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Archive 2004

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Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Council to get recommendation on changing rule

Town of Pecos City council members will take another look at the city’s retirement rules, along with making another effort to work out an interlocal agreement with Reeves County Hospital for 2004, during their regular meeting this Thursday evening at City Hall.

The council will meet at 5:30 p.m. to consider those items, along with the awarding of a contract for employee health insurance and a contract to conduct a water and sewer rate survey. Also on the agenda is an interlocal agreement with Reeves County for the use of Reeves County Detention Center inmates for upcoming city clean-up efforts.

Council members were told at their last meeting that the current mandatory retirement policy for workers when they reach age 70 was a violation of current federal law, and had to be changed. City Attorney Scott Johnson was asked to work out a new retirement rule after the issue was brought up by city worker Conrad Saldana, who has worked for the city for the past 32 years, but who reached the retirement age of 70 in 2003.

City officials did not notice he had passed the retirement age until this year, and Saldana asked the council in October to allow him to remain on his job. The council said they would study the matter, and were told later by Johnson that the law itself was illegal and the city’s rules on retirement would have to be revised.

The agreement with the hospital for ambulance service has been in limbo over the past several years. Council members have said the current agreement with Reeves County Hospital leaves the city to absorb over $200,000 in excess costs for the ambulance service, due to people who use the service for calls both inside and outside the city limits, but who do not pay their bills.

Council members had discussed during September budget hearings the possibility of curtailing ambulance service to area outside the city limits if the problem could not be resolved.

Council members studied several health insurance proposals during a hearing two weeks ago, but took no action during their Nov. 4 meeting. However, city finance director Sam Contreras said a new plan had to be approved by the middle of November, in order to allow for a smooth transition when the city’s current health insurance plan expires at the end of the month.

Other items on Thursday’s agenda include offers to purchase property at three sites; 409 S. Pine St., 908 N. Elm St. and 611-613 S. Peach St.; the second reading of an ordinance to annex land next to Wal-Mart on South Cedar Street, where work has begun on the construction of a new Auto Zone store; approval of the monthly juvenile report and semi-monthly payment of bills; and discussion of the city’s energy provider contract.

The council’s meeting is being held a week ahead of its normal date due to the Thanksgiving holiday.

Reeves district backs effort to alter water law

Reeves County Water Improvement District No. 2, which supported two other Red Bluff subdistricts in a failed attempt to be seated on the Red Bluff Water Power Control Board, is now supporting an effort in the upcoming Texas Legislature to seat those members.

The district also supports a move to allow direct appointment of Red Bluff board members, as well as a law to reverse the legal changes in status of the two districts that would then permit their members to be seated on the Red Bluff board.

Reeves County WID board members on Oct. 26 passed a resolution in support of a change in state law to allow Ward County Water Irrigation Districts No. 1 and No. 3 to be seated on the Red Bluff board. The change would have to be authorized by the Texas Legislature pending an appeal of State District Judge Bob Parks’ ruling last month in favor of Red Bluff’s refusal to seat the two members.

Parks ruled that by changing from a Chapter 55 to a Chapter 58 Water District, Ward County WID 1 and Ward County WID 3 no longer conformed to the Red Bluff Water Power Control District’s organizational rules. The changes from water improvement to water irrigation districts affected voting eligibility for those within the district.

In a letter to State Sen. Frank Madla, Red Bluff Managing Director Randal Hartman said Chapter 55 water improvement districts only allow residents within the district to cast ballots in elections, while landowners are allowed to vote in Chapter 58 elections, whether or not they reside within the district.

During their meeting last Tuesday, Red Bluff board members approved the hiring of a political consultant, who is expected to lobby to block any changes in the current district rules. Hartman said in his letter to Madla that the change was being sought by sub-district members who want to sell Texas’ water allotments under the Pecos River Compact back to New Mexico.

Reeves County WID 2 remains a Chapter 55 district and continues to have representation on the board, even while supporting the efforts to seat Tom Nance and Ava Gerke to the Ward County WID 1 and 3 seats on the board. In their resolution, Reeves County WID 2 board said Parks was wrong in his ruling, and supported both an appeal and action in the legislature to change the rule.

“The District supporters adoption of legislation to clarify that the Red Bluff Member Districts may be Irrigation Districts. It makes no sense, for example, to compel Ward 3 to remain a Water Improvement District when there are no residents (and hence no voters) within the boundaries of Ward No. 3,” board members wrote in their resolution. If Ward 3 converts to an Irrigation District, its property owners will be able to elect its officers and directors. No reason exists why an Irrigation District should not be a member district of Red Bluff.

“The District also supports legislation that would allow Member Districts to appoint their representatives to the red Bluff Board of Directors,” the resolution continued. “The District also supports legislation that would allow Member Districts that have converted to Irrigation Districts to convert back to Water Improvement Districts.”

In addition to Madla, the resolution was also sent by the Reeves County WID board to State Rep. Pete Gallego and to the Texas Lt. Governor’s office, the Ward County Commissioner’s Court and the other six Member Districts of the Red Bluff board.

Rains across Trans-Pecos to stay through mid-week

More rain is in the forecast for the next few days and Reeves County is currently under flood, hazardous conditions.

The forecast for Monday calls for periods of showers and thunderstorms. Some of the storms could produce heavy rain. Patchy fog, with a high near 51 and northeast winds around 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100 percent. KIUN Radio Station reported 1.55 inches of rain in Pecos since it started raining late Friday evening, with a total of 22.36 for the year.

The official National Weather Service station at the Pecos Municipal Airport reported an even higher total for the past two days, with 1.95 inches falling over the past 48 hours.

Periods of rain showers and thunderstorms were predicted to continue through Monday night and on into Tuesday, though the Department of Public Safety reported that there were no hazardous or closed highways. They did stress to drive carefully in this weather.

The National Weather Service did issue a winter storm warning for the higher elevations around Guadalupe Pass northwest of Pecos on Sunday, and while temperatures in the Pecos area on Monday were in the mid-40s, temperatures to the northwest were in the mid-30s and light snow was reported in areas above 4,000 feet in northern Culberson and Hudspeth counties.

No snow is forecast for the Pecos area, and showers and thunderstorms were expected to continue in the Trans-Pecos and Permian Basin areas through Wednesday, before clearing trend was finally expected to begin.

Highs for the next two days are only expected to be in the low 60s, and there was just a 10 percent chance of showers predicted for Thursday. Mostly cloudy with a low around 46.

Board told re-bid on P-B-T track over budget

Pecos-Barstow-Toyah school board members discussed whether to hold the company that won a bid last February to resurface the Eagle Stadium track to it’s contract, or hire another company to do the job, after new bids on the project came in above budget.

Board members were told by P-B-T ISD Superintendent Ray Matthews during their regular monthly that school officials had opened the new bids last Wednesday after FieldTurf, the company that installed the new artificial turf football field at the stadium, asked out of the final portion of the $517,000 contract.

“All the bids were over what we had originally budgeted for this item,” said Matthews.

Re-surfacing the track had been included in the original bid proposal along with the installation of the turf. FieldTurf agreed to do the resurfacing at a cost of $27,000.

“The lowest bid we received was for $49,000,” said Matthews. “I discussed this with Monte (Hunter, engineer for Hunter and Corral) and he made this recommendation,” to hold FieldTurf to the contract to install the field. “If they don’t, then we will deduct the cost of the track from the field turf,” said Matthews.

“Have we finished paying them?” asked board member Amy Montgomery.

School Finance Director Cookie Canon said that the district still owed them well over $100,000. “They still need to complete some things, we haven’t even gotten the brush to use on the field yet,” said Canon.

Problems with the dirt work at Eagle Stadium resulted in the turf installation project missing its Aug. 15 deadline by nearly four weeks, and forced Pecos to move its first home game of the 2004 football season to Monahans.

Matthews told the board that after the turf was installed, FieldTurf had said that they might want to get out of the contract. “If we could get someone at the same price, we would just award the bid to someone else,” he said. “But since that didn’t happen, we need to hold them to it.”

FieldTurf would have to pay for the installation, according to Matthews.

Officials were hoping to get the work on the track completed in time for the 2005 season, which begins in February, though cold weather may also delay any resurfacing efforts. Track work currently is scheduled to be completed by Feb 1.

The report on the Eagle Stadium showed that the punch list is currently being corrected. “HCA will check on punch list correction with Jeff Bressee on Nov. 15,” said Matthews.

Crews were in Pecos two weeks ago to do some touch-up work on the playing surface. While the football season is over for Pecos, Eagle Stadium will host a Class 4A playoff game this Saturday afternoon between Wolfforth-Frenship and El Paso Andress high schools, beginning at 1 p.m. The ability to attract more playoff games to Pecos was one reason cited for installation of an artificial turf field.

Board members also heard a report on the Austin Elementary School Gym was heard during the regular meeting. “The punch list is almost complete, they only lack a few items,” said Matthews.

He told the group that the contractor had offered a $1,500 refund to accept crooked roof panels. “We just received this offer and are in the process of analyzing it,” he said.

The board discussed and tentatively selected a couple of dates for a public meeting to discuss drug testing.

The item had been discussed during a prior meeting. “I had received a phone call from a parent that had heard on the news that another district was doing this, I brought it before the board and the board wanted more information,” said Matthews.

Matthews then directed PHS Principal Steve Lucas to gather information on the subject, which he did and brought it before the board two months ago. No action was taken on the item at that time.

“If the board chooses we can have a public meeting to discuss the issue,” said Matthews. “We’ll need to publicize that and give them information,” he said.

Matthews said that the board would also be receiving information from the public.

“I think this is a good idea, we need to get the public’s opinion on this,” said board member Lila Cerna.

“I want to have all these meetings after Christmas, because everyone is very busy at this time of year,” said board member Bubba Williams.

“We need to make the public aware that we can’t drug test every student,” said Matthews.

Board member Paul Deishler asked if there was a timeline or what kind of timeline there was in implementing the program. “Are we going to start doing it this school year or wait until next school year,” he said.

“If the board chooses to implement it, I think it would be better if we implement it at the beginning of the school year, instead of in the middle,” said Matthews.

Deishler said that the group would probably need the opinion of a lawyer. “I think it would be a good idea to have a lawyer on hand, because I’m sure a lot of legal questions are going to arise,” he said.

The group settled on a couple of tentative dates, at 6 p.m., either Jan. 20 or Jan. 27.

Local tax rebate checks top $1 million for 2004

November’s sales tax rebate check for the Town of Pecos City and for the Reeves County Hospital District were up over 2003’s totals, according to figures released last Wednesday by Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn’s office, though the monthly checks for Balmorhea and Toyah were down from a year ago.

November’s check to Pecos, as its 1 1/2-cent share of the state’s 8 1/4-cent sales tax, was up 19.06 percent, from $66,331 to $78,975, and through the first 11 months of the years, the city has gotten back $742,856, which is a 6 percent increase in tax rebate revenues from last year.

One sixth of the monthly total for the city goes to the Pecos Economic Development Corp. for its operations. For November, the PEDC will get $13,163 from the sales tax total.

Reeves County Hospital’s check from Austin on its 1/2-cent local sales tax was up by a smaller amount than Pecos’ total, but for the year the hospital’s rebate check remains higher by double-digits over 2003’s total. The hospital received a check for $31,276 this month, which is up 7 percent over last year’s $29,222 total. For all of 2004, the hospital has gotten back $335,302, which is up 13.9 percent from a year ago.

The combined 2-cent sales tax total for the hospital and the Town of Pecos City is at $1.08 million for the year. Under state law, local taxing entities can divide their share of the sales tax allocation, but the combined total within any county cannot surpass the 2-cent level.

Like Pecos, Balmorhea and Toyah also collect a 1 1/2-cent sales tax, but their checks for November declined from last year. Balmorhea’s check for $1,076 was down by almost 26 percent, from last year’s $1,453, but for the year, the city’s totals remain up sharply from 2003. Balmorhea has gotten $16,923 back from Strayhorn’s office in sales tax rebates, an increase of 62.4 percent from last year.

Toyah’s 11-month total is virtually unchanged from a year ago, despite this month’s drop. The city received a November check for $476, which was down 38.3 percent from last November’s $772 total. Overall, Toyah has gotten $5,253 back this year, which is $16 higher than they had gotten over the first 11 months of 2003.

Area-wide tax rebate checks were generally higher than a year ago, according to the numbers from the comptroller’s office. Odessa received $1.75 million back from Austin on its 1.25-cent sales tax, which was 20 percent above last November, while Midland’s $2.24 million rebate check on its 1 1/2-cent sales tax again was the area’s largest check and was 7.5 percent higher than last year.

Andrews’ check for $97,130 on its 1-cent sales tax was up 17.2 percent from a year ago; Alpine’s $76,790 check on its 1 1/2 cent sales tax was up 8.1 percent; Crane’s check for $40,169 on it’s 1 1/2-cent tax was up by 60.4 percent; Big Spring’s check for $417,357 was up by 13.2 percent on its 2-cent sales tax; Presidio got $27.278 back on its 2-cent tax, an 14.9 percent rise; Kermit received $33,654 back on its 1-cent sales tax, which was a 22.1percent increase; Wink’s $3,816 check on its 11-cent tax was up by 6.2 percent; and Van Horn, whose $26,194 check on its 1.75-cent sales tax was 10.7 percent above last year.

Those going the other way for the month included Fort Stockton, whose $114,355 check on its 2-cent sales tax was down 3.1 percent; Marfa, whose $15,786 check on its 1.75-cent tax rate was down 5.3 percent; and Monahans, whose $80,717 check for November was 6.8 percent lower than a year ago.

Statewide, increases in tax rebate checks to cities and counties in Texas were up just under 5 1/2 percent for 2004, at $286.2 million. Houston had the single largest check, for $34.2 million, a 6.6 percent increase, while Dallas’ rebate check for November was $20.1 million, which was up 2.9 percent over last year’s total.

First Choice staff participates in food, clothing drive

First Choice Power offices are collecting canned food and new or gently used, clean coats and blankets for local charities. The company encourages everyone to bring their contributions to the nearest First Choice Power office.

“It’s a favorite time of year for many of us - good food, fun friends and joyful family gatherings,” said John Menichini, First Choice Power vice president of Customer Operations. “Others are not as fortunate. Donations to the Warm House, Helping Hands campaign will help those in need have a more cheerful holiday season,” he said.

First Choice Power employees will deliver items to designated charities who will then distribute them to those in need. Canned food (no perishable please), clean coats and blankets may be taken to the First Choice Power offices Mondays through Fridays between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. up to Friday, Dec. 17.

Menichini said, “We need your warm hearts and helping hands to make it a happy holiday season for everyone. Please give generously!”

First Choice Power is a retail electric provider and a wholly owned subsidiary of TNP Enterprises. It is also the retail affiliate of Texas-New Mexico Power Company, which provides electric transmission and distribution service to more than 200,000 customers in Texas and complete electric service to 48,000 customers in New Mexico.

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