Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
City’s latest motel sets sights on June opening
Walls and supports are going up for the ground floor of the third new motel to be started in Pecos this year, with three more projects tentatively scheduled to begin construction in 2009.
Workers for Amerigo Hospitality Builders of Waco have almost completed the framework for the ground floor of the new three-story Hampton Inn, which will be located on Interstate 20 at the mile marker 39 (Texas Highway 17) exit, on the southwest side of the city. Brent Newman, site manager for the project, said he has been working in Pecos since Sept. 9, and the project is tentatively scheduled to be completed five months from now.
“The owner wants to get it done by June 1, so it’s going to be pretty tight,” Newman said on Monday. “We had a few minor delays, but it’s starting to move along.”
Dr. Arbind Ghandi and his brother Henry first announced plans to build a Hampton Inn three years ago, similar to one they had just completed on I-10 in Fort Stockton. But delays in both securing the land, finalizing financing for the project and installing the required infrastructure pushed back the starting date of the motel, which is being put on the middle parcel of three sections of land the Ghandis bought on the south side of the interstate.
The Ghandis had sought a similar property on the north side of I-20, but Pecos City Council members voted to accept a competing bid for the land next to Reeves County Hospital, which remains undeveloped. The new site, near the Highway 17 exit off I-20 had no water or electric lines. The Pecos Economic Development Corp. and Town of Pecos City worked to add the water and power lines, with the PEDC paying Texas-New Mexico Power Co. just over $120,000 to install underground lines that would meet requirements for the area, which is located near the end of the main runway for Pecos Municipal Airport.
The motel will have 64 rooms, along with a conference room and a large breakfast area near the main lobby, similar to other Hampton Inns. It will also have an enclosed heated swimming pool, which will be located on the west end of the building.
“The walls are going up, and we’ve got a lot of concrete going in, but the pool excavation won’t happen for another couple of weeks,” Newman said.
Along with their Hampton Inn on the interstate in Fort Stockton, the Ghandis have built several other hotels under the Hilton franchise name, including one in Alpine, though Newman said this is the first of their hotels that Amerigo Hospitality has worked on. The central lot at the site is the largest of the three, and Newman said as of now, there are no set plans for what will go on the other two sites.
“I know a lot of people have been talking about an IHOP going in, but right now they’re not sure what they will do with those sites,” he said.
An International House of Pancakes opened adjacent to the Ghandis’ Hampton Inn in Fort Stockton, but Newman said the brothers do not own that restaurant.
Two other motels, a new Best Western and a Holiday Inn Express, are both nearing completion and are expected to be open in early 2009. The three other motels due to begin construction include the $9 million Paradise Plaza project adjacent to the Reeves County Golf Course. Local businessmen Leo Hung and Bobby Bhakta plan a 65-room Country Inns and Suites Hotel on I-20 east of Country Club Drive, while a Comfort Inn and Suites is planned opposite Hung’s motel on the north side of I-20, and a LaQuinta motel is planned for the northeast corner of the I-20 interchange with U.S. 285.
City seeking ways to avoid need for new venue tax vote
Town of Pecos City and Reeves County may have to go back before the voters in May for a second approval of a hotel/motel venue tax, four years after voters first approved the measure, depending on a ruling by the Texas Attorney General’s office.
Town of Pecos City Council members met on Dec. 22 to discuss the problem, which could lead to a re-vote on the 2 percent hotel/motel tax passed in 2005 to run repairs and renovations to the Buck Jackson Rodeo Arena and the Reeves County Civic Center. A second special meeting was tentatively set for 5:30 p.m. on Monday at City Hall to continue discussions.
In the event that the city and county receive a favorable ruling, Mayor Dick Alligtood said council members approved issuance of $5,000 in debt to fund the first project to be paid for under the new tax. Repairs to the Buck Jackson Rodeo Arena were listed as the main priorities of the venue tax board, during a public hearing on the group’s project options back in November.
Alligood said the current problem centers around the state rules creating venue tax authorities, which mandate that a project built using a venue tax must be declared within a year of the establishment of the new tax. Collections of the 2 percent tax began in January, but approval of the venue tax was certified by the state on Oct. 25, 2007.
“They (state officials) are saying it began on Oct. 25, and that’s part of the problem,” Alligood said. “The other part is the city voted on the tax (in 2005), but there never was a vote in the county.”
The Civic Center and the Rodeo Arena are both joint projects of both the city and Reeves County, and each has four members on the Buck Jackson Rodeo Arena Venue Tax Board. But the tax was created only based on votes in the May 2005 city election. Voters living in Reeves County but outside the Pecos City limits were never given a chance to vote on the measure.
“We’re trying to see if we can solve it. If not, we’ll have to have another election in May,” Alligood said. “As soon as we get confirmation, ‘yes’ or ‘no’, we’ll let you know about it.”
Commissioners certify pay hike for RCDC staff
Employees at the Reeves County Detention Center should soon be seeing a $2-an-hour increase in their salaries, following a meeting held by Reeves County Commissioners in executive session before Christmas.
The group met on Monday, Dec. 22, at the Reeves County Courthouse to discuss several items, including the prison situation.
“Under the Department of Labor, anyone that’s hourly, they will be receiving an increase in salary,” said Reeves County Judge Sam Contreras.
Contreras said that at this time the salary increase will apply to hourly employees and not those that are exempt.
Reeves County contracts to house federal inmates with the Bureau of Prisons at the Reeves County Detention Center. However, because of the contract with the federal government, the salaries are based on pay scales set by the U.S. Department of Labor.
“There are some that are hourly, but not under Department of Labor,” said Contreras.
Contreras said that they have filed for an exemption for the employees that do not fall under the Department of Labor status and will try to get them an increase as well.
The employees at the Reeves County Detention Center III will see an increase in their salaries beginning January 1, while the employees at RI and RII will see the increase beginning Feb. 1.
Beginning salaries will increase from $14.99 to $16.99 an hour, according to Contreras. That will come out to a pay increase of a little over $3,000 a year on average, bringing starting salaries to over $34,000.
He added that not everybody will be getting an increase in salary, because of wage determination.
“The last time we did this was in 2002,” said Contreras.
He said that the new salaries have already been approved, and that they are working on getting the other “exempt” employees an increase as well.
“They may be seeing an increase later” he said.
Some of the positions that are on the “exempt” list include: case manager, food services, assistant food services, commissary supervisor, senior correctional officer, launder supervisor, mail room supervisor, assistant training director, safety environmental specialist, substance abuse counselor and senior substance abuse counselor, to name a few.
There are still 170 vacancies at the three prison units, according to Contreras.
“The prison now has a web site and individuals can apply for a position on-line,” said Contreras.
The web site can be accessed at reevescountydetention center.com or by calling 1-866-940-2785.
In other action during their Dec. 22 meeting, commissioners approved a number of other items, including: the Lone Star Libraries Grant in the amount of $4,423; the 2001 lease payment for Reeves County Detention Center I&II in the amount of $495,000; the 2001 maintenance reserve payment in the amount of $29,166; the 2005 lease payment in the amount of $346,598 and the 2007 lease payment in the amount of $217,618.
Contreras said that a committee has met concerning the bond issue projects that were approved by the voters in the November elections.
“There were 10 representatives from the school, city, the county and Friends of the Library that met to discuss the bond projects,” said Contreras.
Contreras said that they have still not set a time frame for when those projects will begin and which ones will be done first.
“We got the community together and plan to meet again in January,” sad Contreras.
Increase in county workforce boosts November jobless rate
Unemployment in Reeves County was up four-tenths of a percent in November, according to figures released last week by the Texas Workforce Commission. But the increase was due to the number of new workers in the county outstripping the number of new jobs added from October’s totals.
The county saw its jobless rate increase from 6.2 to 6.6 percent. The TWC said the county’s workforce was at 4,197 in November, 31 more than in October, while the number of jobs was up by 12, at 3,918 last month. A year ago, the county’s jobless rate stood at 5.2 percent, with 4,104 people in the labor force and 3,891 employed.
Unemployment was up for most cities in the region in November, though rates in the Permian Basin and Trans-Pecos area remain generally below statewide averages.
Midland County’s unemployment rate increased from 3.1 percent in October to 3.3 percent last month. Midland added 256 workers and122 jobs last month, the TWC said. Ector County’s unemployment was up by .2 percent, from 3.7 percent in October to 3.9 percent last month. The county added 36 workers but lost 123 jobs last month.
Andrews County’s rate was up from 3.4 percent in October to 3.5 percent last month. The number of workers in the county dropped by 48 and the job total for the county was down by 60 for the month. Brewster County’s rate went from 3.6 to 3.9 percent, as the county’s workforce increased by 46 while the number of persons employed was up 27 from the total a month ago.
Crane County’s rate jumped to 4.9 percent after two straight months at 4 percent. The county’s labor force was up by 16 after a drop of 15 in October, but the job total was up by just one for November, after dropping by 15 the previous month. Culberson County saw its rate drop to 3.2 percent after going up to a revised 3.3 percent rate in October. The county lost 20 workers and 19 jobs. Dawson County’s jobless rate was up from 5.8 to 5.9 percent, with the number of workers going up by 72 from October while the job total increased by 62.
Howard County’s unemployment rate was up from 5.0 percent to 5.2 percent last month. The county added 69 workers and 40 jobs. Pecos County’s rate was up from 4.9 percent in to 5.1 percent last month, as the county’s workforce was added 28 people while the job total increased by 13. Presidio County saw its jobless rate fall hold at 11.2 percent for the second month in a row. The county lost 16 workers, while the job total was down by 17 in November.
In Ward County, unemployment went from 4.2 percent in October to 4.5 percent in November. The county added 26 workers and seven jobs last month. Winkler County’s unemployment rate grew from 3.8 to 4.3 percent in November, as the county workforce was up by 36, while the job total increased by 17.
Loving County saw its unemployment go drop from 11.9 to 11.1 percent in November. That was due to the addition of three workers and three jobs in the county, which now has 45 people in its workforce and 40 employed.
Dorr optimistic on local energy industry’s future
John Dorr uses a ground positioning satellite to find his way around the oilfield, but he still relies on his wife, Sue, to help him locate a particular well.
“She is my sidekick,” said Dorr. “I couldn’t have done any of this without her. She’s been a wonderful, wonderful person at my side. She goes with me to see the rigs and ride around the country to see what’s going on. She is just a good partner.”
Dorr is acquiring oil and gas leases and “any kind of mineral I can buy.”
The drop in oil prices that put activity into a decline is a boon for Dorr, who looks ahead.
“I look at it as a little slack in the business, like slack in a rope when roping a calf and bringing him down,” he said.
“I am optimistic that these shale plays are going to work, and we have a lot of things to find out here we didn’t know about five years ago,” he said.
High oil and gas prices have provided funds for exploration and to implement technology that had been too expensive to employ, Dorr said. He believes horizontal drilling to be the salvation of the oil industry.
“You can put the drill bit on a horizontal plane and keep it in between two shale zones and in the sand zone,” he said.
In Reeves County, the Lower Bone Springs play, often referred to as Wolfcamp, is the hotspot now.
“Up until five years ago, I had property I had not leased since 1965, and it is all under lease to one of the major companies around,” Dorr said.
“There’s quite a bit of drilling in the Toyah area, two wells north of Pecos and one well out by the prison,” he said.
Two wells are being drilled south of Pecos in Block 13, a location that has not been explored.
“There hasn’t been a lot of drilling in that area, but I think they are going to find more oil by accident than on purpose,” he said.
Wells that once would not have produced are going online because new methods of fracturing make it possible, Dorr said.
Computers are essential in every phase of the oil business, and Dorr keeps one by his side, along with a cellular phone.
“I can pick up my drilling reports from anywhere, along with information coming through the news. I can gather any information I am interested in,” he said.
Besides investing in property, Dorr also does some drilling. One unit is down and running pipe now.
“I keep up with it on a daily basis,” he said. He is teaching his sons the oil business, continuing a tradition started by his grandfather.
His father, John J. Dorr was a farmer who gravitated to the oil business. Living in Oregon, he came to Pecos after World War II and saw a need for cotton.
“He remembered the people that raised vegetables in the 30s, and they were pumping with centrifugal pumps,” he said. “They couldn’t pump water more than 60 feet.”
“He was traveling through Arizona and found out about turbine pumps. He thought they should pump from 200 feet, and he bought four sections of land here and started farming,” Dorr said.
Farming didn’t interest John R., but the oil business did, and he chose it for a career.
“I have enjoyed every minute of it,” he said.
He believes deregulation of natural gas, oil and related products has changed the oil business for the better.
“It has changed a lot of our stability, but it has also given us a lot more opportunity for profits,” he said.
John and Sue have four children: Jay, Dede, Bart and Jan, and five grandchildren, whom they visit with regularly in Dallas, Midland and Florida. Bert is a landman in Midland, and “Much better at it than I am,” said Dorr.
He likes to take the grandchildren trout fishing.
“They love to fish,” he said.
He and Sue also travel around the world and visit with friends around the country.
“We made a lot of good friends in college that we still keep up with,” he said. They have traveled extensively in Europe, and have an upcoming trip to Russia.
A big bear rug that graces his office is a trophy from a hunting trip to Kodiak, Alaska. He also has a mounted pheasant on the wall, along with multiple paintings of ducks, which he enjoys hunting.
An indoor hobby is putting together models. He and Sue have just completed a ferris wheel that took three months, “almost every evening.”
He also enjoys playing golf, but declines to reveal his handicap.
A man who looks to the future, Dorr believes that the futures market has become important to major oil and gas people, both to buy and to sell.
“It adds a degree of risk, but also adds a degree of stability,” he said.
In a global economy, what happens in West Texas may not have much effect on oil prices, but Dorr believes its future is bright.
Modern Study Club holds art department meeting
Members of The Modern Study Club of Pecos met on Nov. 5, at the First Christian Church Fellowship Hall. President Margie Williamson presided over the meeting, the Collect was led by Pearl Gustafson and the Pledges of Allegiance to the United States of America and the Texas Flags were led by Catherine Travland.
The thought-quote for the gathering was – “Music is nothing else but wild sounds civilized into time and tune.” – History of Worthies of England Ch X Writers, Musicians.
The Art Department Program entitled, “A Celebration of American Music” was performed on the piano by Modern Study Club Chairman of the arts department member, Etta Bradley. She chose to pay as piano solos, “Over the Rainbow,” “When You Wish Upon a Star” and “Embraceable You,” mentioning that these were popular tunes when she was learning to play the piano. She continued “Oh! Susunna,” “God Bless America,” “Life’s Railroad to Heaven,” and “Sweet By and By,” with members singing along with the music. Mrs. Bradley then introduced Caroline Moon, who has recently moved to Pecos from Salt Lake City, Utah, who sang a beautiful rendition of, “Lean on Me.” Afterwards, Mrs. Bradley ended her recital by playing, “The Lord’s Prayer.”
The minutes of past meetings were read by secretary Catherine Travland and approved as read. Treasurer Betty Lee presented a report concerning club finances.
President Williamson thanked all the members who provided baked goods or gave a monetary donation.
She also reported that she had begun asking teachers at high school to think about a suitable candidate for the MSC Pecos High School Senior Scholarship for 2009.
There were no committee reports.
Paula Fuller, Federation Chairman, read several of the observances and events scheduled for October, that included National Down Syndrome Awareness Month and for November which included Adoption Awareness Month and Child Safety and Protection Month.
She also reported Allison Yezek’s “GFWC’s My Volunteer Year” and her passion project on postpartum mood disorders (PPMD). Yezek has discussed PPMD with a number of members who are embracing her passion and helping her find ways to apply GFWC’s mission of community service to an undeserved population. PPMD’s are treatable but there is no magic fix. Women who have suffered a PPMD never truly forgets her experience. PPMD projects would fit in many of GFWC’s existing program areas, including Home Life, with a focus on women’s health and recovery.
Roll call was answered by responding to the question what kind of music do you listen to the most.
Hostesses Catherine Travland and Betty Lee served delicious refreshments from a table that carried out a beautiful Thanksgiving theme.
York M. "Smokey" Briggs, Publisher
324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 432-445-5475, FAX 432-445-4321
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