The average Odessa homeowner will pay a total of $1.93 more per month for water, sewer and solid waste services, according to rate increases being considered by city council.
Council, which briefly discussed the proposed rate increases during their Tuesday work session, is expected to officially approve the 2 1/2 percent rate hikes for water, sewer and sanitation during their Sept. 14 council meeting.
Mayor Javier Joven was quick to point out that the rate increases will not be used to repay a $95 million certificate of obligation that council in August approved to pay for the rehabilitation of the city’s water treatment plant.
“That’s correct,” Assistant City Manager of Administrative Affairs Cindy Muncy, told council. “The rate increases are needed to cover inflation, equipment costs and an increase in employee salaries.”
The rate increases will take effect in October.
The average Odessa household will see a .52 cent increase in their monthly solid waste bills, Muncy said. Residents who live in apartments, or mobile homes will see a .27 cent increase. Small businesses will see a $2 per month increase.
The average household will see their sewer rates increase by .53 cents per month, and residents who use 2,000 gallons or less per month will see their bills go up by .32 cents per month, Muncy said.
Water users will also see a 2 1/2 percent increase in their bills, with users of 5,000 gallons per month seeing their bills go up by $1.92, and rates for residents who use 2,000 gallons will increase by $1.32. Qualifying senior citizens 65 years or older will pay $1 per 2,000 gallons.
UTPB SPORTS PARK
During Tuesday’s work session, council was also asked to consider giving UTPB up to $430,000 so that the university can purchase and install new athletic equipment at their sports park.
UTPB recently allowed several local sports associations that had been using the university’s sports fields for years to remove equipment and even building structures that the sports groups had purchased over the years.
The sports groups decided to relocate after UTPB and the City’s long-term contract expired. Leaders from the sports associations refused to sign new contracts with the university.
The proposed new contracts would have required the sports groups to pay a small fee to continue to use the school’s facilities, submit to annual financial audits and give the university oversight of the use of their own fields.
City Manager Michael Marrero and several city council members expressed support for giving UTPB the requested $430,000.
Councilman Steve Thompson said he supported the request because the city currently doesn’t have a park in the East part of Odessa.
“We have no park on that side of town,” Thompson said. “It’s an investment in our community.”
UTPB President Sandra Woodley said the university will continue to make the park open to the public and is already in the process of signing new youth and adult sports clubs who are interested in using the facilities. Woodley said school officials have not yet decided how much they will charge organizations to use the sports fields.
Woodley told council that the university has already been approached by 72 organizations, including flag football teams, soccer clubs and baseball and softball organizations that are interested in using the sports facilities.
The university has already spent $215,000 on new soccer goal posts and hope to have soccer teams playing on the fields in October, Director of Athletics Todd Dooley said.
The university is also working to schedule regional and state-wide athletic tournaments at the sports park.
Marrero said the $430,000 requested could come from the city’s general fund or from Hotel Occupancy Tax dollars.
Woodley reminded council that the sports associations had been given until Aug. 31 to remove equipment and building structures from the campus sports park.
Several scoreboards, fencing, bleachers and storage and concession buildings were left behind, and Woodley asked city officials if they knew whether the sports groups were planning to return to retrieve the items.
Joven noted that according to the city’s contract with the sports associations, any equipment or buildings the groups installed at the sports park, immediately became the city’s property.
Joven said as far as he was concerned, the city could legally give UTPB the left behind equipment and structures. City Manager Marrero said to avoid any conflict, city staff would double-check with the sports groups.
Odessa College President Gregory Williams and his staff on Tuesday asked council to consider donating a plot of downtown land, so that the college could begin working on a $1.5 million phase one plan to create more greenspace and landscaping downtown and construct a stage area for community concerts and events.
The requested property is the former site of the Odessa American located at 4th Street and Jackson.
The proposed plan would also include the installation of new splashpads, seating areas and additional programs and activities designed to attract a younger crowd downtown, Williams said.
“It’s something we could have up in 12-18 months,” Williams said.
The second phase, would include construction of a new 3-story school building that would house the college’s entrepreneurial classes, Williams said. The new facility would also house a business incubator where students could launch new businesses.
Council sounded very supportive of the plan, but did not indicate whether it would be on next Tuesday’s agenda.
Representatives from Medical Center Hospital and Odessa Regional Medical Center made separate pleas to council requesting American Recovery Plan Act funds. Hospital officials said the funds are needed to help them hire more nursing staff to care for COVID-19 patients.
Council recently received $10 million in ARPA funds. MCH is requesting $4 million, ORMC $2,592,000.
MCH President and CEO Russell Tippin said MCH is struggling with a severe nursing shortage at a time when COVID numbers have increased locally. His concerns were echoed by ORMC President Stacey Brown.
Tippin and Brown said they are literally competing for nurses with hospitals around the world.
“It’s put quite a strain on our facility,” Brown said. “If we can’t get any more help within the next two weeks, we’ll have to cut back on the number of (COVID) patients we can take.”
Councilman Thompson said he supported the funding requests because the city would be reimbursed by the federal government.
Tippin told council he has made a similar request to county commissioners, but they have postponed making a decision.
Thompson, who had asked Tippin if the county commission had taken any action yet, was incensed when told it hadn’t.
“So, they’ve put their decision on hold; is COVID on hold for you?” Thompson asked Tippin. “The city keeps stepping up and doing what they should be doing. Why can’t the county?
“It’s supposed to be called the county health department, not the city health department.”
Council will vote on the funding requests during their Sept. 14 meeting, Joven said.
Council did express unanimous support for a temporary COVID vaccine clinic that would be run by the city’s fire rescue department, UTPB and the county health department.
The city would contribute $34,000 to the effort, which would pay for staff time to man the clinic, Fire Rescue Assistant Chief Rodd Huber said. The county has agreed to provide the vaccines and UTPB would provide student nurses and medical students to help with the clinic’s operation.
The outdoor clinic would be set up on the UTPB campus and begin operating Sept. 21, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Tuesday through Friday for 20 days, Huber said.
The goal will be to provide 6,000 to 10,000 doses of vaccines total, with a goal of 500 vaccines per day. First and second shots will be offered free of charge, Huber said. Booster shots could also be offered with a doctor’s note until State of Texas approval, Huber added.