Like the region itself, the news of West Texas is sweeping in its scope. So to help us break it all down, we have news editors from across the region joining us. In this roundtable, we hear from Laura Dennis with the Odessa American and Robert Halpern at the Big Bend Sentinel-Marfa.
McDannald Ranch Fire Nears Full Containment
The McDannald Ranch Fire — which s believed to have been started by a lightning strike — has burned throughout the Davis Mountains area since April 30th.
As of Friday, the fire is 83 percent contained and still has a footprint of about 19,000 acres. “It looks like we’re over the hill now, over the hump,” says Robert Halpern of the Big Bend Sentinel.
By Friday, roughly half of the fire crew stationed at Bloys Camp left to help respond to large fires in the Texas Panhandle.
Odessa Chooses New City Manager
Michael Marrero has been selected as Odessa’s new city manager.
His appointment comes at a time when the city is facing big issues, says Laura Dennis with the Odessa American.
“He’s walking into a time where he’ll have to negotiate water contracts,” Dennis says. “He has a city council that’s still a little split on things very often, they’re not always in agreement with what they’re doing.”
But Marrero is also entering at a prosperous time for the city.
In Odessa, the sales tax revenue collected is 63 percent higher than what the city’s budget writers expected at this time in the fiscal year.
“Our economy is booming again,” Dennis says.”We’re seeing it in everything from, rent is higher, the streets are cray busy, people are looking for employees ore than they are looking for jobs. So that’s always the indicator for us.”
Dennis says the once-again booming energy industry — from hydraulic fracturing to sand mining — is the force behind the economic boon. ”
“It’s all just coming together for a perfect storm of busyness in Midland and Odessa,” says Dennis.
Highway 67 Master Plan
The Texas Department of Transportation is currently in the middle of conducting a two-year study on the Highway 67 Corridor.
“There have been improvements over the years, but it’s been an oft neglected highway,” says Halpern, who calls the stretch of highway a “lifeline” for the area.
The stretch of rural Texas that Highway 67 runs through has seen significant growth in recent years, and TxDOT wants to determine the transportation needs for the area. That’s where the public meetings come into play, says Halpern. “They want to hear from the public… the main thing is for everyone to get involved.”
Halpern says one of the main reasons for the study was a safety concern.