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Economic Development


Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Hearing to seek flooding grants set for Monday

Staff Writer

A hearing has been scheduled for next week in Pecos in order to seek emergency grant funding for the city of Toyah and Reeves County, following a flood that occurred in the area earlier this month.

A public hearing is scheduled for Monday, May 3, at 9 a.m., at the Reeves County Courthouse, in regards to the submission of a Disaster Relief grant application to the Office of Rural Community Affairs for a Texas Community Development Program (TCPD).

“This is the first step we have to take to get assistance from the office of ORCA,” said emergency management coordinator Ricky Herrera.

Herrera said that they had scheduled the public hearing, after which Reeves County Commissioners would then have to pass a resolution in support of the application. Heavy rains the first weekend of April caused a levee on the northwest side of Toyah to break, sending floodwaters rushing through the town early on the morning of April 4. The same floodwaters later collapsed the Interstate 20 bridge east of Toyah.

Water from San Martin draw reached as high as 3-4 feet in some areas, and damaged over two dozen homes. However, on April 14 Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s office said the town wound not qualify for designation as a major disaster area as the result of the flood. Perry’s office announced that it would ask for funding for the residents of the town through alternate means.

Herrera said at the time that Toyah did not qualify for the presidential/federal declaration that would have involved action on the part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The town of around 150 residents also failed to qualify for the state designation as a major disaster area, which would have required the assistance of the Small Business Administration.

Toyah did not qualify for the federal assistance under the guidelines that require at least 25 homes and or business must receive 40 percent uninsured damage in order to qualify for the Small Business Administration declaration.

After receiving the news on the disaster declaration rejections, Herrera said this situation may have worked out for the best, due to the fact that much of the federal assistance would be in the form of low-interest loans that the economically depressed area would have trouble paying back. This way,, much of the assistance that the community receives would be in the form of grants, he said.

The purpose of Monday’s meeting is to allow citizens an opportunity to discuss the citizen participation plan, the development of local housing and community development needs, the amount of Disaster Relief funding available through the TCDP, all eligible TCDP - disaster relief activities, and the use of past TCDP funds.

“Then we will need to have a resolution approved,” said Herrera.

The resolution is to authorize the submission of the application, according to Herrera. “This is for the city of Toyah and Reeves County,” said Herrera.

The application will have to be approved and signed by the Reeves County Commissioners Court and County Judge Jimmy Galindo.

The public is invited to attend all portions of the meeting, according to Herrera.

“Toyah has a consultant firm working on the application, this is just the first step in the application process,” said Herrera.

Council approves water meter replacements

Staff Writer

The Town of Pecos City Council approved the contract with Johnson Controls for the replacement of municipal water meeting during a special session at City Hall Wednesday night.

The contract would cover the replacement of inaccurate meters with newer, more accurate ones that would be equipped with telemetry hardware that would allow for the reading of the meters form inside a vehicle.

The matter had previously been considered during last week’s regular session but approval was delayed due to concerns over how the contract would affect the city’s indebtedness.

City officials contacted the bond and financial companies associated with the city’s current financial status, which according to their representative Larry Skiles, had some issues regarding the wording of the contract, and how that wording could affect the contract’s tax-free status.

“The town has a considerable amount of debt,” Skiles said. “We are just concerned over the tax consequences because this contract does put a lien on the city’s tax base.”

“The bond council is currently looking at the documents, but they have only had them for about a day. They need more time to be sure of how the Attorney General will view the document,” Skiles said.

Philip Lowery of Johnson Controls said that he currently had an attorney available for a conference call to adjust the wording if needed, but the contract needed to be signed soon to lock in a low interest rate that was currently being guaranteed by the financing institutions.

Skiles agreed that there was some risk associated with waiting for the bond council to review the document, but it is “not worth taking the risk of doing the wrong thing.”

“This is a 15-year contract. We need to know how the debt is to be structured and what the tax consequences are,” Skiles said. “This contract could affect other bond issues, though the city may not be obligated, the bonds still count as debt. Pecos currently has over $10 million dollars in debt, we just need to make sure everybody is protected.”

“Another week doesn’t make any real difference to us, however the contract states that all of the costs must be paid for by the operational cost decrease and the increased accuracy of the meters,” Lowery said. “The market can go up or down, if it goes down then the town would be in an even better position, but if it goes up the revenue from the project would not be enough to cover the contract.”

“What we suggest is that you make a good faith effort to lock in the rate upon the contingency that legal and bond council agree, and that it is a tax free document,” Lowery said.

Councilman Danny Rodriguez said that he was contacted by concerned citizens over some of the specifics of the project, and had some questions as to how the study that determined that the meters were inaccurate and about how the project would affect the larger users who might see a considerable jump in their water bills.

“The meters that were tested, they were tested for 30 days?” Rodriguez asked.

“The meters were tested according to American Water Works Association standards,” Lowery said. “During that, the meters are tested at different flow rates, but each meters spent only a few hours actually being tested.”

Rodriguez then asked why the majority of the meters tested looked the same. Lowery explained that the testing was conducted in the same ratios that the meters are in use in town, and the majority of meters in use were residential, and that was the redundancy that the councilman was seeing.

“Who was present while the meters were being tested?” Rodriguez asked. Lowery stated that both Ruben Contreras and Octavio Garcia were both there while the testing was going on.

Rodriguez then asked in what other cities, specifically major cities, had Johnson Controls conducted similr projects.

“Currently were have contracts in Tyler, Galveston, Dallas, Baltimore, and the Pentagon to name a few,” Lowery said.

Lowery then answered the councilman’s concern over the fact that the larger users might be shocked when the first accurate bill comes through, and that these larger users cannot experience a loss of water for any length of time. “We will send a letter to run in the paper as well as a public service announcement to nun on the radio, letting people know what is going on.”

“When it comes time to change the meters at such a facility, we would like to have someone representing the institution present to watch us affect that meter.”

“During the installation, we are going to have the foreman in town seven days a week, 24 hours a day. A phone number will be provided to allow customers to alert us to any problems with the new meters. The foreman will check the call log at the beginning of each day and those problems will be fixed by 5 p.m. that evening,” Lowery said.

The council approved the contract with Johnson Controls on an unanimous vote, depending on the tax and bond issue clarification, in addition to approval by local council, the administration itself and Johnson Controls.

Gallego says RCH will get dialysis funds

State Representative Pete Gallego has announced that the Office of Rural Community Affairs awarded a grants to 10 rural hospitals in the state, including funds for the new Reeves County Hospital kidney dialysis center in Pecos.

The grants were announced last week and total $476,892. They were made available through the agency’s Rural Health Facility Capital Improvement Loan Fund, and are to be used for making capital improvements to existing health facilities, constructing new health facilities, or purchasing of capital equipment, including information system hardware and software.

Reeves County Hospital District share of the grant funds came to $47,273. and will be used solely for the purchase of hemodialysis equipment.

“Recent Texas Department of Public Safety statistics indicate that an average of 200 accidents per year occur on the interstates in Reeves County area. This does not include accidents occurring within city limits or non traffic related injuries,” said Gallego.

“These funds, coupled with the new and expanded emergency facilities, will help care for the high volume of patients that utilize the Reeves County Hospital services.”

Funds from the Capital Improvement Loan Fund are earmarked for project designed to improve the health services and healthcare infrastructure of Texas’ rural communities. The grants assist rural facilities that do not have as many funding source options or are often overlooked in other grant awards.

“Improving access to medical care in rural Texas is one of ORCA’s primary goals,” said ORCA Executive Director Robert J. “Sam” Tessen, M.S. “We recognize that rural hospitals have strong needs for upgrades and physical plant improvements. This grant offers the support rural facilities need to provide care in their communities.”

The CILF program is supported by Texas’ tobacco settlement. Funds from the program are available to eligible rural health facilities for projects up to $50,000, and require a 10 percent match. Eligible applicants include rural public and non-profit hospitals located in counties of less than 150,000 in population.

Early voting starts strong for city, school elections

Staff Writer

Early voting began on Wednesday for the May 15 local elections, with 53 individuals casting their vote early for the Town of Pecos City and Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD races. “It’s always like that on the first day, we have more vote on that day,” said early voting clerk Debbie Thomas.

Early voting runs for the next two weeks at the Pecos Community Center, 508 S. Oak and 14 individuals cast their votes early this morning.

“We have had 39 vote by mail and encourage everyone to come out and vote,” said Thomas.

The voting poll is open from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m., every weekday until May 11. Elections will be held May 15 at the designated voting spots.

The early voting period this year for the local elections will be from April 28 through May 11. Requests for mail ballots for the election must be received by the local election officials in each race no later than May 7.

In the Town of Pecos City election, one person will challenging the two incumbents on the council, while the election for mayor will be uncontested for the first time in six years. Former Town of Pecos City secretary Estella Ornelas will face incumbents Angelica Valenzuela and Michael Benavides in the May 15 council race.

In the race for Town of Pecos City Mayor, Dot Stafford will be unopposed in her bid for a new two-year term. Stafford was elected mayor in 1994 and then re-elected twice, before being defeated by Ray Ortega in 2000. She won the seat back from Ortega in the 2002 mayoral election.

In the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD school board, election, there will be five persons seeking three available seats.

Incumbents, Crissy Martinez, Lila Cerna and Saul “Chip” Florez are challenged by David Flores and Bubba Williams.

The three incumbents in the Reeves County Hospital Board elections have no contenders and as a result the election will not have to be held under a state law that allows for the cancellation of uncontested elections by taxing entities in order to save money.

Incumbents, for the at-large position Leo Hung; for the Precinct 1 position Chel Flores and incumbent for the Precinct 3 position Bill Wendt will once again serve on the board. The other election that can be canceled under state law is the Barstow City Council, where all incumbents have filed to retain their seats, without opposition.

The three places to be filled are one full term for mayor, one for council and one unexpired term. Angel Abila filed for the positions of mayor, Robert Ortega for the full two-year term and Abram Flores for the one year unexpired term.

In the Balmorhea City elections three individuals are up for re-election, including the mayor’s position, and both races will be contested. Current mayor Ruben Fuentes will be challenged by Tammy Dean Marmillion. The positions on the council are for two-year terms and those currently serving are Eddie Roman and Rosendo Galindo. The two will go against Antonio Contreras.

In the Balmorhea ISD school board race, five candidates will be seeking two available three-year term. They include incumbents Armando Mondragon and Paul Ward and challengers Susie Carrasco, Martha May and Luis Contreras.

P-B-T credit exams signing up students

Credit for acceleration for grades 1-5 and Credit for Examination for grades 6-8 are being held at the different Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD campuses, with registration scheduled now through Monday, May 3.

Students in grades 1-5 need to meet some requirements and score 90 percent or above on a criterion referenced test for the grade level to be skipped in each of the following areas: language arts, math, science, and social studies.

In grades 6-8 students must score 90 percent or above on a criterion referenced exam for acceleration for the applicable course.

Registration for the exams is now taking place at the different campuses and students can do so at the counselors’ office at the student’s designated school.

Test dates are May 18-21.


Ina Scott

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