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February 9, 1999

Dam project runs into concrete roadblock

Staff Writer
PECOS, Feb. 9, 1999 - Replacment of the gates at Red Bluff Dam may be more complicated and cost more than expected, but water rates for 1999 will be staying at the same level as in the past, Red Bluff Water Power Control Board members decided during their monthly meeting on Monday.

The board voted 4-3 to keep the district's water rate at $2.50 per acre/foot, rejecting a recommendation by general manager Jim Ed Miller that the rate be raised to cover part of the district's $150,000 operating deficit.

Red Bluff is currently able to make up the deficit out of interest on the $14 million settlement it received 10 years ago in the Pecos River Compact dispute with New Mexico, but Miller said the district should save some of that money for other projects, including the Red Bluff Dam work.

Board members delayed their vote on the water rate until after listening to a presentation by Sonny Kretzschmar of HDR Engineering about the plan to replace the gates on the irrigation flow channels through the dam. In December, the board approved replacing the current slide gates, only one of which is currently operative, with knife and jet flow gates, at a cost of just under $1 million.

Kretzschmar said HDR officials and Miller checked out the concrete housing at the dam last Tuesday and found "more concrete than we anticipated," which will have to be removed before the new gates are installed.

"The good news is the concrete is in real good shape. The bad news is it masks at lot of specs we'd like to look at," Kretzschmar said. Because some mechanics may be embedded in the concrete, he said HDR is "rethinking our 1996 report," and that a second option to install new slide gates may now be more economically feasible.

"It's not real attractive for the contractor getting into the middle of the dam," he said. "They have to do a lot of chipping around the mechanical work inside the dam and they don't want to break anything."

Kretzschmar said the slide gates are more prone to wear and leakage and would probably last only half as long as the jet flow gate option. HDR estimated installing slide gates would initially be $235,000 cheaper, but would have to be replaced in 20 years instead of 40, at an additional cost of $300,000.

"Perhaps if we're very careful selecting the metal alloys it (the slide gates) will last longer than 20 years," Kretzschmar said, who added that by installing two different sized gates in the tunnels the water flow could be controlled better, though not as well as with the knife gate/jet flow gate option.

"If it's safe to go in there with a jackhammer and bust out the concrete it won't make much of a difference," in the cost estimate, he said. "But we don't want to damage the juncture between the conduits and the dam."

Kretzschmar told the board HDR would be looking at the problem more over the next month, and will report back to the board at their March meeting.

Following the presentation, board members resumed their discussion on water rates, finally deciding 4-3 to maintain the current $2.50 to the seven water improvement districts along the Pecos River.

Board president Randall Hartman, who voted with members Cecil Lee and Teresa Walker to raise the current rate, said the current charge hurts full-time farmers within the districts, because short-term growers plant crops in high water allocation years, draining off Red Bluff Lake's reserves.

Earlier in the meeting, the board set 1999 water allocations at 25,000 acre/feet, down from 40,000 last year. Board member Lloyd Goodrich said the lake currently has 70,756 acre/feet of water, about 30,000 less than a year ago, and due to water losses downriver, Miller said it takes about a 50,000 acre/feet release to deliver the 25,000 acre/feet downstream.

"We've had it as low as 13,600, but when you do that the core gets low and the dam cracks," said Goodrich, who was the strongest supporter of maintaining the current $2.50 rate.

"If we give it (water) all away one year and don't have it next year, it's our own fault for mismanagement," Hartman said.

"It's not Red Bluff's business to conserve water, that's the (local water) districts' business," Goodrich said. He said an increase of $1 in the rate would cut just $25,000 off the $150,000 deficit estimated by Miller.

Goodrich said water sales have never yielded what originally was estimated when the dam was built and for a time, sales from the dam's now-closed electric power station made up the difference. Board member Richard Slack asked whether the planned electric power deregulation in Texas would make starting the plant back up more viable, but Hartman said the district would have to put up its own power transmission lines and register as a public utility if that is done.

Miller said Red Bluff "probably has the cheapest water in the state," though Goodrich pointed out the high salt content reduces crop production by about 25 percent. Carlsbad, which gets its water from the Pecos River before it's joined by the Malaga Bend salt spring, charges $17 per acre/foot, and Hartman said some farmers in the El Paso area pay $20 per acre/foot for water.

"I feel the oil income (loss) is going to add to this (deficit) by at least $10,000," Hartman said. "You can set it as low as you want, but I feel like we're cutting our own throats."

Board members Charlotte Wilcox and Manuel Lujan joined Goodrich in opposing the rate increase, with Slack casting the deciding vote to keep the rate at the $2.50 level.

Earlier, the board approved the final audit report for fiscal 1998 by Randy Graham, and approved both accounts payable and cash disbursements for January.

Oil industry's layoffs keep jobs office busy

Staff Writer
PECOS, Feb. 9, 1999 - Business is booming at one office in Pecos, but it is mostly due to the lack of business in private industry.

The Pecos Workforce Center (formerly Texas Employment Commission) has had 891 visitors to the office at 215 W. Second St. in January alone, said center director Elva Arreguy. Clients come from area counties where there is no office, or where the local office is not equipped to handle their problems, Arreguy said.

With the downturn in the oil business, an estimated 300 people who lost their jobs have turned to PWC over the past three months, said Dora Pineda, who handles unemployment claims.

Even seismograph crews are affected, she said. Roughnecks, roustabouts and two secretaries are among those seeking unemployment benefits and a new career.

"If it is affecting this many people in the oil industry, it is also affecting your service industry," Pineda said. "It has a domino effect."

Those laid off can expect to draw unemployment checks for six months, based on a percentage of their former wages. No extended benefits are available at this time, Pineda said.

Work orders have come in for convenience store clerks, which is a constant demand, she said. And she has had a lot of calls for truck drivers.

One job order for a derrick hand is the only positive note related to the oil field, and that is for a small pulling unit, Pineda said.

Freeport McMoran is using contract labor, such as roustabouts, heavy equipment operators and welders on the landfill being dug at the Culberson sulphur mine, she said.

Clerk Maria Ortiz helps job applicants use computers in the center to do their own job search. They have access to "Job Express" for private industry, the state government job bank and a nationwide database.

"We are more geared to offer services to applicants," Pineda said. "They can use the fax machine, and we have a telephone so they can call a toll-free number to inquire about job openings.

Pamphlets are also available to help in the job search.

"Our main goal is job training," Pineda said. "We are all working together to offer our services to the community; try to get them back into the work force."

Arreguy has been office manager since Nov. 2. Her former position with JTPA was eliminated when all state job-related services were merged under the Texas Workforce Commission.

"We are all under the same umbrella," Arreguy said. "We are a satellite program here. We don't offer full services like the bigger offices do. We don't have room to house other agency representatives, like the Texas Department of Human Services, MHMR, recruiting offices and Texas Rehab."

Much remodeling has already taken place in the former Texas Employment Commission building, which now has a training room for employers to meet with potential employees.

"We are basically a job training office," Arreguy said.

When all the new furnishings and equipment are received, Arreguy plans to hold open house to acquaint the community with the new look and the services offered.

Judge OKs probated sentence in marijuana bust

Staff Writer
PECOS, Feb. 9, 1999 - Tony Earl McGrew drew a probated sentence in federal court Monday when U.S. District Judge Royal Furgeson departed downward from the sentencing guidelines.

McGrew, 40, of 515 S. Plum St., had pleaded guilty to importing and possessing 159.08 pounds of marijuana on April 1, 1998. His sentencing was continued several times due to treatment for colon cancer.

Public Defender Kurt Mayer filed the motion for probation, which Judge Furgeson granted. He sentenced McGrew to five years probation on each count, to run concurrently.

Others sentenced Monday were:

* Octavio Chavarria-Castillo, 28, of Amarillo, 37 months in prison for possession with intent to distribute 340.72 pounds of marijuana.

* Alejandro Carrette, 24, of Chihuahua, Mex., 18 months in prison for possession with intent to distribute 72.7 pounds of marijuana.

* Isaac Savedra, 18 months for possession with intent to distribute marijuana.

* Jose Padilla-Flores, 37 months for importing and possessing marijuana with intent to distribute. The two terms are to run concurrently.

* Antonio Arzola-Mendoza, 42, of Mexico, time served for illegal entry, with release to the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

* Noe N. Tobon, 28, of Mexico, time served for illegal entry and release to the INS.

Pleading guilty were:

* Enrique Flores-Gonzales, 53, of Mexico, conspiracy, import and possess 220.75 pounds of marijuana.

* Ernesto V. Madrid-Mega, 24, Mexico, illegal entry after deportation.

* Maria Rosales-Castro, 48, of Delicias, Chih., Mex., import 90.2 pounds of marijuana. Charges of conspiracy and possession with intent to distribute to be dismissed at time of sentencing. All three charges were dismissed against co-defendant Ricardo Gonzales-Rosales.

* Gregg Herrera, 19, of Monument, N.M., possession with intent to distribute 298.32 pounds of marijuana.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Stuart M. Platt also accepted several guilty pleas for Judge Furgeson and arraigned two defendants.

Commissioners updated on TxDOT projects

Staff Writer
PECOS, Feb. 9, 1999 - Texas Department of Transportation representatives discussed current and future projects with Reeves County Commissioners, during their regularly scheduled Monday at the Reeves County Courthouse.

John Salcido and the new area engineer, Paul Henderson, with TxDOT told the court that an ongoing project of landscaping along the major highways would continue.

"We want to carry on with Mr. (Doug) Eichorst's plan and we want to formally ask that we start preparing the paperwork and submit that to the district and from there to Austin," said Henderson, who replaced Eichorst after he transferred to Odessa.

County Judge Jimmy B. Galindo updated the court on the project and said that new ideas are always welcome.

"To give the new commissioners an idea of what we're trying to establish, we'll go over it briefly," said Galindo. "There's a possibility of us using their landscaping architect to help us develop a landscape for our road sides."

The project involves landscaping along Interstate 20, U.S. 285 and Highway 17, though Galindo said another project would involve FM 761 on Eddy Street in Pecos.

It would involve the traffic island, located at Eddy and Washington streets. "The idea is to put a concrete or stone emblem and for it to be raised so as not to obstruct the view of the motorists," said Galindo.

Another idea is setting up cut-out of longhorn cattle alongside the Interstate.

"They have that in Abilene and it looks really attractive," said Galindo. "The cut-outs are silhouettes of cattle and the same idea was suggested on 285 and I- 20 on the southwest portion."

The cattle appear to be moving towards a windmill and a water trough would also be set up in that area, according to Galindo.

Other ideas for beautification and landscaping were discussed and Galindo said that the TxDOT allocated $100,000 in their maintenance budget, but would need the county and city's cooperation on the landscaping project.

"It would mean in-kind services and also some funds for that project," he said.

In other business, commissioners approved an agreement with Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD for GED Testing at the Reeves County Detention Center.

"It's important that we have GED Testing and BOP will also judge that as something good," said RCDC Warden Rudy Franco, who added the inmates look forward to achieving something.

"The judge has looked over the agreement carefully and it's satisfactory to all parties involved," said Franco. "BOP will look favorably on this project. Anything we can do to provide for the inmates and meet the criteria, they look at it as a good sign."

Two additional positions at the RCDC were also approved by commissioners. The court had previously approved a computer specialist budget assistant.

"We feel it's too much work for one individual," said Franco, who wanted the computer specialist and the budget assistant split into separate positions.

"The computer specialist will be busy setting up a new network," said Franco, who told commissioners the positions will help centralize purchasing and control budget better.

Another position at the Reeves County Sheriff's Department will be to help the RCDC with background checks and other duties.

"This individual will do all the background checks for the new employees and other duties will be assigned," said Franco. "This entry-level position will help once the new facility is up, but I actually need him now."

Sheriff Andy Gomez said that he would assign this particular position to someone already on the staff at sheriff's office. "This will be someone that knows how to the criminal history checks," he said.

Bids for a new pickup and new vans went to the lowest bidders. Sun Chrysler-Plymouth of Odessa was awarded the bids for two new transportation vans for the RCDC, with a low bid of $23,947 for each. Colt Chevrolet of Pecos bid the lowest on a new pickup for the facility at $13,667.

A Reeves County/Texas Agricultural Extension Service Partnership Agreement was approved.

"We want to discuss a number of issues in regard to the agricultural commitment and efforts to provide several services to the community," said Galindo. "We want to establish a formal partnership agreement and clarify pro-actively what we're trying to accomplish and set up a plan that will be beneficial to the agricultural community."

Galindo said that the extension services agents would also be invited to the commissioners meeting to give updates every two weeks.

New hires included Aida Baeza and Rosalina Alvarado at the Reeves County Auditor's office with a starting pay of $16,000 per year; Daniel Christopher Portillo was named computer specialist at the Reeves County Detention Center at $19,000 along with new hires at the RCDC, Sylvester Carrasco, Efren Cordova, Jeremy Ornelas and Yvonne Valles at a starting pay of $19,000. At the Reeves County Sheriff's Department new hires were Jimmy Leonard and Raul Garcia as jailers at $16,000 per year.

A payment to Banes General Contractor's for RCDC Support Shell and Recreational building was approved, along with reports from various departments, budget amendments and line-item transfers, minutes from previous minutes and semi-monthly bills.


Lillian Ross

Lillian Ross, 89, of Pecos, died Sunday, Feb. 7, 1999 at Reeves County Hospital.

Graveside services will be held at 2 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 10, at Mount Evergreen Cemetery with Reverend Greer Willis officiating.

Ross was born Aug. 18, 1910 in Bradshaw. She was the retired owner of Retail Merchants and a Baptist.

She was preceded in death by her husband Lawrence Ross in 1998.

Survivors include two sons, Bert Ross of Pecos, Joe Moore of Midland; one daughter, Jean Skiff of San Angelo and five grandchildren.

Pecos Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.


PECOS, Feb. 9, 1999 - High Monday 82; low last night 42. Tonight, mostly clear. Low 45 to 50. South to southeast wind 5-10 mph. Wednesday, partly cloudy, breezy and warm. High 80 85. South wind 15-25 mph and gusty.

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