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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Top Stories

Tuesday, August 28, 2001

Worker's comp rates for county rise by $25,000

Staff Writer

PECOS, Tues., Aug. 28, 2001 -- Workers' compensation rates that have nearly doubled left  Reeves County Commissioners with a bad case of sticker shock yesterday.

Victor Uvalle, Jr., of the Texas Association of Counties (TAC) told commissioners that an increase in county employees and a jump in classification rates could be blamed for the higher premiums.

According to Uvalle each employee for the county falls into a classification for insurance purposes and there is a separate rate for each classification such as road employees, law enforcement, and clerical.

The classification rates are set by the Texas Department of Insurance and those rates are part of the formula for determining the County's insurance premium, he said.

Classification rates have risen a minimum of 63 percent for the county commissioner classification to a 92 percent increase for the clerical classification. All other classification increases fell between the two.

Uvalle also explained that Reeves County was not alone _ that every other county in the TAC Worker's Compensation Pool faced the same rate hikes.

"There are 206 Texas counties in the TAC that participate in the worker's compensation pool," Uvalle said.

County Judge Jimmy Galindo said that as a member of the pool Reeves County saved a lot of money on insurance premiums, but that the rate hike still put the county in a difficult position.

Galindo estimated that the higher rates would mean Reeves County would pay at least $25,000 more next year for worker's compensation insurance than it did in 2001.

Uvalle told commissioners that the most effective way to help hold down costs was to form a Loss Control Committee, although Reeves County's losses have not been that bad.

"TAC is a not-for-profit organization," Galindo said. "Over the years, we have paid in more than has been paid out in claims."

Unfortunately for Reeves County, other counties in the pool cannot make that same claim and Uvalle said part of being in an insurance pool means making up the difference when other members of the pool have more claims than were paid in premiums.

Even so, a Loss Control Committee would help in the long run, he added.

Generally the committee would encourage workers to return to work as soon as possible and also investigate worker's compensation claims, Uvalle said.

"Some people do abuse the system," he said. "If we can eliminate some of that abuse, every county will save money."

Commissioners told Uvalle that there had been such a committee at one time.

At the end of the meeting commissioners voted to reform the committee that would consist or one or two commissioners and representatives from the Reeves County Detention Center, the Road and Bridge Department, the Sheriff's Department, and the Court House.

Construction makes drivers stop and take notice

Staff Writer

PECOS, Tues., Aug. 28, 2001 -- Travelers going to and from Fort Stockton on U.S. 285 are sure to  find a surprise just south of Pecos that will make them stop in their tracks.

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has set up a stop light system approximately 10 miles south of Pecos while a construction company works on replacing a bridge over part of the usually dry Toyah Lake.

John Salcido, Engineering Specialist for TxDOT's Pecos office, said that Knight Construction, Inc. of Big Spring is working on replacing half of the bridge right now, creating one-way traffic on the other half.

Salcido said that TxDOT could not build a full two-lane detour next to the bridge because the bridge is over a waterway.

"We can not build a complete detour because it is over a Waterway of the U.S.," he said. While Toyah Lake has been dry in recent years due to drought, it does fill up with water during rainy periods.

Salcido explained because the lake is part of the Waterways of the U.S., they are not able to build a road below the bridge in case the waterway is flooded by rain. That means TxDOT had to create a one-way lane of traffic, so that half of the bridge could be replaced at a time.

In order to make a safe lane for two directions of traffic, Salcido said that TxDOT installed a stop light system that is designed to create a safe and efficient flow of traffic.

"The lights are on a timer, which works on two minute intervals," he said.

Some vehicles reportedly have run the traffic light instead of waiting for the green signal, which could result in head-on collisions on the one-lane bridge.

Salcido said that he has not heard of any complaints from the public but knows that the new system is an inconvenience to travelers.

The light system has been in operation for a couple of weeks, according to Salcido, and construction is scheduled to last approximately 15 months.

Salcido said that the same construction company is set to replace the long, narrow bridge on Business 20, between Pecos and Barstow, at the same time as the bridge on U.S. 285. However, the bridge replacement on Business 20 will have a complete detour.

"We'll have a detour just south of the bridge, where they (Knight Construction) can demolish the bridge completely," he said.

Salcido said that so far TxDOT is not aware of any problems resulting from the stoplight but insures that if any arise they would take steps to correct them.

"If we have problems we could do something but we're not award of any problems right now," he said.

Salcido said that he understands that the stop light in the middle of nowhere is an inconvenience but hopes that people will choose to cross the bridge safely with the light intervals.

"It's an inconvenience but these are two bridges that need to be replaced," he said.

School officials try to smooth traffic jam

Staff Writer

PECOS, Tues., Aug. 28, 2001 -- Traffic at Austin Elementary School can get a little complicated  at times, with the addition of third grade classes to the south side  Pecos campus this year.

Traffic around the school has become more crowded, with parents parking their cars during the morning and afternoon to drop off and pick up their first, second and third graders, while others wait for school buses to take them home.

With the closing of Pecos Elementary and the shift of third grade classes to Austin, the additional cars caused Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD officials to talk with Pecos Police last week about helping to regulate traffic around the campus. Two cars were involved in a minor accident this morning outside the elementary school on Veterans Boulevard in which no one was reported injured.

"The first day we had some problems, but it's getting smoother," said Austin Elementary School Principal Victor Tarin.

Tarin said that there are three designated areas to pick up the students from each grade after school.

First grade students can be picked up in the back of the school, the north side parking lot on Normandy Street. "That's where all first graders will be after school," said Tarin. "At first the parents were all coming to the front of the school looking for their children and all first graders and their teachers will be at the back of the building after school."

Second graders can be picked up at the back of the school as well. Those students and their teachers will be on the northeast side of the school on Missouri Street. "This is where Missouri and Normandy (meet), at the dead end, where the playground is," said Tarin.

Third grade students need to be picked up at the front of the school on Veterans Boluevard. All the third graders and their teachers will be out front at the various crosswalks, according to Tarin.

"The problem really hasn't been in the afternoons the problem has been in the morning," he said.

Tarin said that many parents are dropping their kids off close to the cafeteria doors on the Nebraska Street side of the school.

"That's not the place to drop them off, because it's the bus loading zone," said Tarin. "That's for buses only."

Tarin said that this was creating a problem, because buses had to wait for students and their parents to cross in front of them, or else the space was occupied by a parent's car.

"We want the parents to bear with us and eventually we'll get better at this," said Tarin.

"In the morning we want all the kids to come through the front doors," said Tarin. "The parents can drop them off in front and they can walk to the cafeteria."

Tarin said that he realized it was easier for some parents to drop off the students by the cafeteria doors, since that's where they need to go to in the mornings, but that it was also illegal.

"They're taking up the spaces for the buses and also delaying the buses," he said.

Tarin said that that area was specifically for buses only and would like to ask everyone to please not park in that area. "We want everyone to understand that it's something we're doing for the safety of the students," he said. "And we're trying to make it easier for the buses," he said.

As far as picking up the students, he said things are getting smoother and simpler. "It takes about 10-15 minutes to clear all the traffic in the afternoons," he said. "It's getting a lot better."

Grid season tickets on sale for Eagles' contests

PECOS, Tues., Aug. 28, 2001 -- Football fans and Pecos High School band parents still have three more days to pick up season tickets for all five of the Pecos Eagles' home football games for the 2001 season.

Pecos plays its home opener on Friday against Kermit, and season tickets are on sale for new ticket holders at the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD business office, at 1302 S. Park St., weekdays between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Tickets are $25 apiece for all five home games.

Along with Friday's game against Kermit, the Eagles other pre-district games are Sept. 7 against Fort Stockton and Sept. 28 against Monahans, which is also the 2001 homecoming game. Starting time for those three games is 8 p.m. Pecos' two home games in District 2-4A play are on Oct. 19 against Fabens and Nov. 9 against San Elizario. Both of those games will be 7:30 p.m. starts at Eagle Stadium.

Brisket fundraiser scheduled at Saragosa Hall

PECOS, Tues., Aug. 28, 2001 -- A  brisket plate fundraiser is scheduled for 11 a.m. until 2  p.m., Friday at the Saragosa Hall. 

The fundraiser is being held to help out with medical expenses for Bertha Hernandez.

Brisket plates will cost $4 per plate and deliveries will be made on three or more plates. To order call 445-5225 on Friday.


PECOS, Tues., Aug. 28, 2001 -- High Monday 89. Low this morning 67. Forecast for tonight:  Mostly cloudy with a less than 20 percent chance of showers  and thunderstorms. Low in the mid 60s. Wednesday: Partly cloudy with  a chance of showers and thunderstorms. High around  90. Thursday and Friday: Partly cloudy. Lows around 70. Highs from the  lower to mid 90s.


Faustina M. Carrasco

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