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

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Dec. 24, 1998

County bails out Memorial Hospital

In a special meeting Monday morning, Ward County
Commissioners' Court advanced Ward Memorial Hospital
$130,000 when it became clear the long-troubled hospital
would not otherwise make it financially to the end of the

Figures presented that morning showed the hospital to be
$3,569.66 in the red with one more payroll to go before the
year's end. The payroll, with transfers included, required
about $125,000.

Every year, the county supplements the hospital's budget;
the $130,000 now being advanced will simply not be included
in next year's supplementation.

The hospital might never have needed this advance had they
not been forced to deal with some untimely Medicare bills,
explained Hospital Adinistrator Joe Wright. In the past,
the hospital dealt with Medicare overpayments by doling out
periodic interim payments, he said, adding that they're no
longer on that program. This autumn it came to light that
the hospital owed Medicare a great deal of money.

So far, the hospital has paid approximately $167,000 towards
this debt; Medicare is also withholding 20 percent of
payments to the hospital. Wright estimates the debt will be
resolved by March.

Keele to doff sheriff's badge

After ten years as Ward County sheriff, Ben Keele announced
plans this week to retire in March.

"I've been in law enforcement for about 36 years, and
there've been lots of changes," said Keele. "I'm not too
adaptable. I would like to do, for a change, what I want to
do, while I still have the good health to do it."

Keele has actually served as sheriff twice; he was appointed
in 1981 after the death of then-Sheriff John Ashcraft.
Though he lost the next election, in 1988, he was elected to
the post and has never been defeated again.

"I have really appreciated all the backing I've had from all
citizens," he said.

Keele's term does not officially end till the year 2000;
county commissioners will appoint an interim sheriff to
complete Keele's term.

Slay to head chamber board

Kevin Slay takes over as Chamber of Commerce board president
Jan. 1, for the 1999 calendar year. Three more spots need to
be filled for the board, and Slay will announce his choices
for the openings by Jan. 21 at the monthly board meeting.
Slay has told the Monahans News that he "quite frankly has
not made any decisions as to his appointments."

The board of directors approved the electees last Thursday.
The four newly elected board members are Suzi Blair, Pam
Treadaway, Mike Swanson and Andy Stewart.

Some of the goals of the Chamber under Slay's tenure will
be, "continue to work with our city, county, schools, Main
Street orginization, Hispanic Chamber and civic clubs.
Continue to support local businesses. We have a lot to do at
the Chamber, we want all the members to be represented, we
want all of your dues to come back to you many times over,"
said Slay.

Other board members are Terry Kirkland,Candido Gutierrez,
Todd Hunt, Phillip Derrick, Sheran Johnson, Mike Fletcher,
Gene Brown, Jack Grant and Rex Thee.

Slay went on to say that, "we're going to have a lot of fun
this year at the chamber."

Watch out for drunk drivers

According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, 60
people are estimated to die statewide from accidents during
the upcoming Christmas and New Year's holidays. Last year
in Ward County alone, there were 18 car accidents; no one
lost their life, but 22 people were injured.

Most people will agree that tragedy at Christmastime is
almost a paradox, but more and more those same people find
themselves the holiday victims of drunken drivers.

Statistically, 50 percent of all traffic fatalities are the
result of drugs and alcohol.

Police Chief Charles Sebastian advises all those who make
merry this season to find a designated driver who'll stay
sober. Conversely, if you see someone who has had too much
to drink, he says, give them a lift home or call a cab who

Drivesafe, a statewide program taught locally by Danny
Morriss, has several tips for those on the roads this

If you spot an intoxicated driver, don't try to pass them-
they could swerve into you. Don't pull over on the shoulder
and stop if they're behind you, as they might follow your
lights and hit you. Instead, turn right at the nearest
intersection; let them pass before returning to your route.
You're safer with the drunk driver in front of you. Once
you're behind them, maintain a safe following distance (a
city block is best).

If a driver is approaching you head-on, move to the right
and slow down or stop. Sound your horn and flash your
lights to get their attention. Avoid swerving to the left,
since they may realize they are in the wrong lane, and hit
you in trying to correct their mistake. Get the license
number and report them as soon as possible; you may prevent
a tragedy. Pull safely off the road and dial 911 on your
mobile or nearest pay phone. Give a description of the
vehicle, direction headed, license number and your location.

Have everyone in the car wear a seat belt, especially the
children in approved safety seats.

Expect the unexpected when approaching an intersection.
Slow down- after midnight be extremely cautious at
intersections, even when your light is green.

Drivesafe also reports that should you decide to drive while
intoxicated, you could end up with a significant fee on your
hands. The cost of the fine, bail bond, towing your car,
defense attorney, videotape fee, court costs, probation, and
car insurance could add up to roughly $25,000. You'll also
lose work time with court appearances.

Remember that time is the only thing that will sober a
person; cold showers won't, coffee won't, and exercise won't.

If your designated driver has been drinking, don't get in
the car, even if they promise they can drive perfectly well.
The first thing alcohol affects is a person's good

In the end, there are only three things you need to
remember, courtesy of Drivesafe: don't drink and drive.
Don't get in a car with an intoxicated driver, and always
have a designated driver.

Put up pills for holidays

With the coming of the holiday season, the danger of
poisoning may be increased, especially for young children.
Visiting family members may bring medicines into the home
while holiday plants and decorations pose their own kind of

The West Texas Regional Poison Center has available a
24-hour a day bilingual hotline for poisoning emergency
assistance free of charge throughout the holiday season,
including Christmas day and New Year's day. The holiday
season is a time to be especially aware of substances and
situations that may lead to accidental poisoning or even
death. The number to call for information or for immediate
bilingual medical assistance during poisoning emergencies is
1-800-poison (1-800-746-7661).

Here are a few quick Poison Center reminders to make your
holidays safer for you and your family:

Holiday Decorations: May block the airway or cause choking.

Plants: Poinsettia is considered to be only mildly toxic but
others like Mistletoe, Holly, and Jerusalem Cherry are
potentially poisonous. Symptoms can range from rashes to
nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Alcohol: Keep medications, perfumes, and alcoholic beverages
out of the reach of children. Take care to remove all empty
and partially empty cups as soon as possible after holiday
parties. Keep ashtrays clean and free of cigarettes and
cigarette butts as these can be potentially toxic to

Food Safety: Keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot. Never
leave food out for more than two hours.

Carbon Monoxide: An odorless, colorless gas produced in
fires, car exhaust systems, and faulty home heating systems.
Symptoms include dizziness and headaches or may resemble
those of the flu. Get fresh air immediately if these
symptoms occur.

Antifreeze: Is extremely poisonous. It has a sweet taste
which makes it attractive to small children and pets. Its
color is also very attractive to children.

Medicines: Especially cough/cold preparations, headache and
pain killers are used frequently during the winter season.
Keep them properly labeled and out of the reach of children.
Also, holiday guests in your home should store their
medications properly as soon as possible after arrival to
prevent accidental ingestion from children.

Hotline for troubled youth

The Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services
recently initiated a new Texas Youth Hotline, according to
Hotline Director, Jay Smith. The toll-free number is

"The Texas Youth Hotline and the agency's Texas Runaway
Hotline are answered 24 hours a day and provide prevention
services to callers who are in need of a caring voice and a
listening ear," Smith said.

"Hotline counselors will talk with callers who face a
variety of issues including family conflicts, delinquency,
truancy, and abuse and neglect."

Smith said television and radio ads, billboards, movie
theater ads and 50,000 pieces of public awareness materials
for schools, social service agencies, law enforcement and
youth-related organizations are aimed at bringing the
troubled youth problem to wider attention and to make youth
and parents more aware of the services available. Hotline
staff and volunteers will provide callers with crisis
intervention, telephone advocacy and referrals to local
community services.

The Senate Interim Committee on Gangs and Juvenile Justice
recommended increased outreach to improve accessibility to
intervention and prevention services.

Senator Robert Duncan serves on this committee.

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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

Associated Press text, photo, graphic, audio and/or video material shall not be published, broadcast, rewritten for broadcast or publication or redistributed directly or indirectly in any medium.

Copyright 1998 by Ward Newspapers Inc.