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Friday, August 3, 2001

B-1 cutback plan won't affect area flights

From Staff and Wire Reports
FRIDAY, Aug. 3, 2001 -- An effort by the U.S. Air Force to cut down its B-1 bomber fleet  won't affect plans for low level flights by the bombers over Reeves  County and other parts of West Texas, an Air Force spokesman said today.

The House Armed Services Committee voted Wednesday to block the Air Force plan to cut the B-1 bomber force by one-third and remove them from three of the five bases that now house them. The Air Force is also seeking a 20 percent reduction of its B-1 bomber fleet at Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene, where the B-1 bombers flying over West Texas would originate.

"It won't affect the flights in Reeves County," said Lt. Wes Ticer, Public Information Officer with Dyess AFB.

Ticer said the proposal was to consolidate B-1 Bombers at two bases, Ellsworth AFB in South Dakota and Dyess, while reducing the overall fleet of the 16-year-old bombers.

"If they do consolidate it's plans are to retire one-third of the staff," said Ticer. "There are about five bases and looking at 93 B-1s and they plan to reduce it's number to 60."

Ticer said Dyess would have fewer aircraft, with plans to cut the number of bombers from 30 to 24, but that the number of flights won't decrease.

"The number of aircraft we have won't affect how much we fly," said Ticer.

The plan originally was to reduce the number of B-1 and this was announced back in June, according to Ticer.

"Even if it's approved it won't affect anything out in Reeves County," said Ticer. "This includes military training, RBTI and other operations."

Ticer said this proposal is an attempt to use B-1's more efficiently, by consolidating operations at the two bases. "It still has a ways to go, but it won't affect Reeves County anyway," he said.

Under the Realistic Bomber Training Initiative (RBTI), B-1s from Dyess and B-52 bombers from Barksdale AFB in Shreveport, La., would conduct low level bombing runs over Reeves County, and construction work is currently underway on an electronic scoring site 17 miles south of Pecos, that is expected to employ about 31 people and bring $1.6 million into the local economy annually.

The flights would travel at an altitude of about 3,000 feet over the South Plains and a second electronic scoring site near Snyder, while bombers flying over southern Reeves County are expected to travel at elevations of about 500 feet. Two lawsuits, filed by ranchers and environmentalists in the South Plains and Trans-Pecos/Big Bend areas are pending in U.S. District Courts in Lubbock and Pecos.

The fight over the B-1 bomber locations came as the House committee worked to complete a $343 billion defense authorization bill for fiscal 2002, which begins Oct. 1. The House is expected to vote on it in September.

The B-1 amendment was authored by Rep. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., and cosponsored by Rep. Jim Ryun, R-Kan., both of whom are from states that would lose B-1 bombers in the planned reduction from 93 to 60 planes. Idaho's Mountain Home Air Force Base would also lose its B-1s.

Chambliss rejected the Air Force's contention that the change will save $165 million that can be used to upgrade the remaining planes, saying, "It's not going to save that much money. It'll save, at best, $100 million, and we don't believe it's going to save anything."

He also contended it made no sense to remove the bombers from Robins Air Force Base in central Georgia, because that base just opened a $75 million installation built specifically to house the B-1s.

The measure would require the administration to complete numerous reports before it could expend any money to retire, dismantle or transfer any of the planes.

Initially, the amendment lost on a 29-29 vote that followed no party lines. After Rep. Heather Wilson, R-N.M., who had missed that vote, showed up, the committee voted again and the amendment carried, 33-26.

Rep. Curt Weldon, R-Pa., who opposed it both times because Air Force Chief of Staff Michael Ryan said the B-1 changes were the best thing for the service, said he expected the provision to be deleted by House and Senate conferees who will reconcile differences between their bills.

New director gets first look at Eagle band

Staff Writer

FRIDAY, Aug. 3, 2001 -- The Pecos High School Mighty Eagle Band has started  another season with early morning practices this week.

New Head Band Director Merle Lenfest said that the small group of band students that have shown up started practice on Wednesday because UIL rules does not allow schools to begin before August 1.

Lenfest said that when he was hired as new band director earlier this year, the students at Pecos High School impressed him.

He said that just by the way the students handled themselves in the hallways was impressive and so far his experience with his students has been good.

"The kids who have been coming are great," he said.

Lenfest said that so far he has 189 students on the band roster but has not had a chance to meet all of them because some are in athletics while others are still working.

He said that he has also had students that are not currently on his roster show up for practice.

Once school starts, Lenfest said that the students who have showed up for summer practice would have spots in the shows.

"These are the ones you can count on," he said. "The ones willing to make a little bit of a sacrifice."

Lenfest and fellow band directors William Goff and Scott Bostwick are planning to work together and "team teach" each band from sixth grade to high school.

"There's no sense in having three directors if we're not going to team up," he said.

Lenfest said that he has met many people that are very welcoming and he hopes he can hold up the reputation that he already has with the community.

"Everybody I've met seems to be excited to have me here and I hope I can continue that," he said.

Lenfest said his objective for the year is to get to know the students and help them have fun but also get them disciplined enough to be able to have fun.

He said that he does not plan to preach the importance of ratings to the students because he does not believe that the ratings are that important.

He said that unlike athletics the ratings are based on different people's perception of the performance.

"The most important rating is how we feel about ourselves," he said.

Lenfest hopes for a successful season but knows that he is not the one causing the success.

"If I've ever been successful it's not because of me, it's because of the students I've had," he said.

Next week the band students will be practicing Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 12 noon and also from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. The band's first performance will be later this month, at halftime of Pecos' season opening football game against Kermit at Eagle Stadium.

Stores expecting busy afternoons as state's sales tax holiday begins

Staff Writer

FRIDAY, Aug. 3, 2001 -- With the sales tax holiday beginning today, department  stores and parents prepare themselves for a busy weekend.

The holiday lasts from Friday through Sunday and allows shoppers to buy certain clothing and footwear items costing less than $100 each without paying any tax. Shoppers will save about $8 on every $100 they spend.

Wal-Mart employees this morning were working on some last minute touches as parents entered the store.

"We are getting more clothes out and putting them on the racks," Wal-Mart manager Olga Guebara said. "It has been kind of busy. More people will probably come in later."

Though Wal-Mart opened its doors at 8 a.m. Diana Maldonado was there before the store even opened and Tillie Rayos arrived as the store opened.

The two mothers plan on just shopping at Wal-Mart in Pecos, but Maldonado will be going to Carlsbad and Rayos to San Antonio this week end.

"I was surprised they (Wal-Mart) had a better selection," Rayos said. "We are seeing what we can find here first and what ever we don't find here we will buy it there."

Beall's Department store manager Delma Arreguy said that they opened at 8 a.m. as well for the event and will open up at the same time on Saturday and on Sunday at noon.

"We had a slow start this morning," Arreguy said. "Our business brings in the afternoon crowd."

Arreguy said that their shoe department is what is bringing in the most people because of their buy one get second pair half off plus the free sales tax.

Another store that was seeing a good crowd was Desiree's, where they were busy more then usual.

"We have been steady since we opened," employee Pam Bustillos said.

With a selection of shoes, such as High Tech Magnum boots and Sketchers being 10 percent off, shoes have been their biggest items also.

"I think all the kids want Sketchers this year," Bustillos said.

Bustillos said that people call and tell them that they will be there a little after six and because they know some people get off work at six they are willing to stay open a little bit later.

"We will stay open for them," Bustillos said. "Everything can be said with the ad in the paper."

Texas Gov. Rick Perry said this weekend's sales tax holiday is a "Texas common-sense tax policy" where shoppers will save an estimated $40 million.

"Hardworking Texans, in my opinion, deserve this tax break," Perry said Thursday in a stop in El Paso. He was in Midland earlier and was scheduled to travel to Texarkana, Nacogdoches and Beaumont today to deliver the same message.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Austin students' pre-registration set for Thursday

FRIDAY, Aug. 3, 2001 -- Pre-registration for students in grades first through third grade will be held from 6-8 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 16.

The three grades will now be housed at Austin Elementary School, following a decision made earlier in the year by Pecos-Barstow-Toyah school board members to close down Pecos Elementary, where third grades had attended school.

Everyone will meet in the school cafeteria for pre-registration on Thursday.


FRIDAY, Aug. 3, 2001 -- High Thursday 99. Low this morning 74. Forecast for  tonight: Mostly clear. Low in the mid 70s. Southeast wind 5 to 15  mph. Saturday: Mostly sunny. High near 103. Southeast wind 5 to 15  mph. Saturday night: Mostly clear. Low in the mid 70s. Sunday  and Monday: Partly cloudy. Lows in the lower to mid 70s. Highs 98 to 102.


Shirley Langford Cowan

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