Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas
April 2, 2001
Smithers leaving Pecos after Laredo track deal
By ROSIE FLORES
PECOS, April 2, 2001 - Smithers Scientific Services Inc. said today
it is closing its tire and automotive testing complex here due to an inadequate
business volume over the last several years that have adversely impacted
operations, company officials said.
The action comes three weeks after the Akron, Ohio-based company announced
it had entered into a joint venture with Auto Testing Co., Inc., a subsidiary
of Mercedes-Benz U.S. International Inc., to conduct durability testing
for Mercedes' parent, DaimlerChrysler Corp, at the Automotive Testing Properties'
proving ground near Laredo.
The move will affect 31 salaried and hourly employees at the Pecos track,
who are being offered equivalent jobs at other Smithers locations. In addition,
employees will be given severance packages that vary by seniority with
the company. Smithers is also consulting with state and local support groups
and agencies in an effort to help workers find employment.
"Our people in Pecos did a phenomenal job over the last couple of years
to keep the facility open through cost-cutting initiatives and efficiency
improvements," said Smithers' President and CEO J. Michael Hochschwender.
He said Smithers made "multiple attempts to broaden the client base served
by the test center because of continued consolidation in the tire industry,
and more recently, a significant downturn in the auto industry."
Operations at the 5,800-acre facility, which is being put up for sale,
will be phased out over a two-month period through May 31. "We will complete
as much testing as possible for our clients during that period," said Mr.
Smithers acquired the test facility in January 1987 from the Uniroyal-Goodrich
Tire Co., and over the years has provided employment for hundreds of local
people as engineers, technicians, mechanics and test drivers. Clients have
included multinational companies in the tire and automotive industries.
Ironically, Uniroyal-Goodrich abandoned the Pecos facility in 1986 for
the same Laredo test track Smithers will be working at, under the newly-created
Automotive Testing DRIVEtech LLC, a joint venture of the company and Mercedes
Benz. The Pecos track was abandoned by Uniroyal in favor of Goodrich's
Laredo facility after the two companies merged in 1985, and after that
the facility was later operated by Michelin North America. Michelin left
the Laredo test track in 1998, and since then it has been operated by Mercedes'
Auto Testing Co., Inc.
Smithers will manage the DRIVEtech operation and employ about 80 people
at the Laredo track, which will operate on a 24-hour schedule year-round.
The companies plan to invest $3.5 million to enhance the facility with
a new 14,000 square-foot administrative building and garage, and construct
a 65-foot high hill for testing, with 20 and 30 percent grades on either
side. Three new stop lanes will also be built on the five-mile high-speed
"This is a great opportunity for us to combine our automotive proving
grounds expertise with DaimlerChrysler technology," said Hochschwender
in a March 2 press release announcing the joint venture. In addition to
the Pecos track, Smithers' also operates a winter test center near Sault
Ste. Marie, Mich.
Smithers Transportation Test Center is the world's largest independently
owned and operated test facility, providing year-round impartial and analytical
testing of vehicles and their components. The facility features a nine-mile,
high-speed track (circle) for speeds up to 200 mph, plus a variety of road
courses within the circular track.
Suit to block bomber route filed by group
By LEIA HOLLAND
PECOS, April 2, 2001 -The U.S. Air Force is continuing its plans to
initiate the Realistic Bomber Training Initiative (RBTI) in West Texas,
following the second lawsuit against the plan to fly low level bomber runs
through the area. The Davis Mountains Trans-Pecos Heritage Association
(DMTPHA), along with several area farmers and ranchers, filed a lawsuit
on Friday against the Air Force, Secretary of U.S. Air Force Lawrence Delaney,
the United States Department of Defense and Secretary of Defense Donald
Rumsfeld to try and stop the RBTI. A similar suit was filed earlier this
year by a group of South Plains farmers, ranchers and environmentalists.
The Air Force is seeking to fly B-1 and B-52 bombers on training missions
at altitudes of around 3,000 feet in the South Plains area, and as low
as 500 feet in Reeves County. Two manned electronic scoring sites would
be built, employing about 30 people, one near Verhalen in Reeves County
and the second between Snyder and Lamesa in Scurry County.
Capt. Dave Honchul, chief of public affairs at Dyess Air Force Base
in Abilene, said that RBTI is a program that would help train Air Force
pilots to prepare them for combat.
"It is the program designed to more effectively train our pilots to
perform their mission that they would perform in combat," he said.
Honchul said that he has not been able to go over the lawsuit and would
not be able to comment on the suit or the accusations in the suit.
"I can't comment on the lawsuit itself," he said.
Honchul said that the Air Force has been working on the RBTI project
for about three years and plans to continue with the project until they
are told otherwise.
"We are still proceeding ahead with plans," he said.
According to the lawsuit, The Davis Mountains Trans-Pecos Heritage Association
and the other plaintiffs are "seeking judicial review" of the final decisions
of the defendants to adopt the RBTI.
The suit claims that the RBTI will modify and expand the Military Training
Routes (MTR) and establish the Lancer Military Operations Area (MOA) in
western Texas and in portions of New Mexico without proper compliance with
the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Noise Control Act,
and in violation of the Third Amendment to the United States Constitution.
DMTPHA describes itself in the lawsuit as a non-profit corporation that
is dedicated to the preservation and protection of the cultural, natural,
historical, economic, and environmental heritage of the Davis Mountains
and of the Trans-Pecos and Big Bend regions of Texas. It had previously
fought successfully against the increase of flights by German Luftwaffe
jets over West Texas, as part of their training missions from Holloman
AFB in southern New Mexico.
According to the lawsuit, the official offices for DMTPHA are located
in Alpine with members of the association representing over 13 million
acres of privately owned land in the region.
The plaintiffs claim that one MTR in question, Instrument Route 178
(IR-178) is located over millions of acres of privately owned land.
"In the Trans-Pecos region alone, the expanded MTR, IR-178, will overfly
more than 221 privately owned ranches across some 5,322,396 acres with
warplane overflights as low as 300 feet above ground level at speeds up
to or exceeding 630 miles per hour," the group claims in the suit.
The plaintiffs claim that the flights would be directly over private
land and would have harmful effects on the landowners and their property.
"The effects of these flights and the resulting noise, vibration, startle
shock, and exhaust fume intrusions have and will be felt and sensed by
the individuals Plaintiffs and DMTPHA members in their homes and fields,
and while at work, play, and rest," the suit claims.
Honchul said that the Air Force has spent the past three years going
through all the procedures required to move forward with the RBTI project.
He said that they have traveled all over this area asking for the public's
comments during public meetings as well as completing all the necessary
"We feel we have done everything possible to meet every requirement
and done everything to follow the applicable laws," he said.
Honchul said that all along the Air Force has been concerned about how
the public feels about the RBTI and is always willing to answer any questions
they might have.
"Our main concern is that we continue to answer the questions the public
might have," he said.
If the Air Force is allowed to continue with the RBTI project, Honchul
said that the completion date is expected to be by the end of this year
or in early 2002 and would provide about a dozen to two dozen new jobs
for this area.
Honchul said that Azteca Enterprises Corporation, out of Dallas, was
awarded the bid to construct the electronic scoring devices used for the
He said that that company was scheduled to begin construction on the
scoring devices today.
Honchul said that the Air Force is planning to continue with the RBTI
project until the courts decide what needs to be done,
"We'll let the courts decide," Honchul said.
School OKs Technical Resource Center plan
By ROSIE FLORES
PECOS, April 2, 2001 -Plans for a Technical Resource Center are closer
to becoming a reality, after school board members approved solicitation
of competitive sealed proposals and approved a site plan for the building
during a special noon meeting on Friday.
Monte Hunter with Hunter Corral Associates provided sketches of the
floor plan and the outside of the building to the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD
board during the meeting. "We have come up with preliminary plans of the
floor plan and of what the exterior might look like," said Hunter.
The building will be located in the 1300 block of South Eddy Street,
across the street from the Airlawn Shopping Center.
"We'll have 15 spaces in the front with two entrances to the building,"
He told the board that cost estimate was at $345,000 for the building
and site work. "I've put a little bit of contingency in there," he said.
"Larry (Sloan, P-B-T's Career and Technology Director) still has to
do computers and equipment which is not included in my estimate," said
Hunter said that he had left some space in the parking lot in case the
district wanted to do further expansion. "If you wanted to add to this
building in the future, there's about 50 percent left where you can do
that," he said.
"We'll be taking bids and in late April will bring those bids back to
the board," said Hunter. "We'll give them two weeks to look at and come
back to you."
The building is being funded by state funds and will not require the
use of local tax dollars to be built, according to Sloan.
"We've gotten some adverse criticism to this building," said school
board president Louis Matta. "I think you and you staff Larry, need to
start selling this thing."
Matta said that the negative reaction about the building was caused
"People have been calling me up and asking why you don't do something
else, such as buy more computers for the schools or do different things
at a particular school," he said. "They don't think this building is something
that we need, when there are other things the students need."
Matta said he thought this was just because of lack of information that
people were complaining about the building.
"Well they don't understand that these are state funds that are going
to be used and if we don't use them they will revert back to the state,"
said P-B-T Superintendent Don Love.
The building will be stocked with computers and students will have an
opportunity to use them after school.
"This is really a joint effort," said Sloan. "We'll be using some of
Jodi's (Exum, P-B-T technology director) funds to purchase the equipment,"
The state funds being used for the project are funds generated by enrollment
in the Career and Technology Program, over and above what the state sends
the district for regular attendance. "Since it costs more to have these
programs, the state sends more funds for this type enrollment," said Sloan.
Sloan said the district has been accumulating these funds for some time
and now they need to use them or the school district will have to turn
the money back to the state.
The board also approved textbook committee recommendations as presented
during Friday's meeting. "We have to approve these books by April 11,"
said Love, in order to have their available for the start of the 2001-2002
PHA board discusses Airbase deal with county
By JON FULBRIGHT
PECOS, April 2, 2001 -The Pecos Housing Authority Board voted to begin
work immediately on fixing up the old Pecos Day Care Center building on
East 10th Street for use by the Texas Migrant Council's summer
program this year, while delaying until next month any action on a proposed
interlocal agreement between the PHA and Reeves County involving land at
the old Airbase Apartments site.
Action on the day care center was needed right away in order to have
the building ready for the arrival of the first children of migrant workers
in May, the board was told by PHA executive director Nellie Gomez, while
those members in attendance decided to wait until board president Frank
Perea was in town before voting on the offer made by Reeves County Judge
As part of its beautification program, Reeves County is seeking to improve
the landscaping on Airbase land north of Interstate 20, while Galindo told
the board the land on the south side of the Interstate is being sought
for expansion of the Reeves County Golf Course.
"Over the last couple of year or so, miss Gomez and I have discussed
developing the land where the Airbase used to be," Galindo said. "Even
if we no longer use it for public housing, it's still a public asset to
be used, even if it's only with trees, plants and flowers."
Galindo told the board about the recently-begin landscaping work at
the I-20/U.S. 285 interchange, and said the county would like to do the
same thing in the Airbase area, which could include creation of a hike
and bike trail and possibly a man-made pond for fishing.
"We would like to slowly begin to drag out the water lines and the old
(building) foundations so we may begin to develop a hike and bike trail
all around the property," he said.
Gomez said she would welcome the county's help in maintaining the property.
The Airbase Apartments, which were built for the Pecos Army Airfield during
World War II, were torn down on the north side of Interstate 20 back in
1989 and 1990, while the land on the south side of I-20 was cleared of
its apartments in 1984.
"The clean-up costs a lot of money. We need cooperation with the county
and city to get it done," Gomez said. "We had a man who did it by himself
with his son, but then we didn't have anybody to haul the debris out. Just
to haul it out cost us $1,000.
"We held back a whole bunch after the first $1,000, then (Town of Pecos
City Fire Marshal) Jack Brookshire came over and told us we could take
it out and dump it at the landfill," she said. "That's why we've talked
about collaborating with other agencies …. We have the land, but we need
a lot of help keeping it up."
The land on the south side of I-20 would be used for two of the seven
new holes the county plans to build at the golf course, expanding it from
11 holes to a full 18-hole facility. Acting board president Ray Golden
pointed out that the western edge of the planned expansion would include
land currently owned by the Pecos Valley Country Club, and would need their
approval for use by the county.
Galindo said he had talked to Terry Burkholder of the PVCC and he was
receptive to the plan, and Golden said. "I don't think that it will be
any problem getting approval from the country club to deed it off to be
used as a golf course. We've been talking about this (expansion) plan for
the past 25 years."
Galindo said if a pond were built at the site, it would be similar to
the one in Odessa along I-20 at Monahans Draw. He said the Texas Department
of Parks and Wildlife stocks that pond for fishing and could do the same
Gomez said the only section of land on that side of I-20 that might
be used for other purposes is the section near the new Country Club Drive
exit ramp, where the Pecos Rotary Club has discussed building a roadside
"They have something like $2,000 they can use for the project," she
said, while Golden added he didn't see the county's plans conflicting with
the Rotary's park.
Galindo said he hopes the county can get to work on both projects this
summer, and Gomez said a lease agreement previously used by the PHA for
the Airbase land could be reused for the interlocal agreement.
"I'd like to make a deal with the county, but I'd like Frank (Perea)
too be here before we make any deal," Golden said. The board said they
could take up the matter again at their April meeting, and Galindo said
that would give the county a chance to draw up its interlocal agreement
for the project.
The day care center project involves a little less work, but needs to
be done during April Gomez told the board. "They start the program in May,
so that gives us a month to do it," she said.
The Texas Migrant Council held its summer program in Barstow last year
and used local church facilities before that, but is seeking a more permanent
home at the 10th Street site. In a letter from Ernestina R.
Gomez, the TMC's Panhandle Regional Director, the group offered to provide
the PHA with drivers and custodians for the clean-up, and would help build
a new doorway to allow passage through the building without going through
the kitchen area, if the PHA took care of other repair work.
"I've been talking to the plumber, and there's a bad leak in one of
the rooms. It's sure to be over $1,000, but its got to be done," Nellie
Gomez said. She added that a leak over an entryway would also have to be
The building has been used as storage of surplus by the PHA for the
past several years. Those items would have to be removed and disposed of,
but Gomez said the TMC would provide new furniture and kitchen equipment
for the facility.
A motion was then made an approved unanimously by the board to draw
up an agreement for the summer migrant program.
Brandon hosted Earhart's 1928 Pecos stopover
EDITOR'S NOTE: This is one in a continuing series of features
on historical locations in Pecos region
By The Ghost Writer
PECOS, April 2, 2001 -Pecos has had some notables visit as mentioned
in Alton Hughes' book Pecos-A History of the Pioneer West. Ann Southern
and Amelia Earhart stayed in the Brandon Hotel. The Brandon was, for you
young readers, a three-story building on the corner of Oak and 4th
Street. It rented office space on the ground floor and maintained a café
as well as rented rooms to dusty travelers. It was razed in 1981 after
it had been vacated and arsonist, we think, did their best to destroy it.
Miss Earhart was a "first' in aviation. She was called "Lady Lindy"
because of her record-breaking career and her physical appearance was similar
to Charles Lindbergh. In 1928, she was the first woman to fly the Atlantic
Ocean as a passenger. In 1932, she was the first woman to fly the ocean
on her own.
The Pecos Rotary Club had Miss Earhart as a guest speaker September
7, 1928. As I read the account, she was off her course and landed in Hobbs,
New Mexico where they refueled her English plane with bad fuel forcing
her to land here for engine repairs. She spent four days here and the Pecos
Chamber of Commerce pressed her into refereeing a national air race on
a Saturday and Monday. She renewed acquaintances and met "round-the-world"
flyers. She posed with some of them for newsreel-cameramen. Mr. and Mrs.
Ralph Sparks took her to Carlsbad Caverns where she received a tremendous
ovation by a crowd of 415 visitors.
Miss Earhart was respected around the world and the Internet has at
least 50 sites about her. She was an Associate Editor for Cosmopolitan
and the Rotary Club felt that she would mention her visit in that magazine.
I found a site that had the 1928 issues but the file could not be located.
Knowing that Al Gore invented the Internet, I asked him if he could do
something about this problem. He said that he was inventing something to
Before her final flight, Miss Earhart had her palm read by palmist Nellie
Simmons Meier and, if she was as accurate as other palmists, she told Miss
Earhart that she would go fly around the world and set a international
record. Alas, her effort to do so ended in the Pacific Ocean July 2, 1937.
They think that she ran out of fuel. The U.S. Navy searched more than two
weeks for her without finding anything of her, her companion or the plane.
My "mature" advisors well remember the Brandon and the people, like
Jess Bush and Buck Jackson, who had offices there. However, one had bad
memories as his wife came home one night with a Brandon room key, number
23, and would not tell him how she happened to have it. She also smiled
each time she saw the key. She liked to tease.
P-B-T candidates to attend forum at training center
PECOS, April 2, 2001 -The community will have an opportunity to meet the
Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD Board candidates at 6 p.m., tonight.
Everyone will have an opportunity to visit with the candidates and discuss
school-related issues at the Pecos Technical Training Center of Odessa
Refreshments will be provided and the event is sponsored by Delta Kappa
Gamma Teacher Organization.
GED testing dates set for mid-April
PECOS, April 2, 2001 -GED Testing has been scheduled at 4:45 p.m., on April
17 and April 18, at the Pecos High School.
Registration will be held today and tomorrow, April 3, from 1-5 p.m.,
at the Pecos High School Counselors Office.
Examinees must present a Texas driver's license or Texas Department
of Public Safety ID Card.
For more information call Pat Cobos or Eva Arriola, Pecos High School
Counselors at 447-7229.
PECOS, April 2, 2001 -High Sunday 95. Low this morning 43. Forecast for
tonight: Partly cloudy. Low in the mid 50s. Southwest wind 10 to 15 mph.
Tuesday: Partly cloudy and continued warm. High near 90. West to southwest
wind 10 to 20 mph. Tuesday night: Partly cloudy. Low in the mid 50s. Wednesday:
Partly cloudy. High in the upper 80s. Thursday: Partly cloudy with a chance
of thunderstorms. Lows near 60. Highs in the lower to mid 80s.
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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