City to consider social media policy

The Odessa City Council will spend time discussing ARPA funding, social media policies, tires and water line breaks Tuesday.

According to the city’s online agendas, the council is scheduled to talk about adding a new section to its Personnel Policies and Procedures Manual pertaining to media relations and personal social media during its regular 6 p.m. meeting.

The proposed policy outlines the responsibilities of the city’s director of communications and states the City of Odessa “disavows and is not responsible for any sites, posts, opinions or content not coordinated through and approved by the director of communications.”

The new seven-page policy provides guidelines for content posted on the city’s social media by employees and elected officials, but also addresses what they can post to personal social media sites.

According to the new policy, some specific examples of prohibited social media conduct includes “posting commentary, content or images that are defamatory, pornographic, proprietary, harassing, libelous, or that can create a hostile, discriminatory or retaliatory work environment.”

It also states city resources, work time, social media tools and a city employee or elected official’s position “shall not be used for personal profit or business interests or to participate in political activity.”

The social media accounts of elected officials that include their elected titles can’t be considered city-authorized social media accounts without the express written approval of the city manager and director of communication.

Employees who indicate they work for the city have to use a disclaimer stating their postings are their own and don’t necessarily represent the city’s positions or opinions.

Last March, Mayor Javier Joven said he didn’t consider a social media policy a priority for the city. Councilmember Steve Thompson was in a favor of one, however.

“I am very against more bureaucracy. I’ve never liked it. I think smaller government is good and so I promised that we have a smaller, smaller leaner government,” Joven said last year.

“We’re very sensitive now. People have a choice to do something. They don’t have to read them. You can text something, but you don’t have to hit send. In the end, you have those choices,” Joven said. “I don’t read none of that stuff. I do hear about it, but I don’t read any of that. I just stay away from it.”

Councilmember Mark Matta reacted quite strongly when asked for an interview on the topic last year.

“How about writing an article that promotes the city and its employees instead of always trying to stir stuff up? Your stories are what is dividing this community, not elected officials. The community is tired of it and view the OA as a gossip rag,” Matta wrote in an email. “The OA used to be an integral part of this community, a source where people went for information. Now, it’s only a paper that is hell bent on painting the city of Odessa in a negative light. I hope that one day the OA will become what it used to be…a great newspaper.”

The council is also scheduled to vote on how to spend its remaining American Rescue Plan Act funds.

Council members have already agreed to give $1 million to Medical Center Hospital for a mental health facility and $500,000 to MCH for a free diabetes detection clinic, but must allocate just over $8 million in remaining funds.

During its last meeting, the council tentatively agreed to give a significant amount of the funds to Odessa Fire Rescue. They should receive, a new computer-aided dispatch system, Stryker cots and power loads for eight new ambulances, hydraulic rescue tools, a tender truck and wildland brush truck.

The council had also tentatively agreed to set money to upgrade OPD’s public restrooms and elevators and to demolish the parking lot at 201 N. Grant.

Also topping the city’s list of possible purchases are new lights and safety rails at the Derrington Wastewater Treatment plant, upgrades to the plant’s cranes, new fencing and a grit removal system.

Tuesday’s regular agenda also includes a discussion about spending $751,000 to equip 20 recently purchased Odessa Police Department Ford Expeditions with the appropriate lights, plastic seats, partitions, radar and other items.

In addition, the council will discuss using a classroom at Firehouse No. 6 as a meeting space and an emergency operations center in case of a significant event in Odessa or Ector County.

During the council’s 3 p.m. work session meeting, the council will discuss paying for 20 of the 51 water line breaks that have happened since Jan. 1.

According to materials provided to the council by Utilities Director Kevin Niles, the city signed a contract with Edgardo Madrid and Associates in December 2020 to help the city in replacing and installing water and sewer mains along with other repairs and installations.

Because the city’s distribution division currently has 10 open positions, Niles said he reached out to Madrid for help and the company helped repair 20 of the 51 water line breaks.

Madrid is requesting $5,000 per line break or $100,000, Niles said.

Director of Equipment Services Director Chris Adams also wants to talk about going out for bid again on automotive tires. According to materials provided to the council, the city asked seven vendors to bid on a tire contract, but only three responded. He’d like to reject those three bids and consider other options.

The council will also discuss buying OFR 100 air packs at a cost of $607,000, donating $100,000 to UTPB for sporting events per a September 2021 resolution and changing the city’s athletic facility use agreement.