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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Top Stories

March 13, 2001

New census says local population down 17 percent

Staff Writers

PECOS, March 13, 2001 - U.S. Census Bureau figures released Monday were bad news for Reeves County, which lost over one sixth of its population during the past 10 years.

Figures released by the State of Texas showed the county's population has declined 17.1 percent, from 15,852 to 13,137. New population numbers for the Town of Pecos City were not available as of press time, but a similar 17 percent decrease would drop Pecos' population below 10,000 residents.

Other rural counties in the Permian Basin, with the exception of Pecos County, also showed double-digit declines in population, according to the Census Bureau. Pecos County's population was up 14.3 percent, while Ward and Winkler counties' population declined 16.8 percent and Loving County's population fell by 40 percent.

With the decline in population in the city and Reeves County, new measures will have to be taken to be eligible for state funding.

Promoting economic development and trying to get more businesses in Reeves County will help the chances for funding, according to Town of Pecos City Manager Carlos Yerena.

"You usually prefer to have more population," said Yerena. "It gives you a better chance when you apply for grants and funding."

Yerena said that the city is looking at trying to get new businesses into town and bring more people into the community. "That's why we need to push economic development funding," said Yerena. "With the number of population bigger in the county, the better the chances for procuring funding."

Yerena said that it's not that we receive funding, but the population number makes us eligible for funding. "We stand a better chance when we apply for funding, if the population number is bigger," he said.

Yerena said that this seems to be a problem, not just in Reeves County, but in all rural counties. "Rural Texas is facing the same problem that we are," he said.

"That's why economic development efforts are very important, it's one of the major challenges is keeping people in rural communities," said Yerena. "We have to make sure there are plenty of jobs and opportunities, so the number doesn't decline."

The decline of the area's oil industry during most of the 1990s, combined with the closing of the Freeport McMoRan sulphur mine, which employed over 400 people in the late 1980s, contributed to the population decline. But strangely, while the county's population is down by over 17 percent according to the Census Bureau, the Texas Workforce Commission shows a double digit increase in the county's labor force and the total number of jobs within Reeves County in the past 10 years.

The TWC's most recent employment figures, for January 2001, listed Reeves County has having 7,030 people in its local labor force, with 6,488 employed and a 7.7 percent jobless rate. For January 1990, the TWC showed the county had 6,316 people in its workforce and 5,599 employed, with an 11.4 percent unemployment rate.

Those numbers represent a 10.2 percent increase in the county's workforce, while the number of jobs in the county is up 15.8 percent while unemployment has fallen by 3.7 percent.

"I think all the people that want to work, have applied with us," said Texas Workforce Commission Director Elva Arreguy.

"We're doing okay, it's has taken an effect, but all the people that want to work are doing so," said Arreguy.

The numbers have reduced a little and it's a little bit harder to find people to refer to job positions, but the figures show unemployment in Reeves County has been reduced, according to Arreguy.

"We do get those that have been laid off and come and file with us," said Arreguy. "But it hasn't really hurt us, even though we have noticed the decrease in population," she said.

Arreguy said that where there's a decrease at one end, there's an increase at the other end. "So it all balances out," she said.

Another number hard to explain _ and the source of a Texas Rangers' investigation _ is the population total in Loving County.

The Census Bureau showed the nation's least populated county has fewer residents than ever _ down from 107 people in 1990 to only 67 people last year. But in the November General Election, the county had 212 registered voters and 161 people cast ballots in the Nov. 7 election.

Questions were already raised about the number of voters before the election, and 143rd District Attorney Randy Reynolds ordered an investigation into allegations of voter fraud.

Write-in candidate J.W. "Buddy" Busby also filed suit after losing the Precinct 1 Commissioner's race to Harlan Hopper by a 37-24 vote. A re-vote was ordered by an Odessa judge and was held on March 6, with Hopper defeating Busby this time by a 14-2 margin.

The Odessa judge was also ordered to rule on the validity of the voter registration list, and out of about 150 of the 212 names that were contested, about 170 of the registrations were ruled valid, officials said _ nearly 90 more people than the current census indicates live in the county.

Some county residents have speculated that former residents purchased post office boxes and moved trailers into the county to establish residency so they could have a say in county politics.

Texas Ranger Gerry Villalobos is continuing his investigation into the matter.

Red Bluff hikes water fees, weight salt pact

Staff Writer

PECOS, March 13, 2001 - Red Bluff Water Power Control District board members raised water rates for farmers along the Pecos River on Monday, and also discussed final details of a contract with Loving Salt Co. for the Malaga Bend salt alleviation project, during a long meeting at the district's office in Pecos.

Board members voted 5-1 to raise water rates from $2.50 to $4 an acre/foot when water releases begin on April 1. The board said the extra money was needed to make up for projected budget shortfalls and the cost of drilling a well at the Malaga Bend salt spring as part of the project with Loving Salt Co.

The board spent most of the meeting on the Loving Salt Co. contract and several related issues, involving the use of Texas funds to help with the New Mexico project, and the assessment of legal fees by Loving Salt to Red Bluff though a deduction off the company's most recent salt royalty payment.

Albert Wagner of Loving Salt and two of his partners in the business from Chicago, Dan Heuertz and Curt Rassmussen, were at the meeting to discuss the deal and proposed changes to the contract between Red Bluff and the company. The main change sought by Wagner was the right to independently acquire water for the project if Red Bluff board members were to abandon the effort in the future and take away their water credit with the State of New Mexico.

The proposed agreement between the district and the Interstate Stream Commission in New Mexico would require Red Bluff to credit 645 acre/feet of water in its annual allotment back to New Mexico. Most of that water will be used by Loving Salt to fill its man-made ponds with brine pumped from Malaga Bend, which will then be evaporated and the salt mined out.

Red Bluff would hold the mining permit on the operation, which the district hopes will cut the level of salt in the Pecos River by as much as 50 percent in Texas.

"What I'm saying is if we could buy water in New Mexico to continue operation if you decided not to continue, would we be able to use your mining permit?" Wagner asked the board.

"The only reason we would want to do that is if there was (brine) leakage back into the river that was contaminating it worse," board member Lloyd Goodrich said.

Wagner said the amount of salt that could be mined from the 645 acre/feet of water could give Red Bluff as much as $75,000 in annual revenue, though board president Randall Hartman said, "It doesn't matter is we make a profit. Our goal is not that, our goal is to fix up the river."

Heuertz said his group has invested $750,000 in the project already and could have to put in as much as $950,000 more, and hoped to have everything set so that the first water could be pumped from Malaga Bend by May.

General manager Jim Ed Miller told Wagner, Heuertz and Rassmussen to "Have your lawyers write it and address the area (of the contract) you're unhappy with and bring it to Tom (Marek, Red Bluff's attorney)."

Part of the agreement also included a resolution drawn up by Marek at Monday's meeting involved a resolution approving requirements drawn up by Pierre Levy, and attorney with the Interstate Stream Commission on allowing both the water credit transfer and the pumping of water from Malaga Bend to the Loving Salt site, eight to nine miles upstream.

Board members approved Marek's resolution in a unanimous vote.

When a contract is worked out between Red Bluff, Loving Salt and Levy, the next step will be to amend the Water Master's Manual for the Pecos River Compact. After Texas and New Mexico draw up an agreement for transfer of the 645 acre/feet of water, the River Master for the Pecos River Compact will be given the document to be presented to the U.S. Supreme Court for final approval.

"The minute Red Bluff agrees to the contract and all the details are worked out we'll sent it to him (the River Master). It shouldn't take more than five days," Wagner said, though Marek was skeptical all the details could be worked out to meet Heuertz' timetable.

Miller was also skeptical about Heuertz' effort to secure loans through a State Revolving Fund program connected to the Texas Water Development Board. The grants or loans would come under the TWDB loan section for clean water improvements.

"The reason we want to go after these loans is because it's more prudent to go after funding from the stare instead of seeking private funds because of the loss of control," Heuertz said. He added they had talked with New Mexico Rep. Joe Stell and Texas Sen. J.E. "Buster" Brown about the project, and that both had been supportive.

However, Miller was concerned Red Bluff could be liable for repayment of the funds if Loving Salt was unable to pay the money back to Texas.

"We will work with your attorneys to mitigate your liability," Heuertz said, though Miller was still wary of Red Bluff getting involved.

"We're just bandying it back and forth. Submit it to the lawyer and let him look at it,"
board member Dick Slack said.

Miller also told Wagner he wanted him to submit full documentation on the legal work done by Loving Salt's lawyers in New Mexico for Red Bluff on the project. Loving deducted $2,870 from its $7,112 salt royalty check in connection with the work.

Miller said the district would not cash the check for $4,242. "Send a check for $7,112, send us a bill and we'll look at paying for $2,800.

On the water fees for 2001, the board was told the $1.50 per acre/foot increase would give the district an extra $100,000 in revenues. Without it, Miller said the district would run between a $50,000 and $60,000 loss, with the additional cost of drilling the Malaga Bend well put at around $80,000.

The board then approved the measure with Goodrich casting the lone dissenting vote. Board member Manuel Lujan was absent for the meeting.

"I could go for $3 in a minute, but I won't go for $4," Goodrich said.

During the vote, board member Charlotte Wilcox asked if the rates could be set in February next year, in order to give farmers more advanced notice. "We did this in March this year because we knew the gates would be closed," Hartman said, due to the gate and valve replacement project currently underway at Red Bluff Dam.

Miller said work on one of the two gates has been completed, but due to problems on the other gate right now the district does not want to accept the work and open the first gate until the problems with the other gate have been corrected.

Commissioners OK purchase of Road and Bridge equipment

Staff Writer

PECOS, March 13, 2001 - Equipment to be used by the Reeves County Road and Bridges Department was approved by county commissioners during their regular meeting on Monday

Commissioners approved the purchase of a trencher, tractor and mower, dump truck, haul truck, water truck and crawer/dozer for the use of the county.

"I think we should approve these purchases, but with the stipulation of a 10-year financing," said Reeves County Judge Jimmy B. Galindo.

At an earlier meeting, Road and Bridges Administrator Russ Salcido had told the group that the equipment used by the crew was old and was in need of more and more repairs.

"I've discussed this issue at length with Mr. Salcido and we both agreed that we needed new equipment to better serve the county," said Galindo.

In other business, the group approved DRG architect's request for payment invoice No. 237-remodel and Banes General Contractors request for additional payment under pay request #22.

The group also approved regular agenda items including reports from various departments; budget amendments and line-item transfers; minutes from previous meetings and semi-monthly bills.

Personnel and salary changes included at the Reeves County Detention Center, Romoundo Muniz promoted to Correctional Officer II at a salary of $24,000 per year; Patricia Abila to Purchasing Agent III at a salary of $26,000 per year; Orlando Pando promoted to Correctional Officer II at $24,000 per year and Trina Amos promoted to Correctional Officer II at $24,000 per year.

Fire Department happy over new truck's arrival

Staff Writer

PECOS, March 13, 2001 - The Pecos Volunteer Fire Department (PVFD) has now received the newest addition to the department with the arrival of a 1,000-gallon booster fire truck on Monday at the Central Fire Station.

PVFD has been working on purchasing a new truck for several years, according to Fire Chief Roy Pena.

"Everybody is excited because we have been working toward that truck for the last three years," he said.

The new truck has a pony pumper on top of the vehicle, which would be very beneficial to the fire department during grass fires.

The pony pumper allows the firefighters to stand on top of the truck were two lines are located spraying the fire while driving along.

"That way the firefighters don't have to walk the hoses," Pena said. "They can fight the grass fire from on top of the bed."

Pena and Mayor Ray Ortega attended a conference last summer in Dallas were they went over the specks of a new truck with about 17 companies.

Pena told the Town of Pecos City Council during a regular meeting in December that only three companies bid on the new truck.

During that meeting the Council awarded the bid to Ferrara Fire Apparatus, Inc.

The new truck, Unit 306, is replacing the old 306 truck, which has been in use by the PVFD since 1976, according to Ortega.

Sales Representative from Ferrara Doug Bradford attended the meeting and assured the Council that the truck would be ready within 120 days.

He said Pena made a stipulation that if the truck is not ready in 120 days there would be a $500 penalty per day that it runs over.

Pena said that he truck was delivered within 90 days arriving here ahead of time.

"It was about two to three weeks ahead of time," he said.

Pena said that the truck is missing a few parts that were not in stock at the factory in Louisiana but added, "They have been ordered and they should be here in a couple of days."

Bradford personally delivered the new truck to the fire department after flying down to Louisiana to pick it up.

Pena said that Bradford drove the truck approximately 900 miles in order to check how the it was running.

"He found two minor problems," he said.

Bradford immediately called a service manager Rick Robertson from Houston, who drove to Pecos, arriving about an hour and a half after the truck.

Pena said that he was able to fix the minor problems and with the current warranty Robertson would travel to Pecos any time the PVFD needs any repair work done on the truck.

Last night, both Bradford and Robertson gave demonstrations of the truck to the local firefighters answering any questions they might have.

Throughout the day and night about 20 firemen were able to go by the Central Station to see the new truck, according to Pena.

He said this Thursday the whole assembly would be able to go over the vehicle.

Pena said it would probably take seven to 10 days for them to get the new truck in service.

"The transition will take a while," he said.

The next step is to train the firefighters, who are assigned to the new truck, on how to drive and operate it.

Captain Tommy Orona is in charge of the new truck and must certify all the firefighters assigned to that truck first before it can be used in a fire.

"He has to okay all his people who are capable of operating it," Pena said.

After that other firefighters can be trained on the truck in case an individual assigned to the truck is absent.

This truck is replacing the old 306, which was always the first unit sent out for every call, according to Pena, so many people need to be trained to use it.

Once the transition is complete the old fire unit 306 will be awarded to the Barstow Volunteer Fire Department.

Church holding Lenten Study Sunday sessions

PECOS, March 13, 2001 - The First Presbyterian Church will be holidng the second of their three Annual Lenten Study with the first session held this coming Sunday, with the third scheduled for 6 p.m., Sunday, March 25, at the Fellowship Hall.

This three-session study, the first of which was held this past Sunday, explores the profound proclamation of divine love expressed by Matthew, Luke and John in their accounts of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. Class members will be invited to examine the nature of both the destructive and creative powers that are identified in the Gospels and how these powers continue to work in our modern society.

Presenter will be the Reverend Dr. John Davenport, pastor, of the First Presbyterian Churches of Fort Davis and Marfa.

Everyone is invited to attend the special sessions.


PECOS, March 13, 2001 - High Monday 74. Low this morning 45. Forecast for tonight: Mostly cloudy. Low in the lower 40s. South to southeast wind 5 to 15 mph. Wednesday: Mostly cloudy with a chance of showers and thunderstorms. High around 70. South wind 5 to 10 mph: Becoming west 10 to 20 mph. Chance of precipitation 30 percent. Wednesday night: Decreasing cloudiness. Low in the upper 30s. Thursday and Friday: Partly cloudy and a little cooler. Low in the lower to mid 30s. Highs in the lower to mid 60s.

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Pecos Enterprise
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