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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

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Monday, July 12, 1999

Area gets soaking from weekend rains

Staff Writer

PECOS, July 12, 1999 -- Gentle, soaking rains fell over the area Friday, Saturday and Sunday, giving a long drink to thirsty soil.

Heavy rains in northern Reeves County on Saturday caused flash flooding on Farm Road 652 and the southbound lane of U.S. Highway 285 near Orla.

Reeves County Sheriff Arnulfo Gomez said he went to the scene about 1 p.m. after the Pecos Police dispatcher notified him of the flooding situation, and he sent all the deputies out.

"Two cars got into high water," Gomez said. "The water was up to the highway on 285, but 652 was flooded. When the Texas Department of Transportation crew got there, I came back to Pecos and sent the deputies back."

TxDOT blocked FM 652, he said, but U.S. 285 remained open.

Mike Elliott of B&B Wrecker Service said he pulled a Toyota out of the ditch one mile south of Orla, and Mike Gonzales pulled out another farther north.

"The car hit a puddle of water and spun around and wound up in the ditch," Elliott said. The water was draining off the surrounding flats, he said.

The deepest covering of water on U.S. 285 was in the area near the Red Bluff Lake road, where orange plyons were placed in the southbound lane to warn drivers of the potential hazard.

Orla Postmaster Susan Gahr said that rains of more than four inches were reported in the area.

The rains arrived in Pecos about 2:30 Saturday morning, and water from the overnight showers was left standing in fields and ditches alongside U.S. 285 about four miles north of town.

Texas A&M Reserarch Station six miles west of Pecos recorded 1.41 inches over the weekend, where the high temperature Sunday was 83, and the overnight low 68.

Farther west, Gary Ingram measured .70 inch at Toyah from showers that fell Friday night, Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.

In Pecos, only a trace of rain fell Sunday, after .98 inch fell Friday and Saturday nights.

Fort Stockton recorded one inch, while Balmorhea measured 1.10 inches. Jodi McElroy said that the McElroy ranch west of Balmorhea received from 1.5 to 2.90 inches.

The Associated Press reported that heavy rains continued to pound South Texas, while partly cloudy skies and cooler temperatures spread out to the north.

Weather conditions in the Panhandle on Sunday also included partly cloudy skies with light winds and temperatures in the mid 70s.

In the South, showers and thunderstorms were scattered throughout the area. The heaviest rain fell near Austin.

Temperatures on Sunday were mild, except for a steamy 95 in Alice, and a heat index of 106.

P-B-T opts against sale of Barstow campus

Staff Writer

PECOS, July 12, 1999 -- Greater Opportunities of the Permian Basin will continue to lease the Barstow school building for their Head Start program, the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD board of trustees decided Thursday.

The annual payment of $648 gives the Head Start agency access to the campus from Aug. 1, 1999 to July 31, 2000 and the responsibility for maintenance, upkeep and liability insurance coverage.

P-B-T Supt. Don Love said that he had offers of $5,000 and $10,000 for the school campus, but felt it in the best interest of the district to continue the Head Start lease.

"It is a good deal; I like it," said trustee Freddy Lujan.

Charlene Ramero Wurtz showed the board a videotape and explained the Census 2000 program.

Wurtz said the census count will start April 1, 2000, with an estimated 275 million people to contact. The 1990 census missed 8.4 million people, she said, and "we need to do a better job in 2000."

Reeves County Judge Jimmy Galindo is setting up a "complete count committee" to assist Wurtz in locating hard to enumerate areas of the county.

"We look at the whole county, the makeup, and determine which areas we will have problems with, then make a plan of action to develop a good working census," Wurtz said.

In the schools, Wurtz hopes to teach children what the census is and tell its history.

Recruitment for 35-50 census enumerators will start in December, she said.

Wilkins of San Antonio won the bid to resurface the Pecos High School track with the low bid of $58,236. The track will be closed today through August 31, said Love.

Other bidders were Southwest Recreational, $69,888; and Vibra, $66,355.

Wilkins will install curbing before the county re-works and replaces the dirt base, then will apply asphalt and surface with all-weather latex, Love said.

"We have to get on this with the city Monday," Love said. "It will take three days to tear out the curb and track."

He said the work must be completed and paid for by August 31, which is the end of the fiscal year. It's the first complete overhaul for the PHS track in 17 years.

El Paso Baking Co., the sole bidder, was awarded the contract to supply bread to the cafeterias. Gandy's will furnish the milk products.

Valley Motors won the bid on three vehicles, including a utility program vehicle, a mini-van and a mid-size car, with a bid of $55,000. Colt Chevrolet's bid was $58,700.

Security State Bank will be the school's depository for the next two years, with a change in state law that allows a two-year term.

The board approved a resolution authorizing business manager Cookie Canon to borrow up to $985,000 through the Texas Association of School Board's Tax Anticipation Note plan.

Delivery costs are not to exceed $13,500, and the maximum note rate is 4.75 percent.

"We are able to draw on this money and use it. They invest it for us," Canon said. "We are expected to pay it back in February when we get our tax money."

The TAN program is available to cover general operating expenses during the early months of the school year before property taxes are due.

Canon said the district didn't have to use the money last year, and it earned 1.2 percent interest.

Tax assessor-collector Lydia Prieto reported total collections this year at $5.5 million, with a $2 million outstanding balance.

Canon reported that the company who handles employee insurance cafeteria plans has offered to expand their services to all payroll educations.

"They look at what we already have and shop for something comparable or better," Canon said. "Employees have all these policies, and have to contact different representatives. This way, they only talk to one person."

Insurance that can't be replaced will be retained, she said.

"There is no fee," Canon said. "They don't even work on commission. They are very service oriented, and billings will come on line for us. It is a win-win deal."

Assistant Superintendent Gome Olibas said he is pretty impressed with the offer.

"I think it is a great idea," said Austin Principal Beau Jack Hendrick.

The board approved the plan.

Love said that he, Canon and Prieto will attend tax workshops July 21-23 and will get all their questions answered for the 1999-2000 budget.

The board set a workshop for 6 p.m. July 27.

Prieto was appointed to determine the effective tax rate and rollback rates.

Jo Allgood said that the election committee met Wednesday and evaluated coordinator Debbie Thomas.

"She had many duties to perform and did them all in a very good manner," Allgood said. "She received a very good evaluation and we voted to renew her contract with one little change to allow for payment when all elections are canceled."

Allgood said the committee had not foreseen that all three entities who consolidated elections - city, school and hospital district - would cancel elections the same year, as they did last year.

"We didn't feel like it would ever happen again that all three canceled," she said.

Paying her the full $8,000 even when there are no elections will make up for the years when she oversees three hectic elections, Allgood said.

Following a closed session on personnel and legal matters, the board directed Love "to proceed in legal matters as discussed in closed session."

Love refused to reveal who or what the board discussed.

Furgeson has busy court docket

Staff Writer

PECOS, July 12, 1999 -- U.S. District Judge Royal Furgeson began a busy week this morning by presiding for jury selection in two criminal cases. He had 16 sentencings and a guilty plea scheduled for the afternoon.

Another 17 sentencings are on Tuesday morning's docket, with the trial of Odell Dozier Locklair to begin at 1:30 p.m. and a motion to suppress hearing at 5 p.m.

On Wednesday, the trial of Juan Lopez-Sanabria begins at 9 a.m., with two sentencings and a guilty plea to be worked in during the afternoon.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Stuart Platt accepted several guilty pleas in felony cases assigned to Judge Furgeson last week.

Senior Judge Lucius Bunton is slowly regaining strength and spends several hours a day in his Midland chambers, where he is writing the history of the Western District of Texas.

He said today that he plans to return to the Pecos courtroom, but not to try criminal cases.

"I am tired of sending people to prison," Bunton said. "I love to try criminal cases. They are fun to try. Generally the lawyers are better and it is easier, but if they are found guilty, you have to sentence them. None of the judges have offered to sentence them after I try them."

Beetles to eradicate salt cedar

TEMPLE (AP) The salt cedar tree was imported into the United States more than 150 years ago to protect stream banks from erosion.

What no one seemed to realize at the time was that the salt cedar would also crowd out willow trees, cottonwoods and other plants crucial to wildlife.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture fired the first volley Thursday in what likely will be a long-term war against the tree, which officials say has infested more than one million acres along rivers and streams in California, Colorado, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming and at a test site near Seymour, Texas.

C. Jack DeLoach, an entomologist with the USDA's Agricultural Research Service in Temple, is spearheading the effort, which has been in the works for more than 10 years.

The USDA has authorized the release of about 3,000 eggs of Chinese leaf beetles at selected sites across the western United States.

"The leaf beetles eat Old World species of salt cedar and nothing else," DeLoach told the Temple Daily Telegram.

DeLoach traveled to the beetles' native habitat Central Asia and Southern Europe to look for natural enemies to the salt cedar trees. The diorhabda elongata leef beetle of China, which feeds and reproduces exclusively on salt cedar, was chosen to take on the calt cedar.

The salt cedar has an ally in the Endangered Species Act, which protects the southwestern willow flycatcher. With the demise of many native trees, the willow flycatchers have taken to nesting in the salt cedars.

Because of that, the research service will conduct a year of field experiments during which the beetles will remain in cages. Beetles will not be released near nesting flycatchers without approval of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

For the field tests, DeLoach and colleagues will erect 10-foot-square cages over existing salt cedar infestations along rivers and streams in the states that have the tree.

The eggs will be placed on the salt cedar so the insects will have something to eat when they hatch. Researchers will monitor the cages to make sure the beetles behave as expected.

The beetles have been tested extensively in China and in the ARS quarantine facilities in Temple, DeLoach said.

Pecos Rodeo's `99 payout  at $233,592

PECOS, July 12, 1999 -- A record $233,592 was paid out during the 117th West of the Pecos Rodeo, held during the July 4th weekend in Pecos.

The "king of the cowboys," seven-time World All Around Champion Ty Murray, wasted no time in staking his claim for the All Around Title and a lion share of the contestant prize money with $11,641 in winnings at the West of the Pecos Rodeo by placing in all three rough stock events during the first performance of the rodeo.

World standings leader Jeffrey Collins and "Skoals After Midnight" set the pace in the Bareback Riding during the first performance with a scorching score 86 points to top the leader board. World Champions Speed Williams and Rich Skelton roped a time of 13.1 seconds in the first two go rounds of the Team Roping and came back in the Finals on Sunday to finish first overall for the rodeo.

sLeroy Brown and Vince Stanton teamed up for a score of 85 points to lead the event during the special section bull riding on Wednesday night.

The record payout at the West of the Pecos Rodeo moved Bad Company Rodeo's "Reelin-n-Rockin'" Tour payout to $869,592, according to organizers of the annual event.

Bad Company Rodeo hits the road again for the "Wild Thing" Bull Riding in Gallup, N.M., on July 16-17 and the "Lea County Fair and Rodeo" in Lovington, N.M., Aug. 11-14.

Mine closure hurts county economy

VAN HORN, Texas (AP) A sulfur mine closure this month has officials in one West Texas county worried about a dip in tax revenue.

The McMoRan Explorations mine in the northeast part of Culberson County ceased production July 1, as worldwide sulfur prices have bottomed out over the past decade.

"It will affect us, big time," county tax assessor-collector Molly Hernandez told the Odessa American. She said McMoRan paid the county $142,963 in property taxes for 1998 roughly about 10 percent of the county's more than $1 million annual operating budget.

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