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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
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Wednesday, January 23, 2002

Billie Sol's back in town…

… for one day, visiting friends 40 years after the scandal that brought down his empire

Staff Writer
PECOS, Wed., Jan. 23, 2002 -- "It hasn't changed that much, but it's changing for the good all the time," Billie Sol Estes said, while sitting at a table in Alfredo's Restaurant.

Pecos' most famous former resident was back in town for a day on Tuesday, nearly 40 years after the scandal broke that sent the friend and associate of then-Vice President Lyndon Johnson to prison for falsifying records on anhydrous ammonia fertilizer tanks in Reeves County.

Alfredo's wasn't around 40 years ago, when Estes and Pecos were becoming nationally famous. But he said he had a specific reason for stopping in and spending a few hours at the Cedar Street restaurant.

"I came to see Alfred and Connie and Alfred Jr. and his wife," Estes said. "I've known Alfred and Connie since 1951."

"My dad worked for him and there are other families around town who have connections to him," said Alfredo Gomez, Jr., who moved back to Pecos with his family from Fort Stockton several years ago. "Billy's been a good friend of my family for many, many years."

Estes was released from prison back in 1983, and has been in a couple of other brushes with the law since then, while living in Brady. He now in the Dallas-Fort Worth, and made the 425-mile trip out to Pecos from Dallas with a friend, David Oulsey.

"He called last night (Monday) about being in town," Connie Gomez said. "He hasn't visited us before since we moved back here, but he called and said he was coming. When I was in Fort Stockton he always stopped over to visit."

"It's just a day trip out here," said the 76-year-old Estes, "There have been a lot of people who have already stopped by to visit. Ben Matta and his son Louis, Joe Stafford and John Teague."

"Everybody whose gone by has been glad to see you," Connie Gomez told Estes, while adding that Pecos Mayor Ray Ortega and city finance director George Bejarano also were among those stopping by the group's table at Alfredo's during lunchtime on Tuesday.

Estes was born in the Panhandle in 1925 and grew up in the Abilene area. He moved to Pecos in 1951 and in 1996 told the Houston Chronicle he had a vision of an empire of cotton spreading over the desert, watered by natural-gas-driven irrigation pumps and fertilized with anhydrous ammonia. And in the decade that followed he build his fortune locally through land buys and business purchases, including the Pecos Funeral Home and construction of his own business on the Balmorhea Highway and home at the foot of Eddy Street on Stafford Boulevard.

He became friends with such legendary Texas politicians as Johnson, then the Senate Majority Leader and later John F. Kennedy's running mate as vice-president. But his problems began in 1961 with an investigation of his cotton holdings by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, while at the same time battling with the owners of the Pecos Independent and Enterprise, along with others in town by starting his own newspaper, the Pecos Daily News, and running for the Pecos ISD School Board in 1961.

The Independent would publish the first of a series of stories on Feb. 5, 1962 on the fraud involving the ammonia fertilizer tanks, where records showed 15,000 tanks were reportedly in Reeves County for only 60,000 acres of cotton under cultivation. The series would lead to Estes' eventual indictment and convicted in a federal court trial in March 1963.

Estes' home is still on Stafford Boulevard, only now a sign sits out front identifying it as the Physical Therapy Office of Pecos. Many of Estes' other business locations also remain, and Oulsey said, "We're going to try and stop by the old funeral home and by his old home on Stafford Boulevard before we go back tonight (Tuesday)."

"Billie's getting on, and he wanted to come back out and see a lot of his friends," said Alfredo Gomez, Jr. "I've known him all my life, and I was glad to get to see him again."

City beginning South Worsham water field work

Staff Writer
PECOS, Wed., Jan. 23, 2002 -- The Town of Pecos City has begun drilling holes for new water wells in the South Worsham Water Well Field this month, according to Utilities Director Octavio Garcia.

The city is using an $8 million loan from the state to develop the South Worsham Field, which is 14 miles south of Pecos on U.S. 285, and is currently working on drilling the fourth well since they started construction on January 1.

"I believe we're going to have from 15 to 18 wells," Garcia said.

Hydrology engineers told city officials in 1994 that the Worsham Field, located just to the northeast of the South Worsham site, and the Ward County Water Field would only be able to provide Pecos with adequate drinking water supplies through the year 2008. The city then began work on locating a new water field site, before settling on the South Worsham location four years ago.

Since starting on January 1, the workers have finished drilling three wells with two of them not producing enough water, according to Garcia.

"They should have another one done pretty quick," he said.

The crews have been able to drill from one to one and a half wells a week.

While some workers are working on drilling the holes for the wells others are testing the ground for a location to lay pipeline to connect South Worsham to the existing Worsham Well Field.

According to Garcia, the wells should all be drilled by this spring and the pipeline should be laid out this summer.

"The whole field should be in operation by the end of this year," he said. "That's our goal."

Once the field is operational, Garcia said that the water produced from the field should provide Pecos for about 50 years.

"It's supposed to give us enough water to add about 40 to 50 years of life," Garcia said.

However, that is not going to stop the city from looking into other areas for water.

"We're going to have to continue looking," Garcia said. "We can't just depend on 50 years before finding another source."

The city is also in the process of constructing a two million-gallon tank close to the Pecos River that would be used in transferring water to Pecos up a hill, according to Garcia.

The current tank that is holding the water has deteriorated so badly that it can not be fixed, therefore the city has budgeted enough money to construct a new one this year.

Construction on the new tank began last week.

Garcia said that there is a lot of work to do before the South Worsham Water Field is completed later this year.

"This is just the beginning," he said.

City Council opts to hold 2nd meeting of month

PECOS, Wed., Jan. 23, 2002 -- The Town of Pecos City Council will have its second regular meeting of January on Thursday, Jan. 31 instead of tomorrow.

The council last met on Jan. 10, and normally meets on the second and fourth Thursdays of each month, which would have made Jan. 24 the date for the month's second council meeting.

The Jan. 31 meeting will be held at 5:30 p.m., in Council Chambers at City Hall.


PECOS, Wed., Jan. 23, 2002 -- High Tuesday 77. Low this morning 40. Forecast for tonight: Mostly cloudy with a 20 percent chance of rain or snow. Lows in the lower 30s. Winds becoming northeast 10 to 20 mph. Thursday: Mostly cloudy and much cooler with a 20 percent chance of rain: Possibly mixed with snow early. Highs in the mid 40s. Northeast winds 10 to 20 mph. Thursday night: Becoming mostly clear. Lows near 20. Friday: Mostly sunny. Highs in the mid 50s. Saturday: Partly cloudy and warmer. Lows in the mid 20s. Highs in the lower 60s.

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Pecos Enterprise
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