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Thursday, January 13, 2000

Council mum on county's water proposal

Staff Writer
PECOS, Jan. 13, 2000 - After meeting in executive session this morning the Town of Pecos City Council voiced its opinion regarding Reeves County's recent proposal to pay $4 million of city debt in an effort to conclude the ongoing dispute of the County's water bill at Reeves County Detention Center (RCDC).

In open session, Mayor Dot Stafford read the following:

"We appreciated the County's recent offer to assist in paying four million dollars of the City's eight million dollar loan for water system improvements. We will continue to negotiate an acceptable solution to the depletion of our precious water resources in the best interest of all residents."

Following the action this morning by the council, Reeves County Commissioners have scheduled a special meeting at 2:30 p.m. Friday on the third floor of the Reeves County Courthouse. Commissioners will meet in executive session to discuss, take action to authorize litigation in the matter of Reeves County versus the City of Pecos water rate dispute.

According to Pecos city manager Ken Neal, the dispute has two elements.

First, RCDC is charged an out-of-town rate for water, as are all out-of-town customers and the rate is significantly higher than the in-town rate, Neal said.

Second, the city had incorrectly billed the county for several years at the in-town rate, and when the error was discovered, the city presented the county with a bill for the difference, Neal said.

The Council also chose Frank X. Spencer and Associates as the engineering firm for the South Worsham Water Field development.

Spencer was chosen by a committee appointed by the council over the Midland firm of Gutierrez, Smouse, Wilmut and Associates, Inc.

The proposals by the two firms did not contain monetary bids.

In another water-related item the council voted to have the water department proceed with drilling a second well in the Worsham Water Field. (The first well was already approved and is being funded through federal grant monies).

"If we don't do something we may have a problem this summer," city water superintendent Octavio Garcia said.

Garcia reported that in the last three years he had lost five wells in the field.

"Most were lost because they caved in and need to be re-drilled. Also the water is not as good as it used to be," he said. The council was told six years ago the current Worsham and Ward County fields would provide Pecos with drinkable water only through the year 2008.

Garcia stated that many of the wells were 50 or 60 years old and age was taking its toll.

City engineer, Frank Spencer, was also on hand.

"The two wells we're contemplating may be very important," Spencer said.

"The hydrologist reported that there is about six years worth of water in the Worsham field for Pecos. With an estimated three years to bring the South Worsham field on line, we're cutting it pretty close."

The new wells could make a real difference, he said.

Without the wells, Garcia said that water rationing was much more likely this coming summer.

"We're right on the border line of meeting projected demands for summer," he said. "And it will take all the pumps running day and night. When that happens something always breaks and then we won't be able to meet demand."

Garcia also noted that the city had budgeted for drilling the second well.

In other action today, the council voted to donate $1,500 to the local Meals on Wheels program.

"One of our biggest problems is a lack of volunteers," said Hilda Mendoza, the director of the program. "The $1,500 we get from the city each year really helps."

Mendoza reported that the program is currently serving about 140 people in the Pecos area each day, and also serves people in Balmorhea and Saragosa.

Stafford said the city had budgeted for the donation and the council voted unanimously to disburse the funds.

"This is an excellent program and deserves all of out support," councilman Johnny Terrazas said.

The council also approved and administered the appropriate oath to Raul Garcia as the new associate municipal judge.

"Mr. Garcia is qualified to act as associate municipal judge and will go to school in July for further training," Mayor Stafford said.

Transit option created for Balmorhea seniors

Staff Writer
BALMORHEA, Jan. 13, 2000 - Senior citizens in Balmorhea who require transportation to doctor's appointments or other places will need to just make a phone call to receive assistance.

"We'll be providing the transportation through the services we provide," said Pecos Senior Citizens Center Director Donna Woodard.

Woodard was recently named grant writer for senior citizen's services by the Reeves County Commissioners Court and was asked to help elderly residents of Balmorhea.

"Right now, they don't have transportation or a senior citizens center," said Woodard.

She explained that to receive funding for a center, they have to apply through Triple A Permian Basin Area on Aging, out of Midland-Odessa. "We receive state funding through them," she said.

The center has already applied for the funding, but have to start the program first, before they receive any funds, according to Woodard.

"We'll be running it from Pecos for now, until we find a building (in Balmorhea)," said Woodard.

Woodard said the Pecos center would offer transportation to those residents at least twice a week, or more if needed. "It just depends on when and how often we're needed to go up there," she said.

Woodard said the Pecos center would also try to offer health and recreational programs, similar to those offered in Pecos.

"(Reeves County Precinct 3 Commissioner Herman) Tarin has been very influential in keeping this going and in trying to procure the funding," said Woodard.

Even though they have applied for funding, it will only pay for less than half of what is needed, according to Woodard. "So we'll just plan more fundraisers and try to find other ways to fund it," she said, adding that her group plans to go door to door and find out what the citizens needs are. "But we do want them to know that the van is available for transportation purposes," she said.

Woodard said that once they get coordinated and get responses, the center will be up and running. "We're looking for a building right now," she said. "It would make a good tax write-off for someone, if they have a building that's not being used."

In the meantime, the Methodist Church in Balmorhea has offered their assistance by providing their facility at a cost of $20 a day for as many days are needed.

"They have offered to loan us their building at that fee, until we find a building we can use permanently," said Tarin, who represents Balmorhea on the commissioner's court and has been actively involved in keeping the senior citizen's center open and with providing services the elderly residents of Balmorhea.

"We already have a list of people that have stated that are in need of transportation services and other services that are offered through the center," said Tarin.

He said they have already sent the seniors a letter letting them know the center will re-open and that the transportation will be available.

"Some of these people just can't drive and they rely on the senior citizen van to take them to doctor's visits, the store and other places," said Woodard.

"We just want them to know that we're doing the best we can to make this work and we will make it work," said Tarin.

Residents of Balmorhea who need transportation or more information can call the Pecos Senior Citizen's Center at 445-3272.

County fails to make drought aid list

From Staff and Wire Reports

PECOS, Jan. 13, 2000 - The Pecos area may have had one of its driest years on record in 1999, but according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it does not qualify for drought disaster assistance.

But parts of Reeves County do qualify for flood relief funds.

Those are the findings of the USDA for last year, which some local officials find hard to explain.

Rains between August 23 and 26, part of the far edge of Hurricane Bret, qualified some area farmers for damage relief due to storms and flooding, while high winds and excessive moisture in central and southern portions of the county on March 4 also resulted in aid relief being granted.

They were among the few rains the Trans-Pecos received in 1999, but they were apparently enough to keep the county off the list of drought declarations by U.S. Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman.

August's rains dropped just under an inch of moisture at the Texas A&M Experiment Station seven miles west of Pecos, but the area right around the city got under a tenth of an inch of rain at that time and received just 4.01 inches of rain in 1999.

Last year was one of the driest on record in the state, the Texas Department of Agriculture said Tuesday.

Agency spokesman Allen Spelce said 36 Texas counties are eligible for disaster assistance because of drought declarations by Glickman. Another 58 counties have requested such declarations.

Andrews, Borden, Dawson, Gaines, Glasscock, Howard, Martin, Midland, Mitchell, Nolan, Runnels and Scurry counties were the ones in West Texas to receive the USDA's designation.

"There was no drought designation (for Reeves County), but we've got so many different programs going on," said Lori Jeter of the USDA's office in Fort Stockton. "We do have lots of emergency designations for the area and lots of help for the farmers."

Ranchers, on the other hand, were denied approval for the livestock assistance program, due mainly to the August rains and heavy rains in early July north of Pecos.

"I don't understand it, but Reeves County doesn't get it (assistance) because we had too much rain," said Jerry Moore, chairman of the area LAA committee that was seeking the livestock assistance declaration. "It seems like we had to have 35 percent below normal rain for three consecutive months."

Tonya Rodriguez of the USDA office in Pecos explained that rain totals for Reeves and Loving counties are combined, and the Loving County measures are taken up at Red Bluff Lake. That was the area where the rains hit on July 9-10, and floodwaters raised the level of the lake back up to where it was several months earlier, before the 1999 water releases for farm irrigation began.

"We get so little rain anyway, that anything you get knocks you out," Moore explained. "I talked with (Congressman Henry) Bonilla's office, about getting the (drought) authorization out, but once the regulations are written it's tough to get them out."

Pecos' 4.01 rain total was less than 40 percent of the normal annual rainfall of 10.64 inches, according to the National Weather Service. The area has seen below-normal rain totals for each of the past eight years.

Rainfall totals in 1999 were below half of the annual average in several other parts of the state.

South central Texas, which includes the Austin and San Antonio areas, received 15 inches of total rainfall, compared with a 34.48-inch annual average.

Rainfall in north central Texas, including the Dallas and Fort Worth areas, was 18.94 inches, compared with an annual average of 34 inches. The Edwards Plateau, including San Angelo, received 10.84 inches, which compares with an annual average of 24.01 inches.

Spelce said reservoirs are at a 22-year low.

"Some ranchers are hauling water and moving livestock to other pastures," he said. "Despite last week's rains, some 71 percent of Texas ranges and pastures are in poor to very poor condition."

The real problem, officials say, is that the dry year followed two of the worst droughts of the century, in 1996 and 1998.

"If this was a one-year situation, it wouldn't be all that unnatural, all that significant," said Jeff Ripley, county extension agent in Tom Green County. "But three of the five years have been really bad."

"All of our surface water that's used to water livestock is basically gone," he said. "They're having to be watered out of wells, and those wells are weakening as well. Crops have been a total disaster basically."

Hardest hit in the county was the wheat crop, and cotton was well below average, he said.

Texas Farm Bureau spokesman Gene Hall said $8.7 billion in farm relief from Congress in 1999 saved several farmers.

"If not for that assistance, a lot of Texas farmers wouldn't be around in the spring," said Hall.

Mike Jones, spokesman for Gov. George W. Bush, said state officials are watching the situation closely and are better prepared now because of the Texas Drought Preparedness Counsel, an organization made permanent this year by the Legislature.

The counsel, he said, will coordinate the efforts of several state agencies concerning the drought.

Weigh-ins begining today for livestock show

Staff Writer
PECOS, Jan. 13, 2000 - A variety of animals will be shown off and offered for sale by area boys and this weekend in Pecos.

The 2000 Reeves-Loving County Junior Livestock Show and Sale will be held starting today and continuing through Saturday at the Reeves County Civic Center.

Weigh-in for sheep, goats and hogs will be held from 4:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m., today at the civic center.

Weigh-in for steers is scheduled for today also, from 4:30-5:45 p.m., at the 4-H Complex south of Interstate 20.

"The steers will then be taken to the civic center, after the weigh-in at the 4-H complex," said Jodi Exum, one of the organizers for the event.

Validation for the animals was held in June and at that time, there were 11 steers validated. "We won't know for sure exactly how many will be shown, but at this time we know that 11 were validated," said Exum.

That's a pretty high number for steers, she added.

Final count on the number to be shown will be tonight.

Judging will begin at 5:15 p.m., Friday, beginning with the goats. The steer show will be at 6:15 p.m. and the lamb show will be at 6:45 p.m.

Judge for the event will be Chad Thomas of San Angelo.

Stock show events on Saturday will begin at 8:30 a.m., with the hog show.

A barbecue luncheon is scheduled from 5 to 6:45 p.m., with barbecue plates and all the trimmings, at $5 for adults and $3 for children.

Hugh Box and Herb Stewart, who will be assisted by their wives, Gail Box and Diane Stewart, among other volunteers, will cook the barbecue.

The show will culminate with the sale portion of the show, which is set for 7 p.m. Saturday. "It's a big deal," said Exum. "The youth really dress up and show off their animals for sale, and they all look wonderful."

Last year, a total of 82 boys and girls were involved in the sale. "We don't know how many youths we'll be able to put in the sale this year," Exum said. "It will depend on the number of pledges."

Any amount of money donated to the youth will help, according to Exum. "This amount is just to help them out with their feed bill."

To make a pledge or donation over the phone, individuals can call Trey Miller, at Acid Delinters, 445-4509 or Starkey Warren at Airlawn Furniture, 447-9035. The two are in charge of the sale portion of the stock show. Whatever amount is pledged will go into the pool.

"The committee will decide how many are put on the sale before Saturday and will go according to pledges," said Exum.

Something new this year, is the sign for the winner circle. "We have a great looking 2000 new sign for the winner's circle," said Exum. "It's beautiful."

All trophies, buckles and ribbons are being sponsored by individuals and businesses and are ready.

Everyone is encouraged to attend, wear comfortable clothing and bring the whole family, according to Exum. "There is no admission fee, we welcome everyone," she said.

A concession stand will be set up the Balmorhea Ag Boosters and security will be on hand 24-hours throughout the three-day event.

"Even if you've never been to a stock show, this is one way to show support for a community event," she said.

City's January tax rebates up sharply

Staff Writer
PECOS, Jan. 13, 2000 - Sales tax rebates across the Permian Basin continue to rise from their lows of a year ago, with Pecos receiving a 25 percent larger check this week from State Comptroller Carole Keeton Rylander's office than the city did in January of 1999.

Last January was when oil prices were at or near their record lows and unemployment across the region was at its high point, due to industry layoffs. Today, with oil prices sitting at just under $27 a barrel, things have improved greatly for almost all towns in the region, though even less-affected cities in the Big Bend reported higher tax rebates.

Pecos' check, based on its 1½-cent share of the state's 8¼-cent sales tax, was $60,434 a 25.37 percent rise from the $48,202 check the city got back last January. The checks were based on sales made during November.

Balmorhea saw its sales tax rebate jump by 60 percent, though the total was only $227, while Toyah was one of the few cities to see it's January rebate drop, from $554 to $328.

Pecos' increase was slightly above the area-wide average, with cities more strongly tied to the oil industry among the biggest gainers.

Fort Stockton's $82,063 check was a 67 percent increase from a year ago, while Andrews got back $46,326 from Rylander's office, a 37.29 percent rise from 1999. Wink reported the biggest jump of all, going from $1,844 to $4,310, a 133.76 percent increase.

Marfa _ which is only a big oil town in the film "Giant" _ also saw its rebate check jump sharply, rising 58 percent from a year ago, and Presidio reported a 35 percent increase in its rebate check. Midland and Odessa, the area's largest cities, saw their checks from Austin increase by 11 ¾ and 14 3/8 percent since last year.

Also reporting an increase was the Reeves County Hospital District. Its half-cent share of the sales tax brought in $23,891 this month, up 20.78 percent from the $19,780 check 12 months ago.

That was about average for all cities in Texas this month, according to Rylander's figures. The comptroller's office sent out checks totaling $181.4 million to Texas cities and counties this week, a 20.51 percent increase over the $ 150.5 million last year. Houston's check for $22.75 million was the biggest, and was 14.6 percent above last year, while Dallas got back just under $14.9 million, up 15 percent from a year ago.

Gonzalez reprimanded for placing friend on grand jury

AUSTIN (AP) - Retired 83rd District Court Judge Alex Gonzalez should not have manipulated the judicial system in Fort Stockton to place a close friend on a grand jury there, the State Commission on Judicial Conduct said Wednesday.

Gonzalez received a public reprimand, the commission's most severe public sanction.

The commission also issued public sanctions against two other judges: a warning against Judge Gilbert Rosas of Brownsville and an admonition against Municipal Court Judge Jeffrey Driver of Buffalo Springs in Lubbock County.

Margaret Reeves, executive director of the commission, said her agency issues three levels of sanctions. Reprimands are the most severe, followed by warnings and admonitions. The commission does not have the power to suspend judges, issue fines or send judges to jail.

"Its a very serious matter," she said of the sanctions. "It might not seem like it to some people, but we take it very seriously."

The commission found that Gonzalez instructed his district clerk in March 1996 to add the name of his friend, Mike Hill, to names randomly picked by the county's computer selection system for grand juries. Gonzalez later selected Hill for the grand jury and made him foreman.

After a prosecutor complained, Gonzalez removed Hill from his position as foreman, but did not dismiss the grand jury. Gonzalez submitted his retirement early last year to Texas Gov. George W. Bush's office, then unsuccessfully attempted to have the move reversed six weeks later. He retired in December.

Rosas received a public warning for hearing several child enforcement cases against someone he had once represented as a defense attorney. Rosas argued that each child support enforcement hearing was a separate case with new facts. The commission disagreed.

The commission admonished Driver for continuing to assess fines for violations of water district ordinances even after the Legislature repealed the fines on September 1995, the commission said.

Candiates warned on sign placement

PECOS, Jan. 13, 2000 - As the March primary election fast approaches, candidates and campaign workers are reminded to be careful where they place campaign signs.

Such signs are not allowed on state highway right-of-way, which is reserved for official traffic control signs. Campaign signs erected on highway right-of-way will be removed by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), and the owner can be charged for removal costs.

In addition, a person placing an unauthorized sign in highway right-of-way can be fined up to $500 per sign.

"The law keeps highway rights-of-way clean and uncluttered so that official traffic control signs are clearly visible for the safety of the traveling public," said Lauren D. Garduno, district engineer for the TxDOT Odessa District.

Campaign signs can be placed on private property off of the highway right-of-way as long as they are solely related to a public election; are no larger than 50 square feet; are erected no more than 90 days before an election and removed 10 days after the election and, are made of lightweight material.

Candidates must also have the landowner's permission and signs within city limits may be subject to local ordinances.


AUSTIN (AP) - Results of the Lotto Texas drawing Wednesday night: Winning numbers drawn: 15-27-29-46-48-49. Estimated jackpot: $4 million. Number matching six of six: 1. Winning ticket sold in: Marshall. Matching five of six: 42. Prize: $2,350. Matching four of six: 2,818. Prize: $127.


AUSTIN (AP) - The winning Pick 3 numbers drawn Wednesday by the Texas Lottery, in order: 3-0-8 (three, zero, eight)


High Wednesday 82. Low this morning 35. Forecast for tonight: Clear. Low in the upper 20s. Light east wind. Friday: Sunny. High in the mid 60s. South wind 10-20 mph. Friday night: Fair. Low near 30. Saturday through Monday: Mostly sunny warm days and fair nights through the period. Lows in the mid 30s. Highs in the mid to upper 70s.

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