County’s 2121-22 raises no cinch

Road maintenance, library review, completion of new juvenile center are priorities

Ector County commissioners Tuesday said they hope to give all 760 of the county’s employees a raise next year, but whether they do will depend on finances.

Commissioners Greg Simmons, Mike Gardner and Don Stringer said other considerations like the necessity of improving roads and the possibility of building a new library will also figure into the equation.

Just before starting to hear from departments during the 10 a.m. meeting, Simmons said priorities include road improvements, finishing the new $25-million juvenile detention center, on which construction is about to start, and hearing from the library committee about either remodeling the library or building a new one.

“It’s too early to tell about raises,” the Precinct 2 commissioner said. “The department heads will go back and start putting together their requests, but we don’t know what kind of revenues we’ll have. The main thing is continuing with the upgrade of roads, trying to get caught up on road maintenance, and then the library.

“I don’t have an opinion on building a new library and will wait for the committee’s report,” said Simmons, a bank president who has been on the court for 21 years. “Starting this year, I’d like to set aside budget reserves for the courthouse and save money so we don’t have to borrow the full amount.” Gardner said raises “are one of the things we will look at.

“Meeting with the department heads this morning is just part of the process,” the Precinct 1 commissioner said. “Everybody wants to get all they can get.”

Referring to his late father Freddie, who served on the court for 17 years, Gardner said, “I’ve been hearing about this all my life.

“We will take it a department at a time and do what’s right.”

Representing Precinct 3, Stringer said the feasibility of 2121-22 raises “is yet to be determined.

“I would love to give them a raise, but we have to be able to justify it,” he said. “Revenues were down last year and it’s still early in the process. We have heard from some department heads already, requesting increases for themselves and their employees. We’ll just have to wait and see.”

Judge Debi Hays is scheduled to present her proposed budget July 27 preparatory to the court’s first budget hearing Aug. 9.

In other business in the meeting at the 1010 E. Eighth St. administration building, the court heard Ector County Utility District President Tommy Ervin say his May 20 ribbon-cutting at a new desalination system at 5016 Johnson Road in West Odessa could harbinger a new day for rural water supplies in the county.

Ervin said the system will remove alkalinity, ammonia, nitrates, phosphate and other impurities from brackish water and make it drinkable. He said the water will be improved in West Odessa and Gardendale, where water purity has become a problem.

Robert Ornelas, director of transportation, planning and development at the Texas Department of Transportation, said a survey of needs on Loop 338 is well underway with the citizenry’s having been mailed 20,000 postcards and letters seeking input. Ornelas said rights-of-way and utility lines are being analyzed.

The court also:

>> Named Stringer to be the court’s representative on the airport board that oversees Odessa-Schleymeyer Field.

>> Authorized Hays to contract with the Austin law firm of Bickerstaff, Heath, Delgado and Acosta to start political redistricting and possibly redraw boundaries for the commissioners’ precincts.

>> Extended to Aug. 31, 2023, the county health department’s contract for the provision of Pap smears to check for cervical cancer in women with the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center in El Paso with the center to supply staffing.

>> OK’d a ground lease contract between the airport and the Patterson Rosedale Highway Co. of Bakersfield, Calif.

>> Approved contracts for the county clerk’s office with the Tyler Technologies Eagle Division of Plano for software services and Kofile Technologies of Dallas for the digitization of documents.

>> Approved Human Resources Director Donna James’ recommendation that a service awards luncheon, postponed in February, will be held on an as-yet undetermined date in September in the Joe Zant Community Room in the Saulsbury Campus Center at Odessa College.