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Archive 2003

Area Newspapers
Economic Development


Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Thursday, December 4, 2003

First home for new development opens

Staff Writer

PECOS, Thurs., Dec. 4, 2003 -- Around 30 people turned out on Wednesday to hear from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Community Development representative on the specifics regarding the housing project under construction in the central part of Pecos.

The hour-long meeting was held to inform the public on the methods used to purchase a home in the development, located behind Gibson's hardware in the 800 and 900 blocks of Washington Street. The first home on the site was just recently completed, and the Town of Pecos City has planned for as many as 20 homes in the development.

The presentation followed the ribbon cutting on the first house in the development by the new owners, Israel and Janet Natividad. Community leaders joined the Natividads to commemorate the closing on the house.

Mayor Dot Stafford, Pecos Area Chamber of Commerce President Linda Gholson, Police Chief-interim City Manager Clay McKinney, City Secretary Connie Levario and other assorted officials were on hand to congratulate the Natividad's, who are scheduled to move in today. The house, located at the corner of Washington and Johnson streets, took two months to build and was customized to the Natividad's specifications.

USDA representative, Daila McAnally, informed the crowd at the presentation about the various programs the agency has to aid prospective homeowners in the purchase of a home. McAnally said that buyers could qualify for one of two programs, depending on their income level.

The first is the USDA's Direct Single Family Loan, which offers buyers a 33-year loan at a low interest rate and typically subsidies to aid in the monthly payments. To qualify for this program a household of four people must make less than $32,950. Depending on family's level of need, the USDA will adjust the amount of monthly subsidy paid in conjunction with the monthly mortgage payment paid by the family, according to McAnally.

"The houses range in price from $45,000-$60,000, but the homeowners are allowed to customize the house as it is being built. The owners are involved from the very beginning of the construction, and asked for their input at every stage of the process," McAnally said.

The other program that prospective owners can qualify for is the Guaranteed Single Family Housing Loan, where the USDA will give the buyers a list of qualified mortgage institutions. Once the loan has been secured, the construction can begin and can last no longer than four months, McAnally's told those at the meeting.

To qualify for the guarantee program the household of four must make less than $65,000 a year, but the qualification numbers are only a beginning of the process. The USDA goes through an extensive process of credit checks ranging from checks with local creditors to a calculation of the debt to income ratio that the prospective buyers have before the purchasing process has begun.

According to McAnally, the credit checks continue up until closing. "If at any point before the house is finished, the buyer's debt ratio goes above 41 percent, the deal is off until the buyer fixes the problem," she said. "I had a buyer one week from closing buy a new truck, we did one final credit check, he failed, and to the best of my knowledge he is living in the truck now."

No matter what program the applicants qualify for, as the life of the loan progresses, the assistance that the homeowner receives will vary as the owner's income increases over the years. According to McAnally, a loan could start out at a 1 percent interest rate, but over time the rate will be adjusted to what the owners can pay, so that the rate will increase until it reaches the current market rate and the mortgage will be sold by the USDA to a regular mortgage holding institution.

"There is no prepayment penalty; if the homeowner can afford to pay extra every month, then just like a regular mortgage, the overage will be applied to the principle, and the total interest paid and the life of the loan can be reduced. For example, if the monthly payment is $200, and the owners can afford to pay an extra $50 a month, then the life of the loan can be reduced from 30 years to 15," McAnally said.

"My goal is to make people successful homeowners, not to make people pay a larger mortgage payment than they can afford," he added.

Patterson hears water sale foes, eyes new deal

From Staff and Wire Reports

The Texas General Land Office is finalizing a deal that ultimately would put the state in the business of selling water to communities along Texas 130 in Central Texas, while a similar project in West Texas is going forward despite opposition from area residents.

Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson has been pursuing water deals, which he sees as the next big source of school fund money from state lands. However, the Central Texas proposal would be the first time the land office will directly finance a water project.

Other known deals, including a plan being considered in Alpine, involve leasing groundwater rights on state land. A meeting was held by the General Land Office on the issue on Tuesday, drawing a crowd of people mostly opposed to the plan to the Alpine meeting.

The Central Texas agreement would be with Austin-based WaterTexas, which already has commitments from three potential customers, Windermere Utility Co., Hornsby Bend Utility Co. and Metro H2O Ltd., in eastern Travis and Williamson Counties, the Austin American-Statesman reported Wednesday.

WaterTexas President Lynn Sherman said his company has water rights from owners of land above the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer, which stretches from southwestern to northeastern Texas.

WaterTexas would find water supplies and customers and obtain permits. Once the customers and contracts are in place, the GLO would buy the project and own the water rights, customers and revenue from water sales.

The School Land Board, chaired by Patterson, would pay for the project with money from the $200 million it receives in each two-year budget cycle in royalties from gas, oil and ranching on state land, Sherman told the newspaper.

The land board puts the royalty money in escrow and has two years to invest it in real property before depositing it into an $18 billion Permanent School Fund that supports public education.

"We're looking at opportunities to find other sources of revenue for the Permanent School Fund and this might be one of them should the School Land Board decide this is a good idea," Patterson said Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Patterson heard from a number of Big Bend area residents opposed to a plan by Midland-based Rio Nuevo to pump water from beneath 355,000 acres of Permanent School Fund Land in Presidio, Jeff Davis, Culberson and Hudspeth counties to areas of Central Texas. The residents spoke out during a 51/2 hour meeting in the Alpine ISD auditorium.

Rio Nuevo is offering the state up to $7 million a year in exchange for pumping 16.3 billion gallons of water from the Rio Grande border counties each year. Rio Nuevo officials at the meeting said a pipeline from West Texas to deliver the water could cost $300 million, and the group is seeking a 30-year renewable lease, according to the Big Bend Sentinel.

Tom Beard, chairman of the Far West Texas Water Planning Group, told Patterson and other GLO commissioners he opposed the plan, after hearing Rio Nuevo's presentation.

"Don't do business with these people," said Beard, an Alpine resident. "They pass off as facts some figures from our water plan that are not how the plan presents them."

"If you rely on their representations to make a deal, you're making a grave mistake. No water is believed for export on this scale," said Beard, who chaired a meeting of the Far West Texas Water Planning Board on the Midland-based group's project two weeks ago in Van Horn.

The Sentinel said the three commissioners voted to adopt a lease template that could be used for future water development proposals. The template would be similar to the GLO's oil and gas leases, and similar to the plan for the water leasing in the Austin area.

Sherman said the project could be greatly expanded as the Texas 130 corridor, an Interstate 35 bypass, grows. Construction began in October on an interchange and access roads near Georgetown and other work is to begin soon farther south.

"This is one of the fastest-growing regions in the state, and there's a real demand for water," Sherman said.

He said the School Land Board expressed interest in the proposal and serious discussions have been going on for about six months.

The Rio Nuevo deal is current in a 90 day comment period, which area residents wanted extended until a hearing chaired by Sen. Frank Madla is held and its report could be issued.

Patterson said that the committees' input would have a "substantial amount" of impact in the lease process, the Sentinel said. But the Land Commissioner said he did not want to wait until the next full session of the Texas Legislature in 2005 before making a decision on the Rio Nuevo proposal.

Feds boost payments to city for CJC inmates

Staff Writer

PECOS, Thurs., Dec. 4, 2003 -- Town of Pecos City officials have negotiated and received a man/day rate increase from the U.S. Marshal's Service for housing inmates at the city's Criminal Justice Center.

The city has received an increase of $3.60 above the previous rate of $42 per day, which was used to calculate the money paid to the city for its housing of Marshal Service's prisoners. The increase brings the daily rate per prisoner up to $45.60.

The new figures are based off of a request filed by the city last April in conjunction with an audit performed by the U.S. Department of Justice in July. The audit's results allowed the city to receive more money for the services that they perform for the government.

"This is a result of everyone from the jailers to the city manager working together to achieve this kind of positive result," said Pecos Police Chief and interim City Manager Clay McKinney. "I see this as definitely a good thing for Pecos."

While the increase in revenue doesn't dictate a profit for the city, the money may be used for various projects around the facility and to aid in the administration of the CJC, which opened in February 2002 and can house up to 96 inmates.

"Just as an example, the money could be used to add lights to the CJC parking lot, do landscaping around the facility or possible add more transportation vans to aid in the movement of prisoners," McKinney added.

The increase will be retroactively applied to the billing since August 1 of this year.

"Every dollar increase we receive translates to about $33,000 in yearly revenue for the CJC, so this is a pretty significant jump," City Financial Director Sam Contreras said. "We should see over $100,000 more per year in revenue now."

The CJC was projected to clear $1.41 million based off of the old rate. With the new rate, city officials project $1.53 million to be brought in by the CJC, based on an estimation that 92 out of the 96 beds in the facility on average will be occupied by government prisoners.

"The auditor said that the facility was very clean and that the chief and the rest of the CJC staff did an good job running the facility and that the operation was very efficient," Contreras added.

The increase comes to a facility that averages over 90 percent capacity. With an average of only 1.5 local prisoners per day, the CJC stays pretty much full of U.S. Marshal's service prisoners, according to McKinney.

The increase will stay in effect for the next five years, "If things change, we can go back and ask for another increase, but that will require another audit," Contreras said. "These audits don't always go in favor of the facility though, if the auditor finds that the facility doesn't need quite so much money to operate, the rate may be decreased."

"The auditor bases his decision off of the 'legitimate cost' running a facility. This includes utilities, food cost, administrative costs, and so on," Contreras added. "We are currently buying our food from U.S. Foods, but we are looking into bidding those contracts out in the future to further lower costs."

Heavy baggage gets driver checked into jail

Staff Writer

PECOS, Thurs., Dec. 4, 2003 -- A man traveling through Reeves County didn't have a change of clothes in the luggage in his pick-up, but had enough in marijuana hidden there to land him in a jail outfit, after a Trans-Pecos Drug Task Force officer stopped him on Wednesday.

Apolonio Martinez, Jr., 34, was arrested during a routine traffic stop, at 1:20 p.m., Wednesday on Interstate 20 at mile marker 32, seven miles west of Pecos.

Martinez was traveling east on I-20, when Trans Pecos Drug Task Force Officer Ken Colston, stopped his 1994 GMC pickup during a routine traffic stop.

Colston said he suspected something wasn't right and asked permission to search the vehicle. After the driver consented to a search, the officer uncovered 138.8 pounds of marijuana in a traveling bag and a suitcase.

"He was headed to Fort Worth," said Colston. "There was nothing else in his suitcases, they were in the back of the pickup."

Martinez is currently in the Reeves County Jail awaiting arraignment and charged with possession of marijuana over 50 pounds and under 2,000, a Felony Two Offense. The street value for the illegal drugs was estimated at $63,106.

Trans Pecos Drug Task Force Officer Joe Gonzales of Pecos assisted Colston who operates out of Midland.

"We're very proud of the work our officers do," said task force commander Gary Richards. "They are really sharp and they are good at keeping our community safe and drug free."

Austin Elementary hosting book fair

PECOS, Thurs., Dec. 4, 2003 -- Austin Elementary School will be hosting a Scholastic Book Fair next week.

The Fair will run from Monday, Dec. 8 through Friday, Dec. 12, in Room 27, beginning each day at 8:30 a.m. Everyone is invited to come and browse. Books make great Christmas gifts.


PECOS, Thurs., Dec. 4, 2003 -- High Wednesday 66. Low this morning 36. Forecast for tonight: Partly cloudy. Low near 35. Northeast winds 10 to 15 mph. Friday: Mostly cloudy. Cooler. Highs near 50. Eastwinds 10 to 15 mph. Friday night: Partly cloudy. Lows near 30. Southeast winds near 10 mph. Saturday: Partly cloudy. Highs near 60. South winds 10 to 15 mph. Saturday night: Partly cloudy. Lows in the mid 30s. Sunday: Partly cloudy. Highs near 70. Sunday night: Partly cloudy. Lows in the mid 30s to the lower 40s.


Antonia Arredondo and Mary Ruth Eudaily

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