Thompson wants to use ODC sales tax money to address water lines, roads

Last week, Odessa City Councilman Steve Thompson, upset about water line breaks and boil water notices decided he wanted to pitch an idea to his fellow city council members.

Why not use sales tax money that’s been sent to the Odessa Development Corporation to address the city’s many infrastructure needs?

He didn’t know there’d be yet another boil water notice issued Saturday.

Crews were trying to fix a busted waterline near 42nd and Dawn Saturday when the water pressure dropped below 20 psi. As a result, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality required the city to issue a 24-hour boil notice.

As for Thompson’s idea? It’s on Tuesday’s city council work session agenda for discussion.

In an interview that took place just hours before the boil water notice, Thompson said city crews actually discovered 12 broken water valves during a recent water line break. Those valves are used to shut off water on both sides of a break so they can work on repairs and limit the number of people who are being inconvenienced.

With so many useless valves, water line breaks, the troubles at the Derrington Plant and so many bad roads, Thompson said he thinks it’s time the city float some revenue bonds to fund infrastructure projects using sales tax revenue collected and given to the Odessa Development Corporation.

“We don’t have all of the money to do that stuff and when you look at the financials, they’ve got a huge reserve,” Thompson said. “What they have committed versus what they have in the bank is negligible…so there’s not just any reason not to leverage that, in my opinion.”

The ODC predicted it would receive $12 million in sales tax revenue this year, but the city has already brought in $7 million in the first three months, Thompson said. They also get $1.5 million annually in interest earnings.

Materials provided to the council show ODC’s ending balance in February was $80 million.

Thompson has argued for years the money collected by ODC can be used for such projects because roads, water lines and sewer lines are directly tied to bringing businesses into Odessa. Others, including ODC President Kris Crow and Vice President Jeff Russell, however, have disagreed with him.

According to materials provided to the council, Jeff Moore, an attorney with Brown and Hofmeister, told City Attorney Dan Jones in an email Thompson is correct.

“I’ve checked it, double checked it and rechecked it. City attorney, Jeff Moore, ODC attorney, and everybody’s on the same spot, yes, you can spend it (on infrastructure),” Thompson said.

Those 12 broken water valves also prompted City Manager John Beckmeyer to come up with an idea. On Tuesday, he plans to ask the city council to approve the creation of a crew whose sole task would be to locate, uncover and perform maintenance on all of the city’s water and sewer line valves.

On Facebook Saturday, Mayor Javier Joven said crews stopped testing valves 15 years ago.

“It’s just decades of neglect and lack of investment into infrastructure,” Joven said on Facebook.

The Bob Derrington Water Reclamation Plant, sewer lines and term limits are also scheduled to be discussed by the Odessa City Council Tuesday.

During its work session at 3 p.m., the council is expected to hear recommendations from two different companies about what to do about the badly deteriorating wastewater treatment plant. Johnson Controls and Performance Services are both slated to speak with the council.

It’ll be the second time council members will hear from Performance Services.

Back in December, Business Development Manager Jenna Shadowitz said various components of the plant were at the end of their useful life and there was a lack of redundancy in some areas of the plant, meaning if something were to go wrong there, the city would have no backup.

She also noted maintenance on the waterlines hasn’t been done for decades, she said.

“There is no way this stuff just appeared overnight, it’s stuff that’s been building for decades at this point,” Shadowitz said at another point.

The TCEQ has written the city up for violations, but no fines have been imposed, Utilities Director Kevin Niles said at the time.

A major sewer line will also be discussed during the work session.

According to materials provided to the council by Niles, there is a 24-inch ductile iron pipe in the 3200 block of West Second Street that is leaking and at “high risk of complete failure.”

Because there is an “extremely urgent” need to replace the sewer line, Niles wants to skip the bid process and award a contract to Carollo Engineers to design the project and remove and replace 1,000 or more linear feet of the line. The estimated cost is $375,000 and will take about seven months.

Also on Tuesday, Joven wants to talk about amending the city charter to limit the total amount of time one person can serve on the council in any capacity is 12 years. Right now, someone can serve eight years as a council member plus eight years as mayor.

He also wants to discuss whether service prior to the 2024 general election would be counted.

The council is also expected to meet in executive session with Niles, City Attorney Dan Jones and employees of the utilities department about “security concerns.”

They’ll also discuss giving Municipal Court Judge Keith Kidd a raise during executive session.