City hiring second consultant for another salary survey

The Odessa City Council gave staff permission Tuesday night to seek the services of a consultant who can design employee benefit programs. They also signed off on the second employee compensation study in less than two years.

Although the council was originally told the benefits consultant could command a salary of $244,000, Odessa Risk Management Director Yvette Griffin said it might be more.

“I’m not certain that it will cover the entire amount of the consultant in the work that we’re asking them to do because they have a pretty heavy lift. And they have to make it happen within five months. So that’s just to pay them for this initiative to get started and we hope that it won’t be very much more but it will be pretty expensive,” Griffin said.

Griffin told the council the consultant will go out for bid for medical, dental, vision and pharmacy insurance, but they will also help the city develop a benefit strategy and monitor and evaluate performance measures.

“Now, here’s where it gets a little complicated. We can’t consider the project complete if we don’t talk about compensation. Compensation and benefits go hand in hand so we can’t develop a benefit strategy without having it aligned with a compensation strategy, which at this moment, we don’t necessarily have one that’s real current,” Griffin said.

Right now the roles the city are hiring for “are just not aligned with the market,” making it difficult to offer competitive salaries, Griffin said.

Evergreen Solutions was hired in July 2022 for $111,500 to look at staffing levels and compensation for public safety positions. The company also developed a comprehensive classification and compensation program for the entire city, but their recommendations were never put into place.

Evergreen was wrapping up their work when there was a fierce fight amongst council members about giving Odessa first responders, especially firefighters, a raise. Several city council members weren’t opposed to the raises, but wanted to wait until Evergreen was done looking at all city positions before awarding them. However, three council members, Tom Sprawls, Detra White and Mari Willis, opted not to run for re-election in November 2022 and were replaced.

On Dec. 13, 2022, all first responders received their raise and Evergreen never presented their findings.

The council gave Griffin permission to start the process of procuring another compensation study with little comment.

In other action, the council also gave staff permission to go out for bid for a consultant who can design a new municipal parking garage at North Lee and West Third streets.

Two engineering firms agree the existing two-story, 100 parking spot building is corroding and needs to be replaced.

Ultimately, the city hopes to build a four-story garage that would include space for at least six micro-retail stores of 200-500 square feet each, 280 parking spots and separate parking areas and entrances for the Odessa Police Department.

Planning Director Elizabeth Shaughnessy said micro-stores give people normally seen in markets a chance to launch their businesses at the next level and if they’re successful there, they can move into a bigger retail space.

She said she intends to unveil a whole strategic plan for downtown soon and the micro-stores are part of a plan to make it more inviting and walkable.

Mayor Javier Joven also mentioned other plans for 2025 that he said he can’t discuss right now.

“There’s been a lot of movement in the background for quite some time here, for the last 12 months,” Joven said.

The price tag for the demolition of the existing garage and the design and construction of its replacement is expected to be around $3 million.

The council also agreed to hire a consultant who will help the city create a new landscape ordinance that would include new design standards for street trees, parking lots, commercial areas and industrial areas. It would also create new irrigation practices.

The consultant will conduct research and meet with stakeholders, create the ordinance standards and present the results to the city council.

The council also entered a new YMCA management contract for the city’s pools, passed a resolution that will ensure Downtown Odessa is no longer a city department and lowered the sales price of the old Fire Station No. 6 from $350,000 to $295,000.

Megan and Andrew Prado of Town and Country Drug, who recently decided to purchase the building, asked for the price to be lowered after discovering the roof needs to be replaced.

In addition, the council sold seven vacant city-owned University Boulevard lots to Habitat for Humanity for $20,000 each.