Water treatment funding on tap Tuesday

The Odessa City Council will discuss their tentative decision to use certificates of obligation to pay for a $95 million rehabilitation of the current water treatment plant during Tuesday’s work session.

The council is scheduled to take their final binding vote on the issue during their regular council meeting on July 27.

City Secretary Norma Grimaldo confirmed on Monday that the Ector County Republican Party has not yet turned in petitions that would instead place a $95 million bond issue on a future ballot that would allow voters to decide whether the city should proceed with a bond – superseding council’s decision to use COs to pay for the project. COs only require a vote by council to proceed.

According to the Ector County Elections Office, the Ector County GOP has 45 days, or until July 24 to collect and submit a minimum of 2,798 voter signatures, or 5 percent of the total number of current registered voters, which is 55,950.

GOP Chairwoman Tisha Crow, who could not be reached for comment on Monday, has previously said her group hopes to obtain a minimum of 3,500 signatures before submitting the petitions.

Council members Mari Willis, Tom Sprawls, Steve Thompson and Detra White in June voted in favor of pursuing certificates of obligation bond to pay for the water treatment plant rehabilitation. Mayor Javier Joven, Mark Matta and Denise Swanner voted against because they favored the idea of having voters decide the issue. A majority 4-3 vote is required to approve the COs.

The GOP’s petition must be submitted prior to council’s June 27 vote in order to force a public vote, election officials have said.

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

Joven has repeatedly questioned city official’s 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 to begin by the end of the year.

Joven has publicly stated numerous times that the cost of an election would be about $100,000. Crow has said a public vote would be much less expensive, but has not indicated how much she thinks it would cost.

The proposed rehabilitation project would include extensive upgrades to the current plants 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 bond would be paid back with water and sewer funds. If bond 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.