County takes first step toward new courthouse

​County commissioners on Tuesday took a first step toward a new Ector County Courthouse with three voting to move forward a design build concept and a request for qualifications and specifications and master services agreement for the building of a new Ector County Courthouse.

Ector County Judge Dustin Fawcett and Commissioners Mike Gardner and Don Stringer voted with him to move forward. He said they have a vision for a bright future for Ector County and that includes a positive investment to build a courthouse to take Ector County through the next seven decades.

Fawcett said next up will be public meetings to show Odessans the concept. “I believe we can make the case and take it to voters in November 2025,” Fawcett said.

Fawcett said the goal is to find a design team to work with who will attend public meetings with the commissioners court to answer questions from the public about the project.

“We have learned from our past mistakes…we want no excuses and everyone on this team will help us with town halls and be able to answer all the questions,” Fawcett said Monday. “We stand a tremendous chance at getting this bond passed by talking about the benefits and ways to become more efficient and more public service oriented while also saving taxpayers time whether that be at the vehicle registration or passport or whatever.”

Commissioners Greg Simmons and Billy Hall dissented on the vote asking for more workshops on the matter. Fawcett said a workshop was held about a month ago that included the courthouse issue.

Fawcett said he hopes to make the case to voters for a bond to finance the courthouse.

Commissioners voted 4-1 (with Fawcett the lone no vote) to table discussion on an order adopting a property tax exemption for qualifying childcare facilities.

Fawcett said this follows legislation that passed last session giving a tax break to childcare facilities that qualify. He said Ector County has about 30 plus that qualify.

Several citizens spoke during the public comment session urging commissioners to vote against hiring an airport manager and urged them to continue with a professional management company at the airport rather than creating a new county department at Schlemeyer Field.

Fawcett said the county previously contracted an airport management firm and that the current firm’s contract will be up in November. He said he has “huge” concerns about creating a whole new county department and added most counties are not typically in the airport business. He did say that county airports are good for economic development.

Fawcett was the lone no vote and the measure to hire an airport manager passed.