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Thursday, August 21, 1997

Sandhills Legend

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When Ken Benad took a summer job between college years with the Texas
Parks and Wildlife Department, little did he dream it would become his
life's work.

Wednesday, Aug. 20, after 26 years with the Department, Benad turned in
his uniforms and retired. Ten of those years were spent as superintendent of the Monahans Sandhills State Park.Thursday, Aug. 7, he was honored with a reception by the Friends of the Sandhills.
After junior college and two summers with TP&W, Benad served a tour of
duty with the Marine Corps in Vietnam. Then he worked a year and a half
for the Inland Fisheries division of TPW in Houston before deciding he
needed to go back to school.

"I could see having that degree made a lot of difference in your
paycheck," he explained. And since the Benads "had enough of Houston",
they chose Sul Ross State University in Alpine.

He was graduated in 1972. The couple didn't want to leave Alpine so Ken
set out to find a job there. He worked construction for a while and
after a parting of the ways, started out down the Fort Davis Highway
applying for jobs. He wound up at the Davis Mountains State Park as a
Ranger I.

"I was the low man on the totem pole," he said. After seven months in
Fort Davis, the superintendent's job came open in Monahans. He moved
here in 1973.

"That was when I first met Edith Grissom. She was the secretary then,"
Benad added. He stayed for five years until his family outgrew the

"We just flat ran out of room," he laughed. "When it was just Bonnie and
I, the small residence here was fine but after adding two girls, there
just wasn't enough room."

About that time the Seminole Canyon State Park was just opening and they
had a brand new residence --three bedrooms and two baths. He stayed long
enough to get the park open and going, then the Davis Mountain
superintendent's position came open and "I was lucky enough to get that
position". He stayed for 11 years before returning to Monahans in 1991.
"The pay was the same but there were more opportunities for Bonnie,"
said Benad. "And we've been here every since.

His strongest allies at the Park were the Friends of the Sandhills.
"I can't say enough about the Friends of the Sandhills," he said. "They
saved the park back in 1992 and have been fantastic folks. I can't
express what they've done. They have set the model for Friends groups
everywhere and are recognized statewide, maybe even nationwide."
Probably the biggest change he's seen in the Park system is "in the way
we do business.

"We operate more like a business now," he explained. "We have to because
of the dollar situation. We are one of the few state agencies with the
capacity to bring in income. We provide a service that the public wants."
Another thing he's noticed is the increased vegetation out on the dunes.
"It's just a natural cycle that occurs," he said. "Probably 10 or 15
years from now, it will completely reverse itself. The rainfall will
diminish and the vegetation will roll back."

Benad is particularly looking forward to the other changes already
underway at the Park. The State Highway Department has rolled in and is
working on the recirculation of the traffic pattern.The Friends are
working tirelessly to raise the matching funds necessary to begin
renovation of the Interpretive Center.

"We are almost there," said Benad. "With the planned changes, we will be
more of an educational facility and will be geared more to hands on
exhibits--the kids will really enjoy it."

Even though he's retirng, Benad plans to be around for a long time.
"I can't think of a better place to be anywhere. We are going to make
this our home permanently."

After 26 years of working weekends and every holiday, Benad is ready for
a change.

"I want to spend more time with the grandkids and do a little fishing."And of course, he will also be volunteering his time at the Park.

97-98 budget provides for raises,
auditorium and hope on deficit

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Raises, extensive work on the high school auditorium and hope a deficit
can be resolved all are part of the $15,192,029 budget approved by the
trustees of the Monahans-Wickett-Pyote School District for 1997-98.

That budget is $594,271 more than the district budget in 1996-97.

Most of that increase is designed to counter a deficit from last year's
budget, says School District Business Manager Joe A. Hayes. That
deficit, Hayes estimates, will run about $700,000 but an exact figure
will not be known until all of the numbers are available. The deficit
comes largely, Hayes says, from a short fall in revenues.

"That is the result of the state being about two years behind in
resubmitting property values (on which property taxes are based). Our
property values have increased but the revenues have not because of the
two year lag time." An expected $600,000 increase in revenues, if the
state responds as projected, plus judicious spending off sets the carry
over deficit, Hayes notes.

Some of the budget items approved on Tuesday, Aug. 12:
• An average of about six percent in raises for employees of the
district. Starting teachers will make about $23,500 a year. A
master-degreed teacher with 10 years experience will be paid $34,960.

• Renovation of the Monahans High School Auditorium. About $100,000 has
been set aside. Part of those dollars, says Hayes, will go to replace
the curtains. At least one district administrator has said the curtains
are more duct tape than fabric because of decades of repair.

• A chair lift for the high school to help handicapped students ascend
from the first to the second floor and return. Cost about $60,000.
Currently students confined to wheel chairs are forced to have all
classes on the first floor. If such a student must attend a class
usually assigned to the second floor, that class is moved to the first
floor for the period the student attends.

• Four vehicles, to include a Suburban, two pickups (one of the pickups
replaces one wrecked) and a school bus. The Suburban would be used to
take academic and arts competitors plus smaller athletic teams to contests. Projected cost is about $70,000.

City building permits hit $600,000+

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Building permits issued by the City of Monahans in July pushed the value
of permits for all of 1997 past $600,000, according to a report released
by City Inspector Bobby Sinclair.

The exact figure for the first seven months of 1997, Sinclair notes, is
$665,664 compared with $1,437,186 in building permits issued for all of
last year.

According to the building permit report:

July building permits totaled $17,618. Of these, $17,118 were for
residential work; $10,500 for commercial building.

The $10,500 permit was for two commercial project. One for $10,000 was
to remodel a room at the Family Medical Center of Monahans at 813 East
Fourth Street.

The $500 commercial permit was to enclose double doors at Plateau
Cellular, 101 South Betty Avenue.

Wade Gilliam was granted the largest permit of the month, $45,000, to
move a mobile home at 1405 West Second Street. Jennifer Harvey was
granted a $25,000 building permit to move a mobile home at Third Street
and Ora Avenue. Lathan Walker obtained a $6,000 permit for an addition
to the property at 1603 South Harry Avenue. Anna Carnero received a $3,000 permit for an addition at 901 South Bruce Avenue.

Bullock appoints Duncan to senate
committee studying gang violence

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Special to the News
AUSTIN - State Sen. Bob Bullock, R-Lubbock, whose senate district
includes Ward County, has been appointed to a special senate committee
that will study gang violence.

Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock announced the appointment on Friday, Aug. 15, in

"Teen-age gangs are not just an urban city problem," says Duncan.
"Juvenile crime affects all of us, even in rural areas and I look
forward to involving our West Texas resources to address this issue."

The Senate Interim Committee on Gangs and Juvenile Justice will be
chaired by State Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas. The other members of the
panel include Duncan and Senators Chris Harris, R-Arlington; Mike
Moncrief, D-Fort Worth; and Jon Lindsay, R-Houston.

The committee will consider coordination between law enforcement, school
officials and state and local juvenile justice agencies. They also will
address prevention and intervention efforts as well as studying the
need, if any, for additional juvenile justice courts in the state.
Duncan notes that the select committee also will evaluate existing
juvenile programs such as Services to Runaways and At-Risk Youth (STARS)
as well as community youth development grants to monitor their
effectiveness and determine their impact on juvenile crime.Oct. 1, 1998, is the deadline for the committee to finish its study.

Monahans customers can call Imperial free

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Telephone subscribers in Monahans now can telephone three West Texas
cities at no additional charge.

The latest to be added to the list is Imperial, a small community
Southeast of Grandfalls. It was effective at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday,
Aug. 20, according to a communique from GTE's regional office in San

Monahans residents now can telephone numbers in Odessa, Crane and
Imperial toll free. Crane became part of the no charge telephone grid
for Monahans on Aug. 6. The fact that Southwestern Bell is the telephone
company in Monahans has no effect on extended local calling, state
regulators note.

Charles E. Watkins of GTE says Monahans was one of three towns included
in the list of communities for free calls when Imperial voted for
extended local calling. It will cost Imperial's 171 telephone customers
an additional $3.50 a month for residential service and $7 a month for

There is no additional charge to customers in the communities Imperial
voters chose in their extended local calling election.

In addition to Monahans, Imperial residents chose Odessa, Crane,
Coyanosa and Fort Stockton for their extended local call network, part
of the five towns for the price of one charge to extend a community's
local calling privileges. Any city in a local calling area above five
costs an additional $1.50 on the monthly telephone bill.

"We need to emphasize," notes Watkins, "that this means that Monahans
residents can only call Imperial, Crane and Odessa at no charge. The
situation does not change in relation to Coyanosa and Fort Stockton.
Coyanosa and Fort Stockton will remain toll calls."

Odessa and Crane are not toll calls for Monahans subscribers because
they already were part of the Monahans net.

Extended local calling first came to Monahans on Wednesday, April 16,
when Odessa came on line. That was the result of an extended local
calling ballot among the city's telephone subscribers in 1996. Monahans
voters approved only Odessa of the five cities on the ballot although
they could have had all five for the $3.50 residential and $7 a month
business surcharge. They chose instead to pay the premium only for calls
to Odessa. Among the areas rejected were Terminal, which includes the
Midland Airport, and Grandfalls, the second largest community in Ward

Adding Odessa to the Monahans grid meant that Odessa, at no charge,
could telephone Monahans.

It was a comparable case on Aug. 6 when Crane included Monahans in its
list of five cities in its extended local calling area allowing Monahans
calls to Crane at no further charge.

And the scenario continues this week with Imperial adding Monahans to
its grid where Monahans callers can now call Imperial with no further

Extended local calling elections can be held in Texas communities with
less than 10,000 population so long as the extended calling area is
within a radius of 50 miles of the community involved, according to
Texas state statues.

In the Monahans election, backers blamed ballot language for the
rejection by Monahans voters of all five cities on the ballot. It was
argued that the voters did not understand it was going to cost the same
whether the voters approved all five cities or one.

State regulators say another vote cannot be held in Monahans on extended
calling until June 2 of 1998.

GTE's Watkins notes that extended local calling is only one of several
new services coming on line at Imperial in the late Summer. On Thursday,
Aug. 14, the following high tech services became available: automatic call return and busy redial, call waiting, call forwarding and others.

State sales tax rebate to Ward
County towns continue to rise

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State of Texas sales tax rebate checks to cities in Ward County
continued their rise in August, according to statistics released by the
State Comptroller's office in Austin.

Those numbers also show that Ward County is keeping pace with consumer
spending in the rest of the state, says State Comptroller John Sharp.
Ward County wide, the rebate checks for taxes collected on June sales,
showed an increase of 8.34 percent over checks mailed in August of 1996
in the county. For the year, Ward County sales tax rebates are up 33.49

Last August the Ward County checks totaled $63,703.68 compared with
$69,020.69 cents for this August. For the year to date, the checks total
$473,916.93 compared with $355,000.29 for the same period of 1996.

Says Sharp of the state: "A healthy Texas economy is continuing its
upward trend and consumers are showing their confidence in the expanding
job market. Sales tax rebates for the first eight months of this year
reflect a 6.3 percent increase over those for the same period of 1996."

Sharp notes that statewide August rebates increased 14.7 percent.

In sales tax rebate dollars for Ward County, Monahans led the August
numbers with the county seat's rebate check increasing from $59,025.48
to $63,371.03, an increase of 7.36 percent. Thorntonville was the
percentage leader in August with an increase of 203.42 percent
representing a rebate rise from $136.11 to $412.99. Pyote was the only
Ward County town where sales tax rebates in August decreased. In that
case, Pyote rebates dropped 8.31 percent from $765.22 last August to
$701.61 this August.

Other August rebate numbers for Ward County towns were: Grandfalls, up
4.36 percent from $1,034.54 to $1,079.74; Wickett, up 25.99 percent from
$2,742.33 to $3,355.22.

Sales tax rebates to Ward County cities for the year to date and their
comparison with the same period a year ago are: Grandfalls, down 6.72
percent from $6,531.79 to $6,092.71; Monahans, up 36.2 percent from
$319.236.03 to $434,817.05; Pyote, down 3.95 percent from $7,315.21 to
$7,026.21; Thorntonville, up 59.46 percent from $804.15 to $1,282.31; and Wickett, up 16.98 percent from $21,113.11 to $24,698.65.

District judge refusal to dismiss
DA-Cop libel case appealed

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Lawyers for former District Attorney John Stickels, now an Austin
barrister, and the Permian Basin Drug Task Force are joined in a Summer
war of motions.

The issue is the libel and slander suit Stickels filed in 143rd District
Court at Monahans against the Ector County-based anti-drug traffic
police unit and its commander Tom Finley. Stickels, who did not seek
reelection, seeks monetary damages to be set by a court of law.

Stickels filed the libel and slander suit against Finley and the task
force after Finley wrote a letter on May 23, 1996. Finley called
Stickels a "failure" as a prosecutor and cited several points to support
the "failure" charge.

Among the items noted by Finley in the letter to Stickels were: "The
undercover operation in the Monahans school system which you requested
and to which you promised financial support cost $9,495.49. You failed
again in your promises . . .The undercover operation in Reeves County
cost the Drug Task Force $18,400 plus and we filed 32 criminal cases in
your office. Of those, most of the cases have already been dismissed
upon your request to the court . . ."

According to district court records, the latest actions include:

• District Judge Pat M. Baskin's refusal on June 30 to dismiss the case.
Scott M. Tidwell, the Odessa attorney who represents Finley, filed for
the summary judgment arguing there was no conflict over the facts at
issue and that there is governmental immunity to defamation suits. The
judge declined to grant the motion.

• On July 2, that ruling was appealed to the Eighth Court of Appeals in
El Paso where it is pending.

• Then on Tuesday, Aug. 12, Jackson Jones of the Ector County Attorney's
Office, filed a supplemental motion for summary judgment seeking
dismissal of the case based essentially on the same arguments the judge
had rejected in the June 30 motion. The principal difference in the
motions is that this one emphasizes the Permiam Basin Drug Task Force
rather than the multi-jurisdictional unit's commander, Finley. A ruling in that supplemental motion is pending.

Board adds new teachers to school roster

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Several new teachers have been added to the Fall roster of the
Monahans-Wickett-Pyote School District.

According to statements released by the school district, the late Summer
hirings include:

Ferel Gage, a vocational industrial technology instructor at Monahans
High School; David McCarley, Walker Junior High choir director; Michelle
Rutledge, a math teacher at Monahans High; Karen Clemmer, special
education teacher at Monahans High;

John Horak, Walker Junior High principal; Clint Stowe, special
education teacher at Monahans High; Elaine Boyd, pre-kindergarten at
Cullender Kindergarten;

Linda Derrick, fourth Grade teacher at Tatom Elementary and Tommy King,
alternative education director.

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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