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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Friday, April 25, 2003

Family, friends welcome Lujan back from Gulf

Staff Writer

PECOS, Friday, April 25, 2003 -- Family and friends greeted again another local hometown hero early Thursday morning after he returned from Kuwait for a brief visit with family and friends.

Eddie Lujan, a Member of the United States Marine Fighter Squadron VMFA - 121 Green Knights Males 11 Unit was sent to Ahmed Al Jaber, Kuwait at the end of November of last year to serve as support for the war in neighboring Iraq that began last month.

"We were building munitions," said Lujan, a 28-year old Pecos High School graduate. "The majority of the munitions that were dropped (on Iraq) came from there."

Like his last deployment to Kandahar in Afghanistan back in September, Lujan said that living conditions were pretty much the same in the Persian Gulf.

"There was a lot of sand," Lujan said. "It was a tent city life."

He said that while living in a tent city life they were trying to get their job done.

However, he added that this deployment was different in regards to them working around the clock.

"We had day and night crews," Lujan said. "Sometimes we worked 10 to 14 hours a day."

He added that the pace was a lot faster then his last deployment.

"Last time it was only one squadron," Lujan said. "This time we were working for six different squadrons."

Another difference was that this time there were real alarms for possible scud missile (chemical) attacks, Lujan added.

"I also had to wear my gas mask everywhere I went," Lujan said. "Even to the bathroom.'

He said he and his squadron had to work with a lot more people, he said.

"We were four different units," Lujan said. "I would say that there were at least 200 of us working together.'

While in Kuwait, Lujan said that they received numerous letters from children ranging from the ages of 6 to 18 and thanking them for protecting their freedom.

"They would write things like, 'Go get them,' 'Thank you for protecting our freedom,'" Lujan said. "Young kids would also send drawings."

Lujan said that he felt that all the children were more in tune to what was going on.

"They knew the enemy was Saddam (Hussein). They would name him like they knew him. They would also mention Osama (bin Laden)."

While receiving letters from children, Lujan said that it became harder for him to keep in contact with his family, especially when the war began.

"We had two 15 minute phone calls a week," Lujan said. "But they were hard to come by because everybody wanted to call."

In regards to the welcoming home he received in the early morning hours of Thursday, Lujan said that he was not expecting the attention.

"I was taken by surprise," Lujan said. "Especially since I came in on a late flight. I especially was not expecting a news crew."

He said that he thought that his welcoming was too much and that he did not deserve as much attention as he had received that night.

"I was over whelmed," Lujan said. "I just kept thinking that we were waking up half the town with our honking. I am sure I woke up a lot of people and for those I did, I apologize."

He ended by saying that his heart goes out to the Mata family.

"Their dear son paid the ultimate price," Lujan said. "He deserved what I got last night. He deserves that and more."

Council briefed on housing plan for prison staff

Staff Writer

PECOS, Friday, April 25, 2003 -- The Town of Pecos City Council opted to take no action Thursday on approving a tax abatement agreement with TransPecos Foods during their regular meeting Thursday evening at City Hall.

Council members also heard a proposal to convert a building on Stafford Boulevard into housing to help attract new employees to the Reeves County Detention Center.

TransPecos Foods is seeking the abatement, which would be used to fund capital improvements at the facility it purchased from McCain Foods last year. However, Mayor Dot Stafford asked the council if they could table the item until all the council members were able to review the agreement.

City Attorney Scott Johnson told the council that he agreed with Stafford on tabling the item till the next meeting. He also told the council that it would give them time to evaluate the base value of the facility.

In other action, council members heard from two members of the Pecos Housing Association, Jesse Stevens and John Grant, who are looking into creating the old National Guard building on Stafford Boulevard into a dormitory to help with the city's housing shortage.

"We are a non-profit organization," Stevens said. "We want to assist low income families. We have six directors and no members."

He added that they have been working with low-income families in filling out 504 grant forms.

Grant, the president of West Texas National Bank, said that during a Chamber meeting, Reeves County Judge Jimmy Galindo stated that it had been hard to attract qualified applicants to work at the Reeves County Detention Center due to the lack of affordable housing.

He added that most applicants would not be able to afford commuting based on their salary.

So with the help of the prison, they surveyed some of the employees about living in dormitory housing.

"We received 60 positive responses," Grant said. "Some were single individuals and a married couple with no children."

Grant said that they are looking into creating ten units, eight for single people costing $350 and two for a couple costing $550.

"The rent cost would cover their electric bill, water bill, one meal per day and housekeeping once a week," Grand said. "The proposed labor would be compensated with a renting unit, where the occupant would live for free."

Once the building has been fixed and is being occupied, Grant said that they would then sell the property to an investor and take the profit.

"We would then use the money for the purchasing of another building," Grant said.

He said that they must clean up the city before they can get new businesses in to Pecos and hopes that this would help by providing affordable housing.

"Maybe the Pecos Housing Authority can take the project once it is completed or they can lease it from an investor," Grant said. "We do not want to be landlords."

He added that they are not here to make money.

Before the council members began with their meeting, they heard from Urban Planning and Management Consultant Carlos Colinas Vargas out of Austin during a public hearing.

"We are here to answer any questions you may have on the study," Vargas said, referring to work being prepared for the Town of Pecos City.

One of which is a study of basic planning activities, which includes base mapping, housing study and plan, population study and land use study.

Under this item the city is mapped and records of how property is used in regards to residential area, schools, lodging, churches and other building is made..

Other items that were studied hazardous materials routes and storm drainage systems, which was conducted by Frank X. Spencer and Associates, Vargas said.

"The recreation/open space study looks at community centers," Vargas said. ""It looks at the needs of community and the type of recreation. We are going to include the skateboard park in there."

He added that the development of the land was also a part of their study.

"The information is available to the public," Vargas said. "There will be some at the school and the library."

Vargas said that the study, if kept up to date, could be used when applying for funds.

"Again this is a comprehensive study not a plan," Vargas said. "It was paid for by a $50,000 grant."

During the public comment portion of the meeting, council members heard from Gilda Vejil, Russell Johnson and Peggy Carrasco.

Vejil came before the council to tell them how wonderful it was to see the city and county work together when welcoming home a hero, Johnny V. Mata.

"There are good loving people,' Vejil said. "The Sheriff's Department, Police Department, Fire Department, Knights of Columbus and other organizations did a wonderful job," Vejil said.

Vejil said that she would like to see the city and county continue to work together in keeping Pecos clean.

"I would like to see a trash can for bottles only around town," Vejil said. "I also would like to see all the trash cans that are corroded replaced.

She said that all the burned down homes are dangerous places for children and would like to see the homeowners responsible for their property.

"I thank Michael Benavides for starting the beautifying of Pecos," Vejil said. "We need to get behind him."

"We appreciate your interest in our town," Stafford said. "In regards to the landfill we are just waiting on a final inspection from TNRCC and they will get to it when they want to get to it. We can't do anything."

Stafford also told Vejil that the corroded trash cans are being replaced.

Johnson came before the council in regards to his sewer bill.

Johnson told the council that he had only two water and sewer bills combined that were over $50 since May of 2001 but now his sewer bill alone was going to be $44.

"I came and talked to Sam Contreras and Carols Yerena and they both worked with me," Johnson said. "They knocked $10 off."

He added that he was worried because both him and his wife are retired and live on a fixed income.

Peggy Carrasco said she was the mother of a skateboarder and that she opposed locating a planned skateboarding park at Maxey Park.

"The proposed area is the Maxey Park and we as parents feel very strong against this area for these reasons," Carrasco said. "One, there is no supervision."

A second reason was that the majority of the children did not live anywhere near the park and range from the ages of 7 to 16 years of age and have no form of transportation.

Carrasco said that Stella Ornelas, one of the parents who spoke at an earlier meeting in opposition to a skateboard park near the Girl Scout Hut at Sixth and Park Streets because of previous problems with youths in that area would not have to worry about supervising the children because they are old enough to take care of themselves.

"Second of all," Carrasco said. "Curfew should be enforced by the police. If this is her main concern, it can be taken care of."

Carrasco went on to say that she did not feel Ornelas would have to deal with anybody in any way.

"Last but most important we need to think of the vandalism and vandals at the Maxey Park, Making it hard for these skaters," Carrasco said.

County's jobs, workforce up,

while unemployment declines

Staff Writer

PECOS, Friday, April 25, 2003 -- Unemployment is Reeves County remained in double digits in March, but the county did see a drop in its jobless while both the total number of jobs and people in the local workforce increased, according to the Texas Workforce Commission.

The TWC released its March unemployment figures today, and the jobless rate was 13 percent, down from 13.7 percent in February and 14.5 percent in January. It's the ninth straight month the jobless rate has been above 10 percent, since the closing of the Anchor Foods plant at the end of May in 2002.

Anchor's shut down cost 700 workers their jobs, and while the facility has reopened under new owners TransPecos Foods, the employment at the plant is only about 20 percent of its highest total back in 2001. The shutdown caused the county's jobless rate to climb to as much as 19.9 percent in August of last year.

The TWC said the county's workforce was up in March to 5,978 workers, from 5,940 workers in February, but that was offset by an increase in the jobs, from 5,125 employees in February to 5,201 last month, which allowed the seven-tenths percent drop in the jobless rate.

However, both numbers are still down from a year ago. In March of 2002, the TWC said Reeves County had 6,416 people in the labor force and 5,956 with jobs, for an unemployment rate of 7.2 percent. The change represents a loss of 476 workers in the county and 755 jobs compared with 12 months ago.

The numbers were similar for the Town of Pecos City, where the jobless rate went as high as 22.4 percent last August. Unemployment in March fell from 15.6 to 14.8 percent, as the city added 25 people to their workforce while the number of jobs went up by 59. The city had 4,709 workers in March and 4,013 with jobs, according to the TWC.

Prior to Anchor's shutdown, in March of 2002, the TWC put the city's unemployment rate at 8.2 percent, with 5,007 people in the workforce and 4,595 employed.

Across the Permian Basin, the jobless rate dropped by one-tenth of a percent, from 6.1 to 6.0 percent, while unemployment in the Midland-Odessa area also was down a tenth of a percent, from 5.8 to 5.7 percent. Andrews County saw its jobless rate rise from 5.5 to 5.9 percent, Pecos County's jobless rate remained at 6.1 percent for the third month in a row, Ward County's rate dropped from 8.6 to 8.5 percent and Winkler County fell from 9.2 to 8.2 percent.

As with Reeves County, Pecos County and Ward County both added jobs and workers to its labor force in March, while Andrews and Winkler counties lost people from their labor force while seeing their total number of jobs decline.

To the south, Brewster County continued to have one of the area's lowest unemployment rates, at 2.0 percent. The TWC said only 124 people were unemployed out of 6,169 people in the workforce. Meanwhile, neighboring Presidio County continued to have the area's highest unemployment rate, at 21.5 percent, with 792 people unemployed out of its workforce of 3,676.

Loving County, meanwhile, also had a double-digit jobless rate, though as the nation's least populated county, the addition of one job was able to cut the unemployment rate from 10.9 to 10.6 percent. The county had 47 people in its workforce last month, and 42 of those had jobs, according to the TWC.

Commissioners set to close out RCDC III work

PECOS, Friday, April 25, 2003 -- Construction close-out on the Reeves County Detention Center III project is one of the items on the agenda for Reeves County Commissioners when they meet at 9:30 a.m., Monday, April 28, in the third floor courtroom.

Commissioners will discuss and take action on several items related to the 960-bed RCDC III addition, including LMD Architect request for payment invoice No. 284-RCDC III; LMD Architect request for payment invoice No. 285-RCDC III; Jarratt Dirt Work and Paving request for payment No. 5-RCDC III; Carothers Construction, Inc. request for payment No. 18-RCDC III; Carothers Construction, Inc., request for payment No. 19-RCDC III; change order no. 4 for ACME Electric Company for RCDC III; change order no. 9 for Carothers Construction, Inc. for RCDC III; and change order No. 5 for ISI Detention Contracting Group Inc., for RCDC III.

Other items on Monday's agenda include a request for Pitney Bowes to replace existing mailing postage meter with new model under State of Texas Procurement polity; bid for property located at 812 S. Plum; interagency agreement between Reeves County Juvenile Probation Department and the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD and interagency agreement between Reeves County Juvenile Probation Department and the Balmorhea Independent School District.

Commissioners will discuss and take action to declare Reeves County equipment as surplus/salvage to be sold at public auction or scraped; deputation and oath on Jerry Guerra Millan for Reeves County Sheriff's Department; reports from various departments; budget amendments and line-item transfers; personnel and salary changes (RCDC); minutes from previous meetings and semi-monthly bills.

Class of '93 holding Saturday garage sale

PECOS, Friday, April 25, 2003 -- The Class of 1993 is planning a fundraising garage sale, beginning at 9 a.m., Saturday at 801 S. Oak St.

All proceeds will go towards the 10-year class reunion the group is planning.

League tryouts set for 13-16 year olds

PECOS, Friday, April 25, 2003 -- Tryouts for Junior and Senior Baseball Leagues will be held at 9 a.m., Saturday at the Senior League Field in Maxey Park.

All boys ages 13-16 are eligible to try out. Individuals also have a chance to register to play.


PECOS, Friday, April 25, 2003 -- High Thurday 87. Low this morning 50. Forecast for tonight: Clear. Lows in the lower 50s. Southeast winds 5 to 15 mph. Saturday: Sunny. Highs in the lower 90s. Southwest winds 5 to 15 mph. Saturday night: Mostly clear. Lows in the mid 50s. Sunday: Partly cloudy. Highs in the lower 90s. Monday: Partly cloudy with a slight chance of showers and Thunderstorms. Lows in the mid 50s. Highs in the lower 80s.

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Pecos Enterprise
York M. "Smokey" Briggs, Publisher
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324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
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