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Economic Development


Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Friday, November 2, 2007

Christmas for Kids schedules fundraising event

A door-to-door drive will be held from 10:30 a.m. until 2 p.m., Saturday to raise funds for the Christmas for Kids Program.

Volunteers will meet at the Reeves County Sheriff’s Office and lunch will be provided.

The group is comprised of volunteers who raise funds to provide the essentials for children in the community, who would otherwise lose out on having a Merry Christmas.

“Our main goal is to provide a happy Christmas for as many children in the community as we can,” said Christmas for Kids Volunteer Sofia Baeza. “We don’t just provide toys, but the essentials, such as coats and shoes.”

The deadline to turn in application to be a recipient of Christmas for Kids is Friday, Nov. 16. The group already has gathered 24 applications, which includes 69 kids.

Applications can be picked up at the Reeves County Sheriff’s Office from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m., Mondays through Fridays.

PEDC urged against quick 4A shutdown

The Pecos Economic Development Corporation’s 4A entity is no longer receiving any funds for operation from the Town of Pecos City. But ongoing obligations mean that the 4A corporation may not be shut down for another few years.

Members of the 4A board met on Monday at City Hall to discuss closing out the books on the corporation, which was replaced by a 4B economic development corporation last month. State law allows a 4B to spend tax funds on a wider range of projects, but also puts tighter limits on the process of spending the funds.

Closing out the 4A corporation was one of the items on the agenda, but after going over the information, the board opted to table any decision on that, and several other issues, until a later date. The board discussed the issue with former PEDC executive director Mike Burkholder and were told the 4A PEDC may have to remain in existence until 2010, though one contract, with the Texas Transportation Institute and Applied Research Associates at the former Smithers Tire Testing Center, runs through 2055.

Members of the 4B board were also in attendance at the meeting, and two of the three 4A members there, Leo Hung and Jimmy Dutchover, serve on both boards.

The main current concern was a contract worked out by the 4A PEDC with Badger BMB that gave the company $15,000 in incentives for adding a minimum of 48 new jobs to the Pecos area. The agreement runs through May 10, 2010

“Until it’s finished at that time, the 4A cannot be closed out,” said Pecos Mayor Dick Alligood. He said state law puts restrictions on debts contracted by a 4A EDC being assumed by a 4B corporation.

Dutchover asked about transferring the test track agreement from the 4A to the 4B corporation. Alligood said they would call the Texas Comptroller’s Office for guidance on the situation, while saying just leaving the current funds in the 4A would be the best way to go for now.

“Let time go along and the 4A will close itself out. There are funds in the 4A to take care of it now,” he said.

Burkholder said at the test track, the only item that could come up in the near future would be additional costs coming from the removal of tanks from the track area. “I paid for that (removal), but in the contract is says if they find any contamination, there could be some additional expenses there,” he said.

Also tabled was any action on the 4A PEDC’s plan to buy 34 acres of land for $230,000 from the Pecos Housing Authority that borders Interstate 20. The action was rejected by the council under the advisement of city attorney Scott Johnson in September, and TransPecos Bank ended up loaning the PHA $230,000 so the agency could buy the adjacent Farm Labor Housing. “I don’t think you need to take any action. This was basically over when the city attorney said we weren’t able to purchase the land,” Burkholder said.

The PEDC planned to use the land for future economic development sites. Since the council’s Sept. 14 decision, the city has decided to see about acquiring the land from the PHA through the 4B economic development corporation.

Alligood said because the deal to sell the land was simply to the PEDC, it still should be valid even after the change. “It is an item that can be brought before 4B, if 4B wants to pursue it,” he said.

Another item on which no action was taken was the purchase of 3.07 acres of land at the intersection of U.S. 285 and Interstate 20, which was bought by the PEDC from Reeves County for $3,070 in early September.

“That’s right behind where the Gulf station is,” said Burkholder. “It’s already been deeded to the PEDC and it’s already been paid for. I tried to get it finished up before the 30th of September with the Patels from Monahans, who own the Best Western Inn.”

Burkholder said the PEDC had the land surveyed and bought it from the county at market value, but the deal with the Patels was delayed when they were unable to work out a national franchise agreement by the end of September. Alligood said the Patels have been in contact with him about the status of the land.

Amendment early voting going slowly

Early voting ends on Friday for the Nov. 6 Texas constitutional amendment elections, and total of 61 individuals had cast their ballots in Reeves County as of Wednesday afternoon. Early voting has been available at the Reeves County Courthouse throughout this week and will end Friday, while polls will be open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. on Tuesday.

A total of four ballots have been received by mail.

With no candidates on next Tuesday’s ballot, early voting has gone slowly. But several of the amendments could have direct effects on the Pecos area. Among those are Proposition 5, which involves the Texas Main Street Program, and Proposition 16, which would increase funding for the Texas Water Development Board’s programs in economically distressed areas. Both programs are either currently in operation, or have been used recently in the Pecos area.

Under Proposition 5, municipalities with under 10,000 in population would be authorized to enter into an agreement with an owner of real property in or adjacent to an area in the municipality that has been approved for funding under certain programs administered by the Texas Department of Agriculture. The agreement would allow all ad valorem taxes imposed on the owner's property may not be increased for the first five tax years after the tax year in which the agreement is entered into.

Proposition 16 would provide for the issuance of additional general obligation bonds by the Texas Water Development Board in an amount not to exceed $250 million to provide assistance to economically distressed areas. Funds have bee used through the TDWB in the past to improve and extend water lines in unincorporated areas of the county.

Meetings set on Pecos River watershed plan

The second in a series of meeting by area soil and water conservation districts over the proposed Pecos River Watershed Protection Plan will be held on Friday afternoon in Pecos.

The Upper Pecos Soil and Water Conservation District will host the 1 p.m. meeting, in the conference room at the Winkler County Credit Union building, 1300 S. Cedar St. It’s the second of six scheduled meetings this month on the plan, which will affect residents of 13 soil and water conservation districts in West Texas.

Meetings were held in October in Pecos and four other towns along the Pecos River to discuss the first draft of the Watershed Protection Plan (WPP), after which is was decided to hold the second round of meetings.

According to Will Hatler, Extension Agent/Project Coordinator for the Texas Cooperative Extension Service, “Limited landowner involvement in developing this PP and the deadline or submitting comments on the WPP draft were two of the major concerns voiced by those in attendance.”

He said that along with the new hearings, the deadline for submitting comments on the first draft of the WPP has been extended to Dec. 17.

Hatler and Lucas Gregory, manager for the Pecos River Basin Assessment Project, also met with Red Bluff Water Power Control District board members on Oct. 8 about their just-completed Pecos River WPP, and possible solutions for its major problems, which also affect Aimstad Lake and the Rio Grande south of Del Rio.

The problems include excessive salt content in the Pecos, both from sources in New Mexico and in Texas; removal of salt cedar trees and prevention of erosion following their removal, and increasing the flow of the Pecos north of Independence Creek in Terrell County. Hatler also talked about funds available through the Environmental Protection Agency for projects related to solving those problems.

Gregory and Halter also gave the board the 79-page WPP first draft, and told board members any action would be voluntary on the part of area landowners. The report did note concerns by area farmers and ranchers about any projects that would increase outside control of water usage within the Pecos River Basin.

The first of the new round of meetings was held Thursday evening in Fort Stockton. Following Friday’s meeting in Pecos, a meeting will take place at 5:30 p.m. in Sanderson, while the remaining meetings are scheduled for Nov. 16 in Del Rio, Nov. 19 in Odessa and Nov. 20 in Ozona.

Local officials, motel operators given update on tax collections

Local officials and employees for motels from around the area were in Pecos on Tuesday, to attend a briefing on handling hotel/motel tax collections from the president of the Texas Hotel and Lodging Association.

Scott Joslove, President and CEO of the organization that represents the state’s hotels and motels in Austin, talked about tax collections, though he said the upcoming 2 percent addition to Pecos’ hotel and motel tax was not among the topics at the 2 1/2-hour session. Town of Pecos City and Reeves County officials reached agreement last week on creating the Buck Jackson Rodeo Arena Authority Board, which will oversee a new 2 percent venue tax on local hotels and motels to go towards improvements to Pecos’ rodeo arena and the Reeves County Civic Center. Joslove went over guidelines for tax collections by hotels and motels, including collections for customers who plan to stay over 30 days in the hotel. State law exempts long-term guests. “In this area it seems like there’s a large percentage of long-term guests. A number of folks are staying over 30 days, based on the current industries,” he said. “My advice is if you have a customer, collect for the first 30 days and then refund it after 30 days unless they pay in advance.”

Pecos motels have been at near-capacity for the past two years due to the increase in oil and gas drilling in the area and the lack of available local housing. Joslove said that is “an opportunity to expand,” and up to six new motels are either being planned or are in the preliminary construction stages for Pecos.

Joslove said he was invited to speak in Pecos by the city’s Main Street Program Manager, Tom Rivera. “He said there was a strong interest on getting more information on how the hotel/motel tax is to be used,” he said, adding that he makes similar trips to other areas of the state to make presentations on tax usage.

Along with the 2 percent venue tax addition, city council members earlier this year approved audits of tax collections for local hotels and motels. Three motels per year are to be audited over an three-year period. Pecos currently has eight motels sending in tax collections to Austin, part of which is in turn sent back to the city.

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