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Tuesday, March 14, 2000

Council approves water deal with county

Staff Writer
PECOS, Mar. 14, 2000 - Town of Pecos City Council approved two agreements this morning that will end the ongoing dispute between the city and county over out-of-town water rates.

The agreements have not been presented to the commissioners' court, but City Attorney Scott Johnson told the council that Reeves County Judge Jimmy Galindo was ready to recommend the agreements to the commissioners.

During the specially called meeting, Johnson reviewed both documents, point by point with the council.

The first document is a Water Distribution Agreement between the city and the county that outlines future water dealings between the two entities. The second document is a Settlement Agreement that puts an end to the ongoing litigation between the city and the county.

Both documents are the result of the recent mediation, and the city's experts have recommended the documents be signed, Johnson said.

"Our experts have looked at it, our Austin attorneys have, our rate consultant has seen it, and their recommendation is to approve both documents," he said. "It is also my recommendation."

According to Mayor Dot Stafford, the dispute arose out of dealings between the city and the county concerning a mistake in billing the county for several years, and ongoing development of water resources.

The city is  working toward developing a new water field at a projected cost of about $8 million that will ensure Pecos has water for another 50 or more years. The city originally believed that the county would help with this development cost, she said.

The city had also incorrectly billed the county for water usage outside the city limits and had presented the county for a bill making up the difference. That bill came close to $400,000, she said.

Eventually the county filed suit (Jan. 14, 2000) against the city and the Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission in regard to the water dispute, Councilman Ricky Herrera said.

According to Herrera, the agreement will be good for the city and county.

"It's a fairly good deal. I think we've got a good agreement here. Hopefully the county will approve it and we can all get on with other business," Herrera said. "Our main concern has always been keeping water costs down for citizens and I think we've accomplished this."

Herrera said that key elements of the deal included the method for calculating the county's water rate, the $400,000 bill for the mistaken billing, and the city building a new water line out to Reeves County Detention Center, which is run by the county outside the city limits.

Johnson explained that the county would be considered a commercial customer for billing purposes, and that the method for calculating the county's rate would be on a "cost-plus basis."

"The city is not supposed to make a profit on water," he said. "Normally, rates are calculated by figuring the city's cost for water delivery, and then the rate is figured from the cost."

Under the agreement, the city will figure cost, and then add $500,000 to that figure, to determine the county's rate.

"The rate will be a little higher this way," Johnson said.

The county has also agreed to pay the city $422,320 per year for ten years as the city works to develop new water sources, he said.

Mayor Stafford said that the money will help offset the $8 million loan the city is applying for to develop new water fields.

"By settling this we can now proceed with the loan application for the $8 million dollars through the Texas Water Conservation Board. The loan has been on hold because of the litigation," she explained.

Also, the city agreed to build a new, 16-inch water line out to the Reeves County Detention Center at a cost of about $250,000.

Director of Public Works Octavio Garcia explained that the city would do the actual construction, but that the county was providing the materials for the project.

"This should take care of the prison's water supply needs in the future," he said. Construction is currently underway to double the capacity of the detention center to 2,000 inmates later this year.

Red Bluff rejects hike in water rates

Staff Writer
Commissioners approve latest RCDC paymentsRed Bluff Water Power Control Board members didn't do anything about raising the price of water and were told that - at least for now - they can't do anything about raising the quality of it either.

The board voted to maintain water rates for the 2000 irrigation season at $2.50 an acre/foot, even though the figure leaves the district with a $132,000 deficit, general manager Jim Ed Miller said during their regular monthly meeting on Monday in Pecos.

At the same time, Miller told the board about a new delay in the district's Malaga Bend salt alleviation project, this one involving demands from Pecos River Compact Commissioner J.W. Thrasher.

Miller said the district must satisfy Thrasher on their plans to contract with Loving Salt Co. to divert water from a salt spring away from the Pecos River and into man-made holding ponds, from where salt would later be mined after it evaporates.

"It's going to be what he wants us to do, because he has the upper hand and can stall us as long as he wants to," said board president Randall Hartman, who met with Miller and Thrasher earlier this month.

Miller read a letter from Thrasher to the board on the district's past salt alleviation plan, which involved pumping water from the spring into Anderson Lake. He said the letters statement that the lake was unlined and the salt water leached back into the Pecos River was incorrect.

"The lake was lined, but it filled up past the line and did leach into the river," he said, while Hartman added, "The lake didn't leak. It overflowed because it exceeded its design limit."

In the letter Thrasher said he wanted to know if Red Bluff had measuring system for salt content in the river above and below Malaga Bend, and a plan to stop pumping from the spring if the project is ineffective.

Board member Lloyd Goodrich said the district has always been measuring the salt content of the river every other month, while Miller said the contract with Loving Salt calls for stopping pumping within a year's time if the district decides to terminate the contract.

Goodrich and board member Dick Slack said the measuring gauges show the salt content of the Pecos River increases from 25 to 33 percent due to the Malaga Bend salt spring; a problem board members hope will be solved if the Loving Salt deal is ever completed.

The other item Thrasher discussed in the letter was a demand by New Mexico for Texas to give up 600 acre/feet in water rights per year before any deal is signed.

Goodrich said the 600 acre/feet would be equal to the amount currently entering the river from Malaga Bend, and the board generally agreed they could live with New Mexico taking 600 acre/feet of brine water.

"If it would rush anything I would agree," said board member Charlotte Wilcox, and members gave Miller the right to negotiate a deal with New Mexico officials.

Miller also said he would be going to Austin to explain the board's position to state officials, including John Howard, an assistant to Texas Gov. George W. Bush, and Tom Bolt of the attorney general's office, who serves as an advisor to Thrasher.

On the water rate, the board voted 4-2 in favor of keeping it at $2.50 an acre/foot. Hartman and board member Jay Lee voted against, while Slack abstained, saying "We do need to take a look closely at it some time."

"I do think farmers would be willing to pay (higher prices) for water if their crops were worth anything," said board member Manuel Lujan, while Goodrich said the district has enough money in the bank to subsidize the lower fee.

"If we've got a nickel left in the bank, we should cut the price of water," he said. "We don't have enough people willing to risk farming on the river now, so we need to keep it down to keep the people we have got. It's a really risky business."

Miller said while the district has funds now, "By the time we pay the final thing on the dam (the $700,000 Red Bluff Dam renovation project) and Malaga Bend it will be depleted." He said the district should have $200,000 left in the bank after paying for the Red Bluff project, which is scheduled to be completed by next April.

The board also agreed to release 35,000 acre/feet of water to farmers along the Pecos River this year. Miller said that would bring in $87,500 to the district this year, while operating expenses for 2000 were put at $219,000.

Miller said a $1 per acre/foot increase would still leave the district with a $100,000 shortfall. Hartman said water rates would have to rise to about $7 an acre/foot for the district to break even, and while not recommending that big a hike, said, "I think we should do little increases over time instead of a one-time big increase. We ought to cover our basic expenses with our water payment."

Board members also set Oct. 15 as the absolute final day for water release, due to the Red Bluff project. Work on replacing and repairing the gates on the 65-year-old dam is expected to take about 5½ months.

Commissioners approve latest RCDC payments

Staff Writer
Commissioners approve latest RCDC paymentsReeves County Commissioners approved several payments to different companies in conjunction with construction at the Reeves County Detention Center, during the afternoon session of their regular meeting on Monday.

Commissioners approved Payment No. 11 to Banes General Contractors, payment invoice number 165 to DRG Architects and a payment to Scott-Thane Ditching Services.

"We can approve the corrected amount, have them do a spreadsheet and sent it to the bonding company," said county auditor Lynn Owens.

Problems in the total amount had arisen when Owens noted that the architect did not have the correct figures and amount owed to Banes.

"We discussed it during the break and came up with the correct amount," said Owens.

Owens got together with a representative from Banes and spoke to Lorraine Dailey, architect on the phone to correct the mathematical problem.

A mechanical contract was awarded to Howard's Company, which is already in Pecos doing work at the detention center, while additional work on locks will be negotiated. Banes General Contractors told the court that they will negotiate with the three companies about the locks and bring back the results for the next commissioners court.

Lease of real property on County Road 204 was approved and a draft copy of the lease agreement presented to the court.

"This is the draft that Lynn (Owens) had drafted a couple of weeks ago," said Reeves County Judge Jimmy B. Galindo. "The only thing I would like to add is the minimum lease amount of the project concrete and rate, and set it at $9,300 annually."

Commissioners had approved leasing property to a concrete mix company at an earlier meeting and approved the draft agreement at Monday's session. They authorized the lease of real property at the stated minimum amount of $9,300 or equivalent material value.

"This is open to everyone," said Galindo.

"We need the contract at the facility, (RCDC), because we have needs that will involve a significant amount of concrete and at the recreation department for the construction of the racquetball courts," said Galindo.

"As long as it's advertised and we give them an opportunity to bid it's open to everyone," said Owens.

A request from Saragosa Catholic Church to use the county park for a fundraiser was discussed briefly.

"I don't think there's an established use policy," said Galindo.

"I think it's similar to Maxey Park, where it's first come, first serve basis," he said.

"I don't know if there's any problem, as long as it doesn't interfere with other citizens," said Owens.

Commissioners tabled a decision of a contract with All Aboard America Bus Lines and authorizing additional penalty on delinquent taxes under section 2:33.08 tax code.

Approved during the afternoon session were budget amendments and line item transfers, reports from various departments and bond and oath for Mandy Hinojos, Connie Lozano and Catalina Lozoya.

Personnel and salary changes include at the Reeves County Detention Center, Jaime Montano, Fernando Carrasco, Hilario Celaya III, Juan Gutierrez, Monica Orona, Javier Rodriguez, Ramiro Guerra, Fred Woodruff, as Correctional Officers I at an annual salary of $19,000; Jean Brookshire received a boost at the facility to Health Services Trainee at $30,000 per yea and Pete Ramos a boost to $24,000, as an LVN-CN. At the recreation department, Maria Martinez, was hired as a laundry maintenance person at $6 per hour; at the Juvenile Detention Center, Juan Abrigo, Eva Garcia, Partrice Mosser and Virginia Caballero were hired for an after-school program as teachers at $15 per hour with aides Sally Orona, Penny Terry, Lisa Rodriguez and Miss Cazarez at $6 per hour.


AUSTIN (AP) - Results of the Cash 5 drawing Monday night: Winning numbers drawn: 5-9-22-32-36. Number matching five of five: 0. Matching four of five: 219. Prize: $872.


AUSTIN (AP) - The winning Pick 3 numbers drawn Monday by the Texas Lottery, in order: 6-0-8 (six, zero, eight)


PECOS, Mar. 14, 2000 - High Monday 73. Low this morning 43. Forecast for tonight: Mostly cloudy. Low in the upper 40s. Southeast wind 5-15 mph. Wednesday: Mostly cloudy. A less than 20 percent chance of showers or thunderstorms. High in the upper 70s. South to southwest wind 5-15 mph. Wednesday night: Partly cloudy. Low in the mid 40s.

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