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Economic Development


Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

RCH boss pushing developer to speed up clinic project

Economic development was the subject of a presentation to the Town of Pecos City Council on Thursday and of action taken by the city council on a south side development project. But the work on that project is currently going at too slow a pace to satisfy officials at Reeves County Hospital, who asked the council to give the hospital first right of refusal on land adjacent to their facility for a proposed medical clinic.

Council members were given a 30-miunte update on the Pecos Economic Development Corp. by its new president Robert Tobias, and later agreed to change a contract agreement with Dimension Enterprises, LLC on the 27.4 acres of land the company is developing south of the hospital. But the first part of that planned development, a new medical clinic, is needed now by the hospital, and CEO Al LaRochelle said the hospital has taken steps to build their own clinic due to the lack of progress on the Dimension site.

Council members approved the change requested last month by Dimension, to split the land into four separate units, to allow the company to seek financing for each section separately. City Attorney Scott Johnson said the change would create sections of one acre, 8/10ths of an acre and 2.4 acres out of the 27.4 acres.

“My understanding is there won’t be any change in the performance agreement,” Johnson said, while telling council members he thought Dimension should pay the $1,500 in legal fees to make the change.

Shafquat Saied, brother of California pediatrician and company president Dr. Rahat Saied was present for Thursday’s meeting, and went over the plans with the council. “This is a very big project, and we need the council’s help with the project,” he said, while telling members there would be no problem with Dimension making the $1,500 payment.

California businessman Ram Kunwar won a bid two years ago to develop the site, and paired with Dr. Saied last year to create Dimension. Ground was broken on the property on Dec. 31, the final day Kunwar had to start work on the project under the terms of the original deal with the city.

Dimension now has until Dec. 31, 2009 to complete the first segment of their work. “We don’t want you delayed. We just want to know what your plans are,” said councilman Danny Rodriguez.

Saied said the first project would be a 20,000 square foot medical facility located near the hospital, but LaRochelle told the council that as of now, there’s no agreement for the hospital to use the facility.

“We have been in negotiations on the building, but we have nothing signed yet,” he said, while telling the council he had sent a letter to the city on Aug. 27 last year seeking first right of refusal on city-owned last just to the west of Reeves County Hospital along Stafford Boulevard.

“This has taken so long, what we have done in today (Thursday’s) paper is to go out and take bids for anybody who wants to work with us,” he said. “We have doctors coming in and no place to put them.”

Four new doctors are scheduled to begin work this year at the hospital. The ad in Thursday’s Enterprise is seeking bids to be opened on May 7 for a 20,000 square foot facility within 1,000 yards of the hospital, on land acquired by the bidder.

“We’d like to get into it by March of next year, but we know that probably won’t happen” LaRochelle said. “But we’ve got to get something moving.”

Tobias’ presentation to the council touched on a number of different items, ranging from improved access to business development tools and educational opportunities in Pecos to improving the look of the main entrances to town and the city’s outdoor recreational facilities.

“Sometimes communities are too bust reacting to opportunities and aren’t doing enough planning for opportunities,” Tobias said. He discussed the possibility of creating a branch office in Pecos for Sul Ross State University’s Small Business Development Center, and working more on tourism through the Pecos Main Street program.

“We’re also trying to find old money and trying to find what they’re doing to reinvest in the community,” he said, referring to current or former local residents who still own land or businesses in the Pecos area. “At this time I’ve found very few instances of old money reinvesting in the community, and we’re going to find out why.”

He said he hoped the PEDC could work with existing businesses and property owners to both expand their current businesses and expand into new areas in the future.

Tobias said part of that involved improving the quality of service and the times local businesses in Pecos are open, after hearing complaints from people looking to relocate businesses here about a shortage of services and a shortage of a skilled labor force.

He said part of the problem there was a shortage of housing for people looking to move into the area due to the current economic boom.

“What housing opportunities will do, is it will enable us to attract and retain people,” Tobias said, while adding he thought the pricing range for a similar project in Odessa involving 1,000 to 1,400 square foot starter single-family homes was a little too high for this area.

“We’d been looking at $75,000 to $115,000 for single family homes, along with apartments,” he said.

“There are a lot of opportunities, but every community in West Texas has opportunities right now. It’s those in West Texas that do it right that will be saying ‘What a ride we’ve had’.” Tobias said.

One other item dealing with economic development involved the city and the PEDC getting back a piece of land they had sold earlier this year.

Ben Burkholder with BOF services offered to sell the 4.24 acres of land at the intersection of Interstate 20 and Highway 17 back to the city for the same price they had bought the land for in January. BOF had won the bidding over developers Dr. Arbind Ghandi and his brother Henry, who bought eight acres of land just to the east of that site last year for a Hampton Inn on which dirt work just began in March.

BOF planned to put a yard for their area oilfield equipment services on the site, while the Ghandis had said they wanted to put a service station/convenience store and truck wash on the site. BOF was awarded the land on a bid of $25,440, but Burkholder said on Thursday the 4.24 acres was no longer enough to handle their local business.

“We have grown considerably faster than we first intended,” Burkholder said. He told the council they had planned to run six trucks out of the yard, but instead are currently running 14, with 11 more on order, out of the former Pecos Cantaloupe Co. processing shed west of Highway 17.

“I want to do what’s best for the city of Pecos. We don’t want to profit off this, and we need more land,” he said.

“The best plan is what Mr. Burkholder said, take it back and advertise it,” said Johnson. “We’ll just basically reverse the transaction and switch the deed around with the grantee and the grantor.”

An adjacent 1.03 acre site was awarded by the council for $5,250 to Lin-Lu Inc. City public works director Edgardo Madrid said the land was located off the interstate, and the company made the offer after discovering that a building they had put up on an adjacent property went onto the site.

“We have no use for this property,” said Madrid, while the price is about what the city was getting per acre on similar pieces of land in that area.

Council OKs $100,000 match for $2 million airport project

Town of Pecos City Council members agreed to a pair of $50,000 payments over the next two years as their share of a $2 million project to repair the runways at Pecos Municipal Airport. The council approved the measure, part of an interlocal agreement with Reeves County, during their regular meeting on Thursday at City Hall, and also agreed to create a separate budget item starting this fall to fund future maintenance and operations at the airport.

Greg Mitchell, president of the Pecos Airport Board, and airport manager Isabel Blanchard as the council to fund half of a 10 percent matching grant for the project, with Reeves County paying the other half of the matching funds. “TxDOT has offered us a little above $2 million, and we’re looking for $200,000,” Mitchell told the council. “Keep in mind, if we don’t take this money, somebody else will.”

Mitchell said Pecos Municipal Airport contributes $6.2 million annually to the local economy. “That’s about the same as (Odessa) Schlemeyer Field and above Midland Air Park,” he said, adding that similar airports in Fort Stockton and Andrews add less than $600,000 annually to their economies.

The proposal, which Mitchell said would be discussed with Reeves County Commissioners on Monday, would have both the city and the county contribute $50,000 in the 2009 and 2010 fiscal year budgets for the project. He also asked for the creation of the new line item for airport maintenance and operations.

“What we’re really after is to try and get some capital improvement program into the budget,” he said, and the council approved both measures.

In other action, the council approved putting two officials for a company that had conducted a water study for the city on retainer, as part of a mediation team negotiating a deal with the city on water usage fees.

Nellissa Fullerton and Bill Dugat of Water Resources Ltd. were added to the mediation team on an as-needed basis, after council member Michael Benavides said Reeves county had added water rate consultants to their mediation team.

Benavides asked for the two to be added to the city’s team as full members, but Mayor Dick Alligood said that would require the removal of two current members, and city attorney Scott Johnson said it would be cheaper to have the two on-call in case they were needed in negotiations.

“It would cost $15,000 to put them on the mediation team. We can just have them on call if we need them, and the council can also reject any agreement,” Johnson said.

Another city-county item that was tabled involved an interlocal agreement on EMS services. Alligood said the agreement has been sent to the county, but they had not received a reply as of Thursday.

Council members also rejected a bid from Benmark Supply Corp. of Midland to provide materials for the city’s sanitary sewer lift station project, on the recommendation of engineer Victor Enciso with Frank Spencer and Associates. He said the company was making the second bid on the project, and was the lone bidder. But their $184,000 cost estimate was $60,00 below their initial bid, but still about $45,000 above their estimates.

“I feel if we re-bid it one more time, we’ll get more bids attracted and we’ll get a fairer price,” he said.

City public works director Edgardo Madrid said the city has been working on the project for about six months, and expected to receive an extension on the Office of Rural Community Affairs grant time period, when they make a request to push back the current schedule later this month.

The council also approved a change to the city’s cash collection and deposit procedures, after an audit report said the city needed to tighten up controls on the process, according to city manager Joseph Torres.

Council members were given an update from Teeny Crider and Ruth Luster of the city’s animal control committee, which discussed plans for the new animal shelter next to the Pecos Police Department and changes the committee wants to see the city make in controlling stray animals around town.

“We realize this is not going to happen overnight,” said Crider, who asked the city to offer more education on spaying and neutering cats and dogs, along with better enforcement of existing laws on controlling pets roaming loose in city neighborhoods.

“This is going to take a while, but we’ve got to do something,” she said.

Crider and Luster also brought Lori, a female Pyrenee that had been rescued last year by Luster, in for a visit with the council. She said the dog, similar to a St. Bernard in size, weighed only 73 pounds when she was found pregnant and wandering on the north side last year.

Lori, who ended up losing the puppies, was also blind, and Crider said, “We sent her to Houston to try and fix her eyes, they couldn’t,” due to a loss of her retinas because of the illness.

However, the dog was nursed back to health and Luster asked the council if they could pass a resolution naming Lori as the city’s official mascot. Council members agreed to have the measure prepared for a meeting later this month.

The council also heard a presentation by council member Danny Rodriguez on his work as a coach with the Reeves County Community Sports and Recreation Department.

Rodriguez was hired as a coach by Reeves County Commissioners in January. The RCCRD is funded in part by the county, Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD and the Town of Pecos City, and council member Frank Sanchez asked for an update during a March meeting.

Rodriguez showed the group a 15-minute movie on the outdoor exercises being done by some boys and girls as part of the recreation department’s program. “When we go inside the field house to train mostly what we do are drills,” he said. “Some can do them, some couldn’t. Like anything else, the more you work at it, the better you get.”

Among the drills show was one using parachutes for wind resistance running. “We tried them out yesterday (Wednesday), and they really enjoyed it,” said Rodriguez, who also brought a ‘dot’ mat and had a couple of the students do workouts on that, before handing out certificates to participating students.

City sees 63 percent increase in tax rebate number

Sales tax collections in February for the Town of Pecos City were up a little less than in the first three months of 2008, but were still up significantly over a year ago, based on April tax rebate checks sent out last week by Texas Comptroller Susan Combs’ office.

Pecos’ April rebate check, which surpassed the $100,000 mark in 2007 for the first time in a month not tied to Christmas sales, climbed another 63 percent this year, going from $100,526 last year to $164,074 in the latest check sent out from Austin. The 63.21 percent increase is below the four-month average of 68.27 percent, but the $624,755 compared with just $371,267 for the January-April period last year.

One-sixth of the city’s 1 1/2-cent sales tax, goes towards the Pecos Economic Development Corp. for its operations. Out of April’s check the 4B PEDC will receive $27,346.

Tax rebate checks were also up for Toyah and Balmorhea this month, with Balmorhea showing a triple-digit increase after declines in two of the first three months of 2008.

Balmorhea’s April check for $3,948 was up 103.90 from last year’s $1,936 total. The city’s 1 1/2-cent sales tax has netted $12,258 this year, a 15.56 percent rise from the $10,606 the city got for the first four months of 2007.

Toyah’s $804 check was 38.56 percent higher than last April’s $580 total. For the year, Toyah has gotten $3,067 back from Austin, up 48.49 percent from last year’s $2,066 total.

The 1/2-cent sales tax collected by the Reeves County Hospital District in February resulted in a $94,244 check this month, which was up 96.44 percent from last April’s $47,975 total. For the first third of 2008, the hospital has gotten $335,383 back from the comptroller’s office, a 90.34 percent increase from last year’s $176,197 figure.

The numbers were also up by double digits in most other Permian Basin cities, but the year-to-date increases continue to lag in the Big Bend and Davis Mountain region, where high gas prices may hamper tourism while the growth in oil and natural gas drilling activity hasn’t had an effect on the cities in those areas.

The largest single check in the region again went to Midland, whose 1 1/2-cent sales tax netted it a check for $2.4 million, a 5.57 percent increase from last year. Overall for 2008, the city has seen a 9.85 percent rise in its sales tax totals. Odessa’s 1 1/4-cent sales tax brought in $1.77 million in rebates this month, an 11.02 percent increase from a year ago, while for the year, Odessa is up 6.55 percent.

For other cities collecting the 1 1/2-cent sales tax, Alpine received a $91,557 check, which was up 22.01 percent, though for all of 2008, the city is still down 1.59 percent . Crane received a check for $46,197, a 7.73 percent drop coming on the heels of a113.71 percent increase in March; Lamesa got a $90,570 check back this month, which was up 21.31 percent, while Seminole received a check for $85,720, which was up 12.32 percent from last April.

Among cities collecting a one-cent sales tax Kermit received $59,187 this month, up 51.18 percent; Wickett received a $10,049 check, up 29.58 percent; Wink received a check for $15,735, up 166.56 percent, and Pyote, received a $678 check this month, a 5.23 percent increase from a year ago.

For area cities collecting a 1 3/4-cent sales tax, Andrews received a check for $298,642, a 21.13 percent increase from a year ago. Marfa got a check for $22,046, which was up 16.89 percent, and Van Horn got a check for $28,532, which was down 6.11 percent from last April.

For cities collecting the maximum two-cent sales tax, Fort Stockton received $197,166 this month, up 38.93 percent; Big Spring received $403,206, an increase of 3.92 percent for the month; Monahans received a check for $123,704, which was up 28.25 percent from last year; Grandfalls got a $1,763 check, up 9 percent, and Presidio received $31,666, up 10.06 percent from a year ago.

Statewide, Combs’ office sent out rebate checks totaling $281.1 million, up 3.15 percent from the $268.6 million rebated last year. Houston’s check of $35.7 million was the largest single check, but declined 0.24 percent from last year, while Dallas’ check was next, at $15.7 million, which was down 2.09 percent from their rebate check last April.

Rodriguez hears local concerns during visit

Housing, economic development and tourism were just some of the topics that community members discussed with a congressman during his visit to Pecos last week.

Congressman Ciro Rodriguez (D-San Antonio) was in Pecos on Friday to talk to community members about their concerns and to offer his help and possible solutions.

Rodriguez, who is in his first term as congressman for the 23rd District and will face Republican Bexar County Commissioner Lyle Larson in the November general election, spoke with members of the economic development board and was a guest speaker at the Pecos High School.

“I really enjoyed talking to the students, they had some really good questions and I was very impressed,” said Rodriguez.

Rodriguez said that he enjoyed visiting the different communities because it offered people an opportunity to speak to him about personal problems, such as social security, housing and economics.

“This way I can visit with them one on one or speak to a group,” said Rodriguez.

Rodriguez has been in Pecos several times, including once at the local Wal-Mart and has an aide that comes to Pecos once a month at the Reeves County Courthouse.

He said he had spoken to community leaders about the problem with housing.

“It’s not just in Pecos that this is a problem, but in all rural areas,” said Rodriguez. “We want to look at several incentives and look to see what can be done about this problem.”

Rodriguez said that he had also talked to the economic development group about a couple of problems and plans to look into the issue.

“We recently procured a little over $1 million for Agri-Life for this county,” he said. “We also talked about health care and the problems with getting professionals into rural communities.”

Rodriguez said that they had also discussed visas and the problems with immigration, and said that there are several solutions they have been discussing.

“I talked to some people about tourism and how to promote it and make that happen,” he said.

Rodriguez said that he has also toured the prison before and talked to the warden about the housing situation, which has left the Reeves County Detention Center short of guards.

“I also talked with some school personnel and board members, especially about Leave No Child Behind,” said Rodriguez.

He said he believes that there is too much testing being done at the schools and that teachers need and want to focus more on teaching than on the many tests that the students take.

“We tried to derail the whole bill and have been fighting this for a long time,” said Rodriguez. “No one test should be a factor in deciding whether a student passes or not, there are other factors that should be taken into consideration, such as teacher evaluation, homework and other things geared toward learning.”

Rodriguez said that he feels strongly about this that not one instrument should be used, but several things should be taken in to consideration.

“School personnel did talk to me about the number of students that are dropping out and being home-schooled,” said Rodriguez. “That’s really something that shouldn’t be happening, because this is a really good school district.”

Rodriguez said that he is a super delegate and has not decided if he will endorse Hillary Clinton or Barak Obama for president.

“It’s just very exciting to see that for the first time, we will have either the first woman president or the first African-American,” he said.

“It will be my district that guides me in that decision,” he said.

At Pecos High School, Rodriguez presented an American flag flown above the Capitol in Washington and a plaque to the PHS student council, and spoke to Joan Capshaw’s government class about his career and the value of participating in improving their community after graduation.

“The day you take ownership of the problem, that’s when things work out for you,” he told the students. “When you take ownership of a problem like gangs in a community or spousal abuse … the day you take ownership is the day you start creating the solution.”

“It’s the same thing for business. If you want to start a business, you’ve got to go after it,” Rodriguez said. “If you’re not willing to take the risk, you’re not a leader.

“There’s always some risk of failure, but we all fail throughout life,” he told the students. “Nothing is worse than to get to my age and say ‘I should have done this or I should have done that’. Do it.”

The congressman also urged students to continue their education, noting that he dropped out of school in ninth grade and returned later, while still suffering from reading comprehension problems.

“Thank God I went back. To this day, I still have to color code my speeches to make it easier to identify each subject,” he said. “Education and your attitude towards learning is essential.”

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