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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Thursday, July 10, 2003

Council OKs tax abatement for food plant

Staff Writer

PECOS, Thurs., July 10, 2003 -- The Town of Pecos City Council met this morning in the Council Chambers and approved a five-year tax abatement agreement with Trans Pecos Foods.

Back in April former Councilman Johnny Terrazas made the motion to approve five-year tax abatement with about 100 percent abatement on all new capital improvement. Councilwomen Angelica Valenzuela seconded the motion.

The council had tabled the abatement request at a previous meeting, while waiting on a report on the value of the land and fixtures before making a decision.

"The council has approved the abatement," City Manager Carlos Yerena said. "But we did not have the agreement at that time."

Councilman Danny Rodriguez made a motion to approve the agreement with Councilman Michael Benavides seconding it.

Trans Pecos Foods purchased the former Anchor Foods' onion processing plant last year, after its new owner, McCain Foods, closed the facility. At the time McCain bought the plant, it was running four shifts and was the city's largest employer, with 700 workers. Trans Pecos officials said in a previous council meeting the abatement would go towards purchasing new equipment for the facility, which currently operated with about 20 percent of its former workforce.

The council also approved a resolution authorizing participation in the "Texas Main Street Program" and designating Yerena to coordinate all program activities.

"We are in the process of reapplying," Main Street Director Tom Rivera said. "The application must be turned in by the end of this month."

In working on the Main Street Project, Rivera said that they have done a lot of work but that it is just a slow process. Right now they are occupied with finishing the application and turning it in, he added.

When asked what he has done since he took over as program manager last year, Rivera said that their Small Business Recourse Center has helped 77 people and had $420,000 worth of loans approved.

He added that Main Street Coordinator Debbie Thomas has located one of the owners of one of the buildings in the downtown area after a year of looking for him.

"We have also identified two (buildings) that can go up for auction for back taxes," Rivera said.

Other things he has put together are workshops for small businesses and landscaping jobs, such as the one at City Hall.

"We have four clients for the downtown area," Rivera said. "We have worked with three of them to receive loans from both banks."

He added that they also plan on renovating the old Conoco Station at Third and Cedar streets and will eventually make it the office of the Main Street Project.

Council members then asked if there would be any plans that involved the old Missouri Pacific Railroad Depot station.

"That is our project for this morning," Pecos Area of Chamber of Commerce Director Linda Gholson said.

She added that though it is considered a historical site, they must repaint the outside of the building and add windows before they can apply for grants available for historical landmarks.

Currently the building is being looked at as being home for a new Texas Rodeo Hall of Fame museum.

"There will be a group from Texas Tech coming in to work on plans next week," Gholson said. "They will be here on Monday and Tuesday."

She also said that they would like to give everyone an opportunity to get involved in this project.

With at said Councilman Frank Sanchez made a motion to accept the resolution with Rodriguez seconding it.

In other business, the council moved on to discuss and consider the approval of change order to add approximately 76,000 square yards of caliche roads along side pipelines on Town of Pecos City Development of the South Worsham Well Field and will seek the help of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in construction.

Yerena reminded the council that in a previous meeting the council had decided to just have the city buy the caliche directly.

"We have several alternatives that would allow us not to contract that work out," Yerena said.

Several of those alternatives would be getting the help of Reeves County, the Corps of Engineers or through in-house staff.

"We could purchase the caliche but not contract the work out," Yerena said, but Utilities Director Octavio Garcia told the council that the county would not be able to help them.

"Russ (Salcido) is down to 10 employees," Garcia said. "They have laid some of this workers off. He also said that he could not help us out during the summer months because they have several projects. He also has some already lined up during the winter months."

Thinking that the Army Corp of Engineers could do the work, the council approved the change order with the 76,000 square yards of caliche costing them $20,000 more plus the $25,000 they already have.

Sanchez made the motion and Mayor Pro-Tem Gerald Tellez seconded it.

In considering the contract for election services, City Secretary Connie Levario said that the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah school board will approve the contract during tonight's meeting and that the hospital has not approved it.

She added that the contract must be renewed every year.

With no changes, Rodriguez made the motion with Benavides seconding it.

As the council looked over the accounts payable, Pecos Police Chief Clay McKinney was asked how his video cameras were working.

"We have had good luck with the video cameras," McKinney said. "We have had some cases in which they were vital."

Rodriguez then asked about the Housing Infrastructure Project.

Yerana said they have give out the last payment and are waiting for Texas-New Mexico Power Company to install the power poles in the area around the 900 block of Washington Street.

"We are also waiting for the final go ahead from the state," Yerana said.

When asked how many house would be built, Yerana told the council that one house would be under construction by the middle to late August.

"We are still taking applications," Yerana said. "We have had a lot of applications turned in but then there are a lot of qualifications that must be met, so most do not qualify"

He added that they were applying for a grant that would allow applicants to put $10,000 less on their down payment.

Sanchez made the motion to accept the accounts payable with Benavides seconding it.

During public comments Gholson told the council the success of Night in Old Pecos.

"We are considering making it a two-day affair," Gholson said.

Though she and Thomas are currently gathering information, Gholson told the council that they could come before the council with any suggestions for approval.

Thomas informed the council that there had been 37 vendors, some stating that they would be willing to stay an extra day.

The minutes from the council's regular meeting held on June 26 were approved with Tellez making the motion and Benavides seconding it.

Golf course work goes on despite budget concerns

Staff Writer

PECOS, Thurs., July 10, 2003 -- Expansion work at the Reeves County Golf Course is going ahead on schedule, though the county's current financial situation is up in the air due to problems financing the latest addition at the Reeves County Detention Center.

The golf course has been undergoing renovations to add three new holes to the course. Two of the three holes are located where the old Pecos Army Airbase housing was, located, along the south Interstate 20 service road.

Peter Mora, golf course manager and superintendent, said that the current budget situation has not affected the improvements.

"The budget hasn't affected us. We also have other projects going on that have not been affected," Mora said.

Reeves County was unable to make a loan payment last week on the RCDC III project, due to a lack of inmates from the U.S. Bureau of Prisoners to fill the 960-bed facility.

The loan payment was to go towards the first payment to bondholders who financed construction of the facility, which is due on Sept. 1. RCDC III is co-collateralized with the other two 1,000-bed sections of the prison, though the bond debt itself is not tied directly into the county's general budget, which funds other operations, including construction at the golf course.

Work has been ongoing for the past two years in adding the two new holes alongside I-20.

In order to put in the new holes, Mora said that the old foundation of the Airbase had to be ripped up. Water, gas, sewer, and power lines also had to be taken out.

Mora said flood irrigation has already been put in.

"We're working on getting a sprinkler system around the greens and tees," Mora said.

Mora said that he is anticipating this project to be finished in September.

"We're hoping to seed the fairways in September. It is too hot to try to plant grass right now," Mora said.

The third new hole planned will go on the current golf course layout, in an area located between the second and fourth holes of the course. The eventual plan is to increase Reeves County's 11-hole golf course to a standard 18-hole layout.

The workers' schedule is made around tournaments being held at the golf course. Mora said that everything is working on schedule, and things seem to be moving forward.

Aside from the renovations at the golf course, Mora has been working together with the roads and bridge workers on the North Side Park improvements.

They have also been modifying the irrigation system and planting trees at Martinez Field.

"With a staff of five, we're pretty spread out," Mora said.

Mora said that they will be working with the state on an upcoming landscaping project along I-20 and 285. He says that this project involves putting in a drip system.

School board to eye budget, tax rates today

PECOS, Thurs., July 10, 2003 -- Budget and the proposed 2003-04 tax rate will be topics of discussion at the regular Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD Board meeting.

The group will meet at 6 p.m. today at the Technology Center, 1301 S. Eddy St. The public is invited to attend the open session of the meeting.

Board members will consider and take possible action on 2003-2004 budget and possible tax rate and on calendar to discuss budget and proposed tax rate.

Under old business, the board will receive an update on construction of the girls' softball field, mold remediation and HVAC at Austin Elementary, refurbishing of gym floors and consider and possible action on establishing an employee sick leave pool, bank or extended leave polity under DEC Local.

The group will consider and take possible action on student handbooks and Student Code of Conduct; Meadowbrook property bids; requests to purchase foreclosed properties; an officer to calculate roll back tax rate; renewing Election Coordinator's contract; 2002-03 budget amendments and appointing a Board Delegate and alternate for the 2003 TASB Delegate Assembly.

Board members will discuss and take possible action on student insurance competitive sealed proposals; interlocal agreement with Workers' Compensation; vending machine beverages agreement for the 2003-2004 school year and method of procurement and reinstating the powerlifting program.

The board will consider and take possible action on reassignment of Zavala principal Ruben Cervantes to replace Bessie Haynes Elementary principal Benny Hernandez, who resigned last month, and salary adjustment for supervision of middle school activities.

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: Discuss personnel or hear complaints against personnel.

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

Regular agenda items include:

Consider and possible action on professional personnel: resignations, retirements, appointments, and change of contract.

Tax report.

Depository securities report.

Current bills and financial report.

Investment transaction report.

Reconciled bank balance report.

Reeves County Community Recreation Department Report.

Red Bluff board still awaiting project results 

Staff Writer

PECOS, Thurs., July 10, 2003 -- The Pecos River salt alleviation project hasn't alleviated salt levels yet along the river in southern New Mexico, but Red Bluff Water Power Control Board members are hopeful the diversion of salt spring water away from the Pecos will begin producing results sometime later this year.

Board members held their monthly meeting on Wednesday at the district's office on West Second Street, and voted against authorizing any late season water allotment, after seeing a report that showed Red Bluff Lake had lost water during the month of June. They also discussed the Malaga Bend salt alleviation project, which began earlier this year and is designed to lower the salt content coming into Red Bluff Lake from southern New Mexico.

Sun West Salt Co. built two retaining ponds, and Red Bluff drilled a new well to pump salt water away from the Pecos River and into the ponds earlier this year. "They've got a considerable amount of salt built up already," said managing director Randal Hartman. He added that Sun West is filling up one pond at a time, then letting the water evaporate while the second pond is filled up.

The salt in the ponds eventually will be mined for commercial use. Sun West will pay Red Bluff for the mined salt, but the main benefit of the project was to cut down the salt content in the river in Texas, which is twice the level found in the Pecos around Carlsbad, N.M.

Pumping began in March, but so far the salt levels have not shown any major changes, board members were told.

"It doesn't show any change in readings as of yet, but we haven't had the numbers to correlate it to," Hartman said. "We're met with the (monitor company's) factory reps two weeks ago, and should soon have some numbers we can work with."

Board member Lloyd Goodrich said it may take time for the pumping activity to lower the level of the underground water enough to get it away from the river at Malaga Bend, and Hartman said, "Before, when we did this, we pumped for about eight months before it showed a difference."

Goodrich said the salt spring doesn't enter the river in one particular spot, but "comes up all over."

"You can still see some white (salt) areas," Hartman said, referring to leftover salt residue in the area. "It may not be putting salt into the river, but it may still be dissolving it."

"We should show something by then end of the summer, but a lot of it depends on how much rain we had over to the northeast," Goodrich said. The salt spring comes from water coming in over a major salt formation northeast of the Pecos River at Malaga Bend.

Aside from salt evaporating in the new ponds, evaporation was also blamed for dropping Red Bluff Lake's water level from 58,572 acre/feet at the end of May to 57,029 acre/feet at the end of June. Because of that, board members said only 20,000 acre/feet could possibly be allotted, and they doubted that water would make it downstream due to lack of any water for the past two years.

"We haven't got enough water to wet the bottom of the canals," Goodrich said, and the board voted to take no action.

Areas in and around Orla and Red Bluff Lake have gotten some recent rains, while other area south of Pecos have done better in recent weeks.

"Since the last time I've been up here we've had 4 1/2 inches of rain at my house," said board member Jay Lee, who represented the Imperial area of northeast Pecos County. "We've had more rain than we've had in nine years."

"There are some wet spots. I heard the prison over near Fort Stockton had two inches of rain in an hour," Hartman added.

In other business, Hartman told Goodrich that the drowning of an Odessa man in late May at the lake was probably the reason that a gate leading to the Sandy Beach area at Red Bluff is closed.

"They probably closed it during that drowning and forgot to open it again," he said. The search for the body of Nathan Mazoch was centered in the Sandy Beach area, on the east side of the lake.

Board members approved the monthly cash disbursements, accounts payable and receipts, but delayed action on a request by district employee Tommy Moseley to help set up a satellite internet connection at his home near Red Bluff Lake until getting further information on the costs.

Parks Service holds meetings next week

PECOS, Thurs., July 10, 2003 -- The National Parks Service will hold two meetings next week in Brewster County to receive comments on the Big Bend National Park Draft General Plan/Environmental Impact Statement.

The meetings will be next Wednesday from 7 to 9 p.m. in Conference Room No. 129 at the Pete Gallego Center at Sul Ross State University in Alpine, and next Thursday from 7 to 9 p.m. at the South Brewster County Community Center in Study Butte.

Two other meetings to receive comments on the Big Bend National Park plan are planned for next week; in Dallas on Monday and in Houston on Tuesday.


PECOS, Thurs., July 10, 2003 -- High Wednesday 104. Low this morning 69. Forecast for tonight: Partly cloudy. Lows near 70. Southeast winds 5 to 15 mph. Friday: Mostly sunny. Highs near 102. East winds 5 to 15 mph. Friday night: Mostly clear. Lows near 70. Saturday: Mostly clear. Highs in the upper 90s. Sunday: Mostly clear. Lows near 70. Highs in the upper 90s.

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