Court weighs funding pleas

Ector County commissioners on Tuesday heard a raft of requests for shares in the $16.1 million that the county has gotten from the federal American Rescue Plan Act and they said at the end that all the proposals would be judicially considered.

“It’s too bad we haven’t won the lottery,” quipped Judge Debi Hays.

Medical Center Hospital President Russell Tippin renewed his plea, first made two weeks ago, for $7 million before Odessa Regional Medical Center Chief Financial Officer Mona Mickle sought $2.5 million.

ECISD Superintendent Scott Muri said his district’s request for high-speed broadband funding for parents and students would be forwarded in about a week and Ector County Utility District Board President Tommy Ervin asked $6 million for water pipelines to Gardendale and South Ector County.

With more than 60 people attending the 10 a.m. regular session in the county administration building at 1010 E. Eighth St., other requests were made by District Judge Sara Kate Billingsley for an assistant’s salary increase, the South Ector County Volunteer Fire Department, the historic White-Pool House, the county health department and the medical examiner’s office.

The commissioners said their decisions on how to parcel out the money would be part of their deliberations ending with approval of the 2021-22 budget Sept. 28. Two weeks ago, they voted to spend $4.5 million of the Rescue Plan money to cover a COVID-related county deficit and $1 million to upgrade technology in the county’s nine courts.

The U.S. Treasury Department has told Auditor Randy Donner that the county will get another $16.1 million next year.

In other business, the court heard a report from attorney David Mendez of the Bickerstaff, Heath, Delgado and Acosta law firm in Austin about political redistricting based on last year’s national census with Mendez saying population shifts in the past decade will probably necessitate some realignment of the four commissioners’ precincts.

He said the State of Texas was given the census results on Aug. 12 and that his firm will submit its recommendations on Sept. 28 to beat the Nov. 12 deadline.

The commissioners also:

  • Approved a $50,000 budget amendment to cover medical contract services at the law enforcement center.
  • OK’d hiring maintenance technicians for the rest of this fiscal year for $16.57 per hour.
  • Approved applying for $50,000 for the Harmony Home Children’s Advocacy Center from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services with Harmony Home Executive Director Carrie Bronaugh saying the money will be used to hire a coordinator to handle cases involving neglected children, which she said have become an increasingly serious problem.
  • Renewed the health department’s contract with Accela Software.
  • Approved a contract with Travelers Indemnity Insurance and USI Insurance Services for the coverage of property, inland marine, commercial general liability, commercial auto liability with a $10,000 deductible, commercial auto physical damage, commercial umbrella excess liability, employee benefits liability, law enforcement liability, public entity management liability, drone hull and liability and public entity employment-related practices liability.
  • Tabled consideration of the county’s oil and gas leases with Brazos River Resources to afford time to consult an attorney.
  • Approved the sheriff’s civil process fees.
  • Approved an interlocal agreement with the City of Odessa for the 2021 Byrne Justice Assistance Program Award.
  • OK’d the Area Agency on Aging’s 2021-22 budget for $57,262, which is covered by the state.