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June 19, 1997

Council adopts half-cent tax increase

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Monahans City Council voted unanimously Tuesday, June 17, to accept the
final reading of Ordinance 986 to adopt a one-half percent increase in
the local sales tax in order to lower city property taxes.
City Manager David Mills stresses the preliminary figures are only
estimates, but says the rate could fall from its current 48 cents per
hundred dollar valuation to "somewhere in the neighborhood of 29 or 30
The reduction would represent a savings of approximately $190,000 to the
city's taxpayers, said Mills.
Reports the city manager:
"What this would mean to a homeowner who owns a house valued at $45,000
would be a tax bill which is currently $216 being taken down to $135, or
a savings of $81."
The new local sales tax of 8.25 percent will take effect Oct. 1,
replacing the current rate of 7.75 percent.
Monahans voters approved the measure 378-214 in a referendum held in
November of 1995. In that same election, voters approved a half-cent
sales tax for economic development. However, due to overlapping
jurisdiction of city-held property in Winkler County, a special piece of
"designer legislation" had to be written and passed by the state
legislature before the additional half-cent sales tax for property tax
relief could be enacted. The legislation came about as a result of a
bipartisan effort from Rep. Bob Duncan, Republican-Lubbock, and Sen.
Robert Duncan, Democrat-Coleman.
Mayor David Cutbirth praises current members of the City Council for
spearheading the effort for property tax reduction and boasted:
"Our goal is to eliminate property taxes altogether."
Indeed, the City Council voted last Summer to reduce the rate from its
all-time high of 50.65 cents per hundred dollar valuation to the current
48 cents. In 1986, the city had a rate of 43.63 cents, which steadily
increased over the past decade.
"We are going to hold the line on the cost of city services and do not
anticipate increases without a further reduction in property taxes. This
new tax rate will make Monahans a more attractive place in which to live
and do business."
As a comparison, the 1996 property tax rate in Pecos was 71.67 cents per
hundred dollar valuation. City Manager Mills emphasizes repeatedly that
the figures quoted above were preliminary and that the city is awaiting
paperwork from the state with which to arrive at the figures. He also
said the final figures from the Ward County Appraisal office will not be
forthcoming until July 31.
Mills says he arrived at his preliminary figures by using the State
Comptroller's estimated income of sales tax receipts for four quarters,
the county appraisal office's preliminary property valuations and 1996
calculation form.
Mills says it is possible the 1997 form may have changes of which he is
not aware.
The council also accepted the resignation of District 2 Councilman
Chris Hisel, who was forced to resign because of a change in residence.
The City Charter requires council members to live inside the district
they represent. Hisel was presented with a plaque of appreciation and
several coupons for free dinners at local restaurants.
Mayor Cutbirth creditsHisel for his "progressive leadership" and
business-like approach in carrying out his duties. "He will be missed,"
the mayor concluded. The council will select a replacement for Hisel in the coming weeks.

Sudderth kids lead TAAS race

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Cliff Stephens, superintendent of the Monahans-Wickett-Pyote School
District, says he's "super, super proud" of the showing the district's
third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth graders made in the
state-mandated academic tests.
Fifth and sixth graders at Sudderth Elementary led the pack. NInety
percent or more of the students mastered the tests across the board. The
highest Sudderth total came in the fifth grade where 99 percent of the
students taking the mathematics portion of the examination mastered it.
If the Sudderth test scores hold through state confirmations, as
expected, Sudderth could vault into the state's elite "exemplary" status
of the Texas Education Agency. To earn an "exemplary" rating, a school
must have 90 percent or more of its pupils pass TAAS.
Says Stephens: "I am projecting Sudderth will be classified as
exemplary. I am extremely pleased."
Gensler Elementary in Wickett, which consistently has been the only
school in the district to earn the "exemplary" standard stumbled a
little in this Spring's tests. They scored their usual 100 percent in
reading mastery at Gensler but fell to 83 in mathematics.
The superintendent made the comments when he released the results at the
Tuesday, June 10, meeting of the district's school board. There was, the
superintendent reports, even a silver lining to the lowest scores on the
Texas Assessment of Academic Skills. That score was 65 in the social
studies section of TAAS.
"Across the state," says Stephens, "students did poorly on social
studies. The state average was 61 percent. Sixty-five certainly was
above the state average. I hope this does not means students across the
state have not learned their history."
The district's elementary and junior high students took the tests in May just prior to the adjournment of classes for the summer.

Federal prisoners boost jail revenue

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Ward County jail receipts for housing federal prisoners already have
reached near what the county commission had estimated it would earn for
all of 1997.
"That's true," replies Sheriff Ben Keele in answer to a question. "Our
federal prisoner revenue has been constant and our federal prisoner jail
census remains a significant source of revenue for Ward County."
By May 31, Ward County had billed the federal government for $306,200
for housing federal prisoners. The Ward County Commission had projected
the yearly revenue from this source would be $329,200.
By the end of June, sheriff's officers estimate, the federal prisoner
revenue will have eclipsed budget projections. In all of last year,
officers recall, Ward County's federal prisoner revenue totaled about
Wednesday, June 18, Keele says there were 45 federal prisoners in the
Ward County Jail. In the first six months of 1997, that daily prisoner
census has soared from time to time past 60 inmates being held for
federal law enforcement agencies. The average daily federal prisoner
census has been 50 to 51 prisoners. Ward County receives $40 a day to
house federal inmates.
The numbers were compiled by sheriff's Capt. Steve Vestal.
"One reason the feds come to us," says Vestal, "is we don't have
problems and we don't create problems. We treat the prisoners correctly.
The inmates know this. The feds know this. We do not have any problems
in the Ward County Jail."
Vestal credits Jail Administrator Mary Byrne and the whole jail staff
for the financial success of the federal prisoner initiative at the Ward
County Jail. The addition of two commissioned jail personnel was a major
factor, Vestal says, in the sheriff's office's ability to properly take
care of the potential federal prisoner market.
Most of the federal inmates (7,000) housed so far at one time or another
in the jail at Monahans are U.S. Marshal's prisoners, reports Vestal.
Another 427 inmates were held for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. A few,
131, were held for the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
"We have a bunch of good hands to administer and run the jail and we get
very few complaints from either the federal officers or the prisoners,"
says Vestal. "I credit all the hands for that. I credit Mary and all the hands."

Old Pecos, cantaloupes take center stage

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Saturday, June 28, is the annual Night in Old Pecos/Cantaloupe Festival
in downtown Pecos just across the river west of Barstow, according to a
communique from the Pecos Chamber of Commerce.
The event starts at 6 p.m. and is scheduled to end at 1 a.m. on Sunday.
According to the Pecos chamber statement: "Activities during this event
will include a dunking booth, a car bash, a photo booth featuring Pecos
Bill and Slue Foot Sue, Sarsaparilla in the Old #11 Saloon, a talent
show, arts and crafts booths, great food and ice cold sodas. Anyone
interested in the talent show for a chance at $50 first prize can
contact the Pecos Chamber of Commerce.. . .two separate street dances
will be hosted . . .country/western on Windmill Square. . .Tejano on the Oak Street Stage."

Parking placards to expire

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Ward County Tax Assessor-Collector Dolores Fine warns June 30 is the
expiration date for the first permanently disabled person parking
placards issued five years ago.
Fine notes citizens who have been issued the signs to hang from their
car's rearview mirrors "must obtain new placards to remain in compliance
with state and federal laws."
The permanently disabled notices allow the driver of the vehicle to park
in disabled parking areas with easier access to shopping and business
areas. Says Fine: "State law requires permanently disabled person
placards be renewed after five years. We started issuing placards in
July of 1992 under the direction of state lawmakers and the Texas
Department of Transportation. Five years later, the first wave of these
placard holders must get replacements."
Disabled placard renewals can be made in Fine's office at the Courthouse in Monahans. The cost is $5.

Sales tax rebates continue upward

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State sales tax rebate checks continue to rise in Ward County, reports
State Comptroller John Sharp.
Checks mailed to Ward County governments in June were up nearly 14
percent, according to state records.
That figure more than doubles the average 5.5 percent sales tax rebate
increase as a whole for the June checks. The checks are for sales taxes
collected in April and reported to Sharp in May.
Last year voters in Monahans had approved a half-cent sales for economic
development. That half-cent sales tax was effective on April 1.
June's sales tax rebate checks are the first in a year in which sales
tax rebates in Ward County are compared with a month in which the
economic development tax was collected. The steady, state-eclipsing
rebate increases continue.
The city of Monahans lead the county in sales tax rebates.
Monahans June sales tax check totaled $50,166.76, an increase of 10.91
percent over the $45,229.77 sales tax check in June of 1996.
The biggest Ward County percentage increase in June sales tax rebate
checks was at Thorntonville where the sales tax increase went up 226.8
percent from $59.39 last June to $194.09 this June. At Grandfalls, the
increase was 46.59 percent from $525.17 to $769.87.
Wickett recorded a 45.53 percent jump from $3087.99 to $4494.09. In Pyote, the increase was 26.17 percent from $796.05 to $1004.41.

Career pedophile faces the max

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MIDLAND - A Midland prosecutor says she will seek the maximum punishment
for a Monahans man who has been charged with sexual assault of a child
in Midland.
Assistant District Attorney Teresa Clingman identifies the defendant as
Michael Scott Nichols, 26. Clingman notes Nichols "is a career pedophile
with at least two previous convictions."
Clingman notes Nichols had been convicted in 1994 at Andrews on two
counts of sexual assault of a child and in 1994 on two counts of the
rape of a minor in Loving, N.M. Nichols also was convicted of harboring
a runaway in El Paso in 1993.
In the El Paso case, Nichols was placed on one year probation and fined
$300. In the Andrews convictions, he was placed on 10 years probation
and fined $7000. In Loving, he was placed on 18 months probation.
"He's never been to the penitentiary," says Clingman.
So far Nichols has managed to escape prison for the child sexual assault
convictions. The Midland prosecutor says that time has ended.
On Friday, June 5, in his final pretrial hearing, Clingman says Nichols
rejected a plea bargain that would have placed the Monahans man in state
prison for 15 years in exchange for a plea of guilty.
Now Clingman plans to seek the maximum 20 years that can be assessed
in the Midland cases.
She projects trial in the 238th District will be scheduled in August or
Meanwhile, Nichols is in custody at the Midland County Jail in lieu of
Clingman says it is not likely Nichols would be released if he did make
bond. Andrews County has a hold on him for violation of probation in the
sexual assault of a minor case in that county.
"And there is no bond for violation of probation," says the assistant
district attorney.
The prosecutor says the latest case against Nichols involves two
incidents in 1996, both in Midland. The sexual assaults are alleged to
have occurred on Aug. 17 and Sept. 15.
Nichols was arrested in January of this year in Midland County, Clingman reports.

Jody Nix headlines western blowout

>>Return to top >Jody Nix and his legendary fiddle will be part of the western blowout >that descends on Monahans in the first week of August. >That week boasts bucking bulls, the Butterfield-Overland Stage Coach >Rally and plenty of extras. >Following the bull rides on Aug. 1, at 9:30 p.m. Jody Nix, out of Big >Spring and Western Swing, will be playing in the tank at the Million >Barrel Museum. >The Nix ticket is $10 a head at the museum; seven dollars in advance. >From a publicity release about Nix: >"A legendary style created in the 1940s and 50s by two great talents, >Bob Wills and Hoyle Nix, continues to excite audiences. >"Hoyle's son, Jody Nix, inherited his father's love of music and his >talent. At eight, when most children are learning the music scales, Jody >began his professional career, playing five nights a week with his >father's band, the West Texas Cowboys. >"He learned the soft swing of country music 's only an insider can, an >insider guided by Hoyle Nix and Bob Wills. Jody's years of music >education were rewarded. In 1973, at 21, Jody was honored by being one >of only two performers who was not an original Texas Playboy, to perform >on Bob Wills' "For the Last Time" album." >Starting on the drums, Jody Nix moved to the fiddle at the passing of >his father. >And Jody isn't all that makes up his non-drinking, non-doping band, a >requirement Jody enforces. >More from the publicity handouts: >"Ken Kelly is an accomplished drummer, not only in country western but >in western swing. >" Mark Douglas' extraordinary bass playing compliments his polished >harmony singing, making him a very special talent in any band. >"Ricky Boen, World Champion Fiddler and grand masters championship >participant, plays twin fiddle and sings harmony. >"Bob Kelly is an outstanding steel guitar player and songwriter. to >date, he is credited with writing and charting 'Merry Christmas Strait >to You' and 'Last time, The First time,' recorded by George Strait." >Handouts warn: >"As family men, each understands and abides by Jody's policy (for both >himself and band members) of no alcohol or drug usage."

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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