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Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Church plans Harvest Fest for Halloween

A Harvest Fest evening is planned this Friday evening to help the children in the community enjoy and celebrate Halloween in a safe and fun way.

Abundant Life Church, 1201 S. Ash St., will be sponsoring the Halloween “carnival,” Friday evening, from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m.

The theme for the event is “The King’s Court,” and everyone in the community is invited to attend.

“They can come in their costumes if they want to and we want everyone to join us,” said Pastor Patrick Mulholland.

He said that the event will be held outdoors on the grounds of the church and will feature a variety of events, including plenty of food.

“We will have hot dogs, chips, prizes,” said Mulholland.

There will be about 12 booths set up featuring games and numerous door prizes will be handed out.

“We just want everyone to come out and enjoy themselves,” he added.

Mulholland and his wife are new to the community and will be on hand to greet those that want to join them for a fun-filled evening.

For more information contact the church at 445-5010.

Family escapes as fire damages Oak St. house

A home on South Oak Street was heavily damaged by fire Monday morning, and officials were unsure about what started the blaze.

Pecos Volunteer firefighters were called out to battle the fire, which began about 10:45 a.m. at 1005 South Oak Street.

The blaze apparently started in a room on the southwest side of the house, while four people were inside.

“They were home, but that said nobody was in that room when it started,” said Town of Pecos City Fire Marshal Jack Brookshire, who will be looking for possible causes of the blaze.

The four people inside, including two children, were able to get out safely before the fire spread to other parts of the home. The fire would eventually burn through a wall separating a bedroom from the living room of the house, which also suffered severe smoke and water damage.

The home is located next to an abandoned house that burned in a previous fire.

City approves group’s’ plan for park lease

Halloween will be held on Halloween in Pecos this year, city council members decided on Thursday, during their regular meeting. And they also decided to turn over operations of Centennial Park and Windmill Square downtown to the Pecos Convention Visitors Bureau under a lease agreement.

The 2008 tax roll and the errors and corrections from 2007 and previous years were among the other items approved during the meeting at City Hall, while council members took no action following a one-hour executive session to discuss the status of the city’s finance director.

The Centennial Park lease came at the request of the four groups receiving bed tax money for tourism-related activities from the city. The Pecos Chamber of Commerce, its advertising committee, the West of the Pecos Museum and the Pecos Main Street Program are seeking to control the park as part of plans to upgrade facilities and add ADA-compliant rest rooms to the downtown area.

City attorney Scott Johnson said the council couldn’t agree to the groups’ request to buy the park outright, but could lease the facilities to them.

“This could be done with a $1 lease to the Convention and Visitors Bureau,” Mayor Dick Alligood said. He added that under the deal the four entities would be responsible for maintenance and operation of the park and the adjacent Windmill Square.

The decision on the Halloween designation came because the city has moved the official day for Halloween Trick-or-Treating in the past when Oct. 31 has fallen on a day prior to a school night. But with Halloween set for this Friday, the council decided to leave it where it is, after councilman Frank Sanchez asked if they wanted to move it to Nov. 1 due to Friday’s high school football game in Anthony.

The tax roll numbers were ready by Alligood, and showed real estate taxes available for 2008 in Pecos came to $796,000, mineral valuations o $142 and personal to $108 for an overall total of just over $1,047,000. The corrections to past tax collection numbers came to just over $32,000.

“I think some of thise we agreed at the last meeting to write off,” Alligood said.

In other action, the council approved the sale of two properties, at 106 S. Ash St. and 513 S. Walnut, to Daniel Aguilar, at a cost of $500 for each, though councilman Cody West noted Aguilar stated in his purchase offer he planned to put houses on both sites.

Council members then told Johnson to add a deed restriction to the sale agreement that mandates construction be done within a year on the two sites. Council members have been adding deed restrictions to land sales in recent years to avoid purchases by speculators.

The Council did not take any action on a discussion of the Safe Routes to Schools Program, when Pecos High School Principal Cindy Duke was unable to attend Thursday’s meeting. Sanchez said Duke had concerns about when the Texas Department of Transportation would begin work on the program, estimated at $1.3 million, which would construct curbs and sidewalks near the high school and Crockett Junior High, along Texas, Iowa and Washington streets. The council also agreed to allow use of the Pecos Community Center on South Oak Street for next week’s general election. The Community Center is already being used this week for early voting, due to crowding at the normal site in the lobby of the Reeves County Courthouse.

Council shifts gears, OKs truck cab parking in city

Town of Pecos City Council members took another shot on Thursday at trying to come up with a truck ordinance for the city that would satisfy both drivers and other local residents complaining about the vehicles causing noise and emitting diesel fumes on residential streets.

Council members, who in September passed an ordinance that would have banned trucks from parking or using all non-designated streets except for deliveries, voted 3-1 on Thursday to allow the trucks back into town for parking, but only with the trailer sections detached and only if the vehicles park on concrete or gravel pads on the side or rear of the house.

The new measure will be drawn up by city attorney Scott Johnson, and will then have two readings before the council before it can become law. Councilman Gerald Tellez was the lone vote against the latest modification of the rule, while councilmen Danny Rodriguez, Frank Sanchez and Cody West voted in favor.

“The only thing that makes sense is just to allow trucks on it, but that would not include the empty trailers,” Johnson said. “We don’t want our officers to have to go break the seals on the trailers to see if it’s empty. Plus, it’s a safety issue.”

“I my opinion, this item was posted for two meetings and we all agreed on it,” Tellez said before voting against the change. “I’m in favor of it staying the way it is.”

Council members in August heard people both for and against the current ordinance, before approving the first reading. The second reading was approved in mid-September, and the new regulations went into effect on Oct. 1, superceding the previous law, which was enacted by the council in 1967.

“I honestly think trucks are perfectly legal to park in the city,” said driver Justin Millan, one of several people who argued for allowing at least the cab section of the vehicle, known as a ‘bobtail’ to be allowed on residential streets.

“A bobtail is less than 26 feet and less than the (26,000 pound) weight,” Millan told the council. “It’s not nearly as loud as a Harley-Davidson, a dirt bike or a four-wheeler.”

Mayor Dick Alligood said that while the truck weight was below 26,000 pounds, the gross vehicle registered weight of most of the big trucks, which includes the trailer section, was in the 80,000-pound range.

“If it’s not registered for any more than 26,000 pounds it would be legal. If its registered for 80,000 or more, it would be against the law,” he said.

Councilman Danny Rodriguez, who led the effort to scale back the current ban, said “We have vehicles in the community that weigh that, that’s why we want to question it.”

Rodriguez also had Texas Department of Public Safety license and weight trooper Arnulfo Rivas speak at the meeting on the DPS’s weight law, which the city used to create its current ordinance.

“In lots of cases you’re dealing with combination vehicles,” Rivas said, which involved the weight of the truck and trailer loaded. “If it’s 26,000 and up, we take action.”

The drivers said they had separate licenses for their cabs and trailers, and Sanchez said, “The reason we put this on the agenda was because we wanted to consider the tractor (cab). According to trooper Rivas, what we need to consider is the actual weight.”

“If you look at tire and weight distribution, city trucks cause more damage than our trucks,” said local driver George Mendoza.

Becky Millan, wife of truck driver Julian Millan, asked if RVs and trailers in town for the West of the Pecos Rodeo are included in the new law.

“This does apply to them as well. I does affect those truck drivers,” he said, adding the law gives visiting RVs up to 72 hours to park in front of a home without being cited.

During the earlier meetings, council members said the drivers could park their trucks on designated truck routes within the city, which include all or parts of Third, Cedar, Eddy and Walthall streets, along with Stafford Boulevard, the Balmorhea Highway and the Interstate 20 service roads. They also said the trucks could park on city property at the Buck Jackson Rodeo Grounds, however, the Millans and other drivers and their family members again told council members that parking away from home would require extra late night driving, and items inside the cabs of the trucks could be stolen.

They also restated their complaint that the city was blaming the trucks for the poor condition of local streets.

“The city hasn’t taken care of its streets since 2005. To say the trucks are the only once responsible for the city streets is incorrect,” Rodriguez said, while adding, “I think some of the trucks take advantage and put all 18 wheels at the house. You can look and see trucks parked at all corners.”

Tellez noted that the 1967 ordinance was actually more restrictive than the new rules, but just wasn’t enforced. “We had an ordinance that had an 18,000 pound limit,” he said, while Alligood added that the old law also had a 25-foot length limit on the vehicles.

The complaint about truck noise and diesel fumes was first brought to the council earlier this year by local resident Jesse Acosta, who was also at Thursday’s meeting.

“I’m not sure if any of you guys thinking about allowing it again realize how bad it is on diesel fumes,” Acosta said. “They are very deadly, and I have three rigs behind my house.

“If the city council had common sense they should know how bad diesel fumes are,” said Acosta, whose statements were challenged by the truck drivers.

“I have been a truck driver for over 20 years. I’ve slept in that truck, and it’s never done anything to me,” driver Sam Orona said. Mendoza added that many truckers sleep in the back of their cabs every night at the Flying J Truck Stop. “I was driving on the road until a few months ago and I slept in the truck stops with 400-500 trucks,” said driver Robert Lara. “This man over here is making it sound like this will be the next L.A., but it’s never going to be that bad.”

Acosta also challenged Rodriguez on his support for revising the ordinance.

“Did you read the ordinance?” he said.

“I was not here when these people (truck drivers) came in to complain,” said Rodriguez, who later added he also has had problems with truck-trailers parking outside his home.

The councilman was not at the Aug. 15 meeting when the first reading of the ordinance passed following protests from some of the truckers. Rodriguez voted in favor of the ordinance during the second reading on Sept. 11, when there was no opposition and Alligood said he was only able to get in contact with one of the family members of the drivers about the council meeting.

Drivers earlier this month complained they had not been informed of the second reading. Rodriguez at the Sept. 11 meeting asked city officials to publicize the change with ads on the radio.

“If we get vehicles and all kinds of junk parked in these neighborhoods, we’re going to look like a third world country. That’s where we’re going,” said former Pecos Main Street Director Tom Rivera.

“I don’t call those rigs junk. Some of those rigs cost over $100,000,” Becky Millan said.

Local resident Paul Richeson said he used to have to deal with going to the Rodeo Grounds each day to pick up his bus to bring people to the Duval sulphur mine.

“I drove the bus to Duval for 11 years and they would not let us take the buses home. They made too much noise,” he said.

Tellez noted that the 1967 law already prohibited truckers from leaving their unattended vehicles running.

Becky Millan asked about the noise from Union Pacific Railroad trains and helicopters landing at Pecos Municipal Airport.

“You can certainly file a complaint,” Alligood said.

Local resident Bill Oglesby said that the restriction on trailers needed to be maintained, and the ordinance needs to be enforced by police.

“Part of the reason is with this, companies don’t have to have a yard,” he said. “Maybe there’s a happy medium here, but we need to have some restrictions, so they don’t park all over town.”

“I think everyone should have a right to make a living,” West said. “I can see their side of it. In no way would I blame the condition of the streets of our truckers … I feel like the only issue I have is the issue of noise.

“I would only be in favor of allowing tractors to put in residential areas if it’s on a concrete pad or a driveway designated for it, similar to RVs,” he said. “I don’t want to see bobtails parked in the street or in the front yard.”

Alligood said due to concerns over trucks limiting access to homes in case of fire, the law already bans vehicles from parking in front of houses, though Sanchez questioned whether the rule prevented vehicles from parking on concrete pads in front of any section of the home.

Council members then voted to have Johnson draw up a modified ordinance to allow bobtails but limit their locations around the home.

“I was going to put some limits in also on the number of trucks and the operating time,” Johnson said, “You just can’t go out there and turn your truck on.”

Noriega outlines differences with Cornyn in Senate race

The Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate was in Pecos Friday afternoon to talk to the people he hopes will be his future constituents, following next Tuesday’s general election.

State Representative Rick Noriega was on hand at the Terrazas Restaurant and later at the Pecos Eagles homecoming football game.

Noriega, who is running against Republican incumbent John Cornyn in the Nov. 4 election, talked about his stand on several issues including the recent financial bail out of some of the nation’s largest financial institutions, health care, immigration and several other topics that are of major concern to him and his staff.

Noriega said that he has been enjoying his time on the campaign trail and had been throughout North Texas, the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, Wichita Falls and Lubbock, just to name a few of the cities he has visited.

“We will continue on to El Paso and visit in that area,” said Noriega.

On the $700 million bail out approved by Congress earlier this month, Noriega said, “We have voted against the bail out, my opponent voted for it, for all the wrong reasons. He (Cornyn) wants to bail out all those on Wall Street, while homeowners suffer,” he said.

Noriega said that Texas families are hurting from an economy in freefall. From foreclosures, to the falling dollar to rising fuel prices and food costs, the status quo is not working for working families. “We plan to push and change and have developed a plan that will help the families first,” he said.

Noriega said he supports a real stimulus plan that extends unemployment benefits, stabilizes the housing market and protects homeowners, provides real tax rebates for Texas families, provides businesses with incentives to deal with the energy crisis, and helps the states and localities which will end up providing health care and other aid to those hit by the recession.

“I believe in putting our financial house back in order by eliminating obsolete federal programs and questionable subsidies, closing corporate loopholes, cutting special-interests earmarks, limiting no-bid contracts, and reversing tax cuts that benefit a select few,” he said.

Noriega added that he plans to help struggling families keep their home in several ways, including to provide an increase of $200 million for spending on housing counselors to help troubled borrowers at risk of foreclosure. This funding would assist up to a half-million families to connect with their lender to explore options that will keep them in their homes, including refinancing loans into traditional fixed-rate, 30-year mortgages; overhaul the Federal Housing Administration to enable the agency to help more borrowers refinance their mortgages into FHA-backed loans, which typically carry lower interest rates; change bankruptcy law and allow judges to modify the mortgage of a debtor. This would eliminate a the current provision to the bankruptcy law which prohibits modifications to mortgage loans on the principle residence of a borrower and would help up to more than 600,000 financially troubled families keep their homes; provide a two-year, one time $2,000 credit towards closing costs for homeowners who refinance into a fixed-rate mortgage.

“Our nation's health care system is broken. As Washington and the insurance industry cling to the status quo, our existing health care system becomes more costly, wasteful, and ineffective by the day,” said Noriega. “Families and businesses are feeling the strain of a health care system that costs too much, covers too few, and has all the wrong priorities. Insurance companies are making record profits while millions of Americans worry about the health care security of their families,” he said.

Noriega said that in Texas, the problem is even worse. Years of neglect by our elected leaders in the Statehouse and in Congress have led to the highest number of uninsured in the country. According to analysis of Census data, nearly 45 percent of Texans, including 20 percent of the state’s children, don’t have health insurance for all or part of the year. “There must be a better way to protect our families. We should start looking at health system reform from the exam room up, not the corporate board room down,” said Noriega.

He said he voted for legislation that expanded the Children's Health Insurance Program, voted against legislation that reduced the number of children covered by, and voted for legislation that increased funding, and expanded the eligibility pool for health insurance programs.

“I voted for legislation that created a state prescription drug program for low-income Medicare beneficiaries as well as disabled workers,” said Noriega. “I co-authored a constitutional amendment which established the $3 billion Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas,” he said.

Noriega said that he felt that there was too much testing done at the schools.

“The No Child Left Behind needs to be revised,” said Noriega. “Teachers are spending too much time on testing and not on teaching.”

Noriega said that we all know we have to have accountability and let the teachers do what they do best.

This was Noriega’s second visit to Pecos during the current campaign. He was in town in June as part of an earlier swing through West Texas.

Passmores celebrate 55th wedding anniversary

Tom and Wanda Passmore of Midland celebrated their 55th wedding anniversary Sept. 27.

Wanda Cleveland married Tom on Sept. 27, 1953 in Pecos.

The couple has three children, Tom Jr. and wife Kim of Odessa; Mike and wife Kim of Monahans; and Vickie and husband, David Armstrong of Monahans.

They have six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Tom retired in 2007 from Tom Passmore Appraisal Service and Wanda is a homemaker.

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