White Christmas come to desert
Christmas Night, Dec. 25, flakes of snow dust Ward County.
Before it was all over but the flurries before dawn on Friday, Dec. 26, a layer of white covered the roofs, fields and byways of Monahans and environs.
Alan Martin of KLBO radio in Monahans reports the gauge at the station measured 1.5 inches of snow, equal to about 0.15 inches of rain, Martin says.
It was the first White Christmas reported in Ward County in several years. Ward County's White Christmas had melted by mid-afternoon Friday when tempertures hit the 50s.
County sales tax rebates rise in '97
Special to the News
AUSTIN - Sales tax rebates to Ward County increased more than 23 percent in 1997, according to year end statistics released by the staff of State Comptroller John Sharp.
Both cited an upsurge in Oil Patch activity which brings more jobs and more money into the economy and continuing efforts to diversify the area economic base.
Says Massey: This is a tribute to all the efforts being made by many folks in all the governmental entities, trying to diversify the economy and working on the tourist industry."
Cutbirth says: "We must be doing something right in the local economy. All those people who keep predicting our economic collapse obviously are wrong."
The mayor and the county judge both note the impact of visitor's dollars in the various Ward County festivals, which include the Butterfield Overland Stagecoach rendezvous, Monahans Sandhills state Park and various regional and state events in Monahans from American Quarter Horse Association and 4-H Club shows to the swimming and basketball competitions at the high school.
Cutbirth attributes the increase in sales tax rebates to a vigorous retail market in Monahans, the county seat where most of the dollars are spent, and Ward County as a whole.
Ward County's reported increase of 23.68 percent (representing an increase in sales tax rebates from $584,247.63 in 1996 to $722,601.63 in 1997) nearly doubled the 6.8 percent increase in sales tax rebates for the state as a whole.
Ward County and Winkler County (up 17.01 percent in 1997 sales tax rebates) led continguous Permian Basin counties where retail sales were at least $300,000 in 1997. Crane County's percentage increase was higher, 61.29 percent, on '97 sales of $290,836.17. In Reeves County, 1997 sales tax rebates were up 1.49 percent; in Pecos County, up 0.01
That certainly is reflected in Monahans, says Cutbirth.
The year's sharp increase in sales tax rebates was spurred by an 11.28 percent increase in Ward County for the month of December, according to the state statistics. That represents an increase from $57,950.49 in December of 1996 to $64,489.31 this December. December sales tax rebate checks are for sales taxes collected in October, Sharp notes.
Monahans, the Ward County seat, led the way in sales tax rebaates for 1997, up 24.37 percent from $531,457.11 to $661,014.80. Thorntonville's percentage increase was higher - 72.81 percent on sales tax rebates that incrased from $1,147.45 in 1996 to $1,982.96 in 1997.
Other Ward County cities and the sales tax rebate number for 1997 were:
Grandfalls, down 0.43 percent from $9,254.07 to $9,213.66; Pyote, up 0.98 percent from $11,048.31 to $11,157,06; and Wickett, up 25.18 percent from $31,340.69 to $39,232.73.
For December, the sales tax rebate numbers were:
Monahans, up 11.85 percent from $52,281.69 to $58,480.46; Wickett, up 12.15 percent from $3,849.97 to $4,317.94; Pyote, down 24.57 percent from $1,166.06 to $879.52; Grandfalls, up 26.32 percent from $585.10 to $739.13; and Thorntonville, up 6.67 percent from $67.68 to $72.26.
I. The continuing soap opera of Ward Memorial Hospital
II. M.M. Reif & Co.'s decision to build a web products manufacturing plant in Monahans
III. The Blooming Yucca campaign of the Friends of Monahans Sandhills State Park which reached its $160,000 goal on Christmas Day. Those dollars plus state dollars mean a $500,000 enhancement of Sandhills Park
IV. The deaths in February of two Monahans High School students in a flaming alcohol-related car crash
V. Efforts by Monahans city officials and the Ward County legislative delegation in Austin which enables the city to collect a half-cent sales tax for economic development
VI. A year long law enforcement assault on illicit drug traffic that began in January and continued through the end of the year
VII. Anthony's became Beall's in October
VIII. Troubled but not beaten, the City of Grandfalls fought back from investigations into the way in which it's government operates and kept the lights burning
IX. Monahans High School lost one championship coach and gained another
X. The excitment stirred by a visiting delegation from China investigating shrimp farming opportunities in Ward County
March primary filing deadline is on Friday
Electioneering in local Democratic Primary races was in full swing by New Year's Eve as the March 10 Primary ballot was beginning to fill for Ward County's dominant Democrats.
Treva Oxedine, executive secretary and elections officer for the official Democratic party, reports that five nominations for county offices will be contested by the Democrats.
On the Republican side, GOP County Chair Mike Lamothe could not be reached to verify filings in the Republican primary. Candido Guttierez had been expected to file for the GOP nomination for County Judge.
Oxedine notes that the filing deadline for the primary for the Democrats is at 6 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 2. Potential candidates for Democratic nominations may contact Oxedine at 4211 South Gail Avenue in Monahans.
Republican filing deadlines were said to be at 5 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 2, but that could not be verified. Republican Chair Lamothe is available at 3501 North Eighteenth Street in Monahans, according to records in the Ward County Clerk's office.
"Anyone can run for these offices, either Democrat or Republican," emphasizes Oxedine. "Those who wish to seek the Democratic nomination will file with us; those who seek a Republican nomination can file with the county's Republican officials."
Countians traditionally vote in the Democratic Primary, she cautioned those who may have signed potential GOP candidate Guttierez's nomination petition.
"If you sign a petition in one party, you cannot vote in the other party's primary," warns Oxedine.
She notes further that signing such an election petition "has no effect on the general ballot."
The Democratic election officer says she issues the caution "because we've reportedly got one Republican running on petition.
" I hope he explains to those who sign that they cannot vote in the Democratic Primary if they do sign."
In 1994, about 2,500 voters cast their ballots in the Democratic Primary. The number of votes cast in the Republican Primary was not available."
(as of New Year's Eve)
Ward County Judge
County Commissioner Pct. 2
County Commissioner Pct. 4
Justice of Peace Pct. 2
Justice of Peace Pct. 1
District Court Clerk
The Year in Review
Jan. 3 -Monahans police led a multi-agency, nearly
simultaneous, eight hour police sweep of Ward County. Fourteen persons were arrested, including a 74-year-old Monahans man. The target was illicit distribution of cocaine, methamphetamines, marijuana and heroin.
Jan. 24 -Ward County Sheriff's Deputies Jim Price and Gene
Baker stopped a lurching 1988 Chevrolet pickup South of Monahans on Highway 1776, arrested the driver and seized 431 pounds of marijuana in 22 bales.
Feb. 4 -County Judge Sam G. Massey questioned the credibility of Ward Memorial Hospital's administrative staff over the expenditure of more than $500,000 for a new cooler and computer system at the Monahans hospital. He called the expenditures the latest chapter in a continuing fiscal crisis at the hospital.
Feb. 10 -Ward County Commissioners voted 3-1 to approve the dollars for a new hospital computer system. The next day Hospital Administrator William F. O'Brien reported that Ward Memorial's chief financial officer, Jesse Saucedo, had resigned. Saucedo had been a target of financial criticism. The accountant says he quit to enter private practice.
Feb. 15 -Ruben Franco Jr., 17, a Monahans High School senior, a football and basketball player, and his cousin, Rayundo Franco III, a junior, a football and baseball player and a member of the band, were killed in a flaming car crash. Their car, driven by Ruben, smashed into a calliche pit at 12:22 a.m. and burst into flame. Two other passengers escaped. Highway Patrol Trooper Eric White said the crash was "alcohol related." The community mourned.
Feb. 25 -Clifton L. Stephens is appointed superintendent of the Monahans-Wickett-Pyote school District by the district's trustees. Stephens succeeded Jack L. Clemmons, who resigned to accept the top post in the Victoria School District. Stephens had been assistant superintendent for curriculum and personnel at Monahans and bfore that, Monahans High School principal..
March 4 -Three Oil workers were injured when a derrick collapsed at Patterson Drilling Co. Rig 71 in the Emperor Field Southwest of Kermit and North of Monahans. Winkler County Sheriff Robert Roberts Jr., a veteran of the Oil Patch, attributed the collapse to metal fatigue.
March 13 -Acccording to 143rd Judicial District records, Ward Memorial Hospital filed breach of contract suits against two doctors - Phillip F. Jackson and Joel L. Adams. It was the first open attack in a simmerinng dispute between the hospital and its staff physicians.
March 13 -A Monahans News special report finds jobs and dollars are coming back to the Oil Patch. State records show wages were up more than $1 million a year in the Ward and Winkler County Oil fields. Average weekly wages for Ward County oil workers, according to the Texas Workforce Commission, are $574.13; in Winkler County, $516.73.
March 20 -In an interview with the Monahans News, Dr. Nikola Gajic said he feared the clash between Ward Memorial Hospital and its doctors eventually could damage medical care in Ward County. Ward County Judge Sam G. Massey told the Lions Club of Monahans the hospital had the authority to file suit against the two doctors.
March 27 -Union Pacific Railroad Co.'s Mark Davi, speaking from UP's Omaha, Neb., offices, reported a dozen trains a day soon would be traveling through Ward County. The increased traffic would follow the completion of $125.4 million in railroad track improvement through West Texas.
April 10-Monahans to Odessa became a local call the next week. Expanded local calling to Crane was to start on Aug. 5, reported Southwestern Bell's area manager, Guy Andrews.
April 24 -Monahans High School's Lobo players will take a one-act play to state competition in Austin for the first time, reported drama teacher Evelyn Jones. The play: Lillian Hellman's Watch on the Rhine. is to be presented on May 1, Jones reported.
May 1 -State Rep. Bob Turner, D-Coleman, and State Sen. Bob Duncan, R-Lubbock, led a bipartisan initiate that allows a half-cent sales tax in Monahans. The half-cent sales tax enables the city to reduce property taxes based on the amount of sales taxes collected.
May 1 -Ward Memorial Hospital Administrator announced that Robert Forest, director of fiscal services at Columbia Bayshore Medical Center in Houston, is the new chief financial officer of the hospital. He succeeds Jesse Saucedo.
May 3 -Steve Hurst won the District 7 position on the Monahans-Wickett-Pyote School DIstrict Board of Trustees. He defeated Alan Steen by three votes, 114 to 111. Friends and others immediately dubbed Hurst, "Landslide Steve."
May 10 -Joseph Bailey McShane III, a Continental airline pilot whose family had extensive oil and financial interests in Ward County, was shot to death at his home in Colorado Springs.
May 21 -Colorado Springs prosecutor Kim Kitchen said Mark Jonathan Evans, a British expatriate, was charged in the killing. Evans told investigators he and McShane's wife had an affair.
May 21 -Monahans City Manager David Mills reported that the trade delegation to China headed by Monahans Mayor David Cutbirth was going well.
May 27 -Monahans Mayor David Cutbirth returned elated from the one week trade mission to China. He noted the purpose of the trip was to lure Chinese shrimp frming investment but talks had also had started on potential Chinese-funded clothing and fiber optics intallations in Ward County.
June 5 -School Superintendent Clifton L. Stephens confirmed that Windy Williams had been removed as Monahans High School football coach and athletic director on May 30. Williams Lobo team had won a 3A bidistrict championship in the 1996 season. Williams said he was shocked.
June 8 -Roy Vasquez, the all star running back of the Grandfalls Royalty Cowboys, survived a lightning strike near his home. The bolt hit near where he was standing and stunned him. Vasquez was taken to Ward Memorial Hospital in Monahans for treatment. He was back lifting weights two days later.
June 10 -Trustees of the Monahans-Wickett-Pyote School District unanimously voted to hire Larry Hanna to replace Williams. Hanna's Iraan High School team was the 2A state champion in 1996.
June 17 -Monahans City Manager David Mills told the City Council the new half-cent sales tax would mean a 19-cent reduction in city property taxes.
July 2 -Joyce Faye Lowe, identified by police as a habitual criminal from Odessa, was charged with murder in the stabbing death of Emanuel DaFoe Hogan, 88. MOnahans Police Chief Dave Watts said it was the first murder in Monahans since 1994.
July 5 -Leah Nichols became Miss Monahans 1997. Leah began private voice lessons in the sixth grade and took part in her first pageant in the eighth grade. She said she still gets nervous waiting for results. Said the newest Miss Monahans: "It makes your stomach hurt."
July 17 -The Monahans News reported that an investigation by law enforcement authorities was underway in Grandfalls. The target was allegations of improper conduct in city government. County Attorney Kevin D. Acker said: "We're a Grand Jury short of the county taking over government in Grandfalls." Grandfalls Mayor Pro Tem Donald C. Howell denied the allegations.
July 24 -The Monahans News learns both candidates for mayor in Grandfalls have pleaded guilty to felonies, according to court records. James M. Everett was eligible to serve; his opponent, Mark John Barker, was not.
July 24 -The campaign to attract web products manufacturer M.M. Reif & Co. of Philadelphia, Pa., to Ward County intensifies. Raymondville is the main competition.
July 31 -Former Monahans High head football coach and athletic director Windy Williams officially quits and the board pays him $56,618.96 as part of the agreement under which WIlliams agreed to resign. Williams accepted a coaching position at Lubbock Coronado High School. The Larry Hanna Era officially begins for Monahans High School football.
Aug. 1 -W.D. (Dub) Johnson, a 74-year-old convicted dope dealer, is arrested and jailed in connection with the Monahans police investigation into the mystery death of Jeanette Calloway. Johnson is charged with tampering with evidence. Calloway's body was discovered at Johnson's home.
Aug. 2 -Monahans News wins big in the 1997 West Texas Press Association better newspaper competition. It finishes fourth in the sweepstakes competition with more than 150 Texas newspapers and is a victor in general excellence, features, columns and editorials. Editor Jerome P. Curry finishes first in feature writing.
Aug. 6 -M.M. Reif & Co. president David Reif says the Philadelphia company has chosen Monahans for its new manufacturing plant. Reif made the announcement at a luncheon in Monahans.
Aug. 7 -It began at 4:24 p.m. on Aug. 7 on the South side of Monahans and ended at 5:34 p.m. in a flash of grinding metal when the fleeing truck, down to the front wheel rims after traffic spikes blew the tires, hit a pillar in the median on Interstate 10 at Fort Stockton. It was 113-mile chase started by Highway Patrol Trooper Eric White. The driver, Thomas Kirkpatrick, a 19-year-old drifter, was named in six charges as a result of the chase. The pickup he was driving had been reported stolen in Brazoria County.
Aug. 9 -James M. Everett officially elected mayor in the troubled city of Grandfalls. He says Grandfalls will survive and says it's not yet time to turn off the town's lights.
Aug. 20 -After a decade in the dunes of Monahans Sandhills State Park, Superintendent Ken Benad retires.
Aug. 25 -Ward Memorial Hospital plunged into 20 hours of heat when the hospital's new $115,000 air condition sytem failed. Administrator William F. O'Brien countered by retrieving the hospital's discarded cooling system from the rear of a building in Wickett where it had been stored after the new system had been installed. The old system cooled the hospital until the new one was repaired.
Sept. 3-The plan to bring an M.M. Reif & Co. plant to Monahans hits a snag in talks between Reif and Monahans city officials over when the projected web products operation would begin operations.
Sept. 3 -First moves are made in the possible lease of Ward Memorial Hospital to another agency which would operate it. Community Health Systems Inc. a for profit health care company from Brentwood, Tenn., approaches County Judge Sam G. Massey.
Sept. 4- New Grandfalls City Council adopes a no frills, no pork $282,500 budget which provides no free Cokes or candy. City employees used to get the Cokes. Everyone got the candy. New Grandfalls City Mayor James M. Everett promises Grandfalls City Council is going to start "working like elected city officials are supposed to work." The cloud over Grandfalls begins to lift.
Sept. 10-Marylyn Thurman-Lewis, Grandfalls city dministrator for more than a decade, dies from a heart attack at her home. She was 56 years old. Thurman-Lewis had been called the Grand dame of Grandfalls and the Lady of Royalty. The community mourned.
Sept. 12 -Union Pacific Railroad Co. crews begin a 40-mile railway tie project extending from Pyote through Monahans to Penwell. It's part of a multi-million dollar track refurbishing effort following UP's acquisition earlier of Southern Pacific.
Sept. 18 -Stage Inc. of Houston, which acquired C.R. Anthony Co. stores across the nation, says the Anthony's in Monahans, will reopen on Oct. 9 as Beall's, one of the subsidiaries of Stage.
Sept. 18 -Convicted dope dealer W.C. (Dub) Johnson is sentenced to six years in prison by Judge Bob Parks of the 143rd Judicial District for violating probation. Motion to revoke the probation was filed after Johnson was charged with evidence tamperinng in the death of Jeanette Calloway.
Sept. 19 -Four-year-old Matt Tucker is reported in good condition at an Odessa hospital after he is bitten by a rattlesnake at the family home on Highway 18 near Grandfalls.
Oct. 9 -Half-million dollar road and parking lot work at Monahans Sandhills State Park is in progress and on schedule, reports John Salcido of the Texas Department of Transportation.
Oct. 9 -Monarch butterflies rested in the evergreens of a Monahans alley on their annual Autumn progress South to escape Northern chills.
Oct. 21 -Ward County Commissioners Court trimmed the
property tax rate by nearly two cents.
Oct. 23 -Two Monahans men were killed and two were hurt on their way to work when their pickup rolled on Farm-to-Market Road 11 near Imperial. They were about 10 miles from Girvin where they were working on a rig. The dead were Andres Flores, 32, and Jesus Tavarez, 34.
Nov. 8 -Joe David Williamson, five years old, was bitten by a rattlesnake in the park across from Cullender Kindergarten in Monahans. His father stomped the snake to death. Joe David was reported in good condition at the hospital.
Nov. 12 -Law enforcement officers swept through Ward County with 11 arrest warrants charging violations of state and federal dope traffic laws. One of the warants was served on a Ward County Jail inmate.
Nov. 12 -Trustees of the Monahans-Wickett-Pyote school district approved a property tax abatement for M.M. Reif & Co.
Nov. 12 -Ward County Sheriff Ben Keele is chosen the best law officer in West Texas. The honor came at a meeeting in Fort Stockton of the Big Bend Area Law Enforcement Officers Association.
Nov. 20 -Blooming Yucca fund drive by Friends of the Monahans Sandhills State Park booms toward its $160,000 goal with a $5,000 grant from Chevron. The money is to be combined with state funds for a $500,000 enhancement of the park that includes roads plus the Dunagan Visitor's Center and Museum.
Dec. 4 -The 1998 political season begins in Ward County. Veteran County Clerk Pat V. Finley and County Commissioner Bill Welch say they plan to retire from elective office.
Dec. 4 -Boards of First State Bank of Monahans, Kermit State Bank and Bank of the West in Odessa grant $25,000 to the fund drive for Monahans Sandhills State Park.
Dec. 8 -Ward County Commissioners approve $900,000 for construction at the Courthouse to bring the Courthouse into compliance with federal mandates on handicap access.
Dec. 9 -Sparks fly again at Ward Memorial Hospitals - this time over the newly opened mammography unit.
Dec. 11 -Frank William Bechtel, 43, a 17-year veteran communications officer with the Department of Public Safety; his wife, Alta Ruth, 47, a caseworker secretary at West Texas State School in Pyote; and their son, Skyler, 18, a senior at Pecos High School are indicted on charges of distribution and sale of illicit drugs. Both elder Bechtels are suspended pending disposition of the charges against them.
Dec. 18 -State of Texas expenditures in Ward County for fiscal year 1997 totaled $16,961,824, according to state records. The biggest portion of the expenditures was welfare costs, $6,125,669.
Dec. 25 -Friends of Monahans Sandhills State Park watched their Blooming Yucca fund drive hits its $160,000 goal with a $25,000 check from the Dunagan Foundation.
Dec. 26 -Glen Korth becomes manager of the Sandhills Park succeeding the retired Ken Benad.
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