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Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Wild hogs bringing home bacon for local trappers

Rooting for roots makes feral hogs unpopular with Reeves County residents, but their lean meat is popular with Europeans and with trappers who are paid by the pound for hogs on the hoof. Michael Bien of Reeves County Feed and Supply buys all the feral hogs he can get, and he doesn’t sit around waiting for trappers to bring them in. He goes after them himself with the aid of dogs and hobbles.

“I am as close to a professional hunter as they get with the dogs,” he said. After the dogs run the wild hogs to ground, Bien grabs their hind legs, turns them on their side and hobbles all four feet. “Then we go get another one,” he said.

Since September, Bien and about 40 trappers and hunters have shipped 1,100 hogs to market in Fort Worth, where they are slaughtered and shipped out, mostly to Europe.

Elgin “Punk” Jones, who ranches north of Mentone, is one of the trappers. He has several traps, mostly homemade, that have worked well. One is in a trailer, and the hogs “just walk up into the trailer,” Jones said.

Even inside the trailer, the big hogs can be dangerous, he said.

“You have to be careful or they will get you. They have bitten at me a time or two.”

Jones said he has a trailer that a bull can’t jump out of, but a big hog that didn’t like the prod he was using to turn him around jumped up and almost bit his hand.

“He jumped as high as that trailer,” Jones said. “I was standing on the running board and he opened his mouth real wide. He jumped so high that when he came down, he was flat on his back.”

Hogs rooting around the house for potato weeds were tearing up everything, so Jones built a trap in front of the house.

“I have a flow line to the cesspool, and they rooted it up,” he said.

Jones estimates he sold Bien $1,000 worth of hogs before the nomadic animals moved out of the area.

They’ll be back, he said, noting that feral hogs were numerous here in the 1940s, and have come back in the past few years.

He fed a hungry old sow and about 12 pigs for a while, but they moved on before he could trap them.

“They are smart,” he said. “I believe the mothers are smarter than the daddies.”

He kept two daddies he trapped and fed them corn for about 90 days, then butchered them for sausage.

“It was real good,” he said.

Coyotes suffer when hogs are in the area, because they eat everything, including mesquite beans and the rats that hoard them. Coyotes are afraid of the hogs, and the only predators that likely are a danger to them are bobcats and mountain lions, Jones said.

He said that feral hogs are both a problem and a blessing.

“Everything is a problem,” he said. “Thorns and thistles.”

Feral hogs are nothing but thorns to Valerie Panclak, who recently purchased a ranch near Verhalen. Hogs hang out underneath her mobile home and eat her dogs, she said. They also eat the goats she raises, and she is seeking help to get rid of them.

The hog problem for some landowners represents an opportunity for Bien, who offers a per-pound bonus for the larger hogs that are trapped or killed.

The bigger the hog, the higher the bonus.

“Everything over 100 pounds has a head bonus,” Bien said.

Last week, Bien shipped 10,800 pounds of hogs on the hoof to Frontier Meats. “The number we have sent out of here is pretty impressive to me,” said the seasoned hunter who got his start in North Texas.

Bien agrees the hogs are dangerous, and he has been bitten on the leg. “But luckily one has never gotten me down and got hold of me. Once you get a pig’s back legs, there’s not a whole lot he can do to you.”

He has butchered some of the smaller hogs and barbecued them whole. “They turned out real well,” he said. Most hogs average 135-175 pounds, but Bien has bought one caught in a trap that weighed 320 pounds.

That’s lots of sausage.

Council approves 3 percent hike for city workers

Town of Pecos City workers will receive a 3 percent pay increase, and starting salaries for city employees will be increase to $11 and hour, following a vote on Thursday by the Pecos City Council. Council members unanimously voted for the increases following a 90-minute executive session. Members also voted by a 3-1 margin following that closed door meeting to remove the voting rights of city manager Joseph Torres on the Pecos Economic Development Corp. board of directors, and to open up applications for a new voting member on the PEDC’s 4B board.

A number of city workers were in attendance at Thursday’s regular council meeting, awaiting a decision on the salary increase, after the council had discussed employee retention plans without taking action at two earlier council meetings. Following the session, the council approved a 3 percent cost-of-living adjustment effective immediately, along with raising the starting/minimum salary for city workers from $9 to $11 an hour.

Council members and mayor Dick Alligood also told workers that they would take another look at the city’s salary structure during this fall’s budget hearings. “We’re going to be looking during the next budget at longevity pay. The longer you’ve been here, the more money you’ll get paid,” Alligood said.

Council members noted that the city’s financial problems in recent years have prevented workers from receiving regular pay increases, and that the oil and gas drilling boom over the past few years has resulted in Pecos losing a number of employees to the drilling industry and related jobs. But they said that the drilling boom also has improved the city’s finances to the point that further changes can be considered in the 2009 fiscal year budget.

“Bear in mind at the next budget in October the council could also look at a cost-of-living raise,” said councilman Frank Sanchez. “This is not much, but it is a start.”

“Hopefully, we showed the council and the whole of Pecos we’re dedicated to our jobs,” said city employee Jose Garcia. “We really want to continue working for the city of Pecos. Anything you can do for us we’d really appreciate it.”

“We appreciate each and every one of you, because we know what’s out there,” said councilwoman Angelica Valenzuela. “We can’t compete with the oil industry, but hopefully 5-6 months from now we can come back and look at doing something else.”

“We’re still looking at what our budget can hold. That’s why we’ll look at it again at budget time,” added councilman Danny Rodriguez.

The PEDC board discussed Torres status during their March 17 meeting. At the time, it was recommended that the council look at replacing Torres as a voting member on the seven-person board with either Kevin Duke or Crissy Martinez, in order to give the PEDC more members who are not directly associated with city government.

Rodriguez made the motion to turn Torres’ position on the board into a non-voting one, and was supported by Sanchez and Valenzuela, with mayor pro-tem Gerald Tellez casting the lone vote against the change.

Prior to the vote, Torres told Sanchez he would consider the change to be a demotion, following his work as interim PEDC president from October through February, when the board hired Robert Tobias to serve as president of the 4B board.

“I want people to know we’re not replacing you because you’re not doing a good job,” Sanchez said. “But I have a concern that the by-laws suggest you should be an ex-officio (non-voting) member.” “I don’t know if that’s what the by-laws say,” said city attorney Scott Johnson. He asked to look at a signed copy of the by-laws. Council members opted to vote for the change without a review by Johnson of the signed copy.

The council did decide not to limit the possible replacements to only Duke, owner of Colt Chevrolet, and Martinez, who works with her husband, Reeves County Commissioner Gabriel Martinez, as owners of GabeCo Air Conditioning and Heating Systems.

“I’d like to see more names on that list,” said Sanchez.

“The 4B board went looking and recommended these people, but you’re right, we can open it up,” said Rodriguez.

“I think if you’re going to do it, you need to open it up to everybody,” said Tellez, and the council agreed to make applications for the PEDC board position available through the city secretary’s office at City Hall.

Concerns voiced over plans for lead testing near course

Town of Pecos City is willing to help Reeves County with its plans to check for lead contamination around the former Pecos Rifle and Pistol Club Range south of the Reeves County Golf Course. But council members wanted to make sure the agreement wouldn’t tie the city into a costly clean up of lead bullets and other fragments at the site in the future.

The council discussed the problem as part of an interlocal agreement with the county that was presented at Thursday’s council meeting. The city late last year agreed to give Reeves County 111 acres of land on the south side of the golf course, for construction of six new holes that would make the course a full 18-hole layout.

The county sold Land containing three holes of the current 14-hole course and located along Interstate 20 to local businessman Leo Hung for commercial development. The county asked for 111 acres in order to have enough room to avoid the area of the former shooting range, though at first county officials said they didn’t think the lead bullets in the ground and in the berms at the site would pose a problem.

City Attorney Scott Johnson said after reviewing the county’s proposal, that the county would conduct the testing. “Depending on the test results, they may help the city with the clean-up, but they’re no requirement to do so,” he said.

Mayor Dick Alligood asked if this section of the agreement could open the city up to liability for cleaning up the site, and Johnson said, “I’d leave out that part ‘Which could result in potential liability’. I don’t see a need for it.”

County Judge Sam Contreras told the council that golf course manager Peter Mora had designed a seven-hole layout that avoided the range area, but added, “Peter would still like to test it.”

“We’re looking to stay away from the berms,” Mora said. “We’re looking at making the (course) property line about 50 feet from it.”

“We would be testing 80-100 feet away from the berms, not the berms themselves,” Mora said. He said the test would be to make sure the areas where the course’s irrigation system would be put in would not have any lead contamination.

“When that was written, we were considering testing the actual berms,” Contreras said.

“I don’t want to tie the council to a huge expense,” said Mayor pro-tem Gerald Tellez.

“I don’t see a huge expense,” said Johnson. “Who says the results of the soil test must be reported to anyone?”

However, Mora said the company that will do the testing will have to report results to both the county and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. “I would assume if you don’t develop the area you don’t have to do a clean-up,” he said. “But that’s just an assumption.”

“Instead of ‘must be reported’, you can say ‘may be reported’,” said Johnson, and a motion was then made by councilwoman Angelica Valenzuela to approve the agreement with the change on the agreement to lower the city’s liability.

Mora told councilman Danny Rodriguez that in redoing the seven-hole layout to stay away from the berms, the holes will have to cross a street leading to the range. “Without the berms, we have to get closer to the airport,“ he said.

In another item involving land development, the council tabled an item to allow Dimension Enterprises LLC to spilt up the contract on land it is developing near Reeves County Hospital, but agreed to hold a special meeting if needed to approve the changes once they are finalized.

California pediatrician Dr. Rahat Saied is president of the company, while Dimension vice-president Ram Kunwar won a bid two years ago to develop the 27.4 acres along I-20 south of the hospital. Plans currently call for a medical building, commercial development and townhouses for the site.

Council members were told by Saied’s brother that the change was sought so that they could secure financing right now on part of the project, and that the medical building was furthest along in development.

“We should be moving pretty fast on it,“ he said. “A lot of money already has been put in, so our goal is to get this going as fast as possible.

In other action, the council approved a change to the employee handbook involving, in order to bring the city in line with U.S. Department of Labor standards. The change also involved giving workers cash payments instead of carrying over vacation time from one year to another.

Rodriguez noted that the change tied work time to hours, but that different city departments had different hours in their shifts.

“If you went by days instead of hours, it would be easier,“ said Police Chief Clay McKinney, and council members told Johnson to add a provision making an eight-hour work period equal one day.“ The council was updated on problems with trucks parking and driving on city streets, following two complaints from local resident Jesse Acosta. McKinney said police had talked with Acosta, and trucks parked on a lot next to his house have permission to be there, but changes could be made to the rules on driving on city streets.

He said the city could look at changing truck route designations, and told councilman Frank Sanchez that officers received a memo to increase enforcement on trucks violating the current city rules. Council members also approved the final reading of an ordinance to create the city/county venue tax board. The board was approved three years after voters agreed to create a new 2 percent hotel/motel venue tax to fund improvements to the Buck Jackson Rodeo Arena and the Reeves County Civic Center.

Four representatives of both the city and county will be on the board. Alligood said the group planned to hold its first meeting on Tuesday.

City street department director Eloy Herrera told the council city crews have torn down five condemned houses out of 23 on a current demolition list. “I can‘t say enough about the crews. They‘ve been doing great,” Herrera said. “People are noticing and they are appreciating it.”

He said the it’s costing the city $4,600 per home for the demolitions, and that the city would then bill the property owner for the cost, and if no payment is made, the property will be seized for back taxes and then sold off.

“We are keeping close tabs for our citizens, because these are not city property,” Alligood said. “We will put liens on the property and the owners can either pay or it will be put up for tax sale.”

Tellez said some owners of dilapidated homes want to tear them down, but were asking if the city would waive landfill fees so the debris can be removed from the property.

“The council can waive the landfill fees,” Johnson said. “Actually, this is a good idea, because of the cost of $5,00 per house.”

During public comments, Pecos Main Street Program Coordinator Martin Arreguy showed the council a photo of Oak Street from 1935, and said that the city has a chance to use the state’s historical preservation program to try and recreate that “old west” look as part of an effort to attract tourism to the area.

“We still have these buildings pretty much intact,” Arreguy said. “We have a potential gold mine here with our downtown, but we’re not using it. If we have the vision for the future, we ca see it.”

Rodriguez thanked city workers for the installation of new 30 mph traffic signs for traffic on Walthall Street, while Pecos EMS Chief Dennis Thorp told the council that the new full-time service had begun handling transfers from Reeves County Hospital to other area facilities on March 22. The transfers were part of the program approved by the city and hospital district to combine the two services into a full-time paid service.

Americanism program presented by girl scouts

An Americanism Department Program entitled, “Old Glory, Our National Anthem and Other Thoughts On America,” planned by Margie Williamson, American Dept. Chairman was presented to The Modern Study Cllub of Pecos by Girl Scout Brownie Troop 90 and Junior Girl Scout Troop 69, assisted by their leaders, Dorinda Millan and Terri Spence at the Fellowship Hall of the First Christian Church on Wednesday, March 12.

The thought-quote for the program was, “There is no attack on American culture more destructive and more historically dishonest than the secular Left’s relentless effort to drive God out of America’s public square” – Newt Gingrich from Rediscovering America.

Chairman Williamson introduced the Girl Scout Troop leaders and began the program by telling Mrs. Spence that Feb. 13 is Girl Scouts 96th birthday and that Juliette Gordon Low was the founder of Girl Scouts of the USA. “Daisy,” as she was affectionately called by family and friends was the second of six children. In developing the Girl Scout movement in the United States, Juliette brought girls of all backgrounds into the out-of-doors, giving them the opportunity to develop self-reliance and resourcefulness. She encouraged girls to prepare not only for traditional homemaking, but also for possible future roles as professional women- in the arts, sciences, and business – and for active citizenship outside the home. Girl Scouts welcomed girls with disabilities at a time when they were excluded from many other activities. The younger Girl Scouts are known as Daisy’s.

Mrs. Spence continued stating that the original 18 girls, Girl Scouting has grown to 3.7 million members. Girl Scouts is the largest educational organization for girls in the world and has influenced more than 50 million girls, women and men who have belonged to it. She then gave several important Girl Scout dates.

Members of Girl Scout Brownie Troop #90, Isabella Millan, Clarissa Millan, Mikael Natividad, Marie Urias and Natasia Johnson, each gave the history of the following flags: British Red, Betsy Ross, Stars and Stripes, Bennington, Great Star, Peace and Present Day Flag. Each of the flags described had a colorful replica displayed on easels about the area.

Members of Junior Girl Scouts Troop #69, Saydee Hannah, Alexis Machuca and Marissa Ybarra, sang “America,” Alexis Machuca told what the American Flag stands for and Marissa Ybarra read a poem entitled, “American Pride.”

As club members listened to the Girl Scouts and their leaders they certainly were reminded of the rich heritage that organization brings to our Americanism in this country. Some of the members were girl scouts, leaders of girl scouts or both.

The Girl Scouts led Pledges of Allegiance to the United States of America and Texas Flags.

Secretary Catherine Travland read the minutes of the previous meeting, were approved as read and treasurer Betty Lee reported the club finances.

Scholarship Chairman, Margie Williamson, reported the Application of Katherine Leigh Ramirez for the Alma Van Sickle Scholarship had been mailed to Bobbe Mitchell, Western District AVSS Chairman.

Paula Fuller, Federation Counselor, reported Heifer International is an organization dedicated to empowering women through economic development and that trained facilitators are sent worldwide to educate participants in the care, production, and sharing of the resources that are brought to them.

Lena Harpham, Nominating Committee Chairman, presented the slate of officers for 2008-2010, a follows, - president, Margie Williamson; vice president, Lena Harpham; secretary, Catherine Travland; treasurer, Betty Lee; reporter, Margie Williamson and parliamentarian, Lena Harpham. The officers were elected by unanimous vote.

The Western District 48th Annual Spring Convention of Texas Federation of Women’s Club is slated to be held in Pecos and is being hosted by The Modern Study Club. Welcome bags, decorations, continental breakfast and other facits of the conveion were discussed.

Catherine Travland was given $81, donated by club members to help defray convention expenses.

Roll Call was answered by telling a little known or interesting fact about the Girl Scout organization.

The bi-monthly project for this meeting is to support Western District.

Lena Harpham and Etta Bradley served delicious refreshments to club members and 11 guests.

Lone runoff race starting early voting

While there are no local races on the ballot, early voting began on Monday and will continue until Friday at the Reeves County Courthouse lobby for the April 8 Democratic primary runoff election. Voters can cast their votes early for the race for the Texas Railroad Commission, the only race on the ballot.

Mark Thompson, a Central Texas therapist for blind children will face retired petroleum engineer Dale Henry in the runoff, with the winner going on to face Republican Michael Williams, who chairs the commission, in the November general election.

A total of nine voters had already cast their votes early, by noon on Monday.

“We want everyone to know that they can come in and vote early and we encourage them to do so,” said county clerk Dianne Florez.

None of the local races in last month’s Democratic primary election had more than two candidates, and as a result there were no runoff elections needed on April 8. Incumbents Roy Alvarado and Saul Herrera won re-nomination for new terms as Reeves County Commissioner, while 143rd District Attorney Randy Reynolds and Reeves County Democratic Party Chairman Bobby Dean also won two-man races for new terms in the March 11 primary.

Flores celebrates 11th birthday with party at her home

Clarissa Flores celebrated her 11th birthday, on Sunday, March 30, with a party held in her honor at her home.

Clari received many gifts and the children enjoyed playing in the Jumping Balloon.

Family and friends were served barbecue brisket and all the fixings and a cake, bought for her by a friend, Yogi Ornelas.

Flores is the daughter of Rosie and Freddy Flores and on hand was her sister, Christina who helped to organize the event.

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