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

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Oct. 1, 1998

EMS director resigns

Tim Kidwell, director of Ward County's Emergency Medical
Services, has resigned.

His last scheduled day on the job is Friday, Oct. 9.

Kidwell is going to Bay City.

In his Friday, Sept. 25, resignation letter to Steve
Holmes, interim administrator of Ward Memorial Hospital,
Kidwell wrote:

"I am submitting my resignation as EMS director of Ward
Memorial EMS . . .I am aware that as a department manager, I
am supposed to give 30 days notice. Due to the opportunity
that I have, I cannot give this much notice. I have an
opportunity to increase my salary and (acquire) a better
benefit package."

His resignation comes at a time when paramedic staffing of
the Ward County ambulances is at a critical point because of
recent resignations. Officials now are looking for three
paramedics and a director.

Wrote Kidwell: "I honestly feel this decision is the best
opportunity for me and my family."

Currently the only other emergency medical service in Ward
County is in Grandfalls.

"I told Sam (County Judge Sam G. Massey) on Friday (Sept.
25). I told him I could not afford to be liable if something
happened because of our lack of medics and the state of our
vehicles," says Kidwell.

Ward County has two ambulance services - the county unit
which Kidwell directs and a Grandfalls service staffed by
volunteer emergency medical technicians.

Kidwell says Massey asked him if there was a possibility he
might change his mind. The ambulance chief says he told the
county judge his only alternative was to quit.

"I like this community," says Kidwell. "I have relatives and
friends here. I do not want to leave. But I have to leave. I
do not believe I have any other options."

Massey says he talked with Kidwell and notes that the
ambulance service director had resigned in a letter to
interim hospital administrator Holmes to whom the ambulance
service reports. The emergency medical services director
says he and Massey discussed the future of health care in
Ward County.

Kidwell reports he already has accepted a position as
director of emergency services at Bay City on the Gulf Coast
South of Houston and North of Corpus Christi. He currently
is scheduled to start work there the second or third week of
October depending on how quickly he and his family can
prepare for the move. Kidwell says in his letter: "Th
experiences I have encountered here will be of benefit for
my entire career."

Hospital keeps emergency vehicles running

Ward Memorial Hospital Interim Administrator Steve Holmes
says Ward County continues to be served by the hospital's
ambulance service.

Holmes says this is a fact although the emergency service
director has quit, the ambulance division is short on
paramedics and those on board prefer to use only one of the
three ambulances although, the hospital executive says, all
three vehicles can be used.

"We are fine," says Holmes, "We are operating short staff.
Only one ambulance is newer but all three are fully

The administrator spoke to several points.

Short staff?

"We're going to use a Grandfalls paramedic on weekends. We
are using two flight paramedics from Covenant 's Aerocare
Ambulance in Lubbock."


"All of them are operational. Two of them are old. There is
a possibility we can use the county's share of the tobacco
settlement (about $230,000) to buy two new ambulances after
the first of the year."

The tobacco settlement to which he referred is the
settlement of a law suit filed by Texas Attorney General Dan
Morales in which it was alleged that tobacco use provided an
undue health burden on hospitals in the state. The
defendants were the nation's major tobacco companies.

Kidwell's resignation?

"God speed to Tim in his new endeavor. I am happy Tim has
been able to find an opportunity to advance his career."

Can citizens who need them get an ambulance?

"Yes! Emphatically yes! The hospital ambulance service
continues in Ward County!"

Not enough emergency medical personnel?

"We do need a director and three full time paramedics. We
are accepting applications and we are in the process of
interviewing to fill these positions. In the interim, we
have provided for certified personnel to operate the
ambulances." Holmes was sent to Monahans as interim
administrator by Covenant Health Systems of Lubbock under
the terms of a management agreement between Covenant and
Ward County to operate the hospital.

Cemetery fence nears halfway point

The stately wrought-iron fence being constructed along the
north boundary of the Monahans Memorial Cemetery nears the
half-way point of completion.

Twenty 17-foot sections of fence with brick columns bearing
memorial plaques are now in place. It will take a total of
47 sections to build the fence from the new gate by the
Pavilion down to Gail Avenue, the eastern edge of the
cemetery. Twenty-eight of these have already been
subscribed for.

"We have been pleased with the support this project has
received from many people," Kitty Dunagan says. "Rotary, Tau
Lambda and Wednesday Study Clubs and Ward County Activities
Council have all subscribed for a section each. One
business, First State Bank, has also paid for one."

Dunagan continues:

"Six plaques have been donated by public-spirited
individuals: Ken and Laverne Swarb, Pat and Mary Beth
Ramsey, George and Opal Bentley, the Andy Pipkin family, the
Anthony Family and the Dunagans.

"Surprisingly, there are only 13 memorials plaques for loved
ones buried in the cemetery," Dunagan says, "perhaps this
will change over time."

Melvin Sims, from Kermit, designed the fence and is building
it. He says its construction is a difficult and
time-consuming process. He does the metal work at his house
at night, then builds the brick columns in the daytime. He
embeds the plaques, which have been engraved in Lubbock,
into the brick columns as he works.

When asked how long it takes to build a section of the
fence, he says:L

"I don't know, an awfully long time."

He built a similar fence around the cemetery in Kermit
several years ago and says he occasionally still adds to it
as people order new sections.

"Only time will tell when the fence will reach Gail Avenue,"
Dunagan says.

Anyone wishing to speed the process up by adding their
family name to those already immortalized here may do so by
calling Rena Shelton at 943-2571, Kitty Dunagan at 943-2233
or the City of Monahans at 943-4343.

Dunagan continues:

"It is possible that the fence will eventually enclose the
cemetery, but memorials on the practically indestructible
monuments on the long, historically interesting drive down
the main entrance to the cemetery are naturally limited.
There are only 19 spaces left."

Exec on the way for hospital

Ward Memorial Hospital is expected to have a new full time
administrator and chief executive officer "as early as
Thanksgiving," reports Interim Administrator Steve Holmes.

Holmes also says Joe Ward, the hospital's interim chief
financial officer, has asked Ward Memorial's Board of
Managers "to consider him for the position of full time
chief financial officer."

The interim administrator made the comments in an interview
the day after the Board of Managers was told the search for
a full time CEO had narrowed to four from an original
applicant field of about 25. The report was made to the
board at its regular meeting on Thursday, April 24, at the
Health and Wellness Clinic. The search has been in progress
since Holmes came on board as interim administrator in July.

Names were not released pending further contacts with the
applicants. Depending on several factors, the new Ward
Memorial CEO will be paid between about $50,000 to $65,000 a

All four have undergone initial interviews and references
have been checked by executives of Covenant Health Systems
Inc. Covenant operates county-owned Ward Memorial under a
management agreement approved by the hospital board and the
Commissioners Court in June. Covenant is based in Lubbock
and was the surviving entity after the merger of Lubbock
Methodist and St. Mary's of the Plains medical centers.

Holmes is a Covenant representative.

"Covenant has given us a group of individuals to look at and
these four are interested in this type of facility," says
Holmes. "Our next step is to get them in for one-on-one
interviews with the board over the next two or three weeks."

One of the final four already has toured Ward Memorial. He
stopped on the way to Balmorhea where he was taking a Boy
Scout troop for a camp.

"We can anticipate having a new full time CEO in office as
early as Thanksgiving," says Holmes.

The inteirm administrator continues:

"All four of the Ward Memorial candidates are CEOs or in
administration now at comparable or larger hospitals. Three
of the four are managers at rural hospitals."

After the new Ward Memorial administrator is hired, Holmes
is scheduled to return to his Covenant position in Lubbock.

Economic development boss steps down

Curtis L. Howard, a Monahans investment counselor and a
member of the City Council, says he wishes to retire as
president of the Monahans Economic Development Commission.

Howard made the comments in a letter to the other commission
members. It was dated on Thursday, Sept. 24.

Howard says he does not want nor will he seek the office of
MEDC president for the 1998-99 year. He says he will remain
a member of the commission.

"I feel like (this) position needs to change hands every so
often so that all can experience a new form of leadership
style, ideas and momentum," writes Howard. "Having served as
president of the MEDC for the prior two years, I have truly
tried my very best . . .I feel it is time for others to have
the opportunity to lead this most worthwhile and important
board . . . I look forward to spending more time as a member
of the board."

Jobless rate slowly climbs

Ward County's jobless rise continues a month's long, slow
gradual increase, according to statistics released by the
Texas Workforce Commission.

Over the last 12 months Texas unemployment rates have been
at some of their lowest since the 1970s. In Ward County
unemployment rates cliJobmb.

The number of unemployed workers in Ward County was 296 in
August of 1997. By August of 1998 the numbers had increased
to 440, an almost three percent increase.

The civilian labor force, or the people in the county who
are looking for a job, was up to 4,690 in August, a slight
increase from last year. The number of people employed in
Ward County for August of 1998 was 4250.

The state average for the past year was between 4.6 and 5.0
percent, much lower than Ward County. The state average has
steadily been decreasing for the past four years.

The largest numbers of unemployment came from the Services,
Manufacturing and Trade industries, all of which compose of
two thirds of the total employment in Texas. The increasing
diversification of the Texas labor market is yet another
factor bearing on the state unemployment decline. The market
is now protected from setbacks in any one sector of the

Areas along the Louisiana border, the Gulf Coast, and the
Rio Grande all experience higher unemployment rates than
anywhere else in the state.

Although the civilian labor force is constantly increasing,
so is the number of people finding jobs, according to the
Texas Labor Market Review.

While Ward County in seeing an increase in unemployment,
many parts of the state offer a number of jobs to keep
people employed, says the Workforce Commission.

School history

Seventh of a Series
After "Major" Lang was fired as Monahans-Wickett school
district superintendent in May of 1938 and he stilled the
student protest, P.E. Lewis, who was principal of the high
school, took Lang's place.

It was at this time construction of the Booker T. Washington
School for black students began.

Lewis' time as superintendent was limited. He basically
served as an interim superintendent until the School Board
could find a new one.

In June 1939 M.L.H. Baze was elected superintendent During
his five years with the Monahans School District, the system
saw much growth and diversification.

As the town began to see progress through industry,
business, and society, Monahans High School became one of
Ward County's most active cultural and educational hubs. The
athletic program had a wide following and the band also made
its mark. In 1937, the band took first place in state for
Class "C" bands and later in Oklahoma City won first in its
class in the United States.

Many clubs became active in the school.

The pep squad was a popular one as it gave support to all
athletic activities. Leaders of the squad included Hazel
Pomeroy, Maude Fielding, Cleo Gorum, and Fern Ellis.

Other groups included The Girl Reserve, Future Homemakers,
Commercial Club, Math Club, Gym Club, Dramatic Club, Junior
Citizenship Club and the Press Club. Unique among them was
the Aviation Club, whose members built model aircraft. They
eventually won a U.S. Navy commendation for the 136 model
planes they built. The Navy used them in classes to teach
airplane identification.

Students were starting to broaden their horizons and join
many activities.

Graduates of the high school began to seek higher
education. Students applied to schools such as Baylor ,
University of Southern California, Texas, Texas Christian
University, Southern Methodist University, Howard Payne,
and Texas A&M, as well as many others.

In September of 1939, representatives of companies in
Monahans and Wickett who are connected with the petroleum
industry were asked to help establish a program for
industrial arts at the high school. Classes were going to be
offered in carbon black production, diesel engines and
advanced mathematics.

In the same month the school cafeteria was opened to
students. The Parent-Teacher Association had started a
program to get equipment for the cafeteria. In October 1939,
the athletic field was named Sealy Field in honor of the
family who donated the land. Plans were made to erect a sign
over the East gate.

Six graduates from the class of 1940 received football
scholarships for college.

In June of 1940, the old frame buildings, which had been
used for elementary classes, were put up for sale.

Room needed to be made for additions to Monahans
Elementary, soon to become South Ward. New steel stands were
constructed at Sealy Field on the visitor's side in June
1940 to replace the wooden ones. Two steel wings were added
to the home side, bringing the total seating capacit to

In this year several teachers in the school district began
to pursue more education such as Master's degrees and
Doctoral degrees. Four new teachers were hired at the high

The first mention of the TMP Club, a booster club which
boasted a corps of anonymous members, is in the 1940 School
Club. Mrs. Terrell was the sponsor. Although all the members
were not anonymous, in the 1940 annual, some of wore bags
over their heads to hide their identities. TMP was the
ultimate booster club, a group that brought intense spirit
to the school.

That fall the high school newspaper, "The Sandstorm," was
born. It continues today to chronicle the school and its

At this time the school was the only one in the area to
offer a metal arts course (The Smith Hugh's Metal Arts

In October of 1940, then Superintendent M. L. H. Baze wrote
an article in the Monahans News describing a list of
objectives for the school district.

Baze wrote, "The chief long-term objective has been to lay
out a balanced program that will both satisfy the
requirements for higher education and also meet the demands
of industry and business for graduates who either do not
prefer to enter an institution of higher learning or are
not able to do so."

During Christmas of 1940 over 100 elementary students
performed in a Christmas pageant, "Birthday of a King." One
month later in January 1941, Helena Kay, head of the high
school English department, reported that her new book,
Literature for Interpreation, had been accepted as a
statewide text by the Texas State Board of Education and
that it is also being used in leading colleges and
universities. By September 1941, the junior high
enrollment was up and two new classes were added including
dramatics and a capella choir. J.L. Shawn was appointed
principal of the high school in the same month. That Spring,
17 bands travelled to Monahans to attend a clinic. The
Drama department won second place in district with their
comedy "Sugar and Spice." In April 1941, Hutch Reynolds
designed the school seal depicting all the diversification
and growth the years had brought. The seal listed all the
educational phases: arts, industries, sciences and
languages. It also had five symbols: a Lobo head, a leaf, an
oil wel
l derrick, a bell and balances. The Lobo and oil well
derrick represented the school emblem and the economic base
of the school district. The leaf, bell and balances
represented life, liberty and justice. The motto read," Life
is Lent for Noble Deeds."

Next: World War II and Beyond

Homeowners feel bigger tax bite

Owners of homes valued at $30,000 in the city of Monahans,
with the standard homestead exemption, will see an increase
of $11.80 in their property tax bills.

The increase for a comparable $30,000 residence in
Grandfalls will be $14.72

No matter where that $30,000 house and property is in Ward
County the residential increase will be less than $20.

That is the result of a Monahans News analysis of data
provided by Ward County Tax Collector Dolores Fine. It is
based on 1998 tax rates, the last of which were enacted and
reported to Fine last week. Tax bills and tax increases in
Grandfalls are slightly higher because Grandfalls residents
pay property taxes to a water district, which Monahans
residents do not, and the ad valorem tax rate for the
Grandfalls-Royalty school district is slightly higher
because of bond issue retirement.

Absolutely no one knows what is going to happen to the
property tax rate in 1999 because evaluations of mineral
wealth and associated properties are based on the price of
oil which seems to be hovering between $11 and $13 a barrel.

Mineral wealth and associated property have provided the
bulk of the ad valorem tax revenue in Ward County for
decades, notes Arlice Wittie, the Ward County Tax Appraiser.

Notes Witte: "The price we use for the appraisal (of mineral
wealth and property) is set by the state and is based on a
yearly average of the price of oil. Last year, it stated out
fine but it started dropping at the end of the year."

Higher prices per barrel in the beginning of the appraisal
year helped mitigate the plunge in the last months bringing
the average at which mineral wealth was appraised to about
$16 a barrel. That appraisal, on which taxes are based,
means a slight increase in Ward County mineral appraisals
from $638,096,750 in 1997 to $639,784,345 in 1998.

Oil prices currently are down and have stayed that way.

From Witte: "If the prices continue to stay as they are now,
we'll probably have some decrease in valuation for 1999 in
mineral wealth and mineral properties."

Valuations of residential property and other real estate
will lag behind changes in the evaluation of mineral wealth.
In Ward County, this drop in non-mineral property values
generally reflects the status of the oil market as surely as
oil's market price. For example, personal and real estate
evaluations were also up slightly from 1997 to 1998 -
$135,579,118 to $136,721,018, according to Wittie's
numbers. Changes in the appraisal of personal and real
estate properties, are hard to project accurately, says
Witte, and, "You might see an immediate decline if you're
trying to sell your house or buy a house. . .If oil stays
down, it is not good for the community."

Court looks to future

Members of the Ward County Commissioners court say they
increased the tax rate a nickel (4.997 cents) per $100
property evaluation to prepare for lean years ahead as the
oil prices continue low, which they feel will have a
negative impact on mineral wealth appraisals in 1999. Says
County Auditor Ellen Friar: "In 2000 we're estimated to
lose $1.5 to $2 million in revenue because of the down
turn in oil."

Half-cent tax shows dividends

City Manager David Mills notes the Monahans half-cent sales
tax for property tax relief continues to show dividends.

Says Mills: "The tax rate is 00.00041 less than the 1997
rate, which is a slight decrease. This budget uses a 1998 ad
valorem tax rate of 00.29614 of assessed valuation. This
compares to 00.29655 for 1997."

The City Manager notes the property tax relief was more last

"The certified tax roll is $194,850 less than last year,"
says Mills. "This tax rate results from estimated sales tax
collection rate which had reduced the ad valorem tax rate
from 48 cents to 00.29655 in 1997

Mills notes property tax represents only about 11 percent
of the city's $3,375.139 general fund revenues, the bulk
coming from services.

City water costs are up a penny to 90 cents a 1,000 gallons
for monthly use over 3,000 this year.

Says the City Manager: "Our overall revenues remain stable.
Projcted revenues in the general and system funds will be
met or exceeded. Expenditures remain within the allocated
amounts . . .A healthy financial reserve has been
established and has been a major factor in allowing the city
to initiate projects, provide services at a resonable cost,
purchase equipment and supplement the general fund
operations without entering into any significant long term
debt. This city is long term debt free at the end of this
fiscal year.

The 1998-99 fiscal year city budget proposes to spend
$4,319,359, a five percent increase, about $214,176, over
the 97-98 fiscal year.

In reference to the one-cent increase in water rates, the
city manager notes that the basic 3,000 gallons of water a
month charge remains the same, eight dollars.

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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.