The Odessa City Council made it clear that they were pleased that construction of a proposed new animal shelter is expected to cost about $1.7 million less than originally expected, during their Tuesday work session.
But several council members were less supportive of Mayor Javier Joven’s suggestion that the city might be able to use the leftover funds to help pay for other infrastructure projects such as renovating the city’s aging water treatment plant. City officials have said the water plant project is expected to cost about $95 million.
“I think we need to be extremely cautious of redirecting funds so that it’s not misperceived that we’re trying to use the funds for something different than what was intended,” Councilwoman Detra White cautioned.
White’s warning came after several city administrators reminded council that the proposed new 20,538-square-foot animal shelter would be paid for with funds from certificate of obligation bonds that council approved in 2019.
The $10 million earmarked for the new animal shelter was part of an overall $93 million bond that is being used for other projects also, including a new fire station.
Those project bond dollars can legally only be used for what they were originally planned for; in this case a new animal shelter and fire station, Assistant City Manager of Administrative Services Cindy Muncy said.
“I’m simply trying to find ways to help pay for the water plant; there is nothing nefarious intended,” said Joven, who bristled at criticism directed at him by several council members.
Police Chief Michael Gerke told council that the new animal shelter would cost $8,308,472 if the city hired Midland-based Onyx Contractors to oversee the project. City officials originally projected the new facility would cost $10 million.
Council is expected to approve the contract with Onyx during their May 25 council meeting.
If approved by council, the new animal shelter would be constructed just east of the current shelter, Gerke said.
Because of the current shelter’s limited space, many dogs and cats that arrive have to be euthanized immediately because there isn’t space to keep them separated from the rest of the animals, Gerke explained.
A larger, more modern facility would be able to house more cats and dogs and allow for more adoption opportunities and provide better care for the animals, he said.
On a separate item, Gerke reviewed city crime statistics for the past year. Overall, crime has dropped significantly during the past year.
Comparing statistics from January to May 2020 with the same period for 2021, Gerke noted that only the number of auto thefts rose from three to five.
Assaults have decreased from 282 reported cases in 2020 to 159 in 2021. Burglaries
also have declined from 729 to 669. The number of murders decreased from six to two so far this year, he said.
Violent crimes have continued to drop during the past year, Gerke said. He credited the department’s get-tough strategy for the decrease.
“We went after those with guns who shouldn’t have them, like felons,” Gerke said. “We targeted them hard and heavy.”