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Tuesday, April 21, 1998

Senate begins debate on bill to fund schools

AP Education Writer
WASHINGTON - Using rhetoric more likely to score political
points than produce legislation, the Senate is taking up a
long-delayed bill that would create tax breaks for private
school tuition and other education expenses.

Debate resumed today on the bill, which would allow creating
of savings accounts for children to meet costs of attending
grade school or high school. Interest buildup and
withdrawals would be tax-free, although the contributions of
up to $2,000 a year would be taxed.

The measure would also permit expanded savings for college.
A version passed last year allowed college savings of up to
$500 a year.

The Clinton administration promises to veto the new measure
because of its support for private, pre-collegiate

Democratic amendments call for federal support of school
construction through interest subsidies for school bonds and
the hiring of teachers in poor areas by forgiving their
student loans. Others seek to reduce class size and expand
after-school programs.

Democratic and Republican lawmakers are using the core bill
and a string of amendments to illustrate their competing
agendas for education this election year. Democrats earlier
had used parliamentary moves in an attempt to block debate
on the bill.

``Education belongs at the local level,'' said Sen. Chuck
Hagel, R-Neb., today before the Senate launched into a
series of votes on amendments. He said the Republican bill
puts choices about schooling in the hands of parents,
teachers and local districts.

``We're allowing the parents who have the most to win or
lose the opportunity to take their own money that they
worked for and put it in their savings accounts.''

Early on, the Senate rejected 56-41 an amendment by Sen.
Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., to kill the savings accounts and
use the money to recruit teachers.

``It's the nation's public schools that need help,'' Kennedy
said, arguing the Democratic case that the savings bill
would mostly benefit wealthy families that can already
afford to send children to private schools. ``Our goal is to
strengthen public schools, not abandon them.''

Republican amendments would convert about $11 billion in
Education Department programs into grants to states or
school districts, permanently ban national tests and create
incentives for merit pay and competency testing of teachers.

On Monday, Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle of South
Dakota, accused Republican leaders of catering to their
party's right wing

Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi told
reporters the bill and certain amendments in fact would
appeal to the conservative wing.

``I think that a lot of conservatives feel very strongly
about education, and are very supportive'' of the tax breaks
and amendments, said Lott.

The Christian Coalition and the National Center for Home
Education, which supports home schooling, issued statements
favoring the bill.

Sen. Robert Torricelli, D-N.J., is a co-sponsor. Among those
at a pro-bill rally Monday was Alveda C. King, niece of
slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King and a former
Democratic lawmaker in Georgia.

At least 100 black youngsters from a local religious school
attended the rally favoring the tax breaks.

``Our parents send us to these schools so we can get a
better break than they had,'' said Simone Missouri, 16, who
attends the National Christian Academy in Fort Washington,

As they debate the bill, both sides continued to argue over
who really would benefit from the breaks, estimated at $6
billion over 10 years, and whether the bill would spark a
savings boom. Supporters emphasize that parents of public
school children could use the savings for computers, tutors
and other expenses.

Opponents say the benefits are small, helping parents who
can already afford to send their children to private school.
More than half the benefits would go to 7 percent of
taxpayers, they contend.

Balmorhea park plans events

Balmorhea State Park will be offering free admission to
visitors this weekend, as part of the Texas State Parks'
75th anniversary celebration.

Entry to the 49.5 acre Balmorhea State Park, which includes
one of the world's largest spring-fed swimming pools, will
begin this Saturday. Park officials will also offer special
tours to Phantom Cave Springs this weekend, along with the
start of an underwater photo contest and free night dives on

The swimming pool, fed by the San Solomon Springs at an
average of over 20 million gallons of water per day,
maintains a constant temperature of 72 to 75 degrees and is
the home of a variety of aquatic life.

The springs also fill the park's man-made Cienega, created
two years ago and now habitat of two endangered species of
fish: the Comanche Springs pupfish and Pecos mosquito fish.

Walkways, a viewing platform and an underwater window allow
visitors to experience the natural desert wetland.

Tours of the Phantom Cave Springs, owned by the Bureau of
Reclamation and located four miles west of the park, will be
conducted from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
The special night dives will be allowed on Saturday, from 10
p.m. until midnight.

The underwater photo contest begins on Saturday and will run
through June 1, when the contest will be judged by Jeff
Heinatz of Alpine and Sid and Shirley Rucker of Fort Davis.
First prize is a dive bag and T-shirt; second prize is a
dive bag; and third prize is a one-night stay at the San
Solomon Springs Court Motel at the Balmorhea State Park.

Carnival assault suspect tracked down

Staff Writer
A Colorado man was arrested early Monday afternoon after an
assault that left a woman unconscious at a carnival site in

At about 10 a.m. Monday, ambulance and law enforcement
personnel were dispatched to the carnival site in the Reeves
County Civic Center's south parking lot, because a female
had been found unconscious, apparently assaulted inside her
travel trailer.

According to a sheriff's department report, ambulance
personnel were able to bring the victim, Deborah Bengert,
30, of Powderly, to consciousness. Bengert identified her
assailant as her boyfriend, Richard Haggard, of Colorado
Spring, Colo.

Bengert said that Haggard had assaulted her and left town.
She gave deputies a description of Haggard and the vehicle
he left in before she was taken to Reeves County Hospital.

After being treated at the hospital, Bengert met with
deputies at the Reeves County Sheriff's office. She told
them Haggard had assaulted in inside her trailer and kept
her from calling for help by throwing her cellular phones
outside. Bengert then said that Haggard's parents arrived
and told Haggard to leave with them. When Bengert tried to
look inside the parents' truck for a bracelet Haggard
allegedly had taken from her, she was hit in the face with a
closed fist, knocking her unconscious.

She did not know how she was taken into the trailer at the
time she was awakened by the ambulance personnel.

Bengert said that Haggard was currently out on bond for two
separate charges of assault against her. One of the assaults
occurred in Eagle Pass and the other was in Zapata.

Deputies began a search for Haggard, 33, just after the
incident was reported, and he was arrested at 12:13 p.m.
Monday at mile marker 7 on Interstate 20, in western Reeves
County. He was identified and detained for questioning, then
arrested and taken to Reeves County Jail, where he remained
this morning.

Haggard was charged with assault causing bodily injury, a
Class A misdemeanor.

PHS swimmers get academic honors

Staff Writer
Five Pecos High School swimmers were recognized by the
National Interscholastic Swimming Coaches Association and
named as Academic All-Americans for swimming.

"This is the most that we have had from Pecos," said
swimming coach Terri Morse. "It's a big honor and we're very
proud of our swimmers."

This honor is awarded to those graduating seniors in the
United States who have achieved national time standards in
at least two swimming events. In addition they must have a
minimum 3.75 Grade Point Average (G.P.A.).

The five senior swimmers recognized were Megan Freeman,
Dionnie Munoz, Jamie Corson, Kenneth Friar and Al Tillman.

Freeman has a 4.41 grade point average and achieved national
time standards in 100 breaststroke, 50 and 100 freestyle,
and 100 butterfly. She is the daughter of Jeannie and Ronny

Munoz accumulated a 4.3 G.P.A., achieving national time
standards in 50, 100, and 500 freestyles, and 100 butterfly.
She is the daughter of Socorro and Benjamin Munoz.

Corson has a 4.1 G.P.A., having met national swimming
standards in the 500 freestyle and 200 I.M. She is the
daughter of Helen Fobbs.

Friar has a 3.9 G.P.A., ad met national time standards in
the 50, 100 and 200 freestyles, 200 I.M. and 100 butterfly.
He is the son of Ellen Friar.

Tillman has posted an overall G.P.A. of 3.77. He met
national swimming standards in 100 breaststroke, 100
butterfly and 200 I.M. He is the son of Louise and Robert

All five of these national selections are four year members
of the Pecos High School swimming team, which won three
District 4 girls titles and two boys championships over the
past four seasons.

Adding, subtracting privileges for docs on RCH board agenda
The Reeves County Hospital Board of Directors will discuss
removal of privileges for four doctors and giving privileges
to two others during their regular monthly meeting, today at
6:30 p.m. in the hospital classroom at Reeves County

The doctors whose privileges will be voted on by board
members are Patrick Riggs, Nikolas Gajic, Daniel Fish, and
Sung Kim. The board is also scheduled to vote on approval of
privileges for Richard DeBendetto, MD, and Edward Sigh, D.C..

Board members are also scheduled to hear the administrator's
report, review the recommendations of the finance committee;
hear the joint committee report; discuss the pharmacy
contract; hear the tax collection report; and conduct the
payment of bills during today's meeting.

WTG takes over gas lines in Balmorhea area

Staff Writer
West Texas Gas, the sole and successful bidder for 81 miles
of gas transmission line in Reeves, Jeff Davis, Brewster,
and Presidio counties, and distribution systems in Reeves
County, has assumed the responsibilities for providing gas
service throughout the Trans-Pecos area.

The company services about 260 customers in southern Reeves

"Our assumption of operations of these systems was effective
April 1, 1998 - on schedule," said Richard Hatchett, vice
president of the natural gas division of West Texas Gas,
Inc. "We have long been interested in the Alpine, Marfa, and
Fort Stockton areas and have watched as the area has
continued in its orderly growth. This acquisition is a
natural extension of our interest in the area, as we already
supply or transport natural gas to Southwest Municipal Gas
Corporation at a point near Verhalen, Texas."

The Midland-based company purchased the gas systems and
transmission line from Southwest Texas Municipal Gas
Corporation for $1.8 million. The original bid was placed on
Monday, March 23.

West Texas Gas plans to maintain a natural gas office at its
Liquids District office at East Highway 90 in Alpine. The
gas activities in Alpine, Marfa and Fort Davis will be
supervised from the company's Fort Stockton office.


High Monday 83. Low this morning 40. Forecast for tonight:
Clear with a low near 40. East wind 5-10 mph. Wednesday,
sunny with a high in the upper 70s. Southeast wind 5-10 mph.

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