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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
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Top Stories

Tuesday, March 9, 1999

Red Bluff opts to change dam plans

Staff Writer

PECOS, March 9, 1999 - Fear of the unknown, and the possible cost overruns it might cause, led Red Bluff Water Power Control Board members to change their plans Monday on replacing gates at Red Bluff Dam.

Following a presentation by Rick Shoemaker and Sonny Kretzschmar of HDR Engineering, board members agreed to allow the firm to proceed with a less complicated plan to replace the dam's gates, which is also expected to cost $250,000 less than the original proposal.

In January the board approved replacing the current slide gates on the irrigation flow channels through the dam, only one of which is currently operative, with knife and jet flow gates, at a cost of just under $1 million.

However, Kretzschmar told the board in February that concrete around the housing at the dam was greater than expected, and Shoemaker offered the board a more detailed report on Monday.

"Three-quarters of the level of the irrigation tunnel is filled with concrete. We can't see any of the valve flanges. We can't see any of the piping, and that makes it impossible to determine what we need to connect with," he said.

"We decided there was too much risk and too much uncertainty to have Red Bluff order $300,000 worth of equipment and then not be sure it will fit in the hole," Shoemaker said, adding keeping the knife/jet gate plan "would create a much higher side of cost overruns and time overruns."

HDR's revised plan would replace the current 42-inch sluice gate in the operating tunnel with a new 42-inch gate, while installing a 30-inch gate on the second tunnel to make it operational again.

The two gates are expected to cost $150,000 and would take seven months less to fabricate than had been scheduled for the knife and jet flow gates. Total cost for the project was put at $750,000.

"In terms of recommending what we need to do, we're now headed towards the sluice gates," Kretzschmar said. "We aren't saying the other recommendation is impossible, it's just more expensive."

Under the plan, new stainless steel gates would be put at the front of the dam, and new sleeves would be placed in the tunnels after the existing ones are grouted out.

"This way we will not have to disturb the (abandoned electric) powerhouse, the pinstock and the butterfly valves," Shoemaker said. "I don't see a need to work in the powerhouse or dry wells if we don't need to."

Board member Lloyd Goodrich was opposed to the plan, focusing on the need to used stop logs and get a new bulkhead to seal off the tunnel if future maintenance work is needed. He was also concerned about the effects de-watering the tunnels would have on the 63-year-old concrete inside, though Kretzschmar said either plan would require de-watering.

Shoemaker also said by going to the sluice gates, the original two-year schedule for the project could be maintained. The gate replacement is scheduled for the final three months of 2000 and the first three months of 2001, before Red Bluff's water releases downstream begin.

"I see nothing wrong with it," said board president Randall Hartman, who explained that a vote to chance the proposal was not required by the board. "We're just agreeing with them on the second proposal. "

Board members then approved a resolution by a 4-0 margin, with Goodrich abstaining, to support HDR's revised proposal.

In other action, general manager Jim Ed Miller told board members Red Bluff faces a new delay on their Malaga Bend desalinization project just north of the Texas-New Mexico state line.

Miller said New Mexico state lawyers told him because there are three diversion points between Red Bluff's Malaga Bend site and the Loving Salt Co. plant, they could not allow the district to transfer 30 acre/feet of water upriver for use by the plant in keeping it's equipment clean.

"I've talked to Collin McMillan,

Reporter's trip home story for Dallas TV

Pete Fuentes and John Pronk Photo

Staff Writer

PECOS, March 9, 1999 - Pete Fuentes used his fluent Spanish to judge television programs for the Associated Press Managing Editor's contest last weekend in Dallas.

This week, Fuentes is visiting his father, Jose Fuentes, in the Lindsay Addition and touring his birthplace of Balmorhea with a Dallas television reporter.

John Pronk of WFAA TV in Dallas is interviewing Fuentes' family, friends and former co-workers at KIUN Radio, where he got his start in broadcasting 20 years ago.

Fuentes is a news and feature reporter at WWOR New York City, where he has won many awards for his work.

Judging the APME awards was "a lot of fun," Fuentes said. "I judged a lot of categories that had Spanish interests, because nobody else could understand them. I did large and medium markets, investigative, some feature, sports and weather."

An El Paso weathercaster won a first place award, Fuentes remembers. And WFAA had the best newscast, along with numerous other awards out of the 50-100 categories entered.

Fuentes said that, since he was in Texas, he should come on to Pecos to visit his Dad, who is 88 years old.

"We are going to Balmorhea. He is doing a story on the small-town kid in New York," Fuentes said.

In New York, Fuentes has worked on general assignment news and still does some feature work.

"I have done everything from the mayor's policies to the President coming to town, to Hillary and Monica," he said.

Of Monica Lewinsky stories, Fuentes said, "It became outrageous and absurd. We did angles from the President's tie to the dress - you name it. It just keeps you hopping."

West Texans visiting New York drop in on Fuentes, and he gives them a taste of city life. Recent visitors from Balmorhea have included Robert Scripps and Gussie and Rip Turnbough.

"I took them to some plays and stuff," he said. "And my sister came up. I get to give them tours."

Fuentes' sister, Dina "Kitita" Tarango, alerted the Enterprise Monday morning that Pete and John were at her house on Ash Street. Others dropping in were her son, Ernest, an uncle, Daniel Fuentes, and neighbors Juanita Barraza and Jesus Anaya.

Pronk said he has traveled over the state of Texas, putting more an 100,000 miles on his company car in the past two years, storing his video camera and equipment in the spacious trunk.

Photographing on a very windy day Monday, Pronk worked as if dirt blowing in his face was an everyday occurrence.

And Fuentes, looking little older than when he first picked up a microphone at KIUN Radio, seemed to enjoy being back home despite the dust.

Spencer adds El Paso office in 20th year

Frank Spencer Photo

Staff Writer

PECOS, March 9, 1999 - Frank Spencer looks right at home seated behind a mahogany desk in a well-appointed office, dressed in a dark business suit. But he's equally at home in jeans, toting surveying instruments across rugged countryside.

As owner of Frank X. Spencer & Associates, consulting engineers and surveyors, Spencer has built up a far-flung operation from two employees 20 years ago to the present staff of 18.

With the opening this week of a branch office in El Paso, four employees will be added. Victor Encisco, a civil engineer, has worked in the Pecos office for the past two months, "understanding how we operate." He will work with two CAD operators (draftsmen) and one assistant office manager in El Paso.

"We are hoping, before the year is out, we will have another CAD operator and another professional engineer and a well surveyor on staff," Spencer said.

Celebrating the expansion and his 20 years in business, Spencer and his wife, Becky, have invited clients to tour the Pecos offices at 611 South Oak Friday afternoon.

They will see how modern technology allows the staff to input survey data into a computer that will produce a working drawing of the project.

"We probably have the best equipment, equal to what anyone in El Paso or Odessa-Midland has," Spencer said. "We change computers at least every three years. Software changes even faster than hardware."

Modern technology has greatly changed the way surveyors work since Spencer and Francisco Granado took over the business from Fred Armstrong.

The Global Positioning System has replaced manual surveying equipment. "It costs so much I don't care to say what it costs," he said. It uses satellites to survey the "total station," with a modern transit that has an on-board computer and distance meter.

"It shoots a signal and it bounces back off a reflector. It measures the wave length and measures the distance between the two points," he said. That is recorded on the on-board computer and is later uploaded to the design program, but the surveyor also takes field notes as confirmation.

"You think about a surveyor with boots and hat and slide rules, carrying his surveying instrument and a chain, charging $25 for a lot. Now you couldn't even drive 10 blocks without charging $25."

Spencer said the surveyor has to be a historian and a detective. "You have to think about how they thought 100 years ago when they surveyed. We have to research land title books; to be aware of laws just like an attorney does. If you make a mistake in surveying, it will be with you until the day you die."

"We started with three people," Spencer said. "I did everything in the field and in the office. My kids still today would say I didn't spend enough time with them, but I had to get the job done."

Although he now has a staff of professional engineers like Abidur Khan and Victor Thompson, Spencer still puts in long hours. He may be on the road overseeing projects, meeting with commissioners courts, as he did Monday in Fort Stockton, or working in the office until 8 or 9 p.m.

"We have been able to bring to Pecos professional services that has been successful, basically," he said. "We have done it to provide honest, professional, responsible and dedicated service to our clients."

Spencer believes that track record will serve him well in the new El Paso office. "I know if it will work here, it will definitely work over there," he said.

"Above all, I thank the team that we have," Spencer said. "I am very proud of them."

Some have been on the staff for 13 years, while one was hired last week.

"We did it mainly with guys just out of high school. One guy is a senior in high school, and he's been a tremendous hand to us. He started with us last summer. He works every day from 11:30 to quitting time and weekends if needed."

Spencer also credited the local banks with supporting his efforts.

"They have definitely been behind us 100 percent. You can go many places and you don't find that kind of help," he said.

Governing entities such as the commissioners courts, cities and school districts in Reeves, Pecos and Presidio counties have also worked with Spencer, and how he is doing some work in Jeff Davis County as well.

Spencer got his start with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Fort Worth after graduating from Texas A&M with a civil engineering degree.

He then worked for a small contractor doing utility work - water and sewer - and bridges and dams, and eventually formed his own company. He operated a loader and backhoe "basically laying pipe" for awhile, then went to street projects for the city of San Antonio.

Among the projects in San Antonio, Spencer worked on the popular Riverwalk, installing waterfalls and re-directing the flow to keep the water fresh.

"I just happened to end up in Pecos in late 1976 and started working for Fred Armstrong in January, 1977," Spencer said. On March 1, 1979, Spencer bought the business and later moved it to its present location in the former Contel telephone company building.

"I just want everyone to know that Pecos has people that can do the job, given the chance," he said.

He is interested in economic development, and for 10 years has promoted trade with Mexico and a route to the Pacific Ocean that open up trade with Japan.

"Pecos is sitting right in the middle of all this," he said. "We haven't lost the boat. We just need to get on it."

He believes education is the first priority, and as a director on the Pecos Economic Development Corporation board, he is pushing for an Odessa College branch in Pecos.

Pecos County pulls out of water district

Staff Writer

PECOS, March 9, 1999 - Pecos County has opted out of the tri-county underground water district and voted to form one of their own.

That leaves Reeves and Loving counties alone in the proposed district to be submitted to the Texas Legislature on March 15 by Rep. Gary Walker.

"That will probably be beneficial, in that the water systems in those two counties are closely related," said Clark Lindley, temporary board member for Reeves County.

Lindley said he participated in conversations with Rep. Pete Gallego in Fort Stockton on Saturday, and he said that 20-25 underground water districts are being created this session. Texas already has 43 such districts.

"Most of the existing districts are in West Texas, and the ones that are being added include Presidio, Brewster, Pecos and Reeves/Loving," Lindley said.

Ward County Judge Sam Massey said on Monday that they are reluctant to form a water district because they need to focus on whether to form a joint hospital district with Winkler County, Lindley said.

"I think our intent is to look at what this is going to cost in terms of a budget," he said. "We will develop a long-range water management plan, which should be worked out by the end of the year 2000."

Voters will have to approve the district and the ad valorem tax that will finance it, Lindley said. They will also elect directors, with probably five each from Loving and Reeves County.

"Over the long term, there will be studies done, and certain permitting programs for new wells producing over $25,000 gallons a day," Lindley said.

The underground water conservation district will be working to see that water is used in the two counties in a way that will conserve both the quality and the quantity of water for the longest benefit.

Loving County has limited underground water, but they are in the same formations as Reeves, Lindley said.

"It would be financially prohibitive for them to have a district by themselves," he said.

Border Patrol set to add 25 agents 

MARFA, March 9, 1999 - Marfa Border Patrol expects to add 25 agents before October 1 as part of the National Border Patrol strategy and Operation Rio Grande.

"These new agents are an enhancement to the work force in Marfa Sector," said Chief Patrol Agent Simon Garza Jr. "There are in addition to positions that are vacated by agents that have retired or transferred to other areas."

Texas and the Southwest border are the focus of the federal government's effort to control illegal immigration.

Garza said the new agents will bring the officer corps work force to 186.

"These positions will create even more career opportunities for the agents already assigned to Marfa Sector, such as promotions to senior patrol agent and supervisory Border Patrol agent," Garza said.

All new agents will be placed in border stations with responsibility for coverage along the Rio Grande, Garza said. Assignments are: Sierra Blanca, 9; Marfa, 4; Presidio, 3; Alpine, 7; and Sanderson, 2.

The new agents will report to Marfa Sector once they have received their orders. After successful completion of a 19-week academy at Glynco, Ga. or Charleston, S.C., they will begin their duties in their assigned stations.

Federal grand jury indicts Pecos man

Staff Writer

PECOS, March 9, 1999 - Mark Anthony Torres, 20, of 1815 S. Alamo St., was one of 32 persons indicted Thursday by the federal grand jury.

Torres is charged with possession of 390.60 pounds of marijuana with intent to distribute.

Marijuana possession accounted for 15 of the indictments; importing and possessing marijuana 10; illegal entry after deportation 4; and one each for transporting illegal aliens, possessing a firearm by an alien, and failure to appear.

Area cities where defendants live include Seagraves, Odessa, Presidio and Carlsbad, N.M. Others are from Fabens, Fort Worth, Portales and Belen, N.M., California and Mexico.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Stuart Platt accepted the indictments. He also arraigned a number of defendants indicted last month and took guilty pleas from several others.

ESOL classes available from Carver Center

English for Speakers of Other Languages classes are being held through Odessa College on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 6 to 8:30 p.m.

The class is free and are being held at the Carver Learning Center, 600 E. 12th St. For further information, either come by the Carver Center or call 445-381 during class hours and ask for Lois Muro or instructor Alonzo Garcia.

Border Patrol copter helps locate girl

Staff Writer

BALMORHEA, March 9, 1999 - A Balmorhea girl was located Friday afternoon a few hours after being reported missing, thanks to the combined efforts of several law enforcement agencies.

"It was a combined effort by all of us and we're very happy it had a happy ending," said Reeves County Sheriff Andy Gomez.

The search began after Deputy Tommy Acosta in Balmorhea received a call in reference to the missing child. The complainant said that due to an argument the child had left the residence on her bicycle riding west on Highway 17 and from there into Toyah Creek, which runs just north of town.

At this point, deputy Acosta got the juvenile's description and went in search of her.

The girl was not located during the morning hours and at this point, Acosta notified Deputy Danny Reynolds about the missing juvenile and that the family was requesting further assistance from the sheriff's department.

Reynolds then contacted Chief Deputy Victor Prieto and was authorized to contact the Border Patrol for trackers and a helicopter.

An organized search began at this time, with both the Pecos and Marfa offices of the Border Patrol contacted to help search from the girl in the Balmorhea/Toyahvale area.

Senior Patrol Agent Roy D. Cason and Border Patrol Agent J.K. Kramer responded from Pecos. Patrol Agent in charge George F. Campbell of the Pecos Station and Marfa Sector Pilot Roger Amos flew in a helicopter from Marfa.

Reynolds told gave photocopy of a recent picture of the girl, and said while the juvenile was on anti-seizure medicine for epilepsy, she did not have her medication with her and it was unknown whether she had taken her required dosage.

Border Patrol agents, aided by the game warden and border patrol pilot attempted to locate the girl's tracks and find her by using Border Patrol tracking techniques. Reeves County Deputies did ground surveillance operations.

Because of the possibility of a medical emergency (epileptic condition) INS-IRP officers stood by to escort medical personnel to the location if required. Tracking assignments were started at about 3:15 p.m.

Cason was able to determine a direction of travel by the girl, and gave it to Campbell, who followed a fence line that would intersect her direction of flight. Kramer and Game Warden Jim Allen were following another road closer to Cason's location.

According to officers reports, her tracks and the bicycles' were observed by Campbell crossing the fence line. A line of flight direction was ascertained and this information was transmitted to Pilot Amos, who followed the suspected line of flight and was able to locate the girl attempting to hide in the open field.

Amos radioed this information to Campbell, before landing his helicopter near her location at 4:05 p.m. He said she was in good medical condition with only bruises and small cuts, and was tired. The juvenile assured him that she had taken her daily dosage of the required medicine.

Amos took the girl in his arms and brought her to a location near FM 3078 about five miles west of Toyahvale, so that the escorted medical units could examine her quicker.

"She had already walked about 12 miles," said Gomez.

Medical unit personnel confirmed Amos' medical report and also indicated slight dehydration, however she did not require hospital attention.

"This was a case of everyone working together and having everything come out all right," said Gomez.

Gomez praised all the officers who helped and said that they did an excellent job.

"The tracker has been very helpful to us in the past and everyone who helped did an extraordinary job," he said.

Texas Lotto

AUSTIN (AP) Results of the Cash 5 drawing Monday night: Winning numbers drawn: 11-20-25-28-37. Number matching five of five: 2. Prize per winner: $45,738. Winning tickets sold in: Beaumont, Carrollton. Matching four of five: 213. Prize: $645.


AUSTIN (AP) The winning Pick 3 numbers drawn Monday by the Texas Lottery, in order: 1-9-9 (one, nine, nine)


PECOS, March 9, 1999 - High Monday 72, low last night 35. Tuesday, mostly sunny. High in the mid 70s. Southeast wind 10-20 mph. Tuesday night, mostly clear. Low in the mid 40s. Wednesday, mostly sunny and breezy. High 75 80.

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Pecos Enterprise
York M. "Smokey" Briggs, Publisher
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