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Thursday, October 2, 1997

Sales tax rebates down

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AUSTIN - September sales tax rebate checks to Ward County dipped nearly six percent compared with September a year ago, according to statistics released by the office of State Comptroller John Sharp.

The September decline was best illustrated in the City of Monahans where the September 1997 sales tax rebate check from the state was $49,822.22, 9,.13 percent below last September's state check of $54,833.28.

Although September's sales tax checks were down an exact 5.77 percent, sales tax rebates to Ward County's taxing agencies still were a healthy 27.88 percent above the total for the year to date, the numbers show. For the year to date, September's sales tax rebates in Monahans are up 29.55 percent from $374,069.31 last year to $484,639.27 this year.

September state sales tax rebates are for sales taxes collected in July.

Exactly why the sales tax rebates dropped in Ward County is not immediately discernible. The demise of C.R. Anthony & Co. and transition to Beall's department store would not be a factor because Anthony's did not close for the remodeling required for the Beall's transition until the first week in September. Beall's is scheduled to reopen in the former Anthony's location at 8:45 a.m. on Oct. 9. It is possible, analysis shows, that the decrease might be simply an adjustment in the market because of the nearly 28 percent increases in sales tax activity that has been noted by the comptroller's office for the year to date in Ward County.

Economists consider sales tax collections the most reliable benchmark for determining retail activity because the numbers are not subject to manipulation. Employment rates, for example, are notoriously unreliable because of the different ways in which they may or may not be estimated from year to year and from administration to administration.

Ward County's dip is not reflected across Texas where sales tax rebates increased statewide by 6.1 percent. Combining this with the nearly six percent decrease in Ward County means Ward County is 12 percent behind the rest of the state in September sales tax rebates.But there have been comparable declines in adjacent counties. In Reeves County, September sales tax rebates were down 1.79 percent from $72,821 a year ago. In Pecos County, the September decline was comparable to that in Ward County. Pecos County sales tax rebates in September were down 5.17 percent from $94,016.65 in September of 1996. Ector County (Odessa) did not show a similar decrease but it's increase in September sales tax rebates (2.85 percent from $755, 318 last September) would not account for the September declines in Ward, Reeves and Pecos counties.

Ward County jurisdictions receiving September rebates include: Grandfalls, up 18.34 percent from $679.14 to $$803.70; Pyote, up 38.01 percent from $908.98 to $1254.54; Thorntonville, up 27.38 percent from $70.27 to $89.51; Wickett, up 41.45 percent from $2668.09 to $3774.25.

City property tax relief starts

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The half-cent sales tax to be used for property tax relief in the City
of Monahans finally is reality.

After being approved in 1995 by the voters, it took special legislation
in the Texas General Assembly to make it work.

That half-cent sales tax went into effect on Wednesday, Oct. 1.

According to city records the sales tax is projected to account for
about $200,000 a year in additional revenue.

Under the plan, this extra $200,000 will be factored into the city's tax
levy each year. Individual property tax bills will be reduced by what
ever figure is derived equally from an assessment of those half-cent
sales tax revenues.

Currently the City of Monahans property tax rate is 00.29655 ( a little more than 29 1/2 cents) for each $100 property evaluation.


Contract signed to M.M. Reif & Co. to Monahans.

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The Monahans Economic Development Corp. Board signed off on an agreement
with M.M. Reif & Co. Monday afternoon, Sept. 29, during its meeting at
City Hall, bringing to a close months of negotiations.

According to the agreement, the tax-supported corporation will be
placing a $238,000 grant in an escrow account at First National Bank in
return for Reif's purchase of the city-owned Camelot Building. In what
is being treated as a formality, Reif will purchase the building for
$170,000 at a public auction at City Hall at 3 p.m. today, Thursday,
Oct. 2. Realtor Phillip Derrick will bid on behalf of Daivid Reif,
president of the Philadelphia-based sewing company.

The agreement outlines restricitions and stipulations on use of the
funds and places time constraints on job creation by Reif. Checks drawn
from the escrow account will require signatures from Reif and
Development Corporation Board President Curtis Howard or Kathy Fausett,
board member.

Howard, who also serves as a city councilman, and First National Bank
President Mark Gatzki, who serves on the corporation's board, hammered
out the final details of the agreement with Reif.

Under the contract, Reif's use of the grant money will be confined to:
• $10,000 will go towards the purchase of the Camelot property.

• To pay for inspections of the physical and environmental conditions of
the property.

• To pay for architectural and engineering fees and expenses.

• To make improvements and/or alterations to the property.

Upon today's purchase of the Camelot building, the Economic
Development Corporation will cut a check for $10,000 to Reif. Another
$140,000 will be placed in the bank with an additional $88,000 to be
added within 15 days.

In return for the grant, Reif agrees to start-up his operation by Feb.
1, 1998, with a minimum of 10 full-time employees. He also is required
by the contract to have a workforce of at least 30 full-time employees by June 1, 1999. Failure by Reif to meet the requirements would result in his having to refund the grant to the Economic Development Corporation.

The agreement also has provisions for money from the sale of the
building to be given to the currently inactive Industrial Development
Foundation, which in turn is expected to give at least part of the money
back to the Economic Development Corporation.

The making of the deal has taken a twisted and often bumpy road from
its inception. There was a break-down in negotiations several weeks ago
and the city's first Economic Development Director Charles Walker
resigned unexpectedly to pursue other professional goals. However, the
deal was obviously salvaged with the intervention of Howard, Gatzki and
Mayor David Cutbirth. It should be noted that since First National will
be doing business with M.M. Reif & Co., Gazki recused himself from
voting on matters concerning Reif at the board's meetings.

Applications for employment at the plant will be taken by
represetatives of the Texas Workforce Commission.

The arival of Reif's business will mark the first recruiting success
for the Economic Development Corporation, which is funded through a
half-cent sales tax implemented after voters gave their approval in a 1996 election.

Blue ribbon commission plans tudy of hospital

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Members of a citizen-based blue ribbon commission held their first
meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 1, to see how they might proceed in seeking
options for health and hospital care in Ward County, confirms Ward
Memorial Hospital Administrator William O'Brien.

The members of the panel already include representatives of both major
Monahans banks, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, O'Brien and other
hospital officers, trustees of the Ward Memorial Board of Managers and
other Ward County agencies and groups.

At least one of the options the group might consider would be a
referendum on establishment of a hospital taxing district, a plan
rejected by Ward County voters in the past.

O'Brien acknowledges the panel's work has been spurred by negotiations
with the County Commissioner's Court to lease or sell Ward Memorial to
a private for profit provider.

Wednesday's meeting was held at the hospital's Family Health and
Wellness Clinic, one of the Ward Memorial services some fear will be
lost if the hospital's management is transferred to a for profit health
care corporation.

"This blue ribbon panel is a necessary and essential move in order that
the people of Ward County will be fully aware of all of the
ramifications of a lease or sale of Ward Memorial," says O'Brien. "I
have received telephone calls on whether it is time to revisit whether
we become a hospital district. That may or may not be one of the
eventual recommendations of this panel."

More from the hospital administrator: "We are talking about the future
of health care in Ward County."

The charter of the Blue Ribbon Panel provides it::

(1) Consider the financial worth of the hospital for either leasing
purposes or selling it outright.

(2) Prepare information which the panel believes should be included in
negotiations with for profit hospital systems. This would include
requirements to protect as much of the employee retirement plans as
possible, so they don't lose personal investment and savings in the
Employee Retirement System. As of Wednesday, the panel's members
included O'Brien; Ward Memorial Chief Financial Officer Bob Foret; First
National Bank's Mark Gatzki; First State Bank's Charles Wade; Rachel
Martinez of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; Betty Johnson of the
Hospital Auxiliary; Viki Yates and Kay Watson of the Hospital Board of
Managers; Dr. Steve Steinbaum; Laura Spearman and Valerie Smith, who
represent Ward Memorial Hospital employees. O'Brien says panel
representatives are being sought from the Monahans Chamber of Commerce,
the Ministerial Alliance and education - specifically the school
districts of Grandfalls-Royalty and Monahans-Wickett-Pyote.

"We do not seek to counter the prerogatives of the county
commissioners," says O'Brien. "We simply seek to assist them in their
deliberations on an issue of vital importance to all of us- the fiscal stability of necessary health services."

Desert blossoms gold and blue for Fall,
says Ward County Agent Andy Stewart

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Yellow and golden flowers are bursting out of the desert in Ward County
because of a wetter than usual year and the vagaries of climate, says
Ward County Agent Andy Stewart.

Spring generally comes twice in the area that focuses on Monahans but
this year things are a little different and a little brighter, says the
county agent.

"You may see some flowers this Fall you may not see again for three,
four, five or maybe 10 years," says Stewart. "The reason is we've had
more rain this year probably than we have had in four or five years.
Seeds that have lain dormant are beginning to grow and blossom."

An example of the Autumn flowers that are visible in the area from the
medians of Interstate 20 to desert brush are those in the picture at
left. This photograph was taken at Dunagan Square at the entrance to the
Million Barrel Museum in Monahans.

Another factor in the Fall flower show, says Stewart, is the end "to the
bitter hot days of Summer and the cool nights that allow the desert to

Stewart also notes that Monarch butterflies fleeing the cold of the North now are migrating through the region on their way to Mexico.

Bealls-Monahans opens its doors at 8:45 Oct. 9

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Bealls-Monahans is scheduled to open its doors at 8:45 a.m. on Thursday,
Oct. 9, according to a statement released by Stage Inc. of Houston, the
parent company of the new Monahans department store.

The store is at 1203 South Stockton Avenue in the Pecan Plaza Shopping
Center adjacent to Furr's Supermarket.

From the Stage Inc. statement:

"Mark your calendars Thursday, Oct. 9, through Sunday, Oct. 12, will be
Bealls Grand Opening Days. There will be a store full of great fashions
for the entire family at unbeatable savings plus register to win $7,100
in grand prizes, including a trip for two adults and two children to
Disneyworld in Florida, a trip for two to Las Vegas plus storewide shopping sprees and exciting merchandise prizes."

Copyright 1997 by Ward Newspapers, Inc.
107 W. Second St., Monahans TX 79756
Phone 915-943-4313, FAX 915-943-4314

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