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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Top Stories

Thursday, May 13, 1999

Council rejects cable franchise proposal

By PEGGY McCRACKEN
Staff Writer
PECOS, May 13, 1999 -- Classic Cable should be required to maintain an office in Pecos, pay a 4 percent franchise fee and agree to a five-year term with option to renew, Pecos City Councilmen agreed this morning.

They authorized City Attorney Scott Johnson to continue negotiations on the franchise agreement, which has expired after 20 years.

Classic had agreed to a 10-year term with a 10-year renewal option, but the council said that, with changing technology, a five-year term would be better.

Although they already maintain a bill-paying office in Pecos, Classic did not agree to include that requirement in the franchise. They offered to provide a toll-free number with technicians available to answer questions from customers.

Classic also seeks authority to change rates without prior council approval.

"We want them to come before the council," said Mayor Dot Stafford.

Johnson said the city retained the approval right several years ago when the National Cable Act was passed.

"I think we need to hold their feet to the fire and press onward with my recommendations," said Johnson.

The council did approve an engineering/survey contract with Frank X. Spencer & Associates for a new water well in the Worsham Field at $17,800.

Spencer, his surveyor, Tony Trujillo, and engineer Abidur Khan explained the charges, which the council had previously questioned as too high.

Trujillo said that much surveying had to be done to ensure that the new well is 150 feet from the property line, as required by the Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission.

Khan said that they also had to locate a lot of abandoned wells in the area so they can be plugged.

"We have to make sure we are not too close to any abandoned well," he said.

One well that is close to the proposed drilling site is capped, but it must be plugged with concrete and bentonite, Khan said. And a fence is required around each well to keep out intruders.

Engineers also located the best place to run a water line to tie the new well into the existing line and recommended the pipe size, he said. City crews can lay the line.

West Texas Water Well Service of Odessa was the only bidder for drilling the well, and the council accepted their $76,286.25 bid.

Spencer said that the engineering plan calls for $8,300 for surface casing and $1,550 to plug the hole in case they do not find water. Both these are options that may be cut from the contract total if they are not needed.

Dan Painter's six-month audit report showed city finances in good order.

Steve McCormick reported the city sold all the vehicles up for auction, taking in about $6,000. Some of the money will go to the police department for seized vehicles, but the remainder will go to the general fund.

Councilman Randy Graham voted on the first few agenda items, then Mayor Stafford administered the oath of office to newly-elected councilmen Larry Levario, Gerald Tellez Jr. and Johnny Terrazas. Tellez and Terrazas were re-elected without opposition. Graham did not seek re-election, and Levario was the only candidate for that seat.

Armando Hinojos and Pasqual Olivas were present regarding sale of tax-foreclosed property.

Hinojos said he and his brother bought the old Mesquite Lounge and laundromat, then discovered that part of the building is on someone else's property.

Johnson said that if the city made a mistake, a corrected deed can be prepared. If not, Hinojos would have to deal with the other property owner.

Olivas is interested in buying property now instead of waiting for the annual tax sale held by all local taxing entities.

Lydia Prieto, tax assessor-collector for the school district, said the practice in the past was to provide a list of foreclosed properties and to allow bidders to approach each entity at any time. Now they are required to submit a bid at the annual sale.

"I would rather go back to the old way; whenever they are ready," said Councilman Danny Rodriguez.

"Why couldn't we do both?" asked Councilman Ricky Herrera.

Johnson said that both would be appropriate. He suggested that tax attorney Rusty McIntuff be invited to the next meeting to discuss the matter.

Prieto was re-appointed to serve on the tax re-sale committee.

The council approved the employee health plan, which allows individuals to choose what policies they want, such as disability or cancer coverage.

"Everybody is pretty well satisfied," said finance director Steve McCormick. "it is amazing how many sign up for the different things."

Levario asked that the airport grant from the Texas Department of Transportation be placed on the next agenda. He said there is $3,000 left in the grant that the city may want to utilize by paying a like amount.

Terrazas asked that the council establish a hazardous cargo route, and Tellez suggested an update on Envirocare of Texas be included on the next agenda. The company is seeking to put a low-level radioactive waste storage area in north central Ward County, north of the city's Ward County water field.

"We don't want them near our water fields with above-ground waste," he said. "I think it would be a foot in the door."

Firemen protest altering fire chief requirements

By PEGGY McCRACKEN
Staff Writer
PECOS, May 13, 1999 -- Firemen attending today's Pecos City Council meeting objected to a proposed ordinance that would require the fire chief to hold basic certification through the Texas Commission on Fire Protection.

Assistant Chief Lynn Foster also objected to the provision that officers would be elected for two-year terms and that captains of each company be elected instead of appointed by the chief.

Chief Roy Pena said that 95 percent of the volunteer firemen are opposed to the amendment.

"My personal opinion, if it stays the way it was, we don't have to pay $70,000 to build a training facility to go with the commission," Pena said.

Pena said the department is a member of the Texas Fire Marshal's association. Their advanced certification is equal to the Texas Commission on Fire Protection's basic certification, he said.

"I want to know how all this started so we can work something out," he said.

City Attorney Scott Johnson said that if the department is truly volunteer, the state commission on fire protection does not regulate it.

"They get pretty upset if we try to fudge on that; if we have a full-time fire chief and try to say he is volunteer," he said. "I explained that our chief has a full-time job, so we are o.k. with the state."

No matter what certification the chief and other firemen have, if something goes wrong, there is no guarantee the city has no liability, he said.

"We need the most training for all our firemen that we can afford. I am not going to say that, just because you have certification from the state commission, you will have less liability."

Councilman Johnny Terrazas said the council wants to keep the volunteer designation so commission certification is not required.

Pena said that if a volunteer is paid $5,612 a year he is automatically considered a paid fireman.

"I would like to keep it the way it has been. Let the chief stay under that minimum," he said.

Foster said that he has been safety and training officer, and the biggest problem is the big turnover in the department.

"It is hard to teach advanced hours up here when you have new guys coming in that need to know what a fire hose is," he said.

Training takes a lot of personal time and money that many firemen don't have, Foster said. Besides local classes, they take courses at Odessa College and at Texas A&M.

To keep his training certification, Foster has to attend a three-hour workshop every other year to keep up with the program.

He said that several firemen have completed requirements for basic certification through the fire marshal's association, but due to a backlog in processing applications, they have not received a certificate.

Pena said that he plans to arrange for local training by the state fire marshal's office, who has offered to send an instructor at no charge.

"We can get all the training we want out of the fire marshal's association," said Pena.

In response to a fireman's request that the department take care of its own business, Mayor Dot Stafford said the council is responsible.

"You are paid from the city. We have to be careful how it is disbursed," she said.

Foster said he has a problem with the two-year elected term because the department may learn after a few months that an officer is not performing.

"There's no provision to get rid of them," he said. "There's benefits both ways. We have done it one year forever. We had one chief elected 28 years in a row."

Leo Elliott said that the department should follow state law and require the chief to be certified by the state commission.

"It has gotten out of volunteerism because you have to pay them to come to fires and to meetings," he said.

Councilman Gerald Tellez Jr. made a motion that firemen draw up their own rough draft of an ordinance and present it to the council at the next meeting. With a second by Johnny Terrazas, the motion passed unanimously.

Search of site nets marijuana kept in bunker

By PEGGY McCRACKEN
Staff Writer
PECOS, May 13, 1999 -- Continuing an investigation into a major drug-smuggling operation, Pecos Police and Reeves County Sheriff's deputies seized about 150 pounds of marijuana Wednesday.

Narcotics investigator Paul Deishler said the marijuana cache was located in an underground bunker one-half mile northwest of Pecos. The bunker is almost identical to one where officers found 720 pounds of marijuana on April 25.

Ramon and Diane Juarez of 1122 S. Elm St. own the fenced property, Deishler said.

"The marijuana is currently being stored at the Pecos Police Department, and arrests will be forthcoming," said Deishler.

Deputy Ernest Lazcano said this morning that officers believe the same group is responsible for both caches of marijuana.

Also, Lazcano filed notice of seizure and intent to forfeit five weapons and $1,000 in cash seized in connection with the April 25 search. The weapons and cash were found in ostrich pens on Rancho Road.

Included are an AR-15 assault rifle with six clips and one box of .223 ammunition, with a black case; a 12-gauge shotgun with gray case; a 20-gauge shotgun, a Thompson .50 caliber rifle and a Marlin .22 rifle with one clip and 9mm ammunition.

Evaristo Guerrero, 1002 S. Elm St., was notified of the seizure, said District Attorney Randy Reynolds in the notice filed in 143rd District Court.

Lazcano said arrests are pending from the first seizure, and "We will keep investigating and will decide who else to charge."

Test of tornado sirens finds repairs needed

By PEGGY McCRACKEN
Staff Writer
PECOS, May 13, 1999 -- Warning sirens sounding in Pecos at mid-morning Tuesday startled many residents who didn't know it was just a test.

Emergency Management Coordinator Armando Gil conducted the test to determine if all three sirens were working. One wasn't, and it is being repaired.

Sirens are located downtown, at Pecos High School and at Pecos Municipal Airport. The one at the airport malfunctioned during an earlier test, was repaired, and was tested again. It failed the second test as well.

Gil said that the sirens will be sounded whenever a tornado is spotted heading for Pecos, and residents should take cover.

The test were done two weeks after tornadoes killed over 40 people in the Oklahoma City area. It was the highest death toll in a single area of the United States since 30 people were killed in May, 1987 when a tornado struck Saragosa in southern Reeves County.

Norma Bartlett, her daughter and four pets rode out the Del City, Okla. tornado in a safe room built inside their house. Their neighborhood was completely destroyed and a nearby neighbor was killed during the storm.

James Lee Witt, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is urging residents of tornado-prone areas to build a safe room in their homes to provide protection from tornadoes, hurricanes and other extreme wind hazards.

"The deaths and devastation caused by the tornadoes that hit Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas just last week was heartbreaking," Witt said. "While we can't stop tornadoes, we can build secure, easily accessible rooms in homes that can keep families safe from harm."

The Bartlett safe room is a cast-in-place concrete room that serves as a roomy closet, costing between $3,000 and $4,000. Some safe rooms can be built for as little as $2,000, depending on the size and location of the room. Construction costs can very from one geographic area to another. Safe rooms can be built above ground or below, within a home or attached to one. Some are built of reinforced concrete and some are built with wood-and-steel walls anchored to concrete slab foundations or floors.

The Bartlett's safe was built to design standards developed and published in a 25-page, illustrated FEMA publication, Taking Shelter from the Storm: Building a Safe Room Inside Your House, which outlines the basics of in-house safe room shelter design, including construction plans, materials and construction cost estimates. Safe rooms built to these specifications are designed to provide protection from the forces of extreme winds as high as 250 miles-per-hour and the impact of flying debris.

FEMA developed the plan in collaboration with the Wind Engineering Research Center of Texas Tech University in Lubbock. The safe room designs draw on 25 years of field research, including studies of the performance of buildings following dozens of tornadoes throughout the United States and laboratory testing on the performance of building materials and systems when impacted by airborne debris.

Tax rebates jump for Pecos, Toyah

PECOS, May 13, 1999 -- Sales in Pecos during March were up compaired to the same period in 1998, based on sales tax collection figures from State Comptroller Carole Keeton Rylander's office.

But the city's jump was nothing like the increase reported for Toyah, which got a check back from Austin this week that was 735 percent higher than a year ago.

Rylander's office sent tax rebate checks totalling $245.4 million to Texas cities and counties this week, based on collections made during March. That total was up 12.75 percent from a year ago, though overall, the Permian Basin continued to lag behind the rest of the state, due in part to the slump in oil prices during 1998 and early 1999.

Pecos showed an above average gain in it's check, which jumped 14.45 percent, from $72,424 to $84,528. However, for the first five months of the year as a whole, the city has gotten $333,348 back from Rylander's office for its 1 1/2 cent share of the state's 8 1/4 cent sales tax, just 2.67 percent above a year ago.

Meanwhile, Toyah got back a check worth $4,649 from the comptroller this month. Part of that gain was due to a 1/2 cent increase in the city's sales tax in the past 14 months, but the total was still far above the $567 total Toyah got as its tax rebate check 12 months ago.

While Pecos and Toyah's checks were bigger, Balmorhea saw it's total go in the other direction, falling by 57 percent from last year. The city received $503 from the comptroller in May, compared with $1,174 last year.

Alpine, Fort Stockton and Presidio were among the other area cities reporting gains in their tax rebate checks, as did Odessa, though it's 14.45 percent rise was due to a 25 percent hike in the local sales tax.

In Midland, where the tax rate remained at 1 cent, the rebate check was up just 1.39 percent, while Monahans, Crane, Kermit and Andrews all got back smaller rebate checks from Austin than in May of last year.

The Reeves County Hospital District, which collects a half-cent sales tax, got back $30,139 this month, Rylander's office reported. That's a 17.68 percent increase over last May's $25,609 check, and for the year, the hospital's tax rebates total $83,218, up 3.74 percent.

Growth in non oil-related industries in Texas continued to boost the state's economy, with just over $1 billion in sales tax funds rebated to cities and counties during the first five months of the year, 9.26 percent higher than in 1998. Houston again received the largest single check, totalling $33.4 million, a 10.52 percent increase, while Dallas' check for $21 million was 14.92 percent higher than last year.

Museum hosting BBQ fundraiser for lunch Friday

The West of the Pecos Museum, First and Cedar streets, will be having their Annual Barbecue Fundraiser on Friday from 11:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m.

Delicious barbecue and all the fixings, including drink and dessert will be served.

The barbecue is sponsored by First National Bank of Pecos.

Pep rally tonight for baseball team

A pep rally for the Pecos Eagles' baseball team has been scheduled for 7 p.m. tonight at the new Pecos High School gym. The Eagles will face the Plainview Bulldogs at 5 p.m. on Friday and 1 p.m. Saturday in Big Spring in the area round of the Class 4A playoffs.

The game will be at Jack Butler Field, at 11th and Birdwell streets in Big Spring. To get there, take Interstate 20 east to Exit 178 (Business I-20). After the exit ramp loops back west, turn left at the first traffic light, Birdwell Street, and go south, past Howard College and Memorial Stadium, to the baseball field at 11th Street.

Lotto

AUSTIN (AP) Results of the Lotto Texas drawing Wednesday night: Winning numbers drawn: 5-7-24-34-40-45. Estimated jackpot: $4 million. Number matching six of six: 0. Matching five of six: 69. Prize: $1,485. Matching four of six: 3,548. Prize: $104.

***

AUSTIN (AP) The winning Pick 3 numbers drawn Wednesday by the Texas Lottery, in order: 1-8-8 (one, eight, eight)

Weather

PECOS, May 13, 1999 -- High Wednesday 86; low last night 53. Tonight, fair. Low in the lower 60s. South to southeast wind 10-20 mph. Friday, mostly sunny and warm. High in the mid 90s. South to southwest wind 15-25 mph.



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