Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
None hurt after collision with tanker derails UP train
Train traffic through the Trans-Pecos region was shut down for several hours on Thursday, after a Union Pacific locomotive engine derailed following a collision was a water truck tanker Thursday afternoon midway between Pecos and Monahans.
The accident occurred just before 3:30 p.m. on Thursday near mile marker 59 on Interstate 20 in Ward County. Officials said two water trucks owned by Elite Transport of Barstow were attempting to cross the tracks southbound onto the I-20 service road, and the second was struck by the eastbound UP freight, causing the front locomotive engine to derail.
The engine came to a stop about a quarter mile east of the accident site, and with the front wheels of the engine off the tracks in a open cut the tracks run through between the I-20 service road and the Wilson Ranch.
Department of Public Safety trooper Daniel Leyva said the driver of the water truck said he didn't see the train coming when he began to cross the tracks.
Neither the driver, nor the two engineers on the train were seriously injured, but the crash shut the main rail line between Fort Worth and El Paso until Friday morning, when work crews were able to get the engine back on the tracks and then onto a siding between the accident site and Barstow, allowing through traffic to resume.
Council gives final OK for revising truck ordinance
Town of Pecos City Council members read letters from Bessie Haynes Elementary students Thursday night, during the council’s regular semi-monthly meeting.
And then they had to take a test.
Council members read out letters from fourth graders thanking the city for placing a new stop sign near the east side elementary school, and then were given an essay test by a local resident asking them to write out their reasons for supporting a change to the city’s truck ordinance, which was just modified in September.
The test, and the answers, came just before the council voted 3-2 to approve a modification to that law with the second reading of a new law allowing truck cabs to once again park on city streets.
Paul Richeson , one of the local residents to speak out last month against the latest change, handed out a form to members asking them to list three reasons why the current ordinance should be adjusted. He also had Pecos Mayor Dick Alligood read out the truck ordinances currently in place in Monahans and Fort Stockton, and said both cities have rules stricter than those Pecos was planning to put in place.
“You all were voted in to take care of the people of the city, not what I want or what you want,” Richeson told council members.
The council originally voted in August and September to limit truck operations and parking within Pecos to designated truck routes, except to pick up items or make deliveries. The change was made due to protests from local residents about problems with both truck noise and the appearance of streets with the vehicles parking and driving in residential areas, but the decision led to protests from local owner-operators, who were able to get council members Danny Rodriguez, Cody West and Frank Sanchez to modify the law after discussions at council meetings in October and November.
Council members filled out Richeson’s form, though council members Gerald Tellez and Bernadette Ornelas said they agreed that the current rules should be maintained, and voted against approving the changes.
“I don’t feel this ordinance would affect more than a handful of people,” Sanchez told Richeson. He said he didn’t believe the modifications would either be a safety issue or affect the city’s growth.
“I care about this city. I’ve had chances to move elsewhere and I’ve turned them down,” Sanchez said. “I care about this city as much as anybody else.”
“The issue of the trucks tearing up the streets is not all correct. The city hasn’t paved the streets since 2005,” Rodriguez said.
“People make a living driving trucks around. They’ve been here for years. Some people have been truckers for three generations.”
He later added that the city’s $1,000 fine for violating the new ordinance compares with only a $200 fine imposed in Fort Stockton and Monahans for violations of their truck ordinances.
West said he voted for the original change in September. “But after hearing from both sides of the story, as least as far as my position is concerned, a compromise was in order.”
He said the new law still has more limits than the original 1967 law amended in September, and the truck cabs are no larger or heavier than RVs, which are allowed in residential areas.
“I just find it difficult to stand in the way of private business owners trying to make a living for their families,” he said.
The new rule will allow truck cabs to operate on residential streets, and park on paved or gravel driveways either on the side or in back of homes. The new law also limits trucks to idling for only 10 minutes without a driver present.
Richeson said the trucks parking next to homes with people who have breathing problems would expose them to diesel exhaust even with the 10-minute restriction, which brought a reply from Nacho Ybarra, one of the supporters of the change.
“Gasoline is more dangerous than diesel,” he said. “You see trucks with those big gasoline tanks explode, but diesel trucks don’t explode.”
Richeson also said police weren’t enforcing the current ordinance, saying that a truck with trailer was parked in a residential area on Fifth Street for several hours on Thursday with no action taken, while Ybarra said the city also wasn’t enforcing it’s laws against trucks with hazardous materials parking in the city, saying a company was being allowed to park trucks in the 100 block between Cedar and Ash streets.
“We know the ordinance is being changed, so we’ve kind of backed off on it,” Pecos Police Chief Clay McKinney said of the street parking, while Alligood asked the chief to look into the possible hazmat parking law violation.
Alligood also said the city has to do a better job enforcing all of its ordinances in the future, and that the council has to bear responsibility for making sure the laws that are passed are carried out and not ignored after a short time.
“Enforcement is the biggest issue we’re facing,” he said. “It’s time Pecos wakes up and does it.”
City seeks new state funding for sewer line expansion work
Construction work on a new sewer line along East Third Street is scheduled to begin in the next few days, and on Thursday evening Town of Pecos City Council members were asked to seek a state grant to fund another sewer line project for East Seventh Street in the near future.
City Public Works Director Edgardo Madrid made the request to the council during their regular meeting last week at City Hall. He asked and was given approval to apply for a $350,000 Texas Community Development Program grant through the Office of Rural Community Affairs to install new and larger sewer lines on Seventh, from Walnut to Orange streets.
He said the city would have to provide $70,000 in matching funds for the project, which would expand the line from 15-inch clay pipe to 24-inch PCV pipe, matching the line currently running from Orange Street to the city’s wastewater treatment plant.
“We want to eventually extend it to the southwest side of the city,” Madrid said, adding the larger lines are needed to handle waste from the new construction projects along Interstate 20 and U.S. 285 on the south side of Pecos.
He said the Third Street project would run east from Walnut Street, and would involve installation of an 18-inch line on the north side of the street. A similar line was installed along Third from Eddy to Walnut Streets in the mid-1990s. Madrid said the project could require some traffic detours, and would take between 60 and 90 days to complete.
The council also approved a replatting of the 700-800 blocks of the Morris Addition between Washington and Adams streets, widening the lots to allow for construction of new residential housing by West Texas Dream Homes. The change would cut the number of lots from 12 to 10 per block, widening the corner lots from 47- to 63-feet, and the mid-block lots from 47- to 49-feet.
Also approved was a request by Police Chief Clay McKinney to seek bids for the pharmaceutical contract for the Pecos Criminal Justice Center; a new contract with Water Resources Management for a review of the city’s water rates, as set following a recommendation by the company in 2005; and a resolution to join a group of West Texas cities opposed to a rate increase proposal by Texas-New Mexico Power Co.
All those votes were approved unanimously, with the exception of the T-NMP motion, where Sanchez abstained because he has a pension with T-NMP, from his time as any employee of the company.
Also approved was the addition of Pecos Economic Development Corp. president Robert Tobias to the city’s retirement fund, along with any other qualifying PEDC workers; and the addition of Dr. Orville Cerna to the city’s qualified health benefits list, based on his position as Pecos EMS medical director.
“Since 1996 he’s been doing this on a volunteer basis,” city manager Joseph Torres said, and the request was approved by the council.
Test track’s request to widen equipment lease deal rejected
A request for lease of equipment by the private company currently operating the former Smithers Automotive Testing Center was partially approved on a conditional basis by the Town of Pecos City Council on Thursday, during the council’s regular meeting, while three other interlocal agreements with Reeves County were approved by the council.
ARA, based in Albuquerque, N.M., has been operating for the past three years at the Pecos TTC, the former test track being run in conjunction with the Texas Transportation Institute and located 15 miles east of the city. City public works director Edgardo Madrid told council members that ARA was asking if it could lease some heavy equipment from the city for use at the test track.
Madrid said ARA had borrowed mowers and a construction sweeper from the city before, and had replaced any worn parts on the vehicles. The latest request include both those vehicles, along with a road grader, forklift, a trencher, dump truck and back hoe. “They’re willing to do a lease agreement,” Madrid said, but them told the council he recommended against the latest request.
“I know it’s a little more revenue, but I’d be a little hesitant to make that recommendation for now,” he said. Madrid said he was also against an agreement for the city to collect trash from a roll-off truck at the site, because of the travel distance in moving the equipment between the test track and the city’s landfill.
“We can do more work here for our community,” he said.
Madrid did say the city could continue with the agreements on the mower and sweeper, but Mayor Dick Alligood asked if the city could legally lease equipment to a private company.
“It’s illegal to do that, because it’s a private business,” city attorney Scott Johnson said, though an agreement still could be made through the state-run Texas Transportation Institute.
Council members then voted to accept Madrid’s recommendation, pending legal approval.
The three interlocal agreements with Reeves County that were approved unanimously were for Pecos EMS service, which is run by the city and contracted for operations in rural areas by Reeves County; the Reeves County Emergency Management Department, which also serves the city; and the Reeves County Community Sports and Recreation Department, which is also run in conjunction with Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD.
The EMS contract is a one-year renewal of the agreement signed last year as part of the merger of the city’s volunteer EMS service with Reeves County Hospital’s transfer service, to create a paid EMS service for all but the far southern section of the county, handled by Balmorhea EMS. City attorney Scott Johnson said the contract is for one-year, with a 60-day termination notice from either side.
The recreation department agreement calls for a $20,000 payment by the city for operations. Reeves County pays $31,500 and the Reeves County Detention Center contributes $113,500. Councilman Frank Sanchez said the school district provides most of the funding for the recreation department’s facilities and salaries, including $40,000 for councilman Danny Rodriguez, who is employed by the department as an off-season program coordinator.
In other action, the council agreed to look at increasing the accidental death and dismemberment payment for city employees, under the heath insurance agreement with RH administrators. Torres said the matter would be discussed again with company owner Rick Holder during the council’s Dec. 18 meeting.
“It has not been updated in 15 years,” city manager Joseph Torres told the council. He said the three options would boost the current $50,000 payout to $75,000, $150,000 or three times annual earnings, and would increase the city’s total monthly cost by either $2,097, $2,887 or $3,311.
“I’d like to see Plan 3,” said Rodriguez.
“We’d all prefer Plan 3,” Torres replied.
Commissioners seek pharmacy pact advisement
Two representatives from pharmaceutical companies were on hand at the regular Reeves County Commissioner’s Court, in which commissioners were awarding bids to different for a variety of services.
Leo Hung with Professional Pharmacy of Pecos and Don Mobbs, regional sales director for Maxor Correctional Pharmacy made their presentations for the county’s pharmaceutical contract, which ended with commissioners deciding to seek further guidance on the matter before awarding the bid.
“We had three bidders, Professional Pharmacy, Maxor Correctional Pharmacy and Diamond Pharmacy,” said county auditor Lynn Owens.
Hung told the group that he has been serving Reeves County for 20 years.
“About three weeks ago, we had a meeting with PNA and they are going to go to Jayco,” said Hung.
Hung told the group that when Jayco takes over they will require a lot more. “They can even request to inspect our pharmacy,” said Hung. “There will be a lot of new developments with them,” he said.
Hung told the group that they are available 24/7.
Mobbs said that their company would come in and train the employees so that they could order through the computer.
Both representatives talked about what their company could offer and their experience.
“I think that the history that we have with Professional Pharmacy speaks for itself, and they are located locally, we’re always talking about providing jobs here and shopping locally, to otherwise is going against what we preach,” said Precinct 2 Commissioner Gabriel Martinez.
County Judge Sam Contreras said that they could award the bid and negotiate the price later, during the early part of the meeting, but told commissioners later that he would like to get the county attorney’s opinion.
“I think this falls under professional services, where we can hire the firm and negotiate the price later,” said Contreras. “That’s what the statue states.”
However, Owens said that he didn’t think that it did fall under professional services, because the county would be getting a service, not a product.
“I think it should be put under professional services,” said Owens.
“I think we need to check with our county attorney, before proceeding on the bid award,” said Contreras.
Mobbs told the group that his company could provide an excellent service, less stressful and more profitable. “So, if you want to award it to someone locally, is it a moot point to even bid,” he told commissioners.
“I don’t think it’s a moot point, because Mr. Hung is a professional and he knows about competition,” said Contreras.
Mobbs told the court if they thought it was fair to the citizens of Reeves County to not offer them a savings, because he felt that his price was lower and cost-saving.
“I know there’s a saving with your company, but the service that we have now is excellent and if we need the service right then and there, that savings could be wiped out, by not receiving it,” said Precinct 4 Commissioner Ramiro Guerra.
“I would personally like to get some clarification, I made some statements earlier that I’m not sure about,” said Contreras. “I do think like Lynn that it should fall under professional services.”
“It’s based on a professional service and we haven’t had any problems with Leo, he has another pharmacist working with him and he provides a high level of service,” said Contreras.
Mobbs told the group that his company had the credibility and the price.
The item was tabled until they could get the county attorney’s opinion.
In other business, commissioners awarded the bid for gasoline and diesel fuel to Desert Distributors and motor oil and anti-freeze to Western Marketing.
The bid for asphalt and emulsions was tabled and will be re-bid at another time after the proposal from Ergon Asphalt & Emulsions came in over projections.
“We only had one bid and it is really high,” said Owens. “The company that we had been doing business with declared bankruptcy.”
Contreras asked Owens if next year they could send out all the bid information earlier, in case some items needed to be re-bid.
“Well for this product, this is the only company that we know of,” said Owens. “Ergon seems to be the only provider for this service in this area.”
“This is really high, maybe we can get better pricing if we re-bid it,” said Contreras.
In the surface materials bidding there were two bids submitted, from Capital Aggregates and Salcido Sand and Gravel.
“Capital Aggregates didn’t bid on the pre-mixed,” said Owens.
The group awarded the bid for grades 3-4 to Capital Aggregates and the pre-mix to Salcido Sand and Gravel.
TxDOT issues driver warning for season’s first winter storm
The first winter weather of the season is expected to hit West Texas on Tuesday, and Texas Department of Transportation officials are warning motorists to be careful when driving on roads, which could be covered with snow or ice by Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.
Pecos is expected to escape the worst of the winter weather during the daytime, with temperatures forecast in the lower 40s, but the area, along with most of the region to the north and higher elevations to the south and west are expected to see snow and freezing rain on Tuesday.
The National Weather Service said a strong cold front would arrive in the area early Tuesday morning, and mix with a strong upper-level disturbance later in the day. The rain and snow mix is forecast for the northern Permian Basin and Southeastern New Mexico, along with the Upper Trans-Pecos and Marfa Plateau regions Areas to the southwest and in the Guadalupe Mountains with elevations over 4,500 feet are expected to see 1-2 inches of snow on Tuesday and into Wednesday morning.
TxDOT public information director for the Odessa District, Glen Larum, said crews are preparing for the seasonal change in the weather, and will treat bridges and overpass approaches with a de-icer or sand and gravel if conditions are right for moisture to freeze on the roadway surface.
“Please slow down and drive carefully. It is not possible to treat every mile of roadway,” Larum said in a press release. “Use caution when driving over bridges and overpasses. These are the first of all roadways to freeze and may not be treated at the moment they freeze. It is possible for bridge decks to re-freeze after being treated.
Larum also said motorists should Reduce speed and drive with caution, and drivers should clean their car windshield and rear window of ice or snow, along with checking other parts of the vehicle, including tires, antifreeze and wipers, to be sure they are ready for winter conditions.
“The most important thing a traveler can do is to check en route and destination weather conditions on radio or television before starting a trip,” Larum said. Motorists can call TxDOT’s toll-free highway condition line at 800-452-9292; a local road condition report at 432-498-4696 during business hours 8 a.m. -5 p.m. Monday-Friday, or go on-line to www.txdot.gov and click on "Road Conditions"
For non-emergency roadside assistance, motorists can call the Texas Department of Public Safety at 800-525-5555.
York M. "Smokey" Briggs, Publisher
324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 432-445-5475, FAX 432-445-4321
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