December 10, 1998
Council adopts earlier curfew for juvenilesBy PEGGY McCRACKEN
Children under 17 years of age will have to be home by 10 p.m. weeknights under an ordinance adopted on first reading by the Pecos City Council this morning.
Weekend curfew hours would be from midnight to 6 a.m. if the ordinance passes on second reading.
Councilman Ricky Herrera made the motion to amend the ordinance with the 10 p.m. curfew as recommended by some parents at a gang intervention committee meeting.
"Kids 10 to 16 really need to be at home," Herrera said.
"I know there are some kids that need special attention, but we are applying it to the good kids," said Johnny Terrazas. However, he seconded Herrera's motion.
Randy Graham suggested 10:30 as a compromise between the 11 p.m. hour agreed on in the last meeting and Herrera's proposal. However, Mayor Dot Stafford said that 30-minute increments are harder to enforce.
Police Chief Clay McKinney said it does not matter to his department what the curfew hours are; they will be enforced. "We are out there anyway."
City Attorney Scott Johnson said the intent of the curfew is to keep minors from wandering the streets without supervision or direction.
"It takes common sense reading and for enforcement," Johnson said. "Cops have to understand the ordinance and use common sense. If a kid is out there drinking and spraying paint, it is a tool you have for enforcement. If they are going to the Dairy Queen to get their folks a hamburger, it is a different deal."
He said that the curfew allows for recreation and school-sponsored events that may last past the curfew hour.
City's finances good, Painter's audit reportsBy PEGGY McCRACKEN
Auditor Dan Painter told the Pecos City Council this morning that the city is in good financial condition, with "substantial reserves."
Inventory records need some fine tuning, but otherwise the books are in good shape, he said. "There were no major discrepancies."
"I am rather proud of you. I do 15 of these and you are one of the few that allocates money and sets it aside to go and buy things," Painter said. "You bought a new fire truck this year and paid cash. That's remarkable. When you have to finance things, it is not as good."
The council approved Painter's contract for the 1998-99 audit at an increase of $382 - to $13,114.
Painter noted that the city's reserves will be needed for upcoming projects, and one of those could be opening a landfill for construction debris.
Roy Knowles, Jason Payne and Steve Todd of Duncan Disposal attended the meeting to discuss fees charged at their solid waste transfer station.
Frank Spencer told the council in their last meeting that he was charged for dumping roofing, sheetrock and other debris from renovation of a house owned by his mother-in-law, who is 74 years old.
Spencer said he understood a citizen could dump up to 2,000 pounds of debris free of charge each month.
Knowles said that the ordinance allows citizens who present a water bill as proof of residence to dump only one load of household waste per month, weighing not more than 2,000 pounds.
"People seem to think it is up to 2,000 pounds no matter how many loads," he said. "We are talking about something they could dispose of at no charge if they put in the alley for pickup."
Construction debris is not household waste, he said.
Transfer costs for construction and demolition debris is higher than for heavier materials, he said, and his company lost $59,000 in their first year of operation. Keeping the transfer station open 5 1/2 days a week for the 310 customers who used it last year is a waste of manpower, he said.
City Manager Kenneth Neal recommended Pecos open a Type IV landfill for the city to dispose of debris from buildings it demolishes and for citizens who prefer to haul waste to the dump rather than place it in the alley for Duncan Disposal to pick up free of charge.
Finance officer Steve McCormick said that a Type IV landfill would cost the city more than the $59,000 that Duncan Disposal lost last year.
Mayor Dot Stafford asked Neal, Knowles, McCormick, utilities director Octavio Garcia, building inspector Jack Brookshire and Armando Gil to work out a recommendation for the council to consider in their meeting of Jan. 14, 1999.
Tax assessor-collector Lydia Prieto presented the 1998 tax roll totaling $824,034, which the council approved. That is the amount assessed on property after the city adopted its tax rate.
Judge Phyllis Salyer's monthly municipal court report shows total fees of $4,980 and fines of $4,189 for the month of November.
The October ambulance service report shows a balance of 217,894, with collections of $152.05. Chief Bill Cole said collections were down due to Medicare and Medicaid sending bills back to be redone.
McCormick said that Reeves County Hospital is considering billing for ambulance calls beginning in January.
The council approved on first reading an ordinance placing four-way stop signs at the intersection of Locust and Second Street; approved purchase of two police cars; contracted with Roy Pena to serve as volunteer fire chief for a contract fee of $800 per year with no additional compensation; agreed to give employees "additional compensation" at Christmas time; and referred a question of overtime policy to a committee.
McKinney asked about the overtime policy because, with three officers off-duty last month his department went over its overtime budget.
Johnson said that the council can either pay overtime or allow compensation time off.
"The problem with comp time is, when they are taking it, you have to call someone in to fill that spot. The current policy is to pay time and one-half for overtime."
Gerald Tellez asked if McKinney could utilize part-time officers as he does dispatchers.
"The part-time dispatcher has really worked great," McKinney said. "I hadn't thought about a part-time officer."
Randy Graham asked about the policy requiring city employees to be at work from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. He said that he has frequently called or gone to city hall on Friday afternoon and found almost everyone gone.
Stafford said the council has addressed the problem before, and a memo was sent to employees.
Graham said that one department head has been particularly difficult to find, and that Neal didn't know where they were.
"I thought it had been corrected," Neal said, noting that he would write another memo and "give it another whirl."
"We have been giving it quite a few whirls," Graham said.
In emergency session, the council agreed to close Fourth Street between Oak and Cedar from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Friday for the Christmas parade and lighting ceremony at the Reeves County Courthouse.
They set the next meeting for 5:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 21 instead of at its normal time, which would have fallen on Christmas Eve.
Crews clean up spill, reopen trackFertilizer spilling from a derailed tank car about a mile west of Pecos was cleaned up by mid-morning today, said Armando Gil, health inspector.
The car was one of 16 that derailed near the Duval Road crossing at 5;10 a.m. Wednesday. Mike Davis of Union Pacific said Wednesday that a report of leaking anhydrous ammonia was in error, but crews later learned that the fertilizer did leak from the car.
Gil said he didn't know how much was involved, since "we didn't get near it at any time." But it had been cleaned up when he left the scene about 10:30 a.m., and crews were packing gravel between the ties to complete repair of the roadbed.
John Bronley, spokesperson for Union Pacific said "They had the track finished at 5 a.m., and they had estimated they would have it open again by 9 a.m."
Most of the 91 cars on the train were empty, and only one of the 16 derailed cars carried freight, Davis said.
The train was traveling from El Paso to Fort Worth. Derailment started at the 10th car from the rear of the train and went to the 25th car. The engine and 66 cars remained on the tracks east of FM 2119, while nine cars were orphaned west of the crossing.
Ten of the wrecked cars were "pool cars," which are owned by individuals or companies who lease them through a pool. Two belong to Kansas City Southern, and three belong to Union Pacific.
Crews took only about 12 hours to actually repair the tracks, after contractors arrived with a bulldozer and side boom late Wednesday afternoon to begin removing the wrecked cars. The repair work involved replacing about 600 feet of track.
Bronley said company officials are still trying to determine the cause of the derailment. "Sometimes it takes 10 minutes, and sometimes it takes a while longer," he said.
Wednesday's derailment occurred just over two months after four cars of a Union Pacific train derailed while being removed from a siding in Toyah. That accident did not cause any damage to the main line track.
Meeting on Social Security reformsFrom Staff and Wire Reports
President Clinton is endorsing stock market investments as one way to help make up for cash shortfalls Social Security is expected to face in the future.
"The mechanism for doing that obviously remains a controversial issue, but I do believe there is growing consensus, which the president is part of, that we do need the type of investment options that would bring higher returns to Social Security," said Gene Sperling, the president's top economic adviser.
Sperling said Clinton shared that view at a private meeting with lawmakers Wednesday. The president has called repeatedly for lawmakers to safeguard Social Security, but previously has not been specific about his preferences for bolstering the nation's retirement program.
Lawmakers left the closed-door meetings _ held on the second day of a White House-organized conference on Social Security _ saying they have new optimism they can reach a compromise next year.
Republican Congressman Henry Bonilla, whose 23rd District includes Reeves County, called the talks "encouraging," though he didn't know if they would lead to any immediate action when the 106th Congress convenes in January.
"I thought it went very well, but this was just a starting point. We heard from several different people and discussed all options, but at this point there's no plan the president is currently offering."
Social Security is now financed by taxes deducted from workers' paychecks. Without changes, the program is expected to run short of cash by 2032, after more than 75 million baby boomers begin collecting benefits.
Clinton has not decided how Social Security stock market investments should be made _ by individual Americans in private accounts or by the government investing their payroll tax contributions in bulk, his advisers said.
That will remain one of the more contentious issues as lawmakers seek compromise.
"What he did say was he thought that as this discussion carried forward that policy makers like himself had to be very straightforward with the American people about what the risks are with seeking higher returns," Sperling said.
One advantage to making the investments in bulk would be less risk to individuals, but critics are wary of having the government own stock in private companies.
Sperling said in any case, additional steps likely will be needed to make up the cash shortage looming for Social Security, possibly including an infusion of money from government surpluses.
Other changes, such as raising the retirement age or a Social Security tax hike for the wealthy, also remain under consideration.
The biggest differences concern an idea that Republicans have long supported: setting up a system of personal accounts so workers could invest in the stock market some of the money they now pay in Social Security taxes. Under most such proposals, some government benefits would remain as a safety net.
Business and conservative groups favor the idea but labor unions and civil rights groups strongly oppose it.
"He (Clinton) basically said he would consider any option," said Bonilla, R-San Antonio. "The conservative side is strongly pushing personal accounts that would allow people to make their own investments and get a higher return on their Social Security benefits than what they're getting now, while those on the left feel the government should handle all the finances instead of the people."
But adding to growing agreement that the stock market can provide at least a partial solution, House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt, D-Mo., also for the first time offered his conditional support for private investment this week.
"What I am open to and interested in is what I call a voluntary and supplemental contributions to retirement funds that could be on top of the basic Social Security benefit," Gephardt said. "I don't rule out, although I have grave concerns about, individuals somehow investing part of their part of the Social Security trust fund in stocks and bonds."
"It's a big big deal. I never anticipated we'd be able to do it all in two days, but it was very informative for me," Bonilla said.
"In some ways the respective parties to this possible agreement are not as far away as people might think that they are," said Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C.
Americans in the past have proven resistant to any changes in the government's biggest benefit program, and interest groups already are mounting aggressive lobbying and grassroots campaigns.
Because of the political dangers _ and the 2000 presidential election that could scuttle the chances of compromise _ Republican leaders have asked Clinton to take the first step by giving Congress a blueprint for Social Security reform.
"In my opinion, it is probably now, in the limited time-frame, the only way to move forward," said House Ways and Means Chairman Bill Archer, R-Texas.
"I don't know if it's likely," Bonilla said. "It depends on how aggressive the president wants to be on the situation."
Clinton told lawmakers Wednesday he'd be willing to send legislation to Congress, but other options were discussed, including small meetings where lawmakers and administration officials could work privately toward consensus.
Josephine A. AbilaJosephine A. Abila, 69, died Wednesday, December 9, 1998, at Medical Center Hospital in Odessa. A rosary is scheduled for 7 p.m. tonight at Our Lady of Refuge Catholic Church in Barstow, with a funeral mass at 2 p.m. Friday at the church, under the direction of Pecos Funeral Home. Burial will be in Barstow cemetery.
She was born on Sept. 11, 1929 in Pecos and was a lifelong resident of Barstow. She was retired and was a Catholic.
Survivors include her husband, Louis Abila of Barstow; three sons, Angel Abila and Gilbert Abila of Barstow and David Abila of Dallas; two sisters, Anita Ortega of Victorville, Calif., and Augustina Aguirre of Pecos, and three grandchildren.
WeatherHigh Wednesday 57; low last night 38. Tonight, occasional snow or snow mixed with sleet at times. Low around 30. North to northeast wind 10-20 mph and gusty. Friday, snow likely, mainly in the morning. High in the upper 30s. north wind 10-15 mph. Chance of snow is 70 percent.
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