Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas
Friday, October 29, 2004
Break adds to Toyah’s 2004 water woes
Six months after being awash in water, Residents on the north side of Toyah were relieved Wednesday afternoon after a main water line was restored, following four days without drinking water.
“They had a main water line that broke on the north side of town,” said Reeves County Emergency Management Coordinator Ricky Herrera.
“We didn’t know that they had been out of water since Sunday,” said Herrera.
The line is located north of the railroad tracks and it runs under the railroad tracks.
“The actual water break was on the south side of the railroad tracks,” said Herrera.
A construction crew was busy working on the water line throughout the day Wednesday and completed it that afternoon.
Herrera was out at the site early Wednesday morning and said that the crews were busy working on the water line. “A construction crew, Galvan Construction, out of Fort Stockton, was working on it,” he said.
Herrera said that he had received a report from Mayor Pro-Tem Dianna Tollett that afternoon that the line had been fixed.
“The line is in, they made the tie in and they were in the process of cleaning out those lines,” said Herrera. “The next step is to get a water sample and take it to Midland to get it analyzed.”
About 70 families were affected by the water line break. “They had set up a place on the other side so that people could get drinking water,” said Herrera. “The mayor had set up that and some of the other residents had water,” he said.
The majority of the people live on the north side of Toyah and the mayor reported the incident to state officials. “Before they can start using the water as drinking water, we have to wait for the official word from Midland,” said Herrera.
Herrera said that all the residents had been notified.
The construction crew ran about 200 feet of line before they did the tie-ins and brought the pressure up to make sure it was holding, according to Herrera.
“We have a sewer grant that the state is allowing us to withdraw money from,” Toyah mayor Sandra Terry told the Pecos City Council on Monday night. “It’s another nail in our coffin, but we’re not dead yet.”
The north side of Toyah was flooded back in April, after heavy rains caused a levee along San Martine Draw northwest of town to break, sending a four-foot high wall of water through the small community. The city received some grant funds for recovery, but did not qualify for disaster relief funds because not enough homes suffered severe damage.
Then in June high winds destroyed the historic Toyah State Bank building, whose foundtain may have been weakened by the flood waters from two months earlier.
Herrera said that the Texas Water Development Board allowed Toyah to divert $25,000 out of their sewer grant to use for the water line. “This was an emergency situation and the water board allowed them to use these funds,” said Herrera.
Terry was in Pecos on Monday to ask the city council to give Toyah a 1973 fire engine pumper truck that was scheduled to be put up for auction, to replace a 1966 truck Toyah had that had broken down. Council members agreed to sell the truck to Toyah for $1, and Terry said the city would make repairs to the truck’s water tanks after they take possession of the vehicle.
Rivera says new tenants moving into downtown
Empty buildings in the downtown area have been a dilemma for the past several years, but steps are being taken to try to fill those spots.
“We have sold a number of buildings in the downtown area recently,” said Main Street Director Tom Rivera.
Rivera said that five buildings have been sold in the downtown area since the beginning of the year.
“We’re seeing a lot more activity in the downtown area with those particular buildings,” said Rivera, who added that all the individuals who bought buildings in that area plan to create some type of business.
“The Oak Street Gallery has been open since February of this year and that has helped that area,” said Rivera.
He said that two other individuals had applied for the low-interest loan program, but that they had not qualified. “We have other programs we’re trying to work with and that’s where the state will come in and help,” said Rivera.
He said that the group is also working on a tax-abatement program for the historical district, which was created as part of the city’s new Main Street program. “This includes several blocks in that area,” said Rivera. “The tax abatement we’re looking at is for 10 years,” he said.
“When you’re trying to revitalize the downtown Pecos area, most that purchase a building there, will have to come in and put in a new roof,” said Rivera.
Roofs will cost between $15,000-$25,000 . “That’s a lot of money for a new business owner,” he said.
New businesses need working capital and having to spend money like that will hinder them, according to Rivera.
“Let’s say they buy the building, but have to put in $35,000 for improvements and then they get taxed the new rate,” said Rivera. “That’s why we would ask for a 10-year tax abatement,” he said.
Rivera said that if nobody buys the buildings they will just rot. “The roofs are just deteriorating,” he said.
“We have to have some incentives for folks to buy them and renovate them,” he said.
The old J.C. Penney building was sold recently and will become an art gallery. “The folks who bought them are from New York and said that they will be living upstairs,” said Rivera.
He added that they have already made some renovations to the building and will be back in December to work on it.
“We encourage loft living in some buildings that have a second story,” said Rivera. “There’s already one family doing that,” he said.
Rivera said that once they receive the report back from the Main Street Resource Team that was in Pecos last week, they will have more programs that they can look into for possible grant funding.
“It will be packed full of recommendations and resources we can pursue,” said Rivera. “There are more programs that Pecos may qualify for.”
Rivera said the report should be ready in about three months, and individuals from the Resource Team will be coming back to Pecos.
“Robert Johnson an economic development specialist will be here and the others will come down as we need help and on an individual basis,” he said.
There are still a few buildings for sale, according to Rivera. “Our main challenge is the old Woolworth’s building,” said Rivera. The building at Third and Oak streets as been unoccupied since Woolworth shut down its stores across the nation 15 years ago.
Rivera said that there have been a few offers for the building, but that they are having a hard time dealing with the owners about the price of the building, one of the largest vacant structures in the downtown area.
“There are holes in the roof, it will need a completely new roof,” said Rivera. “They think that because they live in Ft. Worth, that the building should cost the same here as a building up there. They’ve been made a few offers, but they keep turning them down.”
The Pecos Main Street Program is also coming along well.
“All this is a slow process in getting the downtown area revitalized,” said Rivera. “Think of the number of years it took to get it the way is.”
Hung added to PEDC board as Grant resigns
The Pecos City Council filled one vacancy on the Pecos Economic Development Corp. board and found out they’ll have another to fill Monday night, after board member John Grant submitted his resignation earlier in the day.
Grant resigned following Monday morning’s meeting of the PEDC board, during which the group discussed changes in the by-laws to bring the terms served by board members into compliance with state law. The board also agreed to begin a search for a new president to replace Gari Ward, and agreed to change the title to executive director, after discussions with the council Monday night.
Leo Hung, one of three names suggested to the council earlier this month, was chosen to fill the position left vacant when Mike Burkholder moved over to become interim president of the corporation, which is designed to attract new businesses to the Pecos area. The council said they would select a replacement for Grant at their next meeting, and will be making at least one more selection to the board before the end of the year, when the term of current member Frank Spencer ends.
Hung’s term will expire in 2006, and Keese told the council under the state law that allows board members to serve only six consecutive years, he could be appointed to one full three-year term after that. Grant’s term on the council was due to expire next year, while the PEDC terms of Spencer and city councilwoman Angelica Valenzuela will expire at the end of the year.
Valenzuela was appointed to fill a vacancy earlier this year by the council, but may not take a full three-year term on the council beginning in January. The other position on the board is held by Keese, who was appointed to fill a vacancy in July and whose term expires in 2006.
Keese told the council that under the revised articles of incorporation for the PEDC, a person who has served six years on the board could be reappointed following a year’s absence, which would comply with state law.
“We’re going to be very open with this council. You will find out what’s going on,” Keese told council members, who have complained in the past about not being updated on PEDC activities.
“That’s what the council wants. We’ve been burned in the past,” councilman Frank Sanchez said.
Burkholder and Keese said certain items involving ongoing negotiations could be brought up in executive session.
Spencer was also in attendance at the council meeting. During the PEDC meeting on Monday, Spencer said, “I’m leaving in December, but it’s important to fill the spot with people you feel you can work with.”
“I feel like we should submit a letter to the council,” he said. “I feel in my best judgment the council should consider recommendations from the board.”
“I don’t know if I completely agree with what Frank said,” said Grant, who explained that the PEDC’s past actions have caused problems between it and the council.
“I think we have everything to prove, instead of saying this is what we want,” Grant said. “I don’t think this is the time to force the issue, because we don’t have credibility right now.”
“Whether certain people did certain things in a way people didn’t like, I feel we’ve done everything on this board that we can go to the council and defend the things we’ve done,” said Spencer, who is the last member of the board remaining since the PEDC was created six years ago.
“I feel good about saying we’re credible and suggest you accept the recommendation,” he said. “The accomplishments are there. We have credibility.”
Spencer then asked Grant about his statement earlier this month to the council that he was considering stepping down from the board.
“I’m still considering it,” he said. “I feel the work of the PECD is so important, I don’t want to be a hinderance to that. I have not decided what to do, but I’ve been approached by three of the council members who asked me not to do that, and by community members who asked me not to do that.”
Keese told the council Monday night that Grant had submitted his letter of resignation that afternoon.
“My big thing has been governance,” he said Monday morning. “If the full board represents the diversity of people and business, I’d be happy to resign, because we’d have governance.”
Keese told the council the board was seeking community diversity in their upcoming appointments, and mentioned local businesswoman Peggy Walker as a possible nominee along with the two others previously mentioned with Hung, Jimmy Dutchover and Bruce Salcido.
Hung is owner of Professional Pharmacy and American Home Health in Pecos. The council unanimously approved his selection, with Valenzuela abstaining because her husband works with Hung as a pharmacist.
Ward’s resignation as PEDC president becomes effective on Sunday. He was hired when the corporation was created, and is resigning to move with his wife to Tucson, Ariz. He was in Pecos on Monday, but did not attend the meeting.
Ward has been the subject of much of the controversy surrounding the PEDC since its founding. Spencer said, “One of the reasons I was for Gari at the beginning was I knew he was going to be controversial. I’ve been here 30 years and I just see a ‘go along’ attitude. We needed somebody to shake things up.”
Keese presented the board with a two-page letter outlining what the PEDC will be looking for in their next executive director. The position will be advertised in both the Enterprise and the Odessa American, with most of the details being posted online at the PEDC website at on the Texas Economic Development Corp. website.
The group will be looking for someone with 5-7 years experience working in an economic development corporation, either directly or through a Chamber of Commerce, with knowledge of available grant funds for economic development, and will take applications through Nov. 22.
“You only need to advertise 14 days. I’d say 20 days,” Spencer said. “What I’m trying to do is to get somebody set up and running before the year is out.”
Keese told the council they would try and do interviews between Nov. 29 and Dec. 10, and make their selection within the following week.
Local businessman Sammy Urias, who was critical of Ward and the PEDC during the last council meeting, was also in attendance Monday night, and asked what the corporation would do for already-established businesses in Pecos.
“We plan to meet with local merchants,” Burkholder said. “If anybody has special needs or wants help with relocating or expanding, I’m free to meet with them at any time.”
Urias also asked about tax abatements given to some businesses which have moved into town, but Burkholder said those decisions were up to the council and the Reeves County Commissioners Court.
Mercedes eyes use of Pecos test track site
The company that helped shut down the Smithers Automotive Testing Center near Pecos four years ago may end up helping to re-open it, according to the Pecos Economic Development Corp.’s interim director.
DaimlerChrysler, which worked out an agreement with Smithers to move their Texas operations to the company’s track near Laredo, has been inquiring about a temporary deal to use the Pecos facility, interim director Mike Burkholder said on Monday.
“We did have the Mercedes-Benz (Daimler) group here last week. They want to use the track briefly,” he said. “They have their facility down in Laredo, but it got booked up, and they’ve got a special project they want to do.”
Smithers had taken over the former B.F. Goodrich-Uniroyal testing center in the late 1980s, after that company relocated its operations to the same Laredo track Smithers would move to in 2000. After the relocation, the company turned over the track to the PEDC, which kept the above-ground facility, but donated the water rights to the Town of Pecos City.
The PEDC is also in talks with Texas A&M University and the National Transportation Safety Administration about use of the facility, which is located 15 miles east of Pecos. Burkholder and PEDC board members held an executive session during their meeting on Monday to discuss plans for talks by Burkholder with A&M officials in College Station.
Also during their Monday meeting, the PEDC board discussed, but took no action, on preliminary recommendations for auditor Randy Graham, including a policy and procedures manual and a detailed compensation package for the executive director of the corporation.
“I’m certainly in favor of adopting control policies and procedures,” said board member John Grant. “”But I don’t think we can promulgate a policy and procedures statement right now.”
“This thing is pretty extensive,” said Burkholder, who presented the board with a sample policy and procedures book that can be used to create a similar list for the PEDC.
Burkholder also asked the board to allow for reimbursement of health insurance costs, and of the cost of PEDC-related phone calls made on personal cellular service, which the members said they would look at over the next few months
Council asked to change rule on retirement age
Pecos City Council members will look at the possibility of changing the city’s mandatory retirement rules at the request of a worker who already has been on the job a year past the current mandatory age.
The council discussed the matter during their second regular meeting of the month, held on Monday evening at City Hall. The meeting was moved up three days to avoid a conflict with this week’s Texas Municipal League conference in Corpus Christi, which several city officials are attending.
City manager Joseph Torres said Conrad Saldana, who has worked for the city for the past 32 years, should have taken mandatory retirement in December of 2003, under the current rule requiring workers to leave the jobs when they reach the age of 70. Torres said Saldana had asked to speak to the council about his situation.
“I don’t know what to say. I want to keep working if you let me,” Saldana said.
Torres said Saldana had talked to him about the situation, after the records check showed Saldana’s retirement date should have been December 2003. “I talked to him and told him the only one who can really change this is the council, if they want him to work another year or two.
“I basically told Conrad I don’t have a problem with him staying, but I told him I couldn’t make that decision. It would be up to the council,” Torres said.
Mayor Dot Stafford said the council couldn’t get a ruling on Monday night, because City Attorney Scott Johnson was sick and couldn’t make the meeting.
“What I’d like to see is to amend it on a case-to-case basis,’ said councilman Frank Sanchez, but Torres said the city could run into legal problems with that approach.
“If we do that for him, we’ll have to do it for all other employees,” said councilwoman Angelica Valenzuela.
“I do recall an employee who was up in age. We did want him to retire, but we couldn’t get him,” said councilman Danny Rodriguez, who said the health of older workers should be taken into consideration.
“I think legally Scott can handle the wording of the amendment,” said Stafford. “We have to stipulate they have to be in good health.”
The council approved tabling the item until Johnson could look at any change, and Saldana’s boss, Edgardo Madrid, said “I don’t have a problem if you table it for a couple of years.”
The council also heard from Lydia Prieto on the final tax collection rolls for the 2004 fiscal year. Prieto, who calculates Pecos’ tax numbers under a contract between the city and the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD. She said September collections totaled $221,735 and collections for all of fiscal year 2004 were $870,983, which was an 87.14 percent collection rate. Errors and corrections for the year were $55,873, Prieto told the council.
Council members also approved a request from Police Chief Clay McKinney to enter into an agreement with the Department of Homeland Security to assist the agency in checking for any possible illegal aliens passing through the area who could be associated with terrorist activities.
He said the federal government would pay for any overtime cost, and that officers would remain within the city limits unless accompanying a U.S. Border Patrol Agent. The program involves other area law enforcement agencies and began on Oct. 22, and will continue through the presidential inauguration on Jan. 20, 2005.
“If we just stay within the (city) borders, I don’t think the expense will be very high,” said McKinney, who told the council the federal government has budgeted up to $31,000 for overtime pay as part of the three-month effort.
The council also authorized the police chief to seek a grant to purchase automatic external defibrillators for the department’s use. “A lot of times we’re dispatched to non-responsive persons and get their first before the EMS crews and have to do CPR by hand, he said.
“McKinney added that the grant is a highly competitive one, and the city would be lucky to receive funds for one device, which cost in the range of $4,000 to $5,000.
Council members also approved the purchase of property located at 618 W. Sixth St. by Emma Jasso, at a cost of $1,000.
Natividad participates in medical forum
Sara Natividad, of Pecos, recently enolled in the National Youth Leadership Forum on Medicine (NYLF/MED), taking place in Houston-Galveston, from July 20-29.
Natividad joined 350 other high school students from around the country who demonstrate academic excellence, leadership potential and an interest in a career in medicine.
Throughout the 10-day forum, NYLF/MED introduced Natividad to a variety of concepts in public health, medical ethics, research and general practice, and included site visits to medical facilities and clinics. Students engaged in a simulation using problem-based learning, an educational method in which students presented a fictional patient’s case history and they must diagnose and develop a treatment plan for the patient.
“The National Youth Leadership Forum on Medicine creates a virtual classroom out of hospitals, clinical facilities and healthcare professionals,” said Donna Snyder, executive director of NYLF. “By shadowing key personnel, students like Sara Natividad, have a great opportunity to gain a behind-the-scenes perspective on a career in medicine. This is a critcal time for these students to be exploring their future career paths, just prior to immersing themselves in coursework once they are in college,” she said.
In addition to visits to cutting-edge medical schools and clinical facilities, Natividad had the opportunity to hear from and interact with leaders within the medical field. Students had up-close and personal contact with physicians, surgeons, researchers, scientists and medical educations as they went behind the scenes to view these professionals at work.
NYLF is a non-profit educational organization that brings various professions to life, empowering outstanding young people with the confidence to make well-informed career choices. NYLS has provided programming to more than 50,000 young people.
For more information on the program, visit www.nylf.org .
Taylor, Beach announce wedding plans
Mr. and Mrs. Randy Taylor of Pecos, announce the engagement and approaching marriage of their daughter, Kella Christine Taylor of Angleton, to Brian Thomas Beach of Angleton, son of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Beach of Lake Jackson.
The wedding is planned for Nov. 13, in Boerne.
The bride-to-be is a graduate of Pecos High School and Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene. She is currently employed as Fair Manager for the Bazoria County Fair Association.
The future bridegroom is a graduate of Brazoswood High School and Texas A&M University. He is currently employed by Boring and Tunneling Company of America in Houston.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Information contained in the Police Report is obtained from reports filed by the Pecos Police Department, Reeves County Sheriff’s Office, or other officers of those agencies.
The serving of warrants by an officer for outstanding fines of either traffic citations, animal control violations or other court costs are considered arrests and will be printed as such unless indicated that the fines were paid. In such instances we will indicate payment and release.
Leslie McNeil Yurrita, 46, was arrested by police on Oct. 16 at 9:50 p.m. on a warrant for theft by check out of Bandera County. Police said the arrest was made after a records check, following a traffic stop at Veterans Boulevard and Eddy Street.
Jesus Gene Salzar, 22, 1715 S. Alamo St., was arrested by police on Oct. 15 on a warrants charging him with assault causing bodily injury, as 3rd degree felony and a Class A misdemeanor. Police said the arrest was made at Sixth and Eddy streets.
Three male juveniles were arrested by police at 11:08 a.m. on Oct. 15. Police said the arrested were made after warrants were served on the three at the Lamar Alternative Education Center, 100 W. ‘F’ St.
Don Wesley Barton, 50, was arrested by police at 10:02 p.m. on Oct. 20 in the 400 block of Mulberry Street. The arrest was made on a warrant on a charge f failing to stop and render aid.
York M. "Smokey" Briggs, Publisher
324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 432-445-5475, FAX 432-445-4321
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