May 15, 1998
Range fire has scorched about 50,000 acres
MARFA, Texas (AP) May 15, 1998 - Helicopters dropped water
Thursday on a range fire that has scorched about 50,000
acres of rugged and inaccessible West Texas terrain, a Texas
Forest Service spokesman said.
The National Guard choppers were concentrating on the fire's
burning edge, which was estimated to extend over five miles,
Gary Lacox said from the Forest Service's headquarters in
He said the aerial assault was the only way to attack the
blaze because it was in the mountains some 20 miles south of
"That's why the local fire departments haven't been able to
do anything with it," Lacox said.
Officials estimate the fire has been burning since about May
No one has been injured and no structures have been
Lacox said officials are keeping a careful watch on a
communications tower in the general vicinity of the fire,
although he stressed it has not been threatened so far.
About 50 Forest Service firefighters are expected to arrive
in the area by Friday to assist with the blaze.
The Red Cross is also gathering volunteers who will help
feed the firefighters.
West Texas sun blocked out by smoke
By ROBERT G. WIELAND
Associated Press Writer
PECOS, May 15, 1998 - Home, home on the range, skies are not
supposed to be cloudy all day. But nobody said anything
Unlike in Dallas and Houston, where residents are used to
smoggy skylines, West Texas residents are used to seeing
forever on a clear day. The smoky skies triggered by forest
fires in Mexico and Central America have thrown some for a
"The sky is completely covered with it,'' said Howard
Carlton, who runs a land and cattle company in Throckmorton,
between Abilene and Wichita Falls.
"You can't see the sun even though there are no clouds. It's
all in a haze. ... You see the smoke in the air, but you
don't smell it.''
Far West Texas and the Panhandle were spared by the smoke,
but eastern portions of the region had the same dull, gray
skies as the rest of the state.
The National Weather Service said the smoke and haze covered
the eastern two-thirds of Texas, extending as far west as an
Abilene to San Angelo to Del Rio line.
Throckmorton was in the twilight zone.
"It's just gloomy," Carlton said. "It just looks like almost
a foggy fall morning, except it stays all day."
Farther north, in Vernon, Dairy Queen manager Scharissa
Morrison had a more direct assessment of the atmosphere.
"It's just yucky," she said.
Even parts of West Texas not affected by the smoke from
south of the border had problems.
McDonald Observatory was built near Fort Davis because of
the usually pristine skies and lack of manmade light.
But the telescopes were shut down Wednesday, in part because
of thick smoke from a 50,000-acre range fire near nearby
"I've been coming out here for 25 years," Dr. Earle Luck, an
astronomer from Case Western Reserve University in
Cleveland, said Thursday. "It's about the worst I've seen."
"This is not from the fires in Mexico," he said. "It's
beause of the fires in West Texas."
But Luck, who arrived at McDonald two days earlier, was
philosophical about the smoke.
"I've seen worse dust storms," the astronomer observed.
Outstanding students honored by PBT board
By ROSIE FLORES
PECOS, May 15, 1998 - Students who have excelled and
participated in UIL academic and athletic events received a
round of applause from school board members and guests at
the regular meeting of the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD board
meeting held Thursday evening.
The students were presented to everyone by the teachers who
coach the students and sponsor that certain event.
"We have an extra good group of kids and are extremely proud
of them," said teacher Ben Price.
Among those receiving recognition last night was Jason
Abila. Coach Bubba Williams introduced Abila, who received a
scholarship to attend Ranger Junior College.
"He has also been contacted by the Chicago White Sox, which
is a big honor," said Williams. "We're very proud of him and
wish him well," he said.
Others including band members, outstanding swimmers, UIL
academic teams, track team and the junior engineering tech
society team, who placed third in the state.
"We made it to national competition but ranked 142 out of
147 and we hope to do better next year," said teacher John
Board members discussed installing a peace officer for the
schools for the 1998-99 school year. The officer will come
out of the Reeves County Sheriff's Department and the peace
officer's office will be located at the high school,
according to PHS Principal Danny Rodriguez.
"All we're being asked to provide at this time, is office
space and telephone for the sheriff's department officer,"
said superintendent Don Love.
The officer will handle crisis problems and school
attendance problems, according to Rodriguez.
"We would have to have an interlocal agreement with both the
sheriff's department and the city and all work together, so
that we can be on the same track," said Rodriguez.
"If we can come up with that, we can make it work," said
Love suggested placing the item on the agenda for the next
school board meeting and drawing up the agreement, looking
at it and decide.
School hours were approved for all elementary, middle
schools and high school for next year.
Elementary and middle school students will attend school
from 8:10 a.m. until 3:10 p.m. daily.
High school students who will be on a modified block
scheduled will attend school from 8:10 a.m. until 3:40 p.m.
Band classes will be double blocked during the first and
fifth period classes. All students will have a 55 minute
class added (ninth period) that meets daily. This class will
also serve as the athletic period for all athletes. In
addition, all teachers will have a 85 minute conference
period each day.
This schedule was discussed at great length by teachers and
administrators, and is approved in an effort to help in the
financial "crunch" the district is experiencing at this time.
Summer recreation program was approved by the board. Summer
recreation programs include volleyball, which will be
coached by Becky Granado; basketball, Mike Sadler; track,
Lily Talamantez; swimming, Terri Morse; tennis, Bernadette
Ornelas; golf, Tina Hendrick and weight lifting, Gary Grubbs.
"This is a program that is well-attended and the kids look
forward to it," said Love. "The money has already been
budgeted for this," he said.
Parents and board members will again present diplomas to
graduating seniors this year.
Board members who will be up on the podium presenting
diplomas are the newest members Louis Matta and Brent Shaw.
Other members will be on hand to congratulate everyone.
Council ponders pool possibilities
By GREG HARMAN
PECOS, May 15, 1998 - Maxey Park swimming pool is in need of
a major overhaul of it is going to be able to open for this
summer. According to a report given to the City Council
yesterday morning by Parks Director Armando Gil, the
fiberglass-lined municipal pool has a maze of hairline
cracks and several serious cracks that all require immediate
The deep end of the pool, said Gil, has a 14-foot area where
the liner has come completely unglued. Last year's temporary
repairs did not hold up, he said, and a new pool liner would
cost the city about $74,000.
"How much would it cost to put another band-aid on it for
this year?" asked City Manager Kenneth Neal.
Gil said he was in touch with a pool company in Odessa, but
an expert had not been out to give a repair estimate. The
council tabled the item until a thorough examination of the
pool by a professional is performed.
Gil estimated the pool has 40 cracks overall
Some interest was expressed by councilmembers on the
possibility of opening Pecos High School's swimming pool to
the public for the summer.
Mayor Pro-tem Danny Rodriguez conceded that the high school
pool was "one of the best in West Texas."
The council approved Ronald Wagner and Company as the
contractor to perform the seal coating of Pecos streets this
summer but Frank Spencer will have to wait another couple
weeks before being approved for the city's sewer line
The Council unanimously approved Wagner and Co., a virtually
unknown company in Pecos, subject to checking the company's
references. Wagner was the lowest of three bidders at
$43,000, or $0.66 per square yard of road. It is estimated
that the project which, now with the council's approval, may
begin in the next month, will take 3-4 days to complete.
A contract agreement with area engineer Frank Spencer for a
television sewer line inspection was tabled, on City
Attorney Scott Johnson's advice, until Spencer and himself
can figure out how to reduce the total costs involved on the
project by utilizing more city employees.
However, a less costly contract with Spencer for an
additional pool at the wastewater treatment plant, estimated
to run about $26,000, was approved by the council.
Current Mayor Pro-tem Rodriguez was elected by the council
for another term. Joking, Rodriguez said he would "try to
keep the mayor in line."
Utility lines that have been running through private
property for many years in block 1B and 5B in the college
addition subdivision, between Walthall and Thirteenth
streets, will stay where they are, according to a council
vote. Johnson and City Water Director Octavio Garcia were
asked to work out the situation with the property owners,
possibly by exchanging deeds.
The city's contract with UniFirst, a uniform and cleaning
service, was amended by the council. It was provided with an
annual termination provision.
City Finance Director Steve McCormick advised the council
that previous problems with the company were getting
resolved. "They're really busting their fannies trying to
get these problems fixed," he said.
Speed limit signs at Pecos High School from Eddy Street to
Iowa Street along Washington Street may be replaced by
flashing school zone signs to coincide with school hours.
The item was approved in its first reading, an affirmative
vote at the next council meeting will make it policy.
"People there have forgotten it is a school zone," said
Police Chief Clay McKinney said that his officers have been
enforcing the current 20 miles-per-hour speed limit around
The council also agreed to provide half the salary, $10,000
per year, for newly-appointed Juvenile Officer Hilda Woods.
Woods, who was appointed last week by Reeves County Sheriff
Andy Gomez, will ultimately receive office space at Pecos
High School and would be in charge of all juvenile
investigations. The county will provide the remaining
$10,000 of her annual salary.
In closed session the council voted to increase the Pecos
Police Department's dispatchers salaries by $0.50 per hour.
The increased salary follows an increase in duties, as PD
dispatchers are now required to field county-wide 911
The council approved monthly reports from: the juvenile
court, showing 28 new referrals last month; the tax
collector's April report of $22,694.76; Pecos Ambulance
Service's April report ($20,079 invoiced, with $1,958.45
collected and $2,596.60 accepted on assignment); and
municipal accounts payable of $215,638.13.
Napalm may come to Texas
PECOS, May 15, 1998 - Political opposition to napalm
shipments helped scuttle other contractors' bids to recycle
the jellied gasoline product.
Indiana and Illinois lawmakers opposed plans to recycle the
waste in Indiana.
California politicians are pushing the Navy to remove the
napalm from Fallbrook, an area of avocado and citrus
Rep. Ron Packard, R-Calif., said the material should be
moved because California officials said it is leaking from
aluminum canisters stored in an open field.
If Waste Control Specialists of Pasadena, Texas, wins the
contract, the napalm would be shipped to Andrews by rail
through California, Arizona and New Mexico.
There are no regulatory hurdles to block transportation of
the napalm through those states, said Waste Control lawyer
John Kyte in Washington, D.C.
Two Union Pacific workers, another man killed
SIERRA BLANCA, Texas (AP) May 15, 1998 - Two Union Pacific
employees and another man were killed when their van was
struck by a Union Pacific train at a crossing that had no
warning devices, authorities say.
David Levi Butler, 51, of Columbus, N.M., a railroad
engineer, and another employee, who was not identified, were
on their way to the railroad's El Paso terminal in a van
driven by Ruben Hodijols of El Paso when it was struck by
the train at a crossing near Sierra Blanca.
"It's been pretty somber for the most part around here,"
said Roger Green, a railroad engineer. "It was just a tragic
accident. Everybody is hurt and grieved by it."
The employees had been relieved and were on their way back
from Sierra Blanca at the time of the accident, Union
Pacific spokesman Mark Davis said.
"We contract with various (companies) across our railroad
whose primary responsibility is to taxi crew members ... to
work on their train," Davis said. "They'll also go out and
pick up crews on trains that may not have made it to their
The train was westbound on a side track Thursday evening
when the van drove over a private railroad crossing and was
hit by the train.
The accident is being investigated by the Texas Department
of Public Safety and railroad investigators.
Fred Montgomery, Jr.
Fred Montgomery, Jr., 74, died Thursday, May 14, 1998, in
Houston, after a long term illness initiated by skin cancer.
Graveside service will be held at 2 p.m., on Tuesday, May
19, at Sweetwater Cemetery.
Montgomery was born June 26, 1924, in Longworth, Tx. He was
a member of Chapelwood United Methodist Church in Houston,
served in the armed forces in World War II and graduated
with a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering
from Texas Tech University in 1948 where he was a member of
Tau Beta Pi, Engineering Scholastic Society. During his
career, he worked for Texas Utilities, IBM, General
Electric, Texas Instruments and M.W. Kellogg, retiring from
M.W. Kellogg in Houston in 1988.
Survivors include: three brothers, William Montgomery of Ft.
Worth, Joe Montgomery of Georgetown and Dudley Montgomery of
Pecos; one uncle; and numerous cousins and nieces.
McCoy Funeral Home in Sweetwater is in charge of
PECOS, May 15, 1998 - High Thursday, 98, low this morning,
60. Total rainfall for the year in Pecos, 0.12 in. Windy
thunderstorms accompanied by light rain and some pea-size
hail moved across West Texas during the night and early
today. Most areas got less than .10 of an inch of rain, but
Childress received 1.14 inches. The thunderstorms were
triggered by a strong cold front. It will be mostly fair
tonight and mostly sunny on Saturday in West Texas. Lows
tonight will be in the 50s and 60s in West Texas, highs
Saturday will be in the 80s and 90s.
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