Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas
Wednesday, August 05, 1998
School board looking at 10-cent tax hike
By MAC McKINNON
A 10-cent tax hike in the school tax rate, to $1.50 for this
tax year, was suggested and voted on by Pecos-Barstow-Toyah
School Board trustees during a meeting in special session
Tuesday evening, and a public hearing was set for 6 p.m.
Aug. 13 on the proposed increase.
The motion suggesting the tax increase was made by Steve
Armstrong, seconded by Brent Shaw and approved by all board
members with the exception of Louis Matta, who voted no.
If finally approved, the increase would bring in $251,457
more than the current tax rate of $1.40. That amount is
based on 92 per cent of collections with state reimbursement
based on average daily attendance (ADA) of 2,801 students.
The board considered several other proposals, including a
5-cent and 8-cent tax increase along with an increase of
16.9 cents. But they decided on the 10 cent hike, although
it doesn't cover the $338,000 that P-B-T must reimburse the
state because of overpayment based on ADA.
A high rate of truancy this past school year hurt the
district's ADA and their reimbursement rate, and P-B-T's
reimbursement could run as high at $378,000.
The amount not covered by the tax increase would come out of
ending fund balances.
In addition, it was noted that decreased valuations made it
necessary to raise taxes in order to compensate for those
losses, as well as make up for the money needed to reimburse
The school board had earlier voted to eliminate a $5,000
homestead exemption that was put into effect only last year.
As valuations now stand, Superintendent Don Love noted that
the average homestead evaluation is now at slightly more
than $23,000, a drop from $26,750 last year.
The suggested tax increase will cost homeowners in the
neighborhood of $70 to $95 per year. The tax hike is the
first proposed by the school district in seven years.
In the proposed budget, expenditures have been reduced from
$15,390,475 last year to $13,728,889 this year. This
includes a reduction of 45 teacher aides, not replacing 18
teachers who have retired or resigned, along with five to
seven other positions where personnel have retired or
Part of the savings come are projected to come from the
closing of Barstow Elementary. Students in Grades 1-5 will
now be bused to Pecos schools.
The board also approved appointments that complete the
school personnel roster, with the exception of a speech
therapist, a first grade bilingual teacher and an eighth
grade reading teacher.
Those appointed included Bobbye Brookes with seven years
experience as a Pecos Elementary/Bessie Haynes/Lamar music
teacher; Allie Jolene Balko Davis, a new teacher for Lamar;
Jason Johnson, two years experience, Bessie Haynes fifth
grade bilingual teacher; and Hiram Luna, four years
experience, as alternative education program teacher.
Three nurses also were appointed. They are Estela Martinez
Rodriguez, three years experience, Zavala/Crockett; Mary
Shanks Sanders, Kindergarten/Pecos Elementary/Bessie Haynes
and Alicia Madrid Urias, Austin Elementary/Pecos High School.
Reassigned were Rebecca Landon from sixth grade to third
grade teacher; Carolyn McNeil from Zavala to Pecos High
School parenting and family development teacher; Sheri
Miller from Alternative Education Program teacher at Carver
to sixth grade teacher and Guadalupe Paz from second grade
teacher to math teacher at Crockett.
In addition, four additional teachers have been budgeted for
first through fourth grades in the event they are needed due
to enrollment. Plans are now to fill classes to the maximum
allowed by law of 22 and if there are more, teachers will be
hired as needed.
Counselors are being shared in several instances.
Jimmy Dutchover's contract as alternate education program
manager was revised to read 207 days instead of 226. The
board also considered elementary handbooks (see related
story). After the meeting, the board met in a budget
During that workshop, Business Manager Cookie Canon took the
board through the proposed budget discussing items on which
decisions previously had been made.
Included in that discussion was a budget for cheerleaders,
something that hadn't been done in the past although the
money had been spent. That budget is for a total of $6,012
which includes travel, meals, awards, pay for a sponsor and
Canon said she included the 44-hours -- part of which is
made up of four hours overtime for custodians -- and asked
for direction from the board. This item was discussed last
month at a board meeting but no change was decided on.
Love noted he was concerned particularly about all the extra
paid days custodians have off which also was discussed
during the earlier board meeting.
Canon pointed out she had been discussing with a financial
consultant possibilities on how to pay for restructuring
schools, closing Lamar and Pecos Elementary.
She presented projected costs for the reorganization which
would amount to $502,000 for recabling schools (for
computers) and rewiring Austin Elementary as well as buying
portable buildings, four each for Austin and Crockett at a
cost of $60,000 each.
However, after some discussion, it was decided that the
portable buildings could be acquired for less. Some schools
have been able to get the buildings for a $1 each and moving
costs just to get them away from schools where they are no
Board Member Alberto Alvarez noted he has been in
conversation with Odessa College and they want to locate a
campus in Pecos. Portable buildings now in use in Pyote
might be available.
Love noted that money from the fund balance might be used to
pay for the reorganization.
P-B-T to get tougher on truancy
By MAC McKINNON
What are compulsory attendance laws, and do parents
understand what those laws mean, Pecos-Barstow-Toyah School
Board Trustee Alberto Alvarez asked the other board members
and district administrators during Tuesday's special
The questions and subsequent discussion came during an
agenda item to approve the elementary students handbook.
What are the mechanics of enforcing the rules, Alvarez noted.
Pecos High School Principal Danny Rodriguez explained the
rules for secondary students which include a warning after
each of the first three unexcused absences and then having
Rodriguez explained that this year, only a legal guardian
can check a student out of class.
Alvarez noted that students can develop bad habits fast and
it starts early. He asked about large number of unexcused
absences -- up to 40 and 50 -- last year and was told that
it took a only a short time to get hold of the problem at
the first of the year to help slow it down.
Truancy has been a big problem for the schools and their
reimbursement rate from the state. Reimbursement is based on
attendance. Average attendance is only 94.8 per cent and
Superintendent Don Love said that needs to be at least one
per cent higher.
It was decided to put the secondary language into the
elementary handbooks and the board voted to approve the
handbook with that change.
Charges will be filed against parents for excessive
unexcused absences - more than three - for students who are
age 10 and less and against the students who are older.
Parents should do everything they can to get their children
to school, Alvarez noted.
Late-arriving rain hits town
From Staff and Wire Reports
The showers that were predicted for Pecos Tuesday night were
a little late in arriving, but when they did they added
nearly a half-inch to the city's sparse rainfall total for
The National Weather Service had predicted a 40 percent
chance of rain Tuesday afternoon and evening, but the
showers didn't reach Pecos until 1 a.m. today, then
continued on and off through mid-morning.
A toal of .46 inch of rain was reported city as of 8 a.m.,
which represents over a quarter of Pecos' entire rainfall
total of 1.63 inches for the year.
The recent thunderstorms began on Monday with the arrival of
a cool front that dropped .13 inch of rain in town that
night, and kept Pecos' high temperature on Tuesday below 90
degrees for the first time this summer.
The high was only 89 degrees, and forecasts call for a
continued chance of rain with highs only in the upper 80s to
mid-90s for the remainder of the week.
After being the state's hottest area from late May though
early July, the West Texas temperatures have been lower than
those in North Texas over the past three weeks. That was
true again on Tuesday, although North Texas' deadly streak
of 100-degree days still managed to end at 29 when overcast
skies kept the temperature from rising above 94 in Dallas.
``I can feel a difference from when I was here three weeks
ago,'' George Olney of Atlanta said at a Dallas hotel.
``It still feels hot, but it is cooler than it was,'' said
Tanya Sakisat of Reston, Va.
Although the mercury was lower Tuesday, the humidity was
higher - keeping the heat index above 100. And the death
toll continued to climb, with 106 fatalities now attributed
to the heat.
On Tuesday, the Dallas County medical examiner's office
added two more to the list of those who have died of
Joseph Harrell, 77, of Garland, died on a golf course Aug.
3. Barney Kevin Grant, 44, was found dead on a Dallas street
the same day.
By Tuesday afternoon, most parts of the state were relishing
cloudy skies and scattered showers. Even so, the heat
lingered in some areas.
College Station in Central Texas marked its 30th straight
day of highs over 100.
Residents of Del Rio suffered through triple-digit heat for
a 32nd straight day. Another border city, Laredo, has
recorded 100-plus highs for 80 days so far this year. That
includes 14 days when temperatures were 110 or greater.
Cantaloupe sales at record high in U.S.
By GREG CHANG
Associated Press Writer
LOS BANOS, Calif. -- George Meek squats and parts the broad
green leaves shielding ripe cantaloupes from the broiling
San Joaquin Valley sun.
He plucks a solid cantaloupe from the vine and slices it
open with a pocketknife. The orange flesh gives off an
unmistakable musky odor.
A taste of the juicy, sweet melon helps explain why
Americans are eating more cantaloupes than ever -- a record
11.7 pounds per capita in 1997, according to the U.S.
Department of Agriculture. That's a 27 percent jump from
1990 levels, and it's expected to keep increasing.
``We never used to sell this volume of melons,'' said Don
Sorani, a produce buyer for the Berkeley, Calif.-based
Andronico's Market chain, which has been in the business for
about 40 years. ``It has a lot to do with diets. People are
just eating healthier now.''
Cantaloupe is gaining on America's favorite melon,
watermelon. Per capita consumption of watermelons has risen
21 percent since 1990 to 16.1 pounds. Honeydew rounds out
the melon category at 2.6 pounds, a 24 percent increase.
One reason for cantaloupe's growing popularity is improved
taste. Farmers have recently bred melons that are 10 percent
to 15 percent sweeter than before, said Gary Lucier, an
economist with USDA.
Back at the Los Banos melon farm, about 100 miles south of
San Francisco, Meek squeezes cantaloupe juice into a short,
cylindrical device called a refractometer. He holds the tube
to his eye like a telescope to examine the juice's sugar
content. The federal standard for top grade melons is 9
percent sugar, but Meek said growers typically can produce
melons that are at least 11 percent to 12 percent sugar.
Even 15 percent is not unheard of.
Shoppers looking for healthy foods turn to cantaloupe for
its high levels of vitamin C and beta-carotene.
The cantaloupe also boasts a thick and scaly, or ``netted,''
rind that may appeal to consumers worried about pesticides.
``Melons are particularly safe to eat because they are
sealed, so contaminants can't move through the plant, or at
least they haven't been shown to,'' said Mary Peet, a
horticulture professor at North Carolina State University.
``Generally if you have a melon that's unbroken or
unblemished, what's inside is going to be safe.''
Foreign melons are another big reason consumption is up.
Imports -- and the resulting year-round availability --
account for almost half of the increase since 1994, Lucier
Cantaloupe production in California has also been on the
rise in the last few years. The state produces 60 percent of
all U.S. cantaloupes, and the 1996 crop was worth $232.3
``It's not that hard to grow cantaloupes,'' Meek said.
``Just plant the seeds and add water.''
But Americans who get a cantaloupe craving overseas had
better note: the American cantaloupe is really a muskmelon.
The real cantaloupe, grown in Europe, has a rind that looks
like a peeled orange, with a series of vertical indentations
running from tip to tip.
Melons are also vegetables, not fruits. The cantaloupe is a
member of the cucumis, or gourd, family. Close relatives
include the cucumber and the squash.
``If you break open a green cantaloupe, you'll taste the
cucumber,'' Meek said.
Growers rating 1998's harvest as `very sweet'
By PEGGY McCRACKEN
California cantaloupes are hitting the market, but Trey
Miller, salesman for Pecos Cantaloupe, is not worried.
Pecos Cantaloupes are well known for their sweetness, and
this year's crop is "very sweet," said Miller.
"Normally, ours are around 12 percent sugar," Miller said.
"Several (grocery) chains make 10 percent acceptable; above
11 percent is sweet."
Pecos Cantaloupe has so far satisfied all its customers,
Miller said, and they expect to ship the PecoSweet melons
for three more weeks.
Rains that fell overnight missed the cantaloupe fields, so
harvest continued today.
Foreign cantaloupe shipments arrive early in the season and
do not impact the market this late, Miller said.
T-NMP offering customers delay on bills
By ROSIE FLORES
With high temperatures and sweltering heat, there's nothing
else to do but turn up the air conditioner and try to cool
off. But that electric bill can prove mighty costly.
By now, Texans across the state are aware the heat wave of
1980 is being challenged by this summer's high temperatures.
Texas-New Mexico Power Company customers have turned to air
conditioning for relief from the relentless Texas heat.
While the relief has been welcome, it's impact on electric
bills has not.
"What we're trying to do, because this has been an
excessively hot summer, is try to work with our customers,
help them out a little," said T-NMP West Texas Unit Manager
"We'll be working with our customers in helping them work
out a payment plan and providing other options since it's
been so hot," said Moore.
She said the company realizes that everyone has been running
their air conditioners more than ever this summer, and T-NMP
is willing to work with them to be able to afford what has
become a necessity during this excessive heat wave.
"We know that this is a statewide concern and our other
offices in the different parts of Texas are offering the
same plan," said Moore.
Other utility companies, such as TU electric, which serves
Ward County, have announced similar plans.
No applications need to be filled out, customers are asked
to speak to the customer representatives at 424 S. Cypress
or to call 445-5401 and inquire about the payment option
Some of the measures T-NMP is taking to help customers
* Not disconnecting customers for nonpayment during
excessively hot weather.
* Working with customers on various billing options to help
them manage their bills. These options include extended
* Helping customers manage their energy use. One tool
available in all T-NMP offices is the Energy Management
Guide. This booklet offers hundreds of ways customers can
reduce energy use - even in a heat wave.
* All T-NMP offices are referring customers to the nearest
agency administering the federal relief assistance program.
With the Public Utility Commission's July 22 approval of
T-NMP's proposed rate reductions and transition to
competition, rate relief is on the way. The reductions -
which will include refunds back to January 1998 - can't be
put into effect until the final order is signed, so they
won't help with the immediate problem of record-breaking hot
weather. In the meantime, the company is working with all
other avenues of assistance available.
Texas-New Mexico Power Company provides community-based
electric service to 85 cities and more than 226,000
customers in Texas and New Mexico. It is a wholly owned
subsidiary of TNP Enterprises, Inc.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Information contained in the Police Report is
obtained from reports filed by the Pecos Police Department,
Reeves County Sheriff's Office, or other officers of those
The serving of warrants by an officer for outstanding fines
of either traffic citations, animal control violations or
other court costs are considered arrests and will be printed
as such unless indicated that the fines were paid. In such
instances we will indicate payment and release.
Sixto Urias, 41, was arrested at 1:44 a.m., on Aug. 1, in
the 400 block of North Hickory Street, for assault under the
family violence act. He was transported to Reeves County
Nicodemes Florez, 46, was arrested at 2:15 a.m., on Aug. 2,
in the 2400 block of Country Club Drive, for assault under
the family violence act. He was transported to Reeves County
Juan Corrales, 29, was arrested at midnight on Aug. 2, at
Trapark #50, for assault under the Family Violence Act. He
was transported to Reeves County Jail.
Pablo Munoz, 24, was arrested at 9:25 p.m., on Aug. 3, in
the 800 block of South Oleander Street, on warrants for
racking and violation of a promise to appear in court. He
was transported to Reeves County Jail.
Faviola Trujillo, 28, was arrested at 9:40 p.m., on Aug. 3,
in the Showtime parking lot on South Eddy Street, on a
municipal court warrant for deadly conduct. She was
transported to Reeves County Jail.
Quashtasha Barton, 20, was arrested on Aug. 4, in the 300
block of East 11th Street, on capias pro fine warrants.
Hal Pratt, 57, was arrested at 1:45 a.m., on Aug. 5, on
Cedar Street, for public intoxication.
Stanley Birkla, 63, of Pecos, died Tuesday, Aug. 4, 1998, at
Graveside services are scheduled for 10 a.m., Thursday, Aug.
6, at Mount Evergreen Cemetery with Reverend Billy Foster
He was born Sept. 25, 1934 in Perry County, Ind., was a
driller and a lifelong Pecos resident.
Survivors include two brothers, George Birkla of Pecos,
Clyde Birkla of Silver City, N.M.; two sisters, Barbara
Blevins of Hobbs, N.M. and Juanita Hill of Conroe.
Pecos Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.
Services are incomplete for Tomas Ornelas, 85, of Pecos, who
died Tuesday, Aug. 4, 1998 at Reeves County Hospital.
Martinez Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.
High Tuesday 89. Low this morning 65. Rainfall last 24
hours, .46 inch. Total for month .55 inch. Total for year
1.63 inches. Forecast for tonight: mostly cloudy with a 40
percent chance of thunderstorms. low in the mid 60s. North
to northeast wind 5-15 mph. Thursday, becoming partly
cloudy. A 30 percent chance of thunderstorms. High in the
mid 80s. East to southeast wind 5-15 mph.
Mac McKinnon, Publisher
Division of Buckner News Alliance, Inc.
324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 915-445-5475, FAX 915-445-4321
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Copyright 1998 by Pecos Enterprise