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Archive 2002

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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Top Stories

Friday, March 29, 2002

Anchor moves plant's closing to end of May

Staff Writer
PECOS, Friday, March 29, 2002 -- McCain Foods will close its Anchor West onion processing plant in Pecos at the end of May, the company announced in a press release on Thursday.

The closing is three weeks later than company officials had planned, and a job fair for Anchor workers is still scheduled for Pecos in late April.

McCain Foods purchased the Anchor Foods plant in Pecos and Anchor's other processing facilities in Wisconsin and Mexico in August of 2001. Three months later, the company announced it would close its plant in Pecos, leaving 700 workers without jobs, and would invest $10 million in a processing plant the company already operated in Grand Island, Neb., expanding the workforce there from 350 to 450 employees. Anchor began operations in Pecos in 1990 expanding over the next 10 years from one line to four, and from 200 to 700 workers. Of that number 640 people are still employed at the plant.

McCain originally said layoffs in Pecos would begin at the end of February and run through the end of spring, but last month said because of increased demand, the plant would remain at regular production levels through March, and would close on May 6, 2002.

"We are pleased to be able to provide extended employment for many employees," said Bill Raaths, President and CEO of the Anchor Appetizer Group, in the press release issued from the Canadian company's U.S. headquarters in Chicago. "We already provided a lengthy advance notice of the closing out of respect for our valued employees. We appreciate the support of the Pecos community as we undergo this transaction."

When McCain officials announced plans to close the plant on Nov. 12, the company said they would work with city and state officials to try and find a new tenant for the company's plant on the south side of Pecos. That commitment was disputed in January by Reeves County Judge Jimmy B. Galindo, who said Anchor had renewed its lease on the plant despite the closing plans, in an attempt to keep any potential competitors from using the facility.

However, in Thursday's statement Raaths said the company is continuing to seek a buyer for the plant.

"Harold Durost, McCain Vice President for Corporate Development for North America and South America, and I have just met with local officials in Pecos in our continuing effort to find a new operator of the Pecos facility," he said. "We also have contracted with a leading commercial real estate broker to be even more aggressive in the search for a new operator of the facility. These efforts are continuing with a sense of urgency."

Meanwhile, plans for the Job Fair are continuing. In a letter to area businesses and other companies dated March 8, Ascencion Banuelos with the Pecos Workforce Network said the Anchor Job Fair would be held on April 25 from 1 to 8 p.m., two week's before the May 6 closing date officials with the job fair had been given by McCain Foods.

Unlike a Job Fair last month, which was held at the Odessa College-Pecos Technical Training Center, the April 25 Job Fair is to be held at the Anchor plant on Interstate 20. The job fair in February attracted 28 companies seeking to hire local workers.

Companies contacted were sent a questionnaire to be returned by April 9, and those with further questions are directed to either Nancy Ontiveros at Reeves County Hospital (447-3551) or Maribel Alvarez with the Texas Department of Human Services (445-5487).

McCain-Anchor facilities had an overcapacity of onion production plants, which is what Pecos primarily produces, Steve Prater, McCain vice president, said when announcing the plant's closing in Pecos in November. A month later, Prater went on to tell the San Antonio Express-News that the Pecos plant's products were inferior to some of their own facilities.

"The fact of the matter is, the McCain side of the business was significantly more efficient than the Anchor side," he said. "Our Grand Island (Neb.) onion ring plant is lower cost and more efficient than the Pecos plant."

McCain has not announced plans for the Anchor onion processing facility in Mexico, and plans to changes in Anchor's jalapeno pepper production plants in Wisconsin. McCain was not a major player in the stuffed jalapeno pepper appetizer market until purchasing Anchor's operations.

City officials name Rivera to run Main Street program

Staff Writer
PECOS, Friday, March 29, 2002 -- The Town of Pecos City formally recognized Tom Rivera as the city's new Main Street Director during the their regular meeting last night at City Hall.

Rivera, who served for a decade as the director of the Pecos Area Chamber of Commerce, left that job earlier this year and has worked for the city as Main Street Director for approximately two months.

City Manager Carlos Yerena explained that the resolution that the council also approved would allow the city to apply with the state for the program.

"This gives us the authorization to apply for the Main Street Program and designate Tom as director," he said.

Rivera has already been working on projects for the Main Street Program, including opening a Small Business Resource Center, located in the Community Center on Oak Street, Yerena told the council.

The resource center allows small business owners to come in and go through books and materials that would better their businesses. There is also Internet accessibility and software for the businesses.

The state director for the Main Street Program, Kay Mosely, toured the downtown area recently after first visiting Pecos a few years ago and noticed many changes.

"She was quite impressed with the improvements," Yerena said.

Pecos failed to qualify for the Main Street program two years ago, but was told to reapply on their own at a later date. Rivera is currently working on putting together the by-laws as well as finishing the application, which must be submitted by July 31.

The councilmen were excited to hear about the progress being made with the Main Street Program and hope to get more projects started to help Pecos.

"I hope we can get it going because our downtown area has seen better days," councilman Frank Sanchez said.

The council also approved an agreement for contractor services with Ameriway Construction Company for the housing infrastructure project.

The city broke ground on the new Pecos Single Family Subdivision this week, which would provide new housing for low-income families.

Yerena explained that the state asked for the agreement to be made as part of the grant that was given to the city last year.

Yerena said that Pecos applied for a grant through the state that would allow the city to develop an area for use of low-income housing.

In order to receive the $400,000 grant the city provided property and the state would provide the funding for infrastructure construction.

The agreement with Ameriway states that the companty would build the houses with his own funding and then sell it to interested homeowners.

Yerena said that Ameriway would be able to do that as long as there are at least 11 houses that are affordable to low-income families.

"Eleven have to be low-income," he said. "The rest we can sell at a higher price, if needed."

Yerena continues to explain that the way the project would work is that the approved homeowners would be allowed to participate in the decision making of how the house would be constructed as long as the state approves their changes.

"This is going to be customer driven," he said.

Ameriway provided the city with four house plans that the customer could choose from. However, they can also change the plans to fit their own needs as long as they are able to pay the difference.

"They can deviate from that as long as they're willing to pay," Yerena said.

Yerena said the city is happy to have this project in Pecos and hopes that the demand would be so great they more than the 20 planned homes would be needed.

"Hopefully, we're going to be short and we're going to need more homes," he said.

Interested homeowners have called the city everyday so far to apply for the homes, according to Yerena.

"We already have 52 people that are interested," he said.

In other action Thursday, Pecos Police Chief Clay McKinney presented the council, for their consideration, the police department's racial profiling policy.

McKinney told the council that the Texas Legislature has mandated the policy to all police departments in the state.

According to the policy, "officers shall actively enforce state and federal laws in a responsible and professional manner, without regard to race, ethnicity or national origin." "Racial profiling is an unacceptable patrol tactic and will not be condoned."

McKinney explained in a press release that the Pecos Police Department supports the mandate.

"Our police officers work under a departmental policy that is consistent with all state and federal law," he said.

The policy includes provisions for citizens to contact the police department if they have a conflict with a Pecos police officer, which they understand could happen.

"The Pecos Police Department realizes that there will be disagreements, from time to time, with individuals that come in contact with our officers," McKinney said. "We realize that confusion, different perceptions or possibly the timeliness of information could result in information that may produce different accounts of the same incident."

McKinney goes on to state that such conflicts should and need to be addressed and invites citizens who have concerns to contact the police department at 445-4911.

McKinney also invites those who have had positive contact with local police officers to let him know about it by writing him a letter or note and mailing it to: Pecos Police Department, Box 1761, Pecos, TX, 79772.

Also on Thursday the council approved the interagency agreement for the Trans-Pecos Drug Task Force, a resolution giving property tax relief to organizations that provide specific charitable services and the offers to purchase properties at 1607 S. Eddy Street and 503 S. Ash Street, both by Carmen Jasso.

Problems outside Pecos forcing Valley Motors to close

Staff Writer
PECOS, Friday, March 29, 2002 -- Good Friday is a sad day for a number of people who work at Valley Motors.

After 39 years in business, owner Ben Meek is shutting the dealership's doors today.

"We're getting everything closed up," he said.

Meek explained business has been rather poor lately and his company is closing due to some troubles brought on by another branch of the longtime Pontiac-Cadillac-GMC Truck dealership.

"I had another store that got me in trouble," he said, adding that Pecos has nothing to do with his business closing.

"Pecos has been very good to us," he said.

Meek and his employees are understandably upset about the company closing its doors but now it's time to "move on to something else," Meek said.

Even though the dealership is closing today, Meek explained that a "skeleton crew" would remain to pack up and ship parts back to General Motors as well as receive payments on bills.

Valley Motor employee Sam Salcido explained that customers could still come to the Valley Motors building on the Balmorhea Highway to make payments.

"They can still continue to come here to Valley Motors to pay on their notes," he said.

Meek said that the vehicles remaining in the parking lot after the doors close today would be transferred to other dealerships.

Also, he believes that those who have purchased vehicles from his dealership would soon be able to receive service from Colt Chevrolet.

He explained that General Motors would probably give the franchises to Colt, which is "a normal thing" to do.

"I expect they'll be able to go to Colt in a very short time," he said.

Meek said he appreciates his customers, whom he refers to as friends, and thanks them for their business.

"I've had many many friends from all over this country," he said. "I have a world of customers and friends all over this area. They've been very kind to me."

Meek most appreciates his employees who have been loyal to him.

"I have an extremely good group of employees that have been with me for a long time," he said. "I have a wonderful bunch of folks."

There are no plans to mark this occasion with any sort of party or get together, according to Meek.

"We'll just close up and all go home when it's time," he said.

Meek and his wife, Fran, have no plans to move from Pecos now that the business is closing.

"I'll stay in Pecos," he said. "Pecos is the finest place in the world to live."

In fact, Meek said the only way he would leave town is if "they run me off."

Valley is the third car dealership to close in Pecos over the past 20 years, leaving Colt Chevrolet-Buick as the city's lone new car dealer.

Grogan Motors, the city's only Chrysler-Dodge dealership, went out of business in the early 1980s, and its downtown building now houses Big A Auto Parts. Pecos Motors, located across the street from Grogan Motors, merged with Colt Chevrolet in 1990 and moved its operations to Colt's building on Interstate 20. Colt operated as both a Ford and Chevrolet dealership for several years, before returning to operations as only a Chevrolet and Buick dealership.

Observatory plans April 6-7 opening for visitor's center

PECOS, Friday, March 29, 2002 -- The University of Texas-McDonald Observatory has set next Saturday, April 6, as the official opening date for the new McDonald Observatory Visitors Center.

The ribbon cutting ceremony is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. at the observatory, located 15 miles west of Fort Davis on State Highway 118 in Jeff Davis County. State Rep. Pete Gallego of Alpine and University of Texas-Austin President Larry R. Faulkner will cut the ribbon, and a star party will be held that night for the general public at the observatory.

An Open House for the general public will be held on Sunday, April 7 at the 12,000 square foot visitor's center, which includes an interactive exhibit, 90-seat theater, a dining area and an astronomy gift shop. Admission is free.


PECOS, Friday, March 29, 2002 -- High Thursday 89. Low this morning 65. Forecast for tonight: A 70 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Becoming breezy and turning cooler. Lows 45 to 50. Evening east winds 10 to 20 mph: Becoming north and increasing to 15 to 25 mph before midnight. Saturday: A 70 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Breezy and cooler with highs around 65. North winds 15 to 25 mph. Saturday night: Decreasing cloudiness. Lows around 40. Sunday: Partly cloudy. Highs around 70. Monday: Partly cloudy. Lows 35 to 40. Highs 75 to 80.

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Pecos Enterprise
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