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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Tuesday, May 4, 2004

Commissioners seek flood relief grant for Toyah

Staff Writers

Reeves County Commissioners approved a resolution on Monday authorizing the submission of a Texas Community Development Program-Disaster Relief Fund Application for up to $350,000 to help county residents recover from last month’s flooding.

The resolution was approved and signed during a public hearing held Monday morning at the Reeves County Courthouse. It is designed to be the first step in receiving funds to help reconstruct Toyah, much of which suffered flood damage following heavy rains during the first weekend of April.

The rains caused a levee on the northwest side of Toyah to break, sending floodwaters from san Martine Draw rushing through the town early on the morning of April 4. The same floodwaters later collapsed the Interstate 20 bridge over Salt Draw, east of Toyah. The two draws merge just north of the Interstate, and the floodwaters cause the eastbound section of highway to collapse into the draw.

Water from San Martine Draw reached as high as 3-4 feet in some areas of Toyah, and damaged over two dozen homes. However, on April 14 Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s office said the town wound not qualify for designation as a major disaster area as the result of the flood. Perry’s office announced that it would ask for funding for the residents of the town through alternate means.

Reeves County Emergency Management Coordinator Ricky Herrera said at the time that Toyah did not qualify for the presidential/federal declaration that would have involved action on the part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The town of around 150 residents also failed to qualify for the state designation as a major disaster area, which would have required the assistance of the Small Business Administration.

Toyah did not qualify for the federal assistance under the guidelines that require at least 25 homes and or business must receive 40 percent uninsured damage in order to qualify for the Small Business Administration declaration.

Monday’s resolution authorizes Reeves County Judge Jimmy Galindo to act as the county’s executive officer and authorized representative in all matters pertaining to the county’s participation in the community development program.

The application is not to exceed $350,000 of grand funds to carry out reconstruction of the levy and street improvements.

Reeves County is committing $87,5000 as matching funds from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, United State Department of Agriculture. The resolution reads: the county commissioner’s court of Reeves County desires to develop a viable urban community, including decent housing and a suitable living environment and expanding economic opportunities principally for persons of low/moderate income and certain conditions exist which represent a threat to the public health and safety; it is necessary and in the best interests of Reeves County to apply for funding under the Texas Community Development Program-Disaster Relief Fund, according to Galindo.

Meanwhile construction on the eastbound section of the I-20 bridge across Salt Draw is coming right along, but will require the momentary closure of both directions of the bridge early next week to continue with the project.

Both directions of traffic have been using the surviving westbound bridge on I-20 since April 16, after temporary repairs were made to the structure. But according to TX-DOT Public Information Officer Glen Larum, the west bound lanes will need to be closed as well for 10 minute periods while the steel beams that will support the new bridge are hung.

The delay will not stop traffic for long and Larum added that Department of Public Safety officials have already been notified to assist in the closure.

“The project is moving right along,” Larum said. “We are expecting to have the eastbound bridge completed by the end of May, then traffic will be rerouted onto it while crews begin work on the westbound section.”

Larum said that the westbound section of the project is expected to be finished by the end of June, and that the detour needed for that reroute will only require the movement of cones due to the fact that the pavement needed is already in place.

“The contractors have already drilled all of the shaft holes, and the pillars on the eastern side of the eastbound bridge are pored as well,” Larum said. “The western pillars are scheduled to be poured today.”

Larum added that once the pillars are poured and the beams are in place, crews will begin pouring the deck to the new bridge.

The flood waters caused the north side of the eastbound I-20 bridge to buckle, about 17 hours after the floodwaters broke the levee in Toyah. An 80-foot section of the eastbound bridge collapsed about 7:20 p.m. on April 4, forcing traffic to detour along State Highway 17 for the next 111 days, while workers shored up the westbound bridge and created a detour for eastbound traffic to share the westbound section.

Campos honored for action before bridge collapse

Staff Writer

A Reeves County Sheriff’s Deputy was honored this past Friday for his quick thinking and preventive measures taken during early April’s flooding that caused the collapse of the Interstate 20 bridge at Salt Draw.

Sheriff’s deputy Frankie Campos was honored last Friday during the Annual Texas Department of Transportation Awards Banquet held in Andrews.

“A lot of lives were saved that day and we are very proud of him,” said Reeves County Sheriff Andy Gomez of Campos, the deputy who stopped traffic after the eastbound bridge on I-20 at the draw began to collapse.

The eastbound lanes of the highway fell into the draw about 7:20 p.m. on April 4, 50 minutes after the roadway was first shut down and about 17 hours after floodwaters swept through Toyah, forcing residents there to evacuate their homes. The bridge at the draw is about 30 feet high, and flooding in the area already had washed one vehicle off a nearby road before the I-20 collapse.

No one was injured when the bridge 36-year-old bridge fell into the churning waters of the draw, as traffic was blocked after Campos was alerted to the situation while driving towards Pecos.

“I was in Toyah the day following the flood, checking on the other deputies and checking to see what was needed,” said Campos.

He said he was traveling behind an 18-wheeler, eastbound in the left lane on I-20, and a passenger vehicle was driving on the right lane.

“I noticed that the 18-wheeler started slowing down and so did the passenger car, so I started really slowing down,” said Campos.

Campos said that he also noticed that the 18-wheeler shook as it crossed the bridge. “That’s when I noticed someone had gotten out of the passenger car and was waving their hands around,” said Campos. “I also noticed that the bridge had begun to buckle.”

Campos immediately blocked the bridge, turned on his emergency lights and called dispatch to report the problem at the bridge.

“I just thought another car cannot cross this bridge, without someone getting hurt,” he said.

The honor given to Campos’ at the TxDOT banquet reads: that this award was given in honor of Campos; and that whose alert actions on April 4, saved many lives.

Campos was at the scene in Toyah during the collapse of the Salt Draw Bridge.

Campos, who said he enjoys everything about his job, has been with the sheriff’s department since last year. “I started out as a reserve deputy last March and a full-time one in January,” said Campos.

“I love everything about my job, I like helping people out,” said Campos.

Campos is a 1988 graduate of Pecos High School, graduated from the Police Academy in 2002 and plans to stay in Pecos and “help” more people.

His mother is Polly Campos and he is married to Anna Campos.

A resolution in honor of Campos is also in the works, according to Sheriff Gomez. “He is assigned to the entire county, which includes Toyah,” said Gomez. “And it’s thanks to quick thinking and the alert actions of individuals like him, that people receive the help that they need, and in this case lives were actually saved.”

CCRC planning relief fundraiser for Toyah

A Toyah Disaster Relief Fundraiser is planned for 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., Friday at the Community Council of Reeves County, 700 Daggett St.

The fundraiser will be a barbecue plate dinner for $5 and the group will deliver on orders of five or more.

The event is sponsored by the Community Council of Reeves County.

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