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Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Friday, January 27, 2006

Toyah closer to replacing flood-damaged homes

The first foundations were poured this week for 13 new homes in Toyah, and mayor Sandy Terry is hoping that as many as five additional homes can be construction from the federal grant this city received as the result of the April 2004 flood.

“We want to thank everyone for all of your help, for all of your prayers and for all you’ve done for the city of Toyah,” Mayor Sandy Terry said during Tuesday morning’s gathering to mark the start of construction on the $50,000 homes.

Terry also thanked Congressman Henry Bonilla and State Sen. Frank Madla for their help in getting the homes funded. The project was helped by the designation of the city as a colonias last year, at the request of Reeves County Commissioners.

There will be nothing fancy about the new homes, but Terry said getting the Housing and Urban Development-sponsored project going after several delays is still a major step forwards for the city.

“For people who haven’t lived here and don’t know, this is good,” said Terry.

Toyah homes were damaged when a 61-year-old levee on the northwest side of the city broke in the early morning hours of April 4, 2004, causing water to flood the small community. A number of homes were condemned and torn down due to the flood damage, and the floodwaters were later cited as a contributing cause of the June 2004 collapse of the old Toyah State Bank building.

Ameriway Construction of Fort Stockton is building the new homes, which will be three bedroom, one-bathroom structures, according to Manuel Moreirz, project manager for the company.

Company president Jerry Reiner said two foundations were poured on Tuesday, and that all families should be in their new homes by the spring.

“We’re shooting for about six weeks to get them all starters, and it should be done in about three months,” Moreirz said.

He said the company has met with members of all the families getting new homes about the buildings, but added government requirements limit any changes from house to house in the 964-square foot structures. Between 25 and 30 people are expected to be working on the homes.

“They have standards. They do make selections on colors, but as far as design, they’re all done the same way,” Moreirz said. The homes will include standard appliances such as ovens and refrigerators, he added.

“We’ve had two families who have been completely displaced since April 4,” Terry said, while other homes have remained occupied, despite the damage from the flood.

“Some should have been totaled, but they had no place to live,” Terry said. “The Campos home had four feet of water inside, but they had to come back in and live.”

Loretta and Ramona Campos will be among those moving into a new home. “It’s about an 80-year-old home,” Loretta Campos said. “My sister will be 81 in February, and she was born and raised there.

“We’re sad to be leaving our home, but we’ve lived in Toyah all our lives and are very grateful to be getting this, because you couldn’t repair the other one,” she added.

“The worst was the floors warping, and now they’re really warping,” said Ramona Campos. “When you walk on them, you feel like you’re drunk.”

She thanked the people of Toyah for helping them out over the past 20 months since the flood, and also thanked Terry for her work in getting funds for the new homes.

“The people did it, and now we’re finally building the homes,” Terry said.

She added that while 13 homes are due to be built, because the HUD grant was for $1 million, “We hope we’ll be able to build four or five more homes before it’s over.”

Work on the homes was delayed for several months due to a dispute between Lane DeWitt, a Santa Fe, N.M. resident who purchased the old Toyah school and gym eight years ago, and Toyah resident Elpidia Valdez. The Toyah grant received from the government were for construction of low-income homes, and Terry said DeWitt made accusations about the status of Valdez, as far as qualifying for a home.

“They settled within six weeks as far as the charge being not true, but since he made the accusation to HUD, everybody had to be audited,” Terry said. “In the end, we only had one family who was not qualified because of over-income. We would have liked to have had everyone get a house, but we’re happy to get 13.”

DeWitt said last summer that he was attempting to get the nearly 100-year-old building included on the National Register of Historic Places, and the Texas Historical Commission could make that decision in October. However, Terry said nothing has been done with the building over the last seven months.

“The gym has been condemned due to falling bricks and tin blowing off, and we’ve started fining him,” she said.

Ramona Campos said the last flood prior to April 2004 occurred in 1940. The levee was built three years later by Texas Pacific Railroad to protect its line through Toyah. The line is now owned by Union Pacific Railroad, which said following the 2004 flood that Reeves County was responsible for maintenance of the levee along San Martin Draw.

However, Terry said after writing to the railroad last month telling them there were no local funds to do the repairs, the company indicated it might be willing to do the work. “Their lawyer called yesterday (Monday) and said if we could send an estimate it’s entirely possible that they will be able to rebuild it. So things are looking up for Toyah,” Terry said.

Hospital weighs home care’s fate, EMT fund boost

Reeves County Hospital District board members put off a final decision on continuing support of primary home care services,, and supported talks with Loving County into funding for EMS ambulance services for the county from Pecos, during their regular monthly meeting on Tuesday night in the hospital’s classroom.

Board members voted in December to end the hospital’s home health care operation, but held open the possibility of renewing the nursing license, in order to handle primary home care services out of the hospital. March 1 is the deadline for filing the $900 fee for a new license, and board members were briefed on the program by hospital administrator Bill Conder and chief financial officer Frank Seals.

“Technically, the personal care is not related to home heath care. It’s services the state provides to low-income clients,” Seals said. They include home nursing care for help with things such as bathing and preparing meals.

Currently there are 17 nurses involved part-time with the program. Seals said collections in 2005 totaled $120,712, while salary and retirement payouts were $93,630. However, he said due to other administrative costs, maintaining the program in 2006 would result in a $16,000 net loss for the hospital.

The board was told it would take about 30 days to prepare an application, which was why the item was on Tuesday’s agenda. But members decided to study the matter until the next meeting, which was moved up a week to Feb. 21. The also told hospital officials to fill out the license form, which can then be sent out on Feb. 22 if the board decides to renew the license.

Seals said keeping the service would have a negative impact on the cost report for the hospital’s critical access study, though not as much as the hospital’s new dialysis center, Conder told the board during his administrator’s report.

The hospital has received a grant for a feasibility study on designation as a critical access center, in relation to what the federal government’s Medicare Advantage program would do to the district. The program allowed private insurance companies to offer plans through the government’s Medicare system in rural areas.

Conder said because the dialysis center is not cost-based reimbursed, it would cut the positive aspect of the hospital’s critical access study in half. He added that the company doing the study would also offer the hospital a way of reducing that problem before any application is submitted.

Reeves County Hospital’s director of nursing Phyllis Muennink updated the hospital on the status of the Emergency Medical Service operations, which are funded by the hospital and the Town of Pecos City. She said the service is currently short of attendants, and that a course will start on Feb. 1 to train new EMTs, with financial aide available.

“The EMTs who run for the city are paid a flat rate. It’s not much, but those people are very dedicated,” she said.

Muennink added that due to the shortage of volunteers, the requirement for attending EMS meetings has been reduced from weekly to three meetings a month.

She said an audit of the EMS books showed the group has just under $5,900 in its account. Through both support from the city and hospital district and collections from ambulance service calls, which are up sharply in the past five years.

Muennink did note that while Ward County pays the EMT service $3,000 a year to handle ambulance calls in the Barstow area of Ward County, the service receives no funds for calls to any other surrounding counties.

“The problem now they want to discuss with Loving County is we’ve been making quite a few calls to Loving County,” she said. “Both Pecos and Kermit EMS take calls from Loving County, but at present the EMS from Kermit receives funds too cover Loving County and Reeves County is receiving none.”

She said the money paid by Loving County to Kermit EMS come from funds received by the state through the tobacco company settlement in the late 1990s. “Kermit doesn’t want to make some of those runs, so we’re seeing if we can try and split it,” Muennink told the board.

She said that with Pecos County and Culberson County, the local EMS has unsigned agreements to help each other out on incidents across the county lines, with no money being transferred in either direction.

Board members approved lease of an 80-acre tract in Ward County for drilling. The hospital has a 3/16 share of the mineral rights to the tract, and Conder said the deal would net the district about $860. Board members also agreed to advertise a second lease, after receiving an offer for drilling rights on the property.

“It goes into the scholarship fund and the education fund to pay for people going to school,” Conder said. The funds are used for hospital-related scholarships, as a way of recruiting personnel to work at RCH.

“The last I checked we’ve got about $78,000 in the account, and we want to keep it solid,” he said.

Kermit, Pecos teens arrested after theft

A Pecos juvenile and a Kermit man were arrested on Tuesday afternoon, after the two stole a vehicle from Pyote and ended up in Pecos.

The incident started when a 911 call was made to the Ward County Sheriff’s Department in regard to two male subjects that were parked across the street from the Lilly Bates home in Pyote.

Bates told officers that two male subjects parked across the street from her residence in a blue car. The two requested to borrow a tire jack and tools to change a flat and when she went inside she left her keys in the vehicle and the two men took off in both vehicles.

“One male subject was occupying the Corsica and the other one was occupying the blue car,” said Ward County Deputy Steve Crawford.

He said that Bates also stated that she had a pistol in the console between the two front seats and a wheel chair carrier on the back.

Ward County then advised Reeves County, Winkler and Pecos Counties.

“When we got to Pyote they (Pecos) said they had it in Pecos,” said Crawford.

Reeves County Trans Pecos Task Force Commander Gary Richards said that Deputy Christina Winfrey told him that a stolen vehicle was possibly headed through Ward County towards Pecos.

“The vehicle was described as a white 1995 Chevrolet Cavalier 4-door, driven by a male subject, possibly armed with a pistol,” said Richards.

Richards said that a second vehicle was also thought to be involved. It was described as a blue 1997 Mercury 4-door with a “donut” tire on one of the wheels.

“At 4:56 p.m., I observed both vehicles westbound on Highway 80 near Collie Road,” said Richards. “Me and Pecos Police Department Officer Oscar Machuca followed the two vehicles into the city limits of Pecos.”

Both vehicles turned onto Second Street, proceeding west, and then turned onto Almond Street, southbound.

“Both vehicles were stopped by myself and Officer Machuca in the 200 block of Almond Street,” said Richards.

Two suspects were taken into custody.

The 15-year-old juvenile, of Pecos, was driving the white 1995 Chevrolet Cavalier 4-door and the 17-year-old, Christopher James Perkins, of Kermit, was driving the blue Mercury. “A .38 caliber pistol was recovered from the glove box of the Cavalier,” said Richards.

Ward County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy John Stuessy was contacted.

“Deputy Stuessy advised us to hold both suspects for unauthorized use of a motor vehicle,” said Richards. “The 15-year-old was taken to the Reeves County Detention Center and Perkins was taken to the Reeves County Jail.”

Perkins was arraigned and bond was set at $20,000 and held for Ward County Sheriff’s Office.

The Cavalier was released to its owner, Willie Bates of Pyote.

The blue Mercury was impounded with Hector’s Wrecker Service.

Hill seeks new 4-year term as Precinct 2 commissioner

A former postal employee who has already served one term on the Reeves County Commissioners Court is seeking re-election to his position as Precinct 2 commissioner in the March 7 Democratic Party primary.

Norman Hill has lived in Pecos since 1948 and worked for the postal service for 40 years before retiring in 2001. He was elected as Precinct 2 commissioner the following year.

Alvesia “Tita” Tarin and Gabriel Martinez are challenging Hill in the March 7 primary.

“I am not going to attempt to gain your support through promises or detail accomplishments during my last term,” said Hill. “As you know, one individual can take credit for any accomplishments that have derived from decisions made during Commissioner’s Court.”

Nor, should one individual be held responsible for decisions that have adversely affected Reeves County, according to Hill.

“One should also remember that the success or failure of Reeves County is not solely based on the stability of the Reeves County Detention Center,” said Hill. “The prison is one of the most successful employment resources in our county and our current focus is to ensure continued prosperous relations with the Bureau of Prisons, which includes negotiating a contract with the BOP for RCDC 3,” he said.

“However, we cannot base our success or failure on these issues alone. There are greater qualities to consider when evaluating our success,” said Hill. “The qualities can be summed up by the terms morality, honesty and integrity. As I previously stated, I have not accomplished anything as an individual during my last term.”

“But, I have maintained my moral standing and I have based my moral standing and I have based my decisions on these qualities,” said Hill.

“Therefore, I ask you to vote for the following during the upcoming elections, good moral standing, honesty and integrity,” said Hill.

Hill is married to Dorothy and the couple have six children altogether: Debbie Riley, Craig Hill, Conda Zimdars, Gary Hill, Jamie Luckett and Ronnie Pearrow.

Workshop to aid rural business scheduled

Rural business workshops will be held in February in Pecos and Wink, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Susan Combs announced last week.

The Texas Department of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Texas Cooperative Extension and the Big Bend Region Minority and Small Business Development will be sponsoring the workshops, which are scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 9 at 8:30 a.m. at the Reeves County Civic Center in Pecos, and the following day at the same time in the Wink Community Center.

The workshops, entitled Big Opportunities in Rural Texas, will provide entrepreneurs, business owners, ranchers, business professionals and the community an opportunity to learn about rural business development, tourism business development, e-commerce and marketing.

“Operating a business has many challenges and rural business management can be extremely challenging,” Combs said. “These workshops can help folks identify resources they can use to help their businesses become more successful.”

The morning workshop will feature Dr. Grey Clary, economist for Texas Cooperative Extension and president of the Texas Center for Rural Entrepreneurship. The center is a collaborative effort for create, grow or retain jobs and wealth in rural Texas by connecting entrepreneurs and communities with capital, management and leadership resources.

Registration for the workshop is free. To register, call either Jana Hunter at (432) 837-8694 or TDA Rural and Agribusiness Development Specialist Jack Stallings at (915) 859-3942.

Farmers get info on growing, protecting forage

Area farmers and ranchers were given information about the best forage crops to grow and the best ways to keep pests off their crops, during a workshop event held on Jan. 18 at the Texas Agriculture Experiment Station west of Pecos.

Extension Agronomist Calvin Trostle of Texas A&M’s Lubbock Experiment Station discussed test results on forage crops in the Trans-Pecos region, while Mark Muegge, Extension Entomologist from A&M’s Fort Stockton office, discussed both chemical and non-chemical means of controlling aphids and grasshoppers that threaten local crops.

Trostle discussed the balance between the high yields the farmers want out of their forage crops, versus the high protein content local dairy farmers and other buyers want from the same crop, which declines as the total yield increases.

He said rye was the most cold tolerant of the small grains, and also grows well in poor soil, while spring oats are used in the High Plains on lands where pasture conditions are poor or more cattle than expected are on the land, but the seed cost is high and local farmers told Trostle they had to use about 20 percent more seeds per acre, possibly due to the high salt content in the soil. He also said buying cheaper seeds will also end up hurting forage quality.

Trostle discussed the difference in cutting at the boot stage, mid-head stage and the soft dough stage for the crop. “The longer you wait (to cut), the tonnage goes up but the quality goes down,” he said, noting that a late cutting could produce about a 50 percent larger yield, but with 50 percent less protein.

“Where’s the happy medium here,” Trostle said. “The thing is what are you going to use the hay for? Don’t waste boot stage quality forage on (beef) cows, but a dairy needs that level of protein.”

On the other side, he told those buying the forage to check closely at what type of cut they’re getting so they won’t pay too much for low-protein hay. “I can get away with selling low-quality forage is people are not smart about this,” Trostle said.

Later in the discussion, Trostle talked about salt tolerance tests on forage crops, and said that low fall dormancy rated alfalfa should give the highest quality yields, but added “Breeding is more important than fall dormancy,” and that older seed varieties tend to be less salt tolerant and produce lower yields.

Muegge’s talk focuses on weevils and aphids, but also discussed grasshopper infestation of forage, and said early control is best, instead of waiting until the problem is already noticeable. He added that the insect is more likely to lay its eggs in the rangeland around a field, as opposed to the field itself.

“You have more options to control them with a variety of insecticides before they get into the alfalfa,” he said. “You’ve got to get them while they’re immature, before they get wings.”

Weevils and aphids have become more of a problem in recent years, Muegge said, and showed images of the various insects found in the Trans-Pecos area. He said those pests lay eggs in the stems of the alfalfa in the fall, winter and spring, and that first and second cuts are at the highest risk of infestation.

Management options included making sure the first cutting is as close to the ground as possible, and fall grazing on the land to remove fall and winter laid eggs.

Muegge said four types of aphids are threats to crops, with the pea aphid the most common, and the cowpea aphid in fairly high numbers in the Fort Stockton area. Their main time is from late February to early April, and the aphids can feed and give birth at the same time, causing plants to wilt and yellow.

Control options included the introduction of lady beetles into fields to control the aphids. Muegge said one adult lady beetle could control 5-10 aphids per stem, or 3 or more beetle larvae per 40 aphids on stem, or one or more larvae per 50 aphids on crop stubble.

Parasite wasps also were listed as a non-chemical option for aphid control.

Muegge said cutworms have been a problem in the Dell City area. “They’re extremely difficult to control,” he said, while advising late day insecticide spraying to control the insect.

“It may take more than one application. These guys are really difficult to control,” he added.

Local poet wins award in China contest

Local citizen and poet Robert Ornelas had the opportunity to travel to Tai An, Shandong Province People Republic of China from Oct. 29 through Nov. 2, for the 2005 International Taishan Congress of cultures and the 19th World Congress of Poets.

Ornelas competed at the 2nd Annual United United Poet Laureate International and placed third among 400 participants from as many as 20 countries.

Ornelas, who has been competing for the past five years, said a third place in an international event is not bad considering he had not expectations of placing.

“This event was history in the making,” said Ornelas. “Never in China’s 5000 year History has the government of the People’s Republic of China put on an event such as this, where poets from around the world meet to advocate peace in a none political setting,” he said.

“And having been part of this history making event, is something that I’ll treasure for the rest of my life. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity for me,” said Ornelas.

Ornelas said he has been competing only five years, having traveled to Reno, Nev. and Orlando, Fla. “I’m always eyeing to compete in Mexico, but never in a million years could I have imagined that my poetry would take me overseas, much less place in a world event,” said Ornelas.

Ornelas started writing poetry at age 13 in lyrical form. “While in China we were treated to live theater, music and dance, opera and acrobatics, poem reciting and China’s Poet Laureate was named,” said Ornelas.

“High ranking dignitaries of the Chinese government were present during this magnificent event and was televised nationally,” said Ornelas.

Ornelas competed in Reno, Nev., on Labor Day weekend Sept. 3-5, 2005 and has been awarded the Prometheus Muse of Fire Trophy for the year 2001 and several Shakespeare Trophy of Excellence from Famous Poet Society, including Poet of the Year medallions for the year 2001, 2003, 2005, an Editor’s Choice award 2005 from International Library of Poetry for a poem entitled, “RIP Friend” and of course a citation and medallion from World Congress of Poets 2005 United Poet Laureate International (China).

Museum offers free admission Saturdays

The West of the Pecos Museum will once again be having Free Saturdays offered to residents of Reeves County and the City of Barstow.

This program was popular last year and the museum hopes this year will be no different. If you have not been to the museum in a while or have never been, this is the perfect opportunity to do so.

This program will be from January through May 2006.

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324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
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