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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

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Monday, July 22, 2002

Final local valuation figures mainly lower

Staff Writer
PECOS, Monday, July 22, 2002 -- Final valuation totals have been returned to local governing boards by the Reeves County Tax Appraisal District, and they show most valuations lower for 2002 due to declines in oil and gas values during the past year.

The valuations are used by local taxing entities to set both their budgets and their tax rates for the upcoming 2003 Fiscal Year, and while the 2002 valuations are down from 2001's totals, overall they remain sharply higher from the same point two years ago.

Valuations for 2002 were already headed down for all taxing entities except for the Town of Pecos City and Balmorhea ISD prior to the Reeves County Appraisal Review Board hearings two weeks ago. Following the reviews and the decisions on appeals made by the board, final numbers were approved by the Reeves County Tax Appraisal District board last Wednesday and sent out to the various districts.

Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD suffered the largest drop, with its net taxable values from both property and mineral falling by $48.3 million, to $460.2 million. However, that's still $92 million higher than valuations were two years ago, when the increase in oil and natural gas prices caused valuations to climb sharply.

Of the $48.3 million loss, $43.2 million came from declines in mineral valuations, and $5.1 million from property valuation declines.

Reeves County and the Reeves County Hospital District, which share the same boundaries, both saw their mineral valuations fall by $31.3 million. Property values in the county were up $4.2 million, leaving it with a $27.1 million loss, while the hospital district's valuations for real estate fell $3.9 million, leaving it with a $35.2 million total loss.

As with the school district, both the county and hospital district are still up by over $90 million compared with valuations returned in 2000.

The Town of Pecos City, which has little land with any taxable oil and gas values within its borders, only saw their valuations for minerals fall $512,580, while property values jumped more than $4.8 million, leaving the city with a net $4.3 million gain.

Total real estate and mineral valuations for the city this year are just over $118 million, according to the figures compiled by Chief Appraiser Carol King Markham.

Last year, Pecos' total valuations were down by more than $2.6 million, due mainly to a renewed tax abatment the city gave Anchor Foods for its Pecos plant. One month after last year's valuations were turned in, Anchor sold its plant to McCain Foods, which then announced it would close the plant this year.

McCain ceased operations on May 31, but sold the plant on June 5 to the newly-created Trans-Pecos Foods, which is looking towards resuming operations later this year.

Balmorhea ISD was the only taxing entity whose figures went against the trend. Its mineral valuations in southern Reeves County were up $1.26 million, while property valuations fell $106,630, leaving the school with a $1.16 million gain, to $25.5 million. Last year, Balmorhea ISD's valuations were up by about $6 million.

The City of Balmorhea saw its valuations drop $78,140, to $3.37 million, after a $47,110 decline a year ago. Toyah's valuations fell $90,700, to $1.59 million. Of those overall totals, Balmorhea received $540,740 were from mineral valuations, while over 50 percent of Toyah's valuations, $892,490, were from mineral valuations.

The Reeves County Water Improvement District No. 2 saw its valuations drop by $3.7 million, all due to mineral valuation declines. The district had a net gain of $7,240 in property values, and total valuations were put at $9.75 million by the appraisal board.

Local firemen start training session at A&M

Staff Writer
PECOS, Monday, July 22, 2002 -- Eight volunteer firefighters from Pecos are meeting with other firefighters from around the world in College Station this week attending a Municipal Fire Training School at the Brayton Fire Training Field.

According to Pecos Volunteer Fire Chief Roy Pena, 2nd Assistant Fire Chief, Arturo Granado and the department's Firemen Representative, Harvey Gonzales, are training as Firefighter, Level Four. Gus Ybarra is training as Firefighter Three while Freddy Contreras, Noel Ybarra, Gilly Gabaldon, Roque Matta and Aaron Granado are training as Level Two Firefighter.

The group of firefighters began their training this morning after picking up their course packages Sunday.

"They will double work them today, so they can be released by noon on Friday," Pena said.

The firefighters cost was paid from money in the department's traveling and training budget, however it only covered some of the costs for Granado and Gonzales.

"I send those who are next in line to go," Pena said. "Nobody in the history of Pecos has attended firefighter three and four."

Though Granado and Gonzales were not due to go, the two firefighters received donations from local merchants in order to attend, Pena said.

The two are in advanced training, where they will then bring back the experience of being there, Pena said.

According to Pena, Texas A&M holds two training sessions, one in the spring during the month of April and the second one is in the summer during July.

"Everyone must attend between a year or a year and a half," Pena said. "We make sure the majority are staying before we waste the tax payers money in sending them to training school."

Pena said that Granado and Gonzales' costs for attending the training school would be covered next year under their budget.

He said that by Friday the firefighters will have receive anywhere from 30 to 40 hours which will then go toward their Basic Fire Fighters Certification with the State Fireman's and Fire Marshal's Association of Texas.

However, once they have completed their 100 plus in basic hours, the firefighters can then challenge the basic exam for their certification as Accredited Basic Fire Fighters.

Pena said that on Saturday, August 3, the department would be holding their "Fill the Boot Drive" in conjunction with Wal-Mart. The money raised would be donated to the Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

Commissioners study new early voting locations

Staff Writer
PECOS, Monday, July 22, 2002 -- Reeves County Commissioners discussed establishing more early voting sites during their regular meeting this morning at Reeves County Courthouse.

According to Dianne Florez, County Clerk, there are only two early voting locations, which are the Courthouse and in Balmorhea. In several recent elections there was a designated area at La Tienda for early voting on Saturdays.

By increasing the locations, County Judge Jimmy Galindo, hopes that will help in make voting more convenient.

The locations in which the commissioners court is looking at are, La Tienda and Wal-Mart for Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Pecos High School, Bessie Hayes and Balmorhea High School for a couple of days giving voters an opportunity to vote at a more convenient location.

"Wal-Mart and La Tienda are places where people go on a regular basis," Galindo said.

By establishing the two locations at the high schools, Galindo hopes to get younger voters to participate.

According to Florez there are seven thousand registered voters but only about 3,750 of those voters actually vote.

"There is a lot of registered voters that do not vote," Galindo said.

Commissioners Court agreed in increasing the locations from two to seven for the November 2002 elections.

Council to study designating city historical section

PECOS, Monday, July 22, 2002 -- The Town of Pecos City Council is scheduled to discuss approving an ordinance that would designate several areas in town as historical areas during the regular meeting at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in Council Chambers.

The meeting, which is normally scheduled on Thursdays, was moved to Tuesday in order to allow several of the council to attend an Association of Mayors, Council members and Commissioners Conference in El Paso.

During the meeting the council will discuss designating approximately 18 blocks in downtown Pecos. The area would run north and south from Seventh to First streets and east and west between Ash and Elm streets.

The council will also discuss appointing an officer to calculate the effective and rollback tax rates for 2002 as well as consider the development of the South Worsham Well Field status for the Part B water wells.

Also on the agenda is the monthly tax collection report and the municipal court report, both for June as well as the accounts payable and the minutes of the regular meeting.

Ghost Writer

Violent history in border areas  mostly unknown

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

By The Ghost Writer
PECOS, Monday, July 22, 2002 -- West Texas has had its share of "characters" as our own Clay Allison (1840-1887), as Barney Hubbs said, "He never killed a man that did not need killing." Judge Roy Bean "Law West of the Pecos" and a man seldom talked about, Ben Leaton. The story of Ben Leaton is more interesting than the other two.

When the Mexican war broke out in 1846, Mr. Leaton was in New Mexico with a wagon load of trade goods bound for Chihuahua. He and other wagoneers followed Colonel Alexander Doniphan to El Paso and on to Chihuahua to deliver their C.O.D. goods. While in Chihuahua, he married the rich Nona Juana Pedraze, who had relatives in Presidio del Norte (Ojinaga).

Leaton was well known in the area as a scalp hunter, supplier of arms and ammunition to the Indians, a freighter and trader. He had planned to settle near an abandoned fort on the Rio Grande and his marriage to a rich woman made this come true. They would build the first private fort in the area looking toward the cave where the Devil was imprisoned, according to the story told in Elton Miles' book, Tales of the Big Bend. This was the first private fort in the area followed by Fort Cibilo built in 1849 by a rancher, Milton Faver.

Ben Leaton felt that his fort, being on the Chihuahua Trail, would give him the opportunity to buy mules and horses from the Indians who stole them from Mexico and sell them to freighters and traders. It was said that he would buy slaves if he knew that he could collect ransom and he could supply his harem. The Indians needed arms and ammunition as the Chihuahua Governor; Angel Trias, was paying a bounty on Indian scalps. The Indians needed the arms in Texas but not in Mexico as the Mexican citizens were not permitted to own arms so bows and arrows were all the Indians needed.

Several border towns in Mexico had agreements with the Indians that they could stay in or near the towns if the Indians would not rob or kill their citizens and Leaton wanted the same type agreement. He sent word to the Indians that he would have a big party with tortillas, roasted deer and beer. Comanches, Apaches and Kiowas rode in to the fort with their women and a fest was enjoyed. The next morning, when Leaton looked at his stock pens, the Indians had taken all of his horses and mules.

To show that he was not angry, Leaton invited then back for another feast but this time he had hidden a cannon in the meeting room and when they were seated and enjoying the meal and beer, Leaton revealed the canon and killed most of them and the ones that lived were killed with knives. This was a variation of the so-called Santa Rita Massacre that Leaton attended.

Miles' book goes on to tell the many versions of Leaton's death and what his son did to avenge his father's killing but would be too long for this writing.


My "Mature Advisors" were talking about lack of censorship of movies with one thinking a man and woman in bed should have one foot on the floor. Another thought that a man and woman should not be shown in the same bed. He even has his and hers humming bird feeders.

Barstow to shut off water to residents Tuesday morning

PECOS, Monday, July 22, 2002 -- Water will be turned off in Barstow from 9 a.m. until noon, on Tuesday for replacement of a valve, city officials said today.

Residents in Barstow are asked to be patient and their cooperation is appreciated.

In Friday's edition of the Pecos Enterprise it was reported that the Lucio Florez, Sr., family vs. Union Pacific trial was tried by Judge Bob Parks. However, visiting Judge Joseph Connally was actually the trial judge.


PECOS, Monday, July 22, 2002 -- High Sunday 96. Low this morning 69. Forecast for tonight: Partly cloudy. Lows 70 to 75. Southeast winds 5 to 15 mph. Tuesday: Partly cloudy. Highs 95 to 100. Southeast winds 5 to 15 mph. Tuesday night: Partly cloudy. Lows near 70. Wednesday: Partly cloudy. Highs 95 to 100. Thursday: Partly cloudy. Lows 70 to 75. Highs near 100.


Antonio Rayos and Wayne Timmerman

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