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Archive 2003

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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Top Stories

Wednesday, March 5, 2003

Gomez opposes bill to eliminate drug task forces

Staff Writer

PECOS, Wed., March 5, 2003 -- Local law enforcement officials and Trans Pecos Drug Task  Force officers are hoping state lawmakers reject a proposed bill that would  end funding for task force operations across Texas..

"We're hoping it won't go through," said Reeves County Sheriff Andy Gomez of the bill, proposed by an Austin lawmaker, which would eliminate Task Force funding as part of an effort to cut into the state's budget deficit.

Rep. Terry Keel, R-Austin, who authored the bill, was quoted in today's Odessa American as saying he does not believe the task forces do the job they were chartered for.

The proposal, HB 801, reads in its entirety: "The criminal justice division may not award a grant under this section to a multi-jurisdictional drug task force."

"They've just not been effective and in some cases have been proven to be corrupt," said Keel, who was sheriff in Travis County from 1992 to 1997. "The idea is flawed. There is no accountability for these guys. There's no accounting for task force operations. I think the drug task force is just a failed experiment," he said.

Gomez said that while the money is approved for drug task forces each year by the Criminal Justice Division of the Texas Governor's office, the money actually comes from the federal government, and totals about $600,000.

"They're federal funds, but are being managed by the state," he said.

"We don't know yet what is going to happen, we're still checking on what is exactly was filed," said Gomez, who added that he has already talked to Rep. Pete Gallego about the bill.

"He said that that representative is really pushing that bill, but a lot of bills never go through so we're hoping this one won't," he said.

Gomez said that local law enforcements officials are also going to start writing letters and passing out petitions in favor of the task force. "We'll be working hard to keep it, because it is important to this area," said Gomez.

The Trans-Pecos Drug Task Force is one of two multi-county drug task forces that serve the Permian Basin. It was created, along with the West Texas Narcotics Task Force, after problems with the Permian Basin Drug Task Force caused then-Gov. George W. Bush's office to defund the agency five years ago.

FBI assisting arson probe of house fire

PECOS, Wed., March 5, 2003 -- Town of Pecos City Fire Marshal Jack Brookshire said he has talked to FBI agents about helping with the investigation of a Feb. 17 fire that destroyed a home on the west side of town.

Brookshire said he would remain in charge of the investigation, but has asked FBI arson investigators to help with the probe of the fire at Seventh and Bois D'Arc streets

Brookshire said four days after the blaze that arson was suspected as the cause of the fire. An arson dog from Austin was brought in to search through the fire damage and was able to detect a 2½-gallon container of gasoline inside the home.

The house belonged to Reeves County Hospital employee Beverly Bold-Warrior. Brookshire she had been out of town during the incident, and was in the process of moving when the fire occurred.

The fire was reported at 3:01 a.m. on the morning of Feb. 17. Brookshire said that the building was engulfed in flames by the time fire trucks arrived on the scene and the home was a total loss.

School board to discuss campus consolidation options

PECOS, Wed., March 5, 2003 -- Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD Board members will once again discuss possibilities of closing campuses during their regular board meeting scheduled for 6 p.m., Thursday, in the Technology Center, 1301 S. Eddy St.

Everyone is invited to attend the open portion of the meeting, which is being held a week earlier than usual due to the school district's spring break holiday next week.

The group is already planning to relocate sixth grade students from Zavala Elementary to Bessie Haynes Elementary for the 2003-04 school year, and will discuss and consider the different campus consolidation possibilities. Those include moving sixth graders to Bessie Haynes Elementary; moving DAEP/AEP students to Zavala and close Lamar and portions of Zavala; moving DAEP/AEP students to Pecos High School and closing both Lamar and Zavala or leaving DAEP/AEP at Lamar and closing Zavala.

The consolidations are being done in order to cut the district's budget due to a decline in enrollment. Another budget cutting measure on Thursday's agenda is the elimination of the high school's powerlifting program, which was begun three years ago.

In other action, board members will recognize district, regional and state swim team and a plaque to the Pecos High School from U.S. Department of Education will be awarded.

Under correspondence: a letter from the Texas Education Agency on the 2002-2003 PEMIS submission and PID information; letter from Whirlwind Tours bus driver and donations from Reeves County Teachers Credit Union.

Under new business the board will consider and take possible action on: providing transportation for the 2003 National Hispanic Institute Collegiate World Series at Sul Ross State University; update on Summary of Finance for 2002-2003 and 2003-04; construction of a softball field and method of procurement; approval of Long Range Plan for Technology; designation of auditor for current year funds 2002-03 compensatory education audit and leaver audit; adoption of textbooks as per the textbook committee selection recommendations; first reading for Policy Update 69; sale of foreclosed property and 2002-2003 budget amendments.

The group will meet behind closed doors in closed session as authorized by the Texas Open Meetings Act, Texas Government Code, Section 551.101 et. seq., Section 551.074: a. To deliberate the appointment, evaluation, reassignment, duties, discipline or dismissal of a public officer or employee; (1) To discuss evaluations and renewal of probationary and term contract employees; (2) Consideration of proposed non-renewal of teacher term contract; (3) Consideration of termination of probationary contract employee at the end of the contract period. B. To hear a complaint or charge against a public officer or employee and Section 551.071; (1) Consultation with attorney regarding consideration of proposed non-renewal of term contract, termination of probationary contract and other personnel matters.

Board members will return to open session and take action, if any, on items discussed in closed session.

Consider and possible action on professional personnel contract renewals and consider and possible action on professional personnel appointments, reassignments, change of contract, retirements, resignations.

Regular agenda items are: tax report, depository securities report, cafeteria report and commodities received, current bills and financial report, investment transaction report, reconciled bank balance report, Reeves County Community Recreation Department Report, attendance/enrollment report, date and time for next meeting, calendar of events and request for items for next agenda.

Emergency personnel get WIPP safety update

Staff Writer

PECOS, Wed., March 5, 2003 -- Local officials and law enforcement agencies gathered  at the Reeves County Sheriff's Office Classroom this morning to get  an update on safety plans for transporting radioactive materials  to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in Carlsbad, NM.

WIPP opened three years ago to handle low-level radioactive waste transported from various storage sites around the United States. Some of the waste being shipped to WIPP from the east coast travels through Pecos, and emergency response personnel were given a briefing on the facility by Mike Rutherford, Emergency Planner for the WIPP/ Transportation Project Bureau of Radiation Control.

He explained that WIPP is a place in which clothing, tools, rags, debris, residues and disposable items contaminated with radiation are disposed of properly. It's located in an isolated area 26 miles southeast of Carlsbad, and 75 miles northwest of Pecos.

"The area was also picked because it contains a lot of salt and there is an absence of water," Rutherford said.

The area is currently stable and should remain stable for another 50,000 years, Rutherford added.

He said there are three types of radiation, alpha, beta and gamma, alpha being the less threatening of the three.

"The majority of radiation that passes through here is alpha," Rutherford said. "Alpha can be shielded with a single sheet of paper. It is a threat if is ingested."

Beta can be shielded with a sheet of metal and can travel 20 feet and can penetrate the first layer of skin while Gamma can expose higher amounts of radiation over 20 feet and should be shielded by concrete or a by staying at longer distance from the source, Rutherford said.

Though alpha is the least dangerous of the three, Rutherford told the group that they should limit their exposure to radiation.

"The size and weight of the barrels are a greater health hazard," Rutherford said.

Rutherford said that the shipments passing through Pecos come from Savannah, Ga., off of Interstate 20 and north on U.S. 285 to Carlsbad, and that there are classes to train emergency services how to deal with an incident in which radiation is involved.

"We provid ed eight hour classes on how to handle contaminated victims with radiation," Rutherford said. "We have a doctor out of Philadelphia who teaches the class free of charge."

The classes are taught on site, with four hours of lectures and four hours of hands-on training to allow the hospital staff to respond to any emergency coming into their hospital, he said.

Rutherford added that the WIPP truck drivers are trained in dealing with any incident that may arise.

"Our drivers are trained," Rutherford said. "They are to notify the main office if something happens. If they are able they are to rope off the scene and work with the local jurisdiction. They have gone through all of these classes that I have mentioned."

Some of the classes offered include Command and Control, First Respond, First Respond Refresher and Incident Command, which are all free of charge.

However, Rutherford said that if an accident involving one of their vehicles were to occur, either a response radiation program manager from Midland would be available or since they would send their response team from the WIPP site.

"If an incident does happen you are to take control of the scene," Rutherford said. "You can also take readings and contact us."

Other responding personal are in Amarillo and Arlington, Rutherford said.

The transportation of the contaminated items is packaged individually in an airtight plastic bag were it is then placed inside a 55-gallon barrel which is also lined with plastic.

"The fourteen 55-gallon barrels are then placed in tubes." Rutherford said.

During the drive from the Georgia to Carlsbad, Rutherford said that the trucks first stop 26-miles from their departure point to check over on their cargo and then repeat the procedure every 100 miles or every two hours. Because of their frequent stops Rutherford added that it takes the drivers anywhere from 12 to 14 hours to pass through the state of Texas.

"The drives do not have a time requirement," Rutherford said.

He added that I-20 was picked as the truckers traveling route because it is opened year round.

"The drivers do stop for weather conditions," Rutherford said.

The Texas Department of Public Safety also monitors the route of all the drivers. A city or town is notified that a truck with hazardous material will be passing through, Rutherford said.

"About three to four shipments pass through here a week," Rutherford said.

He added that the drivers must also pass several tests in order to keep their job.

"The drivers must have no moving violation once they do they are out of a job," Rutherford said. "They also go through drug testing and have two to three unannounced drug tests per year."

The drivers must also continue on their designated route till they reach Carlsbad. Any detours that are not announced will also cost the driver their job.

"One driver must always remain within 25-feet of visual distance from the vehicle," Rutherford added.

Combs to miss grand opening event at dairy

Staff Writer

PECOS, Wed., March 5, 2003 -- The state's ongoing budget problems have forced  Texas Agriculture Commissioner Susan Combs to cancel her trip to  Pecos on Thursday for the grand opening of the "Flat Top Dairy  Go-Around" located off U.S. 285 between Pecos and Fort Stockton.

Combs was scheduled to give the keynote address as part of a schedule of stops across West Texas and the Texas Hill Country on Thursday, but last week her Special Assistant for Producer Relations, Brian Murray, sent a letter to Pecos Economic Development Corp. President Gari Ward informing him that the mandates budget cuts in all departments would prevent her from making the trip to Pecos.

"To meet our budget obligations at TDA, the Commissioner has had to cancel many planned meetings and visits," Murray's letter said.

The ceremony is still scheduled for 9 a.m. on Thursday at the dairy, located 20 miles southeast of Pecos. E. Eugene Norwood of Goldwaithe built the dairy and go-round, which is permitted to handle as many as 6,000 cows.

Ward said last year when construction was underway that the dairy will be the fifth in the county, four of which have been started in recent years. He said the openings would mean that nearly 10,000 dairy cows would be located in Reeves County by this year, and cited a study done at Tarleton State University in Stephenville that showed every 1,000 dairy cows there translated into $2.4 million added to the local economy.

Along with her trip to Pecos, Combs was also scheduled to visit Dell City Rocksprings and Crystal City for Town Hall meetings on Thursday.

`Fat Tuesday' dinner events called success

Staff Writer

PECOS, Wed., March 5, 2003 -- About 300 people took advantage of an excellent meal  and entertainment on Fat Tuesday, as  part of a dinner event at the  Reeves County Civic Center last evening.

"We had about 250 people that actually came in and sat and ate at the civic center," said Knights of Columbus member Michael Benavides. "There were about 50 walk-ins."

"Next Wednesday, we'll have a total count, because we still have some tickets out there," said Benavides. "It all looks very positive."

Individuals could eat in or take out, during the inaugural Fat Tuesday Spaghetti Dinner, sponsored by the Knights of Columbus, which marked the beginning of Lent today.

"There was plenty of food for everyone," said Benavides.

Kathy Hurley was the winner of the bake-off contest, and collected $40 for her efforts. King of Mardi Gras was Richard Dutchover and Queen was Jessica Leija.

The king was chosen by the number of beads he had won at the end of the evening and the queen was chosen by finding a little doll inside the piece of cake she was eating.

"The idea of finding the little doll inside the cake is a Mardi Gras tradition and the number of beads idea was our own," said Benavides.

"It was a really good turnout and next year we're hoping it will be bigger and better," said Benavides. "We hope to get the other side of the civic center to add more games and things for the kids, because they really enjoyed that."

Benavides said that they had received a lot of compliments on the spaghetti and fixings. "The cooks did an outstanding job, they worked very hard and it was very rewarding," he said.

He added that he wanted to thank all the people that attended, all those who volunteered and the advertisement the event received.

"We just want to thank everyone, because it takes the entire community to make events like this a success," said Benavides. "Hopefully next year, it will be bigger and better."

Benavides said that he was glad they had plenty of help and that everyone did an outstanding job.

Tumbleweed Smith  holding book signing

PECOS, Wed., March 5, 2003 -- Tumbleweed Smith, syndicated newspaper columnist and producer of, "The Sound of Texas," radio program, will be signing his new book, Under the Chinaberry Tree, from 1:30 until 3:30 p.m. on Thursday at the West of the Pecos Museum.

Smith is heard weekdays on KIUN radio, and his column is also published weekly in the Pecos Enterprise. He will also have some of his cassettes and CDs.


PECOS, Wed., March 5, 2003 -- High Tuesday 77. Low this morning 44. Forecast for tonight:   Mostly clear. Lows near 40. West winds 5 to 15 mph. Thursday:   Mostly sunny. Highs in the mid 70s. Southwest winds 10 to 20  mph. Thursday night:  Partly cloudy. Lows in the lower 40s. Friday:  Partly  cloudy. Highs in the mid 70s. Saturday:  Partly cloudy. Lows near 40. Highs in  the lower 70s.

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