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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Top Stories

Tuesday, October 29, 2002

Bonilla's campaign stops at TransPecos Foods plant

Staff Writer

PECOS, Tues., Oct. 29, 2002 -- With one week to go before Election Day, Reeves  County's congressman for the past decade made a stop in Pecos this  morning, visiting with local officials and those involved with the reopening of  the Anchor Foods onion processing plant on Interstate 20.

United States Congressman Henry Bonilla's bus tour stopped at TransPecos Foods today and met with its management line as well with Chairman Patrick Kennedy.

During Bonilla's visit to TransPecos Foods, Kennedy presented him with the "Guardian of Small Business Award," which recognizes the congressman for his leadership on issues that are vital to the future of small businesses across America.

"Small business owners remind us of basic business ethics, skills and the truth in the American dream. It's essential that Congress focus on legislation that assists small businesses," Bonilla said in a press release. "I'm thankful for this award, but even more thankful for the amazing small businesses and small business owners in our communities who keep our nation prosperous and strong."

The award is given only to the few members of Congress who vote consistently in support of small business.

Kennedy, who also owns Security State Bank in Pecos, purchased the Anchor Foods facility from McCain Foods this summer, and the company announced on Monday it had signed an agreement to supply onion rings to Dairy Queen restaurants across Texas. McCain had closed the plant at the end of May, after buying out Anchor Foods last fall. The plant was Pecos' largest single employer at that time, with 700 workers.

Both Kennedy and Bonilla are San Antonio residents, and the San Antonio and Laredo areas are expected to be the main battlegrounds for Bonilla and his Democratic Party challenger, former Texas Secretary of State Henry Cuellar.

Bonilla, who was first elected to Congress in 1992, said that he would be in Dallas with President George W. Bush during his visit to Texas on Monday.

According to Bonilla, the site of the Republican campaign rally in Dallas has not been determined as of yet.

Bonilla's race against Cuellar has been predicted to be one of the closes House races in Texas this year, but the Congressman said he felt his campaign was looking strong and felt he would win by a wider margin than most predictions.

"I feel that we will win by 20 points," Bonilla said. "And that is our goal."

Bonilla said that he would like to encourage everyone in Pecos to go out and vote.

"I'm so thankful to my long-time supporters in Pecos. The people in this community are what America is all about," he said. "America is also about Democracy and our right to vote. I'm reminding everyone today to take advantage of that right and get to the polls on Tuesday (Nov. 5). Every vote makes a difference."

"I am asking everyone for their vote," Bonilla said.

In emphasizing the importance of voting, Bonilla and his team handed out free T-shirts, bumper stickers and yard signs to supporters.

"It's so important to vote. We learned in the last election that every vote really does count. This is an important year-we have several important races and mine happens to be one of them." Bonilla said. "I'm encouraging people to place a bumper-sticker on their car or a sign in their front yard. Every reminder of the elections helps get people out to the polls."

Bonilla and his team are traveling in an RV to more then a dozen towns in West and South Texas over a three-day span. At each stop, Bonilla and his team visit with local residents, businesses and city leaders.

"This mode of transportation is pretty hard to miss. Our RV is decorated with every piece of campaign paraphernalia known to man," Bonilla said. "It's all here to show my constituents that we are charged up for Tuesday's election and excited to continue representing their interests in Washington, D.C."

Congressman Bonilla's congressional district is the largest in Texas. He is a member of the powerful Appropriations Committee, which helps fund important programs in Pecos and throughout the 23rd Congressional district.

Group reviews city's top needs during summit

Staff Writer

PECOS, Tues., Oct. 29, 2002 -- Issues, strategies and plans to make Pecos a better community  to work, live in and visit were discussed at length this past weekend by  several community members, during the Key Opinion Leaders Summit held  at Indian Lodge near Fort Davis.

"We narrowed it down to five issues that we thought we could handle at this time," said Pecos Chamber of Commerce Interim Director Linda Gholson.

"There were some issues that we felt were too big and couldn't be handled in one day and we left those for another occasion," said participant Nancy Ontiveros.

Ontiveros said that other issues were just out of reach, so the Key Opinion Leaders (KOL) group decided to focus on those that the community could work on under current manpower conditions.

She said that it was a great summit and good results came of it. Twenty people from different entities and aspects in the community participated.

"These individuals made a commitment to revitalize the Pecos area and work with a positive attitude and put personal feelings aside," Ontiveros said.

The first issue that will be addressed is clean up debris, vacant buildings, trash and general appearance of the town.

"There were seven different strategies we developed to address that issue," said Ontiveros.

The projects include the Pride in Pecos Campaign, the 50 Barrel Campaign, Media Campaign, Alley Clean-Up, Litter Bag Campaign, School Education and Merchant Initiatives, according to Ontiveros.

"What each of these strategies will do is focus on different areas," said Ontiveros. "In addition, individuals took responsibility for each of these projects and some time frames were set and everyone is to report back to the chamber of commerce by Nov. 8, with a plan on how each of these projects will be carried out."

The second issue was to encourage and facilitate greater cooperation and communication between government entities and agencies.

"The strategy identified that we need to have quarterly forums, encourage participate in the chamber of commerce socials and focus on being aware of dispute resolution," said Ontiveros.

All chamber of commerce members will read a book on dispute resolution called, "Getting to Yes," which will be the first phase of improving the communication and cooperation effort.

The third issue is to increase employment opportunities and improve quality of labor force.

"Every KOL entity will sponsor a student for GED (Graduate Equivalency Degree), because many individuals do not have the proper education for available jobs," said Ontiveros. "Funding will be sought to pay for the tests from those classes from the entities."

A task force was developed to work on housing, improving labor force, in a collective effort with Odessa College's Technical Training Center in Pecos, according to Ontiveros.

The fourth issue on the list is to increase the availability of affordable housing and improve property values.

"A task force also will work on that issue because of lack of affordable housing in our community," said Ontiveros.

Improving business opportunities for existing and new businesses was the fifth issue to be addressed. "We don't want existing businesses to feel that we want to focus on new businesses only, but that we're here for the existing businesses and want to help them as well," said Ontiveros.

Gholson said that the summit was implemented because of the many surveys that have been done in past years. "We had another survey done in 2000 and all the other surveys before that, indicated that the issues were the same," said Gholson. "We wanted to identify the needs and come up with some concrete plans to address them."

A survey will be sent to all businesses to identify their needs, according to Gholson. "In trying to improve business opportunities this is one of the first steps we will take," she said.

Another will be to focus on tourism and landscaping the main corridors in the community will be done to improve the appearance of the community and attract more people.

"A task force was set up for landscaping," said Ontiveros.

"In addressing the customer service issue in our community, they will be offering classes by Odessa College to all businesses, in both the areas of customer service and leadership training," she said. .

"A letter will go out to all business which will be proactive," said Ontiveros, adding that they wanted everyone to be aware of the importance of good customer relations and the impact on the community.

Another issue for further discussion, but that will be addressed by the city, is the demolition of abandoned and burned-down buildings. "The city council has a projected timeline of 4-6 months to open the new landfill and estimate that 50 percent of the problem will be resolved within a year of that opening," said Ontiveros.

Another area that will be pursued is a smoke-free ordinance in the community and property tax comparison, according to Ontiveros.

"The top five (issues) that are identified are issues that we felt had solutions and are issues our community can resolve together," said Ontiveros. "Pecos didn't get it's problems overnight and they won't be solved overnight, but by getting a plan and getting as many people in the community to come together we can make Pecos a better community to work in and visit."

Most importantly, according to Ontiveros, everyone in the community will be asked to participate in the Pride in Pecos Campaign.

"If we all work together in a more enthusiastic and positive way we can enable all the other campaigns to work better," she said.

Ontiveros said that the best comment made was, "This was a great step toward the betterment of the community and this is just the first step."

"We want to encourage the community to participate and if they have any ideas or express any interest in any aspect they can call the chamber office," said Ontiveros.

TxDOT puts 75 mph speed limit on U.S. 285

Staff Writer

PECOS, Tues., Oct. 29, 2002 -- Motorists headed to Fort Stockton or Carlsbad from  Pecos have been able to save a few minutes on their driving time legally  since late last week, after the Texas Department of Transportation  raised the speed limit on U.S. 285 from 70 to 75 miles per hour.

TxDOT crews put the new signs up last week, and the agency formally announced the change in a press release on Monday.

The change affects U.S. 285 in rural areas for its entire length in Texas, from the New Mexico state line, 50 miles north of Pecos, to Sanderson in Terrell County. Speed limits were also raised on two other West Texas highways, U.S. 90 in rural areas of Brewster and Terrell counties, and State Highway 176, which runs from Big Spring to Eunice, N.M. Speed limits on that road were raised to 75 mph in Martin and Andrews counties.

Speed limits were also raised slightly by TxDOT on the approaches to cities on the three highways, but speed restrictions remain in effect on those roads inside city limits.

In Pecos, speed limits on the approach into town were raised to 65 mph, and the speed limit on U.S. 285 for traffic going north over the Interstate 20 overpass is 55 mph. Speed limits for traffic on the north side of the overpass remains at 45 mph from I-20 to the West of the Pecos Rodeo Grounds.

The three roads are among the first two-lane highways in the Permian Basin to have their speed limits raised from 70 to 75 mph under House Bill 299, which allowed speed limit increases in counties with populations of less than 10 persons per square mile. The bill was passed during the 77th Legislative session in 2000, but TxDOT was required to conduct engineering studies to determine if the speed limits would be safe.

Speed limits were raised to 75 mph last December on Interstate highways in West Texas. That included both Interstates 10 and 20 in Reeves County. Two other two-lane highways, U.S. 67 and U.S. 385 between I-10 and U.S. 90 south of Fort Stockton also have been given 75 mph speed limits.

Reeves is the only county on I-20 to receive the higher speed limit. The speed limit drops back to 70 mph at the Pecos River crossing, because Ward County and other counties to the east fail to meet the population requirements of HB 299. However, I-10's new speed limit is in effect from the Hudspeth-El Paso County line to the Kimble-Kerr County line 70 miles north of San Antonio, a distance of over 400 miles.

"The reality is that in rural areas, people usually drove a few miles over the speed limit because of the distances involved in getting from point A to point B," said Rep. Pete P. Gallego, who authored the legislation. "The increase in the speed limit will allow people more room to gauge a comfortable yet safe driving speed when traveling."

The 10-month difference in changing the speed limits allowed TxDOT engineers to conduct studies to ensure that a higher speed limit was safe and reasonable for a particular roadway

According to TxDOT officials, the factors evaluated included prevailing speeds, roadway width, crash history, horizontal or vertical curves and shoulder conditions. The amount and location of driveways for residential and commercial developments were also considered in the engineering studies.

The 75-mph speed limit will not apply to commercial trucks, truck tractors, trailers and semitrailers. But it will apply to light trucks and light trucks pulling a trailer. The nighttime speed limit will remain 65 mph.

Eighty-six of Texas' 254 counties, predominantly in West Texas, are eligible to request a 75-mph limit. Along with the counties affected by the latest changes, other eligible counties include Crane, Crockett, Culberson, Glasscock, Jeff Davis, Loving, Martin, Presidio, Reagan, Sterling, Upton, Winkler, and Yoakum.

Bill will change Reeves County's voting machines

From Staff and Wire Reports
Reeves County voters who are casting ballots this week and  next Tuesday using punch card ballots will be voting on different machines in  the near future, after President Bush signed a bill in Washington today  to update voting equipment across the United States.

One week before Election Day, Bush signed legislation revamping the nation's voting system and guarding against the kinds of errors that threw his own election into dispute two years ago.

"When problems arise in the administration of elections, we have a responsibility to fix them," Bush said as he gathered several Democratic and Republican lawmakers behind him at a signing desk.

"Every registered voter deserves to have confidence that the system is fair and elections are honest, that every vote is recorded and that the rules are consistently applied. The legislation that I sign today will add to the nation's confidence," Bush said.

The ceremony, staged in a White House office-building auditorium, began Bush's two-day respite from campaigning for GOP House, Senate and gubernatorial candidates in next Tuesday's elections.

Under the "Help America Vote Act," states will receive $3.9 billion in federal money over the next three years to replace outdated punch card and lever voting machines or improve voter education and poll-worker training.

The new law's protections against voting error will not affect next week's balloting but are scheduled to be mostly implemented in time for the 2004 congressional and presidential vote, which will most likely include Bush's re-election bid.

Only 13 of Texas' 254 counties used punch card ballots for the 2000 election, with Reeves being one of those counties. The 13 included Harris County, the most populated county in Texas, but officials there already have phased out the punch card voting machines in favor of computer touch-screen voting machines.

The punch card machines already have been in use in Reeves County for early voting in next Tuesday's general election. Early voting will continue through Friday at the Reeves County Courthouse, while polls will be open at 11 locations in the county from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. next Tuesday.

It was Bush's bitter 2000 Florida recount battle with Democrat Al Gore - with its confusing "butterfly ballots," half-perforated punch ballots and allegations of voter intimidation - that gave rise to the legislation. Bush's election was ultimately decided by the Supreme Court.

The president made no mention of that Florida debacle in his brief speech. The state, governed by the president's younger brother Jeb, more recently had a rocky Sept. 10 primary. Various problems delayed some vote tallies for a week and polling places did not open on time. The federal government will post civil rights monitors at the polls in several Florida counties next Tuesday.

Rep. John Conyers, Jr., dean of the Congressional Black Caucus, accused Bush even before the ceremony of playing hypocritical games with the issue. Conyers recalled that Bush vetoed over the summer a $400 million "downpayment" on overhauling the election system.

"Without funding this bill is an empty shell and the president's signature is a cruel and empty promise," said Conyers, D-Mich.

The House approved election changes late last year and the Senate followed suit in April, but Republican demands for strong anti-fraud provisions stalled reconciliation of the two versions for months. Lawmakers did not send a final bill to Bush until last Wednesday.

"This has been a long marathon, but the finish line is finally in sight and the winner is the American public," said Senate Rules Committee Chairman Chris Dodd, D-Conn. "This landmark legislation will ensure that everyone not only has the right to vote on Election Day, but that their voice is heard."

Beginning Jan. 1, first-time voters who registered by mail will be required to provide identification when they show up at the polls.

By the 2004 vote, states will be required to provide provisional ballots to voters whose names do not appear on voter rolls. Those provisional ballots would counted once valid registration is verified.

For 2006 balloting, states will be required to maintain computerized, statewide voter registration lists linked to their driver's license databases. States will also be required to have voting machines that allow voters to confirm the way they marked their ballot - and, if necessary, change their votes - before they are finally cast.

Such voting software was tested in one jurisdiction in the 2001 Virginia gubernatorial election. The Century Foundation, which reviewed the results, found that the "lost vote" rate went from between 600-700 votes in the 2000 election to just one vote in 2001, said Tova Andrea Wang, a staffer to the National Commission on Federal Election Reform who later oversaw the foundation's study.

"The bill goes a long way toward addressing a lot of the problems, but the extent to which the bill works relies on what the states do because they are given a lot of discretion," said Wang.

"A new polling machine is fine and great as long as people know how to use it, and there's no specificity in the legislation on poll-worker training and voter education."

Wang and other election experts also worry that discriminatory enforcement of the voter-ID requirements could especially disenfranchise minorities, the poor, immigrants and students. She called the provision "something that may have to be revisited."

Churches plan youth festival on Wednesday

PECOS, Tues., Oct. 29, 2002 -- Three churches will pool their game booths and treats Wednesday night to give all area children a night of fun in a safe environment, said Greer Willis, First Baptist Church pastor.

West Park Baptist will host the youth-sponsored "trunk-or-treat" festival on the front lawn and parking lot of the church at Sixth and Eddy streets. No admission fee will be charged, and all activities are free, Willis said.

Church youth will use the trunks of their cars and pickup beds to set up traditional carnival booths, such as bowling, bubble capture and apple bobbing, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.

"We will also rent five big inflatable party toys that kids like to jump around on and slide down," Willis said. "We are looking to bring something fun for the kids in a safe environment to let Pecos know the churches' good will."

North Temple Baptist joins West Park and First Baptist in hosting the carnival.

Youth commission for 2002-03 named

PECOS, Tues., Oct. 29, 2002 -- The Town of Pecos City has chosen their 2002-2003 Pecos Youth Advisory Commission.

The advisory commission is made up of local junior high and high school students, and help with projects in conjunction with the Town of Pecos City during the school year.

This year's advisory commissioners are seventh graders, Angel Millan and Joe Gabaldon, eighth graders Jessica Trujillo and Amber Pando, 10th graders Krystal Matta, Joshua Cobos, Joseph Valencia, 11th graders Erica Caballero, Kaci Harrison, Betsy Lujan, Bianca Mendoza, Michael Orona, Pablo Rodriguez, Donald Rey Walker Jr., and Roque Ybarra and 12th graders Ignacio Aguilar, Jay Dannelley, Amanda Fleming, Annette Levario, Jonathan Martinez, Orlando Mendoza, Hannah Paz and Phillip Salcido.


PECOS, Tues., Oct. 29, 2002 -- High Mon. 69. Low this morning 47. Rainfall last 24 hours at  Texas A&M Experiment Station .83 inch. Forecast for tonight: Clear. Lows  45 to 50. SW winds 5 to 10 mph. Wed.: Partly cloudy and cooler. Highs in  the mid 60s. Winds becoming NE 10 to 20 mph. Wed. night: Mostly  cloudy. Lows 40 to 45. Thurs.: Mostly cloudy. Highs 55 to 60. Fri.: Mostly  cloudy and colder with a slight chance of rain. Lows 35 to 40. Highs around 50.

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