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More Saragosa Tornado

Suit seeks information
Saragosans ask for donation details

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By Peggy McCracken
News Writer

PECOS, NOV. 25, 1987 - Saragosans attempting to learn where donations to
their community went have filed in 143rd District Court for a petition
for bill of discovery and request for tangibles.

Money, cars and appliances were among the numerous items shipped to
Saragosa following the destructive May 22 tornado.

Texas Rural Legal Aid, Inc., a federally funded organization, represents
the group without charge.

The petition names Reeves County Judge Bill Pigman as chief executive
officer of the county and as defendant.

Saragosa Foundation President Tony Gallego said that the purpose of the
suit is to have county officials and others who handled donations
testify under oath about their dosposition.

"It's just a way of helping explain why things were done as they were,"
he said. "There's a question about money, about appliances and about
cars that never got to Saragosa." he said.

When pressed for specifics, Gallego said he heard that a woman from San
Antonio had donated new or almost new cars.

"Wehn she came to Saragosa to see where they were, she couldn't find
them" he said.

"Those that came in were beat up. It could be that in the process, they
switched them."

Gallego didn't know the woman's name, nor did Braulia Natividad, also a
party to the suit.

"A girl that was working at the tent said the woman told her that," she

Jose Candelas, whose grocery store was demolished, said he watched
trucks being unloaded, and he saw "six to eight new refrigerators, I
think, and some washing machines an dboxes, but I don't know what they

He said the "new" appliances were loaded on a truck and taken to Pecos.

Gallego said he had heard there was some furniture, probably good or
new, doanted, but he has found little of it in Pecos warehouses.

Five T-hangers at the airport are stacked to teh ceiling with goods, he
said, but most is clothes.

"Now that people are getting moved into new houses, they are asking
where it its," he said.

"The Saragosa Foundation has been given the duty of distributing goods."

Gallego said the people are grateful fo rall the help given through the
sheriff's fofice, Judge Pigman and others.

"I praise Mary Mitchell and the finance committee. They did a very
commendable job," he said. "There's no question on what she did, just on
records we have received, some questions of why money was spent in a
certain fashion. What was it for?"

Receipts in the 1,664-page exhibit includes payment for furnishings and
materials to finish theinterior of the community center built by Art
Gaddy of Baird.

sandy Kelly, a sheriff's department jailer who kept records and
disbursed donations, directed the project and paid the bills.

Gallego said that most of the question concern those documents and the
lack of documentation for goods other than money.

"We're not trying to point fingers at anybody," Gallego said. "We just
feel like if there's any wrong doing, those people in charge should
answer for it."

He said that individuals who have made claims of irregularities will
also testify under oath, "And with what's on the documents."

Evening Optimist help Saragosans

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PECOS, NOV. 25, 1987 - Members of the Evening Optimist club of Pecos
wanted to put into action their deep concern and sympathy fo rfellow
West Texans after the killer tornado struck the neighboring town of
Saragosa on May 22.

After months of effort and collecting donations that action recently
became a reality.

Optimist members Eddie Rodriguez, Joe Mendoza, Roy Pena, Julio Torres
and Luz Ortiz distributed $2,000 in Saragosa.

Mendoza, a past Optimist Club president, had received permission from
past governor Lindsey Phillips to solicit contributions from other
Optimist Clubs throughout the country.

Letters were sent out, contributions came in from several clubs National
Bank in June.

The account was closed after the money was distributed.

Mendoza thanked all those who made contributions, along with the Socorro
Mendoza family for helping send the letters asking for donations from
other Optimist Clubs.

Thirteen families qualify
Saragosans may get homes

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By Peggy McCracken
News Writer

PECOS, NOV. 30, 1987 - Thirteen Saragosa families may not be home for
Christmas, but they can have hopes of celebrating Easter under their own
roof, following a public hearing today.

Reeves County Commissioners held the hearing on grant applications to
the Texas Department of Community Affairs, which has allocated over
$400,000 to rebuild homes destroyed in the May 22 tornado.

Since no objections were made, the contract will be amended to include
both labor and materials, and contractors will be hired to build the
two-and-three-bedroom houses, according to TDCA Coordinator Jim Ingham.

"The contractors will do a turkey job, " Ingham said. "There'll be no
partial payments.

They'll build a house and get paid for that house."

Volunteers who started 24 Red Cross houses have left the area, and won't
be available as originally planned, Ingham said. The original contract
called for TDCA to provide materials only, but was amended to include

Ingham said that several contractors may be hired.

The original contract also provided for 37 houses, but 13 of those were
disqualified because they were renters, and had insurance, too high
income, or hired private builders, and three bought trailers provided by
the Federal Emergency Management Agency, leaving only 13 homeowners
eligible for the. TDCA grant, Ingham said.

Disaster almost wiped out Saragosa
Tornado tops area news

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Editor's note: Problems and problem solving highlighted the news in this
area during 1987. Some of the problems and attempts to solve them are
discussed in a three-part series.

Staff Writer
First in a series

PECOS, DEC. 29, 1987 - On May 22 of this year, a small community in
Reeves County was nearly wiped out by a killer tornado.

Twenty-nine people died when the twister struck Saragosa that night, and
one of the 160 injured was to die not quite a month later.

Mass funerals and burials were held in Balmorhea, Pecos and Saragosa, as
the entire county along with the rest of the world mourned the tragedy.

Relief poured into Saragosa in the form of money, food, clothes,
household goods, sympathetic words and outstretched arms ready and
willing to work.

A benefit concert in Austin with top country stars and a three-day
rebuilding effort by Texas Baptist Men's Convention in Saragosa over
Labor Day were just a few of the major projects for the community.

Indeed, the months following the tornado were density dotted with
goodwill efforts in what is still an ongoing effort to rebuild the

After the bulldozers and the dump trucks cleared away the debris,
surveyors came in to literally map out a town in which many residents
had lost or never held formal deeds to their property.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency provided mobile homes for
Saragosans while their homes were being rebuilt or repaired.

The Red Cross, with labor provided by the Texas Baptist Men's
Convention, Menonites and other volunteers, just recently put finishing
touches on some of the 24 homes it financed in Saragosa.

Red Cross officials have left the community for the holidays. They are
expected to return around the first of the year, probably to wrap up Red
Cross efforts there and move on to other disaster areas.

Meanwhile, Catholic Charities is working full force in Saragosa.
Presently, the organization and many volunteer and paid laborers are
building four homes and a new grocery store for Jose Candelas, according
to assistant disaster coordinator Manuel Galindo.

The multi-purpose community center, funded by a Meadows Foundation
grant, is also moving right along, according to Baptist General
Convention missionary church builder George Harrison, construction
superintendent for the job.

Officials hope the center, which will house a meals program, Head Start,
day care and medical clinic among other of the offices, will be finished
by February.

Saragosa got a temporary place for their Head Start program in what may
eventually be used as a smaller community center.

The building near the Saragosa ball park was built with volunteer labor
and materials. A playground was also erected in the park by church
members and other volunteers.

The Texas Department of Community Affairs is still negotiating contracts
in funding the rebuilding of about 13 other homes, said local TDCA
coordinator Jim Ingham.

Catholic Charities also stated plans to continue rebuilding homes,
Harrison said, and about 60 are to be built when all efforts are

During the past seven months, amid the good will and good work in
Saragosa, have been questions dissatisfaction with homes and agencies
and questions about where all the donations were going.

The Texas Rural Legal Aid was asked by Saragosans to get to the bottom
of the matter.

After securing all documents regarding Saragosa relief donations that
county officials provided Legal Aid, attorneys were recently granted a
petition for more tangible evidence along with authority to interview
whomever they want in a courtroom setting.

As the rebuilding continues and the questions, too, the story of
Saragosa is one that will likely continue throughout the new year.

It is one that the people of Saragosa and Reeves County will probably
never forget.
(Next: Reeves County in 1987).

Tragedy, unemployment, economic hardships
County faced tough issues

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Staff Writer
Second in a series

PECOS, DEC. 30, 1987 - Reeves County was not by any means the only one
in Texas that had struggles in 1987, but it did have to conquer some
extra tough times.

The tragedy of Saragosa was met with help from all over and outside the
country, and much also came from Reeves County itself. Not only public
officials but; local residents pitched in to provide needed assistance
to the community.

While the employment situation continued to improve this past year from
an unemployment rate of 16 percent in January to the most recently
reported 11.6 percent economic hardships also had to be overcome.

The county tax rate, the only one of the three major taxing entities to
be caused this year, went from 63 cents to 85 cents.

Several businesses closed, but a few more were opened at times

Smithers Tire and Automotive Testing of Texas, Inc., took over the
former Automotive Proving Grounds in January, and although Safeway was
sold, a new grocery chain called Quality Plus is expected to operate a
supermarket here.

Chiquita Melon Packers and K&D Farms joined the two longstanding
companies of Pecos Cantaloupe and Griffin and Brand in melon production
this year, and both plan to come back again next year.

A committee formed this spring joined Pecos, Fort Stockton and Monahans
in bidding for the federal superconducting super collide project to be
located in this area. The committee has worked on several projects since
then, and information it compiled is to be used in ongoing efforts to
diversify industry here.

New businesses on the horizon include Flying J Travel Plaza, which plans
to begin construction at the first of the year. The truck stop is to be
located near the Interstate 20 and Highway 285 interchange.

A San Antonio company is confident its bid will be approved for Pecos as
a storage site for federally seized aircraft. Awarding of the bid is
expected in the spring.

Revenues that increased for the county this year included the Reeves
County Law Enforcement Center, which began housing hundreds more
prisoners this past year.

The county juvenile detention center opened in April, with staff going
full-time in July.

Revenues from county law enforcement facilities were reportedly helpful
during the county's takeover of Reeves County Hospital when the lease
management agreement with Adventists Health Systems was terminated in

County officials considered several routes in dealing with the hospital
issue, including a hospital district with its own tax rate to support
the facility. The district was approved by the state, and voters may
have the option of approving or disapproving it.

This year, however, the board appointed for the would-be district
decided not to put the district to vote.

Reeves County Hospital board members, county officials and the Hospital
Corporation of America have made much progress since May in
straightening out the Pecos facilities finances. While two doctors
left Pecos, two family practioners have moved in. Two more, one an
internist, have plans to set up practice here.

In an effort to keep and attract nurses, another vital employee for
hospitals seeking to increase patient numbers, the hospital board
granted wage hikes and has instituted two continuing education programs
for nurses.

Problems in keeping rural hospitals afloat are common in Texas this
year, much the same as Reeves County's economic struggles can be
compared to other communities. But county officials and civic leaders
have shown this past year their determination to work these problems out.

(Next: Pecos City in 1987)
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324 S. Cedar, Box 2057, Pecos TX 79772
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