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Feb. 6, 1997

Judge questions hospital expenses

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MONAHANS, Feb. 6, 1997 - County Judge Sam G. Massey Tuesday, Feb. 4, questioned the credibility
of Ward Memorial Hospital's administrative staff in an intense meeting
that ended after the hospital's trustees voted to recommend to the
commissioner's court plans for a new computer system plus an air
Those two items represent an estimated cost of about $560,000 ($450,000
for the computers; $110,000 for the cooler.)
Massey called the projected expenditures the latest chapter in a
crisis of fiscal credibility at the hospital which was loaned $300,000
from the county's insurance fund late last year to pay past due bills.
The county judge suggested it was time for a change of hospital
administration. He noted: "I don't feel like anyone is being fiscally
responsible. You can't meet the monthly bills . . .Someone needs to go."
When Massey made that comment, Jesse Saucedo, the hospital's chief
financial officer, threw his pen on the table. Administrator William
O'Brien responded he was open to the commissioner's buying out his
contract. Assistant Administrator Peggy Vestal offered to quit. But
none of them took a step toward formal resignation at the raucous
confrontation with the commissioners.
The need for a new computer system and new cooler at the hospital were
not at issue, Massey said, the problem was fiscal accountability. He
said the commission was being told the hospital revenues were covering
expenditures and then they do not.
O'Brien had noted earlier the computers were needed to bring the
hospital's accounts in order. He said there is $700,000 on the books
which has not been billed. Saucedo had said the hospital has about $2.5
million in accounts receivable.
Neither the cooler nor computers were included in the hospital's
current budget, said Chief Financial Officer Saucedo and Administrator
O'Brien, who has been at the hospital's helm only since last August.
They had been discussed. By law, county commissioners must review and
approve any expenditure of county funds. Because of the projected
unbudgeted expenditures, the county commissioner's court had convened in
their quarters at the County Courthouse at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday and then
adjourned to the 6 p.m. meeting of the Hospital Board of Managers in
the administrative and board offices of the hospital three blocks away.
Hospital trustee Henry Cutbirth brought a cease fire to the proceedings
when he recommended that financial plans for the air conditioner and
computer systems be sent to the commissioners court for their action.
Hospital trustees asked for action as soon as possible. The
commissioners are scheduled to discuss the issues at its regular meeting
on Monday, Feb. 10, at 9:30 a.m. in the Ward County Courthouse.
At that meeting, the commissioners will examine ways to pay for the
computers and air conditioning at the hospital, whether it be with a
loan as suggested by Saucedo or some other option.
Those options, Massey said, might include the suggested loan, a loan
from the county, or "perhaps a property tax increase" forced by hospital
fiscal problems.
Saucedo and O'Brien said they project hospital revenues will make the
loan payments if that is the alternative the commission seeks. Massey
said he wasn't sure anymore about such promises.
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Power failure blinks lights

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MONAHANS, Feb. 6, 1997 - Data systems crashed across Monahans on Tuesday when a millisecond power
failure blinked lights .
Similar outages occurred on Thursday, Jan. 30, but those glitches did
not affect business-based computer systems. They were confined mostly to
residential areas unlike those on Tuesday, according to TU Electric
Curious wildlife caused Tuesday's outage; a short in underground cable
caused the stuttering blinks last Thursday, a TU executive reports.
But the computers at City Hall did not crash, reports a spokesman there,
because the city has backup recovery systems.
Computers did crash at Ward Memorial Hospital, First State Bank, First
National Bank and the Monahans News.
"We were busy trying to bring things back up," hospital administrator
William O'Brien told a meeting of the Hospital Board of Managers on
Tuesday Night.
At the Monahans News, it took several minutes to reboot and then redo
some of the work that was lost.
Blame Tuesday's 9:30 a.m. Feb. 4 "blink" on an errant squirrel, says TU
Electric's Kevin Slay.
The squirrel found its way into a transformer at 11th and Bruce Streets,
was electrocuted and caused the transformer to fail. Wild life in
transformers is not usually a problem in Ward County, Slays says,
although it is a constant problem in some Eastern areas of the state
where wildlife guards are a standard element in transformer installation.
"This, like last week's outage, involved only one of the three feeder
lines in Monahans," says Slay. "In this latest instance, it happened to
involve computer systems at many businesses. You can't write checks at
some businesses without computers. When power fails, even for a second,
it's like reaching over and turning off your computer," continues Slay.
"When that happens, it takes awhile to reboot and bring it back up -
which can be a hassle in high tech operations like those we have today."
Tuesday's outage was not like last week's where finding the problem
proved to be a difficult mystery which, once solved, was fixed.
The mystery, Slay says, is what caused the three millisecond blinks on
that day. Thursday outages came at 12:46 a.m., 5:02 a.m. and at 9:20 a.m.
"These were instantaneous outages lasting less than a second," says
Slay, comparable to the "blink" on Tuesday.
The eventual cause was identified as "bad underground cable in an alley
near Leon and 13th Streets."
Slay says the problem was finding exactly where the short was. TU
workers thought they had resolved the problem twice after the initial
failure but the feeder tripped when it was turned back on twice.
It was then the trouble shooters resorted to a tool called a "thumper"
which isolated the short in the underground cable so it could be fixed.
Slays says blinks like these are common in some power systems but
these are the first in at least a year in Monahans. He suggests
computer based industries buy battery back-up.
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Otter drops bait for coyotes

MONAHANS, Feb. 6, 1997 - On Thursday, Jan. 31, 1997, the bomber rolled out of the mid-afternoon
sun and its Texas Health Department bombardiers hit Ward County on a
North by Northeast course.

It was one of three sparkling yellow twin-engine Yellow Otters involved
in the strikes. The planes were on loan from the Ministry of Natural
Resources, Ontario, Canada. Canadians flew the aircraft. Agents from
the state department of health distributed the payload. The bombs were
candies laced with antirabies vaccine. The target was pestilence.
Thursday was the last two-day sortie in a two-year, $4 million aerial
battle against the spread of rabies in the grey foxes and coyotes of
the West Texas desert. More than a million vanilla-flavored,
sugar-enriched candies of antirabies vaccine were hurled from the air to
the population at risk below.

"They have a sweet tooth," said Guy Moore of the wild canines which the
rabies have struck and which pose a public health hazard because of
potential contact with human beings and other animals - wild and
domestic. "The baits provide immunity and they are not dangerous to
animal or human. They do taste sweet."

He did not answer when he was asked if he had eaten one.
"This program has worked," Moore said. "We have stopped rabies at the
Ward County line."

He also notes that the environmentally friendly anti-rabies blitz was
controlling rabies in the grey fox population in a vast area of west
central Texas. .Ward County targets were a part of the region that
roughly includes the Trans-Pecos and Permian Basin.

Last year, Moore said, the first anti-rabies vaccine baits were dropped.

This year came Phase 2.

Flying out of a base at Pecos County Airport in Fort Stockton, the
yellow Otters made runs at sunrise, mid-morning and early afternoon.
By Thursday night, Moore and his crews were on the way to Burnet to
start hitting rabies in the wild animal populations in that region.

The state-funded project was initiated as a counter against a major
rabies outbreak that began in 1988 near Del Rio The rabies epidemic,
moving through the wild canine populations, moved North, East and West
like ripples in a pond around a point where a rock has hit the water.
"We had a really bad problem," Moore said.

Now the problem does not appear to be as bad, especially in the target
areas of the vaccine bombardment.

From a Texas Department of Health communique distributed by Health
Department Press Officer Doug McBride of Austin:
"The number of cases of gray fox rabies fell from 244 in 1995 to 98 in
the first 11 months of 1996. No cases have been reported outside the
'perimeter of immunity' established by the 1996 airdrop (Phase 1 of the

The perimeter to which McBride's dispatch refers was the zone which
received the baits.

Last Wednesday and Thursday, Moore's crews bombarded 20,000 square miles
of West Texas desert with the special baits. The team included agents
from the Health Department, Texas Army National Guard and the Texas
Animal Damage Control Service, a division of the United States
Department of Agriculture.

Says team director Moore:
"This has worked. Ward County was on the leading edge. The drops have
stopped the advance."

Gas prices take steep dive

AUSTIN - Monthly residential natural gas bills in Monahans are going
down, way down, reports an executive of Southern Union Gas Co.

A company communique says dropping market prices mean residential
customers in Ward County will pay 38 percent less on the "Cost of Gas"
portion of their monthly heating and cooking bills.

Says Southern Union's David Stevens: "We are pleased this reduction in
gas price occurred; however, we cannot take the credit for this any more
than we deserve the blame for the recent price spike (attributed to
higher market prices)."

Copyright 1997 by Ward Newspapers, Inc.
107 W. Second St., Monahans TX 79756
Phone 915-943-4313, FAX 915-943-4314

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