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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Thursday, April 8, 2004

Bridge repairs on I-20 start; rain back in forecast

Staff Writer

Rains are back in the forecast for the Trans-Pecos region this afternoon and tonight, as clean-up and repair efforts continue from last weekend’s heavy rains that caused flooding in Toyah and the collapse of the Interstate 20 bridge at Salt Draw.

Knight Construction of Big Spring is handling the emergency restoration of the westbound bridge over Salt Draw, after floodwaters collapsed the bridge handling the eastbound lanes between Toyah and Pecos.

Meanwhile, officials from the Texas Department of Emergency Management were in Toyah today to examine the damage caused when a levee broke early Sunday morning, sending water from San Martine draw through the streets of the town, flooding most of the homes.

According to the National Weather Service, Reeves County has a 30 percent chance of additional rain this afternoon and tonight from thunderstorms. Additional rains are also possible this weekend, which could mean new threats of flooding in areas already saturated from 2-4 inches of rain last weekend.

Water from San Martine Draw merges with water from Salt Draw just north of the Interstate highway bridge, and the combined force of the water at first buckled, and then collapsed the eastbound bridge. The Texas Department of Public Safety closed the road in both directions over fears the westbound lanes might also collapse, and Texas Department of Transportation engineers were at the site on Monday and Tuesday, checking on the structural soundness of the surviving bridge before Knight Construction began their repair efforts.

“In their vernacular they started mobilizing on Tuesday afternoon, and by Wednesday morning they actually started work on the westbound bridge,” said TxDOT Public Information Officer Mike Cox. He added that the cost for the initial phase of the Interstate’s restoration was put at $250,000.

“Their very ballpark estimate was $100,000 on the cost of stabilizing the bridge and then an additional $150,000 for the detour work,” he said. “They have to put some dirt down, do paving and also put a concrete median down the bridge so everybody stays in their lane.”

I-20 traffic between Pecos and Interstate 10 is currently being detoured long State Highway 17 to Saragosa. Cox said eastbound traffic would face a longer period using than westbound drivers.

“By the end of next week westbound only will be able to use the bridge. It will be another week before they get the concrete barriers in place to open it for both directions,” he said.

Cox said the current work being done by Knight Construction is only a short-term fix, and eventually both bridges will be rehabbed to fix the damage caused by Sunday’s floodwaters.

“The engineers believe in the long run both bridges need 150 to 200 feet of new bridges,” Cox said. That includes a new support structure for both bridges that will be better able to stand up too any future flooding at Salt Draw.

“We’re going to put concrete collars on the lower end of the columns and also get rid of the rocks that were hidden in there to prevent erosion,” he said.

The rocks were anchored to the columns to keep water from the draw from getting underneath the columns. But the force of the water from the flood caused the rocks to move, putting further stress on the columns. A photo in Monday’s Enterprise taken just before the collapse of the eastbound lanes showed the north side of the bridge buckled first under the force of the water flowing southward along Salt Draw. The concrete side barrier on the south side of the bridge remained level with the rest of the bridge’s barriers until the north side’s columns gave out, sending the first of two 40-foott sections of roadway into the churning waters.

The loss of the only direct highway link between Pecos and Toyah has added on to the town’s problems. All but 200 families were evacuated to Pecos early Sunday morning after the levee broke, and while most are back in town now, they came home too rooms filled with mud from the floodwaters while other items kept outside were washed away. Reeves County Emergency Management Coordinator Ricky Herrera said papers were faxed to the Department of Emergency Management office in Austin on Wednesday giving a preliminary damage assessment. DEM officials will report back to Austin after viewing the Toyah damage, and then Texas Gov. Rick Perry will make a decision on a disaster declaration for Reeves County.

“Relay for Life” relocated to Martinez Field this year

Staff Writer

Individuals raising funds for the American Cancer Society will be walking at a new location this year.

The Annual Relay for Life, which has been held at the Pecos High School football field for the past few years, will now be held at Martinez Field on the south side of Interstate 20 in Pecos.

The event is scheduled for Friday and Saturday, May 14-15, at the field and teams can start setting up at 2 p.m., on Friday.

The event was forced to move due to uncertainty about the timetable for installation of artificial turf and rehabilitation of the track at Eagle Stadium. Work had been scheduled to start at the beginning of April and be preliminarily done six weeks later, in time for the Relay for Life. However, as of today no work has been done and Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD board members are scheduled to meet tonight to discuss rescinding the contract with Pro-Green, of Louisiana, and rebidding the project.

The opening ceremony for this year’s Relay for Life will be held at 7 p.m., on May 14 and teams will start walking at 7:30 p.m., according to this year’s Relay for Life organizer Teresa Winkles.

“The teams will walk throughout the night until 9 a.m., Saturday,” said Winkles. A luminary ceremony is planned for 9 p.m., Friday.

“This year we have 12 teams participating,” said Winkles.

Teams that will be on hand include: the Catholic Daughters; Winkles Trucking and M&W Hot Oil; Austin Elementary School; the Movie Gallery; Security State Bank; West Texas National Bank; American Home Health and Hospice; Reeves County Sheriff’s Office; Town of Pecos City; Wal-Mart; the Pecos Nursing Home and the Golden Girl Nominees.

Winkles said that their goal this was $35,000. “Last year we raised over what our goal was, that’s why this year, we decided to raise the amount of our goal,” said Winkles. The Rotary Club will be cooking hot dogs Friday evening, and the Lion’s Club is in charge of breakfast on Saturday morning.

Cody West and Allan Morton will be D.J.’s for the special event.

“We’ll have a lot of activities planned, other than just the walking,” said Winkles. Winkles’ crew includes her husband Ken, who is in charge of underwriters and sponsors; Holly Key, is in charge of activities and entertainment; Tracy Shaw, treasurer; Terri Spence, survivors; Rosemary Varela and Cindy Velez are in charge of the luminaries; Karen Hornberger is in charge of cookie sales and Raymond Hornberger is a “little helper” who does extra chores that need to be taken care of.

“Holly has a lot of good activities planned and plenty of entertainment,” said Winkles.

Council weighs water tank repairs, replacement costs

Staff Writer

The Town of Pecos City Council discussed the status of two large storage tanks for the city’s municipal water system and the cost of either repairing or replacing them, during their regular meeting this morning at City Hall.

The council also discussed the rental of a municipal hanger at the airport, and to review and considered recommendations made by two citizens concerning the city’s animal control program during their first meeting of the month.

The council heard from Frank Spencer and Assoc. representative Edgardo Madrid over the council approved evaluation of two water-holding tanks in the municipal water system.

Madrid presented the findings of the study to the council, and recommended that the city complete the replacement of a million gallon tank at South Worsham Water Field before the refurbishment of a half million gallon elevated tank located on the east side of town. “The elevated tank needs refurbishment, but the million-gallon storage tank needs it worse. Within two years we can we need to do the elevated tank, but something needs to be done soon on the million gallon tank,” Madrid said.

“The study recommends that the elevated tank can wait until next year before we start planning for its refurbishment, however, vent screen needs to be replaced as soon as possible,” Madrid said.

He added that the cost of the refurbishment was $246,000 as compared to the replacement cost of $300,000, if the current foundation is reusable, $400,000 if not. Madrid went on to say that there was approximately $500,000 left in the TDHCA grant for the South Worsham Water Field, money that must go toward water improvements. Councilman Danny Rodriguez expressed his concern over the fact that if the foundation of the 1 million gallon tank wasn’t reusable, then a majority of the remaining grant would be used up without the elevated tank getting the necessary work done on it.

“Instead of replacing the storage tank, why aren’t we looking at refurbishing both tanks with the remaining grant funds,” Rodriguez said. “We might be able to get a better price for the work if they are included in the same bid.”

Madrid counseled that the refurbishment would only last for 20 years, and that is only if there is enough steel left in the walls to allow for the reconditioning of the tank. The council approved the solicitation of bids on the two jobs, both combined and separate.

In other business, the council heard from representatives of the Trans Pecos Weather Modification Association concerning the lease agreement for the use of the Big “S” Hangar located at the municipal airport.

TPWMA representative, Alan Zeman told the council that in the year that they had been at the hangar, many necessary improvements to the hangar had been made, and asked the council to consider the cost of these improvements when calculating the amount due for the hangar’s use over the past year and the upcoming one.

Zeman submitted a report to the council stating that $11,500 had been spent over the past year bringing the facility up to speed during the initial year of operations for the cloud seeding program.

Airport Manager Isabel Blanchard added that the presence of the TPWMA is very valuable to the airport, in that it provides much needed traffic that is so vital to the grant approval process that funds majority of the facility.

Blanchard went on to state that the group had been excellent tenants over the past year, fixing up the hangar and participating in the scholastic field trips to the airport. Rodriguez added that he agreed that the TPWMA was an asset to the airport, and that having a pilot in the area could prove invaluable as well.

Councilwoman Angelica Valenzuela expressed her concern over the possibility that future leases might try to submit renovations in lieu of payment, without prior approval, and added that situations like that could be bad for city revenue.

“I am just wondering if there is a median, I think that what (Rodriguez) said was great, but I feel like the city is letting go of $8,600,” Valenzuela said. “I am just worried that we will be faced with this whenever someone leases from the city.”

Councilman Michael Benavides said that he remembered discussing the fixing of the hangar doors at the inception of the contract.

The council approved the acceptance of the renovations “in kind” for the lease payments due for the hangar unanimously.

The council went on to hear from Ruth Luster over the recommendation made by her and Tenie Crider over the animal control program. Luster said that since her group had made their recommendations known on the “Pecos Talking” radio show earlier this week, she had received much support from the community for the initiatives that she was backing.

City Manager Joseph Torres told that council that Wal-Mart had donated the supplies needed for tick and flea control for the animals at the shelter, and that progress had already begun on many of the initiatives listed on the submitted proposal.

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