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Van Horn Advocate |


August 12, 1997

County commissioners explore
funding ideas for recreation center

Enterprise Editor
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PECOS, August 12, 1997 - Reeves County Commissioners are negotiating to buy a downtown Pecos building for use as a recreation center, it was announced following an executive session by the group at it's first of the month meeting Monday.

The exact location of the building was not revealed but the commissioners also decided to request a modification of the Revolving Loan Fund Contract to allow the county to borrow from it and pay it back with five percent interest in order to develop the recreation center.

The Revolving Loan Fund was established in the 1980s through a state program to help communities finance new businesses and industries to provide jobs. Only one out of four loans made from the fund has been successfully repaid in past years, one is still out and two defaulted. Efforts are underway to recover some of the loaned money.

One effort to recover money loaned from the fund is to take bids on a refrigeration truck that was repossessed and the county now has the title on.

County Judge Jimmy Galindo said he had talked to the head of the appropriate department in Austin and received the indication that the agency would be receptive to the request to modify the loan fund to allow the county to borrow from it.

The money might not be needed, Galindo noted, as other funds are available and the loan fund will only be used if necessary.

What about a recreation facility for Balmorhea, asked Herman Tarin, commissioner for the southern part of the county. Galindo responded that a grant to be applied for by Sept. 15 might be used for such a facility if a local building could be purchased and remodeled for Pecos, thereby saving money on having to build one from the ground up as had been planned at the Reeves County Civic Center.

Commissioner Dr. W. J. Bang noted there is need for facilities at Lake Balmorhea and Galindo pointed out there is also the possibility of a grant for outside recreational facilities from the Parks & Wildlife Department. Those ideas are in the works, he added.

Bob Curry, co-chairman of the Pecos Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Committee, along with Tom Rivera, manager of the Chamber, delivered as promised in last month's meeting a budget for hiring an economic development director for the city/county. The budget calls for expenditures of $68,478 a year including a salary of $28,000 to $35,000 for a person selected to spearhead the effort to recruit industry for Pecos and Reeves County.

It was noted that surrounding counties have such a person and individuals on the committee nor the chamber of commerce workers have time to do what is needed to pursue industry.

It was suggested the county pay 40 percent, the city 40 percent, the hospital district 12 percent, Balmorhea five percent and Toyah three percent toward the economic development budget.

The school district is not allowed to make any financial contribution to such an effort but could provide office space and a telephone, Curry noted.

This would be a pro-action move to get Pecos moving, something that is sorely needed at this time, Curry said, a sentiment echoed by Committee Member Marcella Lovett, a member of the hospital board.

Commissioners agreed and Tarin pointed out that the committee has worked long and hard on this proposal as well as efforts to attract industry here.

Galindo asked what is the cause for Pecos and Reeves County not being able to attract industry. To that, Rivera noted that an all out effort hasn't been made. When asked what else by Galindo, Rivera noted that tax rates are a problem.

Galindo asked if anything is being done to get taxes in line and if everyone is on the same page. Curry said he couldn't answer that.

Questions arose about what the county could do legally in the matter and it was mentioned that other counties are involved. County Auditor Lynn Owens was asked to contact the attorney general's office and find out what is legal in the matter.

Dr. Bang inquired about getting the A&M Extension Service more involved as they are in Fort Stockton. Galindo noted that the extension agent in Fort Stockton is helping to arrange a trade fair in Mexico later this month, an event to which he has been invited.

After Curry insisted the committee needed a commitment from the county before going to other governmental entities, as without the support of the county, the effort is dead in the water, commissioners, on a motion made by Felipe Arredondo and seconded by Tarin, voted unanimously to support the move.

We need more information Galindo noted as he said work is needed to get the county attorney, Walter Holcombe, to agree to the tax abatement program and Curry said he and his group would visit with Holcombe. Tarin said he had visited with Holcombe about the matter and the county attorney was opposed in principle to tax abatement but would probably approve the measure.

Tax abatement is something the committee has also been working on to help attract new industry and business here as well as encouraging expansion of existing business and industry.

"I'm willing to do anything" Tarin noted in support of the effort, a sentiment that is shared by everyone, Dr. Bang added.

In other business, commissioners approved a modification of Reeves County Detention Center Chief Executive Officer Rudy Franco's contract to include an incentive clause. The clause would give him an annual raise of $5,000 when the RCDC gets to a point of more than 800 prisoners and sustains it for 30 days. Dr. Bang questioned the 30 days and expressed the belief that it should be for longer but the modification of the contract was approved.

Dr. Bang also questioned why this is being done now as 800 prisoners could not be in the RCDC before April with the current expansion program. Galindo noted that it is an incentive to get the expansion moving and completed as soon as possible.

Galindo noted that Franco was widely praised by the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) at a conference in Houston this past week and the "customer" for RCDC - the BOP - is well pleased with the way things are going in Pecos.

Galindo noted that the RCDC was budgeted for an average of 610 inmates and the average has been 670 with as many as 770 there at one time for about two weeks as the BOP needed some inmates housed. By next week, there will be 740 inmates, Franco noted. Commissioners as well as Galindo had high praise for the work Franco has done.

The commissioners also canvassed the results of Saturday's constitutional amendment election and accepted a bid of $9,095 from Pathmark Traffic Products of Texas for 1,000 signs, 1,000 posts and 2,000 bolts. Pathmark was the low bidder out of four.

A letter from 143rd District Court Judge Bob Parks on salaries and expenses for 1997 for the county auditor's office was read. Owens will receive an increase from $36,900 to $38,500 and two workers in the office, Ellen Friar and Angela Harrison, will be given three percent increases.

The Auditor's office comes under control of the district judge who also appoints the auditor.

Two other agenda items, amending personnel policy and employee claims for damage to personal property, were tabled. Galindo noted the items were on the agenda at the request of Commissioner Bernado Martinez who was not present.

Water board nixes plans to
sell district mineral rights

Staff Writer
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PECOS, August 12, 1997 - Red Bluff Water Power Control Board members said 'no' to a Florida man's request to purchase mineral rights belonging to the district, and 'not yet' to a company seeking to conduct geophysical work on land in Reeves and Loving counties.

Board members were also told there may be some progress next month in the district's effort to improve the water quality in Red Bluff Lake by pumping salt water from Malaga Bend away from the Pecos River.

During their regular monthly meeting Monday at the district's Second Street office, the board voted to rescind a motion taken in June to advertise for bids on tracts of land in the East Ford Unit in Reeves County which is owned by the district. The motion came after a Florida man, Joel S. Castillo, offered the district $45,000 for the royalty interest in the tract in June.

Red Bluff General Manager Jim Ed Miller said last month it was the first time the district has discussed selling oil and gas interests. However, on Monday Miller told the board "I talked to a man in Midland about selling the mineral rights, and he begged me not to."

Board members then voted not to offer the East Ford tracts for sale.

On the other item involving land use within the district, the board decided against accepting a $7-per-acre offer from Geco-Prakla to do geophysical work on the surface of 1,326.34 acres on two sections of land in Loving County and two sections in Reeves County.

The company is also seeking permission from the board for geophysical work on state classified minerals in Section 48, Block 57, Township 1 in Reeves County. The work would involve 3-D photo mapping of the underground areas of those tracts.

Board member Charlotte Wilcox said higher offers have been made by companies on land in the Grandfalls area, and the board voted to have Miller negotiate a fee of up to $10 per acre on the land Geco-Prakla was interested in photographing.

Miller told the board they would find out next month how much the district may have to pay the city of Carlsbad to obtain right-of-way to drill on 40 acres of land at Malaga Bend. A pump would be installed to remove water from the salt spring there and pump it onto adjacent land owned by Albert Wagner of Sun West Salt Company, which plans to build pits to hold the water.

Sun West would then extract the salt from the man-made lakes for commercial use. The move would also lower the salt content flowing into Texas from the Pecos River.

On a related topic, Miller said water samples taken last month from sites above and below Malaga Bend showed little difference in water quality. But he added that the samples were taken on a day that New Mexico released 350 acre feet of water down the Pecos River, and board member Lloyd Goodrich said that about 50 tons of salt are normally deposited into the Pecos from the Malaga Bend area.

In other action, the board heard from Tommy Taylor of the Texas Municipal League on having Red Bluff join TML's Intergovernmental Risk Pool for worker's compensation.

Taylor told the board its five employees could be covered for an annual fee of $3,673, and board member Jay Lee said Pecos County Water Districts #2 and #3 are paying about half what they used to pay in worker's comp insurance fees than before they joined the TML program.

Taylor also told board members that under Chapter 504 of the Worker's Compensation Act of 1989, political subdivisions were required to carry worker's compensation insurance. Board president Randal Hartman questioned whether or not the 1989 law applied to the district, and board member Dick Slack suggested the district check on competing rates from other insurance agencies.

Slack made a motion to put the item on the September agenda for further discussion. "I feel the board should have a closer look at it," he said.

The board also voted to purchase a new Xerox copier for the Second Street office at a cost of $3,346. The copier would be bought through local representative Bruce Shores, and would replace one which the district is currently paying $800 annually for a maintenance contract, according to district secretary Robin Felts.

Board members also agreed to change the salary and vehicle allowance for David Lewis who checks irrigation ditches for the district. The district will shift $50 from his monthly salary into his vehicle allowance.

Wilcox said Lewis, 62, is suffering from macular degeneration of his eyes, and wants the change so he can qualify for Social Security. "He can't drive, but his wife can drive for him," she said.

"I recommend we do this for him, because he's been a real hard worker for many years," Miller said, and the motion was approved by the board. Cash disbursements for July show Lewis currently receives $590.13 monthly salary and a $250 monthly vehicle allowance.

The water report for July showed 7,925 acre feet was used by the seven water districts served by Red Bluff, and that 18,541 acre feet have been used so far this year.

Computed water release from the low water crossing below Red Bluff Lake in July totalled 18,764 acre feet, and stood at 44,617 for the year. The lake's total content was 50,346 acre feet as of July 31, board members were told.

Disbursements totalling $21,587.41 for July were approved, as were accounts payable totalling $13,167.61, and the district's quarterly investment report.

PBT teachers receive additional training

Staff Writer
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PECOS, August 12, 1997 - It seems that even teachers never stop learning. Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD teachers and instructional aids left the Pecos area early this morning to attend a full day of staff development conferences at the University of Texas - Permian Basin (UTPB) in Odessa.

According to Jo Allgood, secretary to the superintendent, the professional and paraprofessional personnel were scheduled to attend a morning meeting, then choose clusters of conferences in a variety of areas according to their needs. Most of the programs are being put on by Region 18 personnel, she said.

Former Superintendent Mario Sotelo and Personnel Director Crissy Urias worked together last year to arrange for PBT personnel to join thousands of other educators from area school districts in these staff development conferences, according to Allgood. She estimated that about 300 local educators are taking part in today's program.

Although district buses were available, "most teachers are taking their own vehicles," said Allgood.

According to PBT ISD Business Manager Cookie Canon, the $25 per participant registration fee and the cost of transportation for personnel not taking their own vehicles will come out of the 1996-97 school budget. Canon said that she did not have an exact figure on what transportation to the conferences would cost the district, but she did say that those personnel taking their own vehicles "will not be reimbursed" for providing their own transportation.

School board reviews district report card

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PECOS, August 12, 1997 - The Pecos-Barstow-Toyah Independent School District Board of Education will hold its regular meeting for the month of August at 6 p.m. Thursday in the board room at 1304 South Park Street.

Business to be discussed includes:

*Report on district's report card;

*Discuss/approve economic development incentive;

*Discuss/approve Change Order #2 for Pecos High School Building B roofing project;

*Discuss/approve guidelines for Superintendent's search (Bryan LaBeff Region 18 Service Center)

*Closed Session

*Discuss/approve professional personnel appointments, resignations, retirements, transfers, coaching assignments;

*Discuss/approve TSTA teachers' requests;

*Discuss/approve employee insurance programs;

*Discuss/approve methods to improve collection of delinquent taxes;

*Discuss/approve Hearing Officer and Designee;

*Discuss/approve update on local Gifted/Talented board policy;

*Discuss/approve eliminating Campus Facilitators for the Gifted/Talented program;

*Discuss/approve Alternative Education Program changes:

(1) Maximum number of credits
that can be earned

(2) Change attendance from 80%
to 90%

(3) Dress code for AEP students;

*Discuss/approve 1997-98 bus routes;

*Discuss/approve Texas Teacher Appraisal Calendar and Appraisers;

*1997-98 budget update and appropriate action;

*Discuss/approve 1997-98 salary schedules;

*Discuss/approve property, casualty, general liability insurance;

*Discuss/approve fleet insurance;

*Tax report;

*Depository securities report;

*Payment of current bills and approval of financial report

*Time for next regular meeting;

*Time for special meeting;

*Request for items for next meeting; and
*Adjournment. |

Sales tax indicates strong economy

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PECOS, August 12, 1997 - A healthy Texas economy continues its upward trend, is how the State Comptroller summarized conditions indicated by the August sales tax rebates in the state.

"Sales tax rebates for the first eight months of this year reflect a 6.3 increase over those for the same period of 1996," said John Sharp.

This month Sharp delivered sales tax rebates totaling $209 million to Texas cities, 9.5 percent higher than last August's payments of $190.7 million. Rebates of $18.6 million to Texas counties were 14.7 percent higher than allocations of $16.2 million to counties in August 1996. Another $6.1 million went to 26 special purpose districts around the state.

This month's payments include local sales taxes collected by monthly filers on June sales and by quarterly filers for April, May, and June and reported to the Comptroller in July.

Pecos sales tax rebates are 1.64 percent higher this month than August of 1996 and 1.22 percent higher for the year. This month Pecos received $69,126 in sales tax rebates, compared to $68,006 in August 1996.

Reeves County runs a little behind Pecos in sales tax rebates, up 1.63 percent for the month and 0.99 percent for the year. This month Reeves County received $70,593 compared to $69,460 for August 1996.

Midland sales tax rebates are up 7.99 percent for the month with $1,265,434 received compared to $1,171,804 for August 1996.

Odessa received $1,065,854 in rebates this month compared to $963,687 for the same month last year for a 10.60 percent increase.

The Reeves County Hospital District is up 9.03 percent after receiving $26,381 this month compared to $24,194 received in August 1996.

In other cities around the state, Houston received a sales tax rebate of $28.6 million in August, 7.8 percent higher than last year's $26.5 million payment for the same month. Year-to-date payments to the city of Houston are up by 4.4 percent.

The $18.2 million local sales tax allocation to the city of Dallas for August reflects an 8.8 percent increase from the $16.7 million sales tax rebate for the same month last year. Year-to-date payments to Dallas are running 2.9 percent ahead of those for the first eight months of 1996. The San Antonio sales tax allocation for August was $10.9 million, 6.5 percent higher than the August 1996 payment of $10.2 million. Year-to-date, San Antonio has experienced a five percent increase in local sales tax payments.

The Austin sales tax rebate for August totaled $8.5 million, 7.6 percent above the $7.9 million payment for August 1996. For the first eight months of 1997, Austin's sales tax rebates are 2.7 percent higher than those for the same period last year.

The city of Fort Worth's $6.2 million allocation was 11.1 percent above the $5.6 million delivered in August 1996, placing year-to-date rebates six percent ahead of 1996. Arlington's $6.9 million in sales tax allocation was 16.6 percent more than the rebate of $5.9 million for August of last year. Year-to-date rebates to Arlington show an increase of 6.1 percent over the first eight months of 1996.

El Paso's sales tax rebate of $3.7 million was 4 percent above the $3.6 million payment delivered in August 1996. El Paso's local sales tax payments year-to-date are running 1.7 percent ahead of those through August 1996.

Other cities with notable sales tax rebates included Plano, with a $3 million rebate, placing that city's allocations up 3.8 percent year-to-date; Beaumont received an August sales tax rebate of $2.3 million.

Hundreds die each year in illegal
border crossing attempts

Associated Press Writer
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HOUSTON (AP) August 12, 1997 - Nearly 300 people a year are dying, most of them by drowning, as they attempt to cross illegally from Mexico into the United States, University of Houston researchers have found.

"Something like a plane crash full of people every year," Nestor Rodriguez, director of the University of Houston's Center for Immigration Research, said.

The center on Monday released the findings of what researchers said was a first-ever study that counted 1,185 people killed trying to cross illegally into the United States from Mexico from 1993 through 1996. Seventy-two percent of the deaths, or 851, were attributed to drowning.

"This figure, while staggering by itself, we know is a very conservative estimate," Jacqueline Hagan, associate director of the center, said. "Many bodies go undetected. Some wash out to open sea. Some remain in isolated uninhabited terrain. We know from our previous research some deaths are not reported."

The researchers noted illegal entry into the United States is becoming more hazardous as authorities block the most common unlawful routes, forcing undocumented immigrants to choose more risky paths.

"If the intent of current enforcement operations along the southwest border is to make the crossing more difficult, then clearly it has become more dangerous," the study, entitled "Death at the Border," concluded.

"There will always be migration, regardless of how many programs or operations along the border," Rodriguez said.

"We understand and agree the United States has a right as a sovereign country to enforce its borders, but we think policy-makers in government both in this country and Mexico need to be considerate of what is happening."

Researchers examined death certificates and consulted medical examiners, justices of the peace, county and city clerks, Mexican officials in border towns, fire and police departments, border patrol offices and funeral homes along the 1,600-mile border that separates Mexico from California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

The deadliest county for illegal immigrants was San Diego County, Calif., with 193 fatalities during the four-year period, primarily from auto-pedestrian accidents and drownings in the Tijuana River.

"It's not surprising," Ms. Hagan said. "It's the single most popular route of entry."

The Texas-Mexico border, however, was the deadliest for an entire state, with 844 fatalities, 92 percent of them by drowning in the Rio Grande. Most likely drowning areas were at the mouth of the river in Cameron and Hidalgo counties and near El Paso.

"Migrants are not aware of rising and falling river levels," Ms. Hagan said.
Researchers found 69 deaths in Arizona and 11 in New Mexico.

Overall, 59 fatalities or 5 percent were blamed on weather-related ailments, like dehydration, heat stroke or hypothermia. The remaining 186 deaths were blamed on homicides, train trespassing or vehicle-related accidents.

"What we do find is the method of enforcement has influenced how and where migrants die," Rodriguez said. "Fencing along the (highway) median in San Diego redirected would-be crossers to more treacherous entry points, resulting in sharp increase in environmental deaths in more mountainous areas east of San Diego."


August 12, 1997

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Lorena Gerhart

Lorena Gerhart, 80, died Sunday, Aug. 10, 1997, in Marshall, Tx.

Funeral services are scheduled for 4 p.m. tomorrow at Travis St. Chapel of The Sullivan Funeral Home in Marshall with Rev. Jerry Thomas officiating. Burial will be in Elmwood Memorial Gardens in Abilene.

Gerhart was born Aug. 5, 1917, in Winters, Tx. She received her education in the Winter's Public Schools and the Lutheran Concordia College, and was a secretary for the Federal Government Aviation Agency-Dyess Air Force Base at Abilene and a Lutheran.

Survivors include: one son, Harrell Minzenmayer of Plano; one daughter, Beatrice Jenkins of Waskom, Tx.; one brother, Walter Gerhart of Winters; one sister, Elvira Minzenmayer; two grandchildren and one granddaughter-in-law.

Roberto Urias

Roberto Urias, 63, died Monday, Aug. 11, 1997 at Reeves County Hospital.

A rosary is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. today at the Pecos Funeral Home Chapel.

Mass will be held at 10 a.m. on tomorrow, Aug. 13, at Santa Rosa Catholic Church with Father Antonio Mena officiating. Burial will be in Mount Evergreen Cemetery.

Urias was born Oct. 1, 1933, in Buena Vista, Chih., Mexico. He had lived in Pecos since 1968 and was a Catholic.

Survivors include: his wife, Olga Urias of Pecos; four sons, Dagoberto Urias and Robert Urias, Jr. of Odessa, Rigoberto Urias of Lubbock and Gilberto Urias of Pecos; two daughters, Angie G. Urias and Aggie U. Gabaldon of Pecos; three brothers, Armando V. and Cesario V. Urias of Pecos, Ezequiel Venegas of Pecos; one sister, Agricola Urias Ontiveros of Ojinaga, Mex.; and 10 grandchildren.
Pecos Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.


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PECOS, August 12, 1997 - High Monday, 102, low this morning, 73. It will be warmer across all of Texas and showers and thunderstorms will be decreasing tonight and Wednesday. There is a chance of showers and thunderstorms over much of West Texas through Wednesday, although the Permian Basin, trans-Pecos, Concho Valley and Edwards Plateau areas should miss the precipitation. It will be partly cloudy. Lows tonight will be in the 60s and 70s in West Texas and highs Wednesday will be in the 80s and 90s in West Texas, ranging upward to near 102 in the Big Bend area.


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