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Economic Development


Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Pecos firemen attend regional FD convention

Pecos Volunteer Firefighters brought home several honors from a fire convention the group attended recently in Seminole.

Several other volunteer fire departments from around the area participated in the convention including Andrews, Alpine, Odessa, Howard County and Ft. Stockton.

“There were over 40 departments there,” said Pecos Volunteer Fire Chief Freddy Contreras.

During the convention firefighters received updates on new laws about fire departments, upcoming training, grants and other fire department related issues.

A memorial ceremony was held in honor of fallen firefighters and other deceased firefighters.

“We honored Clarence Cox of Pecos, who had been a firefighter for many years,” said Contreras.

Ten 10 teams competed in the men’s races and the Pecos group placed first in the 6-Man Race and second in the Two-Man Race.

Pecos also brought home the trophy for Most Traveled Miles.

“Our convention will be held in October, firemen within the Permian Basin District rotate towns, and the next convention will be in Wink,” said Contreras.

“It’s important to keep informed on information pertaining to firefighters and we try to send as many Pecos members to the conventions,” said Contreras. “We belong to two main organizations, including the main one, Fire Marshal Association.”

Contreras said that they always have a representative and also give updates and talk about state convention, during these gatherings.

“We’re hoping to procure a grant that will provide room and board for volunteers and hopefully this summer we would like to send some volunteers to the state convention to represent Pecos,” said Contreras.

PEDC studies infrastructure fund requests

Pecos Economic Development Corp. board members debated how much help they could offer financially to new and existing businesses looking to add jobs to the Pecos area, during their noon meeting this past Thursday at City Hall.

The PEDC 4B board discussed the options as part of an update on the status of the proposed Comfort Inn on Interstate 20 and Teague Street, on land recently bought by the corporation from the Pecos Housing Authority. PEDC president Robert Tobias said Rachel Patel has been in contact with him about the status of the project, which is similar to a hotel she is building in Fort Stockton. “They have been submitting various information saying they would pay X amount of money for this tract, and they are also requesting assistance on the infrastructure,” Tobias told the board. He added that owners of other hotel projects also have been seeking assistance, but that in the past as an EDC director in other cities, he has not been in favor of offering help to motel projects.

However, he did tell the board that the Fort Stockton Economic Development Corp. had allocated some money to Patel’s project under construction there. Tobias said the PEDC could offer a loan that would turn into a grant, if the motel creates a designated number of jobs for a set period of time.

Patel agreed in March to pay $25,000 an acre for land located on I-20 between Teague Street and Country Club Drive for the new motel. Tobias said that she is willing to offer ‘earnest’ money to secure the land, and said the board has made a commitment to sell her about three acres along the Interstate.

But board member Bill Oglesby noted, “This board didn’t agree to any additional improvements.” He said the motels could be helped with infrastructure up to the property line, but it would be up to the businesses to provide the work on their property.

On the subject of improving the infrastructure leading up to the new motels, Tobias said the PEDC and city could look at helping out in that area.

“I think it’s a fair consideration, as long as it’s infrastructure, because infrastructure can benefit other firms,” he said. “We just don’t do projects in a vacuum, it’s going to affect projects all around.” Board member Leo Hung, who is in the process of building a motel, food court and sports bar on the opposite side of I-20 from the Comfort Inn site, said the board will have to look at the issue of how much the PEDC can help local projects at future meetings.

“I think to help Robert with his job he needs numbers that he can hold onto,” Hung said.

Board chairman Danny Rodriguez said there were other businesses in town that were looking to add improvements, and the PEDC should look at giving them financial help. But Tobias said, “We do have limited resources.”

“What we want is to use our resources for economic development, but we can’t just say we’re giving you money because you’re doing something,” Oglesby said.

“At this point in time the process is moving slower than what I think we need,” Tobias said. “I expect we’ll be able to get a purchase contract together that won’t include these other items next week.”

He said part of the delay was due to the unavailability of city attorney Scott Johnson, who was out of town. Board member Jimmy Dutchover asked if the PEDC needed a new attorney, and Tobias said he would like the option to retain an outside attorney with experience in Texas economic development laws who can be used on an “as needed” basis.

Rodriguez said the board has scheduled noon meeting for the first three Mondays in May to work out some of these problems and speed up the current process. That included a noon meeting on Monday, where the board tabled one item involving a request from Pecos police and approved a change in the PEDC financial services system that was first discussed on Thursday.

The board tabeled a request from Pecos Police Capt. Kelly Davis to conduct an emergency driving school at the Texas Transportation Institute’s test track east of Pecos. Davis said he wanted the school to replace one that the department had run at the Rattlesnake Bomber Base in Pyote, but which has been discontinued for a number of years.

However, the board said the test track is still under ownership by the 4A PEDC, which was replaced by the 4B corporation in October, but remains in existence to fulfill its current contracts. The told Davis the request will have to be taken up by the 4A board at a later date.

The board agreed to contract with Card & Co. to provide payroll and accounts payable services to the PEDC. Tobias said a glitch in the PEDC’s Quikbook software was causing problems in doing the payrolls in-house, and that the accounting firm could handle the job better, at a cost of up to $100 a month.

“I think we have to look at Mr. Tobias’ time,” Oglesby said. “Do we want him out during economic development or doing bookkeeping?”

“I also like having a second set of eyes look at (the accounts), so I’m all for it,” Hinojos said.

First Christian sanctuary set to mark 100th year

Grape juice for their weekly communion cost the First Christian Church 25 cents a bottle in 1903. Two brooms were 85 cents. Five gallons of kerosene went for $1.50, and six lamp chimneys cost $1.20.

Members buy the grape juice and brooms in these days of sky-high prices, and they no longer use kerosene and lamp chimneys. But the April 1904 offering of $57.24 would hardly pay the minister, cleaning lady and organist, said Sue Richmond, treasurer.

Ernest Waggoner drives 50 miles from Fort Stockton to preach each Sunday morning at the 9:30 a.m. services at the church’s sanctuary, which will mark its 100th anniversary in 2009. With the cost of gasoline these days, his travel expense is considerably more than the $5.85 paid to Rev. Homer Magee for a trip to Colorado in 1903.

Despite the expense, Rev. Waggoner has missed only four Sundays in 11 years, That was when he was out of the country visiting his daughter, said Bill Cooksey.

Cooksey is a relative newcomer, having moved his family from another denomination 40 years ago for the strong preaching and youth program.

“It is a great place,” said Richmond, who chose FCC for the youth program when her son, Tommy, was young.

?“They had a good youth program,” she said. “He had friends there.”

Doris and George Tillery also cite the preaching and children’s programs for their move in 1955.

“The youth program was real active, and they had good things for adults,” Doris said. “Now we are struggling for survival.”

George keeps up the building and grounds, and Doris volunteers wherever she’s needed, as do all the members.

Although FCC shares Rev. Waggoner with the Fort Stockton church, Tillery says, “I don’t know what we would do without him. He’s really been a blessing.”

Becky Patterson also splits her time at the organ and piano between FCC and First United Methodist churches.

Gradene Gerbert volunteers time in the office each week, printing the worship service bulletin.

Tillery said she has made some of the “very best friends I could have ever made; there are a lot of good people that I have enjoyed working with. I hope for a better day, for the town to pick up with the oil business, and we get some new people into Pecos. It will help all of us.”

She said Georgia Morrison, 95, is the oldest member. She was active until four years ago, and is now in the nursing home.

Clara Frazier uses a cane and handrails to get up the steep steps to the beautiful sanctuary, built in 1909 by E.B. Kiser.

“I love it,” she said. “We have had some great ministers. That church would be full.”

She said the ministers the congregation didn’t approve stayed only a short time.

“Some we just loved dearly,” she said. “My boys were raised up there. They loved CYF (youth program).”

She recalls one revival meeting when her Methodist husband went with her.

“The minister said when it was over to ‘go shake hands with someone you don’t know.’ When we got home, my husband said ‘I shook hands until I gave out.’”

Cooksey has only been a member for 40 years, but his great grandparents were there at the beginning.

Tom and Melissa Clayton are listed as participating in Sunday school established in 1881 by Mrs. Peyton Parker in her hotel, located on the banks of the Pecos River.

Others in on the beginning, as listed in a history of FCC compiled by Rela Kiser Bessent, are Mr. and Mrs. B.P. Van Horn, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Cox, Sam McWhorter and Mollie Newell. Two years later, the whole town of Pecos, including the Parker Hotel, was moved from the riverbank to its present site.

“Because of the tremendous activity and effort involving reconstruction, there were no records kept of the Sunday school meetings until 1891. At that time, Van Horn invited a Christian Church minister to hold a revival, which laid the foundation for the founding of FCC, Bessent recorded.

In 1899, R.D. Gage gave the church a lot on which to construct a building. It was located seven blocks west and one block south of the present location at Fifth and Elm, where it was moved in 1905. It was sold for $400 to make room for a new sanctuary in 1909.

Mrs. Bessent’s father, E. B. Kiser, led in erecting the present sanctuary, at a cost of $14,460.82. Church membership began to grow under the leadership of the Rev. Homer L. Magee, who served the church from 1905 until his death in 1921. He performed the first large church wedding in the building in 1911, uniting Mr. and Mrs. Elmer Johnson.

During the five-year ministry of D. Oliver Harrison (1936-1941), an educational addition was built, including Sunday school rooms and an office.

His son, Mike Harrison, still lives in Pecos part-time, supports FCC and attends when he is here on weekends.

Ernie Waggoner is a hoot,” he said. “You listen to every word. He is just so interesting, and he’s funny. He saved that church.”

The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) was the first church founded on America’s shores, he said. And FCC is the first church founded in Pecos.

Its sanctuary is the oldest brick church building, and it is the oldest brick building in constant use in Pecos, Bessent said in the book of history.

The Rev. Earl Bissex led in adding a church parlor, fellowship hall and kitchen in 1952. The sanctuary was remodeled during his ministry, and the church built a new parsonage.

Both buildings were renovated under the ministry of The Rev. Clark Ford. The front of the sanctuary remains much the same, with new doors and windows and a rail added to the modified steps. Frazier said the sanctuary is “the prettiest I ever saw,” but she believes a person’s religion is expressed in daily life.

First Christian members have served in many official capacities in the community, including county judge, district judge, city council, mayor, county commissioner and city secretary.

California motorcyclist dies in I-20 accident

A California man was killed Sunday morning when he was thrown from his motorcycle after it blew a tire while eastbound on Interstate 20 on the far west side of Pecos.

Charles Joseph Kantmann, 64, of Morgan Hill, Calif., was pronounced dead at the scene by Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace Jim Riley at 9:41 a.m. on Sunday, just over 30 minutes after the accident was reported to the Department of Public Safety. DPS trooper Roy Lytle, who investigated the accident, said Kantmann was riding a 2003 Harley Davidson motorcycle and pulling a cycle trailer while eastbound near the 38-mile marker on I-20 when the rear tire of the motorcycle blew out.

The blowout caused the motorcycle to veer to the right and then overturn while on the right shoulder of the highway. Kantmann was thrown from the vehicle while the motorcycle and trailer slid back onto the highway.

Lytle’s report said Kantmann was not wearing a helmet at the time of the accident. His body was taken to Pecos Funeral Home after he was pronounced dead by JP Riley.

Pecos EMS was called to the scene, but made no transport. Along with the DPS office, officers with the Reeves County Sheriff’s Department, Pecos Police Department and the Texas Department of Transportation assisted with the accident investigation.

The accident was the second traffic fatality in four days in Pecos. On Thursday, Anthony Trinidad Martinez, 25, of Kerrville was killed in a one-vehicle rollover on the north I-20 service road and West County Road. Another Kerrville man, Michael Thomas Duran, 23, was charged with of intoxication manslaughter, after he allegedly apparently had attempted to turn right onto West County Road while westbound on the I-20 access road and failed to negotiate the curve, causing the pickup to rollover and eject Martinez, who was pronounced dead the scene.

TxDOT approves airport grant, sets I-20 paving job

The Texas Department of Transportation this week formally announced it had approved a $592,800 grant for Pecos Municipal Airport to improve lighting on both of the airport’s runways.

The grant was approved by the Texas Transportation Commission at its April meeting. A contract for the project is expected to be awarded this summer.

The grant is a 90-10 split, with the Town of Pecos City paying the remaining 10 percent of the $650,000 project. In September, the Pecos City Council agreed to pay an additional $31,000 for the project, in order to qualify for a 90 percent matching grant for the project.

Airport manager Isabel Blanchard said the increase was caused by TxDOT opting to replace the lights on both of the airport’s runways at once, instead of doing one runway now and another later. The increase more than doubled the cost of the project, from its initial $280,000 cost.

“They’re trying to coordinate the project with the Wink Airport,” she said.

The project’s costs will be funded through TxDOT’s Aviation Facilities Grant Program, and is one of two projects planned at the airport. The city and TxDOT are planning a $2.2 million project to repave the runways at the airport. The city and Reeves County are planning to split the $200,000 in matching funds required for that project.

TxDOT also announced last week that paving work would start soon on a section of Interstate 20 between Toyah and the I-10 junction in western Reeves County.

The speed limit will be reduced to 70 mph through the 5 1/2-mile construction area, running from three miles west of FM 2903 at Toyah to 8.5 miles west of the intersection.

“There will be times when traffic will be restricted to one lane each direction for short distances where the contractor is working,” said Patrick Ryan, the TxDOT engineer in charge of the project. The final phase – surfacing– should be finished by late July, said Ryan. Jones Bros. Dirt and Paving is the contractor for the $3.9 million project, which will involve resurfacing with “superpave” hot mix asphalt designed to withstand heavy truck traffic.

Early voting ending Tuesday for elections

Tuesday is the final day for early voting in the Town of Pecos City and the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD elections, after nearly 300 people cast ballots in the first week of early voting.

Early voting began last Monday at the Pecos Community Center on South Oak Street for voting in the May 10 elections.

Voters in both races will cast ballots at the Community Center, 508 S. Oak St., in the school board and city council elections. Early voting runes through Tuesday, May 6 and the polling place will be open from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. on Tuesday.

A total of 284 individuals have cast their votes early by personal appearance and six by mail.

There were 73 individuals that voted on Friday alone.

In the city council race, four individuals are running for two positions that will be open on the council, after current members Michael Benavides and Angelica Valenzuela opted against seeking new two-year terms. The newcomers vying for a position on the council are Bernadette Portillo, Oscar Ramirez, Tom Rivera and Cody West.

Voters will also cast ballots in the race for mayor, where incumbent Richard Alligood is unopposed for a new two-year term.

For the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD board, incumbents David Flores and Paul Deishler are being challenged by newcomer Louis Juarez. There are two positions open for the three-year terms on the school board.

The scheduled May 10 election in Pecos for the Reeves County Hospital board was cancelled, because none of the three positions up for election are contested.

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