Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Booths stay open despite rainy ‘Night’
Despite heavy rains that hit the area just before sunset, organizers said the Annual Night in Old Pecos was a huge success on Saturday, and both those selling their wares in booths and event goers were pleased with the outcome.
“We had some people that left when it rained and didn’t come back, but then others did,” said Pecos Area Chamber of Commerce Director Linda Gholson. “We had a really good crowd and nobody with a booth left.”
Gholson said that the little girls who were scheduled to perform at the Windmill Square at 7:30 p.m. returned after the rainfall and performed for a large audience.
“The band that was supposed to play, did play and the D.J. kept things moving on Second Street,” said Gholson.
The youth ballet group and the folklorico dancers had their shows delayed, first by problems with the music and then by the heavy rains that lasted for about 25 minutes.
“The D.J. kept on after the rain stopped, he had covered all his equipment and things went really well in that area,” said Gholson. “Everybody just had a great time.”
The Cantaloupe Food Show, which was held the day before the Night in Old Pecos events, was also a big hit.
Several food entries were judged and the Kid’s Cantaloupe Decorating Contest attracted several entries as well.
Winners in the food contest included: The Surprise M-M-M Award, which went to Venetta Seals and her cantaloupe salsa.
The “Best Presentation Award” was given to Carol Clark for her chillin’ melon soup and the Judge’s Choice Award went to Seals for her salsa, which proved to be a big success with both the judges and attendees.
In the Kid’s Decorating Contest, Joe Falwell placed first with his cantaloupe decorated as a hamburger, complete with fries. Griffin Falwell, who made a cave out of his cantaloupe, took second place and the Bakley Family, placed third with their “cantaloupe farm.”
The Bakley Family included Autumn, Taylor, Brittany and Tiffany Bakley.
Field Day’s focus on forage, fuel crops
Crops for forage and crops for fuels were the focus of Friday’s Field Day presentation, held at the Texas AgriLife Experiment Station west of Pecos.
The event held under drizzly skies, spotlighted the various test projects currently underway at the Sid Kyle Experiment Station, which included on project involving an effort to grow algae in the hot West Texas climate to harvest for biofuel and another where a variety of plants are being grown to see if they can become a source of biodiesel in the future.
Most of the farmers in attendance were interested in the testing being done on forage crops, and the Field Day focused on the success of various varieties of alfalfa grown in the salty soil of the Pecos region. There was also a 90-minute session inside the Experiment Station on financial management of forage crops under the current economic conditions, and summer season pests to be aware of during the remaining growing season.
“It’s really too salty in Pecos to represent the rest of the area,” said Dr. Calvin L. Trostle, associate professor and extension agronomist with the Texas ArgiLife Extension Center in Lubbock, while introducing test results on 32 different lines and varieties of alfalfa grown at the center, and dealing with water at a 2.0 level of salt content.
He said the most successful lines in the greenhouse trials were then planted for field trials.
Trostle said uncontrolled alfalfa varieties like Barstow common or New Mexico common were lower in price, but carried high risks of contamination and generally lower yield levels. Other varieties, like Salado, showed good yields in their first year, but tailed off after that.
“If you are looking at buying common, there are ways you can protect yourself,” he said, which involved sending seed samples to the Texas A&M lab for tests on germination and to check for weed seed or other contaminants.
Two varieties from AmeriStand and one from S&W Seed showed good results in this year’s test, and Trostle said he expected yields to bump up this year. He also hoped to continue the tests at the Pecos station for another two years.
Of the two other projects at the Experiment Station involved crops being studied for use as biofuels, the test project to grow algae in man-made salt ponds is still in its initial development stage. When completed, the algae will be extracted from the ponds, dried and harvested for its oil.
The other project is a little more conventional. Trostle said Chevron is looking at a winter crop of oil seeds, and testing is being done on several varieties of plants as part of that project.
Castor, safflower, sunflower and sesame were planted this year. Trostle said the latter plant failed to grow in the Pecos soil, but the others are showing promising results.
“I feel like to justify oil production, you’re looking at 100 gallons an acre,” he said. The problem in the Pecos area is the absence of any facility to extract the oils from the plants, and the fact that castor contains ricin, a highly poisonous byproduct of the plant that makes handling it along with oils meant for consumption at the same facility a problem.
“The thing about castor is because of the ricin issue, we’re looking at the southwest quarter of Texas, where you do not have the overlap of food and feed grains,” Trostle said.
“If it ever becomes commercial, if I’m going to grow castor, I would not put food grain on the land,” he told the farmers. He added that land where castor is cultivated would be dangerous for cattle to graze on, unless the ricin is deactivated.
Another problem is the price some of the plants bring as biofuels, versus what they bring when grown for food. “Sunflower oil makes good biodiesel, but it just happens to make one-third more if it’s put into the edible market,” Trostle said.
“Safflower is one of the most drought-tolerant crops there is,” he said, adding the plant does best under desert conditions, though they are still checking to see which herbicides would work best on the crop.
He said yields so far have been 700 to 800 pounds per acre, but that it was possible to get the safflower yield up to 1,500 pounds per acre.
“The first objective with the Chevron project is how it’s adapted, and safflower has adapted,” Trostle said.
Friday’s heavy rains from the remnants of Hurricane Dolly cut short the presentation on the algae biofuel project by Lou Brown, who along with his wife Jola is in charge of the test involving 1,000, 2,000 and 6,000 gallon ponds where the algae will be grown and then harvested.
Brown said the lab-grown algae will be inserted into smaller ponds first, then transferred to the larger ponds before being removed and nitrogen-starved, which will stimulate the plant’s production of oil.
Brown said the project is still in its initial stages, but that a formal dedication for the project is scheduled for Sept. 29 at the Experiment Station.
Along with the alfalfa tests and the biofuel project, the Field Day opened with a discussion of cotton variety testing being done by John Gannaway and Dr. Jane Dever, with the Texas AgriLife Extension Center in Lubbock. Among the tests included a hydroponic test for salt tolerance, where one line survived, and a trial started out of Texas A&M’s main research facility in College Station.
Dever said she recently returned to work for Texas ArgiLife to replace Gannaway, who plans to retire this coming Friday. “I’ve been coming to Pecos since 1974. It’s been a fun ride and I enjoyed every minute of it,” Gannaway said.
Trostle mentioned one other current test at the Experiment Station, on peanuts, which led some of the farmers to joke about growing pre-salted peanuts, thanks to the area soil. Trostle said the test is being conducted in Pecos due to some salt level issues in Gaines County, which is the nation’s largest peanut producing county.
While the heaviest of the rains on Friday came down outside, farmers were presented with two PowerPoint programs inside the Experiment Station, by Dr. Rob Hogan, a specialist in farm
County backs CCRC effort on grant funds
Reeves County Commissioners approved resolution authorizing the Community Council of Reeves County to apply for grants and OKed improvements to storage room for youth athletic equipment during their regular Commissioners Court meeting, held Monday morning in the third-floor courtroom.
Hilda Mendoza, Meals on Wheels Director, was on hand to talk about the grant sought by the CCRC. It would come from the Texas Department of Agriculture to supplement and extend existing services to homebound persons in the county who are elderly and/or have a disability, as part of the Home-Delivered Meal Grant Program. The grant would be in the amount of $10,000, according to Mendoza.
Mendoza said that they deliver meals in Pecos, Balmorhea and Saragosa and that the list of recipients keeps growing.
“We also need volunteers, we have a select few that volunteer on a regular basis, but they can’t cover everything,” she said.
Mendoza told the group that a lot of the recipients like to visit with those that deliver their meals. “That’s why we need ‘volunteers,’ because we deliver some of those meals, but we just don’t have the time to visit with them,” she said.
Amparo Salgado told commissioners that they also hope to seek funds from FEMA to supplement rent, mortgages, medications and other things for residents in the community.
“We’d like to bring this back to the clients, it’s something that we used to qualify for and hope to get it back in Reeves County again,” she said.
Salgado added that these funds are awarded based on the census in the community.
Commissioners also approved improvements to a storage room for Pee Wee Football Equipment used through the Reeves County Community Sports and Recreation Department.
County Judge Sam Contreras said that the school had allowed them the use of a storage room for their recreational equipment.
“The improvements would cost no more than $300 to make and I would like this approved so that they can move forward,” said Contreras. “I had already talked to the superintendent and he said we just needed to get it approved, so there would be no problems.”
In other action, commissioners approved Reeves County Tax-Assessor Collector Rosemary Chabarria as the Reeves County Voter Registrar.
“She has already been approved as the tax-assessor, but now we need to officially name her as interim voter registrar,” said Contreras.
The group also approved a resolution authorizing sending notice to all health care providers and pharmacies and authorizing the county to pay indigent and Medicaid rates for the care of inmates in the custody of Reeves County.
“This is for the inmates at the Reeves County Jail,” said Contreras. “Part of the savings is to pay Medicaid rates,” he said.
Commissioners listened to a quarterly report from Rogers and Belding/Wells Fargo Insurance Services.
The report stated that the county is doing very well and is protected with the stop/loss action.
Council seeking residential area limits on trucks
Town of Pecos City Council members decided to do a little more research into a proposed ordinance limiting oversized vehicles on city streets, following a discussion held last Wednesday during the council’s regular meeting at City Hall.
The first reading of the ordinance was tabled until more details can be ironed on where oversized vehicles can drive and can be parked within the city limits.
“We have a problem with large trucks traveling and parking in residential areas,” said city attorney Scott Johnson. “It’s gotten a lot worse in the past year.”
City zoning officer Jack Brookshire said one of the main complaints has come from people in residential areas where trucks a parked on neighboring vacant lots. “They’ll get up at 3 in the morning and start their trucks in a residential area and leave them running for 30 minutes,” he said.
The rules under consideration would take in some of the city’s current rules on trucks in residential areas, along with rules put in by the city of Fort Stockton to deal with oilfield-related vehicle and other trucks within the city, and weight limits currently in place according to state law. The rules would severely limit where trucks over 25-feet in length or over 13 tons could travel within the city.
Former city street department supervisor Martin Arreguy said allowing trucks on non-designated truck routes also cost the city. “The real big issue is that trucks are heavy. That’s why they’re called residential streets, because they aren’t made for it. They’re hurting the streets, and they are our drainage system.”
Councilman Danny Rodriguez asked if the rules would affect any city vehicles, and was told the city sanitation trucks and a few other vehicles might come under the law.
“There are exemptions. You can drive and park on streets for loading and unloading,” Johnson said. Other exemptions for RVs and boats can also be included in the new law.
“This is going to take some fine tuning, and some input for discussion,” he added.
Councilman Cody West said the city should be careful in how tightly they limit truck traffic. “We’re taking advantage and reaping the benefits of oil and gas in town, and at the same time we’re penalizing them,” he said. “I don’t want the PD and code enforcement officer spending their time chasing water trucks around.”
“We need to try and work with these drivers,” said councilman Frank Sanchez. “Maybe the city has some land we can work with them on for parking.”
Public Works Director Edgardo Madrid said the city does own a number of lots south of Interstate 20 on Highway 17. “These companies can buy a piece of property and have it fenced in, where they can park,” he said. “Highway 17 we do have designated industrial where they can have big 12-13 acre lots.”
He said there’s also enough land for truck drivers to park their vehicles at the lot and then drive home after their day is over.
“That’s a good idea,” West said. “I just don’t want to run the truckers out of town.”
Labor force jump for June raises unemployment rate
Unemployment in Reeves County jumped 1.4 percent in June, according to figures released on July 18 by the Texas Workforce Commission. But the total number of jobs within the county surpassed the 4,000 mark for the first time in three years, the TWC said.
The jobless rate for the county climbed from 5.4 percent in May to 6.8 percent in June, due to an increase of 149 people in the local workforce, which offset an increase of 81 jobs last month. Reeves County had 4,294 people in the local labor force, and 4,004 with jobs, up from 4,145 workers and 3,923 employed in May. In June of 2007, the TWC said the county had 4,215 workers and 3,958 with jobs.
While the energy drilling industry boom over the past four years has brought a number of jobs to Reeves County and caused the area’s sales tax receipts to double since 2003, the new jobs have not shown up on the TWC’s employment figures. The last time the number of workers in the county surpassed June’s numbers was three years ago, when 4,025 workers were employed, and the state agency said the current number is still almost 15 percent lower than the levels reported for Reeves County in April of 2002, when McCain Foods closed its Anchor West food plant in Pecos, eliminating 700 jobs.
The loss caused a jump of over 10 percent in the county’s unemployment rate, though even after the shutdown the number of jobs in the county was still 150 more than the most recent numbers reported by the TWC.
Most other counties in the Permian Basin and Trans-Pecos area also reported increases in their jobless rates for June, with the end of the school year and new workers entering the labor market.
Midland County’s unemployment rate increased from 2.7 percent to 3.1 percent in June. Midland added 302 workers while losing 33 jobs last month, the TWC said. Neighboring Ector County’s unemployment rose from 3.1 percent to 3.7 percent last month. The county added 478 workers from May and 56 jobs.
Andrews County’s rate went from 2.8 percent in May to 3.2 percent in June. The number of workers increased by 66 and the job total was up by 35 for the month. Brewster County’s rate rose from 3.1 to 3.6 percent, as the county added 12 workers while losing nine jobs in June.
Crane County’s rate increased in June from 3.3 percent to 4.2 percent, adding 19 workers and three jobs. Culberson County saw its rate increase from 2.6 to 3 percent, with an increase of 67 workers and 59 jobs. Dawson County’s jobless rate rose from 5.3 to 6 percent, with the number of workers growing by 121 while the number of jobs was up by 80.
Howard County’s unemployment rate went from 4 percent to 4.6 percent in June. The county added 269 workers and 174 jobs. Pecos County’s rate was up from 4.4 to 5.0 percent last month, as the county’s workforce was up by 266 while the job total increased by 214. Presidio County saw its jobless rate go from 9 percent to 11.6 percent, as the county added 150 workers and 47 jobs last month.
In Ward County, unemployment was up from 3.5 to 4.1 percent in June, with the number of workers increasing by 164 while the job total rose by 125. Winkler County’s unemployment rate rose from 3.4 to 3.8 percent, adding 72 workers from May and 55 jobs during that same period.
Loving County saw its unemployment rate go from 9.3 to 10 percent, with the loss of three workers and three jobs. The nation’s least-populated county had 43 people in its workforce and 39 employed in May, and 40 workers, 36 with jobs, in June.
Hospital receives good report from auditor on 2007 finances
Reeves County Hospital received good marks in its 2007 audit, with the hospital cutting its deficit by over $350,000 from the previous year, hospital board members were told during their July 22 meeting.
Accountant William F. Parrish, Jr., of Parrish Moody & Fikes presented his audit report to the board during their regular monthly meeting last Tuesday. It showed net patient revenue for last year was up $1.1 million, while the hospital cut its budget deficit from $500,000 to just under $150,000.
“The hospital was in the black $84,000. The medical associates had a $232,000 deficit,” Parrish said, referring to funds going towards physicians and physician recruitment for the hospital. The $84,000 profit compares with a $193,000 loss in 2006.
“We’ve made some improvement, but we’re just not back to profitability yet,” Parrish told the board.
He said the hospital’s bill payments were ahead of facilities of similar size in Texas, while accounts receivable was cut from 32 to 25 percent in 2007. Medicare payments received by the hospital following its changeover to a Critical Access Hospital also were ahead of estimates, based on the final quarter of 2007, when the change took place.
Parrish said one area of concern remains the hospital’s kidney dialysis center. “Al (LaRochelle, hospital CEO) and I have been thinking about how we go forward. It is definitely a bottom-line problem with your hospital,” he said, explaining that he had problems locating a medical facility of similar size to Reeves County Hospital that has a successful dialysis center in operation.
“Hopefully we’ll find a profitable center you can model your operations from,” he said.
Parrish said RCH was among a number of hospitals due to be adversely affected by the under-funding of an uncompensated care pool by the state legislature.
Parrish noted that the length of stay in the hospital for patients was up from 3.5 to 4.0 days in 2007. Board member Leo Hung asked what would happen if the average stay went past four days, the limit allowed by Medicare for Critical Access facilities.
“You can exceed that on an individual patient, but if you exceed that on average, they could disallow critical access status,” Parrish said. “But I’ve never seen that done.”
Parrish said he’d have to get more information before being able to tell hospital officials and the board how the lease agreement on the planned 20,000 square foot medical clinic would affect the hospital’s Medicare compensation. The hospital is looking at a lease of up to 15 years, but hasn’t decided on working out an operating lease or a capital lease with S&J Properties, which was awarded the bid to build the clinic on July 1.
“Our problem with this is we don’t know exactly how this is going to affect us until we get some questions answered,” LaRochelle said. Parrish said he would look at the rules and then get back with hospital officials with an interpretation.
In other action last Tuesday, the board agreed to a contract with Nighthawk for off-hour radiology services, and put off any action on bids on a new roof for the Masonic Lodge building at Seventh and Oak streets, after the lone bid came in well over the hospital’s initial estimates.
Dr. W.J. Bang told the board that the Nighthawk service would be at a cost of $1,500 a month and would be used to give some more free time to the hospital’s radiologist, Dr. Alexander Kovac.
“The system will make the ER doctors’ situation much easier,” Dr. Bang said. He said while it helps the hospital to have a local radiologist, the physicians in the emergency room were being asked to try and avoid calling Dr. Kovac in the middle of the night to read X-ray and CT scans.
“All the hospitals with the exception of us have signed up with one Nighthawk (service) or another,” LaRochelle said. “If you go to the Odessa hospital in the middle of the night, they’re using the same service.”
Garcia Construction was the only bidder on the Lodge roofing project, coming in with a proposal for $48,320. LaRochelle said they had advertised for bids locally, and solicited bids from companies in the Midland-Odessa area. “This is the only bid we had turned into us. Everyone’s just got more business then they need,” he said.
The Masons donated the building to Reeves County Hospital in 1996, allowing the hospital to use the majority of the building for storage space while the Masons continue to meet in one section of the building. Lodge members talked to the board during their June meeting about doing something to repair roof and wall leaks in the 55-year-old building.
“I went over after the rainstorm we had. There were four main area where we had water leaking in,” LaRochelle said. “Something’s got to be done for the integrity of the building.”
The board ended up rejecting the bid, and voted to seek new bids on the repairs, including possibly looking at using different materials, such as spray foam, to seal the cracks at a lower cost.
Board members also approved a lease agreement on medical facilities for Dr. Sayeeda Bilkis at 880 W. Daggett St. Dr. Bilkis is scheduled to begin his practice in Pecos on Sept. 1.
The building is owned by board member Leo Hung. LaRochelle said the lease is the same was the one worked out previous for leasing the space formerly used by Dr. Joseph Darpolar, who died in April.
Marriages and Divorces
Editor’s Note: Marriage and divorce records are public record and may be accessed by anyone. All marriage records are kept in the Reeves County Clerk’s office, while divorce records can be located in the District Clerk’s Office located on the second floor of the courthouse.
Marriages for April 2008, as filed with the Reeves County Clerk’s Office.
Jesus M. Vasquez and Lorena Lujan.
Mario Dolores Solis and Carmen Lujan Prieto.
Orlando Mendoza and Casey Dawn Castillo.
Marriages for May 2008, as filed with the Reeves County Clerk’s Office.
Sal Reyes Nichols and Syra Alexandra Mendoza.
Keven Warren Winkles and Veronica P. Miller.
Higinio Garcia Jr. and Ganell Martinez Gamboa.
Dario Mendoza Marquez and Catarina V. Gonzales.
Ubaldo Moreno Rodriguez and Armida N. Mireles.
Mario Cuevas Alvarez and Dianna Saucedo Carmona.
Rene Inostroza and Corina Jaquez.
Jose N. Ortega and Alicia Munoz Chavez.
Martin Anaya Porras and Dephanie Ortega Rodriguez.
Richard Prieto Natividad and Delilah Kay Soto.
Ruben L. Ramirez and Priscilla M. Sotelo.
Sabina Flores Mendoza and Janet L. Archuleta.
Marriages for June 2008, as filed with the Reeves County Clerk’s Office.
Hunberto H. Carrillo and Celina I. Rodriguez.
Ernest Isais Mata and Rozzana Mendoza Salcido.
Roy Lynn Foster and Sofia Ortega.
Jacob A. Sanchez and Laura T. Iniguez.
Michael A. Lucero and Melissa Ann Montenegro.
Sergio Alvarez-Cuevas and Marcela Evaro Garcia.
Divorces for April 2008, as filed with the Reeves County District Clerk’s Office.
Alfredo G. Herrera and Lorenza G. Herrera.
Hilda Q. Garcia and Jose I. Garcia.
Richard Natividad and Lila Lee Natividad.
Divorces for May 2008, as filed with the Reeves County District Clerk’s Office.
Estrella Gonzalez Rodriguez and Dagoberto Ortega Rodriguez.
Melinda Salgado Ramiez and Sylvester Rayos Ramirez, Jr.
York M. "Smokey" Briggs, Publisher
324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 432-445-5475, FAX 432-445-4321
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