Top Stories of 2004

EDITOR’S NOTE: 2004 saw a variety of happenings in Quay County ranging from homicides to murals. The staff of the Quay County Sun polled a number of people to determine what were considered the top stories of the year.

Some of the stories were tragic. Other stories were poignant while others were whimsical. But all of the stories touched the people of the county in some way or other.

If the reader feels that the staff was remiss in a selection, please contact the editor of the paper in order to communicate your feelings on the subject.

These, by definition, are by no means all of the stories of the year, but we hope that they are representatives.

These are presented in no particular order.

VANCE DIES IN HOMICIDE
On Wednesday, Jan 21, many in Tucumcari woke to find a friend had been killed in what was describe by one police official as a “brutal murder.”

Joanie Vance had been killed in the early evening on the day before and discovered at her place of employment, the Sundowner Gallery on South First Street, by her husband who had come to the gallery after she had not come home for their evening meal.

Initial investigation was done by the Tucumcari Police Department and then quickly transferred to the New Mexico State Police who released that the woman had been shot in the back while kneeling. State police described it as “execution style.”

Some officials predicted an early arrest, and others stated that the investigation was moving rapidly with an end in sight, but those not involved with the investigation saw little movement on the case despite state police statements to the contrary.

Early on, a reward was offered by Quay County Crimestoppers, the victim’s friends and James Vance, the victim’s husband, for information leading to an arrest and conviction of “the person or persons” involved in the homicide.

The reward, which began in January 2004 at $1,000 now stands at $23,000.

State police officials say the case is still a priority for them but admit some of the leads they initially were considering have not proven fruitful over the year since the homicide took place.

CITY SEES BUSINESS ACTIVITY

There were a number of new businesses in Tucumcari and Quay County in 2004 and also several business closings.

New businesses
• Interstate Distributor Company committed to a large working truck terminal in Tucumcari.
• Dollar General opened on Route 66 this summer.
• Cash Corral, a payday loan operation, opened next door to Dollar General.
• Dean’s Restaurant reopened under new owners after closing down earlier in the year.
• Pizza Hut opened a new location near I-40.
• Outlaw Tattoo parlor opened in the old Pizza Hut building on Route 66.
• Kix on 66 Coffee Shop and Eatery opened on Route 66.
• An herbal shop, Desert Thyme, opened on U.S. 54 in Logan.
• A former restaurant was reopened on U.S. 54 in Logan as the RanchHouse Cafe.
• The Lake Front Grocery opened in Logan near Ute Lake.
• Allsup’s opened a new store on U.S. 54 in Logan.
• Pain Management Services opened in Tucumcari.
• Ace Hardware opened a store in Tucumcari in conjunction with Lowe’s Grocery Store.
• Bambino’s Restaurant opened on Route 66.

Businesses closed
• Sweet Stop Donuts closed its store on Route 66.
• Southwest Mercantile closed its Main Street store.
• La Cita Mexican Restaurant closed its Route 66 location.
• Megan’s Restaurant closed its Route 66 store.

WIND POWER STAYS IN 2004
The news was in the wind for much of 2004. In the late spring, because of problems in the U.S. Congress on an energy bill, worries existed in the Quay County area that no new wind turbine construction would take place in the county.

In fact, city and county commissioners wrote letters to congressmen urging them to let the wind power portion of the energy bill be pulled out and passed separately because many saw it as the only chance for continued wind turbine construction.

Then in late summer Cielo Wind Power Inc. arrived in the area to begin construction of 80 new wind turbines on the edge of the caprock overlooking San Jon. The firm made their base at the Caprock Amphitheater and quickly began work on the project with expectations of finishing their task well under deadline.

They did not, however, take into consideration the fickle nature of eastern New Mexico weather. The construction of the turbines were beset with some of the first serious fall rains in years. In addition they faced snow and high winds slowing and even halting construction upon occasion.

As December neared, managers brought in extra equipment and personnel to make the deadlines slowed by the weather.

OLD YEAR FEATURES POLICE
It was a year fraught with controversy at Tucumcari Police Department for much of the year. The clash began in early spring with a citizen’s complaint about the police department’s handling of a situation involving his son.

Following that complaint, a regular portion of the Tucumcari City Commission meetings were set aside for citizen comments most of which were regarding the police department or its chief Dennis Townsend who had become something of a lightning rod for the situation surrounding the department.

Often there were as many people speaking in support of Townsend and the force as were speaking against.
Townsend became so much a center point of the controversy that some citizens circulated petitions calling for his removal as chief of Tucumcari’s Police Force.

In late summer, the Tucumcari City Commission upon the urging of Mayor pro tem Antonio Apodaca appointed a consulting firm to look into the problems besetting the city’s police department.

Two days before the consultants presented their report to the commission Townsend resigned.

City Manager Richard Primrose temporarily appointed members of the force as acting chiefs until in early December he appointed Mark Radosevich, the man who had previously led the examination of the police department, as police chief.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR VISITS CITY OF TUCUMCARI
As 2004 began the Greater Tucumcari Economic Development Corporation announced that after an exhaustive search they had found the right man to lead their organization.

Ben Kendrick, who had previously lived and worked in Guymon, Okla., had been doing a job somewhat related to economic development for that community.

As his first activity, Kendrick held a “visioning session” that drew hundreds more people than the anticipated group to the Tucumcari Convention Center. At the meeting, Kendrick got many involved with moving the community to a higher level and once again becoming an economic power.

In fact Kendrick, who at the time said he was in Tucumcari “for the long haul” made a number of promises as to the number and size of businesses that he would bring to Tucumcari in the upcoming months.

As the months passed, little more than promises seemed to materialize for the residents of the area as ideas regarding Walmart, a racetrack/casino, an ethanol plant and expanded railroad facilities all faded from the front pages, but Kendrick always had further promises of things to come.

Then in mid summer Kendrick announced that he would be leaving Tucumcari in two months time to take a similar job in Hobbs with their economic development corporation.

Two weeks later, Kendrick announced that he would be leaving immediately because of “differences” between himself and the Greater Tucumcari Economic Development Corporation.

Representatives of the GTEDC said they would set about looking for a new director immediately.

MURALS DECORATE TUCUMCARI IN 2004
Tucumcari might just have become the unofficial “Mural City” of Route 66 because of the work of three area artist in 2004; Doug and Sharon Quarles and Tom Windham.

The three artists created seven different murals in Tucumcari during 2004.

Most memorable and most noticeable in the city was the first of their 2004 murals, the modern representational collage representing Route 66 and what it means to people of the area.

According to people at Lowes’ Grocery on which the mural is painted and First National Bank across the street from the mural, seldom does a day go by without at least two or three persons stopping to take a photograph of the half-block-long work of art.

The artwork has representations of almost every aspect of life in Quay County ranging from railroads, cattle ranching, tourism to farming and art.

The Lowes’ mural, however, was only the beginning for murals in 2004. The artists went on to paint two murals on the corner of Second and Center streets for General Insurance and then painted a rattlesnake on the water tower that overlooks the city from 11th Street.

Another pair of light-hearted murals went on the opposing walls of Smokers’ Discount on Route 66 Boulevard.

Another, with a patriotic theme, went on the front of the American Legion Building on Main Street. Yet another is being painted on the east side of the Tucumcari/Quay County Chamber of Commerce building.

Other murals to go up around town in the near future are still in the planning stages by the artists.

RATTLERS GO TO STATE
The Tucumcari High School baseball team made it to the state tournament for the first time in school history. The Rattlers started the season 2-7 but finished strong to make it to the Rio Rancho field where they faced off against the Lordsburg Mavericks for a shot at the state title.

Lordsburg defeated Tucucamri 15-14 in the bottom of the eighth inning. Matt Braziel was on the mound for the Rattlers and pitched a solid game. Joe Hurley, Ray Johnson and John Sewell hit homers.

Tim Roybal hit in go-ahead runs twice in the game and seemed destined to be the game’s hero, but it was not to be.

Rattler Coach Mike Russell said early in the seson that his team had a chance to do well.

“We became an offensive juggernaut at times this season,” he said.

Some of the Rattlers fell to the ground in disbelief when a Lordsburg player hit in the winning run, but no tears were shed. Coach Russell said his players “left it all out on the field.”

UTE LAKE DRAWS BIG CROWDS
2004 was a good year for Ute Lake State Park. Park officials saw record crowds in 2004.

The park and lake were hopping on holiday weekends. There were numerous one-of-a-kind events like the chuckwagon cook-off that brought visitors from surrounding states.

The July 4 bean feed had people lined up as far as the eye could see.

More tourists visited from Albuquerque this year. Albuquerque visitors said the Ute Lake water level was higher than other New Mexico lakes and that was the main reason they headed to eastern New Mexico on the weekends.

Bass tournaments continued to draw good numbers.