Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas
Thursday, July 16, 1998
Burn ban remains despite recent showers
By GREG HARMAN
Scattered light showers throughout West Texas have done
little to protect these dry, brittle lands from a rising
fire danger, and the lightning that has accompanied the
storms has brought firefighters a new bag of worries.
Dry vegetation -- of which there seems to be no lack of here
in the Trans-Pecos -- is an easy target for a lightning
strike and resulting fire.
The Pecos area has seen two lightning fires in the past
three days, said Fire Marshal Jack Brookshire. A water tank
located three miles east of town off Business I-20 was
struck Tuesday night, causing the small amount of oil
floating on the top of the water to burn until the Pecos
Fire Department arrived near 10 p.m.
A second lightning fire was sparked by storms on Wednesday
north of town, off County Road 406, but was quickly
The ongoing drought, which began in the early 1990s, has
actually offered some help, Brookshire said.
"Fortunately, because there wasn't much rain last year
either there is not much grass out there, the fields are not
as full as they normally are," he said, explaining that
sparse vegetation makes the range fires easier to control.
Although there has been .41 inch of rainfall in Pecos during
the past two days, Brookshire advises that the county-wide
ban on outdoor burning remains in effect. Even with the
recent rain, Wednesday's showers pushed the yearly total to
just 1.08 inches, well below normal for the first 6 1/2
months of the year.
According to Lou Sloat, spokesman for the Texas Forest
Service, "people need to realize that it is going to take a
steady rain over a several day period to help relieve the
fire danger situation."
Officials with the Texas Forest Service (TFS) report that
the thunderstorms over the last several days have been a
"major cause of fire starts and have contributed to fires
spreading rapidly due to the erratic and strong winds
associated with these storms."
What are known as "holdover" or "sleeper" fires -- prompted
by the lightning storms -- may even spring up days after a
storm has passed.
According to a TFS report, "This occurs once the vegetation
has had the chance to dry out and can be sparked by larger
vegetation (down or standing trees) that had been hit by
lightning. Larger, smoldering vegetation that has gone
undetected can ignite surrounding vegetation that has had a
chance to dry out after the storm passes."
Over 160 Texas counties have issued burn bans and Texas has
positioned 869 wildland firefighters from 27 states
strategically around the state. These firefighters, along
with local agencies, will move on any wildfires that may
Afternoon power drop causes problems
What appeared to be a three second power outage throughout
Pecos at 3:25 p.m. yesterday was, in fact, a severe drop in
power -- but not an actual "outage."
According to Stan Lamb, distributions systems engineer with
Texas-New Mexico Power Company, a fault outside of the
company's sub-station in the Wink/Kermit area caused the
voltage to drop.
"There were a lot of motors, air conditioners and lights
that dimmed way down . . . It looked like an outage," said
Lamb. The outage also caused problems with local computers,
along with digital clock and VCRs in some Pecos homes.
Power levels were back to normal within seconds he said.
Drought cited in unemployment rate rise
From Staff and Wire Reports
A suffering, drought-stricken agricultural industry coupled
with the seasonal declines in education-related employment
have served to push the state unemployment rate up by over
one percent in June, while Reeves County's jobless rate
jumped by over two percent last month, according to state
Although the 1.3 percent rise (from 4.3 percent unemployment
in May to 5.6 percent in June) was the state's largest
month-to-month percentage change since 1978, the Texas
Workforce Commission announced today that the unemployment
rate remained more than half a percentage point below last
year's June rate of 6.3 percent.
In Reeves County there was a 2.4 percentage jump in
unemployment levels in June, from 8.1 percent unemployment
in May to 10.5 in June. The unemployment rate in June, 1997,
The county's labor force climbed from 6,806 in May to 7,549
in June, and while the employment levels also rose from
6,253 in May to 6,759 in June, the number of jobs failed to
keep up with the number of new workers. Unemployed workers
in Reeves County shot up from 553 in May, to 790 in June --
higher than the June, 1997, level of 741.
Unemployment percentages across the region are also up.
In Midland County, unemployment is up from 3.8 percent in
May, 1998, to 4.9 in June. Ector County unemployment went
from 5.3 to 7.2 percent in that same period. And Jeff Davis
witnessed a slight climb from 1.3 to 1.8 percent
The number of weekly, statewide unemployment insurance
claims without earnings increased by 4,500 over the month,
the Workforce Commission reported. That, however,
represented 9,500 fewer claims than were filed in June 1997,
the commission said.
Government and agriculture experienced the largest increases
in claims for unemployment during June, while manufacturing
experienced the largest decrease, the commission reported.
The Bryan-College Station area continued to have the state's
lowest unemployment rate at 2.2 percent. That was up from
the area's 1.6 percent in May.
McAllen-Edinburg-Mission still led the state with the
highest unemployment. Its rate increased from 14 percent in
May to 18.1 percent in June.
Rates of unemployment in the urban areas of Texas as
announced by the TWC for June, compared with revised May
figures (in parentheses) were:
Abilene 4.2 (3.3); Amarillo 4.4 (3.2); Austin-San Marcos 3.1
(2.4); Beaumont-Port Arthur 8.3 (6.4); Brazoria 7.5 (5.5);
Brownsville-Harlington 14.2 (11.1); Bryan-College Station
2.2 (1.6); Corpus Christi 8.2 (6.1); Dallas 3.9 (3.0);
El Paso 11.1 (9.0); Fort Worth-Arlington 3.9 (3.0);
Galveston-Texas City 7.9 (6.0); Houston 5.0 (3.8);
Killeen-Temple 5.1 (4.0); Laredo 10.7 (8.1);
Longview-Marshall 7.9 (6.0); Lubbock 4.9 (3.0);
McAllen-Edinburg-Mission 18.1 (14.2);
Odessa-Midland 6.1 (4.5); San Angelo 4.0 (2.8); San Antonio
4.6 (3.3); Sherman-Denison 5.1 (3.9); Texarcana 8.2 (7.0);
Tyler 5.8 (4.6); Victoria 5.8 (4.2); Waco 5.5 (4.2); Wichita
Falls 5.6 (4.2).
Angered by TU Electric's tax protest
Monahans considers annexing plant
Special from the Monahans News
MONAHANS -- A tax protest by TU Electric over the valuation
of their Ward County operations has led Monahans' mayor to
threaten annexation of its Permian power plant, located just
west of town.
TU's tax protest, which, if upheld, would cost
Monahans-Wickett-Pyote schools and Ward County nearly $1
million in revenue, caused Monahans Mayor David Cutbirth to
announce the city would consider annexing the property on
which the TU Permian plant is located.
Monahans would then raise taxes to recover any taxes lost by
the county and the Monahans-Wickett-Pyote schools, Cutbirth
said. Tax dollars collected by the city could be returned
through intergovernmental agreements to the entities that
lose revenue to TU's tax lawyers, the mayor continues.
On Tuesday the Monahans City Council authorized City Manager
David Mills to evaluate annexation of city-owned land that
includes the Perch Pond area and the city's landfill just
north of, and adjacent to, the property on which the TU
Permian Power Plant complex is located.
Cutbirth suggests the strategy would involve raising city
property taxes to about a dollar. The mayor believes
citizens would accent this if a half-cent of the city sales
tax is repealed and water, sewage and trash rates are
slashed dramatically to reflect the anticipated new property
tax revenue from TU Electric.
"In two years," says Cutbirth, "We start collecting property
taxes from TU Electric just like the schools and the county.
Add us (the city) to the mixture and they don't save a thing
with their tax protest, if it is successful. It'll cost them
A hearing on the TU Electric protest was scheduled this
morning before the Ward County Appraisal Review Board whose
members are Ken Benad, Pat Ramsey and David Armstrong.
Ward County Tax Appraiser Arlice Wittie said the difference
between his appraisal of combustion turbines at the TU
Permian Plant and the company's claim is $45 million. He
estimates the TU protest, if upheld, would mean a loss of
about $225,000 in revenue to the county.
Joe A. Hayes, business manager of the Monahans-Wickett-Pyote
school district, estimates a potential loss to the school
district- of about $625,000.
Cutbirth says he will seek this week to have the annexation
issue placed on the City Council agenda.
"This first involves annexing the city landfill area," says
the mayor. "That puts us adjacent to one section on- which
the TU plant is located. Cities must have a 1000-foot width
next to land to legally annex that property."
In the majority of city annexations of new land, this width
is a road or easement, plus the right of way on either side.
"The TU plant already is in the city's extra-territorial
jurisdiction of about a mile as provided by state law,"
Cutbirth said. "Annex the land fill this year. Annex the TU
plant next year. Begin to collect taxes 12 months later."
The mayor notes it is a long term solution to the potential
loss of tax revenue for the city and county but it is a
solution that can be implemented if TU Electric wins its
Ward County tax protest, either before the appraisal review
board or eventually in court.
The TU tax protest notice was filed on June 12. If either
side disagrees with the review board's ruling, either side
can Appeal to the courts.
The Ward County action by TU Electric corporate executives
is only one of several that is part of a TU tax protest
initiative this year. Comparable proceedings are underway at
Colorado City and in other jurisdictions in Texas.
TU says gas turbine units 1, 2 and 3 are worth $9,939,652.
Wittie appraises those three generators at $34,370,370, a
decrease of $2.2 million from last year's appraisal for tax
purposes. TU says units 4 and 5 are worth $7,099,751. Wittie
appraises them at $28,127~330, a decrease from 1997 of $1.7
Ward County's property tax rate is 67.11 cents per $100 of
property evaluation; the Monahans-Wickett-Pyote school
district's, the maximum $1.50.
Under Cutbirth's counter to TU, the probable City of
Monahans tax rate would be one dollar.
"We'll repeal the half cent sales tax for property tax
reduction, raising the property tax and lowering water,
sewer and trash rates for the citizens of Monahans," says
"We just can't give into them. The importance of the schools
to our city and the county is too much," Cutbirth added. "I
am upset TU tries to find a loop hole to avoid paying
legitimate property taxes no matter who they hurt.
"They're hurting all of us, especially our children."
Jurors convict man in marijuana case
Federal court jurors on Wednesday found Ezequiel Chavez, 22,
of Mexico guilty of importing and possessing marijuana.
Chavez was arrested April 3 at the Presidio Port of Entry
when inspectors found 62 pounds of marijuana in a secret
compartment underneath the floor of the vehicle.
Jose Luis Contreras-Lara, 26, was driving the vehicle, and
Chavez was a passenger. Contreras pleaded guilty, but Chavez
claimed he merely accepted a ride from Chihuahua, Mex. to
Denver, Colo. and did not know the marijuana was in the
Scott Johnson represented Chavez. Prosecutors for the
government were Fred Brigman of Alpine and Tom McHugh of San
U.S. District Judge Royal Furgeson set sentencing for Sept.
Area's sales tax rebates continued climb
Sales tax figures for Reeves County continued to climb
during May, according to figures released last week by Texas
Comptroller John Sharp's office.
Sharp sent Pecos a check for $58,141 this month, based on
the city's 1.5 percent share of sales taxes collected in
May. That's up 3.8 percent from the $56,016 collected in May
of 1997, and for the first seven months of this year, the
city's rebate has totalled $443.957, up by 6 3/4 percent
from a year ago.
Toyah and Balmorhea also reported sales tax figures up for
both the month and year. Balmorhea received a $307 check
back from Austin this month, up 23.6 percent over last May
and their yearly total of $4,967 is up by 42.8 percent from
Toyah got back $272 this month, 57.2 percent higher than a
year ago, and for the first seven months of 1997, the city
has received $2,820 in tax rebates, a jump of 12.4 percent.
Also on the rise was the Reeves County Hospital District.
It's $25,178 check was up 22 percent over last year's
$20.914 total. For the year, the hospital's 1/2-cent sales
tax has brought it $177,966, up 9.9 percent over 1997's
Most other area cities reported increases in their July tax
rebate check. The biggest jumps were in Monahans and Odessa,
thanks to increased of 50 and 25 percent respectively in
their sales tax rates during the past year. They helped
increase Monahans' check by 38 3/4 percent, and Odessa's
numbers by 35.8 percent.
Odessa's check of $949,658 was the area's largest, just
ahead of Midland, which got back $949,124 on its 1 percent
sales tax. Midland, along with Alpine, Fort Stockton and Big
Spring, joined Pecos in showing slight increases for the
month, while tax rebates fell in Andrews, Crane, Marfa and
Statewide, Sharp said checks totalling $174.5 million to
taxing entities across Texas, an increase of 13.5 percent
from a year ago. Houston's 20.4 million check was the
largest, and represented an 11.9 percent increase, while
Dallas and San Antonio were both up by about 10 percent and
Austin showed a 17.3 percent increase.
Sharp cited the high Texas economy and strong employment for
the increase in sales during May.
Jewell Roberta Beckham, 86, died Wednesday, July 15, 1998 in
Services will be held at 10 a.m., Saturday, July 18, in the
First United Methodist Church of Kermit. Burial will be in
the family cemetery on the Beckham Ranch in northwestern
She was born June 27, 1912, in Thomaston, Tx., graduated
from Pecos High School in 1930 and attended Sul Ross State
University in Alpine. She was a rancher, homemaker and also
owned a gift shop in Kermit. She had been a resident of
Winkler County for 46 years and was a member of the First
United Methodist Church in Kermit, the Kermit Garden Club
and the Winkler County Historical Commission.
She was preceded in death by one grandson, William Ernest
(Billy) Beckham in 1990.
Survivors include one son, Bill Beckham of Wink; one
daughter, Nell Young of Abilene; five grandchildren and nine
Copper Funeral Home in Kermit is in charge of arrangements.
Joe Kerley, 73, of Saragosa, died Wednesday, July 15, 1998
at the Veterans Hospital in Big Spring.
Graveside services will be held at 10 a.m., Friday, July 17,
at Mt. Evergreen Cemetery with Rev. Virgil Gage officiating.
He was born Aug. 28, 1924, in Limestone County, Tx., was a
U.S. Army Veteran who had served in World War II, had lived
in Saragosa since 1952 and was a Baptist.
He was preceded in death by his wife Jaylnn Kerley in August
Survivors include two sons, Don Kerley of Ft. Davis, Max
Kerley of Wink; two daughters, Kim Sanders of Pecos, Karla
Bowles of Big Spring; two sisters, Elious Tate of Ventura,
Calif., Carolyn Devaine of Mulberry, Fla.; one brother,
Leland Kerley of DeKalb, Tx. and 10 grandchildren.
Pecos Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.
High Wednesday 102 degrees. Low this morning was 71.
Rainfall .18 inch. Total for year 1.08 inches. Forecast for
tonight: Partly cloudy. A less than 20 percent chance of
thunderstorms. Low 70 75. Light wind. Friday, partly cloudy.
A less than 20 percent chance of thunderstorms. High around
102. East wind 5-15 mph.
Mac McKinnon, Publisher
Division of Buckner News Alliance, Inc.
324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 915-445-5475, FAX 915-445-4321
Associated Press text, photo, graphic, audio and/or video material shall not be published, broadcast, rewritten for broadcast or publication or redistributed directly or indirectly in any medium.
Copyright 1998 by Pecos Enterprise