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Saragosa relief workers are to meet in Austin if and when the funds are
made officially available to decide who will apply for the money and
what exactly will be planned for using it.
"The legislature has opened a door," said a spokeswoman for Sen. Hugh
Parmer, sponsor of the original proposal for Saragosa. "Now somebody has
to walk through it."
Senate Bill 90 passed the legislature on July 22 as part of an
appropriations bill for $234 million is oil overcharge refunds to the
state. The bill allots $3.5 million for a project dubbed "S.A.V.E.S.,"
Saragosa Alternative Village Energy Systems.
The money is primarily to build adobe homes that would be so energy
efficient that they require no additional heating and cooling.
Traditional adobe is a building material of sun-dried mud and straw,
made into bricks.
The project is the vision of Dallas builder Barbara Harwood, who sees it
as a demonstration that could be used in other disaster rebuilding or
for urban development, according to Judith Farrell, Parmer's legislative
The "loosely planned proposal also envisions an adobe brick factory in
Saragosa. Financial help for the establishment of the factory in
Saragosa. Financial help for the establishemnt of the factory may be
available through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Ms. Farrell said.
A kink in the plans so far has been a lack of communication between the
"various levels of government," Ms. Farrell conceded.
The federal Emergency Management agency has already promised $5,000
grants to most Saragosa families who lost their homes and possessions in
the May 22 tornado. Temporary housing has also been provided in a FEMA
trailer park just north of the small West Texas community.
Red Cross officials, who have been providing full-time emergency relief
since the disaster, are eager to help in the rebuilding effort, as are
various local officials.
County Judge Bill Pigman is negotiating with the Texas Department of
Community Affairs for grant monies or other help in the rebuilding.
Reeves County Community Council director Mary MItchell early next month
will apply for a grant from the meadows Foundation in Dallas to build a
permanent Head Start/Multi-Purpose Center for Saragosa that would house
the pre-school, a congregate meals program, a small medical clinic and
Some officials have voiced concern that the $3.5 million proposal may
make these other governmental entities resistant to go ahead with their
plans for Saragosa.
But such would not be the case, Ms. Farrell said.
"This is a project in and of itself, but it could serve the other
entities, too," she said.
For example, she noted that the proposal was made with the assumption
that Red Cross would be building some 20 homes S.A.V.E.S. project as
early as January, Ms. Farrell said.
"But this program has had such a warm reception on a wide-spread basis,
Red Cross may be interested in looking into it," she said.
In addition, the Meadows Foundation has expressed an interest in
learning how energy efficient methods may be applied to the building of
the center, Ms. Farrell said.
A meeting of the minds would be beneficial to everyone, she noted.
"Saragosa is so far from Austin and Dallas, we very much need this
About 13 local and state officials who have been leading disaster relief
in Saragosa are planning to meet with project organizers after the
governor clears the way for applying for the funds.
They will discuss specific plans for the SAVES program and decide who
will lead the application process and supervision of the project.
Application would be reviewed and ultimately approved or rejected by the
Energy Efficiency Division of the governor's office.
Representatives of that office met early this month with local
officials, who were impressed with the idea. The county sent a
resolution supporting S.A.V.E.S. to Austin via Pigman in mid-July,
recalled County Commissioner Ismael Dutchover.
"I think it's in the works," said Dutchover, who is also on the Saragosa
Building Committee. "It may be a year from now, but I think it would be
a good thing.
"I don't think it will delay things here," he said. "It's not going to
stop us from going ahead and starting these homes."
A volunteer group from New Mexico this weekend started on the first home
that was totally destroyed in the tornado. Sophia Gomez' home is being
built with her insurance money.
Other homes will begin construction with FEMA grants, and on-site
materials and other available or incoming funds will be used to complete
the, Dutchover said.
PECOS, JULY 28, 1987 - Strong ties bound the people of Saragosa together
before their small town was demolished by a tornado last May.
Today, its residents are living proof of how people helping each other
caused those ties to be fused instead of torn apart after they began to
deal with the reality of the destruction, according to Theresa Gonzalez.
Gonzalez, director of the Reeves County Mental Health Center, and her
staff of four outreach workers have worked with residents for the past
two months, helping them to cope mentally and emotionally with what was
left of their shattered lives through Project C.A.R.E. which on Thursday
will come to a close for Saragosa, but not an end completely
Project C.A.R.E. was designed to deal specifically with disaster victims
to help them cope with the emotional and mental stress of going through
a crisis and coping with the loss of loved ones, said Gonzalez, who is
coordinator of the project.
"Our visits averaged about three to four times per individual," Gonzalez
said. "Most people were contacted through home visits or were referred
to us from different agencies out there."
The adult group counseling sessions were extremely successful, Gonzalez
"It's such a close-knit community that they have their own support
system," she said. "In the group sessions, they would look to each other
The project was set up through the state mental hospital in Big Spring
and due to its success here, will most likely be implemented on a
statewide basis, Gonzalez said.
Most Saragosa residents are recovering well from what has happened to
them. They leaned on each other for support, which something Gonzalez
attributes to the strong religious and familial ties of the community.
"We tried to explain to them that what is happening to them is normal,"
she said about some of the emotional problems experienced by the
And according to Gonzalez the sessions have had a calming effect on the
residents and they are "...now having hope for what tomorrow has for
One reason for closing the project in Saragosa and Balmorhea is that all
the people directly affected by the tornado have been contacted,
Services offered by the Reeves County Mental Health Center will not end,
however, but will continue to be offered at its offices on Daggett
Most Saragosans have come to grips with the situation but some may
experience delayed reactions up to a year from when the disaster
occurred which is why Gonzalez suggests asking for help at the mental
"We have had three residents that have gone through the center," she
said. "We don't anticipate more than 10 to go through our services."
What project C.A. R.E. accomplished with the adults was wonderful, but
the results reaped from working with the children were even more
tremendous, according to Gonzalez.
Of the 200 residents contacted through project C.A.R.E. 70 were
children. Some were experiencing extreme fear of the weather some had
regressed to clinging to their parents and were fighting with their
siblings, she said.
Recreational and educational programs helped them deal with those
problems. Mixed into games and other recreational activities were
informative talks about the weather which calmed most of the children's
fears, Gonzalez said.
What may have also helped the counselors penetrate some the residents'
fears was that two of the center's outreach workers were in the
community center when it collapsed, Gonzalez said. Elia Estrada who
works as a school nurse in Balmorhea was one of those workers and
visited about 30 families after the tornado struck.
"One of their main fears was the weather," she said.
"But the people are pretty strong and took care of themselves, " Estrada
said. "Most coped pretty well."
But residents who feel they need further assistance can still receive
help through the center. Gonzalez can be contacted at 447-2628.
PECOS, JULY 27, 1987 - The Reeves County sheriff's office closed down
its disaster relief facility in Saragosa today, is at least one question
arose about its operation.
County Commissioner Bernado Martinez during a meeting this morning asked
why an $850 phone bill was not included with the rest of the bills
approved for payment by the county.
County Judge Bill Pigman did not answer Martinez, but later explained
that the bill would be paid by the Saragosa Building Committee, not by
the county or the Saragosa Relief Fund handled by the sheriff's office.
Pigman said all volunteer and law enforcement agencies and individuals
at Saragosa used the phone, though it was under the sheriff's
department's name since it was in the sheriff's office there.
"It should have never been put under the sheriff's office," Pigman said.
The trailer, donated to the sheriff's office to serve Saragosa, today
was being moved across the street from where it has helped in emergency
relief since the May 22 tornado, Sheriff Raul Florez reported. It will
now be used by the Balmorhea-area deputies.
"I wanted to close it down three or four weeks ago, " he said. "But
there were still some things they needed."
The sheriff's office has been helping supervise nearly all activities in
Saragosa from collection and distribution of food, clothing and some
monetary contributions to moving people and property of volunteer
agencies as they are needed.
For example, Florez said, his department set up the donated U.S. Army
tents where clothing and other items were stored and distributed. One
reason officers had to stay there after mid-June was to take down the
tents, he said.
The county has been paying seven jailers and two deputies to work in
Saragosa since June.
Now, Balmorhea deputies Floyd Estrada and Kelly Davis will be entirely
responsible for Saragosa and will operate on and off out of the
"temporary" trailer office, Florez said.
Monetary donations collected by the sheriff's office have been handled
in a joint account with the Pecos Jaycees. About two weeks ago, that
account had taken in about $30,000 in donations, and the Jaycees have
deposited about $10,000, according to Mary Teal, who is handling that
organization's collections for Saragosa.
By KAREN OGLESBY
PECOS, JULY 30, 1987 - Deputies, jailers, police officers and other
local law enforcement personnel are taking small vacations these days in
an effort to decrease accumulated overtime hours.
Dealing with the Saragosa tornado, escapes from the law Enforcement
Center and several major investigations by city police have racked up
hours owed in overtime.
Reeves County commissioner Bernardo Martinez recently voiced concern
that from "20 to 40" county law enforcement employees had built up
hundreds of hours!of overtime that need to be "addressed."
County auditor Marguerite Davidson said her office has not yet
determined just how many people and how many hours are involved.
But, citing the wage and hour law, Mrs. Davidson noted that no payment
has to be made until 480 hours have been accumulated.
A few deputies have accumulated more than 500 hours, and they.are the
first who after July 4 began to-take the hours off in compensatory time,
said chief deputy Jim Collins.
He said the officials are glad for the time off, and are not concerned
about being paid.
All sheriff's office personnel about 30 have some overtime coming, as do
most of the 90 employees at the LEC, according to Eddie Markham, the
At the LEC, however, "very few" have accumulated more than 100 hours.
Such is the case among city police, said controller Carroll Thompson.
Thompson reported that as of June 30, 21 city police from dogcatcher and
dispatchers to officers have accumulated a total of 953.5 hours in
compensatory time, which would mean $8,382 if paid in time and a half
Police chief Ed Krevit has been working off his employees' comp time
since about April, in an effort to "trim the budget," Thompson said.
Budgeting for the expense was Martinez' suggestion for the county.
As Thomspon noted, "It's quite possible that we would have to pay some
"If people resign, or are fired, or terminate for any reason," he said,
"we would owe any accumulated overtime pay whether it was 480 hours or
The 30 children and their seven chaperones arrived Wednesday for the
two-day visit to Arlington that will be highlighted by a visit to the
The trip was suggested by The Rev. John LaNoue, disaster relief director
for Texas Baptist Men, who said he saw the serious looks on the faces of
Saragosa children at play.
LaNoue, who was visiting Saragosa planning a Labor Day weekend outing
when 500 members of Texas Baptist Men plan to rebuild 23 homes, said the
children's faces were emotionless, as though they still were suffering
Transportation for the trip was provided by Greyhound Lines and private
donors are footing the bill for the Six Flags Over Texas visit.
Whataburger and Pizza Inn restaurants provided some meals for the
Housing is being provided for the children by Fielder Road Baptist
Church, a major sponsor of the outing.
One of the survivors who made the trip, Eddie Briceno, says the younger
children still come to him for reassurance when storm clouds build.
Briceno, 16, has been working to help rebuild his grandfather's garage,
but he decided to make the trip. His mother and sister were both injured
in the tornado, encouraged him to make the trip, he said.
"They wanted me to come over here, take a day off and have a good time,"
Briceno said. "They weren't worried about me, they just wanted me to get
out of Saragosa for a while."
Many of the children had never been to a big city and most have never
been to a big amusement park.
Margie Mondragon, 12, whose three-bedroom house collapsed in the
tornado, said she couldn't believe that someone wanted to pay for the
"But all my friends were going to come, and my father and two brothers,
so I decided to come too," she told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "I
love big rides, like the roller coasters."
She said the only time she had experienced amusement park type rides
were at traveling carnivals at Pecos, Fort Stockton and Odessa.
"If the ride is scary, we won't talk about anything," she said.
"We'll just be there, riding the rides. I'm excited, just seeing the
The tornado killed 30 people and leveled most of the stores and homes in
the West Texas town of about 300. Authorities animate that 70 of the
town's 118 homes were destroyed and many more suffered varying degrees
PECOS, JULY 31, 1987 - Millions of dollars worth of goods and cash that
flooded into Saragosa have only trickled down to the people who lost
family members, homes and possessions in the May 22 tornado.
And at least some of those donations two truckloads, to be exact will
never get there.
A church group in Austin and a private company in Monroe, La. trucked
two semi-tractor trailers full of clothes, toys, large and small
appliances and furniture to Pecos for storage within weeks after the
Though some of the appliances may have made it to Saragosa, most of the
goods were rummaged by Pecos people who crowded their way into the
warehouse at Acid Delinters.
When the last truck was unloaded on June 18 the warehouse was half-full
of new or good used clothes, all boxed according to size and type,
nonperishable foods and medical supplies, several washers, dryers,
refrigerators and freezers, at least three sets of couches and chairs,
two or more air conditioning units, a baby bed, bicycles and other large
Reeves County Community Council director Mary Mitchell requested that
only Felipe Lopez of the newly organized Saragosa Community Council be
allowed to let people in the building.
During the following weeks, a couple of people were allowed in the
warehouse with passes from Sandy Kelly of the Reeves County Sheriff's
office in Saragosa. Mrs. Kelly said those people were survivors of the
"I don't know what they got, but I know they didn't take it all," Mrs.
Kelly said. "I don't know whether they passed the word to other people
or what but it's all gone now."
People began coming to the warehouse in bigger crowds and more often,
recalled Acid Delinters worker Eloy Herrera. Last week for about three
days, 15 to 20 cars and 50 to 60 people a day would drive up to the
warehouse, he said. "Some of them said they were from Saragosa," Herrera
said. "but I knew quite a few of them were from Pecos."
Mrs. Kelly conceded that most of the goods went to Pecos residents.
A spokeswoman at Pecos Housing Authority said Pecos people have been
peddling goods house to house and in garage sales there the past two
The told PHA residents they had gotten the goods at the warehouse, and
promised more the next weekend. They said "policemen" at the warehouse
told them to take what ever they wanted, said the spokeswoman, who did
not wish to be named.
More garage sales than usual have been noted recently, and numerous
large items have been advertised for sale in the newspaper.
Since July 20, KIUN's Hotline has received among its many items
advertised for sale four bikes, five sofa and chair combinations, three
refrigerators, four washers and dryers, three freezers and two air
Mrs. Kelly said a deputy was summoned when Acid Delinter employees
complained to the sheriff about the mess people were making at the
"We just volunteered them to use the warehouse," Herrera noted. "We're
not their watchmen."
But from what Herrera did observe, he concluded that at least some of
the larger appliances went where they were intended to go.
"I think most of the big stuff made it to Saragosa, but I can't be
sure," he added.
Lopez is sure that at least some of the people who needed the large
appliances have not received them.
He went to the warehouse two weeks ago to load washers, dryers,
refrigerators and furniture to take back to Saragosa.
"There's nothing there anymore," Lopez said. "It looks like a big mess."
Neither he nor Mrs. Kelly nor Reeves County Sheriff Raul Florez know
what happened, they said.
Chief deputy Jim Collins said that office is not investigating because
"there's nothing to do on." Pecos police chief Ed Krevit and his two
investigators were off duty today.
Meanwhile, at least one person is also concerned that the money donated
for Saragosa relief is not reaching victims soon enough.
"These people have only received about a third of the funds available,"
said Pecos resident Joey Herrera, and governor's liaison in Saragosa.
He said maximum Federal Emergency Management Agency grants to
individuals have amounted to $5,000, and they have received about $2,000
in private contributions.
"These people are trying to rebuild their lives from $7,000, Herrera
The county Saragosa Relief Fund has lithe distributed or earmarked to
children its entire $62,000 accordant to Mary Mitchell, chairman of the
committee which balloted that fund.
In the first distribution, $50 was given to every resident who was
present during the storm. The second distribution was based on loss,
from $200 for a car to $800 if a wage-earner was killed. The 10 children
who lost both their parents will receive, $1,100 when a guardian is
named, Mrs. Mitchell said.
FEMA has granted $248,328 in addition to the $141,000 that was spent to
provide temporary housing in the 26-trailer mobile home park at Saragosa.
The U.S. Department of Labor allotted some $250,000 for retraining or
placement of jobless tornado victims. These funds are being administered
through Job Training Partnership Act officials her rein cooperation with
the Persian Basin Regional Planning Commission.
The Salvation Army balloted its $13,000 to tornado victims and Mrs.
Kelly plans to spend the $20,000 collected through the sheriff's office
to complete a temporary community center.
The building was started by volunteer from Baird. Another 40 by 60-foot
tin building donated to Saragosa will likely be used for a warehouse.
At least three warehouses in Balmorhea and Verhalen are still full of
clothes and other items.
Other accounts at local banks were not disclosed, though last reports
indicated totals of more than $115,000.
The Red Cross through its hotline received $500,000 for Saragosa relief
and has been providing aid and manhours since the first days after the
Reeves County Judge Bill Pigman said the county lost about $150,000 in
labor, equipment, supplies and hospital care provided.
Pigman is reportedly working on state grants, Mrs. Mitchell is working
on a private foundation grant for a multi-purpose building and a Dallas
builder wants to help secure $3.5 million from the governor's Energy
Efficiency Division to build adobe homes in Saragosa.
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