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Friday, August 25, 2000

Council selects interim manager, OKs water loan

Staff Writer

PECOS, August 25, 2000 - Town of Pecos City Council appointed Octavio Garcia, City Utilities Director, as interim City Manager following an executive session of their regular meeting Thursday morning.

Former City Manager Kenneth Neal resigned last week in order to take a city manager's job close to Dallas.

The Council chose Garcia to fill in while it goes through advertising and interviewing for a new city manager.

Garcia was appointed as acting city manager about a year ago while Neal was away for conferences and vacation, according to City Secretary Geneva Martinez. He has been Utilities Director since 1988.

The Council also approved applying for a loan from First National Bank to help fund the South Worsham Water Field project.

Finance Director Steve McCormick said the state-funded loan of over $8 million the city expects to get has not finished the approval process so the bank loan is needed for the time being.

The state is finishing the Economic Impact Document where officials go out and check the land for artifacts, endangered species and historical land value. After finishing this portion of the approval process the loan from the state would be approved.

McCormick said the city could be able to be reimbursed by the state for this loan.

"For us to get reimbursed for this and other money spent, we have to have a resolution saying that is our intent," he said.

The Council approved a resolution stating its intent to be reimbursed for the base-price of the loan.

Frank Spencer and Abidur Kahn, of Spencer and Associates, presented the Council with plans to drill six test holes and build one production well for the South Worsham Well field.

Spencer and Kahn asked the Council to allow them to submit the plans to the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission, which must approve plans before the test holes can be started.

Spencer said the land where the proposed test holes would be drilled has not been acquired by the city yet but the landowner has given permission for the drilling.

"We have reached an agreement with the landowner to test, then depending on the results we would go back and try to acquire the land," Spencer said.

The Council approved Spencer and Kahn's request to submit their plans to the TNRCC.

Kahn also asked the Council to approve a change order on the well number 16A in Worsham Well Field for the 2000 Water Well Project.

He said the change order is for $8,410 less than the original figures. Kahn explained that using a smaller pump than originally planned saved money.

The Council gladly approved the change order.

The Council tabled three items on the agenda; the purchase or lease of a new copier, the annexation without petition of real property adjacent to city limits and the contract with Corplan Corrections all due to the lack of information.

NTSB head tours pipeline blast site

Staff Writer

PECOS, August 25, 2000 - Officials from the National Transportation Safety Board and the Department of Transportation's Research and Special Programs Administration were in southeastern New Mexico on Thursday, touring the site of last Saturday's pipeline explosion on the Pecos River 60 miles north of Pecos that killed 11 people.

About 30 people traveled to the site, though the tour was limited to only authorized personnel. The media were not allowed to visit the explosion site but could still see the effects of it.

Two large pipelines normally suspended over the Pecos River were expanded from the heat of the fire causing them to drop down towards the river.

NTSB Chairman Jim Hall apologized for not being able to come to New Mexico sooner due to issuing the final report on the TWA Flight 800 crash to Congress on Wednesday.

Hall said he wanted to thank the local officials and emergency personnel for the quick response to the tragedy. He also thanked El Paso Natural Gas for supporting the families of the victims during this difficult time.

Hall said this explosion is the deadliest pipeline accident in the continental United States in nearly 25 years.

The biggest pipeline accident occurred in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 1996, killing 33 people.

"This tragedy becomes the sixth tragedy the board has responded to since 1985," Hall said.

The last pipeline accident happened last year in Bellingham, Wash., where a 16-inch pipe exploded killing three children.

Hall said the pipeline that exploded runs for miles and some sections of it are laid near schoolyards, playgrounds and other populated areas.

Kelley Coyner, who oversees pipeline safety for the U.S. Department of Transportation, described the 2 million miles of pipeline in the United States, mostly laid in the 1950s and 1960s, as an aging infrastructure.

"We risk facing more of these tragedies unless we act," Coyner said.

Hall said that since the first accident in 1985 the NTSB has been pushing for tougher inspection requirements.

Last December, Hall said he gave a speech to the Liquid Gas Pipeline Association asking for their support of the office.

Hall said the NTSB is planning to push to get numerous things through Congress to make new laws for pipeline safety.

"We need to be sure we have adequate safeguards available," Hall said.

He said they are additional internal testing, additional qualifications in training, automatic shut off valves on all pipes and requirements for tougher steel.

After touring the Pecos River site and holding a press conference, Hall and his group traveled to El Paso to meet with El Paso Natural Gas Co. officials.

He was seeking support for the proposed reforms from the company, and El Paso Energy Co. spokesman John Somerhalder said his company "will do what it takes to make sure this kind of incident doesn't happen again," but stopped short of endorsing the NTSB recommendations.

He said the company supports safety regulations that are realistic. "They are very large prominent players in the industry and I ask for their support of the NTSB in lobbying Congress," Hall said, adding his agency has ``not seen active support from the industry'' in regard to the proposed recommendations.

Coyner also thanked the local officials and emergency personnel for their quick response to the tragedy.

She said it is hard to imagine such a tragedy happening where people enjoy fishing, camping and being outdoors.

"We know this loss of life has touched everyone in this area," Coyner said.

She said the people in the pipeline industry had some responsibilities including supporting the NTSB in its investigation and assuring when the line returns to service that it is operating safely.

She said there would be rigorous testing on the pipeline before it goes back online and will operated at a decrease of 80 percent of maximum pressure until they are convinced the pipeline could handle it.

Coyner said the pipeline that exploded had never been inspected. Due to the layout of the pipes in that area, internal testing and inspections are not possible.

Hall said the pipeline safety agency overseen by Coyner, which is funded by fees assessed on the oil and gas industry, is severely underfunded and has only 55 inspectors to cover the 2 million miles of U.S. pipeline.

The NTSB has not been able to determine the ignition of the explosion but is continuing its investigation.

A portion of the pipe has been chosen for investigation and will be crated up and shipped to Washington.

Local band able to perform for Pope during Youth Day

Staff Writer

PECOS, August 25, 2000 - A local Christian music group had the experience of a lifetime recently after they were invited to perform before Pope John Paul II in Rome.

Sudden Impact was in Rome for six days earlier this month, performing as part of World Youth Day held on Aug. 15.

"We performed Tuesday at the opening ceremony, we sang along with (Christian artist) Dana, the song, `We Are One Body,'" said Eddie Vasquez, a member of the group.

Vasquez said it just happened that when they were performing John Paul II was coming through St. Peter's Square. "We were so fortunate that he just happened to walk out at that time," said Vasquez. "We sang on the steps for about 700,000 people."

The experience has left the group breathless and filled with an inner peace and excitement.

"It's just awesome, it was beautiful," said Vasquez.

The group arrived on Saturday, Aug. 12, and since their hotel room was not ready at the time, they went directly to St. Peter's Square, where most of the activities for World Youth Day were taking place.

"We had some time to sightsee, since we didn't start working until Tuesday," said Vasquez.

Vasquez stated that he and the rest of the group, which consists of his brother, Mickey and friend, Jason Alvarez, had the chance to see the Roman ruins, the coliseum, a castle and beautiful old buildings.

"We walked the streets of Rome and everywhere you looked you saw all these young people that were there for youth day," said Vasquez. "Some were carrying flags from their respective countries."

Vasquez stated that it was quite an experience to see it packed with people there for World Youth Day.

Vasquez stated that there were several stages. "There were different concerts and on our stage there were six groups," he explained.

"On our stage, anybody that watches, EWTN, or Channel 28 here, the emcee from one of their shows, Jeff Cavins, was the emcee for us," said Vasquez. "His program, `Life On The Rocks,' the show he hosts, is very popular."

Vasquez said Sudden Impact received a great response from the audience and were thrilled with the amount of people there.

"I had never seen so many people at one place, it was just awesome," he said.

World Youth Day was first held in Rome in 1984, and has been held at two- or three-year intervals since then in different countries around the world.

During World Youth Day, the Pope invites all the youth to come together in unity, to meet with him and to be inspired. "Even though it's initiated by the Catholic faith, all religions are invited," said Vasquez.

"It's basically Catholic, but since the beginning there have been youth of different religions," said Vasquez.

World Youth Day 2002 will be held in Toronto, Canada, with the site each time decided by the Vatican, according to Vasquez.

"Italy is the only country that has had it twice," said Vasquez. It has also been held in Buenos Aires, the Philippines and Paris, among other countries.

Vasquez said he had a chance to participate in World Youth Day when it was held in Denver, Colo.

"It was a wonderful experience, anyone that saw it on television, it just doesn't do it justice," he said.

Vasquez added that the excitement and the whole atmosphere was something to feel and see. "This time it was more beautiful than in Denver, because Rome is such a beautiful, old city," said Vasquez.

During the week surrounding World Youth Day, there were different areas that gave teachings for the youngsters and the idea of the trip is to learn more about the faith, to learn more about Jesus and to do it in a city that's historically in the Bible is a wonderful experience, according to Vasquez.

"It's pretty cool, to experience something like this in Rome, a city from the Bible, a beautiful, old city," he said.

Vasquez said the group's record label is usually pretty active during World Youth Day, so the group might participate in the one in Toronto scheduled in 2002.

"Our record company does a lot of tours in Canada, so it might be possible that we participate in the next one as well," he said.

Vasquez said the band did miss the closing ceremonies, but got to see them on television. "We were booked to play in Oklahoma, but we were able to share our experience with the people in Oklahoma and with the people that didn't get to go," said Vasquez. "We'll be sharing that experience with everyone, wherever we go and perform."

Sudden Impact travels year-round and has performed in New York, Chicago, Phoenix and Miami.

Vasquez was also the organizer of a Christian concert called SonShine, which was held annually in Pecos for 10 years. "We got so busy, I just didn't have time to organizer it anymore," said Vasquez. "I did it for 10 years and if were still doing it, this would have been the 12th annual."

Bonilla to visit Stockton to talk about ag issues

PECOS, August 25, 2000 - U.S. Representative Henry Bonilla, R-Tx., will address the Pecos County/Reeves County Farm Bureau on Monday between 3:30 and 4:30 p.m. at the Texas A&M University Extension and Research Building located at 2101 W. Dickinson Blvd. in Fort Stockton.

Bonilla will address agricultural concerns currently before Congress.

"I encourage the residents of Pecos and Reeves Counties to visit with me if they have any questions about the pending Ag issues before Congress. I am always looking for better ways to serve the Ag community," said Bonilla.

The San Antonio Republican was first elected to Congress in 1992 and is current seeking his fifth two-year term in Washington.


Armando Granado

Funeral arrangements for Armando Granado Sr., 66, who died Thursday, Aug. 25, 2000, at Odessa Medical Center, are incomplete.

Pecos Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.


PECOS, August 25, 2000 - High Thursday 100. Low this morning 68. Forecast for tonight: Clear. Low 65-70. Southeast wind 5-15 mph. Saturday: Mostly sunny. High 95-100. Southeast wind 5-15 mph. Saturday night: Clear. Lows 65-70. Sunday: Partly cloudy. Low 65-70. High in the mid 90s.

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