Weekly Newspaper and Tourism Guide for Ward County Trans Pecos, Big Bend of West Texas
June 4, 1998
Swigert leaves chamber post
Tammy Swigert, executive director of the Monahans Chamber of
Commerce for nearly three years, has resigned to enter
"We will remain in Monahans," says Swigert. "We love
Monahans and I plan to remain active in the Chamber as a
volunteer. I just will not be paid for my volunteer work."
Her resignation was effective on Friday, May 29.
She also says she has told the Chamber board she will assist
in any way they desire in the employment of a new Chamber
"Everything is wonderful at the Chamber," Swigert says. "We
are in an excellent position both in finances and programs.
This is a good time to seek other opportunities in the area.
We will continue to remain in Monahans."
Keele backs drug task force
Ward County Sheriff Ben Keele deplores the decision by Gov.
George W. Bush's office to withhold a $2 million federal
grant from the Permian Basin Drug Task Force.
The sheriff notes the action in effect kills the task force
although governor's office staff members say they seek
options to remedy the assault on the Basin's primary law
enforcement weapon against the dope traffic.
Beset by so far unsubstantiated charges of fiscal
irregularities in the way last year's $1.8 million in
federal money was used, the task force, the sheriff says,
and its mission appear doomed.
Since its founding, the task force has assisted or has acted
alone in the arrests of 4,968 suspected dope traffickers,
confiscated illegal drugs with a street value of $28 million
and confiscated $2.5 million in cash as a result of its
Keele wonders what the office of criminal justice can do to
remedy the pending loss of the agency. Pressed, members of
the governor's staff told the Monahans News they were not
at liberty to discuss any alternatives.
The decision not to fund the Permian Basin Drug Task Force
came after a year long investigation by the Federal Bureau
of Investigation and the Texas Rangers. That inquiry was
triggered in part, Austin sources told The Monahans News, by
At least one task force officer kept for himself money
budgeted to pay informers.
Wages were paid to task force workers who did not exist.
Contrary to law, payroll records for task force employees
were changed to eliminate compensatory time off earned by
the employees. Law requires compensatory time for all
workers not paid overtime in accordance with U.S. Wage and
Petitions were presented to courts for search warrants which
contained false information.
The principal target of the allegations is Task Force
Commander Tom Finley and his executive officer, Jack Brewer.
The charges came from a former task force officer, Richard
Dickson. A statement by Dickson was presented to Ector
County District Attorney John Smith, through whom the
federal grant monies for the task force are distributed
after approval by the governor's office. It was Smith who
asked for the inquiry.
"I am a member of the board and I knew nothing about it,"
says Ward County Sheriff Keele, who was named the best law
enforcement officer in West Texas last year by the Big Bend
Law Enforcement Association.
A report on the results of the Ranger and FBI investigation
have been transferred to the office of State Attorney
General Dan Morales, says Linda Edwards of the governor's
Asked why the reports were not presented to the Public
Integrity Unit of the Travis County District Attorney's
Office or to a Grand Jury if the allegations have merit,
Edwards replied: "I do not know."
It is the Public Integrity Unit of the Travis County DA's
office which usually has jurisdiction in issues involving
misfeasance in state office.
Says Ben Keele: "It used to be there was a due process of
law before someone gets his head cut off."
The Ward County Sheriff continues: "Gang bangers are
celebrating from Mexico to Chicago."
If there is a problem with individual task force members
and no such problem so far has been proven to exist, Keele
emphasizes, the Permian Basin Drug Task Force should be
maintained with personnel changes. He says the decade-old
agency is law enforcement's main line of defense in 15 West
Federal funding, which must be approved by the Criminal
Justice Division of the Governor's office, officially ended
The Permian Basin agency was the only one of the state's 47
multi-county anti-drug task forces to be denied funding.
According to a governor's communique issued on Monday, June
"Funding for the Permian Basin task force, which had
requested a $2 million grant, is not being renewed at this
time because of serious allegations about the financial
integrity of the task force funds. . .Until certain funds
are secure, the criminal justice division cannot fund the
task force. The criminal justice division is accountable to
the federal government for the use of those funds and must
ensure the funds are spent appropriately and within federal
On Tuesday, June 2, another communique was issued from the
same office. It says in part:
"The Texas Rangers presented the govenor's office with
investigation results from them and the FBI which raise
serious criminal allegations. The govenor's office
determined the appropriate legal authority to review the
allegations is the attorney general's office. The attorney
general's office indicates they are looking into the matter.
Meanwhile, it would not be appropriate to fund the same
program about which these allegations have been made.
"The governor is concerned about the 15 counties that rely
on this task force to help them fight illegal drugs. He will
not leave these counties without drug enforcement."
Roberts Construction gets elevator job
Ward County Commissioners, Monday, June 1, awarded contracts
for installation of a fire alarm system plus construction of
a federally mandated elevator at the Courthouse in
Construction will start, says County Judge Sam G. Massey, in
J.C. Roberts Construction Co. of Midland-Odessa will be the
principal contractor. The architect will be Terry
Witherspoon of Odessa.
Robert Construction's low bid for the four-level elevator
project was $1.32 million. The company's bid for the fire
alarm system was $51,000. The fire alarm bid also includes
remodeling and renovation on the second floor of the
Courthouse so that it will be Fire Code approved and comply
with current safety standards.
The elevator contract was awarded after a workshop in which
the commissioners were told the Americans with Disabilities
Act must be followed as quickly as possible to ensure
disabled access to all four levels of the building.
"We came to the conclusion," says the county judge, "that
postponing the elevator project might cause some problems.
We're under the gun.
"We have heard rumors of counties being fined for not
complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act. This had
to be done."
Under the construction plans, the elevator will be built in
a tower that will be added to the Courthouse on the Law
Enforcement Center side of the Courthouse.
As part of the construction program, the elevator tower also
will include handicapped accessible rest room facilities.
Mercury soars to 107
Heat records are being shattered.
The old high temperature record for May in Monahans was 107
degrees, reports C. Pearson Cooper, the National Weather
Service observer for Ward County. It hit 107 in May of 1989.
The new Monahans May record high is 111 degrees, set Cooper
reports, on Saturday, May 30. It cooled by a degree the next
day when the temperature dropped to 110 degrees on the last
day of May.
Thirsty wild animals are entering the city in search of
Kevin Slay, the Monahans area manager for TU Electric Co.
says he has seen wild turkeys in the part of Monahans where
Other citizens also report birds, snakes, coyotes, even a
fox or two inside the city limits of Ward County's major
communities - Monahans, Barstow, Grandfalls, Wickett, Pyote,
Members of the county commissioners court enacted a ban on
open burning last week, a prohibition likely to continue,
Judge Sam G. Massey has said, until there are at least two
rains of at least an inch.
The last such rain was on Dec. 20, 1997, when 0.83 fell,
according to Cooper's records. For the month of December,
The weather observer measured a total of 1.76 inches of
moisture at his station in Monahans.
The weather observer says Ward County usually can expect
from 11 to 13 inches of rain a year. Based on the first five
months of 1998, that might not happen this year, he says.
In January, 0.08 inches of rain was recorded in Monahans; in
February, 0.38; March, 0.62.
"There was no rain in April and 0.03 of an inch in May,"
reports Cooper. "Average rain in May is 2.8 inches. In June,
it is 2.82. We're going to have to hurry to catch up to an
average year's total."
Cooper notes that as of Wednesday, June 3, there had been
seven consecutive 100 degree or more days in the county-
Wednesday, May 27, 100; Thursday, May 28, 106; Friday, May
29, 107, equalling May's historical heat record; Saturday,
May 30, 111, breaking the record; Sunday, May 31, 110, a
degree shy of the new record but three degrees above the old
one; Monday, June 1, 111; Tuesday, June 2, 113.
Those initial June temperatures are hot but they're not even
close to the Monahans June record of 126 degrees set on June
27 in 1994 which equals a 126 reading at Seymour in August
of 1936, and both of which are the highest temperatures ever
officially recorded in Texas. Cooper remembers that day in
Monahans because the thermometer at his home measures a
high of only 120 degrees. The 126 degree reading had to be
calculated Seymour's 126 degree reading also had to be
calculated for the same reason - the thermometer topped out
at 120 degrees.
From May 20 through May 26 this year, according to Cooper's
official records, three 100 degree plus days were recorded -
104 on May 20, 102 on May 21 and 105 on May 24. When the
mercury dropped below 90 in that period, it didn't drop far
- 99 on May 22 and 98 on May 25, for example.
The new record 111 came on May 30.
Cooper suggests residents make sure insurance payments are
up to date because he says it is the Ward County norm for
violent storms to break long, dry spells comparable to the
one the area now suffers. He also warns against leaving
children or pets in automobiles where the intense heat can
injure or kill them.
Heat and drought also are causing damage to lawns and
gardens in Ward County but that is damage that can be
mitigated, advises Terry Kirkland of Kirkland Nursery.
The principal weapon, reports Kirkland, is water.
"We need an inch and a half on our lawns per week," says the
nursery professional, "three applications of a half-inch."
Kirkland suggests using a straight-sided can, like a tuna
fish can, to measure that half-inch as water is dispensed
from a sprinkler.
"You will then know how much watering time is required from
the time it takes to fill the can," he says.
"Water trees as individuals. A six-inch diamter tree on a
100 degree day will transpirate 1000 gallons of water per
day...Water early in the morning about 4 a.m. or 5 a.m. to
get the most from our water so we don't lose as much to
evaporation. Do not water the foliage of shrubs and roses
because this may contribute to leaf burn in this heat."
It's been a while, says Kirkland, since it was as hot as
this Spring has been. Says Kirkland: "I remember it being
this hot and dry in 1977." That was the Year of the Tornado,
Monahans men on historic patrol
By Jason Emerson
A special correspondent of the News
ABOARD THE USS OHIO - The ballistic missile submarine USS
Ohio completed its first patrol in an uncertain world. The
year was 1982 and the United States and the now defunct
Soviet Union were locked in an ideological war. An arms race
had produced weapons more destructive than any in history,
making the threat of global war very real.
When it finished its fiftieth patrol this year, the Ohio
faced a world much more sure of itself. Gone were the Soviet
Union and The Cold War. In their place were Russia and over
all world peace. The threat of global nuclear war, except
for weapons tests in India, seemed remote.
Navy Petty Officer First Class Luis A. Talavera, out of
Monahans in the West Texas region of the Chihuahuan Desert,
was part of that early 1998 patrol, which put the Ohio in
history books as the only U.S. ballistic missile submarine
to complete 50 deployments. For Talavera, the 31-year-old
son of Albert and Julie Talavera of Monahans, the event was
"Being on this cruise gave me a feeling of accomplishment
and achievement," says Talavera, a 1985 graduate of Monahans
High School. "Something like this lets you know that you
serve a purpose and are essential in preserving our way of
Talavera is a missile technician who services and repairs
fleet ballistic missiles.
Ballistic missile submarines like Ohio, known in the Fleet
as "boomers," form one-third of the United States strategic
The philosophy behind these submarines is straight forward:
A country gains no advantage launching a nuclear strike
against the United States when a boomer lurking near is able
to retaliate with missiles of its own.
"The Trident's role is unique in the aspect that we go out
to sea with the intent of disappearing from prying eyes,"
says Talavera, a 10-year Naval veteran. "The fact that we
exist is widely known, but where we are is not."
Although the threat of global war has diminished since the
end of The Cold War, regional conflicts threaten peace in
different parts of the globe - i.e. the Indian subcontinent.
Because more than two dozen countries possess nuclear
weapons, ballistic missile submarines patrol today to
provide the United States and its allies with a strong
"Trident submarine patrols serve as constant reminders to
any would be adversary or aggressor that any hostile action
taken against the United States carries serious
consequences," says Talavera.
Talavera and the Ohio crew deploy for up to four months at a
time. The whereabouts of a Trident submarine, so called
because of the nuclear-capable Trident missiles it carries,
is top secret during deployment.
Because of the clandestine nature of the Ohio's mission, it
can stay submerged for months at a time. When the lack of
fresh air and sunlight is combined with relatively tight
quarters, life on a submarine can seem oppressive. The few
who chose to serve aboard submarines are put through
extensive training and testing to make sure they can cope.
Talavera, like his shipmates aboard the Ohio, has his own
way of dealing with life on a sub.
"Keeping yourself occupied helps the time go by faster.
There is actually a lot for a person to do on board," says
(Writer Emerson is a Navy photojournalist assigned to Navy
Public Affairs Center, Naval Station, San Diego)
Four towns on extended calling list
Monahans telephone subscribers have a chance to remedy the
mistake they made a year ago when they approved Odessa for
the city's extended calling network, reports Suzi Blair,
Monahans Main Street's Project Director.
In the process Monahans voters rejected four other cities
they could have had for the same monthly rate - $3.50 for
residential telephones and $7 for businesses.
Now Monahans residents and businesses have a chance to
approve local calls to the four area cities they jilted.
"And it will not cost a single extra penny on the phone
bill," Blair emphasizes. "For the same monthly fee already
being paid by phone service subscribers, the towns can be
The additional areas are:
Terminal - which includes some additional Odessa exchanges
(Medical Center) and Midland exchanges in addition to the
Midland Airport; Fort Stockton; Pecos; Kermit; Blair says the areas can be added to the Monahans local calling area as early as this fall if they are approved by the voters.
Blair, who also is Expanded Local Calling Petition
Coordinator, has mailed the petition for the mail referendum
and a community interst statement to the Public Utility
She reports there were 249 signatures gathered on the
petition for the request to vote on adding Terminal, Ft.
Stockton, Pecos and Kermit to the local calling area. The
Community of Interest Statement describes the economic need
for local calling to each of the three cities and the
"Once the petition and Community of Interest Statement are
received by the PUC, a project number will be assigned and
recommendations will be sent to the Office of Regulatory
Affairs," says Blair. "If there are no deficiencies in the
application, ballots will be sent to local subscribers
sometime late this Summer."
She emphasizes the most important factor in the
application's eventual success is:
" Phone subscribers must vote for each city and the Terminal
exchange once the ballots are distributed. "
She reemphasizes there will be no additional charge on the
telephone bills to add the four areas.
At least 70 percent of those telephone subscribers who
return ballots to the phone company must support adding each
city and the terminal exchange to the expanded local calling
Only those cities and exchanges on the ballot receiving an
approval of 70 percent or better of the ballots will be
In the extended local election where Monahans voters
rejected five-for-the price-of-one, some said they did not
understand the ballot.
Pipeline nears finish line
Ward County's span of a 700-mile, $200 million pipeline from
the Houston Ship Channel to El Paso is nearing its finish,
executives of Longhorn Partners Pipeline Co. report.
The principal contractor is a joint venture that combines
Okema of Okema Okla. and Driver Co. of Dallas.
In Ward County, site preparation work began in April. Line
work started about May 11 and the company's crews have been
laying about two miles a day on a 50-mile line that enters
Ward County in the Royalty area. The line cuts South of
Monahans across State Route 18 near where the control office
for this sector of pipeline construction is located. When
completed, the pipeline will exit Ward County near the water
tower in Barstow, sometime early in July.
Carter Montgomery, Longhorn Partners president and chief
executive officer, notes the line is designed to make the
markets of the Permian Basin and West Texas more accessible
to the Gulf of Mexico refineries.
He notes he has been planning the line for years and it,
when finished, will mean the fulfillment of a vision that
links by pipeline most of the Texas petrochemical industry.
Montgomery, speaking from the corporate offices in Dallas,
says the project is scheduled to go on line by Dec. 1 - with
an initial capability to move 70,000 to 80,000 barrels of
West Texas Crude a day to the Gulf Coast refineries.
He expects that schedule to be met barring any unforeseen
severe weather which would hinder building, an unlikely
scenario in West Texas although the work crews in the Ward
County area have been fighting almost consecutive 100-plus
degree days this Spring.
Principal construction on the East Texas-West Texas
pipeline, reports Joe Feagan, vice president for
construction for Longhorn Partners, is scheduled to end
about Oct. 1. After that comes clean-up and consolidation.
Longhorn Partners is a consortium that includes Williams Co.
of Tulsa, Beacon Energy Fund of New York City, Chisholm
Holdings of Dallas and the pipeline divisions of Exxon and
Feagan says it is possible - no decision has yet been made -
that the main office for the final 235 miles of construction
may remain in Monahans.
"We're logging about two miles a day," says Feagan, whose
roots in the Ward County Oil Patch are deep. " It'll be
about 30 days across Ward County."
As of Wednesday, the Longhorn Partners construction boss
says: "We have laid 25 miles or more in Ward County."
Hill Park pool set to open
City officials hope to open the municipal swimming pool in
Hill Park as soon as possible, reports City Secretary Lorena
The traditional May 30 opening of the Hill Park pool was
delayed this Spring because the city had not been able to
hire either lifeguards or a pool manager, both of which are
required if the pool is to be used.
City Manager David Mills had reported to the City Council on
Tuesday, May 26, that as of that day there had not even been
any applications for the positions.
That part of the problem seems to have been resolved,
reports Marquez. The city now has applications both for the
lifeguard and pool manager positions. Now the city must
determine if the applicants qualify for the jobs for which
they have applied.
A major qualification, she notes, is that lifeguards must be
Red Cross/YMCA certified.
The City Secretary emphasizes that city officials are doing
all that is possible to open the pool to swimmers. It is
possible, she says, the pool may be open by June 13 but that
still depends on the city's ability to employ qualified
Copyright 1998 by Ward Newspapers, Inc.
Joe Warren, Publisher
107 W. Second St., Monahans TX 79756
Phone 915-943-4313, FAX 915-943-4314
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Copyright 1998 by Ward Newspapers Inc.