Weekly Newspaper and Tourism Guide for Ward County Trans Pecos, Big Bend of West Texas
Aug. 20, 1998
Poor gain amnesty for power bills
TU Electric Co. Area Manager Kevin Slay says the company
will not cut power to residential customers who can't pay
their bills because of continuing triple digit heat.
Slay says the company already was following that policy when
the Public Utility Commission in Austin ruled Thursday, Aug.
13, utilities like TU could not legally terminate service
for nonpayment through Sept. 30. A communique from the
commission said the reason for the action was many
residential customers were not using air conditioning and
fans because they were afraid they couldn't pay the bills.
The death toll from the Summer's heat already has eclipsed
130 in Texas, according to state reports.
"There has not been a residential service disconnected for
non-pay in Ward County since mid-June," says the TU
executive. "TU Electric was already implementing many
aspects of the PUC rule throughout the heat crisis,
including the suspension of disconnects."
Under that rule, TU Electric plans to "mail courtesy notices
to delinquent customers,. The notice will indicate that the
bill is past due and offer payment options, such as credit
extensions, a deferred payment plan, credit and debit card,
or agency referrals."
Slay notes that TU Electric has recorded six power load and
consumption records already this Summer.
"The all time record peak load was on Aug. 3, 1998," says
Slay. "This is the fifth peak load record set this year. .
.In July there was a 34 percent increase in kilowatt hour
usage over July of 97. The average monthly residential
electric bill was probably 20 to 30 percent higher over the
same period last year."
The Monahans area TU manager notes that the amnesty on
terminations is not the only option TU workers are using in
an attempt to help their workers beat the heat. Workers have
donated $50,000 system wide to help struggling customers pay
energy bills. In Monahans, TU workers took up a collection,
bought fans and distributed them last week.
"We already were following the no termination policy before
the state announced it was obligatory," says Slay. "We do
not and did not want anyone's health to be damaged because
they couldn't afford to pay their electric bills."
"We will make reasonable arrangements for payment of bills
after Sept. 30 as the Public Utility Commission has
ordered," continues Slay.
TU and comparable utilities in Texas cannot legally
terminate a residential customer for nonpayment of bills at
least through Sept. 30. The order also requires utilities to
offer delinquent customers a deferred payment program which
allows up to six billing cycles to pay bills issued through
Says PUC Commissioner Jody Walsh: "People need to take of
their health first and then worry about utility bills. "
Emphasizes PUC Chair Pat Wood III: "Customers still have to
pay their bills. We just want to make sure they are able to
do it in a reasonable way."
Zavoda to appeal boxer's sentence
A jury in the court of 143rd District Judge Bob Parks
Thursday, Aug. 13, sentenced an amateur boxing champion from
West Texas to five years in the state penitentiary.
Defense Attorney David Zavoda of Odessa says he plans to
The boxer, Christopher Paul Molina, 27, had been found
guilty on Wednesday, Aug. 12. Guilty verdicts came on two of
three charges - assault and kidnapping - filed against him
after an incident on Jan. 22 at the Monahans home of his
Molina was sentenced to five years in prison on each of the
two charges. The sentences will run concurrently. Molina was
found not guilty of attempted murder by the jury in the
trial that began in the Courthouse at Monahans on Monday,
Aug. 10. Nearly a dozen witnesses saw the bizarre incident
at the Howell residence that day in January. Mother-in-law,
Janet L. Howell, suffered massive head injuries after
Molina hit her; estranged wife, Natalie, was cut and
bruised after Molina forced her into his car and then
shattered the vehicle when he drove it into a utility pole;
Molina slashed his wrists inside the Howell home where he
fled after failing in attempts to hang himself with his
belt from a tree in the front yard.
Molina and Natalie Howell are now divorced..
Wilhelm seeks city investigation
Dismissed Grandfalls Mayor Joyce Wilhelm says she wants an
independent investigation of the way in which Grandfalls
city governrnent operates.
She also plans to appeal her removal as mayor of
Grandfalls by the City Council. That appeal, she says, most
likely will be to the 143rd District Court and is being
prepared by her attorney, Windel M. (Hoot) Gibson of
Grandfalls citizens, she says, should join with her in
calling for the investigation by either county or state
The Council, Wednesday, Aug. 12, voted unanimously, 5-0, to
remove Wilhelm as mayor after finding her guilty of
incompetence and official misconduct. Wilhelm, who was sworn
in as mayor of the troubled Ward County town on May 8,
served a little more than three months as mayor.
Council Member Jim Crawford moved to find the mayor guilty,
a motion seconded by Council Member Marge Cahill. Council
Member Sue Mullins, mother of one of two city employee
complainants against Wilhelm, moved to remove the then
Mayor from office. Cahill seconded again.
Thomas E. Kuhn, mayor protempore; Crawford; Cahill; Mullins;
and Council Member Jessie Heard cast the unanimous votes on
both questions before the council.
Specifically, Wilhelm was charged with disregarding
decisions of the City Council in reference to the way in
which a utility customer's account was handled and
conducting an unlawful telephone poll on May 26 of City
Council members to gain approval for inspection of the
community's water tank. State law requires the City
Council to meet to take any action and a notice of the
meeting must be posted.
Kuhn, as Grandfalls mayor pro pem and the presiding officer
at the hearing, became acting mayor until the Council
decides how it will fill the vacancy caused by Wilhelm's
removal - by appointment or special election.
It was Kuhn who signed the official judgment of the Council.
That judgment, dated Friday, Aug. 14, reads:
"Upon trial held on Aug. 12, 1998, due notice of the charges
in the complaint and an opportunity to be heard by Mayor
Joyce Wilhelm, it is the finding of the City Council of the
City of Grandfalls, upon unanimous vote, that Joyce Wilhelm
is guilty of incompetency and official misconduct and that
the charges are sufficient cause for removal from office.
Therefore , Joyce Wilhelm, is ordered removed from office
and the office declared vacant."
In a hearing sparked by rhetoric and confrontation , the
Council, acting as a court under state law, agreed Wilhelm
had acted contrary to the state Open Meetings Act and
against the directives of the City Council.
But Wilhelm did not go quietly.
At the hearing in a Council chamber packed with Grandfalls
citizens, she attacked the Council and the two city
employees - City Administrator Joy Chew and Utilities
Superintendent Roger Mullins - who filed the official
misconduct complaint against her.
"I, Joyce Wilhelm, Mayor of Grandfalls, make these following
charges against you," she told the Council who would decide
if she were to remain as mayor.
"Failure to do your job as City Council members. No action
being taken against Joy Chew, City Administrator, and Roger
Mullins, Operator, for numerous violations that they have
committed." she said.
"You have conspired with Joy Chew and Roger Mullins to try
and remove me, Joyce Wilhelm, mayor, from office.
"You have filed charges against me without any investigation
of said charges.
"You have caused me a great deal of mental and physical pain.
"You have caused me to spend unnecessary time away from my
home, life and job."
Wilhelm demanded that the Council terminate Chew and
Mullins. She cited what she said was improper handling of
money by Chew and Mullins and a litany of what she called
illegal acts by city employees. She alleged repeatedly that
the City Council and city employees had conspired against
Wilhelm charged City Council Member Mullins should not be
part of the Council because her son was the utilities
operator who was a joint party to the complaint being heard
by the Council.
Joy Chew and Roger Mullins denied all the specific charges
she made against them. Chew said: "They're simply not true."
Then Kuhn told Wilhelm the charges she was making were not
the issue. He noted the only item before the Council was the
official misconduct complaint against her. He encouraged her
to make a formal complaint if she desired, which could be
heard at a later City Council meeting with lawful notice to
the citizens of that meeting.
Wilhelm also noted she had not been mayor long and, if she
had made mistakes, they were mistakes made because she was
new on the job and not familiar with city government.
At one point, as she was testifying, Wilhelm turned to Chew
and Mullins sitting behind and to her right and said to them:
Chew replied softly: "You can't do that."
When Kuhn declared the hearing over after the unanimous vote
of the Council finding Wilhelm guilty and the unanimous vote
to remove her, several persons in the audience burst forth.
One of them said: "If she's guilty of violating the Open
Meetings Act, you all are. Three of you, including Kuhn,
were part of that telephone poll."
WIPP shipments to begin next spring
Radioactive waste shipments bound for Carlsbad, N.M., are
scheduled to start passing through Ward County next Spring,
state healthand transportation officials reported on
Wednesday, Aug. 19.
James H. Ogden Jr. of the Texas Departent of Health's
Bureau of Radiation Control and Gary Weeks of the Department
of Public Safety's Division of Emergency Management made the
report at Monahans City Hall to Ward County area government
They said a series of courses would be conducted by the
state for emergency service personnel as a precaution
against accident although both said accidents were unlikely.
The so-called transuranic waste (materials contaminated by
man made radioactive elements with heavier atomic weights
than uranium) is destined for the U.S. Department of
Energy's Waste Isolation Pilot Plant about 26 miles East of
Carlsbad. Ogden and Weeks say the Carlsbad facility is the
nation's first deep (2,150 feet below ground) geological
repository for disposal of United States nuclear program
Waste being shipped to Carlsbad reportedly will consist of
neptunium, plutonius, americium, californium, curium and
berkeleium tainted protective clothing, tools and production
The officials said the flatbed trucks loaded with the
radioactive wastes will originate in Eastern and Central
According to a pamphlet released at the meeting:
"Shipments will enter Texas from Louisiana on Interstate 20
and pass along I-20 (through Monahans) to Pecos. At Pecos,
the shipments will leave I-20 on U.S. Highway 285 and follow
this route to the New Mexico state line."
The officials reported:
- Initially there will be one to two shipments per month
building to one to two per week.
- In the next two decades, there will be more than 3,800
- One third of the shipments will be "remote-handled" waste
which means it will consists of radioactive materials which
require special equipment to handle the waste from a safe
June sales tax revenue way up
Special to the News
AUSTIN - August sales tax rebate checks to Ward County
cities moved past $100,000, an increase of more than 50
percent above August of 1997, according to reports released
by State Comptroller John Sharp.
The checks are for taxes collected in June and from
quarterly filers April, May and June which were reported in
Monahans led the sales tax rebates in the County with
$100,418.09 up 58.46 percent from $63,371.03 sales tax
rebate check issued to the city of Monahans a year ago. City
Manager David Mills notes that half-cent sales tax increases
for economic development and property tax relief account for
about 25 percent of the increase but, Mills says, the
Monahans August check still is the highest since February of
In Ward County sales tax rebates collected to date in 1998,
the figure totals $630,795.10, a 33.1 percent increase over
the same period of 1997.
August sales tax rebates to other Ward County towns were:
Grandfalls - $2,257.78 up 109.1 percent from $1,079.74 last
August, largely attributable to a new economic development
Pyote - $966.38 up 37.73 percent from $701.61.
Thorntonville - $292.50 down 29.17 percent from $412.99.
Wickett - $3,158.02 down 8.6 percent from $3,455.32.
Civilization comes to desert
First of a Series
Desert drifting cowboys counted Monahans as civilization.
One of them, Josh Gibson, who rode for the ROS brand, didn't
think much of Pyote but at Monahans there was "good water,
two dozen people and a saloon . . .it was a real town."
That was in 1885 and there was no school unless you count
the dance hall those cowboys built for Friday and Saturday
night fandangos. Classes were held for some of the town's
children during the week but chalk dust had to clear by
Friday so the dancing could commence.
Mollie Dawson Hogg Hill was quoted in the 1940 edition of
The Monahans American Golden Jubilee Edition: "I started to
school here in 1885. It was a little old building about 16
feet by 16 feet that later burned down. The cowboys built it
with the understanding that it would be used for a school
building during the week, but on weekends, it was theirs for
dances. John Amburgy, who lives in Odessa now, was my first
Two years later, Feb. 26, 1887, Ward County was carved out
of Tom Green County
Laura Hammer wrote of that era: "In those days, if a
settlement had a saloon, it was a town. If it also had a
livery stable, it was a city. Monahans was merely a town."
Real school came to Monahans in 1898, exactly a century ago,
according to the Annual Report of the Ward County
Superintendent of Schools and the County Treasurer's Report
on file at the State Archives in Austin. In 1898, Monahans
jumped all the way from town past city into civilization.
This year, 1998, is the official centennial of public school
education in Monahans because 1898 was the first year in
which a building was constructed strictly for school. It
had one room and a porch. The first teacher was a Mrs.
Buchanan from Merkel. No other information about that first
pedagogue has been found to date and the oral history has
been lost in the mists of time and uncertain memories.
That 1898 school in Monahans was not the first real school
built in Ward County. Grandfalls School District 3 was
established in 1892 and the first Grandfalls public school
was built that year. At Barstow, which was on its way to
becoming the Eden of West Texas by the end of the 1880s,
boasted a substantial single story, red sandstone school
also built in 1892.
Six years later, education and Mrs. Buchanan came to
Monahans to start classes in a momentous year for the United
States. It was in 1898 that the Spanish-American War
flared, an effort by the United States to free Cuba and
provide support for Cuban insurgents which became the first
chapter in transforming the United States into a World
Power. When the Spanish-American War was over, the United
States had possessions in the Caribbean (principally Puerto
Rico which remains a U.S. territory) and the Pacific
(several small islands used for military bases) and held
protectorates in Cuba and the Philippines, both of which
eventually became, under American auspices, free and
All that happened in 1898 but there is no record the little
railroad town of Monahans had any link to the war effort.
That does not mean a few cowboys didn't ride over to San
Antonio where Teddy Roosevelt was recruiting what became the
legendary Rough Riders, cavalry turned infantry, who were
the point of the United States spear in the Cuban victory.
Monahans did have a school in 1898 and the school became the
focus of a growing community. By July of 1890, R. G. Dun and
Co. Mercantile Agency, an international firm that became the
forerunner of modern credit bureaus, said there were 50
people in Monahans.
Part of the 90s population boom was the J.R. Holman family
which moved from Grandfalls. The Holmans built their home on
the South side of the tracks at about the same time the
school was built. Both structures contributed to the growth
of Monahans to the South where earlier development had been
concentrated North of the railway.
By 1900, when the U.S. Census reported 222 persons in
Monahans and Pyote, there were 36 pupils in the Monahans
school. One teacher, Miss Annie Carr from Barstow, taught
The Three Rs - reading, 'riting and 'rithmetic.
The one-room school at what is now Second Street and Bruce
Avenue was enlarged in 1902. The porch was enclosed and a
second teacher was hired. Rosa Avary, mother of J.C. Avary
of Monahans, was one of the pupils.
In 1905, an L-shaped extension was added to the original
school building, making three rooms. Children in grades one
through nine were taught.
In that era, students battled to learn at the same time they
battled distance and sand.
Students recalled sandstorms blowing through cracks around
windows and doors.
School terms lasted seven to nine months depending on the
vagaries of the weather and the work the students had to do
at home. Most of them walked to school from the ranches and
farms on roads and trails that would vanish and reappear
based on the shifting sands of the Chihuahua Desert. Others
would be boarded, as Betty Adams Martin was in 1906, with
friends or relatives in town.
And there even more unusual ways to get to school as the
Monahans American reported in its Golden Jubilee edition:
"W.H. Terrell and the family came to Monahans in August,
1906. For four years they lived on a ranch four miles South
of Monahans and then moved to town. At one time they had an
affair made like a sled which they hitched to a burro and
some of the eight children rode to school on this over the
Age was not a major factor in determining in which class a
pupil was placed. Academic achievement was the only
criteria. Sixteen-year-olds might well be in the third
grade. Precocious young scholars were on fast tracks to
graduate, many of them by the time they were 13 or 14 year
Monahans was growing.
According to the 1910 census, there were 378 people.
Despite the 1909-12 drought, residents were considering a
way to replace the old school.
The old three-room school building eventually was
purchased, according to Ward County Historical Archives, by
Nathe Fielding and moved just north of the site where the
Monahans Coca-Cola Bottling plant eventually would be built.
Next: 1911- New school in town
Aug. 20, 1998
M.S. BARREL HARRIS
Memorial services for M.S. Barrel Harris, 77, were held
Wednesday at First Baptist Church with Pastor Barry
Mr. Harris was born March 2, 1921 in Eastland, Texas and
died August 17, 1998 in an Odessa Hosptial. He was a former
Production Superintendant for Gulf Co., served in the U.S.
Army WWII and a member of the First Baptist Church.
He married Celestine Leggett on February 21, 1941 in Dallas,
He is survived by his wife, Celestine; one son, James Van
Harris of Midland; one daughter, Gail Hamlin of Dallas, one
sister, Florence Halverson of Lango, Fl., 5 grandchildren
and 6 great-grandchildren.
Mr. Harris is preceeded in death by one son, William Stuart
Harris and one sister Mary Greer.
Memorial services for Norman Greenwood, 87, were held Sunday
at Monahans Memorial Cemetery officiated by Pastor Robert
Mitchell. Burial was in Monahans Memorial Cemetery.
Mr. Greenwood was born February 17, 1911 in Humble, Texas
and died August 14, 1998 in an Odessa Hosptial. He was a
retired pumper in the oilfield and a Baptist.
He married Mary Etta Bradshaw September 28, 1930 in Walters,
OK and she preceded him in death in 1989.
Survivors include one daughter, Shirley Capers of San
Angelo; 6 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.
The family request memorial be made to Meals on Wheels.
ADA FRANCES PIERCEY GRUBBS
Memorial services for Ada Frances Piercey Grubbs, 72, were
held Wednesday at Singleton and Herr Mortuary. Burial was
in Greenwood Cemetery.
Ms. Grubbs was born November 10, 1925 in Providenc, KY and
died August 14, 1998 at University Heights Convalescent
Center in Indianapolis. She was a homemaker and a lifetime
member of VFW Post 5864 and a resident of Greenwood.
Survivors include three daughters; Linda Erp of Greenwood,
Cathy Day of Texas and Christina Wells of New Whiteland;
five sons, Jerry Hill of Fort Pierce, Fla., Jack Hill, Lewis
Piercey , Frank Piercey all of Indianapolis, David Piercey
of Greenwood; 22 granchildren and 14 great-granchildren.
She was preceded in death by a son, Norman Lee Hill.
Memorial contributions may be made to the American Heart
Copyright 1998 by Ward Newspapers, Inc.
Joe Warren, Publisher
107 W. Second St., Monahans TX 79756
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