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Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Locust crossing to remain open, council decides

Town of Pecos City Council members turned down an offer of up to $160,000 in cash and voted unanimously to keep open the Union Pacific Railroad crossing on Locust Street, during their regular meeting on Thursday at City Hall.

The council opted against an offer by the railroad and the Texas Department of Transportation to close the crossing, the furthest east in the city, saying the move was opposed by north side residents who use Locust Street to get to the east side of town.

Robert Martinez with TxDOT’s Odessa District office, represented both the state agency and the railroad at the council’s July 12 meeting, and said the state highway agency would pay the city up to $150,000 for transportation-related projects if they agreed to the closing. It was the first time TxDOT has joined with Union Pacific in seeking to close Locust Street, which is located five blocks east of the main railroad crossing between the north and south sides of Pecos, Cedar Street (U.S. 285).

UP, which would pay Pecos $10,000 for closing the crossing, argued that its westbound trains block the Locust Street crossing several times each day while making crew changes, and that the crossing itself was unsafe due to the lack of signal lights or crossing arms.

“Locust is 1,056 feet, a quarter mile, from the Cedar Street crossing,” Martinez told the council on July 12. “The other thing is, this is a changing point for Union Pacific crews, so either way, people have to come down to U.S. 285.”

Council members were wary of taking action during that meeting because of concerns by north side residents, and on Thursday Mayor Dick Alligood said, “Since that time I’ve been up there and talked to some residents up there, and I would like the council to consider two things.

“The general feeling I had from up there is the residents don’t want it changed,” he said. “There is an elementary school (Zavala) that is opening back up, and that is the main path the children use to go to school. They do not what the children to use the path crossing U.S. 285.”

Fourth through sixth grade students currently attend school on the east side of Pecos. Voters in May approved a plan by the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD to move sixth grade classes to Crockett Junior High, but for the upcoming school year, classes will be held at Zavala Elementary at Ninth and Locust streets.Along with voting to keep the crossing open, the council also voiced their support for the installation of lighted signals and crossing arms at the Locust Street crossing. It currently is the only crossing within the city limits without warning signals, but federal government figures put the cost of installing new railroad crossing signals at $150,000 per crossing.

Council OKs motel audits, street closing law changes

Three hotels were selected by the Town of Pecos City Council to be the first of eight in the city to be audited, as part of a new contract the city signed with a private company earlier this year.

MuniServices LLC was hired to conduct audits of the city’s motels to see if the proper amount of money from the hotel and motel occupancy tax is being returned to the city. The company is also making recommendations on changes to the city’s rules of compliance with the hotel/motel tax, which were presented to the council on Thursday by Pecos Main Street coordinator Tom Rivera, during their regular meeting at City Hall.

MuniServices is scheduled to conduct up to three audits per year of local motels, and Rivera said the Budget Inn, Howard Johnson’s Inn and the Oak Tree Inn were the first three chosen for audits.

As far as changes to current city laws, Rivera said MuniServices was given records on the hotel/motel tax reporting for the past five years. “One of the many things they pointed out was the current ordinance is very vague on reporting procedures,” he told the council.

He added that the current ordinance was adopted in 1986, and a revision will be ready for viewing by the council during their first meeting in August. “This is very inclusive on reporting procedures,” Rivera said.“One thing they also recommended is instead of the hotels submitting receipts on a quarterly basis, they do it on a monthly bases,” he said.

In other action, the council approved a change in the city ordinance for street closings to allow closings for annual events to be done without requiring special approval by the council. Under the new rules, the city will have a committee made up of the police, ambulance and fire chiefs and the city’s code enforcement officer who would make recommendations to the city manager. Fees would be $100, but would be waived for non-profit organizations, Rivera said, and events turned down by the committee or city manager could still be approved on appeal by the council.

“The events will be listed in the ordinance under community events,” said Rivera. “They would be the annual events, so you don’t have to go through this process every year.”

In other action, the council approved tentative schedules for the city’s budget workshops for the first full week in September, which city manager Joseph Torres said would allow department heads to draw up their budget proposals during August.

“I know it’s short notice, but we really want to go ahead and get this done in August,” he said. “We would like to have some leeway in September.”

Final approval of the 2007 fiscal year budget has to be done by Sept. 22 in order to post public notices of the budget and tax rates at least a week before the Sept. 30 deadline.

Council members approved a number of line-item transfers within the 2006 budget, to cover departmental cost overruns. “We’ve had some unusual repairs due to breakdowns in the water and sewer lines, and some of those line items have been hit pretty hard,” Torres said.

The line-item transfers also included $130,000 from the General Fund to the Pecos Chamber of Commerce account; a transfer of just over $49,000 from the fund to the Sanitation Department’s tipping fees account; a $65,000 transfer from the Police Department’s salaries account to the special services account; and transfers of $20,000 and $11,000 from the Pecos Criminal Justice Center’s part-time and regular salaries accounts to the CJC overtime account; and $36,000 and $17,800 from the CJS salary account to the food and kitchen account and the Police Department patrolman’s account.

The council took no action following a 30 minute closed door session on a discussion concerning the area in the 700-800 blocks of Washington Street where the city took out a $400,000 government loan six years ago to put in infrastructure for 20 single family homes. Only one of the 20 homes was built, and the city has received three extensions on the loan from the Office of Rural Community Affairs while seeking to convert the land for the remaining 19 homes into an apartment complex of up to 96 units.

City officials were in Washington D.C. last week to meet with area representatives and with officials from ORCA on seeking an extension so that work can begin. The city agreed to a one-year deal in 2006 with California businessman Ram Kunwar to develop the property, but no work has started, through Torres said that might change in the next few weeks.

“I think we’ve got an investor. We’ve got a letter of commitment to start construction at the first of next month,” he said.

Organizers happy with turnout for ‘Night in Old Pecos’ event

Evening rains stayed just to the east of Pecos on Saturday night, allowing for a good turnout for the annual Night in Old Pecos event, held as part of the 2007 Pecos Cantaloupe Festival.

The event was held the final weekend of July for the second straight year, after being an annual part of the West of the Pecos Rodeo events in previous years. The change was made after the rodeo was moved up to late June, too early for visitors and local residents to enjoy the start of the annual Pecos Cantaloupe harvest.

“We had a good turnout and the weather cooperated fairly well,” said Chamber of Commerce Director Linda Gholson.

Gholson said that the vendors were really pleased, but that some individuals were disappointed because the talent show that had been scheduled was canceled.

“We were disappointed about that, but the man said that if he didn’t have a minimum of individuals sign up, that they wouldn’t be able to have it,” said Gholson.

Gholson said that the individual in charge of the talent show had been advertising it on the radio and other places, but that the minimum number needed to have the show did not sign up.

“We had several show up at the last minute that wanted to participate, but it had already been canceled,” said Gholson.

Cantaloupe with shrimp, cantaloupe salads and more were available for “tasting” at the Third Annual Cantaloupe Food Show, held Friday afternoon at TransPecos Bank, in conjunction with a Kids Cantaloupe Decorating Contest for children up to the age of 12.

Winners of the food show included: for Best Presentation, cantaloupe and shrimp, provided by Christa Falwell; Surprise MMM Award went to Bessie Osborn for her cantaloupe slaw and the Judge’s Choice Award was given to Sib Higginbotham for her cantaloupe cream pie.

In the Cantaloupe Decorating Contest, Jennifer Barron took first place for her scarecrow decorated cantaloupe; second place, was “a girl cantaloupe, by Arianna Rayos and third place went to Nathalia Natividad for her princess Brownie cantaloupe.

Festivities at the Night in Old Pecos, ran from 6 p.m. to midnight on Saturday evening, with the largest crowds arriving after temperatures cooled down in the early evening.

“We had a good crowd and we had a lot of cooperation from the city setting up and cleaning afterwards,” Gholson said.

The Dunking Booth was fixed by the city and the RCDC group took over and manned that booth that evening.

“They had so much fun and they decided to go ahead and sign up for it for next year,” said Gholson.

Gunslinger performed on the Windmill Square stage, following a performance by local folklorico dancers. “That place usually adds a lot to any festivity and everyone enjoyed the music by the band,” said Gholson.Gholson said that if anybody has any suggestions to make next year’s event better, or they would like to participate in any way to call the chamber at 445-2406.

“It’s never too early to start planning for next year,” she said.

Couple exchanged wedding vows in June

Carolina Mendoza Salcido of Pecos and Mathew Luke Salazar of Lubbock married June 23, at La Nueva Vida Baptist Church of Pecos, with Rev. David Sanders of Garland, brother-in-law of the groom, officiating.

The bride is the daughter of Ernest and Mary Lou Salcido and granddaughter of Marcos Sr. and Georgia Mendoza, and Andrea Salcido and the late Felix Salcido, all of Pecos. She is a 2000 graduate of Pecos High and received two associates from Odessa College, Applied Science and Legal Emphasis and Business Office Technology in 2004. She worked for West Texas National Bank of Pecos.

The groom is the son of Ruben and Euphemia Salazar of Garland, and grandson of Elida and the late Martin Lascano of Monahans and the late Maria and Antonio Salazar of Greeley, Colo. He is a 2000 graduate of Lubbock High School, attended Odessa College and the University of Hobbs, N.M. He is employed by Convergy’s of Lubbock.

The couple have a five month old son, Mathew Ruben and have made their home in Lubbock.

Pecos Trail board gets briefing on Museum

Members of the Texas Pecos Trail Board were briefed on activities at the West of the Pecos Museum and were updated on the groups ongoing projects and financial status on Friday, during their bi-monthly meeting, held at the Pecos Valley Country Club.

The board, which was created last year to promote tourism in a 22-county area of West Texas, held its first meeting in Pecos, though the turnout was not as large as hoped for an the annual membership event was cancelled due to a lack of registrations.

Debbie Thomas, West of the Pecos Museum director, talked to the board about both the events at the museum and their efforts to increase the number of visitors. Thomas said the museum is visited by about 20,000 people each year, but that they were looking for ways to get more people to stop in, given Pecos’ location between Carlsbad Caverns at Big Bend National Park, which she said about 50,000 people travel between along U.S. 285 each year.

“That’s why we have to do something to make people stop,” she said, which included improving the signage outside the building identifying the museum.

“We changed the sign on the front from the Orient Hotel to the West of the Pecos Museum, because so many people wanted to stay the night,” Thomas told the board.

Thomas talked to the board prior to the start of their regular agenda. Keith Godwin, Texas Pecos Trails Region Coordinator, briefed the board on recent and upcoming projects, including a Preserve America workshop on next Tuesday in Monahans, while board treasurer and Reeves County representative Bill Oglesby said the group had just over $27,000 in the bank and had collected about 80 percent of its 2007 pledges from within the 22 member counties.

The Preserve America workshops are for museums and tourism destinations that are being held through out the 22 county region, Godwin said. It’s a program to assist historic sites with the recently received " Site Evaluation Reports" sent by the Texas Historical Commission to over 30 destinations around the Pecos Trail Region, travel shows to promote destinations and several new educational seminars planned for the next six months.

"It is important that any community in the Region has an opportunity to invite us to have a board meeting, or maybe a workshop, in their town,” said Oglesby, president of TransPecos Bank. “This program encourages involvement and networking - that's how we learn about those wonderful heritage 'secrets' that abound in the Pecos Trail 22 county area."

The process of choosing three new board members for positions that are rotating out in 2008 was announced. The deadline for accepting applications is Aug. 31, and information may be found on the TPTR website. In addition, a call for communities wishing to host Pecos Trail board meetings in 2008 will be posted.

The bi-monthly meeting was hosted by Thomas and Linda Gholson, director of the Pecos Area Chamber of Commerce. Gholson and Thomas presented the board members with fresh Pecos Cantaloupe to carry home, as well as samples to enjoy at the meeting's break, and Godwin later served as a Judge in the Pecos Cantaloupe Food Show later that day at the TransPecos Bank.

Barreno is on deployment to Quatar

Marco Antonio Barreno Jr., 24, of Pecos, is on his six month deployment to Quatar, with the United States Airforce.

He is currently with the 7th Bomb Wing, Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene and is a MOC (maintenance operations center) Controller. He is in charge of central location for issues dealing with the B-1 Bomber and coordinates for repairs, refueling, deviations and passes information to all level commanders.

Barreno is married to Teri Lynne Barreno, 24, who is also in the Air Force. She is an air traffic controller at Dyess Air Force Base, Abilene and will be staying with there with their son, Joseph Mathias Barreno.

Marco is the son of Larry and Debra Martinez and Marco Barreno Sr. and the grandson of James and Elidia Leonard, Linda Martinez and the late Juan and Teresa Barreno.

Big Spring men die in crash near Ft. Stockton

Two Big Spring men were killed and three others were injured on Saturday morning, in a two-vehicle collision south of Fort Stockton, while four persons, including three children, were hurt on Sunday morning, in a one-vehicle rollover on Interstate 10 west of Balmorhea.

The two men killed were both oilfield workers, and were with two others in a 2002 GMC Yukon headed north on U.S. 385 towards Fort Stockton, according to a report by the Texas Department of Public Safety. DPS trooper Jaime Galindo of Iraan, who investigated the accident, said the driver of the Yukon, J.C. Burchett of Big Spring, ran into the back of a 1999 Dodge Neon, driven by Sara Pena of Fort Stockton, as both vehicles were northbound about 1.2 miles from Fort Stockton at 7:30 a.m.

Galindo said the vehicles both left the road on the east side, with the Neon coming to rest upright on the east side of the highway, while the Yukon rolled on its left side, ejecting all four passengers, before coming to rest upright facing west on the east side of the highway. The DPS report said Pena was wearing a seat belt while none of the passengers in the Yukon were wearing their belts when the accident occurred.

Pronounced dead at the scene was Albert Carrillo, 25, of Big Spring, while Earl Wright, 30, died at Pecos County Memorial Hospital. Both men were pronounced dead by Pecos County Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace Robert Gonzales, and their bodies were taken to Memorial Funeral Home in Fort Stockton.

Pena suffered only minor injuries in the accident, while Burchett was transported to the hospital in critical condition with head injuries, and the other occupant of the Yukon, Steven Painter, 27, of Abilene, was also transported after suffering broken bones when he was ejected from the vehicle.

A full DPS report on Sunday’s accident was not available, but Balmorhea and Pecos EMS crews were called out to the site, at mile marker 194 on Interstate 10, after receiving a report of the accident. The rollover occurred shortly after 9 a.m., and injured three children and an adult in the vehicle. Two air ambulances were called to the scene to transport the victims to Medical Center Hospital in Odessa.

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