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Thursday, June 24, 1999

OC seeking personnel for Pecos campus

By PEGGY McCRACKEN
Staff Writer

PECOS, June 24, 1999--Odessa College is accepting applications for a Pecos Community College Center director, said Ned Pilcher, dean of arts, humanities and distance education.

Pilcher, Dr. Miles Eckert and Robert Munoz attended the regular Pecos City Council meeting this morning to update the council on progress of the OC center to be located in the old White's building on Eddy Street.

OC has registered the deed to the building and has plans drawn up for renovation, said Eckert, who has worked since 1973 to bring college courses to Pecos.

"We started out doing extension work in an elementary school, then in Pyote," Eckert Said. "Three or four years ago, civic leaders invited us over and we found you were much in favor of having a center similar to Fort Stockton's. We have been working in that direction."

Classes will start even before the building is ready, Pilcher said. He gave the council a list of courses that will be offered for the fall semester, utilizing space provided by the school district.

Pilcher said interviews for a center director will begin July 1, and OC hopes to have one hired by July 15 so he can aid students to obtain financial aid of between $5,000 and $7,000 per semester.

"It is very necessary for the director to have some knowledge of financial aid," said Eckert. "If you have 200-300 people (the aid) will be over $1 million coming into this city. You see how a college can impact your community, not only in education, but also economically."

Andrews and Monahans are watching progress of the Pecos center, which they will use as a model for their own campuses, Eckert said.

The Pyote campus will be open one more year, then it will be closed.

Courses scheduled to be taught in Pecos this fall include art appreciation, business management leadership, child guidance, introduction to computer systems, composition and rhetoric, basic English, intermediate algebra, music appreciation, information processing, jogging and walking, and introduction to psychology.

All are evening classes.

Pilcher said that academic courses in English, speech, biology and orientation will be added to allow students to complete an associate's degree.

Certificate courses will include culinary, automotive, cosmology, business management, office skills, child development and criminal justice. These courses do not require a college-entrance exam.

Instructional television courses will be available by videotape in accounting, biology, business management and law, child development, English, government, history, math, psychology and sociology.

Business management, English, government, history, math, photography, psychology and sociology are available through Internet-based courses. Computers will be available on campus for students who do not have Internet access.

Continuing education courses will also be offered to support business and industry here.

"With the technology lab space we have, we can offer specialized training," said Eckert.

Gari Ward, executive director for the Pecos Economic Development Corporation, said he is working with two companies that might utilize that training.

Pilcher said that one-third of the White's building will be used for technology training, and that can be cleared out and put in use immediately.

Eckert said the center takes a lot of planning.

"This director has to have the support of the community. Encourage your friends and relatives to get to know him and let him help them fill out the forms for financial aid.

"You will be on the road to new horizons in Pecos that you have never been before," he said.

Robert Munoz, who has been doing training in Pecos since 1991, said that he is ready to offer training to industry.

"We feel this is a win-win situation, something we have been looking for," said Councilman Ricky Herrera. "Odessa College has gotten an influx of students from our mine closing down the end of this month, so there will be some more coming in. It is certainly going to benefit the community and the citizens."

Project funds, sewer fee hike OKed


By PEGGY McCRACKEN
Staff Writer

PECOS, June 24, 1999--Money: where to get it and how to spend it, consumed much of the Pecos City Council's three-hour meeting this morning.

They approved on second reading an ordinance raising sewer rates to ease the financial strain a little, then reluctantly went on a spending spree.

Airport rehabilitation will cost the city $170,000 of the $1.7 million total project cost. A grant from the Texas Department of Transportation is to fund the remainder.

City Manager Kenneth Neal said the payment probably won't be due until 2001, and then the full amount may not be required.

Improvements include rehabilitating runways, aprons, taxiways, signs, and drainage.

"It is in really good shape, but needs some repairs," Neal said. Work is to be done by TxDOT.

Participation in the Texas Water Development Board's Region F cost the city $2,050, to be paid in two installments.

Precinct 3 Commissioner Herman Tarin said that Reeves County paid the first installment in February and was asking Pecos, Balmorhea and the Madera Valley Water Supply Corp. to pay them back for a pro-rata share of the cost.

The council approved payment of $1,025, with the additional $1,025 to be paid in February, 2000.

"Being a paid-up member of Region F is pretty important," said finance director Steve McCormick. "In the future they could stop us from doing some things we want to do."

Where to get $8,100 cash for track rehabilitation at Pecos High School - and whether to pay it - caused the most controversy.

The council had agreed to provide equipment and labor to remove the old track surface and haul material for the new surface from Hoban. But they had not expected any cash outlay.

Councilman Danny Rodriguez said that the addition of long jump and pole vault pits to the project, along with engineering costs to ensure proper drainage, pushed the total cost over what school trustees had approved.

"It will be a community project," said Rodriguez, who noted that citizens use the track day and night for exercise.

Mayor Dot Stafford asked what budget line item the $8,100 payment could be charged to.

McCormick suggested using contingency funds, which has a $30,000 balance.

Stafford objected, saying those funds are set aside for emergencies.

Johnny Terrazas' motion to approve the payment and amend the interlocal agreement passed with opposition.

"I agree we need to go ahead with this, but we need to be careful in the future, with the airport matching cost," said Ricky Herrera.

The next expenditure approved is $6,000 for the second step in re-opening the landfill for construction debris and tree limbs.

Roy Knowles of Charter Waste Management said the first $9,000 paid for monitoring wells that proved the landfill is not contaminating underground water.

Now it will cost $6,000 to submit the paperwork to the Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission for approval, he said.

Once it is approved, the next step will be to spend $10,000 in engineering fees to design a new trench, he said.

The Type IV landfill will save the city money in the long run and will benefit the community, and rural residents could be charged a fee to dump there, he said.

Another agenda item that would cost money was tabled until the July 8 meeting.

Cynthia Quintana had asked the city to install a street light in the 1900 block of Missouri Street.

She said that street lights at each end of the block fail to light the street.

Neal said that he was unable to locate a place where a utility pole could be installed.

Mike Hall said that many children are on the street at night, and a registered sex offender lives just two blocks away.

"That's the major concern; the kids' safety," he said.

Mayor Stafford suggested residents install a night light on their property.

City Attorney Scott Johnson suggested the council look at the area at night before making a decision.

Also tabled was a discussion on the East Side Civic Center, since those who requested action were unable to be present.

Councilmen declined a request for city crews to install and remove rodeo flags purchased by local businesses because they are on private property.

Five persons die in Pecos County accidents

From Staff and Wire Reports

Four persons were killed and three others injured in an accident about 9:15 a.m. Wednesday on Interstate 10 between Balmorhea and Fort Stockton.

It was one of two fatal accidents to occur in Pecos County over a 24-hour period. One person was killed early this morning in a car-truck accident on U.S. 285, between Fort Stockton and Sanderson.

All seven of the people injured in Wednesday's accident, lived in El Paso and worked for the El Paso branch of the state Mental Health and Mental Retardation Department, officials said.

Fernando Fonseca, 40, an orthopedic equipment operator; Juan Carlos Lopez, 27, a therapy technician; Laura Margarita Riddle, 39, an occupational therapist; and Renee Hall Siefert, 46, a therapy technician, were pronounced dead at the scene from head, neck and back injuries.

All were pronounced dead by Justice of the Peace Robert Gonzales of Fort Stockton and taken to Memorial Funeral Home in Fort Stockton. Next of kin have been notified.

Injured were Robert Piseno, 29, a physical therapy assistant, who was reported in stable condition, with multiple contusions; Irasema Camacho, 27, a therapy technician listed in serious condition with multiple fractures and internal injuries; and Irene Rodriguez Carrego, 51, a therapy technician listed in critical condition, with multiple fractures and internal injuries.

The accident occurred just inside the Pecos County line on I-10, 27 miles west of Fort Stockton as Piseno, the driver of the a 1997 Dodge Ram, was eastbound on Interstate 10. He veered off the roadway to the left onto an unimproved shoulder. The driver overcorrected to the left partially exiting the roadway and then to the right getting back on roadway and skidding into center median, overturning several times and ejecting all the passengers.

Ambulances from both Fort Stockton and Balmorhea were called to the scene.

Department of Public Safety Trooper of Fort Stockton Joe Dennett is investigating the accident, as well as the accident this morning south of Fort Stockton. Dennett was still planning to interview the driver of the truck at press time, and a full report on today's fatal crash was unavailable.

Arizona, eastern states deal with drought crisis


By PAUL DAVENPORT
Associated Press Writer

PECOS, June 24, 1999--While rains have been heavier in West Texas this spring than at any time since the early 1990s, areas both to the west and east are in the grip of a drought that is causing problems for farmers and ranchers.

In Arizona, grazing lands are parched from the state's third-driest winter in a century and Gov. Jane Hull declared a statewide drought emergency aimed at gaining tax breaks for struggling ranchers.

Lack of snow last winter and too little rain since then has stunted grazing grass and dried up ponds and other surface water sources, meaning many ranchers have had to haul feed and water to their livestock or take the animals to market early.

It's the same dilemma facing farmers in the East, where a long spell of dry weather has officials and farmers worried about what the rest of the season will bring.

Areas of the Permian Basin, Concho Valley and Texas Panhandle that have seen under an inch of rain during the first few months of the year several times in the mid and late 1990s have been dealing with too much water over the past several weeks. Rain totals in some areas have surpassed five inches, and are threatening to wash out some of the summer and fall crops.

But to the east, parts of the South, Midwest and Northeast are being slowly strangled by a spotty, but tenacious, drought that has been spreading for several months.

In New England, crops are withering in the fields or simply failing to sprout, while firefighters keep an eye out for brush and forest fires. The Southeast is suffering its second-driest spring in a century.

Mrs. Hull's declaration, issued Wednesday, is aimed at helping ranchers qualify for reduced taxes on livestock sales forced by the drought.

Heavy summer rains would be a better solution, said Jeff Menges, whose family has ranches near Clifton and Safford in southeastern Arizona.

"We need the relief right now," said Menges, whose family has already sold 15 percent of its herd. "We didn't get any growth in the spring and winter because it is just too dry. We're hoping that the summer monsoon will just bail us out."

Arizona's winter precipitation this year was the third lowest since 1995, "with an alarming pattern of below normal winter and early spring rain" for much of the state, according to the Eastern Arizona Counties Organization.

Streams have run dry or low in stretches, while lakes have dried up or are at dramatically low levels. Lyman Lake near Springerville is only at 2 percent of capacity, while the state's reservoirs overall are below 50 percent of capacity, the counties organization reported.

Back in the East, farmers from Maine to Georgia are in a similar bind. East Tennessee cattle farmers, with rainfall nearly 4 inches below normal, are selling off stock because their grass is dying.

"If this dry spell continues, pastures dry up and farmers have to feed baled hay to their cows in the summer, we could really run into a hay shortage and problems this winter," said Gary Bates, a University of Tennessee forage specialist.

The weather is a continuation of what many dubbed the "Drought of the Century," which began last summer and caused $700 million in crop damage in Georgia alone.

Parts of Georgia are 11 inches below average rainfall for the year and North Carolina's Piedmont region endured the driest May on record. New England states have had about a third of their usual rainfall for the month.

At Maxwell's Farm in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, manager Bill Bamford is irrigating 90 acres of fruit and vegetables with several farm ponds.

"I have stuff that I planted that hasn't come up yet and stuff that's wilting in the midday heat," he said. "I feel like I'm losing ground, because I can't keep up with the irrigation that needs to be done."

As ever, the dry weather means an increased risk of fires. In New Hampshire, firefighters already have battled more than 1,000 brush and forest fires since late March, compared to the average 495, said Paul Leary, a forest ranger with the Bureau of Fire Prevention.

In Arizona, there are an estimated 155,000 homes at risk from forest fires, the county group's report said, quoting Forest Service estimates.

Deadlines near for Rodeo's three events


PECOS, June 24, 1999--Friday is the final day for local cowboys to enter the Second Annual Team Roping Classic, scheduled for Saturday, July 3 at the West of the Pecos Rodeo.

The roping will be paid on a four steer average Saturday morning. The top 12 teams from the Saturday morning roping, will come back and rope one steer in the Saturday night performance.

The team with the fastest time in the Saturday night performance will win $500 Gift Buckles.

Entries must be postmarked by June 25. For more information and entry blanks call 915-445-4155.

Entries are open for the wild cow milking and wild horse race and Saturday is the last day to register. Sign-up entry fee is $50 per team in this event.

LOTTO

AUSTIN (AP) Results of the Lotto Texas drawing Wednesday night: Winning numbers drawn: 4-10-34-41-42-49. Estimated jackpot: $4 million. Number matching six of six: 0. Matching five of six: 58. Prize: $1,716. Matching four of six: 2,972. Prize: $121.

***

AUSTIN (AP) The winning Pick 3 numbers drawn Wednesday by the Texas Lottery, in order: 2-8-1 (two, eight, one)

WEATHER

PECOS, June 24, 1999--High Wednesday 101. Low this morning 69. Forecast for tonight: fair. Low in the upper 60s. Southeast wind 5-10 mph. Friday, partly cloudy. High in the upper 90s. South wind 5-15 mph.



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