2016 — The year in review

By Gilda Morales

January 2016 began quietly enough with the welcome news about a cooperative effort between the 4-H and the Future Farmers of America to improve the annual Livestock show.  The New Year also brought about the passing of a new open carry law which pitted second amendment rights enthusiasts against property rights activists.  Local residents also welcomed news from Comanche Pipeline and Roadrunner Pipeline on plans to begin construction in the coming month.

Blue Origin also successfully launched a previously used rocket and landed it with incredible precision as planned. Sheriff Carrillo welcomed a donation of spikes to stop an increasing number of high-speed chases.  The end of January also marked the end of 60 years of farming as Howard Shelly auctioned off his equipment.

February brought about the sad news of the passing of the Editor of The Van Horn Advocate after a lengthy illness.  The family decided to continue publishing the newspaper in his honor.  CCAISD took the first step in a long road leading to a bond election for the building of a new school by asking Van Horn City Council to donate Fannin Street as part of its plan.

March came in like a lamb, with Van Horn honoring one of its longest living residents, Hazel Walker, on her 100th birthday with a party and a parade.  The primary election saw all incumbents reelected with the exception of a close race for County Commissioner, Precinct 1, between incumbent Cornelio Garibay and challenger Frank Franco.  Several Van Horn High School Basketball team members were honored by making the All-District teams at the same time that debate team members, Cami Uranga and Kyle Seyffert brought home the silver medal from state competition.  Another kind of award, possibly for the dumbest criminal, went to Russell Hudson, who broke into the Sheriff’s office, barricading himself and causing significant damage before being subdued.

April brought in a flurry of new construction with demolition finally beginning for the long-awaited new rural health clinic, while the Town of Van Horn learned of plans to add to their coffers through the sale of rack water to pipeline companies.  The Van Horn Economic Development Corporation also announced the final payment of $40,000 to the Town of Van Horn for water system improvements that began in 1998, while maintaining a healthy balance nearing half a million dollars.  Debbie Engle was named a finalist for the superintendent position in Valentine and Van Horn High School brought home honors as 2016 UIL Academic Champions.  CCAISD officials also made public details and costs for the proposed new facilities with a price tag of around 30 million dollars, awaiting the will of the voters in the upcoming election.  The Van Horn High School girls’ softball team also brought home the first ever district championship, while Noah Garcia advanced to the State UIL competition in Prose Interpretation.  Fabian Baeza, Van Horn Eagle football standout, also signed an intent to play for the Sul Ross State University Lobos, continuing his football career. Van Horn High school baseball team held district undefeated at 9-0.

May was a month that highlighted the many accomplishments of local high school students, including a record number inducted into the National Honor Society, the Eagle Baseball team taking bi-district honors and Cami Uranga qualifying for the state tournament in Tennis.  Renee Rivera was also honored for her prowess at the State track meet.  The biggest story, however, was the overwhelming vote in the bond election to approve construction of a new facility.  The election also saw Pam Young and Rudy Hinojos elected to posts on the city council.  On a sad note, the town remembered the contributions of D.H. Brewster, who passed away after a lengthy illness.  The Town of Van Horn was awarded the title of Best Drinking Water in the area, confirming what locals have long believed.  The run-off election saw incumbent Cornelio Garibay returned to his long-held post as County Commissioner, precinct 1, with a convincing vote of 101 to 67.

June marked the end of the school year with Nando Subia and Mirella Zumbra grabbing top honors as Valedictorian and Salutatorian respectively, for the 2016 class of 38 graduates.  The annual high school awards banquet also recognized top academic performers, and the hospital board swore in Fran Malafronte and Cheryl Owens to board positions.    A high-speed chase on I-10 successfully ended in the capture of a known sex-offender who had abducted a minor in Burlington, North Carolina.  June also saw the leaving of Karla Morrow, Nurse Practitioner, after three years of service at the Van Horn Rural Health Clinic, and her husband, Rodney, who ran Rodney’s Coffee Café.  “Boots and Scoops,” an ice-cream shop opened its doors under the direction of Starvanna Cottrell, much to the delight of locals trying to escape the heat.  El Paso Electric also announced plans to improve its service in an effort to prevent frequent power surges in the area.

An end of an era with the closing of beloved Papa’s Pantry was tempered with the opening of another restaurant, “Double DD’s Barbeque” by David Morales.  In the meantime, the influx of pipeline workers saw a race to build RV parks to accommodate hundreds of new faces, but not all residents were happy about the growth.  The Sheriff’s department took a chunk out of the meth market with the arrest of local resident William Oliver Carroll.

August brought in news from CCAISD presenting preliminary designs for its new campus, and new principal, Dr. Keith Reyes, from Washington State was introduced to the public.  School news dominated the headlines, with the Eagles hosting its opening football game against Tornillo, and local Debbie Engle winning the top spot as superintendent in Valentine, and the CCAISD school board adopting a deficit budget.   August also saw a record amount of rainfall, with the area receiving half of its annual rainfall during the month.

September’s open house at CCAISD saw a record number of participants, while efforts to quell the area’s meth problem resulted in the arrest of William Oliver Carroll again and Refugio Renteria.  Another new restaurant opened its doors, “RJ’s Grill,” under the ownership of Ryan Martinez and Janice Badillo, signaling a record number of new businesses opening in Van Horn.

The end of October seemed to focus on criminal activities with the arrest of Joseph McCormick for sexual crimes and the mysterious disappearance of Zuzu Verk, a student at Sul Ross State University, who went missing on October 12, and who has yet to be found.

November brought in not only a new President, but also another new business, “County Bagel,” much to the delight of local residents, who now had another choice in eateries.  Unfortunately, the news of a murder-suicide of two local young residents dominated local conversation as the community struggled to understand the senselessness of the tragedy.

November saw some welcome news in the hiring of Kathleen Christian, Nurse Practitioner, to help short-staffed providers at the rural health clinic and hospital.  The addition of state of the art radiology and lab equipment highlighted efforts by Preferred Management to bring quality healthcare to the community.  The Van Horn Eagles also continued their winning ways by advancing to the bi-district playoffs.

November signaled the beginning of the holiday season with the announcement of the annual Trans Pecos Big Buck Tournament, which brings in dozens of hunters to the area.  The Knights of Columbus also announced plans for its annual Thanksgiving dinner that this year fed over 400 people who would otherwise not have Thanksgiving meals.

December brought to light the continuing meth problem with the arrest of local “Chicharron” Urias, and Sheriff Oscar Carrillo warning others that there will be an all-out effort to rid the community of the problem.  Local resident, Alex Lopez was recognized as a graduate from Sul Ross State University, with a degree in criminal justice.  Residents were also treated to a peak at drawings of the proposed new school campus, which was enthusiastically received.