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Friday, December 15, 2000

School OKs closing of Pecos Elementary

Staff Writer

PECOS, December 15, 2000 - In an effort to cut down a projected loss of over $675,000 in state revenue for the upcoming year, Pecos-Barstow-Toyah school board members approved several budget-cutting measures Thursday night, including the closing of Pecos Elementary and transfer its third grade students to Austin Elementary beginning with the 2000-2001 school year.

It's third school to be closed by P-B-T ISD in the past four years, following Barstow Elementary in 1997 and Lamar Middle School last year. The closings come due to declining enrollment in the district, including a drop of nearly 100 students more than the projected estimate at the start of the current school year.

Auditor Robert E. Card of Fort Stockton said the school district's current financial records "are in good shape," with the district's major debt service obligations out of the way and a fund balance of $3.2 million. But he noted the picture didn't look as bright for the next year's audit report.

"The district expects a $676,000 shortfall due to drop in enrollment," he said. "Known expenditure increases you have this year are $250,000, which will use up part of the surplus, and there is $1.7 million in near-term facility repair and improvement work recommended by (district consultant) Monte Hunter."

P-B-T Superintendent Don Love explained the district had expected a loss of 60 students this year, but is instead down 156 students, which means a sharp drop in state funding.

"Our ADA (average daily attendance) is about two-thirds the total of state and local funds," Love said.

In order to cut some of the deficit, Love said, "We're asking campuses to spend no more than 50 percent of their allotted budgets. Even with these cuts we'll come up $34,000 short, but that's something I feel like we can make up."

By far the biggest costs savings is projected in the closing of the 62-year-old Pecos Elementary campus. A list given to the board said the district would be able to cut one secretary, one special education teacher, two custodians and three cafeteria workers and three teachers' aides. Along with the savings in building utilities, the total amount it would cut off the budget was put at $201,000.

"I do want the board to understand we will be eliminating some jobs here," Love said. "But as we lose kids we've just got to get down if we're going to keep our heads above water."

Moving the district's third grade classes over to Austin Elementary would require no additional construction or temporary buildings under the plan presented to the board. Third grade classes would move into Rooms 1 through 7 at the front of the school, along with Rooms 11 through 14 in the middle corridor.

Second graders would remain in Rooms 28 through 38 in the rear corridor of the building, while first grade classes would be moved from their location at the front of the school to Rooms 16 through 26 in the northwest corner of the school. Based on current enrollments, the school would have a total of 504 students in first through third grades.

Although Board President Louis Matta pointed out Austin Elementary is currently under-used, questions were raised on how many people could be cut under the plan.

"Eleven of those classrooms are not being used at all. With the support staff there, will that be enough?" he asked.

"The teachers have minor concerns, but they feel those can be worked out," Austin Elementary principal Victor Tarin said. "If we can get a custodian and an extra inclusion teacher."

"I feel like an extra custodian would be one of the main things we need to look at, because kids will make messes," said board member David Flores.

"I remember this campus housing 900 students at one point," Matta said. "I feel like the logistical problem can be worked out.

"We may end up saving $180,000 instead of $200,000," he added, and the board then unanimously approved the consolidation plan.

In other action on Thursday the board declined to grant a tax abatement request by Lodging Enterprises, Inc., for the new motel the company plans to build on Interstate 20.

The estimated value of the 40-room motel was put at $1 million, but Love said the state opposes school districts giving tax abatements.

"If we grant it, we'll lose $7,000 in Tier 1 and $7,000 in Tier 2 (state) money every year, plus whatever taxes we would draw on it," Love said in recommending the board reject the request.

"It's legal, but we get heavily penalized for it," Matta said, and the board then unanimously voted to take no action the request.

Board members also:

· Approved an amendment to the district's policy on leaves and absences dealing with extended time off work for employees and a separate policy amendment dealing with student absences and excuses;

· Appointed board member Paul Deishler and Love to the 143rd District Community Justice Council;

· Rejected an offer from Euilio Baeza to purchase the former Buster's Barn store at 313 S. Oak St., for $500, plus school taxes due of $416.79. Board members were told the building was valued at $16,420.

· Approved a one year extension, to June 30, 2006, on Love's current superintendent contract;

· Approved the release of Kayla Parker from her contract with the school district;

The last two items were voted on following an executive session by the board.

The board also approved monthly financial, tax and other department reports and heard from Pecos High School teachers about plans to change the current block scheduling system. Details on those items from Thursday's meeting will be in Monday's Enterprise.

Council sets salary for Yerena, gets McCormick's resignation

Staff Writer

PECOS, December 15, 2000 - The Town of Pecos City Council decided to begin advertising to fill the position of City Finance Director during executive session at the regular meeting yesterday morning at City Hall.

The current finance director, Steve McCormick turned in a letter of resignation on Monday, Dec. 4.

McCormick said he is leaving his position to move out of town. "I want to go live with my wife in San Angelo," he said.

McCormick said he is not leaving with harsh feelings toward the city but thinks he has been away too lone from his wife, Dr. Marilyn Eisenwine, who is an assistant professor at San Angelo State University.

He told council members he is willing to stay on with the city until they have chosen his replacement and he has the opportunity to train that person.

"I'm going to stay here and try to train that person," he said. "I'll stay as long as they need me."

McCormick said that could be as late as late January or early February.

McCormick was one of the unsuccessful local candidates last month for the position of Pecos City Manager, a job the council ended up giving to Carlos Yerena, who had been serving as executive director of the El Paso Empowerment Zone Corporation.

In Thursday's meeting, the council also approved the employee contract with Yerena, who will begin work on Monday.

The contract outlined the duties of the City Manager and employee benefits as well as the basic compensation.

The council set Yerena's starting salary at $80,750 for the first year with a six percent per annum cost of living increase in base salary for the second and third years of the contract, which would boost his salary to about $90,000.

According to the contract, Yerena would also be entitled to a $1,000 moving allowance as well as being entitled to 3.5 percent of the net grant received from new sources that have not been previously awarded to the city.

In other action, the council also discussed the possible litigation against Security State Bank and Dawana Shinkle for forgery.

Shinkle apparently came across a city check and was able to counterfeit a new check and cash it in the amount of $19,000 earlier this year.

The council tabled the matter until City Attorney Scott Johnson has been able to research the situation further.

Once Johnson has found out enough information he would come back before the council to discuss his research.

The Pecos Enterprise reported in Thursday's edition that the Council awarded the bid for a new 1,000-gallon pumper/tanker fire truck to Ferrara Fire Apparatus, Inc., for the amount of $121,115.

That amount is the amount in the original bid from Ferrara but the Council was able to decrease the amount to $113,115.

Fire Chief Roy Pena said they were able to save $8,000 on a 300-caterpillar engine and the stainless steel body.

Pena said two other companies sent in bids for the new truck including American La France with the bid of $135,000 and E-ONE Daco in the amount of $129,535.

He said the next step is for Ferrara Sales Representative Doug Bradford to bring back a contract to the city for approval and signature.

Pena said Bradford would sit down and go over each item in the contract with Mayor Ray Ortega and Lynn Foster, first assistant to Pena, who is in charge of ordering the new truck.

After Bradford receives the signatures on the contract, Pena said he would go back and the truck, which is half built already, would be finished.

"Once the contract is signed he'll have it here in 90 days," Pena said.

The new truck would replace Unit 306, which has needed quite a few repairs in the past.

Pena said that about 70-75 percent of the budget allocated for truck repairs has been used for that one truck since he has been Fire Chief.

Pena said the Pecos Fire Department Firefighters are excited about the purchase of the new truck.

"They're very happy, they're looking forward to having a new truck," he said.

Commissioners look to hire lobbyists to oppose N-dump

Staff Writer

PECOS, December 15, 2000 - Getting outside help to help with the effort against a proposed radioactive waste dump 14 miles from Pecos was discussed by Reeves County Commissioners during their meeting on Monday.

Commissioners had earlier approved a resolution in opposition of radioactive waste and Envirocare of Texas' application to place a radioactive waste site eight miles northeast of Barstow.

Now, the county is looking at hiring two lobbyists and a public affairs firm to help out with the effort.

"We had decided to begin looking at some lobbyists and leveraging our limited amount of money for this effort," said Reeves County Judge Jimmy B. Galindo.

The individuals in mind have contacts and would help communicate Reeves County's issues and continued efforts in regard to radioactive waste to the upcoming Texas Legislature and other state officials, according to Galindo.

Galindo said that the proposal would be to hire two lobbyists and one public affairs communication firm.

The lobbyists fee would amount to $5,000 for both and the public affairs firm would charge $2,000 for about six months, according to Galindo.

Galindo said that they wanted to have somebody on board who has contact with both the House and the Senate.

"We'll just be needing them for about six months, the Legislature will end in May, so, we're looking at $7,000 a month going into the intitiative and early months," he said.

Galindo said that during the slow months, which will be in between March and April, they can utilize a different strategy for that period.

"We are looking at lobbyists that can help us on both sides of the aisle and both houses," said Galindo. "It's important to have advocates in the Democratic and Republican houses and have a lobbyists in the House."

They both have good relationships with both the House and the Senate and the Republicans and Democrats, according to Galindo.

The public affairs firm was successful in helping to build a new pro basketball arena in San Antonio. "They led a good marketing effort, which helped build the arena," said Galindo.

"They successfully ran the public affairs part of this and the arena was accepted," said Galindo.

"They have a good sense of public affairs and what this issue encompasses," said Galindo.

"My concern is that we only budgeted for half of this," said Reeves County Commissioner Precinct 3 Herman Tarin.

"The half we have is for this year, but it's not going to be inexpensive by any means," said Galindo.

Reeves County Auditor Lynn Owens told Galindo that the particular item had never been budgeted.

"It's not in this budget," he said. "You made a commitment to allocate $20,000 to fight nuclear waste, but there's nothing budgeted in the 2000 budget."

However, Owens added, "It can be amended though and that amount set aside for the project."

Galindo said that he wasn't asking the court to make a decision, but to, realize where we're at and what it entails."

"For that amount of money, they have to have access to both the House and the Senate," he said.

The issue of the funding will be discussed at a later date.

"These individuals have access to both to advocate our position statewide, so that we have support not only to Reeves County, " said Galindo. "We just wanted you to be aware of where we're at and our continued effort."

Lindley Clark who has been an active opponent to nuclear waste and Envirocare's efforts to locate a site in Reeves County, was on hand for the discussion.

"I'm aware we missed an opportunity to talk to the new legislature about 10 days ago, it would have been a good opportunity," said Clark. "I hope we don't miss anymore, because they're few."

"How we communicate to these people is important, we need to let them know about our resources," said Clark.

"If we focus not only on the Legislature, but the staff, they have special access to the Legislature and if we have good access to the staff it's very important," said Galindo.

Galindo said that those involved need to all realize that we have a small window when we have access to the Legislative offices.

The Legislature will come together on Jan. 9 and from then on, it will be mad race until the end, according to Galindo.

"Keep that in mind _ I think it will be to our benefit to commit," he said.

A permit for Envirocare's planned site in western Ward County is currently before the Texas Department of Health's Bureau of Radiation Control. Officials there said last week they have not received a response from the company to questions sent out on May 22. Envirocare vice president Rick Jacobi said Thursday he has communicated with TDH since then, and that the questions revolve around construction and financial maintenance of the faclility over its required lifespan, which could stretch into the hundreds of years.

The Odessa American today said Jacobi also denied rumors that the company would withdraw from Texas, as part of a recent lawsuit settlement with Dallas-based Waste Control Specialists, Inc., involving a dispute over the two company's hazardous waste sites in western Andrews County.

SSB hosting reception for Montgomery, wife

PECOS, December 15, 2000 - The Security State Bank will honor its retiring president Dudley Montgomery and his wife Patty this afternoon, during a holiday reception for its customers and friends in the bank's lobby.

Security State announced earlier this month that Montgomery would be retiring after spending 41 years working for the bank, serving as President since 1973. Patty Holcombe Montgomery's father was a former president of the Bank and today's reception was scheduled to be attended by many members of the Holcombe and Montgomery families.

Many West Texas area bankers also attended the reception in honor of the Montgomerys. Bill Oglesby, who will be replacing Montgomery as Security State's president, expected about 1,000 guests to visit the bank during their afternoon reception.

Oglesby and other Security State officials and employees thanked their customers and the community for their support and honored.

Security State Bank was chartered in 1934 and is one of the oldest banking institutions in West Texas.

Account set up for injured teen

PECOS, December 15, 2000 - A bank account has been set up for a youngster who was injured about a month ago.

The medical fund is set up for 19-year-old Francisco "Kiko" Gonzales, who has been at Texas Tech Medical Center in Lubbock for about a month.

The bank account is number 5161541 at West Texas National Bank and all donations are greatly appreciated.

Enchilada plate sale to benefit Juarez

PECOS, December 15, 2000 - An Enchilada Plate sale will to benefit Rudy Juarez, for advancement to Mississippi for Toughman Contest in February, is set for Saturday.

The plate sale will be held beginning at 11 a.m., Saturday, Dec. 16, at Saragosa Hall.

Plates will be $3.50 and will have enchiladas, beans, rice and salad.

Pictures with Santa offered on Saturday

PECOS, December 15, 2000 - Santa will be on hand for picture-taking from 10 a.m. until noon, Saturday, Dec. 16, at the Reeves County Library, 505 S. Park.

Pictures will be $5 and refreshments will be served.

You may bring your own camera for "extra" shots.

The Friends of the Library sponsor the event.


PECOS, December 15, 2000 - High Thursday 70. Low this morning 38. Forecast for tonight: Partly cloudy. Low 30 to 35. West wind 5 to 10 mph. Saturday: Partly cloudy. High in the mid 60s. West wind 5 to 10 mph: Becoming northeast 5 to 15 mph. Saturday night: Partly cloudy. Low around 30. Sunday: Partly cloudy. High 65 to 70.

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Pecos Enterprise
York M. "Smokey" Briggs, Publisher
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324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
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