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Weekly Newspaper and Tourism Guide for Ward County Trans Pecos, Big Bend of West Texas

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Thurs., March 12, 1998

Loose animals cost cash

Owners of animals running loose in Ward County will now have to pay the
same rate to reclaim them as do residents of Monahas, Ward County
commissioners decided Monday, March 9, in their regular meeting.

The impoundment fee consideration was one of 21 items on the agenda that
took less than an hour and a half to take care of in the Ward County

Impoundment fees which used to exist but lapsed for lack of enforcement
as the county did not have an animal control officer, were established
along the same lines as that of the city now that the county has an
animal control officer who works in accordance with interlocal
agreements with surrounding towns. Such agreements approved at the
meeting for Grandfalls and Thorntonville.

fees for the first offense are a $25 charge plus $5 per day for
impounding of those animals that have been vaccinated and have a current
tag. The same rates apply for animals without vaccination and no current
tag plus there an added cost for vaccination and tags..

On the second offense, the basic fine will be $50 plus the $5. On the
third offense and after, it will be $75 plus the $5 per day fee.
Adoption fees were set at the cost of vaccination and tags. Animals with
tags are kept three days while those without tags are kept one day.

Two interlocal agreements were also approved, one with Thorntonville for
solid waste and animal control and one with the city of Grandfalls, as
presented by Grandfalls Mayor Jim Everett.

Bids for a copier for the juvenile probation office were opened with two
bids received proposing the same copier. One was from Dynosystems on the
Canon copier for $4,701 and the winning bid was from CMC Business
Systems for $2,209 based on the state contract bid. The CMC bid did not
provide for a 10-bin stapler sorter but a representative of the firm
said that could be added for only $200. The bid price also stipulated
$125 for installation and maintenance cost for three years after the
90-day warranty. No action was taken on the maintenance bids.

An item requested by District Attorney Randy Reynolds for the
commissioners to pay old bills incurred before he took office was tabled
as Reynolds could not attend due to a court appearance. However, County
Attorney Kevin Acker noted one of those bills was from him where he
stepped in on a sexual abuse of a child case and as district attorney
pro tem, got a conviction of a man and prison sentence of 99 years,
since upheld by the appeals court. Acker said he asks reimbursement of
about $270 for hotel costs where the child was housed during the trial.

Acker said he had turned in bills for other expenses but they can't be
found. County Auditor Ellen Friar said she would research the matter.

Acker also reported on an item regarding a quit claim deed for land on
Thirty-Sixth street in the Farr addition although the addition is know
by additonal names. The court approved based on the owner providing a

Commissioners approved paying $604.06 for their share of three meals
provided each day during the week to residents of Barstow by the
Community Council of Reeves County. County Judge Sam G. Massey asked if
that would conflict with the current arrangement with the Monahans Meal
on Wheels program. He was assurred by Caprice Cox of the Reeves County
group it would not.Commissioner Julian Florez of Barstow, noted as did
Cox, that it is more cost effective to provide the meals out of Pecos
due to the mileage.

Cox said she had not asked for the help previously because she is new
and was not aware Barstow was in Ward County. The assistance will cover
the cost from July 1, 1997 to June 30, 1998. Hilda Mendoza, who heads
the meals on wheels program in Pecos, said volunteers deliver the meals.

She also noted that the meals have been provided to two of the Barstow
residents since 1993 while the third meal began being delivered in 1996.

Massey pointed out Ward County quit doing business with the Community
Council several years ago as it was in a mess and about $20,000 in
administrative money couldn't be found.

Don Crawford of Don Crawford & Associates gave a report on the county
employees' health insurance and reported that due to a number of large
claims, he recommended staying with Blue Cross/Blue Shield as stop gap

He noted the price increase to the county for the coming year starting
April 1 would be between five and 10 per cent, given best case, worst
case scenario.

Commissioners recognized weather awareness week (March 1-7), and
education hours for John Swanson, court reporter for the 143rd District

Also approved was the work contract with opportunity workshop for yard
work at the courthouse annex at the same rate of $50.

Ball park half lighted

After lengthy debate and harsh words from the mayor for the county, Monahans City Council Tuesday approved giving $13,000 for new lighting of Ball Park Number 3, half of the total needed with Dexter Nichols assurring them the other half will be secured before any is spent.

Nichols, who is head of the Monahans Ball Park Association, said if the
additonal money cannot be secured from some other source, the $13,000
will be returned to the city.

City Manger David Mills told the county $12,250 has already been spent
by the ball park group for lighting repairs on another field and that's
all that was budgeted. However, he said there is $15,000 in the park
fund that he had planned to use part of for new picnic shelters at Hill

However, he said he could come up with a plan to do what he could if the
council wanted to spend the money in the fund for ball park lights.

Mayor David Cutbirth said he is in strong disagreement with the
philosophy on recreation for young people with "people a few blocks away
(county commissioners).

Nichols said in response to a question that the county now pays $14,000
for salaries for the associatioon, $5,500 for repairs, $750 for
fertilizer and $3,000 for utilities. The school district has provided
about $1,000.

Cutbirth noted that the county budget for the recreation program in 1990
was about $90,000. Nichols estimated that about 1,000 young people are
involved in baseball programs using the six fields. He said he is a good
beggar and believes he can get the additonal $13,000 needed for the
lighting project Nichols also said the ball parks have been neglected
for years.

In other business, the council awarded the city's band depository
contract to First State Bank of Monahans. First National has had the
contract for the past five years and bid the same as they did three
years ago. However, it was noted that First State's bid would mean an
additonal $4,000 to $5,000 for the city in interest income on the $4 to
$5 million the city has at times in the bank.

Elaine Wetzig was appointed presiding judge and Darlene Harris as
alternate for the upcoming city elections, provided an election is
necessary on May 2. Wetzig also was appointed presiding judge for early
voting ballot board, Harris as alternate and Betty Johnson as clerk.
known by March 23 if there are any opponents to the four incumbents who are seeking re-election.

Those now holding those offices up for election and who have all filed
to be candidates for being electged are Mary Garcia, District 1; Jeppie
Wilson, #2 (seeking election after being appointed to that post); Ted
Ward, #4 and Clarese Gough, District 5.

The audit report received at the last meeting was approved as was newing
bonding requirements from Cliffwood Oil & Gas Corporation for oil and
gas operations within the city.

Also approved were tax roll adjustments and there was no action taken
after a brief closed session on pending litigation.

The council will meet again March 24 when bids will be opened for
expansion of city hall. A budget amendment was approved Tuesday that
would move $200,000 to the project from funds that had been earmarked
for landfill financial assurance that is no longer required. Cutbirth
praised Mills for taking care of the required paperwork with the state
to make that money available.

Seniors head to state UIL

Two Monahans High School seniors, Jeremy Sanchez and Liz Henry, are on their way to the University Interscholastic League cross examination state competition in Austin.

Sanchez will be making his third consecutive appearance in the state

The competition will be conducted on Monday, March 16, and Tuesday,
March 16, on the University of Texas campus.

Sanchez and Henry won first place honors in the UIL District competition
to earn the opportunity at the state level.

Two other senior Loboes, Annee Tucker and Velma Sandoval, qualified as
alternates for the state competition with third places in the district
cross examination tournament. Sandoval was a state debate competitor two
years ago.

Lieutenant questions task force stand

Ector County Sheriff's lieutenant Jess C. Aguilar questions a letter written by the director of the Permian Basin Drug task force that criticizes a former district attorney for Ward and Reeves County, according to documents on file at the 143rd District Court Clerk's office in Monahans.

That letter from Task Force Chief Tom Finley to former DA John Stickels
questions Stickels commitment to prosecution of illegal drug defenders
and asks Stickels to quit Stickels did not quit but he filed a libel
suit against Finley and the Drug Task Force in August of 1997.

Aguilar's comments were cited in a decision by the Court of Appeals for
the Eighth District of Texas in which the court upheld the lower court's
rejection of a motion by attorneys for the Task Force and Finley to
dismiss Stickels' libel and slander complaint.

Attorney's for the libel defendants had appealed that district court
rejection of their summary judgment motion to the Eighth Court in El

In a decision dated Feb. 26 and filed with the Monahans court on March
2, Appeals Court Chief Justice Richard Barajas, writing for the court,
held "there was no error in the judgment (of the 143rd District Court),
it is therefore ordered. . . by the (Appeals) Court that the judgment be
in all things affirmed and that the appellee do have and recover of and
from the appellant, Tom Finley, and the cash deposit in lieu of a cost
bond, all costs in this behalf expended (for the appeal)."

In the opinion which allows Stickels libel case to continue, Barajas
also writes:

"Appellee deposed Jess C. Aguilar, a lieutenant with the Ector County
Sheriff's office. Upon review of Finley's letter, he (Aguilar) stated
that the writing of the letter served no conceivable law enforcement
purpose. It posed many potential and unjustified risks of resulting
harm, both to law enforcement and to Stickels. Aguilar stated that he
could perceive no fact situation where a prudent police officer would
believe that the need to publish the letter outweighed the resulting
risks of harm."

In the Finley letter to former DA Stickels, now in private practice in
Austin, Task Force Commander Finley wrote, in part:

"You have been a failure. . .The undercover operation in Reeves County
costs the Drug Task Force $18,400 plus, and we filed 32 criminal cases
with your office. Of those, most of the cases have already been
dismissed upon your request to the court.. . .The undercover operation
in the Monahans school system which you requested and to which you
promised financial support cost $9,495.49. You failed once again in your
promises. . .You failed. . .We feel you owe it to the citizens to
resign from office and let another prosecutor represent the citizens. ."

Mormons open center to public

People of all faiths interested in their family history can take advantage of the New Family History Center at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Monahans, according to a statement from the church at Eric Avenue and the Interstate 20 Service Road. An open house will be held from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, March 14, at the Center,
which includes computer links to the Family History Archives in Salt
Lake City.

Hospital sale/lease stalled

Sale or lease of financially plagued Ward Memorial Hospital effectively was stalled Wednesday, March 11, when citizens filed a petition with County Clerk Pat V. Finley demanding a vote on the issue.

More than 1000 names were on the petition that buttressed the demand for
the referendum written by Hal Upchurch, an Odessa lawyer.

County Judge Sam G. Massey, who has led the fight to find an answer to
the Ward Memorial riddle, says he expects the petition means there will
be an eventual vote on the issue.

It is Massey who must verify the names on the 112 pages that comprised
the demand for an election to determine the hospital's future.

"I anticipate," he said, "there will be more than enough names to call
for the election. I don't plan to reject any names because of uncrossed
'Ts' or undotted 'Is'. The public hearing on March 25 is still

The petition was not a surprise. Hospital employees, who fear a new
management team may mean the loss of some jobs and reduction of some
salaries, have been distributing the petition for several weeks. They
have been assisted by several other citizens who believe there are
answers to the hospital question other than leasing or selling the

Members of the county commission have rejected so far the idea of sale
but they have entered into negotiations that might eventually lead to a
lease agreement with a for-profit third party health care agency which
would operate the hospital. County commissioners have said repeatedly
that the county no longer can afford the subsidies required to keep the
hospital operating.

Lawyer Upchurch wrote in his preamble to the referendum petition:

"On behalf of Mr. Rodney Venters and other qualified voters of Ward
County . . . I enclose a petition which has been signed by more than 10
percent . . .of the qualified voters in Ward County. Pursuant to the
provisions of . . .

"..the Texas Health and Safety Code, the petition requests a referendum
election be conducted on the issue of whether Ward County should sell or
lease Ward Memorial Hospital or whether the County should continue to
operate the Hospital."

County officials worked late on Wednesday in an attempt to ascertain the
earliest possible date such a referendum could be held.

Unemployment rate holds steady

Ward County unemployment rates continue to hover around six percent
according to a report from the Texas Workforce Commission in San Angelo.

In January with a county workforce of 4485, 4212 working and 272 without
jobs, the rate was 6.1 percent.

This compares with 6.9 percent in January of 1997 when the workforce was
4516, 4202 working and 313 without jobs.

December's unemployment statistics in Ward County showed a workforce of
4344 and a 5.6 percent unemployment rate.Those December of 1997 numbers
were based on Texas Workforce Commission reports that 4203 workers in
Ward County were without jobs and 313 were employed.

All job data is adjusted for seasonable variables.

Sales tax rebates up

State sales tax rebate checks to governmental entities in Ward County
were up nearly seven percent in February, according to statistics
released by State Comptroller John Sharp.

The reported rise of 6.89 percent over February of 1997 represented an
increase from $71, 589.234 to $76,525.44 in sales tax checks mailed to
the Ward County governments which receive them.

At least part of that increase can be attributed to a special half-cent
sales tax enacted in the City of Monahans and which was effective last
Oct. 1. In Winkler County, a nearly comparable February sales tax rebate
increase of 5.87 percent ($37,725.36 to $39,941.81) also is attributed
at least in part to a half-cent sales tax increase effective in 1997.
The increase in Winkler County was to help fund the Winkler County
Health Service.

February sales tax rebates are based on sales in December, a
traditionally heavy Holiday Shopping month like November.The February
sales tax rebate checks were part of $290.5 million distributed to 1,090
Texas cities and 118 counties, reports state comptroller Sharp.

Says Sharp: "This month's payments to Texas cities and counties include
sales taxes collected by monthly filers at the height of holiday
shopping in December and reported to the comptroller in January plus
quarterly returns for sales in October, November and December and all
yearly filings for 1997."

In Ward County, Monahans was up 5.19 percent from $66,612.20 to
$70,072.66; Grandfalls, down 15.16 percent from $1232.57 to $1045.62;
Pyote, up 79.76 percent from $964.02 to $1732.94; Thorntonville, up
81.81 percent from $140.71 to $255.83; Wickett, up 29.49 percent from
$2639.74 to $3418.29.

Massey fights off challenger

Incumbent Ward County Judge Sam G. Massey fought off a determined
challenge from Monahans businesswoman Pam Treadaway to win the
Democratic nomination Tuesday, March 10.

In a county where the Democratic nomination is tantamount to election,
Massey, a rancher from Wickett, faces Republican nominee Candido
Gutierrez of Monahans in the November general elections. Gutierrez had
no opposition for the judge's nomination in the Republican primary.
Gutierrez was the only candidate for a county Republican office.

Gutierrez and Massey agree that a principal issue in the race, as it
was in the primary, will be Ward Memorial Hospital and it's future.

County Commissioners, led by Massey, are looking at options that may
lead to the leasing of the hospital to a third party.

Gutierrez is against that, saying: "I oppose the lease of the hospital
to strangers who do not know and who do not care about Ward County."

The GOP county judge candidate says the race to the November elections
began when the polls closed at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 11.

Gutierrez seeks a debate with Massey on the issues. He says he seeks
both Democratic and Republican votes. Massey says he will debate
Gutierrez at any time and any place.

But he says he does not plan a conventional electoral campaign against
the Republican challenger.

"I will continue to do my job and I will be on the job looking out for
the people of this county," says Massey.

Says the GOP candidate: "Sam Massey and I are good friends but we do
have our differences on the issues."

He promises a vigorous Republican campaign for Democrat Massey's seat.

Voters respond to heavy campaigning

Intensive campaigns to bring voters to the polls.

That's the strategy discussed by virtually all of the Democratic
candidates who will meet in run off elections on April 14. They already
have a time crunch. Monday, March 16, is the deadline to register for
April 14, reports County Tax Assessor/Dolores Fine, who directs voter
registration in the county.

Judy L. Greer and Natrell Cain, both veterans of the Ward County Clerk's
office, face each other in the battle for the Democratic nomination to
succeed retiring Ward County Clerk Pat Finley. Both Greer and Cain say
they already are focused on the vote. Says Greer: "Too many times, your
supporters forget about the need to vote in the ruun off. It is our job
to make sure they remember."

In County Commissioner Precinct 2 where Kathy Fausett and Henry Cutbirth
face each other in the run off, both Democrats also say they will
emphasize getting out the vote.Incumbent Precinct 4 County Commissioner
Don Creech, who seeks his second term, says: "I just need the people to
turn out." His opponent is Rick McCurdy.

Early vote tells the tale

Early votes in the Ward County Primary Elections on Tuesday, March 10,
outpaced votes cast on Election Day, reports County Clerk Pat V. Finley.

She notes that 3103 Democrats voted in the primary. Thirty-four
Republicans cast ballots.

The primary vote continued the historic trend in Ward County politics
where the overwhelming majority of the citizens vote in the Democratic
Primary although many may stray to Republican candidates in regional,
state and national elections in November.

Finley notes there are 7,000 registered voters in the county.

The Early Vote accounted for 1637 ballots.

"On Election Day," reports FInley, "There were only about 1500."

The Early Vote has become a major factor in Texas campaigns, she notes.

Early voting for the April 14 run off starts on April 6.

The deadline to register to vote in the run off is Monday, March 16,
reports Assessor/Collector Dolores Fine.

Taggart joins Pyote school staff

Mary Taggart, a veteran of the Texas Youth Commission, is the new
assistant superintendent of West Texas State School in Pyote, reports
the school's superintendent Johnny B. Williams.

Williams made the announcement in a statement released on Friday,
March 6.

Taggart's appointment, says Williams, was effective on Feb. 15.

Taggart began her tenure with the Texas Youth Commission in May of 1980
as the Youth Activities Supervisor at Brownwood State School.

She was promoted to caseworker three years later and in September of
1985 became Youth Program Supervisor and later Program Administrator at
the former Brownwood Statewide Reception Center.

In August of 1995, Taggart moved to Marlin Orientation and Assessment
Unit as program administrator for centralized placement.

In August of 1996, she was promoted to program administrator II,
responsible for intake and assessment.

Taggart holds a bachelor of science degree in sociology/psychology from
Mary Hardin Baylor University and a masters in criminal justice from
American Technological University.

She is married to Jeff Taggart, who is a trainer for the Texas Youth
Commission's Academy at Corsicana.

She has a daughter, Trish King, who is married to Brian King, a U.S.
Army soldier stationed at Fort Hood. Her 18-year-old son, Jeffrey, is a
sophomore at Howard Payne University.

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