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Friday, May 29, 1998

Storm causes damage on south side

Staff Writer
Call it a tornado or a straight wind -- either way Thursday's late-afternoon storm did a lot of damage on the south edge of Pecos, sending ballplayers at Maxey Park hustling to their dugout and a Florida woman to Reeves County Hospital.

Ann Shorter was one witness to the dark cloud that roared through Pecos and Barstow with little warning at 7:49 p.m. Her mobile home at TraPark sits a few spaces from a large, unoccupied travel trailer that overturned -- in a space she moved from only one year ago to allow more spaces for travel trailers.

"It was pretty scary," Shorter said. "I think it was a twister because of the windows blown out at the ball fields."

One of the softball coaches told her he heard a noise, turned around and saw the black cloud approaching. He told his team to hit the ground and he lay on top of them.

"It was between my house and the next house when he saw it," Shorter said. "I looked out and saw it. It was just solid black."

Shorter said she and her husband, A.C., were watching television when the screen went black, then the electric power failed. They went out to help others in the trailer park, where canopies were smashed or blown over, dumpsters moved into the middle of the street and windows broken out.

The Florida woman, who was trying to help her neighbors, became a casualty of the storm when she was apparently hit in the head by debris.

Joan Marshall, who with her husband Tommy manage the trailer park, said the woman was treated at Reeves County Hospital, where a two-inch gash in her scalp was stitched up and she was released.

Steve and Helen Balog were in their travel trailer a short distance from the woman when she was hit, but the blowing dust obscured their vision. When the cloud passed, they saw her on the ground and called 9-1-1.

"After the tornado lifted, it was like Saragosa. I saw that crumpled body," Balog said this morning.

Pecos Ambulance Service responded immediately, as did the Pecos Fire Department and officers from all agencies, Balog said. "It was the best response I have ever seen. Within three to five minutes, every emergency unit was right out there."

Fire Chief Jack Brookshire said he was at the Eddy Street sub-station when the alarm came in, and a truck was dispatched immediately. No fires were reported, but the trucks stood by in case they were needed.

Brookshire said he thought the damage was done by a straight wind because he didn't see a cloud that would spawn a tornado.

Lupe Nieto, assistant emergency management coordinator, said the Midland National Weather Service reported no radar indication of a tornado, but predicted winds of 44 to 55 mph.

Damage was heaviest on the south side of Pecos, where car and pickup windows were broken out and power was lost briefly at the Reeves County Detention Center.

Winds between 40 and 50 mph had been blowing for about 45 minutes at the Senior League baseball field, when the game was finally called due to unplayable conditions. Players had just returned to their dugouts when the near-70 mph gust hit, blowing from the south across the field and the adjacent Maxey Park Zoo for about a minute.

Nieto said the cinder block giraffe building and a shelter in the pen next to it was destroyed, but none of the animals were reported injured from the storm.

Dennis Blanchard at Pecos Municipal Airport said the winds peaked at 69 mph, damaging two of the hangars at the facility.

"It blew two doors out of the huge hangar and two small doors out of the T-hangar," he said. A trailer tank at the airport was also moved several inches by the wind, while a trash dumpster was blown into the middle of nearby Moore Street.

James and Nova Herrera were among many at the Maxey Park baseball field whose vehicle windows were shattered. They were in their van trying to find their son, Michael, when all the windows on one side of the van were blown out.

"It was like a powerful force had surrounded us," Nova said. When the windows broke, she hit the floor, expecting the windshield to break as well.

However, Valley Motors owner Ben Meek, who recently sold them the van, said that blowing gravel likely shattered the tempered glass. A small, sharp object will break the windows but not damage the windshield, which has a plastic layer sandwiched between two panes of tempered glass, he said.

Meek said his dealership on Texas Highway 17 suffered no damage, but that about 15 pickup windows at Colt Chevrolet, near the airport, were shattered. Glass from a sign also littered the Colt lot this morning.

James Herrera said he drove home immediately after the cloud lifted to get his Texas-New Mexico Power Co. pickup and begin repairing damages.

Several poles were blown down at the RCDC, and electricity was out for awhile to the prison, he said. Power was out to the nearby Lindsay Addition for about three hours.

Other outages were reported in the 800 block of Hickory and Willow Street, where wires were blown down, at 500 S. Mesquite.

Tony Garcia of Barstow said he was at Wal-Mart when the storm hit, and it was hard to open the door to his car.

"It lasted about an hour in full force," he said, blowing tin off his doghouse and an old building he uses for a gym.

Balog said he helped B&B wrecker and Barmore Plumbing try to right the overturned trailer, cut off the water and restore water service to the trailer park.

The winds were spawned by a thunderstorm which formed near Balmorhea around 5:30 p.m. and moved northeast. Pecos ended up on the western edge of the storm, receiving only a few raindrops, but the brunt of the winds coming out of the cloud.

This year's dry conditions contributed to the amount of dust blow through town by the storm. The city's rainfall total so far this year remains at .15 inch, with just .03 inch so far in May, usually one of the wettest months of the year in Pecos.

PHA board targets delinquent accounts

Staff Writer
Collecting delinquent accounts was the topic of discussion at the regular Pecos Housing Authority meeting Thursday evening.

"We're still trying to collect from these people and are looking for another collection agency to turn them over to," said Pecos Housing Authority executive director Nellie Gomez.

Gomez stated that since Retail Merchants has closed, PHA will have to look for a new collection agency.

"We do send them statements and try to collect from them (delinquent tenants), but they don't respond," said Gomez.

Board member Ken Winkles made a motion to table the resolution on collections, until a new collection agency can take these accounts over or a new solution to the problem is found.

"We need to monitor it a little more closely, these people need to start paying what they owe," said board president Frank Perea.

"If think we need to be tougher with these people who just leave and don't pay what they owe," said Winkles. "And we need to try to collect on them."

This month the list of individuals who have not paid include Sonia Wilson Rayos, $111; Esmilda Martinez, $275; Jaime Valenzuela, $33; Maria Serna, $108; Felipe Cabada, $225; Patricia Tapia, $33 plus $238 from a previous balance.

Names are added to the list monthly and Gomez stated that she will be trying to find another agency to refer them to.

Board members also discussed cleaning up the vacant Airbase lots and removing idle telephone poles and transformers.

"We're working on a CIAP grant and will be asking for funds to clean this up, but if we don't we'll still have to clean those up," said Gomez.

She and her office staff are currently working on CIAP '98. "This is an application to get funds for appliances for the apartments, landscaping and fencing for the apartments located on Second Street," said Gomez.

"I anyone else has any suggestions on improvements we can make we'd like to hear about them," she added.

Gomez also told the board that she was contacting other agencies and trying to find out how they can work together to better the apartment complexes and receive the help needed for these projects.

Lindsey Company was also approved as the accountant services and the executive director's vacation request granted.

During the Farm Labor Housing portion of the meeting the board approved the FLH budget for April 1, 1998 to March 31, 1999. They also passed the fee account of $50 a month with Lindsey Company for the project.

Other items that were approved for FLH included monthly financial statement, April and May 1998; monthly accounts payable; monthly occupancy status and rent roll and cash journal.

"We're very excited that we're full right now, with all the apartments rented out," said Gomez.

Things are going real well on the renovation projects with the work almost completed, according to Gomez, during her update on the renovation work. The project includes apartments on the south side (Airbase area) and the apartments for the elderly located off West Second Street.

Other PHA items approved included monthly income and expense reports, accounts payable and occupancy report.

Missing persons at meeting delay action

Staff Writer
The beginning of summer seemed to take its toll on attendance at Thursday morning's Pecos City Council meeting. Not only were councilman Randy Graham and City Finance Director Steve McCormick missing, but several of those scheduled to appear before the council were absent.

John Wojtkun, sought by the city as a consultant in creating an enterprise zone within city limits, did not attend the meeting. The council voted to table the contract until its meeting of June 11, 1998.

Likewise, Frank Spencer, set to finalize a contract with the city for T.V. sewer line inspection, was not at the meeting. The item was tabled until the next meeting.

The council was able to vote Thursday to retain the city's grant writer, Carlos Colina-Vargas, for another year of service, though the actual resolution that would employ him for fiscal year 1998 - drawn up by Carlos Colina-Vargas & Associates - had not been prepared correctly, and the item also had to be postponed until June.

The council did hear from certified public accountant Dan Painter, now operating out of El Paso, who offered a review report of the city's record-keeping. He found that the city's financial statements and records were in order and was "not aware of any material modifications that should be made."

Later, after much discussion and speculation whether they were setting an unhealthy precedent, the council approved the closure of the 1400 block of Oak Street in response to a petition by Mr. and Mrs. Tiburcio Dominguez. The petition presented by the couple petition stated that none of the neighbors on their block objected to them having a party for family and friends on June 26, 1998.

The council also finalized the approval of the installation of flashing school zone signs at Pecos High School on Washington Street between Eddy and Iowa streets to replace the 20 m.p.h. speed limit signs.

Council wants to put cork on broken bottles

Staff Writer
Glass bottles can do thing that aluminum cans cannot, chiefly: break, splinter and seriously wound.

Shards of clear, green and brown bottles -- usually empty beer bottles -- seem to turn up everywhere. From a deceptive oasis of a patch of park grass to the middle of some of the busiest thoroughfares in Pecos, a razor-sharp sliver in either location can herald an unforeseen trip to the tire repair shop, or worse, the doctor.

Town of Pecos City Council spent some time at their Thursday morning meeting discussing ways to more adequately enforce litter control, especially in regards to this potentially-dangerous waste for which their is no recycling program.

City Attorney Scott Johnson said glass refuse constituted one of the most echoed public complaints. "Glass bottles in the street and yards . . . is a health hazard and persistent safety problem," he said.

Johnson recommended stricter citations on the part of law enforcement officials and more aggressive prosecution by local judges.

While informing the council that littering was Class C Misdemeanor that also fell under the Health and Safety Code, punishable by a fine of up to $500, Pecos Health and Sanitation Director Armando Gil vowed that his department would also helping with enforcement.

Councilmen Ricky Herrera and Johnny Terrazas encouraged Pecos residents to contact the Pecos Police Department when they witnesses people littering glass bottles.


Salvador Matta

Salvador "Joge" Matta, 61, of Pecos, died Wednesday, May 27, 1998, at his residence.

A rosary is scheduled for 7:30 p.m., tonight at the Pecos Funeral Home Chapel.

A memorial will be held at noon, Saturday, May 30, at St. Catherine Catholic Church with Father Antonio Mena officiating. Burial will be in Mount Evergreen Cemetery.

He was born March 28, 1937, in Balmorhea, was a cook and a Catholic.

Survivors include three sons, Salvador Jr. and Gilbert Matta of Dallas, George Matta of El Paso; one daughter, Loraine M. Candelaria of El Paso; his mother, Juanita Trujillo of Pecos; one brother, George Matta, Jr. of Pecos; one sister, Corina Rule of Alamagordo, N.M. and three grandchildren.

Pecos Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.


High Thursday 103. Low this morning 67. Forecast for tonight: Fair. Low 65 70. Southeast wind 10-20 mph. Saturday, mostly sunny. High around 105. South wind 10-20 mph.

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