Council discusses downtown bar ban

During its regular meeting Tuesday night, the Odessa City Council voted unanimously to de-allocate roughly $6.4 million of the $10.1 million the city received in September 2021 as a result of the American Rescue Plan Act.

During a recent meeting, council members agreed they would rather spend the money on infrastructure needs rather than things like COVID testing, vaccinations, lost revenue, personal protective equipment and other services.

Three of the $6.4 million had been loaned to Medical Center Hospital and repaid, City Attorney Dan Jones said. One million had been set aside for Odessa Regional Medical Center and another $1 million had been set aside for lost revenue.

Roughly $199,000 had been designated for testing, $743,000 for operating supplies, another $199,000 for vaccinations and $250,000 for other services, Jones said.

In addition, the council also accepted more than $795,000 in grant money from Texas Health and Human Services and a $10,000 donation from Plains All American Pipeline.

The funds will be used to purchase bunker gear for cancer protection, self-contained breathing apparatus replacement, another brush truck, training equipment and to fill other needs.

The council also voted to reappoint Mike Holmes and Steve Stein as alternative municipal judges for two-year terms starting Jan. 1. They also raised their hourly salary from $75 to $100.

In related matters, the council approved the purchase of two payment kiosks for Municipal Court similar to those used in the Billing and Collections Department. The kiosks will cost roughly $75,000.

The council spent considerable time in executive session discussing applicants for the positions of Presiding Municipal Court Judge and Associate Judge, but took no action. The terms of Judge Carlos Rodriguez and Judge Keith Kidd are up at the end of the year.

The council also heard a brief presentation from Jeff Fisher, the city’s strategic planning and policy manager, about the possibility of banning new bars downtown.

Mayor Javier Joven noted Odessa has long held a reputation of being “Sin City” with the high number of bars within the city and he wants his fellow council members to consider what can be done to change that. He encouraged them to speak with staff.

Odessa Police Chief Mike Gerke said Odessa was ranked No. 1 in the state for accident related fatalities when looking at three-year averages. While the trend is down, such crashes remain an issue.

“If you look at Midland-Odessa combined with alcohol sales, I mean, that’s the issue. We’re so far ahead of the state average per capita for alcohol sales. It’s just astronomical,” Gerke said.

The council also received an update about the Amy Bell Sports Complex Tuesday.

Jason Boudrie of Synergy Sports told council members they are in the process of determining revenues and expenses “and the different buckets.” He also said he and Councilmembers Mark Matta and Steve Thompson will be meeting with potential naming rights donors over the next couple of days.

Thompson said he wanted to clarify the status of donations. It’s true the city hasn’t taken any money in yet, but it’s because City Attorney Dan Jones is still working on obtaining a tax identification number, he said.

Boudrie also told the council he’s met with Discover Odessa already to discuss coordinating scheduling events.

Groundbreaking is now slated for sometime between the end of January and mid-February, he said.