In a seeming departure from their original mandate, Ector County commissioners Tuesday moved on a split vote to use $150,000 in county sales tax revenues to make substantial improvements to the city park in Gardendale.
Having been authorized by voters in November 2018 to use the money only for roadwork and law enforcement and to curb illegal dumping, the court voted 4-1 to put new sod in an area half the size of a football field, install an array of expensive playground equipment and drill a water well to power an irrigation system.
Precinct 2 Commissioner Greg Simmons, who represents Gardendale, said before the 10 a.m. meeting that the 1.25-cent sales tax’s legal parameters also allow the court to expend the revenues in the general public interests of the rural areas.
Simmons said he proposed the project after a delegation of Gardendale citizens approached him to plead for park improvements adjacent to their community center.
Maintenance Director Charlie Pierce, saying his 17-member crew will do all the work, and said the court plans similar upgrades of Kellus Turner Park in West Odessa and Pleasant Farms’ park in South Ector County.
“The park in Gardendale is in really bad shape,” Pierce said, showing photos of playground equipment that he said is so dilapidated as to be dangerous.
Precinct 4 Commissioner Armando S. Rodriguez voted “no,” he said, because he felt that all the parks should be improved at the same time after the totality of their needs is assessed.
Precinct 1 Commissioner Mike Gardner said he wanted plenty of time to plan his park work and that he would support Rodriguez’s park being second in line after Gardendale’s.
Judge Debi Hays said she would vote “yes” because the court “needs to move forward with this project.
“We’ll have sales tax money left over this year,” Hays said, explaining that the budgeted revenues of $12 million will be exceeded.
In other business, the court OK’d resurfacing the runway at Odessa Airport-Schleymeyer Field north of town on the east side of Andrews Highway following Public Works Director Evans Kessey’s written report that the Texas Department of Transportation’s Aviation Division would pay 90 percent of the projected $250,000 cost.
The court also appointed Winston Kenworthy, Bill Ritter, Cathleen Hamilton, Randa Walker and Precinct 3 Commissioner Don Stringer to a sponsor’s consultant selection committee to oversee the project. Stringer had said Monday that the runway needed reconstruction because it was getting too rough for jets to land.
Stringer, who took part in the meeting via Zoom, had said Monday that the airport’s recent reroofing of a hangar and the impending activation of new runway lights had already been paid for.
Stringer said Tuesday that he had been wrong in reporting Monday that the Gardendale project would be paid for from a fund in Pierce’s department.
Former Human Resources Director Pat Patton, who retired last September, said she had temporarily rejoined the county to serve till a replacement for Donna James, who recently resigned as human resources director, is found.
The commissioners also:
- Appropriated $50,000 to replace a wrecked sheriff’s vehicle.
- Reappointed Amy Hendrick to the board of PermiaCare to serve from June 26 to June 25, 2023.
- Approved an engineering contract with Landgraf Crutcher & Associates to mill and overlay Moss Avenue from Interstate 20 to University Boulevard or FM 2020.
- OK’d a contract with the Flock Safety Co. of Atlanta to conduct a no-cost period for 20 license plate cameras for the environmental safety department with Director Rickey George saying the service will be free till the 2021-22 budget is enacted this fall, after which the installation and maintenance fee for each camera would be $2,500.
- Set a public health nurse’s starting pay at step three or $23.46 per hour.
- Spent $32,500 for medical services at the jail.