Sign petition, get a ‘Blizzard’

The Ector County Republican Party will host its first public event at 6 p.m. today at Dairy Queen, 1525 S. Grant Ave., to provide voters an opportunity to sign a petition that would force a citywide election that would allow voters to decide whether the city should proceed with $95 million in certificates of obligation for rehabilitation of the current water treatment plant.

Each registered voter who signs the petition will receive a coupon to redeem for a free DQ “Blizzard,” Republican Party Chairwoman Tisha Crow said.

The local GOP petition drive was launched after Odessa City Council voted 4-3 to approve the use of certificates of obligation to pay for the water plant project. Certificates of obligation require only a vote by council.

“The vast majority of Odessans believe we need serious repair to our water treatment plant,” Crow has previously said. “However, they also believe they deserve the right to determine the debt they take on or if they want their water bills to increase.”

As of June 10, the group has 45 days to collect 2,798 voter signatures, or 5 percent of the total number of current registered city voters, which is 55,950, Ector County Elections Office voter records show.

Crow said this weekend she will tally the total number of signatures already acquired. The group’s goal is to obtain a minimum of 3,500 signatures.

The GOP group will announce future petition drive events next week after they determine how many more signatures are needed, Crow said.

Those who sign the petition must reside in the City of Odessa and already be registered voters in Ector County, Crow said.

Council members Mari Willis, Tom Sprawls, Steve Thompson and Detra White voted in favor of pursuing certificates of obligation to pay for the rehabilitation of the water treatment plant. Mayor Javier Joven, Mark Matta and Denise Swanner voted against it because they favored the idea of having voters decide the issue.

A successful petition could sink the council’s decision to pursue certificates of obligation, city officials say. That’s because the city must still schedule several public hearings this summer before a final binding council vote is taken on July 27.

Joven has repeatedly questioned city officials’ claims that the current 60-year-old facility is in dire straits and if not fixed immediately could leave thousands of Odessans without water.

City administrators have said using COs would result in lower interest rates and allow work on the plant by the end of the year.

If the Republican Party does collect enough valid signatures, the earliest date an election could be scheduled is May 2022, city officials say. The cost of the election would be about $100,000, Joven has said.

If voters defeated certificates of obligation request, the city would not be able to pursue a CO for three years, Assistant City Manager of Administrative Services Cindy Muncy has said.

The proposed rehabilitation project would include extensive upgrades to the current plant’s electrical and computer systems, chemical feed and filter systems and chemical storage facility, Public Works Director Tom Kerr has previously told council.

Muncy said the $95 million in certificates of obligation would be paid back with water and sewer funds. If certificates of obligation dollars are used, it would likely result in a monthly increase in residents’ water rates. She estimated the increase will be $3.68 per 5,000 gallons used.