Weekend water loss cost Odessa more than $4M

As the City of Odessa is dealing with a second water main break in the last three days leaving some Odessans without water, the leading economist in Texas has put a dollar amount on the water outage during Mother’s Day weekend.

Texas economist Ray Perryman said Monday his group used a model of the Odessa economy and prior analysis of various outages around the country to respond to an OA question about the economics of the water outage. “It appears that the overall loss was approximately $4.1 million. The direct losses were concentrated in retail outlets and restaurants, although some spilled over to other sectors and households,” Perryman said via email.

Some Odessans headed to Midland Sunday to treat moms to lunch and to shop with water out in parts of Odessa on Saturday leading to a boil water notice Sunday, which meant a number of restaurants were forced to close or open with limited menus on Mother’s Day.

The boil water notice was lifted mid-morning Monday and then a late afternoon water main break hit on Monday.

The city reported a private contractor hit a water line on the north side of the city and detailed the water impact would likely be on Homestead/Parks Bell Ranch area as well as northeast of Grandview and 61st Street area.

Prior to the weekend and Monday water line breaks, 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?

It’s on Tuesday’s city council work session agenda for discussion.

In an interview that took place just hours before the weekend 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 that 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.

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.