City considering park lease with UTPB

The Odessa City Council is considering a potential two-year lease with UTPB for the Jurassic Jungle Sprayground.

Last September, the city and the University of Texas Permian Basin ended a 25-year lease agreement allowing city residents to use the sports complex at the university.

Rather than removing the Jurassic Jungle Sprayground, which was largely paid for by the Junior League of Odessa, the city opted to leave it onsite for two years.

During last week’s work session meeting, City Manager Michael Marrero told the council university officials recently informed him they hoped to charge the city $78,000 a year for the use of the 7,000 square foot area.

However, Marrero said the attorneys for the city and UTPB have since developed a joint settlement agreement that will allow city residents to continue to use the park at no cost to the city for two years because of prior contributions the city has made to the university. Those contributions total $208,936.

Following the meeting, Assistant City Manager Phillip Urrutia explained the city provided the college with hotel-motel tax funds to continue its sports operations. He also pointed out the city continues to pay for the maintenance of the park, the chemicals used, the electricity and the lifeguards at the location.

City councilmember Steve Thompson said if the council approves the two-year lease, he would not be opposed to removing all of the equipment at the end of the lease and placing it elsewhere.

“My problem is that at $78,000 a year that’s going to get pretty pricey down the road,” Thompson said.

However, Councilmember Tom Sprawls pointed out that Marrero told him several months ago it would be quite costly to relocate the equipment.

“In my initial discussion with (Parks Director) Steve (Patton) I think he indicated that the cost when we built that facility was about $1.4 (million) and it would be almost as much to relocate and a lot of the cost isn’t so much the items, it’s the underground portion,” Marrero said.

The council directed city staff to explore exactly how much it would cost to relocate the sprayground and play area.

The lease is not on Tuesday’s agenda and it’s unclear when the council will vote on it.

Last month, the city council adopted a new, five-year parks master plan after learning the city has 3.9 acres of parks for every 1,000 residents compared to 14.8 acres per 1,000 in Amarillo and 6.8 acres for every 1,000 in San Angelo.

An outside firm that helped create the plan recommended the city create a new sports complex at a cost of $28 million to $40 million, plus land.

The city council acknowledged the city needs additional parks, particularly on the north and east sides of town. The spray pad at UTPB is the only water feature offered for residents of the northeast side of Odessa. Likewise, the playground at UTPB is the only large play area offered in the area.

During last week’s meeting, the city listened to a presentation from Betenbough Homes about creating more parks at no cost to the city.

The developer’s representative, Chris Berry, suggested the city follow Lubbock’s lead when it comes to parks. In Lubbock, Betenbough Homes has created small pocket parks in new neighborhoods and residents who move into those neighborhoods pay for the development and maintenance of the parks through their property taxes.

Public improvement districts are established by municipal and county governments and the beauty of them is that the people who use the parks are the ones who pay for them, Berry told the council.

In one neighborhood in Lubbock, Urrutia said residents pay 12 cents for every $100 of assessed valuation so owners of a $248,000 home pay roughly $300 a year for their park.

Urrutia told the council a draft policy concerning PIDs is currently being worked on.

The city council will meet at 9 a.m. Tuesday at Salinas Park Community Center for its annual budget workshop.

During the council’s regular meeting at 6 p.m., the council will discuss:

  • Hiring Evergreen Solutions to study compensation packages for all city employees, but expediting the Odessa Fire Rescue and OPD portion of the study.
  • Allowing a 11,250 square foot dance hall to be opened at 1551 John Ben Sheppard Parkway, which is currently in a retail zone. Five neighboring property owners are in favor of the proposal and four are against, citing safety concerns, lack of sufficient parking and proximity to the nearby residential neighborhood.