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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

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Tuesday, January 19, 1999

Walker says water district bill in works

Staff Writer
A bill will be filed within the next 20-30 days with the Texas Legislature to form an underground water district, consisting of Reeves and two adjacent counties.

Reeves, Pecos and Loving counties are planning to form an underground water district, the bill authorizing it will be introduced by State Representative Gary Walker, R-Plains, and co-authored by Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine.

"Once the bill passes an election will be called in all three counties and if the voters want this district created, directors will be elected to oversee the project," said Walker, who represents Reeves and Loving counties in the Texas Legislature.

Walker stated that they have a chapter in the water code that allows them to set up a district. "This enables the people of the district to call an election to say yes, we want to manage or control our own water, or no we don't," said Walker.

The counties decided to seek creation of an underground water district as the result of Senate Bill 1, passed by the 1997 legislature. Under the bill, areas which do not have districts to regulate underground water by the year 2001 could see officials in Austin make the final decisions on the use of their underground water supplies.

Wakler said his bill is an enabling legislation, so the people themselves can decide if they want the district set up.

The state of Texas will not be the one to say if the district will be set up, it's up to the voters, according to Walker.

Water district directors are sometimes appointed by the county commissioners, but they can also be elected. "This will be written into the bill, that the people want the directors to be elected, instead of appointed by the commissioners," said Walker. "We had several calls and talked to numerous people about that, and they didn't particularly like that, that the directors be appointed, they want them elected."

Walker stated that in areas where the underground water districts have been created have been very successful. "We want to provide the best opportunities for people to manage their water and have access to it," said Walker, who managed the Sandyland Underground Water District in Plains before being elected to the legislature in 1994.

Walker was sworn in for his third term last Tuesday, while inauguration ceremonies for Gov. George W. Bush were held today in Austin.

Last week's opening ceremonies were particularly exciting for Walker, who was given the honor of presenting the nominating speech for Pete Laney for Speaker of the House.

"We are now anxiously awaiting our committee assignments from the Speaker, which are expected to be announced Jan. 21. I hope to be back on the Natural Resources and Appropriations panels this session," said Walker. "I've really learned a lot about the budgetary process from Appropriations and have heard the job is even harder when there's a surplus."

Walker stated that he will be in Austin most of the time through the end of May, but can be reached at P.O. Box 2910, Austin, Tx. 78768-2910.

His Austin office number is 512-463-0678 and the number in Plains is 806-456-7470.

Walker stated that Austin will be his second home untiil the end of May.

Walker's district aide is Judi Addison and his Austin aide, is Laurie McAnally. "They do all the research for constituent problems, so it might actually save a step to speak directly to them," said Walker. "When the session gets fast and furious, sometimes I'm not able to return calls until about 10 p.m., most folks down't want to hear from me at that hour," he said.

Church marks Willis' decade as pastor

Staff Writer
Discipleship has been the focus for Greer Willis' ministry at First Baptist Church over the past 10 years.

He's led the church to form small groups for Bible study, growth courses such as "Experiencing God" and "Masterlife," and gender-specific studies for both men and women.

"I also serve as association discipleship training director and try to go to Glorieta (N.M. conference center) every year to get refreshed and learn about new programs," he said.

But it isn't just his leadership that church members appreciate; he's a friend and encourager to all, said deacon Jim Ivy.

"I have a great association with him. He's been a great friend in addition to being my pastor," Ivy said. "He goes the extra mile for every member of his congregation."

Ivy said that Willis travels many miles each year to attend funerals and other major events to support church members, to "lift them up, pray with them and help them. That's probably his greatest quality."

Willis is a "people person," Ivy said, and is always there, "especially in tough times when you need him."

Bird watching is one of the interests that Ivy and Willis share, although "he walks my legs off," Ivy said.

With 250 species of birds traveling through the area each year, Willis finds time each month to get out his binoculars and bird list and head for the mountains or lakes.

Balmorhea Lake hosts a surprising number of birds, including rare species that summer in the Arctic.

"There are snow geese on the lake right now," Willis said today.

Besides Ivy, Willis enjoys visiting with birders like Bob and Billie Bickley, Mike Pharaoh and Kelly Bryan of Fort Davis, the Texas Parks and Wildlife's "lead birder" for this area.

"I have taken trips to south and east Texas and to Arizona to spot birds," Willis said. "I go with a friend."

Birding is a true change of pace from the office at FBC, where Willis serves alongside youth director Kevin Kimmel and secretary Judy Wyles. Mike Pharaoh is music director on a part-time basis.

Willis also serves the Pecos Valley Baptist Association as discipleship training director and the Odessa-Midland-Pecos Valley area board of directors. At the state level, he is on the executive board for the Texas Baptist Convention, which oversees business matters between annual meetings.

His training for the pastorate includes a bachelor's degree from Baylor University in psychology and religion; masters in education guidance from the University of South Florida and pastoral ministries from Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth.

While in Florida, Willis served five years with a para-church group called the Navigators. He also worked for the world's largest distributor of electrical supplies, going to Disney World twice a day while it was under construction.

"While I was still in the Navy, I was at the grand opening of Disney World and helped blow up the balloons," he said.

His first pastorate was in Water Valley, near San Angelo. While there, he worked as a school librarian and married his principal. Glenda Willis' experience as a principal was excellent training to be a pastor's wife, Willis said.

"She was chairman of the pulpit committee that invited me to Water Valley straight out of seminary," Willis said. "I think her administrative training kind of got her ready to be someone who could live in a parsonage and meet the public and meet the challenges of church life."

Glenda uses her training to home-school their 14-year-old daughter, GeNelle, and is a great homemaker, Willis said.

Both lead the small groups that have helped church members to grow in their faith. Willis says he has grown spiritually and socially as well during their 10 years in Pecos.

The Willis' came to Pecos from Matador, where he was pastor for five years.

Participation in the Pecos Ministerial Fellowship has been a valuable experience, Willis said.

"It is a very affirming; positive experience to serve with Catholic and Protestant and various denominations," he said. "I think we have a positive group."

The fellowship sponsors an annual day of prayer, Easter and Thanksgiving community services and Baccalaureate, as well as supporting efforts by individual churches.

Ivy said that Willis has also been a positive influence in the community through such organizations as the Rotary Club, which he has served as president.

First Baptist is "real lucky" to have Willis this long, and "until the Lord calls him somewhere else, we are happy," Ivy said. "We hope he will stay as long as possible.

Celebrating his 10-year tenure, the church has a special morning worship service planned Sunday, with area missionary Jimmy Law as guest speaker. A noon meal will follow the service.

Freeport landfill prelude to mine closing

Staff Writer
Freeport Sulphur is creating a two-acre landfill at the Culberson Mine 40 miles northwest of Pecos as part of their closure plan, said Bill Collier, spokesman for Freeport McMoRan, owners.

The mine is still producing sulphur on a temporary basis, but the mine is targeted for complete closure, Collier said.

"The small landfill, which will be closed upon closure of the mine, is being built under the regulations and oversight of the Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission," Collier said.

Prior to Freeport's purchase of the mine, the previous operator had a landfill of some 12 acres for on-site non-hazardous wastes. That landfill, which Freeport did not purchase, was closed under TNRCC guidelines and Freeport has been sending its wastes off-site for the past four years, he said.


Christina Tarin

Services are incomplete for Christina Tarin, 58, of Balmorhea, who died Monday, Jan. 18, 1999, at Midland Memorial Hospital in Midland.

Martinez Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.


High Monday 73; low last night 39. Tonight, partly cloudy. Low in the mid 40s. South to southwest wind 10-15 mph. Wednesday, partly cloudy. High in the mid 70s. West wind 15-25 mph.

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