100-Degree Hot Streak Hits El Paso Region; Caution Urged

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Public safety officials are urging residents to take precautions as one of the hottest times of the summer in the El Paso-Juárez region has arrived.

The National Weather Service for El Paso has forecast temperatures topping 100 degrees Wednesday through at least Monday before dipping to the mid-90s next week.

“This will be our first significant stretch (of 100-degree days) that we usually experience in June and early July,” said John Fausett, meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Santa Teresa.

The high temperature reached 102 degrees Wednesday, National Weather Service staff said. It is forecast to climb to 103 or 104 Thursday and Friday, peaking at 105 Saturday before falling to 103 Sunday and 102 Monday.

Ryenne Calderon, 11, cools off in the splash pad at The Fountains at Farah Wednesday as the temperature reached 102 degrees.


“People need to drink plenty of fluids, stay in air-conditioned areas,” Fausett said.

“Heat is the silent killer,” Fausett said. “It kills more than any other weather phenomenon during an average year. If you average it out over 30 years, it’s heat. You don’t hear about it because it kills one or two people at a time.”

Authorities in the El Paso-Juárez-Las Cruces region advised residents to drink plenty of water even if not thirsty, avoid being outdoors during the hottest time of the day, never leave pets or people in parked vehicles and check on family, friends and neighbors who might not have air conditioning.

The Chihuahua civil protection office has urged people to take precautions during the heat wave.

The El Paso Extreme Weather Task Force reported that there were four heat-related deaths in El Paso County last summer.

The task force collects and distributes fans to qualifying seniors and needy families. New fan donations can be dropped off at any fire station. Residents who need a fan may call 211.

The El Paso Department of Public Health reminds residents that they can avoid the heat by visiting an air-conditioned mall, library or movie theater.

Victoria Dominguez twirls in the water spouts at The Fountains at Farah as the temperature reached 102 degrees Wednesday.


Officials said that people should beware of heat exhaustion, which usually occurs when people lose fluids by heavy sweating while working or exercising in hot environment, and heat stroke, which can be life threatening when a high body temperature threatens the brain.

The weather task force said those most at risk for heat stroke are elderly people without adequate cooling, babies sleeping in hot rooms, unattended children, people outdoors for long periods of time such as the homeless and hikers, and people under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Daniel Borunda may be reached at 546-6102; dborunda@elpasotimes.com; @BorundaDaniel on Twitter.

Heat exhaustion signs

• Feeling faint or dizzy.

• Excessive sweating

• Nausea or vomiting

• Cool, pale, clammy skin

• Muscle cramps.

• Rapid, weak pulse

What do to:

• Get to a cool, air-conditioned place.

• Drink water.

• Take cool shower, use cold compresses.

Heat stroke signs

• Throbbing headache

• No sweating. Red, hot skin.

• Body temperature over 103 degrees.

• May lose consciousness.

• Rapid, strong pulse.

What to do:

• Call 911

• Take immediate action to cool person until help arrives.

Source: El Paso Public Health Department

Ryenne Calderon, 11, splashes her younger brother Robby Calderon, 4, as they cool off Wednesday at the splash pad at The Fountains at Farah. Temperatures for the rest of the week are expected to be over 100 degrees.

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Chairman, Commissioner Quit El Paso County Historical Commission After ‘Demolition’ Letter

The Duranguito neighborhood in Downtown El Paso is back as the preferred site for a new arena. City Council voted Tuesday against hiring an outside firm to conduct another feasibility study for the arena.

Sara Sanchez/El Paso Times

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The chairman of the El Paso County Historical Commission quit Tuesday in a spat over a letter about building demolition permits in the proposed site of the Downtown arena.

Chairman Joseph Nebhan, along with Commissioner Rick Kern, resigned from the 25-member board designed to research and promote El Paso history.

“I made that decision (to resign) because this commission is more about legalities and politics than it is about history,” Nebhan said Wednesday.

More: City mum on demolition permits for Duranguito properties

The resignation occurred as the board discussed an agenda item about a letter Nebhan wrote criticizing city-issued demolition permits in the site of the proposed arena.

The city of El Paso has issued at least five demolition permits for two residential and three commercial buildings in the Union Plaza District’s Duranguito neighborhood, south of the civic center.

With a decision on the arena location pending a court hearing, the issuance of the demolition permits “would be a slap in the face to the courts, the residents of Duranguito, historic preservationists, and the citizens and taxpayers of El Paso,” Nebhan stated in the letter.

“We haven’t done anything this year other than fight with each other. The votes were coming down, the old commissioners against the new commissioners.”

Chairman Joseph Nebhan

The city is seeking legal affirmation of the 2012 bond election that the arena can be built in Union Plaza. A court hearing that was to take place in Austin last week has been re-scheduled for July 17.

Some commission members questioned whether Nebhan’s letter on county letterhead violated protocol.

Nebhan said that the letter was on county letterhead because he was commission chairman and that he has a right to communicate with commissioners.

“I was put on the grill and I said why am I putting up with this,” Nebhan said. “We haven’t done anything this year other than fight with each other. The votes were coming down, the old commissioners against the new commissioners.”

Several new members joined the historic commission in February.

“It’s all political,” said Nebhan, who was on the commission for five years. “It doesn’t do any good for anyone. That’s the reason I quit. It’s a waste of my time now.”

During the meeting, Nebhan said he was resigning, grabbed his belongings and walked out while Kern offered a written resignation after the meeting ended, said Christian Nill, county liaison to the commission.

Nill added that a county attorney at the meeting said that the letter did not violate open meetings law.

Kern could not be reached for comment.

County Administrator Betsy Keller said via email that the Commissioners Court will decided whether to fill the vacancies and who to appoint to the volunteer board. She declined to comment about the resignations.

In January, the El Paso County District Attorney’s Office began an investigation into whether the previous historical commission violated open meetings laws when members voted via email to oppose the city’s arena plan.

Daniel Borunda may be reached at 546-6102; dborunda@elpasotimes.com; @BorundaDaniel on Twitter.

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How to Experience the Best of El Paso Texas

If you are making your plans to travel to El Paso, you may have never been there before. You might not have any idea of what to expect. If you are traveling with your significant other, and you want to provide them with a great time, there are many activities that you can do while you are there. This is a city that is located on the border of Mexico, next to the Rio Grande River. South of Las Cruces, it is a city that has so much to offer. Here are some things you should do.

Wyler Aerial Tramway

This is a unique Tramway that takes you to the top of a mountain where you can see Chihuahua, New Mexico and Texas. It’s a very short tram, but it’s fun for people that have never done it before. You can also hike up the mountain as an option.

Hueco Tanks State Historic Park

Although this is quite a distance from El Paso, it’s definitely worth the trip. You can see beautiful sunsets over the mountain ranges and desert terrain. If you are actually traveling with a camper, you can park it there has there is electricity and water for you to hook up to. It’s a nice way to experience the very unique and diverse scenery for a couple of days if you prefer.

El Paso Museum Of Archaeology

Though this is a small location, the exhibits are very nice. It gives you a general idea of the early Americans that were in this area. If you want to add a little bit to your vacation that has to do with the history of El Paso, this is a great place to start.

I going to these locations, you will get to experience a little bit of El Paso outside of the city limits. This is going to be very beneficial for everyone traveling with you. Of course, you can go into town to have fun at the different restaurants, shows, and activities that are in the city, but nothing beats the beautiful surroundings of the El Paso area.

El Paso Area Businesses Urged to Make Nafta Recommendations

Donald Trump called NAFTA the “worst trade deal maybe ever signed anywhere.’’ So he wants to renegotiate it — or kill it altogether. So just what is NAFTA? (May 18)


Federal officials want El Paso and Las Cruces area business operators to give their 2 cents’ worth about what needs to be fixed as well as what’s working with the North American Free Trade agreement.

The comments to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative will be used to help the U.S. team target specific changes in the renegotiation of NAFTA with Mexico and Canada, said Robert Queen, director of the U.S. Commerce Department’s Export Assistance Center in El Paso.

“Companies can focus specifically on issues affecting their ability to trade (with Mexico and Canada). And if they can provide a solution, that will be fantastic,” Queen said.


“If something works well in the current agreement, we also would like to know that as well,” he added.

Company officials also “can briefly describe their business and supply chain connections,” he said.

Written comments about recommended changes or about retaining certain elements in the 23-year-old, free-trade agreement are due to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative by June 12.

Queen and other federal officials are recommending people make their comments online by going to regulations.gov and entering NAFTA in the search box. That will bring up a link to a page with NAFTA renegotiation information. At the top of the page is a “comment now” button that leads to the section where people can post comments.

The federal agency had received comments from 50 people by Wednesday, according to the website.

The treaty took effect in January 1994.

During his election campaign, President Donald Trump threatened to get rid of the NAFTA treaty because he claimed it was unfair to U.S. companies. He then decided to have it renegotiated, and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau agreed to new negotiations.

President Donald Trump’s administration formally notified Congress today of its intent to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.

In mid-May, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer sent a letter to congressional leaders to notify them that the Trump administration was beginning the process to negotiate changes to NAFTA with Mexico and Canada.

“Many (NAFTA) chapters are outdated and do not reflect modern standards,” Lighthizer wrote. “For example, digital trade was in its infancy when NAFTA was enacted.”

The “aim is that NAFTA be modernized to include new provisions to address” a list of issues, including intellectual property rights, customs procedures, labor, environment, and small to medium enterprises, according to the letter.

Lighthizer’s letter set off a 90-day consultation process, which includes getting public comments.

A hearing also will be held June 27 at the U.S. International Trade Commission in Washington, D.C. People must submit a written notification and testimony summary to the U.S. trade office by June 12 to speak at the hearing. That notification also can be done online on the same form used to make NAFTA comments.

Vic Kolenc may be reached at 546-6421; vkolenc@elpasotimes.com; @vickolenc on Twitter.

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Las Cruces Bank to Buy El Paso Bank Branch

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Western Heritage Bank, a small Las Cruces bank with a former El Paso bank executive leading its board of directors, has agreed to buy PlainsCapital Bank’s branch in West El Paso, Western Heritage officials announced Wednesday.

The PlainsCapital branch, at 4849 N. Mesa St, is the only El Paso location operated by the Dallas bank chain, which has 63 Texas branches.

Western Heritage is buying the branch’s $25 million in loans, its building and assuming $25 million in deposits, said Jim Volk, a former El Paso banker who is chairman of the boards for Western Heritage and its holding company, New Mexico First Financial Inc.

No sale price was divulged for the deal, which must be approved by government regulators. The sale is expected to be completed in the third quarter.

As the closing nears, El Paso PlainsCapital customers will be contacted by Western Heritage with information about the transition and the bank’s services, according to a Western Heritage news release.

Jim Volk, board chairman of Western Heritage Bank.

Volk has more than 45 years of banking experience, most of it in El Paso. His previous job was BBVA Compass Bank’s El Paso area district executive, overseeing BBVA branches in El Paso and Southern New Mexico.

He retired in 2011. But someone approached him more than a year ago about the troubled Western Heritage Bank. Volk said he organized a group of investors who sold $12.5 million in shares in Western Heritage’s privately held holding company, which helped revive the bank.

It has branches in Las Cruces and Deming and had assets of $85 million, including $38 million in loans, at the end of April, Volk said.

“We approached PlainsCapital about buying the (El Paso) branch,” which it acquired a few years ago through an acquisition, Volk said. “It didn’t fit their footprint.”

“This will increase our size pretty good and El Paso will provide growth (opportunities) in the future,” Volk said. El Paso will be “our primary expansion market, and where most of our loans will be.”

Greg Cory, who had worked many years in El Paso banks, was hired early this year to be president and CEO of Western Heritage and its holding company, Volk said.

More information: westernheritagebank.com; plainscapital.com

Vic Kolenc may be reached at 546-6421; vkolenc@elpasotimes.com; @vickolenc on Twitter.

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Tax Credits Help Cut Reliance on El Paso Electric

El Paso Electric officials this week began selling small chunks of solar power to customers as an alternative to rooftop solar systems.

Victor Calzada / El Paso Times

Mayor Oscar Leeser complained in a recent column in the El Paso Times that El Paso Electric was again seeking another rate increase to cover its operating expenses. He pointedly described the $3 million compensation to its CEO and $2.5 million to its 11 directors as unjustified. Leeser ended his comments by stating his opposition to El Paso Electric’s treatment of solar energy users.

The CEO responded that she felt the mayor’s comments did not reflect “the sentiment of all the people in El Paso.”

A normal person would be hard pressed to explain her tone-deaf response. I think I can.

A few years ago, I was invited to a dinner party attended by several members of El Paso Electric management. As the evening unfolded, some of those members spoke out in defense of rate increases in the face of specific management decisions that had cost the ratepayers of El Paso a great deal of money. Apparently, the company has a monopoly on electricity sales in El Paso, which guarantees it a rate of return.

Let me say that in a different way. I think what was being said is that no matter how poorly the company is run and how poor its investments might be, the company is and should still be guaranteed a profit. And according to Leeser’s comments, the operating expenses of the company include the cost of extravagant salaries and benefits paid to its CEO and directors.

Having these thoughts in mind, perhaps there are ways to reduce our reliance on electricity from the electric company. Today, let’s look at the tax benefits of acquiring alternative energy sources.

1. Residential energy credit

The federal tax code allows individuals who purchase qualified solar electric property to reduce their taxes by 30% of the cost of that solar property. This is called a residential energy efficient property credit. This 30% is a tax credit: a dollar-for-dollar reduction in taxes, and not merely a deduction.

So, the question is what kind of purchase qualifies for this credit. A simple description is equipment that uses the sun to generate electricity in a residence that is located in the U.S. and lived in by the individual.

What immediately comes to mind is a solar panel that fits on top of the roof and generates electricity for the house. These panels have become so sophisticated now that they can actually become part of the roof, but they qualify even if placed next to the home. Typically, the way this works is the solar panels produce enough electricity to cover electrical use during the day and any excess actually reverses the meter to the electric company. At night, when it’s not producing electricity, the excess electricity is made available to the homeowner for uninterrupted use.

Another type of property commonly used is a solar water heater, at least half of the energy usage of which is derived from the sun. Other such property includes wind energy, fuel cell, certain heat pumps and geothermal energy. There are conditions and requirements, but they are fairly straightforward for those who are willing to make the effort.

Because of the advances made in technology in recent years, these solar panels have become much less expensive. It is not uncommon for half of the cost of a solar panel system to be paid for by the federal tax credits and the rebates from the electric company and others. For some, this creates a seven-year rate of return for recovery of expenses, assuming the electric company keeps its rates the same (which is of course an unreasonable assumption).

Interestingly, El Paso Electric has offered rebates to people who buy solar panels, helping to further reduce the cost of installation. I find it odd that the electric company would incentivize the purchase of solar panels by offering cash rebates and then turn around and target such users for additional costs.

2. Business energy credit

There is also a solar energy credit for equipment that uses the sun to generate electricity to heat or cool business property. Again the credit is 30 percent of the cost of the solar property, commonly known as the solar panels.

I think monopolies are much like government bureaucracies — the citizens pay regardless of productivity.

So, friends, if you support “business as usual” concerning the cost of and access to energy, then this article is not for you. If, however, you support the mayor’s point of view, then you might consider alternative energy possibilities. My opinion is that using tax incentives to reduce our reliance on El Paso Electric might be a worthwhile undertaking.

David Leeper is a board certified federal tax attorney with 38 years of experience. He can be reached at 581-8748, by email at leepertaxlawelpaso@gmail.com or visit leepertaxlaw.com.

El Paso County Looks to Off-Load Detox Facility

Detox currently is located next to the Criminal Justice Center on East Las Vegas Street.

After AspenPointe bailed on the “Lighthouse” detox facility in 2008, no one stepped up to provide an alternative. The hospitals were screaming about it, because their emergency rooms were filling up with drunks.

Then-Sheriff Terry Maketa solved the problem by erecting what’s called a sprung structure, funded, in part, with money he received from the federal government for housing deportees in jail pending deportation. Hospitals also have helped pay to run it. (Maketa has since fallen from grace and faces trial next month on several charges arising from a grand jury indictment.)

The last time we wrote about the detox program was last year when the county quietly transferred the program from the sheriff’s office to community services. (“El Paso County hopes to improve access with new oversight,” News, Jan. 6, 2016)

The county’s release:

At the regular meeting of the Board of El Paso County Commissioners today, Commissioners listened to a report proposing a change of direction for the County Social Detoxification Program. The County has gone above and beyond for the past eight years to provide this community benefit, even though the service is not Statutorily required. When the County took on the program it was intended as a “temporary solution.” As El Paso County continues to grow, hospitals and doctors have expressed concerns that a purely social detox model is not sufficient to meet the needs of the community. Experts in the medical community have suggested that El Paso County needs a medical model detox center staffed by medically trained experts able to assist individuals to move toward long term sobriety. “We recognize that there is a growing need in the County, but we do not have the proper facilities, expertise, staffing and statutory designation to provide a more medically based model,” said Julie Krow, El Paso County Department of Human Services executive director. “Based on the general direction offered by the Board of County Commissioners today, we look forward to working with leaders in the medical community, law enforcement, non-profits and others to establish a detox model with more robust medical and clinical services to better serve our community.” In 2016, the operational cost of the El Paso County social detox problem was just over $2 million. El Paso County contributed about 25 percent of that total cost. The Penrose-St. Francis healthcare system, Memorial Healthcare and Aspen-Pointe (Managed Services Organization for State funds) contributed the rest of the funding. El Paso County will continue its financial support for Detox services and is committed to working with the state and its providers as well as the local hospitals through a smooth transition to a new and enhanced medical and clinical model for detox. Administration proposes that the County no longer manage the social detox program. Not only will a true medical services provider will be able meet longer term needs of patients, it may also be able to bill Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance carriers to help pay for those services; something which the County cannot do. AspenPointe, formerly Pikes Peak Mental Health, used to run the “Lighthouse” facility, which struggled for years to maintain operations due to funding issues. In 2008, the facility closed with only two months’ notice. Without a legitimate community detox program, emergency rooms filled up with people who were intoxicated. The county jail, which was at full capacity, was not able to accept such individuals. Law enforcement officers spent time many nights driving patrol cars with individuals who were intoxicated in the back seat. Area hospitals and the community approached the County and asked for a solution. In 2009, a Community Social Detox/Triage facility was established in El Paso County. The County has operated the licensed facility, with Certified Addiction Counselors (CAC), providing admission, assessment, detox treatment/service plan, and discharge after care plan for individuals. However, detox is not a statutory function of County government so, from the very start in 2009 it was thought that this should be a temporary solution to address and urgent need in the community.

El Paso Mayoral Candidates Make Their Pitch at Forum

El Paso mayoral candidates make their…

EL PASO, Texas – Candidates running to become El Paso’s next mayor met Tuesday night for a debate at El Paso High School. The event was organized by Coronado High School’s “We(fillintheblank)” club.

All of the candidates were in attendance. ABC-7 spoke with the candidates after the debate, and asked them why they are running for mayor. Here are their responses.

Emma Acosta:

“We are in a renaissance right now, and I love my community. I want to continue to see that growth. And the progress that we’ve done, I want to see that continue. I was just having a conversation right now with a young man. We were talking about investment in the Medical Center of the Americas and how we’ve seen it expand in the last eight years. We’ve seen a lot of growth in our community. We are seeing a renaissance downtown, and I want to continue to see that and I want to continue to serve my community and serve the people of this community, make sure that we hold the line on taxes like everybody wants, start fixing those streets neighborhood by neighborhood not pothole by pothole, and make sure that we provide for our disabled community, for our veterans, and our senior citizens.”

Willie Cager:

“We need to make changes in the policies. If I become mayor of El Paso, it will be my first time ever [in office], but I will get things done.”

Dee Margo:

“Frankly, I care about this community. I spent 40 years here, it gives me roots. I grew up moving every three years. I love this community. Everything I’ve ever done reflects this community. Whether it be the civilian aide to the secretary of the army, serving in the legislature or doing Operation Noel coats for kids.”

Elisa Morales:

“The thing that I see is most pressing is that we need to have a government that is willing to engage with our community. I’ve been to many council meetings, I’ve talked to many constituents and many people feel like they don’t have a voice in our government. And that’s a really really unfortunate thing because our government is supposed to serve our community. And another thing is that we are really spending a lot on priorities that the city or many community members may not feel as important. We talk a lot about roads, but we haven’t invested in healthcare, or education outcomes, or senior citizen services. These things are really important just as it is important to invest in our roads.”

Jaime Perez:

“I think we are facing enormous challenges at the national level. They are interrupting trade with Mexico. We are having mass deportations which means less consumers in El Paso. We are having a wiping out of community development block grants. You’re having a situation in which the city is facing an enormous amount of economic cutbacks. So now we have to respond to that and change the conversation from ‘feel good projects’ to ‘what are we going to do when the money runs out?'”

David Saucedo:

“I’m running because I think El Paso needs a change. We are in a moment here in El Paso where the people are frustrated. They want a change they want prosperity. they want opportunity, and we need to level the playing field and give opportunity to all here in El Paso.”

ABC-7 was not able to interview Jorge Artalejo or Charlie Stapler. Our photographer was unable to locate them after the debate. We apologize.

Shopping for a Home in El Paso

El Paso is a great place to call home. The city itself is incredibly safe, having been voted as the safest big city in the United States for four years in a row. Add to that the fact that there are a ton of things to see and do in the area, and it is clear to see that this Texas town is an exciting place to live.

If you are shopping for a home in the city, there are some steps that you should take to ensure that you buy a property that you will love. Before you even start your search, you should set up a time that you can meet with a banker. That way, you can discuss your finances and get preapproved for a loan. Your banker can help you determine exactly how much money you can comfortably spend each month without straining your budget too much.

The next step is to reach out to an experienced real estate agent in the area. When you first meet with your agent, provide them with a list of the features and amenities that you are looking for in your new home. That way, they will have something to go on when they begin looking for homes that will meet your needs.

When you do eventually find a home that you love, you should make an offer right away. However, this offer absolutely needs to be contingent on having the home inspected. Never forgo a home inspection. By having the home inspected, you can avoid buying a property that has hidden problems that may cost you a lot of money to fix after the sale goes through.

Shopping for a home in El Paso, Texas can be quite a thrilling adventure. Just be sure to approach the process with common sense rather than allowing your emotions to rule your decisions.