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Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

County eyes shared vehicle for employees

A fuel-efficient vehicle that can be used by Reeves County employees for both long trips and local stops was the topic of discussion at the regular Reeves County Commissioners Court meeting, held Tuesday at the courthouse.

County Judge Sam Contreras said that with the rising price of gas, he decided to put the item on the agenda.

“We had to pick up someone from the airport and the sheriff’s department lend us a vehicle,” said Contreras. However, he said that the vehicle that they were loaned was a jail van, complete with the cages for inmates.

“It just doesn’t seem appropriate to pick up someone in that type of vehicle,” Contreras said. “It might be cheaper if we purchase a vehicle that can be used by the staff.”

Contreras said that the vehicle could also be used to run errands, or for staff training and seminars.

“Do we have any figures, in regard to which employees and how much it will cost?” asked commissioner precinct 3 Saul Herrera.

“No, I don’t have any of that yet, I thought we could discuss it and see if you wanted to do that,” said Contreras.

He said that this would also lower the mileage being paid out.

“I know the maintenance department has to run to the store often for supplies, they could also use it,” said Contreras.

“Do you know what type of vehicle?” asked Precinct 1 Commissioner Roy Alvarado. “It could be a truck or a car, whatever you all think,” said Contreras.

County Clerk Dianne Florez said that she thought it was a great idea and that the vehicle would come in handy, especially during the elections when they have a lot of errands to run. “I think it’s a good idea, but I also think it will open a can of worms, because everyone will want to use it at the same time,” said Reeves County Treasurer Linda Clark.

She said that at the present time she just uses her own vehicle and doesn’t ask for reimbursement for the gas.

“I have to run out to the prison often and I just use my own car and pay for it out of my own pocket, because it’s my job,” she said.

“If we do decide to purchase a vehicle we can work all that out, who will use it and when,” said Contreras.

County Auditor Lynn Owens told the group that they would have to budget it for next year. “There will be conflicts, but we can work those out,” he said.

Contreras said that they would table the item and find out more information, including the cost and the type of vehicle that will be purchased.

“We can budget it for next year and then we can work out all the other details,” said Contreras.

In other action on Tuesday, Commissioners approved RCDC I&II lease payment in the amount of $216,438; RCDC I&II 2005 lease payment in the amount of $495,000; RCDC I&II 2005 maintenance reserve payment, in the amount of $29,166; RCDC III 2001 lease payment in the amount of $346,068; RCDC III 2001 maintenance reserve payment in the amount of $29,166

The group agreed to the purchase of an agricultural type tractor and mower and for three-year extension on Ray/Wood/Bonilla, LLP Contract for court delinquent costs.

Council gets apartment construction update

Town of Pecos City Council members were given an update on the Country Club Apartments construction and completion timetable, while approving several new ordinances is a brief meeting last Thursday at City Hall.

The council tabled action on the city’s audit report and a request to buy the old Woolworth Building at Third and Oak Streets during their 40-minute meeting, but did hear from Georgina Roland with Wilheit Properties, the parent company of Zimmerman Properties, which has been building the 48-unit apartment complex on the south side of town since January.

Roland said that rental applications for the four-building complex will begin next month, and the first units should be ready for occupancy by Aug. 15. The company will also be looking to hire an office manager for the complex, and plans to set up temporary renting operations in June in Pecos.

Council members asked Roland about the requirements for renting. She said because the complex was built through funding from the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, it would have to follow their guidelines for income levels.

“The whole project is considered low- to moderate-income,” she said, with the income levels to be based on the per-person median income for Reeves County.

Some of the apartments have been designed for seniors and the disabled. “We will have one unit (building) for seniors 55 and older. There will have to be at least one over 55 in the apartment. The other three (buildings) are for families, based on income,” Roland said. Councilman Gerald Tellez asked Roland if the company would be building any future apartments in the area. Roland said they are expanding one complex in Big Spring, but would have to wait and see how successful their Pecos project is before applying to TDHCA for any new housing grants.

Two of the ordinances approved involved placement of new stop signs, one on West ‘F’ at Hickory Street and the other on Jackson Boulevard at Beauchamp Avenue. City Manager Joseph Torres said the sign on ‘F’ Street was sought at the request of Reeves County Commissioner Ramiro “Ram” Guerra.

“Because half the street is county property, and half is city property, they want to split the cost of the stop signs at that intersection,” Torres said.

City Street Department Supervisor Martin Arreguy said the signs would only cost $40 each, and the city would also put up new speed limit signs on West ‘F’ Street.

“It’s a straight shot on that street from Cedar to B&B (the intersection with West Business I-20). I’ve been on it myself and it’s very narrow and people fly down that street,” Arreguy said.

Police Chief Clay McKinney said the Jackson Boulevard stop signs would also be used to control speeders. “We’ve had a number of complaints of people speeding on Jefferson Street,” he said, adding that homeowners are in support of the move.

“All 27 we contacted were in favor of the stop sign,” he said.

The other ordinances were second readings of new by-laws for the Pecos Volunteer Fire Department, annexation of property at 106 W. Daggett St., and by-laws for the new Fairview Cemetery Board of Directors, which will oversee improvements planned for the cemetery just north of Pecos High School.

“At the last meeting of the cemetery committee they did election a board of directors and chairman (Rosemary Scroggins),” said mayor Dick Alligood. “She is moving rapidly on the by-laws, so we can get things started.”

Also approved were new by-laws for the Pecos Main Street Program. Coordinator Tom Rivera said the board and Torres already had seen the changes, and they were now looking to fill four of the eight positions on the Main Street board.

Council members also discussed nominations for the board of the revised Pecos Economic Development Corp. The size of the board will expand from five to seven after voters on May 12 approved its conversion from 4A to 4B status, which will expand the number of things on which PEDC money can be spent. But action won’t be taken until the council’s next meeting on June 14 at the earliest.

“We need to come up with a plan to let the public know anybody interested in serving on the board can make a forma submission to the city manager at City Hall,” councilman Frank Sanchez said. Council members said a brief resume should be submitted by anyone seeking consideration for the PEDC board.

At the start of the meeting, Alligood swore in Tellez, Sanchez and Danny Rodriguez to new two-year terms on the council, following their re-elections on May 12. Council members then re-elected Tellez as mayor pro-tem for the next year.

The council also approved accounts payable, the monthly tax report, and the sale of six properties for back taxes. They also approved changes to the Pecos EMS Board of Directors, with Dennis Thorp remaining as chief and Joe Tollett and Andy Hanna as first and second assistants.

Torres said the board was cut from five to three members, because Pecos EMS currently has only eight members working as ambulance volunteers.

Grant helps extend Madera Valley water line

Residents on the north side of town received a much-needed improvement to their lives, thanks to a grant that was procured by two county officials to extend the Madera Valley Water line to their unincorporated area.

“I’m just glad that we were able to receive this grant and bring water to those residents out there,” said Reeves County Commissioner for Precinct 1, Roy Alvarado.

Alvarado and Precinct 3 Commissioner Saul Herrera began this project two years ago when they applied for the grant through Office of Rural Community Affairs, for Colonia Construction.

“We submitted the grant on June 7, 2005, through TCDP and received $500,000 with a $25,000 match provided by the county,” said Alvarado.

Alvarado said that the county supported the grant and that it was made through Madera Valley Water, which serves area in the southern and central parts of Reeves County.

Thanks to this grant 28 meters were installed this year and provided service to homes in rural Reeves County, beginning behind B&B Wrecker and all along Duval Road (Farm to Market Roads 2119) and County Roads 406 and 407.

Alvarado said that the construction had begun in December of 2006 and should be completed in a couple of weeks.

“The construction was done by Tejas Partners of Denver City, with engineer Steve Denis, who usually work with Madera Valley,” said Alvarado. “They use them on their projects,” he said.

Alvarado said that this was something that was much needed for the residents who live on that side of town. “This is the first time that they have water and I wish we could have gotten a sewer grant as well, but that’s something we can work on,” said Alvarado.

“At first we had tried for water and sewer, but it was too costly,” said Alvarado. “So right now, its just drinking water,” he said.

Alvarado said that they plan to apply for another grant and hopefully provide septic tank systems for those residents.

“I’m just happy that we cold help these residents, with them being so close to Pecos,” said Alvarado.

Area’s property valuations continue to climb upwards

Property valuations in Reeves County continue to rise, thanks to increases in oil and natural gas prices, while the tighter housing market in Pecos has led to an upward recalculation of non-commercial real estate values, according to preliminary figures from the Reeves County Tax Appraisal District.

Valuations for three of the county’s eight taxing districts were up from nearly $70 million to almost $115 million, based on the preliminary figures from Chief Appraiser Carol King Markham. Mineral valuations in Balmorhea were the only ones to show a decline for any of the taxing entitles within Reeves County, but overall, all eight saw their overall valuations continue the upward trend that began seven years ago.

“We have some real good estimates, if they just hold,” said Markham, who noted the valuation totals, which are the basis for local property tax rates, wouldn’t be finalized until after the Appraisal Review Board hearings in late June.

Taxing entities with rural property on their books have seen sharp increases in valuations for the past several years. But the valuations of the cities in Reeves County, with little oil and natural gas-based revenues, have remained unchanged or declined. That changed last year when rural home valuations were reappraised, and this year’s changes mark a $10.2 million increase in real estate values inside Pecos.

“I did the real estate in Reeves County last year, and this year did Pecos City,” Markham said. “We needed to, because we’ve seen home homes selling for double what we had for our estimates.”

Markham said that the state mandates that local tax appraisal districts keep their valuations in line with the prices that homes are valued at in the open market. “The school districts lose state funding if we don’t get the valuations up,” she said.

The increase in real estate values inside Pecos mark the first increase in that total since the 1990s. Valuations were stagnant from 2000 through 2006, while the city’s mineral valuations, which declined from $15.4 million to $8.26 million during that span, jumped back up in 2007, and now stand at $14.1 million.

The 10 percent increase in housing valuations in Pecos has led to some phone calls, but no major problems,” Markham said.

“They know the valuations are too low on the housing here,” she said. “I have been getting some protests, which is natural, but all in all we’re not too busy.”

Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD, which receives property taxes from the Barstow area of western Ward County, saw the biggest rise in its valuations, both on minerals and in real estate. The school district’s mineral valuations were up just under $100 million, while real estate valuations rose by over $14 million, for an combined increase of $114.3 million. Total valuations for P-B-T ISD are estimated at just under $832 million, up 16 percent from 2006’s figures.

Reeves County and the Reeves County Hospital District both saw their valuations jump by just under $70 million, to $734.6 million, a 10 1/2 percent rise from a year ago. Of the $70 million increase, 80 percent was due to higher mineral valuations, while the remaining 20 percent was due to rising real estate values.

Balmorhea’s mineral values dropped $13,000, but the city’s real estate values increased by $304,900 after rising by nearly $800,000 a year ago. That gave the city $4.49 million in total valuations, an increase of seven percent from last year.

Balmorhea ISD’s mineral valuations increased by $1.74 million, while their real estate values were up just over $400,000, for a net gain of $2.14 million. The school district’s total valuations are tentatively set at $32.8 million, which is also a seven percent rise from last year.

Toyah’s real estate valuations were up $94,400 and their mineral valuations rose by $62,770 for a net gain of $157,170, and total valuations of $2.23 million. The county’s other taxing entity, the Reeves County Water Improvement District No. 2, saw its real estate valuations rise $7,470 and its mineral valuations increase $3.85 million, which more than doubled the district’s net taxable valuations, to $6.885 million.

Since the current rise in mineral valuations began in 2000, the county and hospital district have seen their total valuations double, while the school district has increased by $462 million, a 125 percent increase over the total valuations for P-B-T ISD seven years ago. Persons wanting to appeal their 2007 valuations can schedule a hearing before the Reeves County Appraisal Review Board for either June 22 or June 25. Appeals on mineral valuations will be heard on June 26, and Markham said the final numbers to be sent out to the eight taxing entities will be ready a month after those hearings.

Nichols graduates from Sachse High School

Joshua Dominique Nichols recently graduated from Sachse High School on May 24.

Nichols graduated with honors and was a member of Texas Scholars, Who’s Who and National Honor Society.

He also held a leadership position while participating in the Sasche Winterguard and was Drum Major of the Sachse Marching Band.

Nichols will be attending UTA in Arlington in the fall, as a pre-med student. He is the son of Israel and Annette Nichols.

His grandparents are Tony and Emma Urquidi of Oden, Ark. and Carlos and Alicia Nichols of Pecos.

Harrison graduates with double major

Kaci Harrison graduated with a double major from Texas A&M University in College Station on May 11, from the College of Liberal Arts with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Communications.

She was among 5,000 students that graduated from A&M this semester. She graduated with honors in each of her departments being the member of Lambda Pi Eta, the Communications Honor Society and Order of Omega, the Greek Life Honor Society.

At A&M, Kaci was an active member in Gamma Phi Beta Sorority where she was an executive officer. She was also a member of many service organizations that include Aggie Habitat for Humanity, W.H.O.P. (Women Helping Out Other People), the Student Government’s Association Parent’s Weekend Committee where she was named Host of the Year and Student Senate’s Greek Liaison Chair. She was an Aggie Buddy to local school children, editor of the Brazos Community Foundation’s newsletter, and completed an internship for the American Heart Association in the fall of 2006. After graduation she will be traveling with 11 other college students to Thailand on a mission trip.

Kaci plans on using her love for helping others to pursue a career in non-profit organizations by focusing on policy and management by getting her Master’s degree in Public Health.

Kaci graduated from Pecos High School in 2004.

She is the daughter of Roger and Angela Harrison of Pecos.

Gonzalez graduates from TWU

Sally P. Gonzalez, of Pecos, graduated from Texas Women’s University in Denton on May 12.

She is a 2002 Pecos High School graduate.

Gonzalez graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Bachelor of Science degree.

She is the daughter of Rafael and Rachel Gonzalez of Pecos.

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