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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Top Stories

Thursday, July 20, 2000

Sale of local phone system due by Sept. 1

Staff Writer

PECOS, July 20, 2000 - GTE has a new name, but its one that won't be showing up in the Trans-Pecos area for very long, as the company's deal to sell its phone systems in Pecos and other rural areas in Texas and New Mexico should be finalized before Labor Day.

GTE and Bell Atlantic announced last week as part of their merger agreement, the company would change its name to Verizon Communications. But that change comes after GTE announced it would sell access lines in some rural areas to the newly formed Valor Communications.

The exchange will happen on September 1. Cynthia Cruz, vice-president of corporate communications, said GTE employees in these areas would not have to worry about their jobs.

"Approximately 600 former GTE employees will continue providing service in these communities as Valor employees," according to a Valor document.

"We did make sure our employees would be taken care of," Jim Burkhart, GTE spokesman, said. The new Verizon Company will keep its larger phone systems in Texas, such as those in the Dallas-Fort Worth and San Angelo areas.

Burkhart said the choice to sell some of the rural properties for many reasons. One reason is to give smaller companies to enlarge.

"There's plenty of opportunity for smaller companies to be successful," he said.

GTE's rural properties went up for sale late last year in an auction type sell. Valor was formed in September 1999 and at the time of the sale, was only known as dba communications.

"Our company was formed so they could bid on the GTE properties," Cruz said.

Based in Irving, Valor's major investors include: Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe, Vestar Capital, Citicorp Venture Capital and a group of 12 prominent Hispanic investors with longstanding ties to the Southwest.

The passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 helped make it possible for Valor to be formed. Telecommunications industry veterans Anne Bingaman and Kenneth Cole lead the company.

Bingaman is the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) who has recently served as President of the Local Services Division of LCI International, Inc. She has also served at Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Antitrust Division at the United States Department of Justice from June 1993 to October 1996. Bingaman played a key role in the development of the Administration's telecommunications policy, including the landmark 1996 Telecommunications Act.

Cole is the President and Chief Operating Officer (COO). Before becoming President and COO he spent 26 years rising through the ranks at CenturyTel and helping to build the company into the nation's seventh largest local phone service provider and ninth largest cellular provider. Prior to his currant position at Valor, Cole served as CenturyTel's COO and Executive Vice-President. Cole has also had experience in leading areas such as operations and engineering, sales and marketing and information systems.

Valor began operation in Oklahoma on July 1 and has been doing well.

Cruz said customers would not see any change except for the name on their bills.

"It's a fairly seamless change," she said.

Cruz said there will be no number changes and over time the calling rates will change for the better.

"We think we can bring a lot of enhanced services to the area," Cruz said. "This is a good chance to address some business needs that have not been addressed before."

Since Valor announced the purchase of GTE lines, officials for the company have traveled throughout Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma to meet their new customers and learn about their needs.

"We're really looking forward to not only coming into the communities we've visited but being a part of the communities," Cruz said.

Second tax holiday for state set for first August weekend

Staff Writer

PECOS, July 20, 2000 - Parents and guardians who will be buying school clothes for students will get a break soon during the planned Sales Tax Holiday, scheduled for the first weekend of August.

Most state and local sales taxes will be suspended on Aug. 4-6, as part of Texas' second annual tax holiday.

According to Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Rylander's office, only one city, Sunset Valley, opted out of the holiday this year. In that city, the 1½ percent tax will be due on qualifying items.

The Texas Legislature exempted most clothing and footwear priced under $100 from sales and use taxes, which could save shoppers about $8 on every $100 that they spend.

"We're excited and once again we'll be participating in the sales tax holiday and giving our shoppers a break," said Pecos Wal-Mart Manager Olga Guebara. "We did real well last year, we were very busy."

The sale will apply to cash items only and not layaways, according to Guebara.

Other local stores that will be participating include Dollar General Store, Family Dollar Store and Beall's Department Store.

"This is state-wide so naturally we'll be participating in the tax-free holiday," said Matt Lathrop, spokesman for Stage Stores, Inc., in Houston. "And since the store in Pecos is one of the ones that will remain open, we will be having new items in that store for back to school."

School supplies, however, will not be exempt, according to Carol McAnnally, with the Texas Comptroller's office.

"This sales tax holiday applies to clothing only," she said.

Tax-free items will include, baby clothes, bathing suits, belts with attached buckles, boots-cowboy, hiking, caps/hats-baseball, fishing, golf, knitted, choir robes, coats and wraps, costumes, diapers-adult and baby, dresses, gloves (generally), gym suits and uniforms, hooded shirts and hooded sweatshirts, hosiery, jackets and jeans.

It will also include, jerseys-baseball and football, jogging apparel, such as bras, suits and shorts, neckwear and ties, pajamas, pants and trousers, raincoats and ponchos, robes, shirts, shoes-sandals, slippers, sneakers, tennis, walking, socks (including athletic), shorts, suits, slacks and jackets, sweatshirts, sweat suits, sweaters, swimsuits and trunks, tuxedos (not rentals), underclothes and works clothes and uniforms.

Items that will be taxed include accessories (generally)-barrettes, elastic ponytail holders, wallets, watches, backpacks, baseball cleats and pants, belt buckles (without belt) boots-climbing, fishing, rubber work boots, ski, waders, buttons and zippers, cloth and lace, knitting yarns, and other fabrics, dry cleaning services, football pants, golf gloves, handbags and purses, handkerchiefs, hard hats, helmets-bike, baseball, football, hockey, motorcycle, sports, ice skates, jewelry, laundering services, leather goods-except belts and wearing apparel, pads-football, hockey, soccer, elbow, knee, shoulder, personal flotation devices, rented clothing (including uniforms, formal wear and costumes), roller blades and skates, safety clothing, glasses and shoes _bicycle (cleated), bowling and golf shoes.

The tax break is expected to save Texas consumers millions in state and local sales taxes.

Pecos store among survivors of Beall's restructuring plan

Staff Writer

PECOS, July 20, 2000 - Good news for the local Beall's Department Store and its customers. The store will not be part of a planned cutback by its parent company, as part of a bankruptcy-restructuring plan.

Stage Stores, Inc. announced that 80 percent of its stores will remain open, and the company's Eddy Street location is included in that list, according to Matt Lathrop, a spokesman for Stage Stores, Inc., in Houston.

Following a period of financial difficulty, Stage Stores filed reorganization proceedings in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Houston on June 1.

"We're delighted that we will be able to keep most of our stores open and serving our customers. With our Stage, Beall's and Palais Royal stores, we have always been proud to bring brand-name apparel to families in communities across America," said Jack Weisner, chairman, interim CEO, and president. "Under our reorganization, we will be a stronger company, more focused on our customers."

Weisner stated that 471 of the company's 591 existing stores would stay open. In a number of communities that have been served by more than one of the company's stores, stores will be consolidated for more efficient operation.

One of the four Beall's stores in the Odessa area is the only West Texas store on the closing list. Beall's also operates stores in Monahans, Kermit and Fort Stockton in addition to their store in Pecos.

The company has received approval for a three-year, $450 million debtor-in-possession credit facility with CitiCorp USA, Inc. as agent. The new arrangement will provide a significant line of credit the company is using to restock its stores.

"We invite our customers to come in and see all the new back-to-school merchandise that's arriving," said Weisner. "In addition, we are already gearing up for the end-of-the-year holiday shopping season," he said.

Stores in Texas cities that will be closing include, Allen, Austin (one store of seven), Beaumont (one store of three, Carrollton, Haskell, Houston (seven stores of 43), Kerrville (one of two), Laredo (one of two), Lewisville, Marlin and Odessa (one store of four).

Whenever possible, the company will offer other job opportunities to associates whose stores are closing. When another employment opportunity is not available, the company will offer a severance package. Specifics of that severance package are confidential. Stores typically employ 10 to 15 full and part-time associates and managers.

Additionally, Stage Stores is actively seeking a new CEO. Until that person is on board, Weisner will continue to guide the company, along with an executive committee consisting of top management in merchandising, marketing, finance and operations. A board member of Stage Stores, Weisner was CEO of C.R. Anthony Co., a national apparel chain that Stage Stores acquired in 1997.

Unemployment up despite jump in jobs

Staff Writer

PECOS, July 20, 2000 - Harvest season meant the addition of nearly 800 new jobs to Reeves County's economy in June. But the influx of migrant workers, combined with the seasonal rise in the workforce as high schools and colleges end their spring semesters, meant the local jobless rate rose by over one percent last month, according to the Texas Workforce Commission.

The local labor force rose to nearly 8,000 workers in June, fourth highest among all counties in the Permian Basin. Reeves County had 7,996 people in their workforce last month, up from 7,022 in May. The monthly increase was larger than for either Ector County (Odessa) or Midland County, both of which have over 59,000 people in their labor forces.

At the same time, the TWC reported the number of jobs in Reeves County jumped from 6,317 to 7,110. That left 886 people unemployed and boosted the county's unemployment rate from 10 to 11.1 percent.

Last year at this time, Reeves County had over 8,200 people in its workforce, but nearly 1,100 people without jobs, resulting in a 13.2 percent unemployment rate. The county's jobless rate had dipped below the 10 percent mark this past April for the first time in nearly two years, and June's 11.1 rate is still lower than the 12.2 and 11.2 rates the TWC reported for the county in January and February, when there were 1,300 fewer jobs in the county.

Town of Pecos City unemployment remained above the county as a whole and was also up by 1.1 percent over May's total. The TWC said the city added 612 jobs in June, to 5,486, while the workforce grew by 774, to 6,279. There were a total of 793 people unemployed, which jumped the jobless rate from 11.5 to 12.6 percent.

The city's jobless rate dipped as low as 11.1 percent in April, after starting off the year at 13.6 percent.

The 1.1 percent rise in unemployment rates locally were mirrored across the Permian Basin, with jobless rates overall jumping from 5.8 to 6.9 percent, due mostly to the arrival of summer workers in the labor force.

Ector County's unemployment rate climbed to 8.1 percent from May's 6.6 percent, as an increase in the workforce of 757 people was offset by a jump of 941 people without jobs. Midland County added 284 jobs in June while its unemployment rolls grew by 474, causing its jobless rate to climb from 5.1 to 5.8 percent.

Andrews County saw unemployment jump by 1.2 percent, Pecos County's jobless rate was up .9 percent, Ward County's went from 8.5 to 9.3 percent and Presidio County continued to have the regions highest unemployment rate, jumping from 22.3 to 28.9 percent.

Statewide, the unemployment rate for June was 5.1 percent, according to the TWC. At 2.0 percent, Bryan-College Station continued to have the lowest jobless rate of Texas' larger metropolitan areas, while the McAllen-Edinburg-Mission area in the Lower Rio Grande Valley had the highest rate, coming in at 14.9 percent.

Pee Wee football sign-ups planned during grid camp

PECOS, July 20, 2000 - Registration for the first Pecos Eagles Pee Wee football league will be held this weekend, as part of the Eagles' youth football camp, and head coach Gary Grubbs said the fee for the fall football league has been cut from $25 to $20.

Grubbs said parents could register their third through sixth graders on Friday or Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Pecos High School Field House, or through the Reeves County Community Sports and Recreation Department at the old PHS gym. Players will need to bring their birth certificates while registering, either at the field house or at the RCCRD office in the old PHS gym.

"We've got the equipment. If we can get the kids we intend on having eight teams," Grubbs said, which would be divided into two divisions. He added one more coach is still needed for one of the Grades 3-4 teams.

For further information, either call the Recreation Department at 447-9776, or contact Randy Baeza at the Reeves County Courthouse (445-5418).

K of C hosting golf tournament

PECOS, July 20, 2000 - The Knights of Columbus will hold a two-man tournament this weekend at the Reeves County Golf Course.

The tournament is in honor of Sonny Gordon. Entry fee is $105 per person and there will be three hole-in-one holes, with a car, set of clubs and trip to Cancun as the prizes for those holes.

For further information, contact the Reeves County Golf Course at 447-2858.


PECOS, July 20, 2000 - High Wednesday 101. Low this morning 78. Forecast for tonight: Mostly clear. Low around 70. Southeast wind 5-15 mph. Friday: Mostly sunny. High near 102. South wind 10-20 mph. Friday night: Mostly clear. Low 70-75. Saturday and Sunday: Mostly sunny days and fair nights. Lows 70-75. Highs near 100.

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Pecos Enterprise
York M. "Smokey" Briggs, Publisher
Division of Buckner News Alliance, Inc.

324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 915-445-5475, FAX 915-445-4321

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