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Economic Development


Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Friday, September 12, 2008

Chamber members briefed on plans for special events

Pecos Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors discussed several upcoming activities in Pecos, during their monthly meeting on Tuesday at the Pecos Senior Citizen’s Center.

Chamber president Venetta Seals told the group that there will be a reception in honor of all the new doctors next week at the Reeves County Hospital.

The reception will be held from 6-8 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 16, in the hospital lobby, according to Seals.

A business mixer will be held at 5:30 p.m., next Thursday, Sept. 18, at the West of the Pecos Museum. Door prizes will be awarded and a door prize for those who fill out a survey.

Rudy Villegas, manager of the Welding Supply, Inc., told the group that they were planning a grand re-opening and welding show.

The event is planned for Friday, Oct. 3, at the Welding Supply located at 173 S. Frontage Road.

“We’ll also have a welding exhibit show, where people can take their projects and show them off, sell them, or barter,” said Villegas.

He said that they had sent out flyers announcing the event and planned to send out invitations.

“The project exhibit show will be held from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. and then from 4-7 p.m., we will have the ribbon cutting and ceremony,” said Villegas. “We will have beverages and snacks.”

Villegas said that this would give people time to go out to the Reeves County Fall Fair and cook-off. “We will also have a space out at the cook-off, in memory of Izzie Florez, the past owner of welding supply, and sponsors will be Budweiser,” he said.

The Odessa Oil Burners will be in Pecos on Oct. 27.

“This should bring in about 100 people on that Monday and will be at the museum,” said Seals. “If the weather is bad they can meet at the civic center.”

Seals said that they should arrive at 10 a.m.

Guest at the luncheon, Steve Brooks, with American Grant Management, Odessa, talked to the group about marriage counseling.

“I’m the manager for this region, from Pecos all the way to Mason, it’s the largest region,” said Brooks. “This program is for marriage strengthening program, pre-marital or married.”

He told the group that they will counsel individuals who are thinking about getting married and need to obtain a marriage license.

“The state announced that marriage licenses have gone up in price and through this program they can get the fee waived,” he said.

Brooks said that the program consisted of an eight-hour class and that the fee for the marriage license, which went up to $60, would be waived if the completed the course and received a certificate.

“We have one every weekend in Odessa and we will be doing at least three a year in Pecos,” said Brooks.

The class will be offered here on Sept. 27, Jan 24, 2009 and May 23, 2009.

“Through this course they can also waive the 72-hour waiting period for getting married,” said Brooks.

Brooks said that they can contact the office in Odessa for more information at 432-366-1745. The office is located at 5030 E. University Suite A-101.

“We offer free marriage and relationship workshops,” said Brooks. “This is through the TwoGether Program,” he said.

Seals told the group that two other guests at the luncheon were the two new physicians in Pecos, Dr. Kim and Dr. Bilkis.

“We want to welcome them and hope that all of you can make it to the reception in their honor,” she said.

Police, deputies seek suspect following courthouse escape

A manhunt is on the way for a Reeves County Sheriff’s Department inmate who escaped from the 143rd District Courtroom early this morning.

Reeves County Sheriff’s Deputies and the Pecos Police Department are looking for Jose Joe Salazar Chavez, 37, of Pecos. Chavez was in court this morning facing six years for a criminal non-support charge.

“He asked permission to go to the bathroom and from there, he just took off,” said Reeves County Sheriff Andy Gomez.

Chavez will now face charges of felony escape and evading arrest.

The sheriff’s department is asking the community’s help in locating this individual.

Chavez is a Hispanic male, 5-foot-10 and 190 pounds. He has black hair and brown eyes, and also has various tattoos.

If anybody knows the whereabouts of Chavez they are asked to contact the sheriff’s department at 445-4901 or the police department at 445-4911.

U.S. 285 bridge problems force truck detours

Heavy trucks traveling between Pecos and Carlsbad, N.M. will face a long detour for as long as a year, due to two decaying box culvert bridges on U.S. 285 between Mentone and Orla.

The Texas Department of Transportation announced earlier this week that weight limits are being placed on the large concrete box culverts at Sand Bend and 4-Mile Draw are located on US Highway 285 between the State Highway 302 intersection west of Mentone and Farm to Market Road 652 at Orla.

Both box culverts will be limited to vehicles carrying 11,000 pounds per single and tandem axle or less, according to Glen Larum, TxDOT public information director for the Odessa District.

“If a truck is headed to New Mexico, they would need to go through Kermit or Andrews,” Larum said. “There really are no local road detours.”

Cars, pickups, and light trucks will not be affected by the posting. TxDOT officials emphasize that the structures remain safe for these vehicles, but heavier traffic will be rerouted.

Truckers with loads above 11,000 pounds per axle up to the legal limit should plan to take an alternate route.

Larum said this affects most loaded tractor-trailers. Oversize-overweight vehicles, which require permits, will be diverted to alternate highways by the TxDOT route permit.

Larum said truckers in both Texas and New Mexico have been alerted to the detour, and federal trucks hauling radioactive waste from the Southeastern United States to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad have already been rerouted.

“They’re now being rerouted along Highway 176 through Andrews into New Mexico,” he said. The vehicles, which normally leave I-20 in Pecos to head north on U.S. 285, will now leave the interstate in Big Spring.

Trucks coming or going along U.S. 285 to Interstate 10 or U.S. 90 will be detoured to State Highway 18 in Fort Stockton, and from there north through Monahans and Kermit to State Highway 176 which runs from Big Spring to just north of the WIPP site in Eddy County, N.M.

Signs announcing the load limits will be put up along area highways in the next few days. Larum said the electronic signs put up earlier this year on I-10 and I-20 near Fort Stockton and Monahans will also be used to notify truckers of the detour.

TxDOT plans extensive repairs to both structures, which were built in 1932, when U.S. 285 was first constructed, and widened in 1959. “The parts built in 1932 are OK. It’s the extensions added in 1959 that have deteriorated to the point some structural repair will be need to restore them to load limits.”

He said TxDOT engineers from both the Odessa District and from Austin checked the box culverts, and agreed that the weight limits had to be put into effect until repairs are made.

Local traffic, including oilfield trucks, can still use U.S. 285 from Pecos to the State Highway 302 intersection west of Mentone, and from Orla to the New Mexico state line.

Larum said TxDOT plans to seek bids on the bridge repairs as soon as possible, and hopes work will be completed in the next 12 months.

“This will actually be the second attempt to let bids. We had no bidders on the previous attempt, due to the location. Hopefully, by combining the two it will make it more attractive.”

City’s sales tax rebate check back up for September

After a one-month decline following a year of increases in its sales tax rebate check, the Town of Pecos City received another check this week from the state comptroller’s office that’s higher than the one from a year ago. Texas Comptroller Susan Combs sent out rebate checks to cities, counties and other taxing entities this week, and Pecos’ September check of $160,049 is up 7.51 percent from a year ago, when the city received $148,864 back as its 1 1/2-cent share of the state’s 8 1/4-cent sales tax.

Once sixth of the month’s total, or $26,675, will go to the Pecos Economic Development Corp. for its operations. The increase of just over 7 1/2 percent comes after August’s rebate check came in below the 2007 total, and is still below the city’s year-to-date total. Pecos has received $1,446,431 so far in 2008, a 35.17 percent increase over the $1,070,067 it had gotten back over the first nine moths of 2007.

Balmorhea, which also saw a decline in August, had its second straight month of a lower tax rebate check, but remains up overall for the year. Balmorhea received $2,691 back from the comptroller’s office, a 15.13 percent decline from last September’s $3,171. Overall, the city is up 19.14 percent for 2008, going from $23,812 to $28,370 for the first three-quarters of the year.

Toyah saw a major jump in its rebate check this month, which went from $334 to $1,553, a 363.8 percent rise. For all of 2008, Toyah has gotten $8,248 back from its 1 1/2-cent sales tax, a 25.91 percent increase from last year’s $6,550 total.

The Reeves County Hospital District, which has been seeing increases averaging well over 50 percent for the year, saw a decline this month, falling 4.55 percent from $116,996 to $111,671. The hospital’s 1/2-cent sales tax collection total for the year still is up 54.40 percent, at $860,527, compared with last year’s $557,328.

Across the area this month, most other towns continue to report double-digit increases in their tax rebate checks. Midland’s check from its 1 1/2-cent sales tax was up 22.55 percent from last year, and at $3.35 million again was the largest single check sent out for the area. Overall for 2008, the city has seen a 13.87 percent rise in its sales tax totals. Odessa’s 1 1/4-cent share of the state’s sales tax share brought in $2.14 million, an increase of 19.54 percent, while for the year, Odessa is up 11.65 percent.

For other cities collecting the 1 1/2-cent sales tax, Alpine received a $94,921 check, which was up 5.19 percent. Overall, Alpine is up 7.61 percent in tax rebates from 2007. Crane received a check for $60,531, up 22.77 percent, while the city is up 19.16 percent for the year. Lamesa got a $94,298 check back this month, which was up 6.37 percent, and its 2008 total is up 12.86 percent. Seminole received a check for $102,312, which was up 9.75 percent from last September, while overall, its 2008 totals are up 9.15 percent.

Among cities collecting a one-cent sales tax Kermit received $44,597, which was down 1.28 percent from last year. The city is up overall for 2008 by 12.32 percent. Wickett received a $20,406 check, up 79.5 percent this month, and for the year the total is up 60.01 percent; Wink received a check for $13,553, up 74.55 percent for the month, and the overall 2008 total is up by 98.95 percent; and Pyote, received an $1,186 check this month, a 27.4 percent jump from last September, and the city is up 34.76 percent for the year.

For area cities collecting a 1 3/4-cent sales tax, Andrews received a check for $335,025, a 16.74 percent increase for the month, while its nine-month total is up 15.85 percent. Marfa got a check for $20,539, which was up 11.2 percent, and for the year the city is up 7.1 percent, and Van Horn got a check for $36,774, which was up 18.76 percent from a year ago. However, Van Horn is still down 1.49 percent for all of 2008.

For cities collecting the maximum two-cent sales tax, Fort Stockton received $247,968 this month, up 40.42 percent, while the city is up 39.19 percent overall this year. Big Spring received $543,660, a 27.9 percent rise for the month, while overall the city’s total is up by 11.99 percent increase for the year. Monahans received a check for $151,969, which was up 42.03 percent from last September, while the city’s increase for 2008 is 19.83 percent. Grandfalls got a $2,242 check, up 7.78 percent for the month, and the city is up 13.25 percent for the year, while Presidio received $32,858 this month from Austin, up 4.74 percent from last September, although the city is down 2.23 percent for all of 2008.

Statewide, Combs’ office sent out rebate checks totaling $330.4 million, compared with the $302.9 million rebated last year, an increase of just over 9 percent. Houston’s check for $43.3 million again was the largest single check and was up 9.51 percent from last year, while Dallas’ check was next, at $17.8 million, which was up 4.68 percent from last year.

Red Bluff OKs spillway fence, dam survey

Red Bluff Water Power Control District board members voted to spend money on a new fence for the dam’s spillway and for a survey to check the structural soundness of Red Bluff Dam, during their regular monthly meeting on Tuesday at the district’s office in Pecos.

Managing Director Randal Hartman said the spillway, located to the west of the dam, has had vandalism problems recently. “No one needs to be up on it. I don’t know how it’s survived so long,” he said. “They’ve been pulling off the (metal) plates and chunking them off.”

Hartman said the six-foot fence would be put up to limit access on both sides of the spillway, and that the fence and the access gate should come in at under $10,000.

“Getting somebody to go up there and put this up may be the hardest part,” he said, and board members then agreed to solicit bids on the fence and its installation.

The survey proposal would be an agreement with local surveyor Tony Trujillo to check on the markers on top of Red Bluff Dam, to make sure they all remain level. “We need to do it every year,” Hartman said, though it’s been a number of years since the dam has been checked for any droppage.

Hartman said Trujillo worked on a past survey with engineer Frank Spencer, which should make the new survey go faster, but Red Bluff Office Manager Robin Prewit said due to other jobs and time off for illness, it would be about another two weeks before the district would be in contact with Trujillo about the project.

The monthly water report for August showed Red Bluff Lake’s levels fell to 61,227 acre/feet, down over 10 percent for the month and over 40 percent since the start of water releases downstream for area farmers six months ago.

“Hopefully we’ll get some rain in the right spots in this go-around,” said Hartman, about the forecast for rain in the Trans-Pecos region over the next seven days. He said recent rains in the mountains of southeastern New Mexico have failed to reach the Pecos River, due to the dry conditions across the region earlier this year.

“We’re 15,000 or more (acre/feet) lower than at this time last year,” board member Ava Gerke said, “So that doesn’t bode well for next year if we keep letting water out.”

Hartman said Red Bluff has stopped its releases downstream to the seven sub-districts for now, and the lake usually gets water sent down from New Mexico in November.

“If we can get it up to 100,000 acre/feet, that would be good,” he said.

In other action, the board agreed to hire Monahans CPA Rocky Rivas to handle the 2008 audit for the district, after longtime CPA Randy Graham told the board he would no longer be able to handle the work. Hartman said Graham also did not have the most recent certification to handle audits for government entities like Red Bluff. “There are only two people in the area certified, Rocky and a lady in Fort Davis,” he told the board.

Prewit said the contract cost would be in the range of $3,200 to $4,200, slightly higher than the audit few charged by Graham last year. The agreement said the price would be determined based on the amount of time it took to compile the district’s records based on past audit reports.

The board also agreed to put up emergency phone number signs at the entrance to the lake. The sign would contain phone numbers for both the Reeves and Loving County Sheriff’s Departments, the county game wardens, the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas Department of Transportation.

“They said we need all those numbers up there,” Hartman said, joking that, “If somebody blows the dam up, we need to call and tell them the water’s coming.”

Police, deputies seek suspect following courthouse escape

A manhunt is on the way for a Reeves County Sheriff’s Department inmate who escaped from the 143rd District Courtroom early this morning.

Reeves County Sheriff’s Deputies and the Pecos Police Department are looking for Jose Joe Salazar Chavez, 37, of Pecos. Chavez was in court this morning facing six years for a criminal non-support charge.

“He asked permission to go to the bathroom and from there, he just took off,” said Reeves County Sheriff Andy Gomez.

Chavez will now face charges of felony escape and evading arrest.

The sheriff’s department is asking the community’s help in locating this individual.

Chavez is a Hispanic male, 5-foot-10 and 190 pounds. He has black hair and brown eyes, and also has various tattoos.

If anybody knows the whereabouts of Chavez they are asked to contact the sheriff’s department at 445-4901 or the police department at 445-4911.

Commissioners eye golf course expansion costs

A budget workshop focusing on plans for the Reeves County Golf Course, and hiring a new personnel director ,were two of the items discussed during a meeting Reeves County Commissioners meeting, held Tuesday morning at the courthouse.

Reeves County Judge Sam Contreras told the group that he had asked the Reeves County Golf Course Greenskeeper Peter Mora to look at the budget at the golf course.

Commissioners are hoping to pass a $17 million bond issue, which would include construction of seven new holes at the Reeves County Golf Course. The county sold three of the course’s 14 holes, along Interstate 20, to local businessman Leo Hung for construction of a hotel, restaurant and entertainment complex, and was recently awarded a $500,000 matching grant for improvements to the facility.

“As you all know we were awarded the grant and if the bond doesn’t go through we will need to use the money from the land sale,” said Contreras.

“The main thing will be the labor costs, fertilizer, seeds and other items like that,” said Mora. “We’ll have to move some money around.”

Mora said that they would need to add two more seasonal employees and that the big jump was due to construction.

“We did receive the grant and out of the half million, I don’t know if we can charge off labor,” said Mora. “I’m not sure how that works.”

“The grant will have it’s own budget and guidelines, I don’t know if they’ll cover construction,” said county auditor Lynn Owens.

Contreras said that he didn’t think the grant would cover labor or construction.

“That’s why we’re thinking of using that money from the land sale,” said Contreras.

Mora told the group that they have a total of three full-time employees at the golf course, but would need the two new seasonal employees.

Mora said that they were thinking of making one of the part-time employees in to a full time employee.

“We need to try to keep some of these employees, instead of losing them to RCDC. They’re kind of underpaid,” he said.

Mora also asked commissioners for a salary increase between 30 and 50 percent.

“Everyone in this area is getting paid anywhere from $60,000-$70,000,” said Mora, who was asking the court to raise his current salary of $47,000 to the $70,000’s or mid-$60,000’s.

Mora said that individuals in his position with pesticides licenses and experience that they do in their field were getting paid more in the surrounding areas and that he thought he deserved a raise as well.

“I know that you gave everyone a five percent raise across the board, but I don’t think that’s fair,” said Mora. “Personally, salary raises across the board are not fair at all, those with more education, training and experience should receive more,” he said.

Mora said that at some point they need to look at each position individually in our region, if the county wants to retain workers.

“We can’t afford to give everyone exactly what they are worth, so we decided to just do it across the board, five percent, at this time that’s what we are doing,” said Reeves County Commissioner Precinct 4 Ramiro Guerra. Contreras said that he wanted to continue with the golf course project since they had already committed themselves.

“When will the grant be awarded, when will get it?” asked Reeves County Commissioner Precinct 1 Roy Alvarado.

“We were notified that we’ll receive it in October,” said Contreras. “We have already been notified that we did get it,” he said.

Contreras said that originally they had requested 111 acres of land by the golf course.

“The city said that any land that we do not use we’ll revert back to the city,” he said.

Reeves County Attorney Alva Alvarez asked Contreras if he was sure about this, because if the city doesn’t take that land, the county will be in charge of the cleanup.

“They won’t want it back, because they don’t want the berms,” said Alvarez.

“The motion as I heard it was if we get the 111 acres, what we have left that we don’t use, reverts back to the city,” said Contreras.

“Since it’s a land sale, you need to get that in writing, because they can say they don’t want it and the county will need to take care of the cleanup, which could be really expensive,” said Alvarez.

“I think we have two years, what we didn’t use in those two years they take back,” said Mora.

“You need to check the minutes and need a deed that says that, because if it isn’t in writing it won’t be legal,” said Alvarez.

Mora told Alvarez that there was no law that binded them to the cleanup.

“We designed everything around the berms anyway,” said Mora.

Alvarez told the group that it could be a big potential liability and could cost the county a lot of money, possibly millions of dollars.

“Where did you get that?” asked Contreras.

“Any type of cleanup costs a lot of money, it will be a huge liability and things like this are not inexpensive,” she said.

“You don’t know what the liability is, so to say that it will cost millions,” said Contreras.

“They change the laws all the time, every time the legislature meets, they come up with new laws,” said Alvarez. Alvarez told the group that they still needed a deed, because it was a land sale and they needed to get everything in writing.

In other business, commissioners approved the hiring of a new personnel director, who will be taking care of some of the duties that the county treasurer’s office is in charge of. The personnel director will need to be knowledgeable in human resources and be in charge of numerous other duties.

Also on the agenda was the hiring of counsel, but because it was listed incorrectly on the agenda, the item could be not be discussed.

Commissioners will meet again on Friday morning to discuss and approve a tax hike.

The group is proposing to increase the tax rate from the effective tax rate of .31252 per $100 valuation to .34648 per $100 valuation for the 2009 Budget Year.

The total is still below the county’s current tax rate of .35325 cents per $100 in valuations, and 2 1/2 cents below the 2007 property tax rate of .379545 cents per $100 in valuations. Commissioners had planned to raise the tax rate for 2008 to .40158 last September, but missed the deadline for holding hearings for a tax increase, and had to set the 2008 number at the effective tax rate of .35325 cents.

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