It's now OK to light up without restriction in unincorporated areas of Ector County.
County commissioners voted 3-1, with Precinct 3 Commissioner Dale Childers opposing, to let a burn ban that had been in place since Feb. 10 expire Monday. Precinct 1 Commissioner Armando Rodriguez didn't attend the meeting.
Precinct 1 Commissioner Freddie Gardner initially suggested lifting the ban for a week to give residents a chance to burn trash that had been piling up for months, before County Judge Susan Redford informed him that temporarily lifting the ban isn't allowed.
"I know the rain hasn't been the same all over the county, but out west we've got two-and-a-half inches," Gardner said.
Gardner told West Odessa Volunteer Fire Chief Jimmy Ellis that commissioners could have a special meeting in a week if conditions worsen, but Ellis said that wouldn't be effective because it takes so long to educate residents about the ban.
"If you turn 'em lose now, it's like turning a bunch of kids loose on a playground," Ellis said, adding that if the ban is reinstated, "It's gonna take another three or four months to get everybody back in line."
The county had a Keetch-Byram drought index reading of 519 Monday, Redford said.
But Ellis said that with 100-degree temperatures expected, the reading should be back in the 575-to-600 range by the end of the week.
And Childers said that while the northwest part of Ector County was "green and growing," southern parts of the county still had readings in the 600 to 700 range.
The ban included exceptions for welding, barbecuing in approved pits and burning trash in covered containers.
A separate item to discuss a possible ban on some firework sales was pulled off the agenda. Redford said this was because the Keetch-Byram reading was lower than 575. Were it drier, commissioners could have banned the sale of aerial fireworks, rockets with sticks and missiles with wings.
Redford said she voted to let the burn ban expire because residents need "temporary relief" to burn household items, but she urged them to use caution.
"If our conditions continue to dry out, we will look at readopting the burn ban," she said.
In other action, commissioners approved:
>> A bid for cleanup of illegal dumpsites in the county for $100 per ton, with a maximum payment of $24,000.
>> The offsite use of Ector County Coliseum's stage for use by Main Street Odessa at the July 4 Firecracker Fandango.
>> Accepting the county's comprehensive annual financial report for fiscal year 2007-2008.
>> Seeking requests for qualifications for actuarial services related to Government Accounting Standards Board 45.
>> The donation of a piano to be used at the Westside Senior Citizens Center.
>> A contract for fiscal year 2009-2010 with the Texas Department of State Health Services to provide public health education for Ector County citizens.
>> An interlocal agreement between Ector and Hunt counties for purchase of daily records indexing for the Ector County clerk's office.
>> A budget amendment of $85,200 to pay for additional health clinic costs.