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Economic Development


Weekly Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Friday, June 25, 2004

City facing new water tank repair costs

Staff Writer

The Town of Pecos City is keeping better track of their finances, a Texas Water Development Board official told council members on Thursday, but faces a choice between raising water fees or property tax rates this year to pay for loans taken out on recent water projects.

Meanwhile, the council was also told they will have to finance another major water project in the near future, after major rusting problems were found inside one of the city’s 3 million-gallon water tanks. That decision may come as early as next Thursday, as the council is scheduled to meet at 7 a.m. to discuss that problem as part of their first regular meeting for July.

Dick Maddern, with the Texas Water Development Board, talked to the council about repayment said the board has an $8.8 million loan with the city for water and sewer projects. Those include the recently completed South Worsham Water Field project and the planned installation of sewer lines in sections of north and east Pecos. In addition, the TWDB also has loaned the city $300,000 for wastewater improvements.

“For the last two years our auditors have had comments on (Pecos’) record accounting,” Maddern said following the meeting. “My agency is concerned about that.”

He said the concerns were due to discrepancies in monthly financial numbers given to the TWDB by the city. The shifting numbers caused concerns that Pecos might not be able to repay the loans, but Maddern said recent changes in accounting have made TWDB officials feel better about the city’s financial situation.

“It’s very important for them (auditors) to know where we stand,” Maddern said. “This way we have reliable figures on where they want to pay for city services.”

Those changes will require some sort of increase in fees or taxes by the city when the council draws up its 2005 fiscal year budget. Maddern cited some areas in connection with water rates where fee increases could be implemented to help with the loan repayments.

“The city is not in the position to give free services to customers. You don’t have that money,” he said, adding that the additional fees were “not a lot at one time, but over a year they can amount to a significant amount of revenue.”

Councilman Danny Rodriguez asked about the differences between the city’s water rate and those of other area communities. Maddern said those could be based on whether a city is using water fees or property taxes to pay off debts, along with the cost of importing and treating the water.

City engineer Frank X. Spencer told the council the water sources for Pecos also affect local rates, since the city doesn’t have any high-output water wells. “In our case our wells produce anywhere from 100 to 300 gallons (per minute). Instead of one well or two wells, we have 23 wells.”

Spencer later delivered the bad news to the council about the 3 million gallon tank, after the council approved a motion to allow Spencer’s company to sent specifications for restoration of Pecos’ 500,000 elevated water tank to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

Spencer said the problem involved the older of the two 3 million gallon tanks, which was put in 24 years ago. “Once the contractor got inside and started sandblasting, he found extensive deterioration on the floor of the tank,” he said. “Probably 50 percent of the floor will be in a situation where it will have to be replaced.”

Engineer Eduardo Madrid said the tank is 103-feet across with support posts 28 feet from the outside of the tank. “From there out, every plate has a hole,” he said. Spencer said either welds on the tank floor had separated, or in one case no weld was found in an area where rusting occurred.

He said the walls of the tank are in good shape, but told council members after talking to a contractor in Ward County, he estimated the cost of replacing the floor at $250,000. In addition, he said because the contractor cannot complete his work right now, the city faces a $22,000 demobilization and remobilization fee, and added that another $25,000 should be set aside for annual inspections of both 3 million gallon tanks.

Inspections had been done in the past, but were stopped at some undetermined time.

“Possibly with the money situation, you may just want to look at patching some holes,” Spencer said, estimating that would give the city a 5 to 10-year fix. However, he had no exact estimate on how much that work would cost.

Spencer said the city may still have some money left in the TWDB grant for the South Worsham project. “My recollection is we saved about $100,000 in the acquisition budget,” said city attorney Scott Johnson, though Madrid said there was about $200,000 left in the TWDB loan.

“My position was if we wanted to limit the cost we could do the patch job. Depending on what the Water Development Board goes for, I’m ready to go for that,” said city manager Joseph Torres.

“We’re not here to get an answer today, but we need to get moving along on it,” said Spencer, and mayor Dot Stafford asked him if he could come up with an estimate for patching the holes before the July 1 council meeting.

Maddern told city officials they could ask the TWDB engineer in Austin involved in the project to visit Pecos and look at the problem. He added that the engineer would also have the numbers on how much of the $8.8 million loan remains available for the tank repair work.

RCH sets July 1 farewell reception for Vernor

Reeves County Hospital will be holding a going away reception for administrator Richard Vernor from 2 to 6 p.m. on Thursday at the hospital.

Vernor has served as Chief Executive Officer for the hospital for the past three years. He announced at the end of May he would retire from his position effective July 2. Reeves County Hospital Board members selected chief financial officer Bill Conder as interim CEO during their June 22 meeting.

July is also scheduled to be the opening of the hospital’s new kidney dialysis center, and Venetta Seals, Director Public Relations and Marketing for the hospital said that work on both the hospital’s new addition and the existing wing is ongoing.

“Dr. K.M.L.S.T. Moorthi, a specialist in kidney disease, is scheduled to arrive in Pecos July 16th from the Chicago area. Dr. Moorthi and his family will be living in Pecos and his full time practice will also be located in Pecos enabling Dr. Moorthi to be available to his patients seven days a week, 365 days a year,” she said. “Reeves County Hospital is pleased that we are able to offer such a beautiful state of the art facility to the dialysis patients in our area and the valuable services of a local and full-time Nephrologist.”

Rockwork at the front entrance of the hospital has been completed and the scaffolding has all been removed . “The rock work is very impressive and for those of you who have passed through the front lobby you have noticed a continuation of the stunning rock work inside as well.”

“For anyone who has ventured into the outpatient, lab, and/or x-ray vicinity, you have noticed a lot of renovations in progress. The renovations to the surgery suites and the new surgery waiting area are about 90 percent complete,” Seals said. “The Texas Department of Health (TDH) completed the 80% inspection for the surgery suites on June 15.”

She said in the Dialysis Center, the new water treatment system has been installed, and recliners for each of the 15 stations have arrived, along with of the brand new state of the art dialysis machines.

She added the intensive training for the dialysis staff began on June 21 and will continue until all of the stringent guidelines required by TDH are completed.

Seals said June 21 also was the date Dr. Ziad Anotine Abdo, a board certified general surgeon who arrived in Pecos. Board president Linda Gholson said Abdo was busy setting up his office last week, and a reception for both new doctors will be held sometime in the near future.

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