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Economic Development


Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Friday, August 17, 2007

Chamber gets look at school building plans

Pecos Area Chamber of Commerce Directors listened to an update on the school construction plans and had the opportunity to see a blueprint for two of the campuses, during their regular board of director’s meeting Tuesday afternoon.

Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD Superintendent Manny Espino was on hand to discuss the plans for the campuses to be paid for by funds from the recently-passed $30 million bond issue. He showed the members a blueprint of the upgrades that will be done to the Bessie Haynes Elementary Campus and the Crockett Middle School campus.

“We have hired a construction manager at-risk. Mid-Tex from Midland will be in charge of the construction,” said Espino. He added that while he knew that the community wanted to see the changes right away, the work would take time.

Crockett will undergo major changes, with six grade classes moving onto the junior high campus that will involve construction on the north and west sides of the current campus.

“The Crockett campus will have an additional 12 classrooms, a library, among other things,” said Espino. “We’re trying to centralize the library so that all the students will have access to it,” he said.

One of the things that will also be added to that campus is a parking area where the tennis courts presently are located.

“That was one of the things that everyone mentioned, that there was no parking area,” said Espino. “When we did the bond issue, we said that we would take care of that,” he said.

New tennis courts will be added to Crockett, along with a new gym, band hall and two new dressing rooms.

“The existing band hall will be divided into two practice areas and then they can always come together in the big band hall,” said Espino.

Espino said that they were also going to add a new track at the junior high school. The track will be placed around the football field, which will be turned 90 degrees, from running alongside Texas Street to running just to the south of Monroe Street.

“We don’t have a regular field where they can have track meets and we hope to put long distance races in that area,” said Espino.

He said the track would be a four-lane track for athletic events. It will also allow the district to close off the track at Eagle Stadium to the public during off-hours, due to problems with damage to the FieldTurf at the stadium.

“We haven’t been taking care of our football field the way that we should, there’s been some vandalism out there and some people are just plain not taking care of it,” said Espino. “This other track at Crockett will hopefully be used by those that like to walk late at night or early in the morning,” he said.

Espino said that with the construction of this new track, the football field will be off-limits to those walkers.

“We want to start locking up the field at night, so those individuals can use the one at Crockett, they’ll still have a place to walk or run,” said Espino.

The gym area will have bathrooms and there will be a concession stand added, according to Espino.

“We want to do more for the P.E. classes, than just running,” said Espino. “The new gym will enable them to have other activities, there’s a lot of things the coaches can be teaching these kids at an early age, not just running,” he said.

Espino said that at the Bessie Haynes Elementary School campus, there will be new science labs. “With our science scores so low the year before, we’re very excited about this addition,” he said.

The science scores at that campus were up this past year, but the science labs are something that was really needed for the students, especially since they participate in science fairs, according to Espino.

A new library will be added to that campus, a gym and computer lab.

“There will also be room for a big music room,” he said.

Espino said that they hope to get one campus done within a year, and thanked everyone that supported the bond issue and made all this construction possible.

“We were also pleased that all the campuses were academically acceptable,” said Espino.

Espino said that he heard a story about one year, when all the schools were recognized, except for one area. “The story is that Gail Box took it upon herself and said that that one department would not keep them from being recognized,” said Espino.

“The instruction needs to be there and with teachers like Mrs. Box, this district will do great,” he said.

Espino said that all the teachers, administrators and principals have been doing a great job.

In other action on Tuesday, Chamber members listened to a report from the West of the Pecos Rodeo Committee President Joe Keese.

“We have already set the dates for next year’s events, June 25-29,” said Keese.

He said that they had also contracted with a group that will be performing on June 29. The group Control will be be performing that Saturday, the final night of the 2008 rodeo.

“We don’t have the final figures, but we did really well with this year’s event,” said Keese.

Chamber president Venetta Seals told the group that the next Citizen’s Police Academy would be starting soon and anyone interested should contact Mike Balog at the Pecos Police Department.

“We also need help with this year’s stock show, the county extension agent has moved out of town,” said chamber director Linda Gholson. “A neighboring county has offered to help with the sanctioned steers, but we’ll need help with the rest of the stock show,” she said.

PEDC discusses planning for motels, industrial park

Up to five new motels in Pecos are either in discussion or in the planning stages, including a long-awaited Hampton Inn along Interstate 20 on which ground is scheduled to be broken later this month. But the chance of attracting other new businesses to Pecos would be helped by the creation of an industrial park housing and other retail businesses, Pecos Economic Development Corporation members were told by president Mike Burkholder, during a Tuesday meeting at the TransPecos Bank building. The PEDC board discussed the new motels, one of which will be an expansion to the Swiss Clock Inn on I-20, and discussed the creation of an industrial park along Highway 17 south of the Interstate during their meeting. That area would be just to the south of where the Hampton Inn is scheduled to be built.

Dr. Arbind Ghandi and his brother Henry will build the motel, and also have plans for a second motel, along with a gas station, car wash and convenience store, just to the west of that site, at the intersection of Highway 17 and the south I-20 service road (Palmer Street). However, Burkholder said those plans, for a 4.25 acre site, wouldn’t get underway until 2010 at the earliest.

A Hampton Inn was built in Fort Stockton by the Ghandis along Interstate 10, but that area already had utilities installed. The site near the Highway 17 exit off I-20 had no water or electric lines, and the PEDC and Town of Pecos City have been working to add those utilities, with Burkholder telling board members the corporation paid Texas-New Mexico Power Co. just over $120,000 to install underground lines.

“You’ve got to pay for it in advance,” Burkholder said, adding that “It was a little better than what they originally were asking.”

He said the Ghandis would be in Pecos this weekend, and that groundbreaking for the motel is expected within the next two weeks.

“The problem is, it’s going to take a year or two years getting all this stuff,” he said. “It just takes time, and we need it now.

“I foresee in the next 36 months we’ll be overwhelmed with all kinds of business, not just oilfield. They problem being we don’t have housing, we don’t have hotels and we don’t have the retail to keep the wives here in town for the ones that move here,” Burkholder said.

Combined with the PEDC’s payment of $230,000 to the Pecos Housing Authority for land along I-20 and funds needed to remove leaking fuel tanks from the ground at the former Smithers Automotive Testing Center, Burkholder said the group will be strapped for cash in the 2008 fiscal year, though plans are to repay the utility costs from hotel tax revenues when the Hampton Inn opens.

In connection with that, PEDC board members opted to table a proposal by Burkholder to pay the Swiss Clock Inn $30,000 in connection with their planned 60-room expansion.

“They’ll add about 18-20 new employees, and have 40 employees already,” he said. “They’re not high paying jobs like the ones we’re trying to attract, but hotels generate a lot of sales tax revenue and hotel/motel tax.”

Pecos Mayor Dick Alligood suggested the city consider ad valorem tax abatements for the new motels, after Burkholder said motels were not eligible for tax abatements under the state’s Enterprise Zone rules.

“I really haven’t pushed abatement for anybody, because the city really needs the money,” he said. “And there may be an industry coming in that we will really need to use it for.”

“Just about anything we can do for these companies that are willing to invest and put this kind of money in, we need to look at,” Alligood said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if the county wouldn’t be willing to come in and help on this.”

Board chairman Joe Keese made a motion on the Swiss Clock Inn offer, but other members of the board opted to table the action at this time.

“I’m not very keen on giving money to people who don’t ask for it,” said board member Al Gomez. “Like the mayor, I would like to look at other options.”

Along with the Ghandi’s two motels and the new three-story addition to the Swiss Clock Inn, Burkholder said the owners of the new Best Western motel in Monahans also are looking at a site in Pecos off I-20 at the U.S. 285 exit.

“They got an option from the Newell Trust for the old Gulf station, which is a one-acre site, and they’re trying to get another 3 1/2 acres behind it,” he said, adding that the land is believed to be owned by Reeves County, pending a final survey.

“The county was amenable to giving the 3 1/2 acres to the PEDC,” he said. The high water table would require a dirt pad be built on the site for the motel at a cost of about $100,000, but Burkholder said, “If they’re going to put a multi-million dollar hotel in, $100,000 is not going to be much.”

The fifth motel being considered is by Laura Lodge owner Bobby Bhakta, who Burkholder said is considering a new Days Inn at a yet-to-be announced location.

Discussion of the industrial park centered around the area on the east side of Highway 17 south of Locker Road. The area just to the north is also available, but the 900 feet from Highway 17 to the boundary of the Pecos Municipal Airport is bisected by Arizona Street, where city workers ran underground water and sewer lines to reach the Reeves County Detention Center.

Arizona Street south o I-20 is otherwise little-used, and Keese said the PEDC should get together with the city about looking at possible changes to the platt in that area, including closing Arizona Street from Locker Road to the south city limits, at the new municipal landfill road.

Burkholder said following an executive session, the board gave tentative approval to most of the proposed PEDC budget for the 2008 fiscal year. The budget still needs final approval of the Town of Pecos City Council, and the PEDC will be operating as a 4B corporation starting in October, with a wider range of projects it can be involved with, after operating as a 4A corporation for the past decade.

Gallego meets with teachers, local leaders

State Rep. Pete Gallego was in Pecos on Thursday, addressing Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD teachers and administrators on their first day of work before the start of the upcoming school year, and then meeting with other local officials to discuss some of the problems currently facing Pecos.

Gallego, who is in his 17th year as District 74 Representative and in his fifth year as Reeves County’s representative in Austin, delivered a legislative update to school employees, and heard from city, county, hospital and Pecos Economic Development Corp. officials during a noontime meeting.

“I think everybody’s looking forward to the new school year. Hopefully it will be one of the better years for our kids,” the Alpine Democrat said.

He said at the state level, TEA Commissioner Shirley Neely was not reappointed to her post by Gov. Rick Perry. “So we don’t have anybody in that slot right now.”

Gallego was one of the opponents of House Speaker Tom Craddick in this year’s session of the Texas Legislature, which ended with Craddick avoiding an attempt by both Democrats and Republicans to oust him from his leadership position over the Memorial Day weekend.

“It’s not a very pretty picture,” Gallego said of the session. He added that legislators have been working on other issues in Austin since the close of this year’s regular session.

As of now there has been no plan by Perry to call a special session of the legislature.

While the Pecos area has seen its economy improve with the increase in energy exploration in the past three years, Gallego said economic issues remain a concern for many of the residents of the 74th District, the largest in the state in terms of distance, running for 500 miles along and near the Texas-Mexico border.

“I think people everywhere have the same concerns,” he said. “Economic development, housing, access to college. Those issues resonate everywhere.”

Gallego said he was friends with a number of teachers in the P-B-T ISD from having attended school with them at Sul Ross State University. “My mother is also from Fort Stockton, so I’ve known some of you people for all my life.”

Pecos is just one of several school districts Gallego said he’s visited or plans to visit in recent days. “I’ll be in Del Rio this coming week, and I’ve been to the ones around my home,” he said.

Emergency crews attend WIPP training classes

Emergency personnel and law enforcement officials from the area were on hand for training this week at the Reeves County Civic Center, in preparation for the start of new activity involving truck shipments to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, N.M.

“Things are going pretty well, we had a lot of people turn out,” said Reeves County Emergency Coordinator Ricky Herrera of the training sessions held by the Radiation Division of the Texas Department of State Health Services. The four-hour evening sessions began Tuesday and continued through Thursday at the Civic Center.

The sessions were for local emergency responders in preparation for the upcoming WIPP truck tabletop exercise.

“What we’re doing right now is preparing everyone for the tabletop exercise that we will be having in September and the functional exercise scheduled for October,” said Herrera.

“We’re making plans, putting it together,” said Herrera. “We’re trying to bring in the main players that will be involved,” he said.

WIPP is the federal government’s low-level radioactive waste depository. Waste from the southeastern United States is shipped to the site in trucks along Interstate 20 to Pecos, and then north along U.S. 285 to the WIPP site.

Herrera said that they are doing all this preparation because there might come a time when it comes in handy.

“We need to be prepared,” said Herrera. “This is a great opportunity to test everyone that will be involved and to look at other aspects.”

“We need to have community coordination with all the agencies, in and out of the county that might be responding,” said Herrera.

Herrera said that they are doing this at the local level to coincide with the national response system, (NIMS).

“This is a new national system that has been put into place,” he said. “Everyone in the state and the nation will be using this system.”

Herrera said that they are writing up a scenario that will involve one of the WIPP trucks coming in to Pecos facing an emergency.

“The fire department, EMS, local law enforcement, county judge, mayor and every individual involved in first response will be involved in the training,” said Herrera. “This includes the local hospital, which will play a big part,” he said.

Herrera said that all this training is being done because there is a high probability of something eventually happening or going wrong, when one of those trucks is going through this area.

“We want to get them prepared,” he said.

State’s tax-free holiday set this weekend

Several stores in Pecos will be participating in the state’s tax-free shopping weekend, which is designed to help families prepare students with clothing and other items on their way back to school.

Wal-Mart Assistant Manager Norma Garnto said that the Cedar Street store once again be participating in the tax-free weekend, which begins on Friday and continues through Sunday. The weekend is two weeks later this August than in past years, due to the state pushing back the opening of schools to the end of the month.

“We’ll have a lot of things that will be tax-free, including backpacks, but no school supplies,” said Garnto.

Some of the items that will be tax-free at Wal-Mart include: all apparel, boots, caps, coats, diapers, shoes and shorts.

“We did well last year and we’re open 24 hours a day, to better accommodate shoppers,” said Garnto.

Needlework’s Etc. owner, Peggy Walker said that they did well last year.

“This is the perfect time to purchase the Eagle outfits,” said Walker.

Walker said that she welcomes everyone to come to her shop in Pecos located at 120 S. Cedar.

“We just want everyone to know that we appreciate their business and appreciate them shopping Pecos first,” said Walker.

Beall’s assistant manager Irma Valenzuela said that they are ready for shoppers to come by this weekend and make their purchases at their store, located at 910 S. Eddy.

“We did pretty good last year,” said Valenzuela.

Other local shops that will participate in this weekend’s event include Desiree’s Boutique, 1203 S. Eddy and Olga’s at 1320 S. Eddy St.

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York M. "Smokey" Briggs, Publisher
324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 432-445-5475, FAX 432-445-4321

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