Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas
May 3, 2001
Blaze in field keeps firemen busy overnight
By ROSIE FLORES
PECOS, May 3, 2001 - A brush fire in a field on the west side of town
kept Pecos Volunteer Firefighters busy early this morning.
Firemen received a call shortly after midnight that there was an unattended
fire in an open field, and two fire units were dispatched to the location,
near the drainage canal west of Texas Street.
The fire broke out in one of two piles of brush, weeds and tree branches
that had been piled in the middle of the field. Firefighters were out at
the scene until 4 a.m. and had to use the Town of Pecos City front-end
loader to cover the extinguished fire with dirt.
"They're cleaning the area out there and they just piled a lot of brush
and mesquite," said second assistant chief Arturo Granado.
He said someone had set the pile of debris on fire and had left it burning.
However, winds at the time out of the east blew the smoke from the fire
away from homes located on the north and south sides of the field.
"We don't have very many details at this time, except that someone apparently
set it on fire and left," he said. "We put the dirt on top of it to make
sure it wouldn't ignite again," he said.
Balmorhea officials defend $1.6 million gym bond issue
By LEIA HOLLAND
PECOS, May 3, 2001 - Balmorhea Independent School District is hoping
that voters will pass a $1.6 million bond issue in Saturday's local election
that would allow the school district to receive funds from the state for
use in renovation of the school's gym.
Balmorhea Superintendent Elizabeth Saenz said that the State's Office
of Civil Rights cited the school district in September of 2000 for the
second time for not being in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities
"The problem with our existing gym it that it's not handicapped accessible,"
Balmorhea School Board Trustee Paul Matta said that the school has been
cited for the same problems in the past.
"At least for the last three years we've been cited," he said.
Matta said that there is a possibility of the school district losing
funding due to the citations if those problems are not fixed.
"We might lose federal funding," he said.
Saenz said that no matter if the community passes the bond issue or
not, the school would still have to make the renovations.
Balmorhea ISD faces requirements to make renovations to the school's
gym, stage and locker areas to become in compliance with the Americans
with Disabilities Act no matter if the bond issue passes or not.
Passing the bond issue would allow the school district to receive state
funding for 86 percent of the total amount, requiring the district to raise
only $14,000 per year for the length of the bond, according to Saenz.
"Basically they give you money to make these renovations to your school,"
Matta said that the bond would be for $100,000 per year for approximately
20 years and having the state pay for 86 percent of that money is a good
thing for the school.
"I don't think you want to turn down something like that," he said.
The $86,000 per year would come from the Instructional Facility Allotment
(IFA) program that helps poorer school districts make necessary renovations
for instructional facilities only.
Saenz said that means that they would not be able to use the money for
such things as school buses or new administrative offices because they
would not be for instructional use.
"With this program there are some things you can build and some you
can't build," she said.
With that in mind, Saenz said that the school district is looking into
renovating the gym and stage area of the gym, the locker rooms as well
as adding two new computer labs.
Matta said that the current computer labs, which are converted classrooms,
have a lot of problems with spacing and wiring.
"We want to make those areas better for the students," he said.
Saenz said that building new computer labs that are designed to be computer
labs would benefit the students and the school district.
The current stage on the east side of the gym was built in 1985 as part
of a new addition that was needed after the east side of the old Balmorhea
ISD building was destroyed by fire. A new gym floor was also put down,
but other facilities in the gym were left unchanged after the reconstruction.
It is still uncertain at this time to whether or not the school would
use the money for renovations or if a brand new gym would have to be constructed,
according to Matta.
He said that they are waiting for the architect's report on whether
or not the school should build a new gym or would be able to renovate it
as well as adding the new computer labs.
"A lot of people feel that maybe we're putting priority on athletics
over academics," Matta said.
Matta said that that is not the case; the school is only trying to fix
what needs to be fixed according to the citations.
Saenz said that the school is trying to move on this bond issue soon
because this may be the last year that the program exists.
She said that the state has been promising money to many school districts
for many years and is unable to afford that kind of commitment anymore.
"They can't afford to do this," she said.
Matta said that is why the school board is looking for the community's
support in this weekend's election.
"This could be our last opportunity to get that kind of money," he said.
Many people have expressed disapproval to the bond issue because it
would cause taxes to rise from seven to eight cents.
Saenz said that that eight-cent increase would not cause the taxpayers
much more money per year and the future cost will be much more if the school
is unable to receive the state funding.
She said that they looked at the top ten taxpayers in the area and the
eight-cent increase wouldn't cost them more than $50 per year and approximately
99 cents per month.
If the school were to move ahead with this project without receiving
the state funding the taxes to cover the cost would increase to approximately
48 cents, according to Saenz.
Saenz said that many people have supported the bond issue because they
realize it would save the city money by receiving funding from the state
and it would benefit the students.
"I feel like this is something our children deserve," she said.
Matta said that this program that the school hopes to apply for is good
for the school and students.
"That money's there, let's take advantage of it," he said. "It's a good
deal. It's for the kids."
If voters approve the bond issue this weekend, the school board and
Saenz will wait for the architect to finish a masterplan that would determine
when either the construction or renovations would begin, according to Saenz.
Records refute Ojinaga murder witness' claim
PECOS, May 3, 2001 - A reported eyewitness to the murder of an Ojinaga
journalist in February was in jail at the time of the shooting, the Big
Bend Sentinel reported in today's editions.
The paper said Ojinaga Police Chief Rene Cardona Bejarano made the announcement
of Wednesday, three days after Presidio businessman Jesus Herrera was arrested
and charged with the murder of Jose Luis Ortega.
During a court hearing on Wednesday, Cardona and Ojinaga Mayor Victor
Sotelo produced documents that showed the prosecution eyewitness Guadalupe
"La Tecata" Valenzuela Lozano was released from the city jail on Feb. 20.
She had identified Herrera as the killer of Ortega, who was shot twice
in the head several blocks from his home in Ojinaga on the night of Feb.
"The judge still has to accept and validate what we have presented,"
Cardona said. Defense attorney Jose Bolivar Bolivar has asked the judge
to dismiss the charge against Herrera, who owns the H&H Supermarket
in Presidio with his father, while charging Valenzuela with perjury.
Herrera's arrest sparked a one-hour protest on Tuesday that blocked
the U.S. 67 International Bridge between Presidio on Ojinaga.
PECOS, May 3, 2001 - High Wednesday 98. Low this morning 61. Forecast for
tonight: Mostly cloudy with a 20 percent chance of showers or thunderstorms.
Low in the upper 50s.South wind 10 to 20 mph. Friday: Partly cloudy with
a 20 percent chance of showers or thunderstorms. High in the mid 80s.South
wind 10 to 20 mph. Friday night: Partly cloudy. Low in the mid 50s. Saturday
and Sunday: Partly cloudy. Lows in the mid 50s to near 60. Highs in the
mid to upper 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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