Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas
Friday, March 12, 2004
Farmers, ranchers enjoy surplus of showers
By SMOKEY BRIGGS
Area ranchers and farmers are smiling today after the rain last night and today.
According to the rain gauge at local radio station KIUN - KPTX the area got 65 hundredths of an inch last night and 35 hundredths this morning or just about one inch for the past 24 hours.
The National Weather Service forecast for the area includes a 20 to 30 percent chances of rain through the weekend as well.
With last night’s rain Reeves County has received 2.8 inches since January 1st - well ahead of recent averages.
“We couldn’t be happier,” former county judge and local rancher Mike Harrison said this morning. Harrison has ranch land in Winkler, Loving, Ward and Reeves counties.
“I spoke to our foreman at the Anderson Ranch this morning and we are getting some good rain. Of course, it will take more than a single good year to bring this country back but we will take what we can get.”
Pecos is supposed to receive just under 11 inches of rain annually. But the city has received that amount just once in the last 11 years, and recorded only a little over four inches of rain for all of 1999.
Harrison said that he was only running about 25 percent of the cattle that he would run in good times and that he did not anticipate adding any cattle anytime soon, rain or no.
“Winter rains are a gift,” he said. Harrison explained that the winter rains would bring a good weed crop that made good feed for cattle.
While weeds will not feed any additional cattle they do help feed the cattle already on the ranches.
“A lot of these weeds such as yellow top and tallow weed are very high in protein and make excellent feed,” he said.
Harrison said that that in a month or so the yellow top would bloom and much of the area would be yellow from a distance because of the yellow flowers.
“It gets too hot for cattle to eat when it is in bloom,” he said, “but before and after it is great feed.”
The rain is well timed for local farmers as well.
Local farmer and rancher Clay Taylor said that while the rain would not have much of an effect on how much he had to irrigate his cantaloupes and cotton, it would bring the weed crop up early.
“It helps. It will get the weeds up and we can get in an kill the weeds before we get the crops in,” he said.
“It will also make some green and give the rabbits something to eat other than our crops,” he said.
The extended forecast for the area calls for chances of rain through the weekend with highs bouncing from the 70s on Saturday to the 50s on Sunday.
Starting Monday the forecast calls for mostly sunny skies with high temperatures in the 70s and 80s and lows in the mid-40s.
Precinct 1 vote ballot canvass next Thursday
The wait to decide one of the two candidates in the Precinct 1 commissioners runoff election will be a little longer than originally announced, as the canvassing of ballots from Tuesday’s Reeves County Democratic Primary election now is scheduled for next Thursday at the Reeves County Courthouse.
The Precinct 1 runoff is one of two scheduled for Reeves County on April 13, with one of the challengers asking for a recount following the count of ballots on Tuesday night. Incumbent Commissioner Felipe Arredondo, was third in a five person race, but was just one vote away from second place finisher Robert C. Natividad.
He picked up 209 votes to Arredondo’s 208 to earn the second place spot in next month’s runoff as of now. Roy Alvarado had the most votes in that race with 337.
Reeves County Democratic Party Chairman Robert C. Dean said on Tuesday night that the canvassing of ballots would take place on Thursday. But Dean said this morning that the ballots would be checked instead next Thursday at the Reeves County Courthouse.
Arredondo said on Wednesday that he would ask for a recount of the Precinct 1 votes. “I think I deserve a re-court and the people who are backing me asking for one,” he said. “I owe it to them to ask for one and you never know, it was just one vote and things could go the other way,”
Reeves County uses the punch card ballot system, which came under heavy criticism four years ago during the presidential election recount. As a result of problems reported with the punch card system and the error rate for punch card ballots, Congress mandated that those type of ballots be eliminated in all U.S. counties by 2006.
Reeves was one of 13 counties in Texas using the punch card voting system in the 2000 election. Since then several counties, including Harris County, the state’s most populous county, have changed over to different voting systems. Dean said the county would be switching to a different voting system by the 20066 primary elections.
A total of five candidates ran in the Precinct 1 race in Tuesday’s election. The results were more clear-cut in Precinct 3, where nine candidates were seeking to replace retiring Commissioner Herman Tarin. Bailey Wheeless was the top vote-getter with 202 and will be facing Saul Herrera who received 174 votes. Herrera’s total was 31 votes ahead of the third place finisher, Joel Madrid, who received 143 votes.
Carlsbad homes evacuated after gas rig site blast
From Staff and Wire Reports
Hundreds of Carlsbad residents spent the night in hotels, with friends or in an evacuation center as fumes from the blowout of a natural gas pocket at an oil well drilling site kept them from their homes.
City officials said the situation could go on several more days as a Midland crew works to cap the well.
According to dispatchers at the Eddy County Sheriff’s Office the situation remained unchanged at 12-noon today (Central Time).
Dispatch reported that a one-mile square area had been blocked off around the drilling site and it remained closed with deputies blocking all traffic into the area located south of town.
The area is west of U.S. 285, the main road between Carlsbad and Pecos. It is bounded by Farris Street to the north, Hope Street to the south, Old Caverns Road to the east and Taos Road on the west.
Traffic on U.S. 285 has not been affected by the incident but New Mexico state highway 62 / 180 is being detoured onto Old Caverns Road, which runs to the south of the main Carlsbad to El Paso highway.
Authorities estimated more than 500 people were evacuated from homes and businesses within a mile radius of the well on the south side of Carlsbad Thursday.
Lt. Jason Lowe of the Carlsbad Fire Department said he was in the station when he heard a roar from the drilling site just behind the fire station.
"It sounded like a jet airplane landing," Lowe said. "We went outside and saw a black liquid-type substance spurting straight up into the air. It was spurting well over the height of the drilling rig. Then there was a big dust cloud coming up from the ground."
The 10-man crew at the site escaped unharmed, said Assistant Fire Chief Frank Navarrette.
Some residents in the area were treated after inhaling fumes before the evacuation.
The team from a company in Midland will try to cap the well, said Fire Department Lt. Gary Aldaz.
Houston-based Chi Operations Inc., which owns the rig, flew in experts to help.
When contacted by the Current-Argus on Thursday, a Chi official declined comment.
"Had they anticipated it, they would have had the equipment to flare the gas, to prevent what happened out there," Eddy County Sheriff Kent Waller said.
Authorities decided to evacuate everyone from a mile radius around the site after the drilling company warned about the potential for explosion.
About 65 evacuees went to the Riverwalk Recreation Center Thursday night and about 15 were at the Pecos River Village. The Red Cross brought in about 150 cots for evacuees.
Volunteers from a local soup kitchen made soup and sandwiches for the evacuees.
The city also provided free hotel vouchers for residents in the evacuated area, Navarrette said.
Other displaced residents stayed with family and friends.
The drilling site is off U.S. 62-180, known locally as the National Parks Highway. Authorities closed part of the highway, causing detours.
City officials said this may prompt a change in drilling requirements within the city limits.
"It's certainly a wake-up call for everybody," Mayor Bob Forrest said. "These things happen away from the city, from time to time. Thank God it didn't catch on fire."
Forrest said there would be an investigation into the cause of the blowout, and the city could review its drilling ordinances.
The city issued a drilling permit in January for the rig.
City asked to OK dumping by new businesses at landfill
By JON FULBRIGHT
Town of Pecos City Council members were asked to loosen up rules on dumping at the new city landfill for new businesses, during their regularly scheduled meeting Thursday morning in council chambers at City Hall.
Pecos Economic Development Corp. president Gari Ward spoke to the council about William Chandler, who recently purchased the warehouse property of Mike Burkholder on Second Street. “He’s planning to build metal trusses in the facility, and is looking at hiring 24 welders,” Ward said.
Pecos Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Linda Gholson said she also had talked with Chandler, and he was seeking a waiver from the city’s current rule that bars business from using the landfill as a commercial dump site.
“I’m asking for people like Mr. Chandler to get a one-time opportunity to clean-up,” Gholson said, adding that Chandler had indicated the city “Wasn’t being as cordial as it could be for someone coming in,” who needed to clean up an existing building in town in an effort to start a new local business.
“He’s got a point,” council member Frank Sanchez said. “Maybe we can get (city attorney) Scott Johnson to work on something.”
The city’s Main Street Program Director, Tom Rivera, added that, “Some clients are looking at downtown, but all those buildings need new roofs and they’re wondering how they’re going to haul off all that stuff.”
Council members asked City Manage Joseph Torres to get together with Johnson and see if some type of one-time exemption could be made for businesses needing to haul away items from existing buildings.
Lyndia Thomas, with the Main Street Committee, told the council that clean-up work has begun downtown in anticipation of the visit of Texas First Lady Anita Perry to Pecos on March 30. Perry will be in town for the formal dedication of the city’s Main Street Program, and Thomas said the ceremony is scheduled for Windmill Square, with a reception at the West of the Pecos Museum.
“If the weather is not good, then it will be at the American Home Health building, which is also part of downtown,” she added.
Perry is scheduled too tour the downtown area, and the initial project to be part of the Main Street Program. Thomas said about two dozen other people would be making the trip to Pecos, and some cleanup work on the downtown area already has begun, including painting of some vacant storefronts by members of the Pecos Youth Advisory Council.
Ward also told the council they had two different groups inquiring about use of the land at the former Smithers Tire Testing Center east of Pecos. “There’s an energy company out of Midland that is considering a purchase,” Ward said. “It appears to me they’ll make a proposal on the property within the next two weeks.”
In response to a question from Mayor Dot Stafford, Ward said none of the buildings currently at the test track site would be moved off property by the new owners, if a deal goes through.
Council OKs new vehicles, rejects pension opt-out
By JON FULBRIGHT
White police vehicles can cost more than colored ones, the Town of Pecos City Council learned to their surprise on Thursday, while discussing the purchase of new vehicles for the city.
The council also decided to let police start using their vehicles while off-duty, and opted to remain with the current pension financing system for city workers, during their regular meeting in council chambers at City Hall.
Council members agreed to the buy two sport utility vehicles and one pickup from Colt Chevrolet, for use by Pecos Police Department officials and at the Pecos Criminal Justice Center. Cost of the three vehicles was put at $66,164, which was $704 higher than the initial bid, which city finance director Sam Contreras said was due to the city coming back and asking for both SUVs to be white in color.
“We’re trying to standardize the vehicles,” Contreras told the council. The original SUV delivery to the police department was to have been a blue vehicle.
“As long as one’s coming it will be all right,” said Police Chief Clay McKinney, after which the council voted unanimously to approve the change order, and then the purchase of the vehicles.
The two votes came around a decision by the council not to hold an opt out election on the public pension protection plan for current and former city workers.
Contreras said the proposal would be an up or down election that would have to be held in May. “The council has the right to modify and/or eliminate the pension plan,,” under the law, he said, but added, “Talking to Scott (Johnson, Town of Pecos City attorney), we both agree we shouldn’t opt out. People have earned these benefits over 20-30 years.
Contreras said the option was allowed to help cities, which may have gotten into financial trouble with their pension plans due to declines in market investments. He said if the city keeps its current pension plan, “the downside is you have to fund liability items to make up for down years in the market.”
Contreras said the Texas Municipal League and consultants to the city of Dallas also were advising against an opt-out plan, and the council then voted to maintain the current pension funding set-up.
The decision to reinstate the “Auto Fleet Program” for police was a reversal of an earlier change in city policy. “We discussed this at a department meeting,” McKinney said.
The law allows officers to use their vehicles within the city limits while on or off-duty. “If you go outside the city limits, you have to get permission.”
Councilman Danny Rodriguez said the policy was reverse several years ago. “I’d rather not say way,” he said, while adding he wanted to revert to the former rule.
Council members then voted to resume allowing off-duty use of police vehicles, but only by officers and ride-along members of the Pecos Police Academy.
In other action, the council also voted to seek a $12,000 grant from the Permian Basin Regional Planning Association for a regional sold waste plant, scheduled this year’s city election for Saturday, May 15, and set sites for early and Election Day voting along with the appointment of election officials; and heard a presentation from city financial advisor Larry Skiles on refinancing the city’s bonded debut due to the current lower interest rates.
The council had to table for a later meeting the appointment of councilman Michael Benavides to replace Mike Murphy on the Pecos Tree Board. Murphy sent Mayor Dot Stafford a letter of resignation and recommended Benavides’ selection as his replacement, but with council members Gerald Tellez and Angelica Valenzuela absent and Benavides having to recuse himself from voting, Stafford said the council did not have a quorum to approve the appointment.
Police say heroin dealer busted during raid
By ROSIE FLORES
A major heroin distributor in Pecos was arrested along with a juvenile, during a narcotics search warrant that was executed Thursday morning.
Officers with the Pecos Police Department and the 143rd District Attorney’s Office executed the narcotics search warrant at 10:08 a.m., Thursday at 1916 S. Alamo St., according to Pecos Police Investigator Paul Deishler.
“Once the occupants of the residence were secured, we proceeded to search the premises,” Deishler said, adding that during the search, officers found a substance believed to be heroin, in the possession of one of the individuals in the home, Miguel Garcia, 41.
“Officers also found on the Garcia property, paraphernalia which is commonly used with the injecting of heroin into the body,” said Deishler.
During the search of a juvenile’s bedroom, officers found several bags which contained a substance believed to be marijuana, according to Deishler. “Officers also found inside the juvenile’s bedroom, various types of paraphernalia which is commonly used in the smoking of marijuana,” said Deishler.
He said that after conducting a lengthy investigation, police believed that Miguel Garcia is one of the major heroin distributors within the Pecos area.
“Officers completed their search of the premises and Garcia was placed under arrest and charged with the offense of possession of a controlled substance (heroin) within 1,000 feet of a school, (Crockett Middle School), which is a Third Degree Felony and possession of drug paraphernalia, which will be a Class C Misdemeanor.
“The juvenile involved in this case was placed under arrest for the offense of possession of a controlled substance (marijuana) within 1,000 feet of a school (Crockett Middle School),” said Deishler. “He was transported to the juvenile center and released to the staff for booking,” he said.
TxDOT to start FM 869 work on March 22
The Texas Department of Transportation will rebuild and widen about 14 miles of Farm To Market Road 869 in Reeves County from State Highway 17 to Interstate 20 beginning on Monday, March 22.
Kelli Williams, the TxDOT engineer overseeing the $1,573,799 project, said that there may be brief delays for motorists, who will encounter a flagman stopping traffic at the work zone and instructing drivers to wait for a pilot car to guide them through the area under construction.
“The existing roadway has two travel lanes nine feet wide with one-foot shoulders,” said Williams, the TxDOT engineer responsible for construction in Reeves County. “We are widening it to two 11-foot travel lanes with two foot shoulders.”
High Thursday 53. Low this morning 45. Rainfall last 24 hours at KIUN Radio 1 inch. Forecast for tonight: Cloudy. Chance of rain and a slight chance of thunderstorms then a slight chance of rain and isolated thunderstorms after midnight. Lows in the mid 40s. Northeast winds 10 to 15 mph in the evening becoming light and variable. Chance of rain 30 percent. Saturday: Mostly cloudy. Isolated showers and thunderstorms then a slight chance of showers and thunderstorms in the afternoon. Highs in the mid 70s. Light and variable winds. Chance of rain 20 percent. Saturday night: Partly cloudy. A chance of showers and thunderstorms then a slight chance of showers and thunderstorms after midnight. Lows in the mid 40s. South winds near 10 mph. Chance of rain 30 percent. Sunday: Partly cloudy with isolated showers and thunderstorms. Cooler. Highs in the mid 50s. Northeast winds near 10 mph. Areal coverage of rain 20 percent. Sunday night: Partly cloudy. Lows in the mid 30s. Monday: Partly cloudy. Highs near 70. Monday night: Mostly clear. Lows near 40.
York M. "Smokey" Briggs, Publisher
Division of Buckner News Alliance, Inc.
324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 432-445-5475, FAX 432-445-4321
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Copyright 2003 by Pecos Enterprise