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Friday, February 2, 2001

Air Force briefs residents on progress of RBTI plan

Staff Writer

PECOS, February 2, 2001 - Construction on an electronic scoring site southwest of Pecos is set to begin in March and will help the local economy, Town of Pecos City and Reeves County officials were told Thursday afternoon.

The group met Thursday afternoon with officials from Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene along with a colonel from Lackland Air Force Base in Florida for the meeting, held at the Odessa College-Pecos Technical Training Center.

The meeting was designed to update city and county officials and area residents on the status of the Realistic Bomber Training Initiative (RBTI), according to Lt. Wes Ticer, with public affairs at Dyess Air Force.

Ticer, a former Pecos resident and a 1985 graduate of Pecos High School, was one of the officials on hand for the special meeting, along with Lt. Col. Dwight Williams and Lt. Col. Bill Garrett.

The RTBI project involves B-1 bombers from Dyess and B-52 bombers from Barksdale AFB in Shreveport, La., which will fly high altitude bombing runs over the Lancer MOA area between Lubbock and Snyder, while the IR-178 low-level flights will travel through the western Permian Basin and Big Bend areas, including a loop path around Pecos.

The Air Force plans to build a manned electronic scoring site southwest of Pecos as part of the project, which officials said would employ 31 people and bring $1.6 million to Reeves County annually.

The site will be located 18 miles southwest of Pecos, on land within the Conservation Reserve Program and about a mile nearer town than originally planned.

"For some of you this will just be a review," said Lt. Col. Garrett.

He told those assembled that that Air Force wants to make sure the young people entering the service are properly trained. "They are our biggest asset, we're obligated to make sure these people are properly trained and ready."

According to Garrett if they can survive the first 10 missions of the year, they can survive almost anything. "We want to make training for these young people are realistic as we can," he said. "The whole gist is to make sure we can provide that type of training."

Garrett said that the Air Force wanted to make sure that they could consolidate a package, with a good training center, make sure they are doing their best to put taxpayer money to work and to get those bases within 600 miles of the target locations.

Garrett gave the group a brief history on the Air Force and the many training routes.

"The concept has grown vastly," said Garrett. "One of the positive things is that the number of requirements of low-level missions that these guys will fly has gone down."

The missions are called "sorties," according to Garrett.

"The IR-178 route has been around for many years," said Garrett. "As the requirements have gone down, we can make the number of sorties exactly as they are today."

The number of flights annually had originally been proposed at 2,560, but that number has since been cut to 1,560. "That's about six flights per day," said Garrett. "Since the requirements came down, that has allowed us to go back down."

He said that at one time this type of meeting would not be happening, but that things have changed. "We want to make sure it's as mutually beneficial," said Garrett. "It's been very helpful and enlightening."

RBTI benefits include more effective training for officers and will have a $3.2 impact in Texas in maximum taxpayer dollars, according to Garrett.

"We'll have a waiting period of 30 days, from when construction will begin," said Garrett.

Garrett explained about the route that would be taken and said that they would fly no lower than 500 feet.

Bomber flights from Dyess and Barksdale currently have to make far longer flights for their training missions, ranging as far north as Montana, with scoring sites in Colorado.

"If everything goes well, we'll be closing one of our other sites in October and depending on construction open that site in January 2002," said Garrett.

Once that site operates for two weeks and they make sure training is going well, the Air Force will shut down the second site and consolidate, according to Garrett.

"We want to have training in one particular location, have an electronic scoring sites central," said Garrett.

Garrett gave the group a toll-free number that ranchers and farmers can call if they have any questions, complaints or suggestions. "They can call this toll-free number and speak to our representatives," he said.

That toll-free number is 1-877-843-9280.

Depending on how the paperwork goes, yes, March will be the start of construction, according to Garrett.

Ontech out of San Diego, Calif. will have the contract to train all the personnel, according to Garrett.

Reeves County Judge Jimmy B. Galindo and commissioner Precinct 2 David Castillo are planning a visit to San Diego within the next few weeks to meet with the contract company Ontech.

"We want to discuss the transition with the contract company for the 20-30 employees and offer our assistance to make it a smoother transition," said Galindo.

"We've got some concerns, but the Air Force has gone out of their way to address these concerns and keep us informed," said Galindo.

"Will the personnel be living here?" asked Oscar Saenz.

"Since this will be a permanent thing, more than likely they will move their families here," said Garrett.

"Will it be a 24-hour facility?" asked Security State Bank President Bill Oglesby.

"The need to operate 24-hours is really not necessary, but the personnel will be on hand for an `x' number of hours on any given day," said Garrett.

"La Junta is presently like Dyess, on a nine-to-midnight shift," said Dwight Williams. "We anticipate something like that depending on where we'll be flying."

"The numbers we don't expect it to change, but hours we don't know," said Williams. "We have a number of hours that we have to be on the ground."

Pecos Economic Development Corportation Director Gari Ward said that the Air Force will lease some property and buy the land where the site will be.

The sites are very remote sites on a normal basis, according to Williams.

"There will be approximately 20-28 contractors and two quality Air Force guys that will look like civilians," said Garrett.

"Are you prepared, or is anyone properly trained?" asked landowner Marie Sears.

"We had some training for local individuals in Abilene, but we can surely set something up here," said Ticer.

The Air Force plans another manned electronic scoring site in connection with the Lancer MOA section of the flight path, to be located near Snyder. The higher altitude flights over the South Plains have already been challenged by a lawsuit filed by a group of ranchers and farmers in the area south of Lubbock.

A similar lawsuit against the RBTI portion of the plan could be filed by ranchers in the Trans-Pecos and Davis Mountains area, who say the low-level fights have scared their livestock and damaged homes and other buildings beneath the flight path.

Some of the same ranchers were able to successfully halt plans two years ago to increase flights over the region by German Luftwaffe jets operating out of Holloman AFB in New Mexico.

Ticer said that they still stand behind everything in the Environmental Impact Study. "We will continue with what we have to do within the limits of the law," he said.

Main Street coordinator tours downtown area

Staff Writer

PECOS, February 2, 2001 - Town of Pecos City officials plan to be a little more "aggressive" in meeting criteria to become a part of the Texas Main Street Program, after the city's application was turned down last year.

"We're organizing and doing preparatory work to be ready when we apply," said Town of Pecos City Manager Carlos Yerena.

He said the city's goal is to revitalize the downtown area and invited Kay Harvey-Mosley, State Coordinator of the Texas Main Street Program, to Pecos on Thursday.

"We're getting organized and doing the things that she will identify," said Yerena.

The group toured the downtown area on Thursday afternoon and spoke at length with Harvey-Mosley.

"She'll be able to identify buildings and show us some tools to diversify our economy," said Yerena.

Yerena said that the group had met with both Security State and West Texas National Bank about starting a low-interest program for people seeking to locate in the downtown area.

Harvey-Mosley shared her expertise and ideas about what other Main Street cities have done.

"By becoming an official Main Street city, you have an opportunity to be eligible for funding and get technical assistance," said Harvey-Mosley.

Pecos had applied for the program last year, but was turned down. The city was invited to become self-designated by reapplying in 2001.

"It's not unusual to be turned down the first time or even the second time you apply," said Harvey-Mosley. Cities can apply as many times as they like until approved, she added.

"The population has to be under 50,000, so Pecos is a good size," said Harvey-Mosley.

Also geography is very important and the group wants to work with more West Texas cities, according to Harvey-Mosley. Cities are invited to apply as many times as they like.

Only four cities in Texas were approved for the program in 2000, according to Yerena.

"It's probably the top program in the nation," said Yerena.

"We're working with 80 cities right now," said Harvey-Mosley, who said that applications are taken once a year, in July.

The four cities that were chosen this year include Canton, Carthage, Floresville and Huntsville.

"The population has to be under 50,000, so Pecos is a good size," said Harvey-Mosley.

Also geography is very important and the group wants to work with more West Texas cities, according to Harvey-Mosley.

"If the city is chosen as a Main Street city, we provide heavy technical assistance for three years, but the services continue thereafter," she said.

"It's important for the city to be recognized for Main Street," said Yerena, adding that they have several projects in mind to better the chances of becoming part of the program.

"We want to be fully prepared and with this lady's help I think we can achieve our goals," he said.

"It helps to clean up the city before we come in and board up buildings appropriately," said Harvey-Mosley, who will be offering further tips to officials to better their chances.

Yerena said that Harvey-Mosley is helping them identify any issue that the city has to address and wants to make sure that the whole community is behind this program. "We want to show them that the city is aggressively pursing this program and that everyone is interested," he said.

"Some of the issues we have already talked about are, cleaning up, addressing the health issues, such as boarding up old buildings appropriately and improving the overall look of the city," said Harvey-Mosley.

Yerena added that the project would take time. "It can't be done overnight," he said.

Scarce water part of area's long history

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is one in a continuing series of features on historical locations in Pecos region
By The Ghost Writer

PECOS, February 2, 2001 - Ranching and farming have been an important aspect of the economy in West Texas as far back as the Indians with their small, irrigated fields. Both agricultural endeavors require water and West Texas has water; the problem is getting it the cattle or the plants.

Early exploration of this area for a route from El Paso to San Antonio recorded over forty watering spots and the distances between each. As early as 1585, a young Spanish lieutenant, Antonio de Espejo, made mention of Comanche Springs near Fort Stockton and San Solomon Spring and Phantom Lake near Balmorhea. We have several aquifers in this area that at one time supplied ample water to over 500 irrigation pumps.

The Pecos River, now a trickle, was once a mighty stream and ranchers told of the river flowing bank to bank and said it was dangerous to ride in the dark as you would unknowingly be on the riverbank and could be swept away.

Diverting water from the river began in the middle 1870s. By 1914, work had been started or completed on ten projects to divert river water. Many of the projects were abandoned and some were incorporated into water districts now in operation. 173,000 acres were included in the ten river projects, however, only 30,000 acres were under cultivation and they had a shortage of water.

GETTING READY - Jenny Abbott and Pecos Chamber of Commerce Women's Division President Laura Briggs work along with her daughter, Ruby, on rolling out table clothes on the tables for the Chamber of Commerce Awards Banquet.

Banquet's dinner sold out, seats still available

Staff Writer

PECOS, February 2, 2001 - Tickets for the Pecos Area Chamber of Commerce's Awards Banquet dinner are sold out, but tickets to just attend the banquet are still available to community members at the door at 7 p.m., Saturday night at the Reeves County Civic Center.

This year, the Chamber is serving steak dinners as opposed to previous years where barbecue was served, and Executive Director Tom Rivera said, "We're sold out."

Rivera said it is unusual for the Chamber to sell out of tickets for this type of dinner but assures the community that anyone without a $20 dinner ticket may purchase a $10 ticket in order to see this year's awards banquet.

"We are going to allow people to go to the banquet but they won't get the dinner," he said. "They're welcome to come out."

Pecos Rotary Club members are in charge of cooking 290 steaks for the awards banquet.

Rivera said that the number of tickets sold has been a combination of the steak dinner and the added interest of the guest speaker, Texas Representative Gary Walker (R-Plains). Walker's District 80 includes Pecos and all of Reeves County.

Representatives from area Chambers of Commerce from Midland, Monahans and Fort Stockton would also be attending the banquet, according to Rivera.

He said that this is the first time in many years that the Midland Chamber of Commerce has attended the local banquet.

"We appreciate those folks making the trip down," he said.

Rivera also said he and the Chamber appreciate the interest from the community.

"I'm very pleased with the turnout and the support from the community," he said.

"I hope everybody comes out and has a good time," he said.

Along with Walker's speech, which will focus on activities in the current 107th Texas Legislature, the Chamber will also hand out its annual awards on Saturday. They include Citizen of the Year, the Women's Division Award of Service, the Agricultural Award, Student of the Year, Educator of the Year, Law Enforcement Officer of the Year, the Ruiz Profile in Courage/Hidden Hero Award and Outstanding Chamber Director for 2000.

Swim team gets pep rally at gym before regionals

PECOS, February 2, 2001 - The Pecos Eagle Swim Team will be honored at a Pep Rally scheduled for 3 p.m., Wednesday in the Pecos High School Old Gym.

Everyone is invited to come out and cheer for the group, as they prepare to travel to Lubbock to compete in the Regional 4-A Swim Meet.

The regional meet will be next Thursday through Saturday at the Pete Ragus Aquatic Center in Lubbock, with the top finishers advancing to Class 4A state competition in Austin.


Mary Domingez


PECOS, February 2, 2001 - High Thursday 56. Low this morning 27. Forecast for tonight: Mostly clear. Low in the mid 20s. South to southwest wind 5 to 10 mph. Saturday: Mostly sunny and warmer. High 65 to 70. West wind 5 to 15 mph. Saturday night: Mostly clear. Low 30 to 35. Sunday and Monday: Mostly sunny days and fair at night. Low in the upper 30s. Highs around 70.

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