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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Top Stories

April 2, 2001

Smithers leaving Pecos after Laredo track deal

By ROSIE FLORES
Staff Writer

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. Hochschwender.

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 track.

"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
Staff Writer

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 requirements needed.

"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 RBTI.

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
Staff Writer

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," said Hunter.

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.

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 by misinformation.

"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," he said.

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 school year.

PHA board discusses Airbase deal with county

By JON FULBRIGHT
Staff Writer

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 Jimmy Galindo.

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 in Pecos.

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 park.

"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 fixed.

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 correct it.

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 College.

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.

Obituary

Frank Blakeney

Weather

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.



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