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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Top Stories

Monday, March 10, 2003

Arson suspected as cause of blaze at west side site

Staff Writer

PECOS, Mon., March 10, 2003 -- Arson is suspected in a structure fire that Pecos Volunteer Fire  Department responded to Sunday evening, and which caused a portion of highway  17 to be closed for over an hour.

Town of Pecos City Fire Marshal Jack Brookshire said that they received a call at 7:03 p.m. of a building on fire on the Balmorhea highway.

"It was an abandoned building," Brookshire said. "The fire occurred where the offices are located."

He added that the building used to be the Equipment Service Building.

"Though it is a metal building, it had some wood frames," Brookshire said.

The building has two separate parts. The front portion is a total loss, but the back portion suffered no damages, Brookshire said.

"The fire appears to be arson," he added. "There is no reason why the fire should have started."

Brookshire said that because of how fast the blaze spread through the front of the building, he believed substances where used to set the fire.

"The building had no electricity and no gas," Brookshire said.

Brookshire added that though he believed this fire to be arson he did not believe there to be a connection with the arson fire at Seventh and Bois D'Arc streets that occurred on Feb. 17, and which is still under investigation.

An arson investigation dog brought in from Austin determined that fire had been deliberately set. Brookshire said last week that he has asked FBI investigators for help with that case, but he remains in charge of the overall investigation.

Brookshire said that he would again call the state so that they can bring their dog to investigate the cause of the fire.

The main lanes on highway 17 were closed from 7:03 p.m. till 8:46 p.m., according to the Pecos Police Department. Smoke was visible from several miles away, and the highway was filled with drivers wanting to get a better look at the fire.

The Reeves County Sheriff's Department and the Pecos Volunteer EMTs were also on hand, but no one was injured in the fire.

Interim BOP payment rate OKed by county

Staff Writer

PECOS, Mon., March 10, 2003 -- An interim man-day rate for the Reeves County Detention Center  was approved during the regular Reeves County Commissioners Court  held this morning.

The group met in the third floor courtroom and approved several items including an interim 14½ percent increase from the current the U.S. Bureau of Prisons' man-day rate.

Reeves County Judge Jimmy B. Galindo told the court that the new man-day rate with BOP was set at $47.47 in an intergovernmental agreement. "This is just interim pending the outcome of the audit on operations at the Reeves County Detention Center," said Galindo.

Galindo said that the auditor would begin his audit today and the change in the man-day rate is higher than before. "It was $41.48," said Galindo.

Commissioners also approved new rates for use of the Reeves County Civic Center after a discussion with the Chamber of Commerce Director Linda Gholson. The chamber is in charge of booking the facility.

"Whatever you decide to do, we'll try our best to enforce it," said Gholson.

The group discussed using the new portion of the civic center for dances. "In the past, it was decided not to use the new portion of the civic center for dances, because of the wear and tear on the tiles," said Gholson. "That would mean putting extra money aside for repairs."

Gholson told the group that the chamber does not make any money out of booking the facility.

"They could book the new part of the reception, but would have to hold the dance in the old part of the center," said Gholson. "A lot of times they didn't follow those rules and we had to withhold their deposit."

Galindo said that a new provision he would like to see added to the contract be that two security guards be required.

"The fee would still be required, but I would recommend that we charge $200 for the two security guards," said Galindo. He added that the security guards would have to be present at all times during the event.

"I've been approached about having the junior/senior prom in the new section of the civic center," said Reeves County Commissioner Precinct 2 Norman Hill. "I guess because they buy those expensive dresses and they don't want them ruined and they have suggested that they use the new part of the center."

Galindo said that he had received the same request.

"If you decide that it's OK to have dancing in the new part, we'll do whatever you decide," said Gholson.

"Once we remove the restriction on no dancing in the new part, nobody will want to hold their dances in the old part," said county auditor Lynn Owens.

"We could drop the fee there to help them out," said Galindo.

Under the new proposal for use of the civic center, individuals can use the new part of the center for dances, but must pay for the two security guard. The new fees would be $50 for non-profit; $75 for non civic; $100 for private and $350 for private for profit.

In other action, commissioners approved payments to LMD Architect in the amount of $4,469. "This is reimbursement for Ms. Dailey's fees," said Owens.

A payment to Banes General Contractors in the amount of $75,000 was also approved. The construction company was in charge of construction at the Reeves County Detention Center II.

A payment to Frank Spencer and Associates was tabled. "I haven't received the amount or anything from Ms. (architect Lorraine) Dailey on this yet," said Owens.

Personnel and salary changes include promotions at the RCDC for Perla Castillo and Terry Halpain, who were promoted to CO-II's and a salary increase to $24,000 a year; part-time employee at the Reeves County Recreation Center David Ramirez, at the hourly rate of $5.15 per hour; and new hires in the county clerk's office, Ashley Elizabeth Horsburgh and Kristopher Terrazas, both at $6 per hour.

Area unemployment rates show increase

PECOS, Mon., March 10, 2003 -- Unemployment in Reeves County was up in January, according  to figures released on Friday by the Texas Workforce Commission, as  the number of jobs in the county declined while the number of  workers remained virtually unchanged from December's totals.

The jobless rate traditionally has increased following Christmas in the Permian Basin, due to post-holiday layoffs. That was true again this month, though statewide, unemployment showed a decline last month, from 6.5 to 6.4 percent.

According to the TWC's figures, Reeves County had 6,066 workers in January and 5,182 jobs, leaving the county with a 14.6 percent unemployment rate.

In December, the jobless rate was 13.7 percent, with 6,073 people in the county's workforce and 5,238 with jobs.

The numbers were similar, but slightly higher, for the Town of Pecos City. January unemployment was 16.5 percent, up from 15.6 percent. The number of workers in the city in January was 4,789, the exact same as in December, while the number of jobs in the city fell from 4,041 to 3,998.

Despite the increases, both the city and county unemployment rates are down from November, and down from their highs of over 20 percent last summer, following the closing of the Anchor Foods plant in Pecos. The city's jobless rate was as high as 22.3 percent following last May's shutdown, and was at 19 percent in November, the TWC said.

December's drop in the jobless rates for the city and county was due to a drop in the total number of people in the local labor force, which fell by about 200 from November's total.

The area-wide unemployment increase matched the numbers for Reeves County and the Town of Pecos City, as jobless rates for the Permian Basin were up nine-tenths of a percent, from 5.4 to 6.3 percent. Unemployment in the region was 6 percent in November.

Ector County's unemployment was up from 6.5 to 7.5 percent, Midland County's rate rose from 3.7 to 4.4 percent, Andrews County saw its rate go from 4.9 to 5.7 percent, Pecos County went from 5.6 to 6.1 percent, Ward County was up from 8.1 to 9.8 percent, and Winkler County's rate increased from 9.1 to 10 percent.

Crane was the only county to show any decrease in unemployment from the last posted numbers. Its rate plunged from 13.7 percent to 6.9 percent, but that was due to the TWC adjusting the labor force numbers for the latter half of 2002. The adjusted figures showed Crane both gaining workers and jobs in January, while its unemployment rate went from 6.8 to 6.9 percent.

To the south, Brewster and Jeff Davis counties continued to have the area's lowest unemployment rate, at 1.8 and 2.5 percent respectively, while neighboring Presidio County had the area's highest jobless rate in January, at 21.4 percent. However, unlike the Permian Basin counties, the Big Bend area all reported slight declines in their jobless rates from December, with an increase in both the number of people in the local workforces and the total number of jobs in the counties.

The state jobless rate's .1 percent decline was based on seasonal adjustments. Actual unemployment jumped from 5.9 percent in December to 6.8 percent in January as stores laid off thousands of workers who were added for the holiday sales period.

Even with the adjustments, January unemployment remained higher than a year ago, when the rate was 6.1 percent.

After adjusting for typical layoffs at the end of the holiday shopping season, the commission estimated that unemployment among permanent job holders held about steady, dipping by only 900.

Following are the preliminary January unemployment rates for Texas metropolitan areas, with December rates in parentheses. The local figures were not seasonally adjusted.

Abilene 4.4 (3.8); Amarillo 3.9 (3.4); Austin-San Marcos 5.7 (4.8); Beaumont-Port Arthur 9.2 (7.8); Brazoria 7.9 (7.0); Brownsville-Harlingen 10.6 (10.2); Bryan-College Station 2.1 (1.7); Corpus Christi 6.3 (5.4); Dallas 7.3 (6.1);

El Paso 9.8 (8.1); Fort Worth-Arlington 6.4 (5.4); Galveston-Texas City 7.9 (6.9); Houston 6.5 (5.4); Killeen-Temple 5.8 (5.1); Laredo 8.1 (6.6); Longview-Marshall 6.6 (6.0); Lubbock 3.2 (2.6); McAllen-Edinburg-Mission 15.4 (13.3);

Odessa-Midland 5.9 (5.1); San Angelo 3.9 (3.2); San Antonio 5.5 (4.7); Sherman-Denison 6.4 (5.8); Texarkana N/A; Tyler 4.9 (4.2); Victoria 5.2 (4.4); Waco 4.8 (4.4); Wichita Falls 4.8 (4.4).

Smith turns oral history work into new book

Staff Writer

PECOS, Mon., March 10, 2003 -- East Texas tales and folk wisdom are a part of a new book that can  be purchased at the West of the Pecos Museum, complete with  an autograph from the author who wrote it.

Tumbleweed Smith, who released his new book, "Under the Chinaberry Tree," was in Pecos at the West of the Pecos Museum autographing books for those in the community that enjoy Texas tales and folk wisdom last Thursday.

"I always enjoy coming to Pecos and I especially enjoy helping out the museum and doing things here," said Smith, who is from Big Spring. "I think this is one of the best museums."

Born in Waco, he spent his childhood in Fort Worth. After studying English at Baylor University and journalism at the University of Missouri, he began learning in earnest, by traveling for the next 30 years or so to amass the largest private collection of oral histories in the United States.

Smith is producer of, `The Sound of Texas,' a radio series, which began in Big Spring and became the most widely syndicated radio show in Texas. He loves to bring the sounds and stories of Texas to radio and newspaper audiences across Texas.

In "Under the Chinaberry Tree," Smith shares some of the most fascinating East Texas tales and folk wisdom he has gathered over the years.

This is Smith's second book, the first one having been written in 1976.

"That one I published myself," said Smith. "That was called the Tumbleweed Collection and it's been a long time in between books."

In 1986, he came out with a cassette and CD. "This is one is doing really well, it's in its third printing," said Smith. "This was one was published by a publisher, Eaken Press."

His radio show can be heard locally on KIUN, at 7:10 a.m. "Different stations air it at different times," said Smith.

Cost for his newest book is $22.59, plus tax and the book can be purchased at the West of the Pecos Museum. "The ones here at the museum will also be autographed already," said Smith.

Smith said that he has really been busy promoting his new book and had quite a few visitors at the museum on Thursday afternoon.

Along with being a radio personality and author, Smith is also a teacher at the University of Texas Permian Basin, where he teaches broadcast and speech, public speaking.

Smith has been in radio since 1960, and about 15 years ago, he started a newspaper column, which is published in the Enterprise on Tuesdays.

"I've always wanted to write a book, I've always considered myself to be a writer," said Smith, who majored in English. "I went to the Army and started doing radio and it was so seductive, I really enjoyed it, I fell under its spell."

"I've always been in broadcasting and have always enjoyed writing," said Smith.

Smith also enjoys traveling and is something he chooses to do. "I have to travel to my job and I enjoy traveling through West Texas promoting my radio show or my book," he said.

"It's really nice to be in Pecos, it's always a pleasure to do something with the museum and have always had something to do with it since the 1990's," he said. "They really know how to run a museum."

"I'm thrilled to be on KIUN and the Pecos Enterprise," said Smith.

March of Dimes clay target shoot set for Stanton

PECOS, Mon., March 10, 2003 -- The fourth annual Albertson's Clay Shoot to benefit the March  of Dimes will be held Friday and Saturday, March 21-22 at  the Windwarker Farms in Stanton..

The event is one round of sporting clays, with four-person teams and Lewis Class scoring. Funds raised from the event will go towards the March of Dimes campaign to prevent birth defects.

For further information, call the March of Dimes office at (915) 570-0172.


High Sun. 83. Low this morning 43. Forecast for tonight:  Partly  cloudy. Lows in the upper 40s. SE winds 5 to 15 mph. Tues.:  Partly cloudy.  Highs in the lower 80s. SW winds 5 to 15 mph. Tues. night:  Partly cloudy.  Lows in the mid 40s. Wed.:  Mostly sunny. Highs in the lower 80s. Thurs.:   Mostly clear. Lows 40 to 45. Highs in the lower 80s.


Lydia Lara Rodriguez and Vangie Smetak

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Pecos Enterprise
York M. "Smokey" Briggs, Publisher
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