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Area Newspapers
Economic Development


Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Council seeksinfo on PEDC usage of funds

Staff Writer

PECOS, Thurs., Nov. 13, 2003 -- The Town of Pecos City Council discussed issues surrounding the Pecos Economic Development Corp. budget and heard about two possible change orders for the South Worsham Water Field Project this morning during their regularly scheduled first meeting of the month in the council chambers at city hall.

The council tabled the PEDC budget last meeting due to the short amount of time that had been allowed for members to look over the figures. The PEDC receives one sixth of the city's 11/2-cent sales tax rebate each month. For November, that total came to $11,055.

Councilwoman Angelica Valenzuela voiced her concern over the lack of explanation behind the expense report provided to the council.

"When I came onto this board, we had a problem identifying where the money was going for certain expenditures; we fixed it and that made it much easier to know what exactly we were approving," Valenzuela said.

Oscar Saenz, PEDC board president, said that that could be done; it was just not the way that they had done that in the past. Gari Ward PEDC president added that he does not actually write the checks for these expenditures, and that a private accounting firm handled all of that.

Council members also voiced their concern to the PEDC officials that much of what the corporation does is very secretive and updates on the progression of projects was not typically given.

Without this type of information, it seems to the council and the public that the PEDC does not do much, council members said.

"I and the other council members have heard a lot of bad things about the PEDC, especially concerning Mr. Ward; specifically the concern is that nothing is being done," Valenzuela said.

"We currently have 21 active projects going on at this point in time, those are just the ones that are trying to bring new business into Pecos. We also have two projects going on in-town to keep existing businesses here," Ward explained, "But we cannot make these negotiations public due to either the interested parties desire to keep the matter out of the public eye or to keep the town from getting their hopes dashed over a failed attempt to bring more business to the town."

"Why do so many of these projects, that we do hear about, fizzle out and nothing is ever seen from these negotiations," Valenzuela asked.

"If we bring in 1 in 20 attempted businesses to town, then we have done well," Saenz said, "Sometimes for example the price of a certain commodity drops during our discussions, like the hog rendering plant; the price drops and the investors back out."

"I agree with what Oscar said," PEDC board member John Grant said, "But I feel that the PEDC is not doing enough if we still have money left over at the end of the year. This year we spent under $1,000 on recruitment for new businesses to town, that is out of a possible $12,000 that was scheduled for that line item; we are not running a savings account here."

Questions, originally raised by Grant in the PEDC annual meeting over the allocation of $7,200 a year for car expense to be paid to Ward on top of a mileage and gas expense, came up again in the council meeting this morning.

Ward explained after a long line of questions from both Councilman Frank Sanchez and Councilwoman Valenzuela that the expense was something that was promised to him in the original contract negotiations for the position of PEDC president. Although the point was moot due to the reallocation of that line item to the administration column of the PEDC budget as part of Ward's salary for the 2004 year.

After much discussion the council decide table the budget and to continue talks with the PEDC in a workshop type forum on Monday at 7 a.m. The meeting will also cover the issues concerning the acquisition of the new police vehicles added to the city's budget this year, the possible acquisition of a new dump truck for the city and the consideration of bids for the city's health insurance contract.

In other business the council heard the second reading of the amendment to the city's manual on the accumulation of sick days past 30 days. The new section allows for the accumulation of up to 120 days of paid sick leave, approximately 10 years worth.

Councilman Danny Rodriguez wanted to clarify that the new section only pertains to sick leave, not vacation days. "I have received a lot of questions on the application of the new sick leave rule; any roll-over of vacation time must be approved by the city manager," he said.

City Financial Director Sam Contreras added that the employees had received new handbooks with the additional information inside to clarify any questions they might have.

The council awarded the bank depository contract to Security State Bank after an extensive analysis and report also given by Contreras. After looking at interest rates, overdraft protection and fraud protection the council followed Contreras' recommendation and went with SSB.

The council also decided to move the second council meeting of the month of November up to Tuesday, Nov. 25. The regularly scheduled meeting would have fallen on the evening of Thanksgiving.

Next the council heard from representative from Frank Spencer and Associates over two possible change orders in the South Worsham Water Field Project.

Based on the initial inspection by the Texas Water Development Board, Spencer said the telemetry coordinating and monitoring of the wells was malfunctioning. The manufacturer of the equipment fixed the problems with the electronics, but in the process of fixing the problem the manufacturer pitched a new kind of equipment to monitor the total dissolved solid contained in the well water.

Due to the fact that one of the main goals of the project is a decrease in the TDS, the engineers thought that the equipment was a good idea and suggested the change order to the council. The cost was estimated at $8,000 for the order; the council approved the change in the original estimate unanimously.

The council also heard from the engineering firm on the condition of two valves leading into the city that are rusting and in need of replacement in the near future. The cost was estimated at around $20,000 apiece; City Manager Carlos Yerena reminded the council that the city still had approximately $400,000 left in the TWDB grant, money that had to be spent within in a year of the completion of the project and could only be spent for water development.

The motion was tabled till the next meeting, and the engineering representative was asked to return at the next council meeting.

The council also set the deadline for the acceptance of applications for the position city manager position, which Carlos Yerena will be vacating at the end of the week. The final date is 19 December for prospective applicants; the city council members decided to use the same qualifications list that was used for the process that brought Yerena here with the small addition that the position is master's degree preferred.

Council members on Tuesday appointed Town of Pecos City Police Chief Clay McKinney to serve as interim city manager until a replacement for Yerena could be selected. Yerena is leaving to take the city manager's job in Kingsville.

School board may face turf battle over field costs

Staff Writer

PECOS, Thurs., Nov. 13, 2003 -- Two types of artificial turf under consideration for installation at fields in the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD have held up well in use in the Amarillo ISD and Sweetwater ISD, officials from those two districts said today.

The installation of artificial turf at Eagle Stadium and the Pecos High School baseball and softball fields will be a source of discussion tonight for Pecos-Barstow-Toyah school board members, during their regular monthly meeting. And while the proposals have their supporters locally, there also have been many voices complaining about the cost of putting the surfaces on the three fields, given other things, including teacher pay raises and additional staffing, that P-B-T ISD has held off in recent years.

Superintendent Don Love will present the board with four proposals tonight, outlining the cost of placing artificial turf on the field at the football stadium and at the baseball and softball fields. An additional expense for putting a new coating on the Eagle Stadium track is also included in the plan to be presented.

"We've had our architect (Monte Hunter, with Hunter Corral Associates, Inc.) look at it, and tonight we'll see if the board wants to go ahead and act on competitive sealed proposals," Love said.

Samples of three types of turf were in the school administration office. Love said one type of field, AstroPlay, was installed this summer at the Mustang Bowl in Andrews and Ratilff Stadium in Odessa, while a second type, Field Turf, is being used at Dick Bivins Stadium in Amarillo and at Lowery Field in Lubbock, where Pecos' football team played in early October.

Both are softer than the original Astroturf, installed in 1966 at the Houston Astrodome. The new fields use a plastic that mirrors grass more and comes with either a sand base or one-inch thick rubber pad and was first used at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. in the late 1980s.

The cost for installation at Eagle Stadium, including the architectural and engineering fees, are put at $548,800, while the cost for the high school baseball field was put at $642,390 and the softball field was put at $217,408. Track resurfacing at the football stadium would add an addition $43,200 to the total.

Sweetwater ISD is in its second year of playing on the AstroPlay surface, which was installed in 2002 at a cost roughly $200,000 higher than the cost estimate for Eagle Stadium. Terry Pittman, acting superintendent for Sweetwater ISD, said they have had no problems with the surface during the two years it has been in use.

"We've run all our varsity, sub-varsity and seventh and eighth grade games, plus during the season all the Pee Wee football games with the Sweetwater and Abilene teams," Pittman said. "We've also run the PE classes and the girls teams have used it and the band marches on it every day."

The turf sample on display at the P-B-T administration office includes a sample of the one-inch rubber pad, which Pittman said Sweetwater uses.

"Some have a sand base, but we have rubber," he said. "We're real pleased with it."

"The warranty is good for eight years, but we expect the life of it to be 8-10 years," Pittman said. "As far as temperatures on the field, it's about 5-7 degrees hotter at game time than on a regular grass field, but during August two-a-days the team practices on it only in the evening. It's a little warm, but as far as standing up to the heat there's a warranty on it for not fading."

Pittman also said the lack of late-season wear on the field has helped Sweetwater attract more playoff games last season. "We had 12 playoff games that brought about $1.2 million into the community," he said, though Sweetwater's central location makes it a better area to attract playoff games than Pecos even in previous years with grass fields.

Amarillo has the longest experience in West Texas with artificial turf, having installed the Field Turf surface five years ago.

Superintendent Rod Schroder was unavailable for comment this morning, but Schroder's secretary Betty Packard said, "We have four (high school) teams and they all play soccer and football on it, and we've had lots of playoff games on it.

"The injury rate is just great. We haven't had the injuries we had in the past on a regular field," she said.

Love said the funds for the field would come out of the P-B-T ISD general fund, if board members vote to go ahead with one or all of the projects. He said that projecting a 10-year life for the football field, "You can justify the cost based on the savings from the water, the fertilizer and the maintenance."

Annual cost for watering, fertilizing and maintaining the sprinkler system was put at $19,474, while manpower and overtime costs were put at $28,653 annually. Combined, the cost savings over 10 years were estimated at $481,270.

The total cost for all three fields, plus the track work comes to $1,451,798, while the combined savings for all three fields over 10 years was put at $842,350, according to the figures provided to school board members.

The turf proposal comes as work nears completion on the district's new $298,000 girls' softball field. Two years ago, the district spent $2 million refurbishing several school district buildings, including Pecos High School, Crockett Middle School and Zavala Middle School, which has since been turned over to Pecos Head Start after sixth grade classes were consolidated with fourth and fifth graders at the neighboring Bessie Haynes Elementary.

Fields, state financial rating top agenda for board

PECOS, Thurs., Nov. 13, 2003 -- Artificial turf for the football, and/or softball and baseball fields, along with installation of a structure coat on existing track, along with determining the method of procurement will be the topic of discussion at the regular Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD Board meeting scheduled for 6 p.m. today in the Technology Center, 1301 S. Eddy St.

The public is invited to attend the meeting, which will also include a public hearing on Schools FIRST (Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas) report. That hearing will include an overview of Schools FIRST, the rating for the PBT-ISD - Superior Achievement and public comments.

A public hearing on AEIS (Academic Excellence Indicator System) report will also take place tonight.

Under correspondence: donation from Pecos Eagle Athletic Booster Club; donation from Wal-Mart and donation from the Women's Division of the Pecos Chamber of Commerce.

The board will consider and take possible action on 2003-2004 textbook committees; attendance committees; requests to purchase foreclosed properties; Superintendent's expenditure authorization schedule; TASB Comprehensive Pay System Review and appoint three representatives to the Reeves County Appraisal District Board.

The group will designate board member for free course through TASB's on-line learning center.

A second reading and approval of TASB Policy DED Local will be heard; board members will discuss and take action on request by Reeves County Sheriff's Department to use the Pecos High School gym for a volleyball tournament fundraiser for Christmas for Kids and waive fees and a request by the American Cancer Society Relay for Life committee for use of the Pecos High School stadium for their annual Relay for Life event and waive fees.

The board will meet 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 and Section 551.071: (When the governing body seeks the advice of their attorney concerning: (a) Contemplated litigation regarding tax issue.

Board members will return to open session and take action if any on items

Swine validation Friday, Saturday at sites in county

PECOS, Thurs., Nov. 13, 2003 -- Swine validation will be held on Friday and Saturday in Balmorhea and Pecos, according to Reeves County Extension Agent Tommy Dominguez.

Swine validation in Balmorhea will be at 3:40 p.m. on Friday, while in Pecos, validation is scheduled for 8 a.m. on Saturday at the Reeves-Loving 4-H pens on the south side of Interstate 20.


Maria Rayos, Myrtle Strong and Lillie Ruth Knox

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