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for Pecos Country of West Texas

Friday, December 15, 2006

Bessie Haynes student rockets take first flights

Staff Writer

Despite a few technical glitches Thursday morning, the first group of rockets made by Bessie Haynes Elementary fifth grade students was shot off on the field between the school and Zavala Middle School, as part of a project that seeks to bring up the school’s science scores on state tests.

Pecos High School teacher Cary Hannsz and members of his astronomy class helped the Bessie Haynes students launch their first group of rockets. “We won’t have time to do all of them today. We’ll come back and do the others later,” he said.

The small rockets were placed on a launch pad using an attached tube that was then slid down over a metal wire connected to the base of the pad. A metal actuator connected to the base of the rocket and to electrical wires were used to launch the rockets, though problems with contacts did cause a few failed launches on Thursday.

“I had my students make model rockets and we are studying rocketry and now we are working with this fifth grade class doing the same project,” Hannsz said last week. The high school class built their rockets and then showed the fifth graders how they did it last week. On Thursday, the students helped place the actuators on the rockets and the rockets on the launching pad.

The elementary students near the pad were all given goggles to wear while the launches took place at the west end of the field, while other students at the east end tried to locate and chase down the rockets as they landed.

“We have to adjust for the wind,” Hannsz said. “We were going to launch at the other end, because the wind was supposed to be out of the east, but it’s changed. It also can be different higher up than it is at ground level.”

At least one rocket traveled all the way to the far east end of the Bessie Haynes campus, while a couple were hard to track when their small chutes failed to deploy after the rocket’s fuel was exhausted.

Bessie Haynes had low TAKS scores in science last year, receiving the rank of unacceptable in the statewide school rankings that were released in August. The rocket launches were devised to help boost students’ interest in science-related projects.

S. Texas votes help Rodriguez to upset Bonilla

Democrat Ciro Rodriguez's victory over seven-term Republican incumbent Henry Bonilla was another blow to Republicans who lost control of Congress five weeks ago. "I think (it was) the trend throughout the country," Rodriguez said after his 54 percent to 46 percent victory in Tuesday's runoff. "I think they're fed up ... they elect us to go out there and solve problems, not create any more."

While Bonilla lost his bid for re-election overall, he took the majority in Reeves County. Bonilla received 476 votes in Reeves County compared to Rodriguez’ 361 votes, according to the Reeves County Clerk’s office.

The difference was a 56-to-43 percent margin. There were no overvotes and three undervotes in the special election, as the votes in Reeves County were counted manually during this election, County Clerk Dianne Florez said.

Among area counties in the 23rd District, Bonilla won Pecos County by a 2-to-1 margin, but Rodriguez caputured Brewster County by a 52-48 percent margin and won in Presidio County by just under a 2-to-1 margin.

Rodriguez had served in Congress from 1997 to 2004, when he was defeated for the Democratic nomination for the 28th District by Henry Cuellar, who had lost to Bonilla in 2006. Rodriguez was defeated by Cuellar again in March in the Democratic primary, but parts of his former district in Bexar County were shifted into the 23rd District prior to November’s special election. Those were the areas where the Democrat ran strongest, along with other South Texas sections of the district that traditionally have voted Democratic.

Rodriguez did well in Bexar, which includes the city of San Antonio, beating Bonilla by a 56 to 44 percent margin. The district’s new lines added Hispanic and Democratic voters from the south side of San Antonio when it was redrawn in August, removing Republican sections on the county’s northwest side.

Rodriguez also dominated in Maverick County, home to the border city of Eagle Pass, while Bonilla did well in rural Uvalde and Medina counties west of San Antonio. The men were almost even in Val Verde County, home to Del Rio and Laughlin Air Force Base.

"No one would have predicted that Rodriguez would win this big," said Gary Keith, a senior lecturer in government at the University of Texas at Austin. "It's going to be read as a further vindication of Democratic strength in November and it may well be. But on the other hand it may be that there was a very strong get-out-the-vote effort."

Encouraging partisan turnout was the refrain for both campaigns. Bexar County, the district's population anchor, extended its early voting period. While early voting tends to be Republican, Rodriguez carried the early vote.

Rodriguez said a last-minute visit from former President Clinton that drew hundreds of supporters on Sunday provided an important boost to his campaign.

Keith said it's possible voters also simply decided they would be better represented by a lawmaker in the majority party.

"That's often a card that's used in campaigns - whether one will be sidelined," Keith said. Bonilla called Rodriguez Tuesday evening to concede, Bonilla spokesman Phil Ricks said. Bonilla blamed the Supreme Court ruling that declared the district's former boundaries unconstitutional and forced a redrawing of the district that added more Hispanic Democratic voters.

"We just couldn't score again and again," Bonilla told supporters. "But that's OK. This is a different time now. I can tell you I've had 14 years as a member of the House of Representatives and I count my blessings."

The pickup for the Democrats in Congressional District 23 narrows Republicans' margin in the state's congressional delegation to 19-13. Texas added one Democrat already in the suburban Houston 22nd Congressional District once held by Republican Rep. Tom DeLay. Bonilla, the only Mexican-American Republican in Congress, nearly avoided the runoff when he came just shy of the 50 percent mark in a Nov. 7 free-for-all special election that included eight candidates. Rodriguez, in second place, advanced to the runoff with Bonilla. Bonilla far outpaced Rodriguez in fundraising ability, but the Democratic Campaign Committee spent more than $870,000 in the runoff to boost Rodriguez's campaign.

The Supreme Court ruled in June that a 2003 reconfiguration of the 23rd District was unconstitutional because it diluted minority votes by splitting Laredo, a city that is almost all Hispanic, into two districts.

A three-judge panel redrew the district in August to restore 100,000 Hispanics to the 23rd District that had been shunted elsewhere. The new district, which stretches from San Antonio south to the Mexican border and almost to El Paso in the west, gave Rodriguez yet another chance at national office and made Bonilla fight a little harder to keep his seat. The new 23rd district has a voting age population that is 61 percent Hispanic, versus a 51 percent Hispanic voting age population before.

Christmas decoration judging set

The annual Christmas Lighting Contest will be judged this Sunday, and community members are being asked by the Pecos Chamber of Commerce to leave their Christmas lights on for the special event.

Chamber Executive Director Linda Gholson told the members on Tuesday that the Women’s Division would be hosting their Annual Christmas Lighting Contest just after sunset on Sunday.

“This contest is city-wide and the women will be going out from 6:30-8:30 p.m., Sunday,” said Gholson during the regular Chamber of Commerce Board of Director’s meeting held Tuesday at the Pecos Senior Citizen’s Center. “Anybody who decorated their homes, needs to have their lights on at that time so they can be judged.”

The city will be divided into nine sections and a winner from each section will be chosen. The winner from each section will receive $20 in Pecos Bucks and a prize will go to the Best Decorated Block and the Best Decorated Business.

An overall big winner will receive a $100 certificate in Pecos Bucks.

Board member Elsa Palomino told the group that the Annual Christmas Parade was a success and that there were more entries this year. “We hope to work on it more next year and possibly make it bigger and better,” she said.

Schools participated in the annual parade along with the junior high and high school bands. “This year, the Swim Team took first place and the Crockett Middle School Basketball players placed second in the floats division,” said Palomino.

“We hope to have more floats in next year’s event,” she said.

Town of Pecos City Mayor Dick Alligood told the group that the Christmas Lighting held at Maxey Park on Nov. 28 was one of the biggest and best events held in Pecos in a long time.

“The Pecos Rotarians did a great job, it was wonderful,” he said.

Alligood added that next year they might try to get together with the Rotarians and do the Christmas Parade in conjunction with the Christmas Lighting at Maxey Park.

“The Christmas Lighting and Fireworks display were greatly appreciated and we should all thank the Rotarians for an outstanding job,” said Alligood.

In other business, West of the Pecos Rodeo Committee President Joe Keese said that plans for the 2007 Rodeo events are coming along well.

“Six of us went to the annual (PRCA) convention, it was a great convention,” said Keese. Keese said that the Pecos members gathered a lot of valuable information. “We picked up some great ideas.”

He said that the rodeo committee had hired a barrel man and that new events are planned for next year. That includes adding a Charro Trick Rider to their list of events.

“We hear he puts on a really fabulous show,” said Keese, who told Chamber members the committee is also looking at brining in a carnival and maybe putting on a fireworks display. “Tom (Rivera), Linda and I went to San Angelo to the Main Street Convention,” said board member Debbie Thomas.

Thomas said that the group brought home an award and that Pecos will be recognized at the National event in Seattle next March.

“We were recognized as a Main Street city and we’re very honored,” said Thomas.

Oil, gas royalty payments boost Red Bluff’s budget

The pluses and minuses of the area’s energy boom were shown during the Red Bluff Water Power Control Board’s monthly meeting on Tuesday at the district’s office in Pecos. Board members approved a 2007 budget of $583,000, which is expected to come in about $87,000 under revenues, thanks to a major boost in oil and gas royalty payments on lands owned by the district.

But at the same time, managing director Randal Hartman said the district is having trouble finding workers to put up a new storage barn at the lake, a problem common to many area employers due in part to the high salaries being paid in the oil and gas production industry. The board approved the new budget, along with monthly reports, and discussed future plans for salt cedar removal along the Pecos River during their brief December meeting.

Hartman said the 2007 budget was about the same as the one for 2006, while income was estimated at $670,000, with half of that coming from royalty payments.

“I think some of the expenses are a little down, some are a little up,” he said. “Of course, anything to do with electrical is just an estimate, but it comes out pretty close.”

Board member Charlotte Wilcox asked if the district could look into beginning a regrouting project for Red Bluff Dam. She said the last grouting work was done about 25 years ago, but Hartman said the district would have to redo its finances to start the project right now. “The last time it cost about $750,000. I’d imagine we’d spend about $1 million now,” he said.

Just under half of the 2007 budget comes under the category of “special projects” and $75,000 of that is targeted towards helping the Upper Pecos Soil and Water Conservation Service with their plan to remove the salt cedars along the river that have been killed off by herbicides since 1999. Officials are seeking to remove or burn off the dead trees, out of fears that future flooding along the river could send those trees downstream, and into the river’s dams and bridges.

The removal of the salt cedars, which were planted to combat erosion 100 years ago, was expected to increase the flow of the river and cut losses on water releases from Red Bluff Lake. However, Hartman said recent studies have shown the water loss downstream actually has gone up in recent years.

“It may be that there is more sun and wind getting onto the river, and that’s causing more evaporation,” Hartman said. However, district secretary Robin Prewit said Charles Hart, Extension Range Specialist with the Texas Cooperative Extension Service, believes the water flow will increase in the future, as the water table along the river comes up due to the removal of the trees.

“Eventually, the trees would have cut off the river,” Hartman said, while board member Clay Lee added, “I think we have to look at the long-term project. It’s more of a gain than a loss.”

The barn is one of two building projects the district plans at the lake. In November, they approved purchasing a double-wide trailer as the new home of the district’s lake manager, to replace the 70-year-old house that was deemed too costly to repair. The barn would be for equipment used at the lake, but Hartman said right now, they can’t find someone to do the construction job.

“Sometime after the first of the year, we’ll try to get somebody to look into the barn up there,” he told the board.

Members were also told that a water release by New Mexico increased the size of Red Bluff Lake to just under 101,000 acre/feet at the beginning of the month. Hartman added that a test of the water quality would be conducted in the near future.

“We’ll pull a sample on it, so we know what we’ve got,” he said.

Bishop helps mark local group’s anniversary

The Bishop of El Paso was in Pecos recently for a very special occasion, honoring several women in the community for their many years of servitude.

The Catholic Daughters of the Americas, Our Lady of the Blessed Trinity Court #2437, of Pecos, observed their 10th Anniversary on Dec. 2, and a Mass was celebrated by State Chaplain, the Most Rev. Bishop Armando Ochoa, assisted by Deacon George Vasquez at St. Catherine Catholic Church.

State and local court officers were on hand for the special occasion.

Four of the deceased members were honored and five new members were installed and welcomed by Bishop Ochoa.

Mass was followed by dinner at the Youth Center and Bishop Ochoa gave the invocation and blessing.

Honored guests present included: the State Regent, Olga Samaniego, of El Paso; Past State Regent Amy Rueda of El Paso; District Deputy of the Marfa area, Genevieve Bassham; District Deputy of the Van Horn and Pecos area, Yvonne Martin and sister courts from Marfa and Alpine.

Past Regents of the court were recognized. Anna Hernandez, the first Regent, of the court gave a brief history of the court.

State regent Olga Samaniego gave a history of the organization, which was founded 100 years ago by the Knights of Columbus. The CDA are involved in the life of the parish through different ministries, including the food bank which serves over 150 recipients from the surrounding communities.

Dinner music was provided by Eddie Vasquez.

Pecos members of the Catholic Daughters are: Suzy Acosta, Anabel Aguilar, Luz Alvarez, Blanca Avila, Mary Baeza, Elizabeth Barrera, Veronica Barrera, Isabelle Blanchard, Nora Briceno, Barbara Castillo, Traci Castillo, Martina Chavez, Lydia Dominguez, Suzanne Dominguez, Becky Gonzales, Cindy Hernandez, Mandy Hinojos and Rebecca Jeffries.

Also, Candelari Leyva, Desiree Lyles, Eva Lyles, Crissy Martinez, Mae Martinez, Yvonne Martin, Brenda McKinney, Dorinda Millan, Sally Perry, Rosa Portillo, Lydia Prieto, Belinda Salcido, Peggy Salcido, Rosie Salcido, Angelina Sanchez, Terry Terrazas, Lois Vasquez, Cynthia Velez, Betty Villescas and Norma Wentworth.

Duke tells of Reading First Program at Club

The Modern Study Club met at 3:30 p.m., on Oct. 25, in the home of Donald and Joyce Morton for a Home Life Department Program planned by Mrs. Morton, chairman.

The thought for the program was - “Our Lord must think children are important. They are mentioned 2,550 times in the Bible.”

Principal of Austin Elementary and the Reading First Director for the School District, Cindy Duke was introduced by Mrs. Morton.

Mrs. Duke began by announcing that as a result of the Reading First Program our Third Graders passed 100 percent on the Reading TAKS test and she told that this was not an accident and went on to describe the challenges and methods of implementing the 3 Tier Reading Model.

The 3 Tier Model begins each morning with 90 minutes of uninterrupted teacher instruction and work in small homogeneous and heterogeneous groups. This is followed by an activity period of 45 minutes which include P.E., music and art. Then there is a 60 minute period of intervention practice and instruction. This is all accomplished before lunch.

The strength of this program is the focus on instruction, intervention techniques and use of small groups. The teachers are involved in ongoing training on the five components of reading with instruction once a month.

Due to the success of the programs, many school districts have sent teachers to Austin Faculty said, “I am excited. They’re good teachers.”

She ended the program stressing the need for volunteers. The First Grade has over 100 math objectives to be reached and volunteers are need in the afternoon to help students work on individual weakness in these objectives.

Mrs. Duke was thanked when the group presented her with the Fall center piece that had been gracing the refreshment table.

During the business meeting, with Lena Harpham, Parliamentarian presiding, Paula Fuller led the Collect and the pledges to the United States of America and the Texas Flags was led by Joyce Morton, with member repeating with them in unison. The minutes were approved as read and a statement of club finances was reported. A fund-raiser was also discussed. Roll Call was, “What do you wish for our Children?” with most of the answers given being in regard to their safety.

The bi-monthly project for this meeting is to support the Reeves County Library. The Operation Smile Project “fine” for this meeting was “$1.00 for each computer in your home.

Bank employees offer gift wrapping

Trans Pecos Bank employees will be offering Christmas Gift Wrapping at 1 p.m., at Wal-Mart, on Sunday, Dec. 17.

All proceeds will go towards Relay for Life.

Regular registration to begin at OC

Students still will have another opportunity to register for spring classes on campus from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Thursday and 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., Friday, beginning Tuesday, Jan. 2 at Odessa College. Regular registration on campus will continue through Thursday, Jan. 11.

Students also have the option of registering 24 hours a day for classes online through the Odessa College Web site. Web registration access for spring classes will be available again Saturday, Dec. 16 through Thursday, Jan. 11. Students can log onto and click on the “WebAdvisor/E-reg” link in the upper right hand corner of the screen. Spring classes begin Tuesday, Jan. 16.

OC business offices will be closed Saturday, Dec. 16-Monday, Jan. 1 for the holidays but will re-open Tuesday, Jan. 2. For more information on spring 2007 registration, call the OC Help Center at 335-6433 by Friday, Dec. 15 or log on to the OC Web site at .

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