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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
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Thursday, January 4, 2001

Galindo says lobbyists' fees worth price

Staff Writers

PECOS, January 4, 2001 - Reeves County has hired lobbyists to help in their fight against nuclear waste in West Texas and they are to begin working immediately. But the president of the company the county is primarily targeting said their project is on hold right now while adding he thought the county is overpaying for its lobbying effort.

Commissioners approved the hiring of Leo Aguirre Mgt. of America and Aldrete Communications for $3,000 per month for a five-month period. It also includes payment to Leo Aguirre of $2,000 a month for management for a five-month period and $2,000 a month for Aldrete Communications for a five-month period. The proposal stated this would be a firm fixed price for this effort.

"That's a little on the pricey side," said Envirocare of Texas president Rick Jacobi when informed about the $30,000-$35,000 fee the county will pay for the lobbying effort.

Envirocare has submitted an application to the Texas Department of Health to build the site, which would house the low-level radioactive waste in an above-ground concrete bunker on land eight miles northeast of Barstow in Ward County. The company says its "assured isolation" plan would allow the waste to be removed at a later date if a way is found to decontaminate the radioactive materials.

Leo Aguirre was a deputy for Bob Bullock and John Sharp's Comptroller's office, according to Reeves County Judge Jimmy B. Galindo, while Amy Spiro with Mgt. of America was a committee clerk for Senator David Sebly, with the Economic Development and now works on public governmental performance reviews for her new employer

Galindo said the owners of Aldrete Communications in Austin both have ties to officials in the House and Senate.

"James and Eddy Aldrete are the sons of Chris Aldrete, who worked for Lyndon B. Johnson and Senator Lloyd Bentsen, so both firms come with a lot of experience," said Galindo. "They both have a lot of political and professional ties."

Galindo said the amount of money designated for the project is just "a drop in the bucket," when it comes to fighting the waste disposal company that wants to locate their business in West Texas.

"It's my understanding from reading the Dallas Morning News, that at the last session, between Envirocare and Waste Control Specialist, they spent over $1 million for lobbying, by hiring former Speakers of the House, Gib Lewis and Billy Clayton," said Galindo.

Galindo said between both companies, they spent considerably more than what Reeves County has allocated for their lobbying efforts and their fight against Envirocare.

"They spent over a million dollars, that's a lot more than the $30,000 we could spent," he said.

"So, $30,000 is not even a drop in the bucket, it evaporates before it hits the bottom," said Galindo, "but we're going to fight it."

Galindo said the company had spent more than $10,000 in just newspaper ads.

"I believe these two firms can help us leverage our small amount of money we can use for this issue," said Galindo.

"When you spent $35,000 and the opposition spends over a million over the last session, it's like David and Goliath," said Galindo.

Galindo said this was a very important issue for Reeves County and the surrounding communities. "We just don't want this type of venture in West Texas," he said.

Envirocare's request is being studied by the TDH's Bureau of Radiation Control. Jacobi said Envirocare has not been in contact with the TDH in recent weeks.

"We haven't heard anything from TDH, but things kind of slow down here (in Austin) during the holiday season," he said.

TDH officials said last month they were still awaiting responses from Envirocare to questions about the project the agency submitted this past spring.

"Right now we are waiting for them to respond fully to a letter we sent on May 22 requesting additional information on their application," said Phil Shaver, who heads up the review effort for the Bureau of Radiation Control's Special Licensing Program.

Jacobi said right now the Ward County plan is taking a back seat to the proposed settlement between Envirocare and Waste Control Specialists over a defamation lawsuit filed in April by Envirocare owner Khosrow Semnani in the U.S. District Court for Utah.

In early 1999 both companies sought to locate the low-level radioactive waste dump in western Andrews County, near the Texas-New Mexico border, after the state's proposed site near Sierra Blanca in Hudspeth County was rejected by the Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission and Texas Gov. George W. Bush in December 1998.

A report done in the spring of 1999 by the University of Texas indicated both the Envirocare and WCS sites in Andrews County were above part of the Ogallala Aquifer, making them unsuitable for storing radioactive waste. However, both firms still plan to use those sites for storage of non-radioactive hazardous wastes.

The settlement was reached in November, but Jacobi said, "We're still trying to finalize that settlement. Until that's finalized we're just going to sit tight," on the Ward County project.

State Rep. Pete Gallego (D-Alpine) has already submitted a bill to the Texas Legislature. for when its new session begins next week, which would remove Hudspeth County as the only site where radioactive waste can be stored. Jacobi said he knew of no other bills that have been filed, but added, "Representative (Warren) Chisum may have a bill to clarify the assured isolation techniques and Representative (Bob) Turner may submit a bill seeking a local referendum on the site."

Chisum was a supporter of the planned Andrews County site during the 1999 Texas Legislature, while Turner's district includes Ward County, and the proposed Envirocare site near Barstow.

However, Jacobi said the radioactive waste issue might not even be a factor in this year's session. "The radioactive waste issue may have to take a back seat to redistricting, so we may have to wait until 2003," when the next session of the Texas Legislature convenes.

Work started on new motel for UP crews

Staff Writer

PECOS, January 4, 2001 - Construction of a new motel, designed mainly for Union Pacific Railroad employees, has begun west of Flying J Truck Stop on Interstate 20.

Western Construction of Pecos has been hired by Lodging Enterprises, Inc. to begin the "earth work" for the new Oak Tree Inn.

Roy Riggs, Corporate Director of Development for Lodging Enterprises, got approval for tax abatement on the new motel from the Town of Pecos City Council during a regular meeting on Oct. 12, 2000.

During that meeting Riggs explained to the Council that the motel would mainly house railroad workers, as part of Union Pacific's plan to space out its crew changing areas every 200 miles in West Texas. The other locations where crews will change are Fort Worth, Sweetwater and El Paso.

Riggs assured the Council that local people would staff the 40-room motel.

"We don't have anybody coming in from out of town," he said during the October meeting.

Raymond Cardenas, Superintendent for Western Construction, said the "earth work" was started last Thursday, Dec. 28.

Cardenas said all the soil used for the "earth work" is from the construction area.

Riggs explained today that the construction working forming the "building pad" are digging a "pond" in order to use that dirt.

He said the "pond" would be re-contoured after this stage of construction to be used as a place for storm water to run off in.

Cardenas believes this part of construction would go quickly and be ready for the next step by next week.

"It (building construction) should be kicking up her pretty soon," he said.

Riggs said that this design build project has been awarded to EBCO Construction in Cameron, Tx.

He also said local construction workers would be hired as needed during construction.

"We'll hire anybody that we can get," he said. "It's hire as you go."

Another almost identical motel is being constructed in Alpine at the same time as this project, to house Union Pacific crews on the line between Houston and El Paso.

Riggs said the only difference in the two motels is the Alpine motel would have a restaurant.

He said a restaurant would not be built in the Pecos motel because there already is a 24-hour restaurant at Flying J and there is "no reason to compete with that."

Riggs said the new Oak Tree Inn should be completed in about ½ months, putting the opening date at some time in May.

Applications for positions at the Oak Tree Inn would become available about 30 days before the motel's opening, he added.

Stage Stores' closing plans won't affect Pecos' Beall's

From Staff and Wire Reports

PECOS, January 4, 2001 - A second round of store closings sought by Houston-based Stage Stores will not affect their Beall's store in Pecos or any of the company's other stores in West Texas. But seven stores in the Houston area, along with all their stores in six other states, would be shut down if the latest step in the company's reorganization plan is approved.

Stage Stores has asked a bankruptcy judge for approval to close seven of its Palais Royal stores in the Houston area as part of a plan to shut down 121 more stores nationwide.

The Houston-based retailer, which specializes in selling brand-name clothing in small towns in the Midwest and southern Central Plains states, has been closing under-performing stores since seeking Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection from creditors in June.

Before filing for bankruptcy, the company operated nearly 600 stores in 33 states under the Stage, Palais Royal and Beall's names.

Since June, it has closed 120 stores and hopes to shutter 121 more and withdraw entirely from six states: Indiana, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio and Wyoming. The company would be left with 348 Stage stores in 14 states: Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Mississippi, Louisiana, Florida, Arkansas, Arizona, Alabama, Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Illinois and Colorado.

The company has had difficulty absorbing its many acquisitions, including the 1997 purchase of the 240-store C.R. Anthony chain, which included Anthony's store in Pecos, along with others in Monahans, Fort Stockton, Kermit and the Midland-Odessa area.

GED testing, sign-up dates are changed

PECOS, January 4, 2001 - Registration deadlines and scheduled times for GED testing have been changed from those first announced by Pecos High School counselors.

The GED tests will be held at 5 p.m., next Monday and Tuesday, Jan. 8 and Jan. 9, at Pecos High School. Registration is scheduled for today and Friday from 1-4 p.m., at the Pecos High School Counselor's Office.

Examinees must present a Texas driver's license or Texas Department of Public Safety ID Card.

For more information call Pat Cobos or Eva Arriola, Pecos High School Counselors at 447-7229.


Genoveva Cabezuela


PECOS, January 4, 2001 - High Wednesday 60. Low this morning 29. Forecast for tonight: Mostly clear. Low in the lower 30s. West wind 5 to 15 mph, becoming northwest late. Friday: Mostly sunny. High near 60. North wind 10 to 20 mph. Friday night: Increasing clouds. Low near 30. Saturday: Mostly cloudy. Highs near 60. Sunday: Decreasing cloudiness and cooler. Lows 25 to 35. Highs 45 to 55.

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