Ector County Commissioners were split during their regularly scheduled meeting Monday over the issue of publishing a notice of intent to issue $85 million of debt for a new courthouse, ultimately rejecting the idea 3-2.
Precinct 1 Commissioner Eddy Shelton and County Judge Ron Eckert supported the motion to publish, with Eckert telling the commissioners and the public to stop listening to the small voices of fear and take a step forward on faith to replace the “blighted building eyesore.” But commissioners Greg Simmons, Dale Childers and Armando Rodriguez asked for more time to look at funding options and to talk to city officials and other entities about the project.
Following the motions to vote from Shelton and Eckert, Precinct 3 Commissioner Childers said that, while the courthouse is an urgent matter, he still had unanswered questions with the city before he could approve the notice.
Childers said the courthouse committee will meet within the month and added he would like to know the county’s revenue for the year before making a decision. County Auditor David Austin said they would have an estimated assessment of the county’s revenue on Thursday.
Childers also said he was concerned that the $85 million debt would not be enough for the courthouse project, stating that the previous bond amount for the new courthouse, which was voted down in 2016, was $95 million.
“I know the building costs have not gone down since 2016, so this $85 million concerns me that it’s not enough, but I don’t have enough information to make an intelligent decision, in my mind,” Childers said.
Shelton told Childers that it would not be enough for the total project, just enough for the new building, and that the total project would have collaboration from other entities.
“So you’re assuming that we are going to get help in here, assuming that it’s another $15 million from somewhere?” Childers asked Shelton.
“That’s my assumption,” Shelton replied.
“To me, that’s a big assumption,” Childers said.
Hilltop Securities Director Erick Macha was at the meeting, and told commissioners that should the county require another $15 million, it would have to be from a separate debt issuance, should the $85 million pass, which would also have another bond issuance cost of around $150,000.
Eckert reiterated the urgency of replacing the courthouse, not wanting to wait longer to publish the notice.
“I don’t think anyone who’s worked there doesn’t see these conditions on a daily basis,” Eckert said. “If you work up there, you might have had your turn like I did, putting a bucket under leaking sewage.”
Eckert talked about the structural problems with the building and said the cost could increase further should they wait longer.
“Certificates of obligation are the best means of doing this, because you can move quicker into the construction phase,” Eckert said.
Despite Eckert’s pleas, the motion failed. Precinct 4 Commissioner Rodriguez said the Courthouse Committee formed with the city needs more time to figure out the details of the project, the budget, and get more feedback from the public.
Simmons supported looking for a cheaper alternative, rather than going straight to issuing an $85 million debt.
“If the entire Marriott Hotel can be built for $40 million, we should be able to build a building for cheaper than $85 million,” Simmons said after the meeting.
Simmons also said he supported going to a bond election over a debt issuance.
“I like the part of the Constitution that says we’re a government for the people, of the people, and by the people, and to circumvent their approval on putting themselves into debt, I think is a negative,” Simmons said. “It tends to put us at odds with our voters who put us here in office in the first place.”
Also during the meeting, a motion regarding proposed additions, upgrades and modifications to the jail expansion project was withdrawn by Building Maintenance Director Charles Pierce, to be reissued at a later meeting. An agreement with Oncor to provide power to the jail expansion was approved by commissioners.
IN OTHER BUSINESS, COMMISSIONERS:
- Approved a donation of $1,000 from the First United Pentecostal Church for the purchase of vests for the Ector County Sheriff’s Office.
- Approved a donation of $3,000 from Citron’s Used Auto Parts Inc. for ECSO.
- Approved a proposed purchase of a 2018 Ford Super Cab Pickup using the $25,000 donation from Oxy for ECSO.
- Approved a request to convey a portion of the American Legion Baseball Field and adjoining county property to Odessa College.
- Approved a request to approve out-of-state travel for an Assistant County Attorney to attend a Domestic Violence Seminar hosted by the National District Attorney’s Association from Oct. 29 to Nov. 7 in Long Beach, Calif.
- Appointed Timothy Benton, M.D., as Acting Local Health Authority in absence of the appointed Local Health Authority for the Ector County Health Department.
- Approved a proposed transfer of County Inventory Asset No. 44435, equipment services unit No. 895, 2009 Ford cargo van, Vehicle Identification No. 1FTNE14L89DA49664, from Senior Citizens Center to Elections Administrator Office.
- Approved a request to install “FleetZoom Cellular Monitoring System” at current county generators located at County Administrative Building (Annex), County Courthouse, Law Enforcement Center, County Airport and Juvenile Probation Center to monitor plant operational activities, and to approve a proposed line item transfer to equipment services fund, equipment maintenance and repair, from equipment services fund, motor vehicle repairs & maintenance for $11,534.
- Approved the proposed disposition and donation of a lateral retrieval file system in the district clerk’s office.
- Approved the proposed 2018-2019 budget calendar for Ector County.
- Approved the Roofing Project 2018 — Phase I competitive sealed proposal specifications.
- Approved the following bid specification: Ramp Grant 2017-2018 Signage Upgrade & Surge Suppression Projects.
- Authorized the County Judge and other county employees to complete and sign the Accreditation in State Library System Application, together with the required certification, as part of the annual report to the Texas State Library.
- Approved a proposed service agreement with vendor TCN, previously named GlobalConnect.
- Approved the proposed master service agreement for Permian Glass Company, Inc., doing business as Permian Glass.
- Approved the proposed extension of the Food Services Agreement with Summit Food Service for Ector County Juvenile Probation.
- Approved a request to hire a receptionist at a Step 3.
- Approved a request to hire a paralegal clerk at a Step 4.
- Approved a proposed revision to the Health Benefits Plan document for Fiscal Year 2018 to include coverage for 3D mammograms.
- Approved a request to add and authorize PFS Investments to provide a 457 retirement benefits plan for Ector County.
- Approved proposed Ector County Equipment Donation Policy and Procedures.
- Approved the proposed Estrada MHRC 5.0600 acre tract located in Pleasant Farms, Block 8, E 348.88 of W 554.88 of S 632.5 of Lot 2.
- Approved the proposed Evans-Williams MHRC at 12440 W. University Blvd.
- Approved the proposed Leyva MHRC at W. Miles Street, 0.3444 acre tract located in Miles Subdivision, Block 7, Lots 5-6.
- Approved the proposed Russell MHRC 2.03 acre tract located at 2112 N. Flamingo Avenue.
- Approved the proposed J&P Subdivision, a subdivision of 1.47 acres located in Section 5, Block 41, T-1-S, T&P Ry. Co. Survey.
- Approved the designation of court costs collected for the County Child Abuse Prevention Fund per Code of Criminal Procedure, Article 102.0186.
- Approved a proposed
budget amendment to Airport Capital Improvement Fund, Insurance Settlements to Professional Services in the amount of $139,084.
- Approved a proposed budget amendment to County Capital Improvement Fund, Insurance Settlements and to Professional Services in the amount of $69,389.
- Approved a proposed budget amendment to Coliseum Capital Improvement Fund, Insurance Settlements and to Professional Services in the amount of $137,422.
- Approved a proposed budget amendment to General Fund, I.T., Phone System and Maintenance from Unreserved Fund Balance in the amount of $116,125.
- Approved a proposed budget amendment to General Fund, Library, New Books for $432 to Library, Postage for $37 to Library, Library Supplies for $3,053 and to General Fund, Donated Revenues for $3,522.
- Received the Accounts Payable Fund Requirements Report for April 23, 2018, to review County financial statements and reports.