Council finalizes where ARPA funds will go

The Odessa City Council formally allocated just over $8 million in American Rescue Plan Act money Tuesday night and managed to accommodate a last minute request from Harmony Home Children’s Advocacy Center that will allow it to expand.

Harmony Home, a non-profit agency that began in 1993, is devoted to helping children who have been the victims of sexual and physical abuse along with their families.

On Tuesday night, Executive Director Carrie Bronaugh told the council they want to update their facility because they’ve outgrown their space and their programs.

She asked the council for $300,000 and said the money would allow them to accommodate more therapists, some of whom would be able to offer different types of therapies. She also said they’d be able create a space for children to undergo sexual assault nurse exams instead of having to go to Medical Center Hospital.

With additional space, law enforcement, prosecutors and Child Protective Services caseworkers would be able to work under one roof, she said. In addition, Bronaugh said they hope to add an extra forensic interview room, allowing them to increase the number of sessions by 180-200 per week.

The council said they couldn’t provide the entire amount, but they did agree to provide Harmony Home $250,187.

In previous meetings, the council had informally committed much of the $8 million to Odessa Fire Rescue and the Odessa Police Department and they formalized that commitment Tuesday night.

The OFR will 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.

OPD’s public restrooms and elevators will be upgraded and the parking lot at 201 N. Grant will be demolished.

The funds will also pay for new lights and safety rails at the Derrington Wastewater Treatment plant, upgrades to the plant’s cranes, new fencing and a grit removal system.

The council also unanimously approved a new social media and media relations policy. City Manager John Beckmeyer said under the new policy most media relations will now come from the city’s communications department with oversight from the city manager.

Beckmeyer stressed the new social media policy does not prohibit any city employees from voicing their opinions and spells out the city is not responsible or liable for an individual’s posts.

The council also agreed to move the city’s emergency operations center from the basement of the police department to a classroom at Fire Station 6 which will accommodate more people.

The city council also discussed correcting a couple of mistakes Tuesday night.

City Attorney Dan Jones said that a past city council passed a resolution to donate the land where the Odessa American once stood to Odessa College by resolution when it should’ve been done via ordinance.

The council unanimously agreed to fix that error during their regular council meeting.

In addition, during the council’s earlier work session Jones said he wanted to make the council aware that a previous council agreed to pass along $100,000 from an anonymous donor to UTPB and that didn’t get done. The council agreed they want to make sure the university gets those proceeds.

In other matters, Jones said staff wants the council to amend the city’s ordinance to allow residents to own up to six cats and dogs instead of four. In addition, staff wants to amend the age of cats and dogs must be spayed and neutered. Right now, all cats and dogs four months and older must be fixed, but the staff wants to change that to six months because they can’t be altered before that age, Jones said.

In other matters, the council agreed to pay Edgardo Madrid and Associates $100,000 to repair 54 water line breaks that have happened since Jan. 1.

Utilities Director Kevin Niles told the county he is short-handed in that department and needs the assistance.

In addition, the council agreed to allow Director of Equipment Services Director Chris Adams to go out to bid again on automotive tires and to allow OFR to purchase 100 air packs at a cost of $607,000.