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

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June 18, 1998

Aerial fireworks banned

Barring drenching rains that will break the continuing
drought, there will be no rocket's red glare to celebrate
Independence Day in Ward County this year.

The aerial fireworks contemplated for the July 4 Weekend
Freedom Fest at Hill Park in Monahans is off. At least one
fireworks dealer will not sell aerial fireworks.

But ground based fireworks can be fired at the Ward County
Coliseum parking lot South of Monahans and at the Barstow
baseball field on Friday, Saturday and Sunday of the July 4
weekend, reports Carolyn Cunningham, secretary to County
Judge Sam G. Massey.

County commissioners Thursday, June 11, banned aerial
fireworks. Violation of the ban on fireworks in the sky is a
Class C misdemeanor punishable by fines of up to $500.

Two weeks earlier, the commissioners prohibited open

Weather observers report 0.66 of an inch of rain at Monahans
and 0.27 of an inch at Grandfalls on Wednesday, June 10, did
dampen the drought. But the last appreciable rain to fall at
Monahans was 0.83 of an inch on Dec. 20, 1997; 1.1 inches at
Grandfalls on March 17.

The ban on aerial fireworks refers to rockets or any other
pyrotechnics fired aloft.

Although the ban on using aerial fireworks does not apply
to sale, Truckload Fireworks Inc. of Odessa will not sell
them, reports Charlene Lentz of Truckload.

"We will not sell rockets on sticks, missiles that have fins
or rudders, anything that will go about 100 feet from the
ignition point," says Lentz. "And we won't sell them unless
it rains quite a bit, unless we get a real drenching rain
before July 4."

Lentz notes the Truckload Fireworks outlet is on the Fort
Stockton Highway just South of Interstate 20 and the local
manager is Tommy King.

The booth opened at 9 a.m. on Sunday, June 14, and will
continue through midnight, July 4, reports Lentz.

The proclamation banning aerial fireworks reads: "Whereas,
the Texas Forest service has determined tht drought
conditions exist within this county and whereas, the use of
aerial fireworks during these drought conditions would
constitute an unreasonable risk to life and property;

It is hereby ordered by the Ward County Commissiners' Court
that the use of aerial fireworks within the unincorporated
areas of the county is prohibited. All persons selling
fireworks within this county shall provide reasonable notice
of this order. This order is adopted pursuant to Section
240.904, Local Government Code, and other applicable
statutes. Violation of this order is a Class C misdemeanor,
punishable by fine not to exceed $500."

The proclamation was adopted unanimously.

Tatom to head Kermit bank

Greta Tatom, a resident of Monahans and a Kermit State
Bank officer, has been chosen president and chief executive
officer of First State Bank of Monahans.

Charles N. Wade, First State president and CEO since June of
1968, has been elected senior chairman of the bank's board
and, in retirement, will maintain an office at First State.

Both actions are effective on July 1, according to a
statement released on Monday, June 15, by D.E. "Pat" Ramsey,
chair of the First State Bank of Monahans board of directors.

Ramsey, speaking, according to the statement, on behalf of
First State's directors, thanked Wade for three decades of
service. The board chair says Tatom "will continue the
tradition of competent quality service that First State
Bank's customers have enjoyed for the 61 years the bank has
served this area."

Ramsey's statement notes Wade's "banking career began with
First State Bank, Uvalde. Prior to his arrival in Monahans,
he also served as president of Farmers State Bank, Lueders;
and as executive vice president, First National Bank, New

"Wade and his wife, Jere, who also served First State Bank
until retiring in 1997, are the parents of five children.
Wade has been an active community volunteer, serving as a
trustee of the (Monahans-Wickett-Pyote school district) for
24 years, as well as president and state director of the
Texas Association of School Boards. . .Wade received the
Outstanding Citizen Award for Ward County in 1984. He
presently serves as vice chairman of the board of directors
of West Texas Bancshares Inc., as well as a director of the
Bank of the West, Odessa, and Kermit State Bank."

Of First State's new president and CEO, the communique says:

"Tatom, a Tennessee native, has resided in Monahans since
1953. She married Clayton C. Tatom in 1956 and devoted the
next 20 years to raising their three daughters and working
with her husband in their real estate and insurance company.

"In 1976, tatom joined the former Texas Savings and Loan
Association in Monahans where she served as vice president
and secretary to the board of directors. She is currently
executive vice president and advisory director of Kermit
State Bank, having begun her employment there in 1983.

"Tatom has been active in continuing education seminars
sponsored by the Texas Bankers Association.

"She currently serves on the finance committee of Monahans
First United Methodist Church."

Barstow school to close

Don Love is superintendent of the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah school
district. He helped kill a school in Ward County last week.
It was something he did not want. But Love says he saw no
alternative to the staggering financial woes his district
faces in an era of plunging oil prices, dwindling jobs,
economic downturn and declining enrollment.

Pecos school district faces a shortfall of about $828,000 in
the next school year.

So Love recommended, and the school board approved, on
Thursday, June 11, that Barstow school be closed and its 26
elementary students be brought across the river from Ward
County to attend classes next Fall at campuses in Pecos.

The decision came unexpectedly and quickly. Ward County
Commissioner Julian Florez , a resident of Barstow, was
there because he recalls "he had a feeling something was
going to happen to Barstow." He had the feeling, Florez
says, because of an agenda item that noted restructuring of
the school district was to be considered and acted upon. For
reasons he does not understand, Florez knew the Pecos
board was going to close the Barstow school although the
same board had promised last Spring they would never attempt
again to do it. That promise was made after the citizens of
Barstow rose in support of the school they believed held
their town together. Now the school is gone. Florez told the
board they had acted nearly clandestinely to make certain
citizens of Barstow would not be present; he told the Pecos
school trustees they had broken a promise; he told them the
school for first through fifth graders was the hub around
which Barstow revolved. No one answered him.

"I can't speak to that," says Love of the comments from the
Ward County Commissioner. "I can't speak to that. I was not
the school superintendent last year. I can say Barstow is a
community of fine people and this would not have happened if
there had been options that would have saved the same money."

The cost of operating the Barstow school, says the Pecos
superintendent, is about $250,000 a year. Next year the
projected enrollment would have been 26 pupils.

Love says he can speak to the financial need for closing
Barstow and the need to consolidate campuses within the city
of Pecos. Two Pecos district campuses, Pecos Elementary and
Lamar Elementary, in addition to Barstow, may well be gone
before the end of the Summer, the victim of declining
enrollment and declining dollars and the consolidation of
resources to teach students with fewer dollars available.

If it were not for the high cost of portable buildings, it
is possible that the consolidation that resulted in the loss
of those two additional campuses already may have
occurred.Love expects that the district will continue it's
grade level campuses.

The Barstow School that was closed was built, Love says, in
1938. There has been a school in Barstow for more than a

Pecos, Barstow and Toyah have been part of a consolidated
school district since 1969.

Property taxes from the Barstow area, about $775,000 a year,
will continue to be part of the about $18 million a year
budget in Pecos.

The decision to close Barstow, says Love,"was a tough, tough
decision but it had to be done."

And Commissioner Florez wonders why the decision was not
made in a way in which there could have been more input from
citizens of Barstow.
Love reports he seeks options for use of the now abandoned
Barstow school campus. He hopes a non-profit or government
group with funds to maintain the property will consider
acquiring the school as a community asset. Says Love: "It is
a beautiful campus with a beautiful gymnasium."

Beard growers eye Butterfield date

Nineteen Ward Countians began growing beards on Monday, June
15, in the kickoff competition for Monahans' annual
Western Week and the Butterfield Overland Stagecoach and
Wagon Festival July 27 through Aug. 2.

Monahans Police Capt. Dave Watts made it a score of
competition beard growers a day later when he entered the

Noting the late start, a questioner wondered if it took the
veteran law enforcement officer that long to get his wife's
permission to enter the hirsute sweepstakes.

Watts indicated he just wanted to give everyone else an even

The beard growers include two law enforcement officers, a
pastor, a lawyer, bankers, a county agent, assorted media
types and people who work for a living.

The winners will be chosen by a consensus of those attending
the Western Week barbecue.

Four of the contestants will be chosen as merchandise for a
shaving auction where the highest bidders will be allowed to
shave the quartet in public.

Suzi Blair, project manager for Monahans Main Street,
directed the taking of photographs on the day the
contestants stopped shaving to prove they started clean
shaven with the exception of a covey of mustaches.

First State Bank, Radio Station KLBO and The Monahans News
each contributed three beard-growers to the contest. First
State is represented by Todd Hunt, Charles Wade and John
Paul Wade; KLBO by Bruce Calloway, Hal Calloway and Allan
Martin; The Monahans News by Jerome Curry, Johnny Dalton
and Joe Warren.

Individual entries include Watts; City Attorney Mike
Swanson, Chris Hisel; C.C. Hanks; Kevin Slay of TU Electric;

Pastor Gene Brown of the First Christian Church, Sheriff's
Deputy Steve Vestal; County Agent Andy Stewart; Robert
Roeber; Steve Burkholder; and Trent Fritsche.

Freedom Fest booths going fast

Booths still are available for the annual Monahans Freedom
Fest Independence Day weekend but they are going fast,
reports Cindy Driggars, secretary of the Chamber of Commerce.

Freedom Fest is scheduled in Hill Park across the street
from the Courthouse in Monahans on July 3 and July 4
Independence Day.

"Freedom Fest booths are a perfect way to raise funds for
all varieties of organizations," says Driggars.
"Reservations for these very limited booth spaces will
continue through July 1."

Freedom Fest booth space rents for $30 with no electricity
or $35 with electricity, says the Chamber secretary.

"Chamber members receive their booths at a special rate of
$25," Driggars reports. "Each space will be approximately
10 feet by 10 feet and may be purchased at the Chamber

Freedom Fest begins on the eve of Independence Day with a
motorcycle parade and continues through July 4.

Keele re-evaluates task force support

Ward County Sheriff Ben Keele questions Gov. George W.
Bush's plan for an alternative to the late Permian Basin
Drug Task Force's anti-drug smuggling traffic in 15 West
Texas counties, including Ward.

Keele, a conservative Democrat who has supported
conservative Republican Bush for governor, also says he is
re-evaluating that support based on the demise of the task

The governor's proposal alternative was released on Friday,
June 12, by the governor's staff two weeks after that
staff's decision to deny $2 million in federal funding to
the task force because of allegations of fiscal

According to a communique from the governor's office:
"Governor Bush today (June 12) announced the formation of
the West Texas Narcotics Enforcement Task force. The new
drug task force funded by a federal grant will receive 75
percent in matching funding through the Governor's Criminal
Justice Division and will initially be headed by the Texas
Department of Public Safety (DPS). It will serve all
counties formerly served by the Permian Basin Drug Task

Keele, a board member of the Permian Basin Drug Task Force,
reports he has received a letter from the governor's office
asking for the participation of Wrad County in the new
DPS-led effort.

"A lot of questions have to be answered," says the Ward
County sheriff. "I really don't know what they're asking but
they are asking for money from us and I don't know what kind
of money they want. I know we don't have a lot. From what I
can see, we don't have the money."

Texas Rangers and agents of the Federal Bureau of
Investigation conducted a year-long inquiry and reported to
Bush's office. That report has been referred to the office
of Attorney General Dan Morales.

Keele, a member of the board of the now defunct Permian
Basin Drug Task Force, has questioned the adviseability of
killing a major drug fighting agency because of still
unsubstantiated assertions made against the agency's
leadership. Noting no indictments have been returned by
either state or federal grand jury in the case, the sheriff
feels the agency should have been retained even if its
leaders are removed.

The letter Keele received from the governor's office
suggested he call Robert J. (Duke)Bodisch, director of the
DPS Texas Drug Control Program, if he has any questions.
Keele says he doesn't plan to call.

"I talk to someone I want to be looking eye ball to eye ball
at him especially after the way this has been handled," says
the sheriff.

Then Democrat Keele began to muse about his past support for
fellow conservative, but Republican, Bush.

Austin sources say Keele's support for the governor's
initiative may be critical because of the repect other law
officers have for him.The Ward County sheriff was named the
outstanding law enforcement officer in West Texas by the Big
Bend Law Enforcement Association last year.Keele is not
enclined to make a hasty decision and he says he believes
cancelation of the Permian Basin Drug Task Force will will
hurt Bush politically in West Texas. Permian Basin voters,
although predominantly Democrat, generally are of a
conservative bent. They tend to vote Republican in regional,
state and national elections.

Says Keele: "I did support Bush at one time. I sure am
reevaluating that support. A lot of questions are going to
have to be answered."

Meanwhile, Democratic gubernatorial nominee Mauro says he
has instructed his staff to evaluate the issues surrounding
the demise of the Permian Basin Drug Task Force.

Phone customers vote on free calling

Telephone subscribers in Monahans are expected to start
receiving ballots by Aug. 13 to decide on adding four more
areas to the Ward County seat's extended call network,
reports Suzi Blair, Monahans Main Street project manager.

There will be no additional charge on Monahans telephone
bills if the four areas become part of the Monahans net,
emphasizes Blair.

The areas on which telephone subscribers will decide are
Terminal (which includes the Midland Airport area), Pecos,
Kermit and Fort Stockton.

City Manager David Mills says at least 70 percent of the
subscribers must approve the proposal before it can become
part of the Monahans net which already includes Odessa and
several other communities including Grandfalls and Crane.

He also notes that the Terminal area includes several Odessa
exchanges not now on the network as well as the airport in

Currently, Monahans residential subscribers pay $3.50 a
month and business subscribers pay seven dollars a month for
the privilege of calling Odessa with out a long distance
charge. The other towns on the Monahans extended call area
are there because the communities involved included Monahans
in their individual networks.

Blair and Mills repeatedly note that the addition of the
four communities to be decided in the extended call election
will cost nothing more.

"It will be free," Blair has said. "There is no additional

If those receiving a ballot have a question, Blair asks the
to call her at 943-3418.

In the first extended call election in Monahans, confusion
resulted in the voters rejecting five cities on the ballot
except for Odessa which was approved. It was not understood
all five cities could be added to the net for the same
price, Blair says.

Delayed pool opening draws crowd

Tuesday, June 16, the municipal pool in Hill Park opened.

Within a half-hour, reports pool manager Brandon Miller, 50
swimmers were in the water.

"Word obviously spread quickly," says Miller.

The pool's traditional opening on Memorial Day was delayed
because of a lack of certified life guards.

That problem has been solved, says Miller, who notes the
pool also is available for swim parties.

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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.