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City expands utility service for Hwy 17 industrial area


Town of Pecos City crews are continuing to work on extending infrastructure along the Highway 17 corridor on the southwest side of town, to meet the space needs of companies involved in the oil and gas drilling industry, and efforts also continue to find space for new housing in the Pecos area for the workers in jobs at those new yards.

The latest rig count from Baker Hughes Inc. showed a total of 34 rigs operating in Reeves County as of Aug. 12, up from eight a year ago, and over 50 in operation within a 30 miles radius of Pecos. That’s increased the need for yard space in the area, and local officials have been working to develop the land along Highway 17 next to the Pecos Municipal Airport as the main industrial zone for oilfield companies. But that’s been delayed by the need to get water, sewer and electricity into the area.

Texas-New Mexico Power Co. workers completed the extension of utility lines earlier this month along the area between Highway 17 and the airport, and land is being cleared for the construction of new yards. “We finally got the power in and the water and sewer is being laid as we speak,” said PEDC President Bill Oglesby. “We’ve finally got the infrastructure in position.

“We sold one of the lots to Robinson Drilling, and they’re the ones you’re seeing moving dirt right now,” he said of the land east of the intersection of Highway 17 and Locker Road. “They’re putting down a pad, and hopefully they’ll start construction of the building as quickly as they can.”

City officials earlier this year agreed to close off the plat for Arizona Street south of Highway 17, allowing the depth of the yards to be increased to make them more attractive to oilfield companies and other businesses. Oglesby said the lots run between eight and 10 acres, in the area, which stretches south from M&W Hot Oil’s yard to the city limits at the municipal landfill.

“Basically what we’re doing is we’re going to be installing 2,740 linear feet of PVC water line and three fire hydrants to provide fire protection, “ city public works director Edgardo Madrid said. “We’re also going to install 1,540 feet of PVC sewer line and four manholes.”

He said the work on the sewer line extension began this week. “As soon as we finish up the sewer, then we’re going to finish up the water,” Madrid added.

He said the area will have enough space to put in six new lots overall, and that the work should be done for the first two lots in about two weeks, and in a month for the full area down to the city limits.

“We’ve got a couple of other lots that have been sold or are in the process of being sold. They delay in the infrastructure delayed some of the things, but we should start seeing the development of the lots,” Oglesby said. “We’ve had a lot of people inquiring about ready-made metal buildings, but by now pretty much all of that has been taken up, so they have to build.”

There are still a number of unoccupied metal warehouse buildings in the area, along Western Avenue on the west side of Highway 17. But those building remain empty due to their being part of the Battery Reclamation, Inc. site that led to the indictment and arrest last year of Canadian businessman Herbert A.F. Larsen and two others for breaking U.S. federal and state hazardous waste regulations in Pecos, due to the materials stored at the facility.

Company officials were charged with illegally storing and disposing of used batteries without proper storage and disposal. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has cleaned up the site at a cost of $3.5 million, but it still has not been cleared for new occupancy.

“There was hang up with (removing) some of the batteries, but as I understand it, that’s been taken care of,” Oglesby said. “The next stop is the past ad valorem taxes that have to be taken care of, and then we can start foreclosure.

“It’s a good site for the oilfield (companies). They’ve got a railroad spur running through the yard, so it would be a good site for more than one company,” he added.

While the yard situation is improving, the effort to get new homes into the community remains slow going. Oglesby talked with city officials earlier this month about buying the Devilla Trailer Park on the west side of Pecos so that the facility, which has been mostly unoccupied for the past 20 years, could serve as the location of up to 35 new mobile homes.

At the time, he said the project could be completed within two months but on Thursday Oglesby said the rules for a 4B corporation mean, “We’re not going to be able to move ahead on that as fast as I hoped. We’ve got to hold hearings, and wait at least 90 days.”

Aside from mobile homes, Oglesby said, “It seems like rental housing is our biggest need right now. People are looking for rental property, and I know some people are working on fixing up some of the older homes in town for rentals.”

Along with the oil drilling activity, the other major energy-related project currently being discussed is a new gas plant that Southern Union is considering building in northern Reeves County. Pecos-Bar- stow-Toyah ISD board members were scheduled to discuss a Section 313 exemption for the project during their Thursday meeting, and company officials have met with the PEDC and Reeves County officials on the plan.

“They’re looking for considerations that would make it more attractive for them to build in Reeves County,” Oglesby said. The construction phase of the project could bring up to 300 jobs into the area, with a smaller number once the plant begins operations.