nouska is a year and a half old, and plans are to keep her for at least six years. "They usually work out for at least six years and sometimes up to 10," said Machuca.

"We're anxious to get to work and hope for the best," said Machuca.

Air Force's  report  doesn't satisfy owners in flight path

Staff Writer
PECOS, Feb. 10, 2000 - Eight percent of the people in parts of Reeves County will be "highly annoyed" by the U.S. Air Force's low-level bomber flights, according to an environmental impact statement released this week.

Count homeowner Helen Vernon among them.

"It peeves us that they're going to go along with it, but nobody around here wanted it," said Vernon, who received her copy of the Final Environmental Impact Statement on the Realistic Bomber Training Initiative Wednesday, in which the Air Force says the Reeves County route is the most acceptable of four alternatives in an executive summary of the RTBI plan.

The Air Force released a 10-page report with a cover letter outlining its reasons for selecting Alternative B: IR-178/Lancer MOA (Military Operations Area), for use by B-1 and B-52 bombers out of Dyess AFB in Abilene and Barksdale AFB in Shreveport, La.

"Alternative B meets all operational requirements with somewhat less potential for environmental impacts that alternative C and D," the Air Force statement said. "Therefore Alternative B has also been identified as the Air Force's environmentally preferred alternative."

Alternative C would have used the same area over Reeves County, but a different MOA than the one planned for airspace over eight counties north of Sweetwater and Big Spring in the South Plains. Alternative D would have used airspace over northern New Mexico and the Texas Panhandle.

Alternative A would have maintained current operations, with bomber flights through several states, including those in the northern Plains. The Air Force said consolidating the flights into areas close to Dyess and Barksdale AFBs would be more cost-efficient.

"Overall, there would be no likely affects to land use, recreation or visual resources for any of the alternatives," the report said, though that point has been disputed for several years by ranchers in the Trans-Pecos and Big Bend areas, who said the flights at 300 feet or less above the ground scare livestock and cause shaking and cracking to buildings beneath the flight path.

"I'd like to see the environmental studies," said Vernon, who lives with her husband Joe in the Alamo area of south central Reeves County and farms land beneath the proposed flight path. "Nobody ever called us, and they're talking about putting it (the electronic scoring site) two miles from where we live."

"What happens when they do a fuel drop over our property when I'm trying to grow hay?" asked Vernon, who said other area landowners have suffered the same problems.

Her husband, who uses his small plane to fly to oilfield jobs, has an even greater concern.

"My whole deal is in the letter they said the impact on ground aviation is inconsequential. How inconsequential is my life when one of those things flips me around and makes me crash," he said. "They don't give a rip about people."

The plan selected also will over-fly the largest population area of the three new plans. A total of 50,300 people live under the flight path of Alternative B, while Alternative C would affect just 22,800 people and Alternative D 11,900. However, the Air Force said the last option would increase noise levels more in 13 special use land management areas.

If approved, the Air Force has said one of the two manned electronic scoring sites would be located in Reeves County, south of Pecos. The site would cost between $3.6 and $5 million to build, would employ 31 people and would bring about $1.6 million into the area annually, according to Air Force figures given to Congressman Henry Bonilla's office last month.

The Air Force said average daily overflights for the IR-178/Lancer proposal would range from 1 to 10 a day, depending on location. "This would not represent a substantial increase (1 to 6 sortie operations) from recent historic airspace use," the report said.

"The effects of flying activities are not expected to produce measurable impacts on the economic value of the land, since this area has been generally overflown since the 1940s," the report continued. "Other factors, such as drought, market prices, community amenities and proximity to urban areas are more likely to affect land values than military aircraft overflights."

Helen Vernon disagrees that the flights don't affect land values _ or at least the values of homes beneath the jet path.

"Tina Scuddy, who has moved away, they used to buzz her house at night. They'd pick something out and `bomb' it," she said, referring to the low flight path along the main bombing run. "They did it to her house all the time at 10:30 at night. They raised horses for a living, and it always scared them.

Hal Evans is one of the other neighbors Vernon mentioned has had low flying jets over their house both during the day and at night.

"Most of the time they come from the east and cut across (State Highway) 17 and come down right over our house," he said, while adding "The last two months haven't been as frequent."

"They haven't broken any windows or any dishes, but they'll scare the bejeebees out of you," Evans said.

"They do that to people's houses all the time," Helen Vernon said. "They'll buzz your car and bomb it. By the time you realize you car's not falling apart, they're gone."

"Last fall there would be anywhere from two to three flights a day, they run in pairs, and one or two at night," said Evans. "They would wake us up at two in the morning or at midnight. But the last two months there haven't been any night flights. Now there are about two flights a week."

He added that the noise from the bombers isn't as bad as the noise from other jets that use the same route. Most of those flights are out of Holloman AFB in southern New Mexico.

The Air Force also said it had plans to limit soil erosion while building the electronic scoring site near the Vernon's property, and the 15 other emitter sites in the Trans-Pecos and Davis Mountains area. It also said there would be no long-term impacts to water resources as a result of construction.

The Air Force plans to lease land for the sites, and said landowners would retain control of any mineral or water rights.

Joe Vernon said he has sent copies of the letter to Steve Uslar, vice president of the Southwest Regional Pilots Association, and has also contacted the Trans-Pecos Davis Mountain Heritage Association, one of the groups involved in a class-action lawsuit in Washington D.C. Ranchers from nine western states filed suit last month to stop the Air Force from expanding their flights over the region.

"If we have enough people stand up and make a stand, that's what it will take to stop it," Vernon said.

School board OKs grants to create youth programs

Staff Writer
PECOS, Feb. 10, 2000 - Grants for several programs were approved by the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD board at their regular meeting held Tuesday evening.

The `Save Our Youth Program, Grants 1 and 2' were both approved and lauded by board members.

"They're the ones who asked me if we wanted to apply, and of course, we said yes," said Jimmy Dutchover, who supervises the district's alternative education program.

Dutchover said these are two are of the grants he has been working on to be better assist the students in the community. The grants will be working in conjunction with the Criminal Justice Division.

The Ninth Grade Initiative Grant has been awarded to the district. "There are just 200 schools out of thousands that receive this grant," said P-B-T I SD Superintendent Don Love.

"It's a super program and nothing but a win-win item," said Love.

The grant helps students who have failed a class before entering high school, or who made a low score.

"It's an academic program to help students get back on level," said Dutchover. "To be accepted into this program is more of a privilege."

A program initiated by the Reeves County Juvenile Probation Department to implement an after-school program beginning this month, was approved. Funding for the program will be provided by The Texas Juvenile Probation Commission and will be aimed at providing services for at-risk and latch key children in grades 1-5.

"We have our own after-school reading program and have quite a few of the teachers employed in the afternoons," said Love.

Right now, there's some interest in the third, fourth and fifth grades for this other program, according to Love.

A "Reading Academy," is currently being held at the campuses for the students, according to Love. "This other program is more like arts, crafts and dancing," he said.

In other business, an order of election was approved along with proposed judges and alternates.

Early voting judge will be Debra Thomas, with alternate Estella Nichols.

Science mixed with religion in four-night show at PHS

Staff Writer
PECOS, Feb. 10, 2000 - If you are not comfortable in a church setting, a program free of charge is being offered at the Pecos High School, today and Friday that mixes science and religion.

"Many people find the idea of science pointing to a Creator difficult to swallow if not outright contradictory," said Dean Ortner, who has put on a program for the past two nights in the PHS auditorium. The final two shots are tonight and Friday at 7 p.m., and are sponsored by several churches in Pecos.

Ortner's Sermons from Science programs present clear, logical evidence for a Creator who is involved in our daily lives.

"This program is designed for individuals who are not comfortable in a church setting," said Ortner. "What we're doing is using science as a vehicle to illustrate the gospel."

Masterfully controlling more than 2,000 pounds of delicate scientific equipment, Ornter employs scientific principles to produce such amazing demonstrations as metal floating in air, music played on a beam of light and a cry that shatters glass. However, Ortner quickly points out that, "This is not hocus-pocus, it is natural law, as discovered by science. I give a scientific demonstration, not a séance."

Ortner, who began taking university courses at age 15, has presented the Sermons from Science demonstrations at more than 600 U.S. military bases, including all three military academies, Camp David, and some of the more remote outposts of Alaska. His science programs have won praise from U.S. military chaplains, base commanders and generals at military installations across the country.

The Sermons from Science programs have also been presented to standing-room only crowds at the 1972, 1976 and 1996 Summer Olympic Games and at the San Francisco, Seattle, New York, Montreal and Spokane World's Fairs.

Of the 700 exhibits at the New York World's Fair, Time magazine selected Sermons from Science as one of the best in a listing of their choice for the top 20 attractions. In Montreal, the exhibit was ranked in the top five attractions for capacity crowds, and was asked by the mayor of Montreal to remain open after the fair closed. For another seven years programs were presented and it was the only pavilion to reach the milestone of opening its doors for the 10,000th time.

The fascination with this program lies in the unique combination that Sermons from Science offers. Ortner's unique approach of blending the Gospel with science conveys his message without giving the listener the idea he is sitting in a church service.

His message is, "Natural and spiritual laws we cannot make. Neither can we alter them. We must discover, follow and obey them or suffer the consequences."

Nowhere is that as graphically demonstrated as when Ortner stands on an electric coil and allows one million volts of ultra-high frequency electricity to surge through his body.

"No other illustration shows so vividly how one can be in tune or out of tune with God's physical laws. If you are not in tune with God's spiritual laws, you cannot tap into His source of power," said Ortner.

A former faculty member in North Dakota State University's Department of Entomology, Ortner was involved in Bio-nucleonics research. He presents the Sermons from Science series as an outreach of the Moody Bible Institute of Chicago. The platform demonstrations, which have been presented for more than half-a-century and before nearly six million people, are continually updated.

Ortner has been the principal lecturer since 1973. Many of the principles presented in the live demonstrations can be found in Sermons from Science films from the Moody Institute of Science, also an outreach of Moody Bible Institute.

Middle schools combining effort for UIL event

PECOS, Feb. 10, 2000 - Seventh and eighth grade students have been diligently preparing for the first ever combined Math and Science and Literary UIL meet this Saturday at Crockett Middle School.

Zavala and Lamar Middle Schools will combine with Crockett to form the Pecos Middle School team for this weekend's competition.

Competition begins at 8:30 a.m. and will be completed with an awards presentation in the Crockett Middle School gym.

Volunteers wanting to assist with grading, judging, or monitoring events are urged to contact Francisco Ornelas or Jim Workman at 447-7251.


AUSTIN (AP) - Results of the Lotto Texas drawing Wednesday night: Winning numbers drawn: 9-21-29-32-38-50. Estimated jackpot: $18 million. Number matching six of six: 1. Winning ticket sold in: Pleasanton. Matching five of six: 103. Prize: $1,757. Matching four of six: 6,411. Prize: $102.


AUSTIN (AP) - The winning Pick 3 numbers drawn Wednesday by the Texas Lottery, in order: 8-3-8 (eight, three, eight)


PECOS, Feb. 10, 2000 - High Wednesday 88. Low this morning 46. Forecast for tonight: Partly cloudy. Low 35-40. West wind 5-15 mph. Friday: Partly cloudy and a little cooler. High 75-80. West wind 15-25 mph. Friday night: Partly cloudy. Low in the lower to mid 30s. Saturday: Partly cloudy. High near 70.

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