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Weekly Newspaper and Tourism Guide for Ward County Trans Pecos, Big Bend of West Texas

Cooling costs money

Current electric bills will be up, warns Kevin Slay, the
Monahans area manager for TU Electric.

The reason: Increased power for cooling homes and businesses
as triple-digit high temperatures seared late May into June
and the drought continued. Weather prognosticators predict
no relief from the drought in Ward County but temperatures
did drop back into the 90s on Friday, June 5, as a cool
front moved into the area over the weekend.

"Customers need to be aware that their bills for May
probably will be higher," says Slay. "But they will not be
as high as they could have been."

They could have been 31 percent higher, based on May and
early June power consumption for residences served by TU
Electric compared with residential power use for the same
period of 1997.

"The all time peak load record was set on Aug. 20, 1997
(20,351,000 kilowatts)," Slay reports. "The highest load to
date for June is 19,691,000 - up 31 percent."

But residential bills will not be as high as they could have
been although power use for cooling increased.

"We decreased rates for residential customers on Jan. 1 by
four percent and lowered the basic electric costs," says

Another 1.4 percent decrease by TU Electric in residential
rates is scheduled next Jan. 1.

The TU area manager notes there is no way in which to
quantify a so-called average May residential utility bill in
Monahans and Ward County because of variables which include
billing cycles. He does know the bills will be higher.

"The early heat set a monthly record for May," Slay reports.
"The previous peak record for May was broken on Thursday,
May 28, when customers used 18,800,000 kilowatts . . . That
record was broken the following day on Friday, May 29, with
a peak load of 19 million kilowatts."

Pearson Cooper, the National Weather Service observer in
Monahans, reported a high of 106 degrees on May 28; 107, on
May 29.

Those temperatures came in a week of 100s that included 111
on May 30, a new Monahans record for May; and 110 on May

Schools raise salaries

Members of the Monahans-Wickett-Pyote school district board
of trustees Tuesday, June 9, approved raises for the school
district's workers.

Trustees took the action in their regular meeting.

District Manager Joe Hayes said the raises approved by the
board would add $266,374.23 to the district's current annual
pay roll of about $9.5 million for all employees.

Superintendent Cliff Stephens recommended the new salary
schedule to the board which unanimously approved Stephens'
recommendation.The superintendent noted the advances the
school district had made in the past school year
academically and in extracurricular activities.

"People on a salary schedule will receive about a one
percent raise," Stephens said. "Those on step schedules will
receive three to four percent. Those not on the step
schedule will receive one to two percent."

Court eyes fireworks ban

Fighting continuing drought, members of the Ward County
Commissioner's Court today, Thursday, June 11, are expected
to ban ignition of aerial fireworks in Ward County.

The action is scheduled in the wake of the county court's
prohibition two weeks ago against all open burning in the
county and two days after Texas Gov. George W. Bush declared
a drought emergency in 207 of the 254 counties in Texas.

Ward County is part of the drought emergency area
designated by the governor.

Considering an act to prohibit the use of aerial fireworks
is the only item on the commissioner's agenda when they meet
in an emergency meeting at 1 p.m. in the Courthouse at

County Judge Sam G. Massey had said the fireworks ban might
be necessary after the commissioners banned open burning
because of tinder dry vegetation in the county. The county
judge discussed the ban possibility with Monahans Chamber
of Commerce representatives. The Chamber had considered
fireworks for its annual Independence Day Freedom Fest
celebration. Massey also said the commissioners would not
consider lifting the prohibition against open burning until
after at least two one-inch rains covered the county.

In Monahans, the last appreciable rain to fall was 0.83
inches on Dec. 20, 1997. In Grandfalls, 1.10 inches of rain
was recorded on March 17 of this year.

Motorcycles on parade

Motorcycles will parade on the eve of Independence Day to
start the annual July Fourth celebration in Monahans,
reports Cindy Driggars, secretary of the Chamber of

Freedom Fest '98 continues through Independence Day at Hill
Park, the principal venue for the area's celebration of the
nation's Declaration of Independence from Great Britain in

Says Driggars: "This year's newest event is the Freedom Fest
Motorcycle Parade and Show organized by Danny Morriss.,"

The motorcycle parade starts at the Spotlight Restaurant at
6 p.m. on Friday, July 3, and ends at the Million Barrel

"Any one interested in riding in the parade, please be at
the Spotlight by 5:45 p.m.," Driggars says. "Street legal
bikes only will be allowed. All riders should bring your
U.S. Flags."

Saturday, July 4, motorcycles will be displayed behind the
Ward County Courthouse adjacent to Hill Park. Spectators
will judge the motorcycles in three categories - Most
Patriotic two-wheeler, Most Patriotic three-wheeler and
Ugliest. Entry fee is $10. Spectator judges who vote also
have a chance to win a free steak dinner donated by K-Bob's
Steak House. Driggars emphasizes entries in the motorcycle
show must be received in the Chamber office no later than
July 2.

July 1 is the deadline to reserve limited booth space.

Booth rental fees are $30 for a booth with no electricity;
$35, with electricity. Chamber members, Driggars says, may
reserve booths for $25.

Traditional Freedom Fest events - the Blistering Sands Bike
Challenge, Bingo, entertainment, food and the Green Thumb
Show -are scheduled for July 4.

Driggars reminds: "A special 'Summer Blast' t-shirt boasting
Monahans Summer events, is on sale now and will be available
at the Chamber tent during Freedom Fest '98. The t-shirt's
cost is $10. The Chamber secretary also says:

"For booth reservations or more festival information, call
the Chamber office at 943-2187."

Meterorite 7 regains space rock

Monahans' Meteorite 7 got their space rock (estimated value
$19,000 and climbing) back. The vote of the City Council was

Patrick and Alvaro Lyles, 8 and 11 years old; Jose Felan,
11; Flavio and Neri Armandariz, 9 and 12; Eron Hernandez,
10; and Javier Juarez, 9, are happy. Patrick says he knew
all along the Council would act in favor of the Meteorite 7.
After all, Patrick notes, they found it first.

Orlando Lyles, father of two of the children and the
designated spokesman for all of the families, has the
meteorite at home.

The city relinquished custody about 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan.
9, amidst the laughter of the children and the buzz of
television cameras. Lyles showed the meteorite to all who
wanted to see it before going home.

Steve Arnold, a meteorite broker from Tulsa, Okla., was
skewered by the city officials. Arnold brokers sales of
spatial debris to collectors, scholars and museums.

Arnold's roasting came from City Manager David Mills; Mayor
Pro Tem Clarese Gough and District 3 Council Member Curtis
Howard. All noted what they termed scurrilous tactics and
slanderous internet postings by the broker.

Arnold represents the parents of the seven Monahans
children who first retrieved the wandering rock from the
Asteroid Belt.

It had just zipped over their heads into Manuel Juarez's
vacant lot while they were playing basketball on a warm
Sunday afternoon in March. Arnold says he will receive a 25
percent commission when the meteorite eventually is sold.

Gough presided because Mayor David B. Cutbirth was away on
vacation. District 1 Council Member Mary Garcia moved that
the city return the meteorite (Monahans'98-I) to the
children. District 2 Council Member Jeppie Wilson seconded.

Howard said he would have made the same motion except Garcia
beat him to it.

The city retains a sibling of the meteorite retired to the
children christened Monahans '98-II for possible eventual
display at City Hall.

That was the bottom line of the meeting of the Monahans
City Council on Tuesday afternoon, June 9, in the Council
chambers at City Hall, a meeting crammed with the Meteorite
7, friends, relatives and assorted members of the national
and international media.

After District 4 Council Member Ted Ward, Howard, Garcia
and Wilson voted to return the meteorite, Gough recessed the
meeting to allow the City Council Chambers to empty. Gough,
who represents District 5, could not vote because she was
presiding over the Council in the absence of Cutbirth.

Troopers intercept methamphetamine

Department of Public Safety Trooper Darren Storer and Ward
County Sheriff's Sgt. Juan Rodriguez Friday, June 5,
intercepted a methamphetamine run from Phoenix to Fort Worth.

Meanwhile attempts continued to revive the illegal drug
fighting mission of the Permian Basin Drug Task Force in 15
West Texas counties, including Ward. Federal funds were
denied the task force last week.

While representatives of the Ector County based task force
were in Austin looking for answers, Storer and Rodriguez
arrested two men in their 60s and confiscated 106.3 grams
of methamphetamine, according to incident reports.

Storer said it was the largest speed seizure in which he had
been involved in the about 11 months he has been assigned
toMonahans. Chief Sheriff's Deputy Jerry Heflin says it
has been a year since a comparable seizure of speed by law
enforcement officers in Ward County.

The two occupants of the vehicle were arrested and jailed in
lieu of $50,000 bond each on charges of transportation of a
controlled substance - methamphetamine and $200 each for
possession of drug paraphernalia.

According to Ward County Jail records, the men are Curtis
Auten and Mike Folsom, both 63 years old and both from Fort
Worth. Storer reports Auten was driving the car.

The incident occurred about five miles West of Monahans on
Interstate 20 in the Eastbound lanes. It was 10:58 a.m.

"The main reason I pulled them over was speeding," says
Storer. "They were running 80 in a 70 mile an hour zone."

Storer recalls turning on his lights and calling for backup
as the Nissan was pulled to the edge of the pavement by its

By this time Rodriguez already was on the scene.

"There was no problem," says Storer. "I asked the driver
for consent to search and the driver gave it."

Rodriguez and Storer found the methamphetamine in a bag in
the trunk of the 1990 Nissan Stanza.

No weapons were seized when the arrests were made. One of
the men did have a pocket knife, Storer recalls.

The DPS trooper says he also gave Auten a speeding ticket.

Heflin notes most methamphetamine arrests in Ward County
are made on the interstate although some speed confiscations
are made from time to time in the area.

The arrest by the sheriff's office and DPS were the first
for illegal drug traffic in Ward County since federal
funding was denied last week to the Permian Basin Drug Task

Members of Gov. George W. Bush's staff say they are seeking
alternatives to the task force but so far no action has been
announced. Funding was denied, according to a governor's
communique, because of allegations of fiscal mismanagement
by Task Force Commander Tom Finley. So far no evidence has
been taken to a Grand Jury, federal or state. So far, no
charges have been filed. Texas Rangers and agents of the
Federal Bureau of Investigation investigated the
allegations for a year and then reported to the governor's
office. That report, according to statements from the
governor's staff, has been transferred to the office of
Attorney General Dan Morales.

Ward County Sheriff Ben Keele, a member of the task force
board, considers the task force to be moribund without the
about $2 million in federal funding. The Permian Basin Drug
Task Force was the only one in Texas denied federal dollars
to fight the illegal drug trade.

TAAS averages best statewide tally

Students in the Monahans-Wickett-Pyote school district
eclipsed state averages in the TAAS tests this Spring,
district trustees were told on Tuesday, June 9.

"We're doing a super, super job," Assistant Superintendent
Tom Johnson told the school board at the district
administrative offices in Monahans. "The students are doing
a super, super job. You can be proud of your kids."

Lobo sophomores had an over all pass rate of 94 percent, 22
percent above the state average of 72 percent. Sixth graders
had an overall pass rate of 97 percent, 18 percent over the
state average of 79 percent. Third graders scored 16 percent
above the state average with a total district pass rate of
92 percent.

The test was given to third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh
and eighth graders and to Monahans High School students, who
must pass the test to exit secondary school programs in

At Gensler Elementary in Wickett, 93 percent of the third
graders taking the test passed the reading portion of the
test; 100 percent passed mathematics. Comparable numbers
were identified across the system in the state test results.

In the critical high school TAAS examinations, 94 percent
of the students passed reading; 90 percent passed
mathematics; 98 percent passed writing.

"These are just phenomenal results in our high school,"
Johnson told the school board.

The assistant superintendent for education noted that the
most telling results of the TAAS results for the school
district might well be the comparison between state averages
and the numbers posted by students in the
Monahans-Wickett-Pyote school district.

"We just kind of blew them out of the water," Johnson told
the school board. "Comparison? There is no comparison."

Campus by campus, the TAAS pass rates were:

Gensler Elementary - Third Grade: reading 93 percent; Math
100 percent.

Tatom Elementary - Third Grade: reading, 87 percent; math,
86 percent. Fourth Grade: reading, 91 percent; math, 89

Sudderth Elementary -Fifth Grade: reading, 96 percent; math,
99 percent. Sixth Grade: Reading 94 percent; Math, 99

Walker Junior High - Seventh Grade: reading, 82 percent;
math, 84 percent. Eighth Grade: Reading, 85 percent; math,
86 percent; writing, 86 percent; science, 85 percent; social
studies (history, etc.), 69 percent.

Monahans High School - Exit Level: reading, 94 percent;
math, 90 percent; writing, 98 percent.

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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.