Shelton calls for new courthouse - Odessa American: Government

Shelton calls for new courthouse

By Bob Campbell | Posted: Sunday, February 9, 2020 5:00 am

With two opponents heading into the March 3 Republican primary, incumbent Precinct 1 Ector County Commissioner Eddy Shelton said he wants to keep working on lowering the crime rate, bolstering environmental enforcement and easing dumping rules to curb the illegal kind.

Shelton also proposes sweetening the county’s relationship with the city of Odessa and persuading the city to help with the $90 million to $100 million cost of a new courthouse.

The 57-year-old Odessa native faces Mike Gardner and Hoss Dugger in his bid for a second four-year term since his 2016 election followed his 2014 appointment when Commissioner Freddie Gardner died. The late commissioner was Mike Gardner’s father.

“We’ve been able to increase the number of patrol officers in the sheriff’s department and increase the number of enforcement agents on the streets,” Shelton said.

“We have to find a way to make it not so hard for people to dump their trash, tires and mattresses. Right now it costs $80 and half a day to dump their bulky items at the dedicated landfill in West Odessa.”

Shelton said the commissioners are viewing the placement of roll-off bins around the county where attendants would charge $10-$15 for mattresses and $5 for tires. “We’re working with the highways and streets department to figure out the locations,” he said.

In addition to his official duties, Shelton owns Dennard Electric Co. and Apple Electric Contracting. He graduated from Odessa High School and Odessa College.

Shelton said the six-man environmental enforcement office at the courthouse, managed by Ricky George, has installed numerous cameras to record dumping offenders, contact them and let them clean up the sites in lieu of fines.

Producing $18 million a year, the new 1.25-cent county sales tax will free up money from the general budget to give the court leeway for the courthouse project, he said.

The tax is dedicated to helping the sheriff’s office, building and maintaining roads, cleaning up trash and combatting illegal dumping.

Shelton said he was encouraged by the court’s 2 1/2-hour meeting with city council members Dec. 10 to address interlocal contracts and differences over collections of the sales tax.

Rescinding eight outmoded interlocals and naming groups of two and three officials from the two sides to make recommendations on 31 others by the end of this month, the representatives agreed to meet and seek amicability if the city wants to levy taxes for services when it makes voluntary annexations inside the county’s new assistance district.

“I’d love for a donor to come forward and pay for a courthouse because there is no doubt in my mind that we need one,” Shelton said.

Citing his tours and consultations with engineers and architects, he said, “We have come to the point where we’re throwing good money away to keep the thing afloat.”

Of the two most-mentioned locations, on the east side of the current courthouse downtown and one adjacent to the county jail south of town, Shelton prefers the downtown choice but would OK the alternative if there were a big cost difference.

“It would be less accessible by the jail,” he said. “I’d like to tear this one down and build east of it. If that meant getting support from other entities to make it happen downtown, I’d certainly love to be a good partner with the city.

“We’re both leaders in this community and we need to work together on all things, not just the courthouse. We should work with the city so that we understand their concerns and they understand ours.

“Leaders are strong when they lead together. In any organization, you’re getting left behind if you don’t.”

Barring rescue by a donor or the much better-financed city, Shelton said, the usual ways for the courthouse to be financed would be with certificates of obligation, which the court could approve without a vote of the people, or a bond election with either option being paid for by property taxes.

“The sales tax is not for the courthouse, but it would alleviate some of the burden on the general budget to pay for certificates or a bond,” he said.

Shelton said the Ector County Utility District is breaking ground on a $50-million project “to bring more and better water to a large portion of West Odessa,” which is the state’s biggest unincorporated city with an estimated 50,000 residents.

“I’ll do anything I can to help (ECUD President) Tommy Ervin,” he said. “I’m just trying to do the best I can for our community.”

Here are important dates for this year’s election: