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Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Friday, January 25, 2008

County’s unemployment unchanged last month

Reeves County’s unemployment rate for December held at 5.5 percent, after a .4 percent increase the previous month, according to figures released on Monday by the Texas Workforce Commission.

The TWC said the number of workers in the county increased by 75 from November, rising to 4,078, while the number of jobs last month was up by 72, climbing to 3,855. However, the state agency said the number of workers and the number of jobs was down from December of 2006, when the county’s rate stood at 4.8 percent.

Reeves County at 4,149 workers and 3,950 jobs the previous December, according to the TWC. The agency’s job numbers for the county remain at odds with the sales tax collection numbers reported for the area by the Texas Comptroller’s Office, which showed a 50 percent increase in tax receipts in 2007 compared to the previous year.

Across the area, jobless rates were mostly unchanged for December, while a number of counties reported drops in both their workforce and the number of people employed during the month.

Midland County’s unemployment rate was unchanged, at 2.7 percent for the third straight month. The county lost 198 workers and 151 jobs. Ector County’s unemployment rate also was unchanged at 3.2 percent, as the county lost 355 workers and 339 jobs.

Andrews County’s rate was down from 2.9 to 2.8 percent last month. The number of workers increased by 38 and the job total was up by 43 from November. Brewster County’s rate held 2.6 percent for the third straight month, while the county lost 64 workers and 61 jobs from November.

Crane County’s rate dropped from 3.5 to 3.3 percent, as the county saw an increase of three workers and six jobs. Culberson County saw its rate go up from 2.4 to 2.7 percent last month, adding 28 workers and 23 jobs. Dawson County’s unemployment rate dropped from 5.2 to 5 percent, as the county added 53 workers and 62 jobs.

Howard County’s unemployment rate increased from 4.2 to 4.3 percent last month. The county lost 169 workers and 176 jobs. Pecos County’s rate fell from 4.2 to 4.1 percent, as the county’s workforce was down by four while the job total dropped by two from November.

In Ward County, unemployment dropped from 3.8 to 3.7 percent, with the number of jobs falling by 13 while the workforce declined by 17. Winkler County’s unemployment rate was up from 3.2 to 3.3 percent, as the county’s workforce fell by seven from while the number of jobs was down by 11 from November.

Presidio County saw its jobless rate jump from 7.4 to 8.9 percent. The county’s workforce was up by 36, while the number of jobs grew by six last month.

The addition of one job in Loving County, the smallest county in the nation, caused its unemployment rate to plune almost three points, falling from 11.4 to 8.6 percent . The TWC said Loving held stable at 35 workers, 32 of whom are employed.

Vaccine drops started to stop rabies outbreak

Officials with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Texas Department of State Health Services and a Virginia aircraft operations company have been busy in Pecos this week, conducting a series of bait drops to stop the spread of rabies following two reports of rabid animals being found in the Pecos area.

Five twin-engine airplanes have been operating out of Pecos Municipal Airport this week, targeting 280,000 bait drops to vaccinate animals across sections of the Permian Basin, Trans-Pecos and Davis Mountains region.

Dr. Ernest H. Oertli, Director of the Oral Rabies Vaccination Program for the State Department of State Health Services said bad weather has delayed the drops in area, but that when the weather clears they will have about another day-and-a-half of drops to complete the project, which covers an area over 300 miles long in West Texas, operating out of two other sites before beginning the bait drops here on Tuesday.

“We stated on Jan. 5 and have been going seven days a week when the weather conditions are right,” he said.

The flights are coordinated out of a mobile trailer belonging to the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services. A series of computers inside track the progress of the vaccine bait drops, along with showing the target areas, which can be modified when new outbreaks such as the one in the Pecos area takes place.

“The original zone didn’t look like that,” Oertli said. “We like to have a 30-mile buffer to any known rabid case.”

A coyote that tested positive for rabies was found in mid-December in the area near the 700 block of West Daggett Street, while another rabid animal was reported to officials last week in the Lindsey Addition, on the southwest side of Pecos. The reports led officials to expand their rabies vaccine drop target areas northwest from their original zones.

“We’ve been flying since we’ve been here from right outside of Midland-Odessa to just below Carlsbad, and we’ve been flying right below Marfa and going to the border of the river,” he said.

“Each area has a grid, and each grid has a set of lines,” said Bradley Hicks, Wildlife Biologist with the USDA. “We can systematically cover the whole area and determine where the bait is distributed.”

The vaccine is sealed inside wax, which is the wrapped inside the bait. “For coyotes we use fish meal, and for foxes we use dog food with molasses and vanilla,” Oertli said. “People ask ‘What if my dog eats one?’ It won’t hurt their dogs and will act as a vaccine against rabies, but we still tell them don’t trust this and get them vaccinated by their veterinarian.”

A machine on board the planes is filled with the bait, which is dropped by an auger onto the target areas. “It has a detector with GPS, so we know where we dropped them and when we dropped them,” he said.

The computers keep track of the areas covered by the five King Air planes operated by Dynamic Aviation out of Bridgewater, Va. “The planes as they are flying collect flight data on where they’ve been, where they’ve baited and where they’ve not baited,” Hicks said

He added that the flights over West Texas have been conducted out of Fort Stockton and Junction before coming out to Pecos. While the areas are monitored year-round, Oertli said the Pecos area vaccine drops are the last scheduled for the current season.

“Coyotes have a bigger range, so we put out fewer baits,” he said. “We put them out this time of year because coyotes and foxes are hungrier and more likely to eat it. Also, at this time fire ants are less of a problem, and the colder weather is better for the vaccine.”

He said after the drops are completed, the monitoring process includes collecting animals out of the target areas for testing.

“There are bio markers in the bait, to see if the surveillance area has been covered,” Oertli said. Blood and brain tissue sampled are also taken from animals collected to see if the vaccine has been eaten or if the animal has rabies.”

Local farmers and ranchers, along with local residents, are asked to keep watch for coyotes, foxes, skunks, bats or raccoons that may be acting strangely and report them either to local animal control officers or to the DSHS, which can conduct testing for rabies. Inside the Pecos city limits, anyone coming in contact with a strange animal or who is bitten by an animal should also call the police department at 445-4911 so that the animal can be quarantined and tested for rabies.

Hospital OKs, city delays action on EMS merger

Reeves County Hospital Board members approved an agreement with the city to provide ambulance service and discussed other projects during their regular meeting held Tuesday evening. But Town of Pecos City Council members wanted a little more time to study the options for the change, following their meeting Tuesday night at City Hall.

The city and hospital have tentatively agreed to combine Pecos’ volunteer EMS service and the hospital’s transfer service into a single service that would handle both jobs. But council members balked at approving a proposal by Pecos EMS Chief Dennis Thorp that would create a service with 12 full-time workers, preferring an option with four full-time and eight part-time employees.

“We did approve the agreement, it was draft number nine,” said Reeves County Hospital Administrator Al LaRochelle.

He said that the two entities had gone back and forth, before they approved the agreement that was presented to them.

Thorp told the council that the current EMS service, which is down to only seven workers, would no longer be viable full-time after February, due to the planned retirement of one of their volunteers.

“If the council would consider looking at this again and hold a workshop with the hospital staff, I’d be perfectly willing to host it again,” city manager Joseph Torres told members following an executive session on Tuesday. “If you all are not comfortable with these numbers, we’ll look at it again and report on it.”

LaRochelle said that if the city does not approve the agreement, the hospital will ramp up their services and get going with their transfers.

“We had been in the process of purchasing a new one, when we were approached by the city and then we put everything on hold,” he said.

LaRochelle said that they wanted to be a team player, if that’s what it took to provide a good service to Pecos.

“We had come to an agreement, with the last draft they provided and have had it for a week,” said LaRochelle, adding that they are doing some accounting to see if it’s possible to do their ramp up soon.

“They said it would take about 60 days to get all this done,” he said.

The council was given three options by Thorp, the first of which was to keep the current set-up, with a volunteer Pecos EMS and a separate RCH transfer service. But he said that the current plan would not be workable after next month, when EMS worker Judy Foster plans to retire.

“I’m down to seven people in the ambulance service, and I’ve got one ready to retire, then the ambulance service will be down to six,” he told the council. “I cannot promise you we’ll have a viable EMS next week if someone gets hurt.”

Council members were wary of the cost of 12 full-time personnel, at $18 an hour, while city attorney Scott Johnson said he doubted the city could recruit 12 certified full-time EMS workers due to the city’s housing shortage. City finance director John Phillip added that he supported the of just four full-time and eight part-time workers, but said the EMS’s collections for the past year have been better than previous years, lowering the service’s annual deficit.

Thorp said the full time option had a projected loss of $72,000, but said that was based on worst-case estimates. “I expect the budget deficit to be … 20 to 30 percent lower.”

Thorp said grant funds could also go towards making up any future deficit, though councilwoman Angelica Valenzuela said, “I would consider grants to be an addition, instead of part of the budget.”

Thorp said the other option, which would have four full-time workers and eight volunteers, would also be a problem, since he only has seven EMS volunteers right now. “I don’t know if I could ever encourage people to come here part-time,” he said.

Thorp said a fourth option would be for the city to abandon its EMS service entirely and force the county’s remaining two ambulance providers, the hospital and Balmorhea EMS, by law to take up the slack.

“We’ve been trying to get others to help us for a long time, but then they want to turn their operations over to us,” said councilman Danny Rodriguez.

However, Thorp said that the hospital’s EMS is short-staffed now to the point that most transfers are done by air ambulance, at a cost of $9,000 per flight.

“You can always go from Option 3 to Option 2 in the future,” said councilman Frank Sanchez.

“I would entertain Option 3 anytime, if you don’t limit me to four full-time personnel,” Thorp said. He added that a split of six full- and six part-time staffers could be made to work in a 40-hour work week.

Wastewater plant project’s engineering pact awarded

Town of Pecos City Council awarded an engineering bid for the city’s wastewater treatment plant project, approved ordinances on beer sales on Sunday, land annexation and street abandonment and were given updates on projects involving the city’s animal control board and Fairview Cemetery board, during their regular meeting on Tuesday at City Hall.

Parkhill, Smith and Cooper was awarded the engineering contract over Naismith Engineering and a combined bid by Frank X Spencer and Associated and Garcia-Wright of San Antonio. Parkhill was the only one of the three companies to have a representative at the meeting, and engineer Ralph E. Truszkowski gave the council a presentation similar to one made by the company last year.

He said the company was involved in projects in Kermit and Fort Stockton, and had worked on the city’s current wastewater treatment plant construction in the 1960s. “We were here for you 40 years ago, and we hope to be here for the next 40 years,” Truszkowski said.

Total cost of the project was estimated in February of 2007 at $6.7 million, and Mayor Dick Alligood asked Truszkowski if they could avoid cost overruns through change orders while working on the project, which is being funded through a grant from the Texas Water Development Board.

“One thing that we don’t want to see is those things. It affects our bottom line and that’s important to this council,” he said.

“I think the only place we would have change orders is making sure you utilize the whole budget,” Truszkowski said.

City Public Works Director Edgardo Madrid told the board a decision had to be made in order to meet an application deadline of March 10 by the TWDB. The council did put off action on naming a fund advisor for the project, after receiving only one bid, on the project, the day after the deadline for submissions.

The cemetery discussion involved Rosemary Scoggins, president of the Fairview Cemetery Board, who showed the council a model of the veteran’s memorial planned for a site near the cemetery’s entrance on West Eighth Street. “There will still be room to drive around it,” she told the board.

“The base will be done in red brick, and the center will have six sides with the names of the various armed services,” Scroggins said. It will also have silhouettes on the six sides representing America’s wars from the Civil War to Vietnam. “Each one of them represents a solider buried in the cemetery, “ she said.

The council voted to turn over a problem involving excessive animal noise to the Animal Control Board for a recommendation, after council members had received complaints about the problem.

Councilman Frank Sanchez said he had been contacted about roosters at one house within the city limits, and police chief Clay McKinney said, “We went to check and I believe they did had an excessive amount of roosters, and we brought that amount down to 12.

City Attorney Scott Johnson said the council could change its rules on the number of roosters that could be kept at one site. “It’s a legislative decision and we can enforce whatever you set,” he said.

Councilman Michael Benavides said the city should look at updating all its ordinances, including those on trash disposal. “A lot of ordinances are outdated and don’t pack a punch. They have no teeth,” he said. “It’s high time we look at ordinances and tweak them … I think it’s about time we start holding people responsible where they throw their trash.”

Johnson said the ordinances were updated a decade ago, at a cost of about $5,000. He said city officials could check on current prices for the work, and report back to the council.

The beer sale ordinance’s second reading was held without comment, and was designed to chance the city’s rules on on-premises alcohol sales on Sunday so they are in-line with current state laws. The council voted 4-1 in favor of the ordinance, with Gerald Tellez casting the lone vote against the change.

In response to a question from Tellez, Robert Overcash, owner of Cash’s Sports Bar on East Third Street, said he had requested the change to allow Sunday on-premises alcohol sales. “Sunday is the busiest sports day of the week,” he told the council.

Tellez also asked if the bar, which opened in late November, had sold beer on Sundays before, in violation of the city law.

“I was advised by City Hall, the county attorney and the TABC I could sell beer on Sunday and I was open,” he said. “Once the ordinance was brought to my attention, we did not sell beer.”

The other ordinances involved the abandonment of 414 feet of Starley Drive south of Interstate 20, and the annexation of land on the east side of U.S. 285, both as part of plans for new motels in the city.

The section of Starley Drive has been closed for three years, after that area was incorporated into the Reeves County Golf Course. Abandonment would allow the county to buy the land from the Pecos Housing Authority and then sell the area along I-20 for commercial development.

The land annexed was at the request of B.J. Patel, is scheduled to be the site of a Holiday Inn Express, located across from Wal-Mart.

Council members tabled action on an offer for royalty contents from American Land & Minerals LLC for a section of land east of the Reeves County Civic Center on which the city has partial royalty rights. On a motion by councilman Danny Rodriguez, the council voted to seek more information before making any decision, and Johnson said the council would probably have to solicit bids on the land, if they opt to sell the royalty rights.

In other action, the council accepted the resignation of Karen White from the Animal Control Board and appointed Lori Hughes to replace her. Councilwoman Angelica Valenzuela asked if city officials could make sure the various boards provide updates to the council.

“Sometimes we appoint board and board members, and we never hear from them again,” she said.

Officials seeking information into Monday arson house fire

Law enforcement officials need the community’s help in solving an arson case that completely destroyed a home located on the north side of town.

The fire was called in Monday evening and by the time firefighters arrived at the scene in the 100 block of N. Oak St., the structure was completely engulfed in flames.

“The fire started inside the home and by the time we got there, it was completely engulfed and fire was coming out of the roof and windows,” said Town of Pecos Fire Marshal Jack Brookshire.

Brookshire said that the fire has been ruled as arson and are asking anyone with information to come forward.

All of the fire trucks, a total of seven, responded to the scene, but nobody was injured. “The home was vacant at the time,” said Brookshire.

He said that a fire had been set at that location about five or six years ago.

“I haven’t talked to anybody who saw anyone there at the time, but we have demolished several other buildings in town, where vagrants and dopers would hang out,” said Brookshire.

“Now they are looking for new places to hang out,” he said.

The fire was the third in the past two weeks involving unoccupied homes that have been labeled as arson. The other two fired occurred on the east side of Pecos on Jan. 9.

Brookshire said that since they are forcing out the vagrants from other locations, they are moving in to other empty homes.

“We tore down a total of 19 buildings in 2007 and have 22 more on the list to be demolished,” said Brookshire. “This will have those individuals, vagrants, to move in to new locations, because we’re forcing them out,” he said.

If anybody has any information on this arson case, or any other, contact Brookshire at 940-0784; the Pecos Police Department at 445-4911 or Crimestoppers at 445-9898.

In all cases, the individual will remain anonymous.

Renteria gets degree from Texas Tech

Ysidro Renteria, Jr. graduated from Texas Tech University in Lubbock on Saturday, Dec. 15, with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration in accounting.

He is the son of Ysidro and Diamantina Renteria of Pecos and he has one sister, Amanda.

His paternal grandparents are Seledonio and Hortencia Renteria of Pecos. His maternal grandparents are (the late) Angel and Francisca Villalobos of Barstow.

He is currently doing his internship in Dallas with Ernest and Young.

Renteria plans to get into graduate school at Texas Tech University in Lubbock to get his Master’s in the fall 2008.

Texas Heritage Program held at Mauldin’s Boot Shop

The Modern Study Club of Pecos met Wednesday, Jan. 9, for a Texas Heritage Department Program entitled, “Western Art – Johnny will show us boot and saddle making.” The club gathered at Johnny Mauldin’s Boot Shop in downtown Pecos for the program. The thought-quote for the meeting was – “Gone To Texas.”

President Margie Williamson welcomed everyone and introduced Mr. Mauldin. As he began his program, he described three saddles that were on display. The first one was a Spanish saddle with a large wooden saddle horn with saddle bags built into the saddle. The second one was a saddle he had made in 1968 for a fellow from San Angelo and which he had recently refurbished. The third was a treasured saddle made by his father, Louis Mauldin many years earlier.

Members were then shown the equipment that he uses to make saddles, boots, belts and in his repair work. Some of the equipment he remembers his father using when he was a small boy helping in his father’s shop. Mr. Mauldin told of having difficulty getting replacement parts for the older equipment and finding someone who can actually repair the equipment.

When Johnny’s father was ready to retire he questioned Johnny as to whether he wanted to take over the operation of the shop. Johnny said he wanted to work in the oil fields where he could make more money so the equipment was sold. Several years later, Mr. Mauldin purchased back the equipment and, when questioned by Johnny, said, “You might want to someday return to running the shop.” Two weeks later, Johnny was informed his oil field job would be terminated due to the sale of the company. He has been running the shop ever since.

A leather artist in many areas, Johnny pulled a beautiful hand-tooled belt from the wall. He told club members he had made so many belts that he could, if not interrupted, make a belt in two hours time. The group felt that what he charged for the hand-tooled belts were extremely reasonable.

Following the program, members then went to the home of Catherine Travland where refreshments were served by hostesses Margie Williamson and Betty Lee. The following business was transacted under the leadership of President Williamson.

The Collect was led by Nan Cate and the Pledges of Allegiance to the United States of America and Texas Flags were led by Paula Fuller. Secretary Travland read the minutes of Nov. 7 and Dec. 8 and treasurer Betty Lee presented a statement of club finances and a report was also given on the club’s certificate of deposit.

During reading of correspondence, a letter was read from Shirley Kennedy, president of San Angelo Women’s Forum, informing that their club was disbanded as of Dec. 31. The news was received with deep regret by club members.

Thank you notes were read from Reeves County Librarian, Sally Perry and M.D. Anderson Cancer Research Hospital for our continued support. A Christmas card from L.M. and Juracy Ray was also read and passed around.

Margie Williamson, Scholarship Chairman, reported that she and Vanessa Valeriano were working on an application for the $800 Eleanor Tipps State Scholarship and that a letter has been sent to Kerry Kay Cook, Western District TFWC Scholarship Chairman informing her of the club’s intentions to sponsor Vanessa.

Scholarship Chair Williamson also reported that Zack Morton had already paid his spring tuition and requested the remainder of his Modern Study Club Scholarship be sent directly to his parents to deposit in his account for the purchase of books. She also reported that Sylvia Davis, Alma Van Sickle Scholarship, recipient, had been notified that proof of enrollment was needed for her funds to be sent to her and that former MS Club Scholarship recipient Brittany Lobstein was now working in her chosen profession as a lab technician at Trans-Pecos Lab. Federation Counselor Paula Fuller, told that the General Federation of Women’s Clubs wants news from every GFWC club from throughout the nation so we can learn from others when it comes to projects and fundraisers, and one of the best ways to find out about the work of other clubs is to read Club News.

Chairman Fuller told the Woman’s Club of Phoenix, Arizona presented the Phoenix College School of Nursing with a check for $250,000, and the funds were placed in to a trust fund with interest generated designed to provide 10, $1,000 scholarships each semester.

Also, the town of Center, Colorado, celebrated it’s 100th birthday in August 2006. To assist in the community celebrations, club members came up with the wonderful idea to organize a pictorial history of the town and surrounding community.

She continued, “If you’re a book lover looking for a place to discuss your favorites and read something new, check out HYPERLINK ""” This online book discussion forum allows reading enthusiasts from all over the world to share and enjoy great books together.

Finally, she told that recent medical studies are revealing that when it comes to health, there are many crucial differences between men and women. Not only are diseases such as heart disease, depression, osteoporosis, and lupus more likely to occur in women, but women also react differently to medications such as pain medications, anesthesia, and certain anti-depressants.

Members were reminded to bring Valentines to the next meeting for residents at the Pecos Nursing Home.

The club decided to send $25 to Western District President Harriett Berlin as their contribution to the appreciation gift for WD President Sherry Phillips of McCamey, who will conclude her two year tenure in the Spring of 2008. Motions and seconds were also made to pay several other accounts due.

Roll call was answered by telling of something club members have had made and the project for this bi-monthly meeting was contributions to the GFWC CIP community improvement.

Cards, a get well for Iris Reddick and a birthday card for Pearl Gustafson, were signed by club members.

Falcons celebrate golden anniversary

Former Pecos residents Gilbert and Mary Falcon celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary with their children, family and friends in Houston.

They live in Beverly Hills subdivision since 1972.

The couple met at Pecos High School. After high school, Gilbert join the U.S. Air Force, they kept in touch after his return they got married Dec. of 1953. Mary is the daughter of the late Jose and Anita Granado, Gilbert is the son of the late Pedro and Lily Falcon.

The Falcon’s owned a second hand store behind Figerroa’s, before they returned to Houston.

The couple have five children, Annette De Cuba, Sandy Enoch, Angela Traub, Gilbert Falcon, Jr. and Mark Falcon. They also have eight grandchildren and many relatives and friends from Pecos and the surrounding area.

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York M. "Smokey" Briggs, Publisher
324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 432-445-5475, FAX 432-445-4321

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