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Economic Development


Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Road rules approved in ‘60s slow motel construction plans

Actions taken 45 years ago by the Town of Pecos City have come back to, if not haunt, at least hamper current city officials, in their efforts to get new businesses built along Interstate 20 on the west side of town.

City Council members were told during their meeting on Thursday that a application to the Texas Department of Agriculture’s Texas Capital Fund for a project to aid construction of two new motels and a restaurant would have to be put off until June, while the city seeks formal permission from the Texas Department of Transportation to change the regulations on vehicle access to the site from the I-20 service road.

The council in November accepted a bid for $1,500 on eight acres of land on Interstate 20, located between the hospital and the I-20 service road (Raul Florez Boulevard) at the State Highway 17 exit, from Dr. Arbind Ghandi, who along with his brother Henry plan to build a Hampton Inn on the interstate, similar to one which opened last year in Fort Stockton. But the site currently has no water, sewer or electrical lines in place, and the TCF grant is being sought to help fund installation of those services at the site, where the Ghandis also are looking at building a second motel and a restaurant.

City Planning Director Edgardo Madrid explained the reasons Pecos would not make Friday’s filing deadline for the spring grants issued by the Texas Capital Fund, after Pecos Economic Development Corp. President Mike Burkholder briefed council members on the problem at the start of Thursday’s meeting at City Hall. He said the current problems come from action taken by the city in the early 1960s.

“When the state put Interstate 20 in, they deeded the right-of-way that went through the airport,” he said, referring to the entire area of the former Pecos Army Airfield from the 1940s. “The city sold access on both sides of the highway, which means there’s no access from Moore Street to Highway 17 … all the property we have does not have access.”

Burkholder said buildings on the opposite side of I-20, including the Welding Supply, Dairy Queen and Colt Chevrolet sites, are technically in violation of the 1960s deed, and TxDOT itself would be in violation of its own rule if it put driveways in on the I-20 south service road for its own proposed new local office next to Colt Chevrolet.

However, Burkholder said the state is willing to waive that restriction.

“I talked to a fellow named John Wallace, and he said they would allow access to the hotel property,” Burkholder said, though not directly in front of the State Highway 17 (Exit 39) on- and off-ramps, where the Ghandis were hoping to put their driveway.

“Because of that, in all probability the city is going to have to put in the rest of the street (Schmidt Drive) behind the property,” Burkholder said. The other option would be an inner street behind the service road that would allow access to both motel sites and the restaurant. “I suggested to Edgardo and Mr. (city manager Joseph) Torres, we’re going to have to sit down and plan this one out,” he said. “And someone need to tell the Ghandis.”

Mayor Dick Alligood said he was trying to get in contact with the Ghandis about the access problem, but said after meeting with their project engineers on Wednesday, “They took a look at it, and did not see a major problem at this time.”

“I don’t think the state or federal government meant to block economic development in a town the size of Pecos,” Alligood said, adding that officials with the Texas Transportation Institute have offered to help with the problem.

Madrid said the TCF grant would cover 100 percent of the cost of the water, sewer and electric line installations, and told the council that the next deadline for applying for a grant would be in early June. He added that as of now, the delay in the utility grant submission has not changed the construction timetable.

“They want to break ground in June or July, and they’re still shooting for that,” Madrid said.

Council incumbents get challenger

The three incumbents in the Town of Pecos City Council election will face at least one challenger in the May 12 city election, as a current Reeves County employee joined the race in the final hours before Monday’s 5 p.m. filing deadline.

Joanna Lindemann returned her packet Monday morning to Town of Pecos City secretary Crissy Barraza, and will face mayor pro-tem Gerald Tellez and councilmen Danny Rodriguez and Frank Sanchez in seeking one of the three two-year terms up for election. Lindemann is currently employed as secretary for Reeves County Auditor Lynn Owens, and is running for office for the first time.

Tellez, Rodriguez and Sanchez were unopposed in winning new two-year terms in office in 2005. City Manager Joseph Torres said two others picked up packets to run in the council election, but had not returned those packets as of late Monday morning.

The contested race in the council election comes after candidates filed last week in the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD elections to assure both the races for the three three-year terms and the two-year unexpired term will be contested in the May 12 race. Another challenger Manuel Munoz Sr. will face Randy Graham for the position on the board that was left vacant late last year, when Amy Miller moved to Lubbock. Munoz filed last week, just prior to the March 6 deadline for that election, while Graham filed two weeks ago.

In the race for the three-year terms, former P-B-T school personnel director Gome Olibas filed to run against incumbents Lila Cerna, Bubba Williams and Crissy Martinez. Voters in the May 12 school election will also be deciding on approval of the $30 million bond issue approved last week for campus reconstruction, expansion and other improvements.

The only race as of Monday morning that was not contested was for the Reeves County Hospital District board, where Precinct 2 incumbent Linda Gholson and Precinct 4 representative Pablo Carrasco have filed run for new two-year terms. Both ran unopposed in 2005.

Under state law, city, school and hospital districts can cancel their elections in order to save money if there are no contested races or any other local measures on the ballot.

Area’s post-Christmas jobless rates increase

Unemployment in Reeves and other West Texas counties showed their normal post-Christmas increase, according to January figures released on Thursday by the Texas Workforce Commission.

The county’s unemployment rate increased by one percent from December, climbing from 4.8 to 5.8 percent, the TWC said. That’s still 1.2 percent below the jobless rate reported for Reeves County in January of 2006, though according to the Workforce Commission, the area is continuing to lose jobs despite the current energy-related economic boom.

The county had 4,083 people in its workforce in January and 3,846 with jobs, for the 5.8 percent rate. In December, there were 4,149 people in the workforce and 3,950 employed, while a year ago, the TWC said Reeves County had 4,192 workers, of which 3,898 were employed.

Most area counties saw job declines from December, though some small increases were reported in local workforces.

Midland County again had the area’s largest workforce and job totals, while its unemployment rate increased to 3.5 percent, from 2.7 percent in December. The county lost 363 workers and 715 jobs from December, but still is up almost 2,800 in both workers and jobs from a year ago. Ector County’s unemployment rate was up from 3.0 to 3.6 percent, with an drop of 554 workers and 953 jobs.

Andrews County’s rate increased from 2.7 in December to 3.4 percent in January, as the number of workers was fell by 51 while the jobs declined by 96. Brewster County’s rate went from 2.8 to 3.4 percent, as the county lost 121 workers and 151 jobs. Crane County’s rate was up from 3.4 to 4.3 percent. The county was one of the few to add workers from December, increasing by seven, but lost eight jobs. Culberson County also added a few workers while its rate was up from 2.8 to 3.1 percent. The county’s labor force increased by six, while the jobs were unchanged from the previous month. Dawson County saw its rate jump from 5.2 to 6.4 percent in January, as the county added 14 workers and lost 44 jobs, according to the TWC.

Howard County’s unemployment rate rose from 3.8 to 4.9 percent in January. The county saw a drop of just two workers but lost 144 jobs from the previous month. Pecos County’s rate went from 3.7 to 4.7 percent, as the county’s workforce was up by 21 workers while the total number of jobs dropped by 44. In Ward County, unemployment rose from 3.6 to 4.2 percent, with the number of jobs down by 50 while the workforce dropped half that total from December. Winkler County’s unemployment rate also was up from 3.4 to 4.1 percent.

The county’s workforce fell by 13 people while the number of jobs dropped by 32. Presidio County’s jobless rate was back up over the 10 percent mark, as was Loving County’s rate in January. Presidio County increased 9.3 to 10.2 percent, as the county’s workforce fell by nine, while the number of jobs dropped by 37 from the previous month. Loving County’s jobless rate went from 8.3 to 12.1 percent, the same as in November. The TWC said Loving County had 33 people in the workforce in January and 29 with jobs, which is three less workers and four fewer jobs than in December.

City receives slight hike in March rebate check

After two double-digit increases to start 2007, the Town of Pecos City’s sales tax rebate check for March was up only slightly from the same period a year ago, while Balmorhea reported a major increase again for the month and Toyah and the Reeves County Hospital District saw their checks decline from the same period a year ago.

Pecos’ 1 1/2-cent share of Texas’ 8-1/4 cent sales tax brought the city an $81,913 check for March, based on sales made during January. That’s up 3.61 percent from a year ago, when the city received $79,058 from the Texas Comptroller’s office. For the first quarter of 2007, the city has gotten $270,742 back in tax rebates, a 10.65 percent rise from 2006, when Pecos received $244,677 over the first three months of the year.

One-sixth of the city’s monthly check goes towards the Pecos Economic Development Corp. for its operations. For March, the PEDC will receive $13,985 from the city.

The numbers, released Thursday by state Comptroller Susan Combs’ office, were even better for Balmorhea. The city’s $3,046 rebate check on its 1 1/2-cent tax represented a 208.61 percent jump from last March, when the city got a $987 check. For the quarter, Balmorhea’s rebates are up 107.64 percent, to $8,670.

Toyah is also up for the first quarter of the year, despite a 44.44 percent drop in their March check. The city got $253 back from Austin, down from last year’s $455 check, but their $1,485 overall in 2007 is still up by 4.31 percent.

Reeves County Hospital has seen its rebate checks from the district’s 1/2-cent sales tax decline all three months so far in 2007. March’s check for $43,467 was down by 13.87 percent from the $50,469 it got last year, and the $128,223 so far this year id 8.72 percent lower than the same period a year ago, when sales tax rebates brought the hospital $140,481.

Post-Christmas sales across the Permian Basin were up overall, according to the comptroller’s office.

Midland had the region’s single largest check, for $2.27 million on its 1 1/2-cent sales tax, which was up 7.34 percent from a year ago. Odessa’s 1 1/4-cent sales tax brought the city $1.51 million for the month, a 9.75 percent rise from last March.

For other cities collecting the 1 1/2-cent sales tax, Alpine received an $83,481 check this month, an increase of 4.8 percent from a year ago; Crane received a check for $45,590 and was up both from their total a year ago by 16.92 percent; Lamesa got $78,491 back from Austin, which was up 9.31 percent; while Seminole received a check for $75,130, which was up 22.24 percent.

Among cities collecting a one-cent sales tax Kermit received $48,588 in their check, up 16.91 percent; Wickett received a $6,175 check, down 5.65 percent, Wink received a check for $7,558, up 101.97 percent, and Pyote, received a $372 check this month, down .71 percent from a year ago.

For other area cities collecting a 1 3/4-cent sales tax, Andrews received a check for $240,402, a 35.52 percent increase. Marfa got a check for $19,355, which was up by 9.9 percent; while Van Horn got a check for $30,832, which was up 1.47 percent from last year. For cities collecting the maximum two-cent sales tax, Big Spring received $368,559, an drop of 4.98 percent; Fort Stockton received $139,951, up 1.75 percent; Monahans received a check for $114,262, which was up 26.12 percent from last year; Grandfalls got a $1,681 check, up 13.44 percent; and Presidio received $26,364, up 1.15 percent.

Statewide, Combs’ office sent out rebate checks totaling $268.6 million, up 5.14 percent from $260.2 million last January. Houston’s check for $34.8 million was again the largest one sent out, and was 10 percent higher than a year ago. Dallas’ check was next, at $15.8 million, which was up 4.4 percent from the city’s total last March.

Council sets annexation request hearings

A public hearing was ordered by Town of Pecos City Council members on Thursday, to deal with the annexation of residential areas just outside the city limits, after homeowners there requested the move as the result of increases in water, sewer and trash collection rates for non-city residents.

“If the council has no objection, I’d like to have a public hearing before going forward with the annexation plan,” said Mayor Dick Alligood, who noted that efforts to annex some of those same areas a few years ago were met with threats of lawsuits against the city.

However, he said he and other city officials have met with some residents who are now in favor of the change due to the recent increases in public utility services.

“Some of them may save $300 to $500 a year on water and sewer rates,” Alligood told the council. “A lot of the ones who have resisted in the past are starting to step forward and are saying we want to be annexed, too.”

Councilman Danny Rodriguez said those residents could seek annexation through a petition, but Alligood said taking action through a public hearing would save some of those people the effort of going through that process, along with alerting the city to any continuing opposition to the plan.

Lands to be annexed must be contiguous to the current city limits, city attorney Scott Johnson told the council. No exact date has been set for the public hearing on the annexation.

The council also approved closing streets in Maxey Park for this Saturday’s Youth Concert, and viewed a PowerPoint presentation by the city’s new parks and recreation director, Adolfo Ruiz, on work done recently at the park’s picnic area. City Planning Director Edgardo Madrid said Ruiz will handle that department after working for five years in a similar job in Denton, and will handle city building maintenance supervision, while Martin Arreguy will be the city public works director in charge of streets and sanitation, and Ruben Contreras will be the city utilities director.

“We tried to be a little creative on our finances,” Madrid said, explaining that Ruiz’s position is being paid from funds slotted for other positions the city currently has not filled. “I think we can get more out of him being general foreman than as a worker.”

Ruiz said he has visited the city’s parks to see what changes may be needed, and showed the council photos of repairs and repainting done to picnic tables and awnings at the park. Ruiz also told council member Frank Sanchez they are looking for ways to deal with the ongoing problem of prairie dog holes at the park, especially in the playing field areas.

“The soccer fields do have significant liability,” said Johnson. Ruiz was asked to come back at a future council meeting to update members on efforts to control the problem. In other action, the council approved accounts payable in the amount of $615,934, which included a payment or the roll-off truck recently purchased to help with debris clean-up from both construction and demolition work, along with the disposal of large items by local residents.

“We already put this into work,” Arreguy said, citing demolition of the Y-café on the east side using the truck, which has a 30-ton capacity. “Now we don’t have any standing time.” “This is going to have huge benefits for Pecos. It’s really going to improve our productivity,” he said.

The council voted 3-2 to grant a waiver of penalties to Pecos Valley Grain and Supply on property tax payments over a three-year period. Lydia Prieto, tax collector for the city under an agreement with the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD, said the school district, county and hospital district have waived the penalty and interest after being told the error was the result of a clerical mistake by the Reeves County Tax Appraisal District.

However, she said under the state law, business owner Ronnie Bowles was not entitled to the waiver, because he had missed the six month filing deadline for an appeal after the taxes or 2003, 2004 ad 2005 had become delinquent. “The equities are with Mr. Bowles, but the law may not allow it,” Prieto said.

She said that Bowles paid the taxes a week after being notified of the problem, but the state law makes property owners responsible for knowing what taxes they owe and the valuation of their property, even if the error is the fault of the taxing entity.

In the end, councilman Gerald Tellez made a motion to waive the penalties, and was supported by Rodriguez and Alligood, who cast the deciding vote. Council members Sanchez and Michael Benavides voted against the waivers, on the recommendation of Prieto.

Banquet honors go to local citizens

A well-known farmer, the chief of he volunteer fire department, the number one ranked student and the daughter of a former police officer were all honored at the Pecos Area Chamber of Commerce Banquet, held last month at the Reeves County Civic Center.

David Hess was the recipient of the Agricultural Award at the awards banquet held last month.

Hess is a third generation farmer. He grew up farming in Pecos and has been involved in agriculture the majority of his adult life. He has grown crops in Barstow, Pecos, and Coyanosa area for the past 20 years and has farmed a large variety of crops, which include upland cotton, pima cotton, wheat, oats, rye, cantaloupe, onions, sorghum and alfalfa.

In addition to growing these crops, Hess also managed a pecan orchard for approximately 15 years.

He is well know in the farming community as a progressive farmer, and has traveled all over the world to expand his knowledge of farming practices including a recent trip to Mexico where he visited farming operations growing watermelons and onions.

During the past year, Hess was one of the first farmers in this area to use mechanical harvest equipment on onions and green chilies. He recently partnered with others in the purchase of advanced onion harvest equipment from England.

In addition to pioneering new farming practices in this area, Hess served his farming community in many other ways, one of which as an elected member serving a three year term on the Farm Service Agency’s County Committee. County committee members play a vital role in FSA operations at the local level. Farmers and ranchers who serve on committees nationwide help deliver the programs applicable to their counties. They work to make FSA agricultural programs to serve the needs of local producers.

Pecos Volunteer Fire Department Chief Freddy Contreras received the Fireman of the Year Award during the banquet.

Contreras has worked as an investigator for the 143rd District Attorney’s office for seven years and served with the fire department for the past 14 years this May. He has served the fire department as 1st Assistant Secretary, Fireman Representative and through his years of service has served on the board of directors.

In 2006, he helped out with 247 fires out of 287 calls and so far this year, he helped out with 51 out of 53 fire calls.

He is married to Monette Arreguy Contreras and has two girls, Gabriella, 13 and Kariza, 10 and is expecting his third child in May, another girl.

Lisa Leos Zermeno, the daughter of deceased police officer, Danny Leos, was named Communications Officer of the Year.

She has worked for the Pecos Police Department for the last four years and deals with all kinds of emergencies on a daily basis. What is hard on dispatchers is when they have received a call for a family member. Zermeno called out an ambulance for her grandfather who had gotten sick. She later arrived home at his home to check on him, he had been placed in to an ambulance.

On June 24, 2004, she received a call from her mother asking for an ambulance for her grandfather. Her grandfather, Abel Leos passed away on Sept. 19, 2003 and her father, Danny Leos on June 24, 2004.

Student of the Year went to Eleanor Lela Mason, the current No. 1-ranked senior at Pecos High School.

Mason has been involved in many activities throughout her high school year. She is ranked number one in her class and has a 4.30 grade point average, and is currently the reigning Golden Girl of the Old West.

Mason is been a member of the varsity golf team, where she has won numerous awards, along with the Pecos Eagle Band; FFA Chapter and National Honor Society. Her honors and achievements are many and include, Outstanding Student of the Year in Pre-AP Biology; Intro to Agriculture; AP US History; was awarded the University of Rochester Outstanding Student in the Humanities and Social Sciences and was named to Who’s Who Among American High School Students.

Mason plans to attend Rice University following high school graduation and double major in political science and sociology.

After college, she hopes to continuer her education and attend law school. As an attorney, she plans to specialize in constitutional and international law. Her ultimate goal is to participate in the United Nations’ conflict resolution department.

Suspect jailed in Saturday drug raid

A Pecos man was arrested on Saturday and charged with offenses that occurred in a drug free zone, after Reeves County Sheriff’s deputies executed a narcotics search warrant at his home. Sheriff’s deputies conducted a narcotics search warrant on Saturday at the residence of Jacob Natividad, 27, at 805 S. Pecan St., according to Reeves County Sheriff Andy Gomez.

As a result of the search of the residence, deputies discovered approximately two ounces of suspected marijuana and paraphernalia inside the residence.

Natividad was arrested and charged with possession of marijuana under two ounces in a drug free zone, a Class A misdemeanor.

He was placed in the Reeves County Jail following the investigation, according to Gomez.

“The deputies also found a .22 caliber Springfield rifle Model 187, an ashtray with a ‘marijuana roach’ and a cigar box containing marijuana residue,” said Gomez.

The arrest was one of two drug-related incidents on Saturday, while another weapons-related arrest was also made that day by Pecos police.

Police said Julian Ruiz Mendez, 55, of 406 E. 13th St., was arrested at that address Saturday, on charges of public intoxication and possession of a controlled substance (cocaine). Police said the arrest was made after they were called to the home in response to a disturbance, and the cocaine was found in Mendez’s possession.

In a separate incident, Domingo Jimenez Jr., 30, of 2227 Madera Rd., was arrested by police for unlawfully carrying a weapon, following an incident in the 2200 block of Missouri Street. Both Jimenez and Mendez were transported to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center following their arrests.

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