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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

School board delays vote on cuts

Staff Writer

PECOS, July 19, 2002 - The Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD would run a surplus of just over $7,300 for the 2002-2003 school year despite a loss of nearly $800,000 in tax revenues, under a budget proposal presented to the board on Thursday.

But before that could even be done, the budget as designed was called into question when board members opted to table a plan to eliminate assistant principal positions at Austin Elementary and Crockett Middle School.

The budget was presented to the board during the workshop portion of Thursday evening's meeting at the P-B-T Technology Center, and called for the elimination of the two administrative positions while allowing for 1½ percent salary increases for district employees.

"We would be $7,306 in the black in expenses and revenues with the elimination of the two assistant principals," said P-B-T Superintendent Don Love. However, board members had questions about whether or not new Austin Elementary principal Cindy Duke and new Crockett principal Victor Tarin could handle those jobs on their own.

School personnel director Gome Olibas said he had talked to Tarin, who was Austin Elementary principal this past year. "He said he could handle it on his own."

Love said he had not talked to Duke about her situation at the first through third grade campus, but said, "I talked to five of the schools in our new district (Monahans, Fort Stockton, Kermit, Midland Greenwood and Presidio), and only one had an elementary school assistant principal, and all but one had a middle school assistant principal."

Love said Crockett would have about 400 students in seventh and eighth grades attending classes this year. He said one of the four other schools with an assistant principal would have more than that number, but that campus was for students in sixth through eighth grade.

"If we do have an assistant principal, what would be their main responsibility," asked board member Steve Valenzuela.

"It would be like high school. The assistant principal's No. 1 responsibility would be discipline," Love said.

He added that under the plan drawn up, administrators from other campuses might have to help out on certain days with extracurricular activities, such as when both seventh and eighth grade teams are playing in Pecos along with the middle school football teams. "We only have one gym (at Crockett), so the others have to go across town to Zavala," he said "The sixth grade principal may have to pick up responsibility."

After questioning from board member Crissy Martinez, Love said, "We might be able to make up one position … if we add one position, we're looking at adding $50-$55,000 to the budget.

"A lot of school districts have deficit budgets. This one has not had it in four years. You're in excellent financial shape," Love said.

In response to a question from board member Paul Deishler, Love said the district could come back at mid-term of the 2002-2003 year and appoint an assistant principal if the need arose. "It would be easiest to promote from within, and get a graduate assistant from one of the colleges too fill in that teaching position," he said.

"I really had hoped to have the principals here," said board member David Flores. "They're going to schools they haven't been in, and I really wanted to have some input from them."

Board president Billie Sadler then called for a motion to approve the elimination of the two positions, but no motion was made by any of the other six board members, and the motion was tabled.

In the budget portion of the meeting, Love and P-B-T business manager Cookie Canon presented the board with the preliminary figures, based on the final valuations totals presented to the district on Wednesday by the Reeves County Tax Appraisal District.

They showed valuations had dropped within the district from $478 to $460 million, while state funding based on the total number of students within the district in also down, due to a drop of 140 students a year ago.

The district already had lost over $2½ million in state funding due to the sharp increases in mineral valuations with in the school district prior to the start of the 2001-2002 school year.

That addition money went towards renovations approved for school campuses during the past year, and the decline in state aid was already factored into the 2002-2003 budget.

The cost of the 1½ percent raises for P-B-T employees was put at $152,608, while total revenues for the district this year were projected at $14,735,740, down from $18,250,402 during the 2001-2002 school year.

"This budget is so tight we haven't worried about first time (homestead) exemptions before, but we did here," said Love.

One of the cuts made was in the district's night school program.

Love and Canon told David Flores that the cut was made because the state mandated that Title I funds used for the high school program be spread around to other campuses, and the district does not have the extra money to fund the program.

In-between the vote on administrators and the budget workshop, the board approved a new district policy for Internet use and a new dental policy, along with GAP and long-term care insurance for district employees.

Canon said the current dental insurance provider has failed to make visits to Pecos to enroll new members in the Conseco plan.

Love said the Custom Care Plan, offered through First Financial Group, is already used by school districts in Odessa and San Antonio.

It would have a monthly cost of $52.50 per family, compared with Conseco's $63.86 cost.

The GAP and long-term care plans would be offered through American Fidelity Assurance Co. and would have rates based on age and amount of coverage.

The board approved all three unanimously.

The board also approved without objection the District Electronic, Communications and Data Acceptance Use Policy presented by Jodi Exum.

She said the current policy was established in 1995, when Barstow Elementary was connected up to the University of the Permian Basin for a remote education program. "Now 99.9 percent of every classroom in the district is networked," she said.

The new policy is based on rules designed by the Texas Association of School Boards, with only a few minor changes, Exum said.

The policy would be translated into Spanish once approved and sent out to students for review by parents and to teachers in August.

Use of district computers by the general public would also fall under the guidelines, but Exum and Love said the screening software that blocks out certain websites could be removed upon request for research purposes, when a website contains words that would normally by blocked out by the filtering software.

Following a brief closed session, the board voted 5-1 with one abstention to approve appointments and reassignments within the district.

Appointments included Chancy Boles as an English teacher at Pecos High School; Starla Jeffery as Special Education S/C teacher at Austin Elementary; Frank Perez as a Spanish teacher/coach at Pecos High School; and Shirley Tucker as Special Education Inclusion/homebound Teacher at Pecos Kindergarten. Perez has one year of teaching experience, while the others will be in their first teaching assignments.

Reassignments included Evan Bates, from Bessie Haynes Elementary to Austin Elementary PE teacher/coach; Veronica Valenzuela from Austin to Bessie Haynes as PE teacher/coach, and Angelica Valenzuela from District ESL teacher to counselor. Steve Valenzuela abstained because his wife was among those on the reassignment list, while Chrissy Martinez cast the lone vote against the appointments and re-assignments.

Jurors award $1.5 million

in Barstow crossing death

Staff Writer

PECOS, July 19, 2002 - Reeves County jurors awarded the family of a Barstow man killed in a train collision last year just under $1.5 million in damages on Thursday, after finding both the man and Union Pacific Railroad equally liable in the July 10, 2001 incident.

The family of Lucio Florez, Sr. received the award late Thursday from the 143rd District Court jury, following a four-day trial before District Court Judge Bob Parks. According to the jury's response, they decided to award Florez' wife and six children with $1.485 million, which was divided among the seven members.

The Florez family attorney Bill Weinacht filed an amended petition for wrongful death and survival damages which requested an undetermined amount of money. Along with the railroad, Union Pacific employees Ricky Exum and J.B. O'Brien were also named as defendants in the lawsuit

"The Plaintiffs' seek exemplary damages in an amount to be determine by the trier of fact," the petition said.

Florez died when his Ford F-150 pickup was struck by a Union Pacific train headed eastbound from Long Beach, Calif., to Memphis, Tenn., at the Brandt Street crossing in Barstow the morning of July 10, 2001. The accident occurred at a crossing that the railroad, the city of Barstow and Ward County had been in discussions over closing.

Florez was a member of the Barstow City Council

In the verdict returned, the jury found Union Pacific 50 percent negligent based on several items, including whether or not the railroad assumed responsibility for closing the Brant Street crossing, whether or not the railroad had a duty to properly maintain the crossing and whether or not the crew had given an audible warning, maintained a proper lookout and exercised reasonable care to apply the brakes while going through Barstow.

Florez' 50 percent liability was based on whether or not he had properly stopped at a clearly marked stop line before the grade crossing, not closer than 15 feet and not further than 50 feet from the nearest rail.

The jury found no malice in the death of Florez.

Damages awarded by the jury to Florez' widow, Elia Florez, came to $415,000 for past and future damages, of which she would be given half, under the 50 percent liability ruling.

Of the six children, the couple's minor child, Cornia, was awarded $385,000; while Lucio Florez Jr., was awarded $225,000; Lucius Florez, Ann Monique Florez and April Florez were given $125,000; and Victoria Florez was awarded $85,000, of which half will come from Union Pacific.

The Brant Street crossing was one block east of the FM 516 crossing, which has signal lights and is maintained by the Texas Department of Transportation.

The crossing had already been scheduled for closure under an agreement between the city and Union Pacific Railroad.

Florez had been one of the aldermen who wanted to have that crossing closed, but the railroad and the city were at odds over who would be responsible for the work.

The crossing was closed on July 23, 2001 two weeks after Florez' death.

Pecosites `make news' at Museum on Thursday

Staff Writer

PECOS, July 19, 2002 - Pecosites turned out to watch the news without looking at their television sets on Thursday afternoon, as KWES-TV brought their News West 9 team from Midland-Odessa to the West of the Pecos Museum for their 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. broadcasts.

Every year the news station has an `Under West Texas Skies' segment, in which the news crew travels to a different city every Friday during the month of July.

However, with the station celebrating its 10-year anniversary, the station decided to commemorate its anniversary by going back to the way their `Under West Texas Skies' segment first started.

"We used to go to a different town everyday for one week," said Richard Acosta, managing news editor for Ch. 9, which moved to Midland-Odessa in the 1980s after operating for about 20 years out of studios closer by, in Monahans.

This year their segment began on Monday with the news crew in Hobbs, Tuesday they were in Seminole, Wednesday in Fort Stockton, and today they will be in Alpine.

KWES broadcast their news from the West of the Pecos Rodeo last year, but had to use two microwave relay vans to beam the signal out of the Pecos Valley to their studios between Midland and Odessa. This year, the station used a satellite connection to beam the signal up 22,000 miles from Pecos and then back down again to their studios. The same set-up is being used for all broadcasts this week.

According to Acosta, the towns were picked based on their viewing area.

"We picked the towns based on the areas that have been a part of our viewing area," Acosta said.

The news crew included Jay Hendricks and Crystal Crews broadcasting from the courtyard of the museum.

During their five o'clock segment, KWES led a tour through a portion of the museum and Jessica Chang interviewed Kathy Montgomery, owner of the West Texas Championship Wrestling and wrestler Terry Pantera, who will be performing in Pecos on Aug. 3.

During one of their segments Joe Dominguez did a feature on the Pecos Cantaloupes. And for their six o'clock broadcast Pecos' new head football coach, Fred Carter, was interviewed, nine local residents participated in a hot dog eating contest and the winner of the `ugly dog' contests was announced.

For their hot dog eating contest, the station decided to go with nine contestants and nine minutes so it would go along with the theme of News West 9.

"We have had no problems finding people for the hot dog eating," Acosta said. "The record is 12 hot dogs in nine minutes held by a man in Seminole."

The winner of the hot dog eating contest in Pecos was Sal Nichols, eating 10 hot dogs in nine minutes.

However, the turn out for the `ugly dog' contest was more then what was expected.

Contestants had varied in number from as few as five to as many as 15, Acosta said. But in Pecos the turn out was 35 `ugly dogs' contestants, with one of the contestants being a goat.

The winner of the `ugly dog' contest was Howie, an English bulldog, owned by Ryan McNabb.

Other dogs received ribbons for best bark, best horse dog and several other categories. Some of those dogs are Fatso, owned by April Ryan received second runner up and Frankie, owned by Macarthur Pineda received a ribbon for `Most Cleaver Disguises.'

Three other dogs that received prices but did not pick up their ribbons were Skittles, Rocket and Tuffy.

The owner one of these three dogs my pick up their ribbons at the Enterprise office at 324 S. Cedar St.

County's unemployment soars
despite slight increase in jobs

From Staff and Wire Reports

PECOS, July 19, 2002 - The closing of the Anchor Foods onion processing plant in Pecos by McCain Foods at the start of June had the expected effect on the unemployment rates for both the city and Reeves County last month, even though the total number of jobs in the county increased for the month.

According to figures released Thursday by the Texas Workforce Commission, the total number of jobs in the county increased by six last month, from 6,258 to 6,364. But the stable job rate was mainly due to the addition of seasonal labor connected to the start of onion and cantaloupe harvesting and the end of the school year, and the increase in workers within the county boosted the local labor force by nearly 900, causing county unemployment to jump from 9.4 to 19.3 percent.

A total of 1,523 workers were without jobs last month, up from 659 in May and 507 in April. Layoffs began at the Anchor plant in May and the remainder of the workforce was laid off at the start of June, four days before McCain Foods announced an agreement to sell the plant to a new company headed by Security State Bank owner Patrick Kennedy Jr.

The company, Trans Pecos Foods, has yet to restart operations at the plant, which last year employed 700 workers, representing 10 percent of the county's workforce and 13 percent of the city's labor force.

The influx of farm workers lifted the total number of people in the workforce within Reeves County from 7,017 in May to 7,887 in June. In March, when local unemployment was at its low for the year, at 7.2 percent, there were 6,415 people in the local labor force and 459 without jobs.

The jobless numbers for the Town of Pecos City are even higher. The city, which saw its unemployment rate jump from 8.2 percent to March to 8.5 percent in April and 10.7 percent in May, increased 10 percent in June, to 21.7 percent.

Anchor employed workers who also lived in several nearby counties, and those also saw jumps in their jobless rates, though not as high and due mainly to the influx of seasonal workers and the end of the school year.

Ward County added nearly 80 jobs to its workforce last month, but saw unemployment climb from 6.7 to 9.0 percent. Winkler County's unemployment rate went from 9.2 to 12.6 percent, despite an increase of 32 jobs within the county during June, and Pecos County added 66 jobs last month, but still saw its jobless rate increase from 5.0 to 7.3 percent.

Jobless rates across the Permian Basin increased from 5.5 to 7.2 percent, with an additional 3,500 people on the unemployment rolls, while the Midland-Odessa area saw unemployment rise from 5.3 to 6.6 percent.

Statewide, the TWC said unemployment grew from 5.9 to 6.8 percent, but when adjusted for the seasonal hiring, decreased by one-tenth of a percent.

Economists generally don't dispute the commission's methods, but they said the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate could mask the difficulty facing job hunters.

"Let's keep in mind there were a lot of layoffs announced earlier this year, and a lot of them are just taking effect now," said Bernard Weinstein, an economist at the University of North Texas. "You have a lot more people out of work."

Ray Perryman, an economist and business consultant in Waco, said there are signs of improvement for the Texas economy, such as new orders for computer chips, "but we're not going to see substantial job growth until technology and telecom start to come around, which is still a few months away."

Unemployment in the Dallas-Fort Worth area has surged from under 3 percent in early 2001 to about 7 percent as large technology and telecommunications companies have laid off thousands of workers.

The Workforce Commission, meanwhile, was left to explain how it could claim that seasonally adjusted unemployment fell in June while - by its own count - the ranks of the unemployed grew by more than 100,000.

Robert Crawley, a commission economist, said many of the newly unemployed are students and school employees looking for summer work, not people hunting for a permanent job.

In effect, summer job-seekers are subtracted before calculating the seasonally adjusted rate.

Excluding their impact on the job market, unemployment fell from 6.2 percent in May to 5.8 percent.

"Historically, there has always been more demand for summer jobs than there are jobs. This pushes the unemployment rate upward," Crawley said. "It doesn't indicate that the economy has deteriorated in any fashion."

Steven Schwiff, a Texas A&M University economist, said seasonally adjusted figures are most useful to economists, not average workers, and are less reliable during turbulent times in the economy.

The adjusted rate "is an attempt to better understand the core movement in unemployment," Schwiff said. "But unless you have some reason to know what the trend is, then let the data tell its story without making any seasonal adjustments."

Technology grant for library

on agenda for commissioners

Reeves County Commissioners will discuss the final grant application for telecommunications infrastructure at the Reeves County Library during their regularly scheduled meeting on Monday, at 9:30 a.m. in the third floor courtroom at Reeves County Courthouse.

Commissioners will also discuss/take action on payments of two invoices for work down at the Reeves County Detention Center III expansion project, and discuss a resolution on early voting poll locations and appointments to the county's Salary Grievance Committee during the meeting.

Other items on the agenda include discussion and possible action on bids for two pieces of property, at 1019 S. Oak St. and 910 E. Third St. and possible action following a closed session on the acquisition of an undisclosed property by the county.

Commissioners will also discuss and consider action on an agreement between the county and Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Texas and Concentra Preferred Systems for Health Claim Audit Services; hear reports from various departments; discuss/take action on budget amendments and line-item transfers; personnel and salary changes and semi-monthly bills.

Rotary Club seeks

Teams for annual
adult-youth golf

PECOS, July 19, 2002 - The Pecos Rotary Club will be hosting its 10th Annual Wild West Golf Tournament on July 28-29 at the Reeves County Golf Course.

The format of the tournament will be and adult-youth scramble with an entry fee of $90 per team. The fee includes green fees, cart and lunch for both days. For more information contact Ken Winkles at 447-2100 or 447-4305.

You can also sign up at the Pro Shop at the Reeves County Golf Course.

PECOS, July 19, 2002 - High Thursday 94. Low this morning 75. Forecast for tonight: Partly cloudy with a 30 percent chance of showers or thunderstorms. Lows in the lower 70s. Southeast winds 10 to 15 mph. Saturday: Partly cloudy with a 30 percent chance of showers or thunderstorms. Highs 95 to 100. Southeast winds 10 to 15 mph. Saturday night: Partly cloudy with a 20 percent chance of showers or thunderstorms. Lows in the lower 70s. Sunday: Partly cloudy with a 20 percent chance of showers or thunderstorms. Highs 95 to 100. Monday: Partly cloudy with a slight chance of showers or thunderstorms. Lows 70 to 75. Highs 95 to 100.

Obituaries Timmerman and Pate

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