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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 12, 2003

Council to hear plans for water, sewer projects

PECOS, Wed., March 12, 2003 -- The Town of Pecos City Council will discuss water and sewer related construction and repair projects during their regular meeting at 7 a.m. on Thursday at the City Council Chambers.

The council will discuss and consider the authorizing of Frank X. Spencer & Associates, Inc., to prepare plans and specifications for a new Stafford Blvd. lift station which would replace the existing lift station, and plans for proposed holding ponds, pumps and piping at the existing wastewater treatment plant. The will also discuss replacing a 250,000 gallon ground storage tank at the Ward County well field and refurbishing two existing 3 million gallon tanks at the Town of Pecos City yard.

Frank X. Spencer & Associates, Inc., will also be considered for conducting an engineering study of the six existing tanks and tank sites, including 27 well sites for security concerns and recommendations for tank conditions.

The council will also discuss and consider the approval of a change order number one for Part D, the ground storage tank and standpipes as part of the South Worsham Well Field project, and the change order number two for the sanitary landfill trench excavation trench four area B (type I) and area A (type IV) project.

The members will discuss and consider the approval of the central counting station for the May 3 city election at the Reeves County Courthouse and appoint officials for central counting station early voting ballot board, early voting and election day.

Discussion and consideration for the approval of bids for pharmaceutical services will also be heard by the council members, as will the policy on continuing education for city employees. An update on the local grocery stores by the city health inspector is also on the agenda for tomorrow's council meeting.

The council will approve the minutes of its regular council meeting held on February 27, the accounts payable report and the juvenile monthly reports also from February.

McDonald Observatory director says cutbacks won't shut facility

Associated Press Writer

EL PASO - Despite proposed cuts that would take $3.4 million from the McDonald Observatory's $14 million budget, Director Frank Bash says students and scientists will continue to explore the heavens using the facility's telescopes.

"I am certainly not planning to close the observatory," Bash said, adding that budget cuts for the facility are "inevitable."

The observatory is known for producing the "Star Date" educational radio spots and for world-class science. Recent Hobby-Eberly telescope observations of neighboring solar systems have revealed details on how the systems form and how they function.

Gov. Rick Perry has suggested cutting all special line items in the state budget to deal with a $9.9 billion state budget shortfall.

If the Legislature adopts that plan, the University of Texas at Austin would lose about $12.5 million, which includes $3.4 million in observatory money, said Kevin Heggarty, UT vice president and chief financial officer.

Kathy Walt, a Perry spokeswoman, said the governor didn't specifically target McDonald, but was looking for ways to make the hard decisions.

"He's asking the Legislature to go through line item by line item and weigh whether an item is a priority when looking at other priorities in the state," Walt said.

She said it would be up to the university to determine what level of funding, within its regular budget, is appropriate. University President Larry Faulkner has pledged to keep the observatory operational.

"It's too important an asset for Texas to just lose, so that's not possible in his mind," Heggarty said. "We will find funding for the McDonald Observatory."

Heggarty added that it nonetheless will face cuts along with all other academic departments.

Bash said he is preparing for a 12.5 percent cut, which has been proposed for all state agencies. He said he appreciates the president's support because the university allocates money based on semester credit hours.

Observatory science doesn't generate a large number of credit hours and the educational programs provided by the observatory go to students and teachers outside the university system, he said.

"We don't get any kind of formal credit for" the outside activities, Bash said.

The education programs - which include star parties, classroom kits and teacher training - will be largely unaffected because only about $100,000 of the $1.7 million spent on them comes from the state, he said.

McDonald also receives about $4.2 million in the university's regular budget for building maintenance and other basic operations. More than $6 million comes from donations, science grants and other sources, Bash said.

He said cuts likely will be made in science that uses the observatory's older telescopes.

"The most important thing we're doing now without question is the Hobby-Eberly telescope," Bash said. "Efforts to expand that will most certainly have to continue."

The HET cost $13.5 million and, at 9.2 meters, is the world's third-largest telescope. It is being used as a model for building low-cost telescopes in other parts of the world. By contrast, the Keck 10-meter telescope in Hawaii, the largest in the world, cost $80 million.

The observatory was created with a $1 million bequest to UT-A from William Johnson McDonald, who demanded that the facility promote astronomical science. The site was chosen for its remote, high-desert location, meaning the dark skies and dry climate provide many days of optimum viewing.

The first telescope, completed in 1939, is still in use.

Chamber discusses upcoming, proposed events

Staff Writer

PECOS, Wed., March 12, 2003 -- Pecos Chamber of Commerce members discussed upcoming events and proposed future events for Pecos during their regular monthly meeting on Tuesday at the Senior Citizens Center.

The Chamber's board members met at noon to discuss plans for the upcoming months, including Family Health Day scheduled for Saturday, March 22, at Maxey Park.

"We still have raffle tickets, we'll be raffling off different things," said chamber of commerce secretary Lupe Davis.

Davis said that among the many activities planned for the day are football, basketball and volleyball. Individuals can walk, jog or ride a bike throughout the day, according to Davis.

"We're going to have designated spots where the people can check their blood pressure," said Davis. "We're asking everyone to join us," she said.

Activities will begin at 7 a.m., at Maxey Park and continue throughout the day. "A bike and jogging trail will be outlined and they can follow that or stay at the park and enjoy the activities," said Davis.

"We'll have distance running as well," said Mark Zuniga, one of the organizers of the event.

Two bikes to be raffled are displayed at both Security State Bank and West Texas National Bank.

Competition in the football games will be in punt, pass and kick for different ages, according to Zuniga. Basketball will consist of three on three competition and ribbons will be handed out in the volleyball competition.

The event is sponsored by the Pecos Downtown Lions Club and the Pecos Rotary Club.

A jumping balloon game will also be set up at the park. "They can put on these Velcro suits and box and there is also a slide in there," said Zuniga.

Breakfast and lunch will be served and "water breaks" will be held throughout the trail.

D.J. music will be provided throughout the day and everything is open to the public. "We welcome everyone in the community and the surrounding area," said Zuniga.

Other events scheduled in the next month include a reception for the West of the Pecos Museum's 40th anniversary, which will be hosted by the Chamber.

"The Reeves County Teacher's Credit Union has offered to help," said chamber of commerce director Linda Gholson. She said the event is scheduled from 2-4 p.m., Saturday, April 12, at the museum.

"We'd like all chamber members to be there and welcome everyone," said Gholson.

Theme for the event will be 1963 and everyone is invited to come visit the museum and enjoy the festivities.

Gholson told the group that the chamber had been asked to host a farewell party for U.S. District Judge Royal Furgeson, who is taking a similar post in San Antonio, along with a welcoming event for his replacement, Rob Junell.

"I thought it would be nice to have it at the museum courtyard," said Gholson.

The farewell/welcome for the federal judges is scheduled for 5:30 p.m., Saturday, April 12.

"That way the new judges can see some of the things we have in town," said Gholson. "Anybody that wants to help, we'll appreciate it."

Chamber of Commerce President Al Gomez told the group that he had been to Odessa over the weekend at the monster truck show and had the opportunity to speak to some of the promoters of the event.

"I visited with someone, Joe Darnell, from the monster truck show and he told me that they were booked for the year," said Gomez. "But I asked them if they had any engagements in the west coast and maybe they could stop for gas money here in Pecos for one evening," he said.

Gomez said that the organizers said they would look into that possibility. "This is something I think would be good for Pecos and really attract people," he said.

"Our arena is actually bigger than Odessa's," said Gomez. "This would be great family entertainment," he said.

Gomez told the group that a lot of good things have been happening in Pecos and the publicity it has received would only help the community.

"We had a couple of grand openings and receptions and we had a great turnout from the community and a lot of good publicity from all the television stations," he said.

Gomez said that the construction at the hospital would help the community and the surrounding areas. "That's great news for Pecos and we should be really proud of that," he said.

Gholson also told the board that she had met with the Reeves County Commissioners on Monday to discuss the Reeves County Civic Center use and fees.

"I think there was some misunderstandings," she said.

Gholson said that the fee for the older part of the civic center was lowered, but the fee for the new part of the civic center increased a little. "And now they will need two security guards and that will go through us. The cost for the two security guards will be $200, $100 for each one of them," she said.

Gholson said that the commissioners had expressed concern that not enough security was being used when dances were held at the center. "Dances can be held in the new part of the center now," she said.

The Chamber also agreed to help the annual Relay for Life, scheduled for May. ""They are asking for participation from the chamber," said Gholson. "It's a good cause and anything we can do to help."

The directors agreed to sponsor the cancer survivors lap in the amount of $150.

West of the Pecos Parade committee member Kathy Hurley told the group that a theme had already been chosen for the annual event. "We'll be honoring the West of the Pecos Museum and its anniversary," said Hurley.

Junell settling in to new role as federal judge

Staff Writer

PECOS, Wed., March 12, 2003 -- During the first two days of this week the Lucius D. Bunton Federal Courthouse has been going through a transition phase, as Judge Royal Furgeson prepares to move to San Antonio and newly appointed Judge Robert Junell comes in to replace him.

Junell was appointed by the U.S. Senate as the new judge for the Pecos Division of the Western District of Texas in early February and was then sworn in on February 13.

"I've been a judge for almost a month now," Junell said.

Before being sworn into the judicial office, Junell was living in San Angelo and served in the Texas Legislature as the State Representative for Tom Green County, and four of its surrounding counties.

"I was on the legislature for 14 years," Junell said. "Your State Representative Pete Gallego is a good friend of mine."

Junell said that he served as chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, which Gallego also was a member of until this year.

He added that there would be some differences between his new position and his position serving on the legislature.

"The legislature makes the laws," Junell said. "The courts job is to interpret and enforce the law."

Working previously in the legislature, Junell said that his experiences in making laws would be helpful as he now takes the bench. However, he did add that the Texas legislature makes state law and not federal law.

"The same principles apply to both," Junell said. "I am looking forward to it."

He added that he had been to Pecos before both in federal and state court.

"I have friends from Pecos," Junell said.

He also added that black was not his color.

"Black is not my color," Junell said as he put on his robe. "I like blue."

Junell is originally from El Paso but his parents then moved to Lubbock.

He did his undergraduate studies at New Mexico Military Institute then received his Bachelor's degree in 1969 from Texas Tech University.

After graduation, he then joined the Army where he served 31/2 years. When Junell's term was up in the military, he decided then to go to law school at Tech's School of Law, from where he graduated from in 1976.

"I wanted to be a football coach," Junell said. "After I got out of the army I did not want to be a football coach anymore. Going to law school was a way out of not having to make a career decision. I was a better law student then undergraduate student."

During his time as a lawyer, Junell said that he had been the attorney for the San Angelo Standard Times.

As he begins to take over Judge Furgeson's position, Junell said that he has never handled criminal cases, having only worked with civil law.

"It is like going back to school," Junell said. "There have been a lot of people who have helped me. Judge Furgeson has been very helpful."

The Pecos Division normally has few civil cases, but in recent years has handled the second highest number of criminal cases of any court in the Western District, behind only El Paso.

Junell said that he loved the intellectual challenge of his new position.

"I also enjoy meeting new people and I like the law," Junell said. "A judge provides a forum to resolve differences."

One of the many cases of which he will handle will be that of Travis James Harris, the man charged for firebombing the Monahans Police Department last June and the carjacking and slaying of an Odessa man. The firebombing trial will be held in Pecos, while the carjacking trial is scheduled for Midland, where Junell is also replacing Furgeson.

"I don't know anything about it," Junell said.

During this transition phase Judge Jane Restani from the U.S. Court of International Trade in New York City is helping out with the heavy caseload.

Restani has served on the bench for 20 years in both district and court appeals.

Restani first came to Pecos since January and will be here till the end of April.

"I work on the civil cases for this district out of New York," Restani said.

She has been asked by Junell to come back during the first months of 2004.

Restani added that she has enjoyed working with the staff at the Federal Courthouse whom he found to be competent.

"I appreciate working with Deputy Clerk Johnny Terrazas and Security Guard Steve Balog. I appreciate the way he takes care of the jurors."

She added that it has been a pleasure working with Judge Furgeson and Junell.

Woman pedestrian injured after being struck

Staff Writer

PECOS, Wed., March 12, 2003 -- A vehicle-pedestrian accident Tuesday evening on West Third Street, sent a Pecos woman to the hospital.

Pecos Police Officers responded to a call about an accident that occurred in front of Sonic Drive In, 505 W. Third St., at about 7:35 p.m., Tuesday evening.

Pecos Police Officer Cesar Urias investigated the pedestrian/vehicle accident, and said a 2002 Dodge Dakota pickup, driven by Corey Trent Davis, 28, of Pecos, struck a pedestrian who was trying to cross the street.

Maria M. Rayos, 68, was conscious and ambulance personnel attended her before transporting her to Reeves County Hospital, according to Urias. A report on her condition was unavailable at press time.

His report stated a witness said Rayos was attempting to cross the street in front of Sonic and Davis, who said that he didn't see her, was turning into Sonic at the time and struck her with his left front bumper.

"He said that he just didn't see her," said Urias.

No charges were filed and the incident was ruled just an "accident."


PECOS, Wed., March 12, 2003 -- High Tuesday 86. Low this morning 46. Forecast for tonight: Partly cloudy. Lows in the lower 50s. West winds 5 to 15 Mph.
PECOS, Wed., March 12, 2003 -- Thursday: Partly cloudy. Highs in the mid 80s. North winds 5 to 15 mph. Thursday night: Mostly cloudy. Lows in the lower 50s. Friday: Mostly sunny. Highs in the lower 80s. Saturday: Mostly clear. Lows near 50. Highs in the mid 80s. Sunday: Partly cloudy. Lows near 50. Highs in the mid 80s.

Weevil eradication election ballots due in mail

PECOS, Wed., March 12, 2003 -- Agriculture Commissioner Susan Combs reminds cotton producers voting in the El Paso/Trans Pecos Boll Weevil Eradication Zone referendum that their ballots must be postmarked by next Monday to be counted. Results of the referendum will determine whether to continue a boll weevil eradication program in the 15 counties of the El Paso/Trans Pecos Boll Weevil Eradication Zone.

Eligible voters in the El Paso/Trans Pecos Boll Weevil Eradication Zone should have received an official ballot by mail. A postage-paid return envelope was included. Producers in the zone who planted cotton in 2002, but did not receive a ballot should immediately contact the Texas Department of Agriculture at 512-463-7593 or 1-800-TELL-TDA (1-800-835-5832).

The El Paso/Trans-Pecos Boll Weevil Eradication Zone consists of approximately 60,000 acres in 15 counties: Brewster, Crane, Crockett, Culberson, El Paso, Hudspeth, Jeff Davis, Loving, Pecos, Presidio, Reeves, Terrell, Val Verde, Ward and Winkler.


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