The City of Odessa will publish their first notice of intention to issue $93 million in debt Friday, approving the move despite numerous residents asking for a bond election.
City Manager Michael Marrero said the first public notice of the debt intention would be published Friday, with the following notice published the next Friday. This debt will be put forth for a number of projects, including additional fire stations, a new animal shelter and road improvements. Marrero said the council would authorize the issuance of the certificate of obligation at their Sept. 13 meeting.
The public could theoretically stop the debt issuance through a petition, which would require signatures from 5 percent of registered voters in Odessa, and they would have until Sept. 13 to complete that petition.
Many Odessans approached the City Council Tuesday to voice their opposition to the debt issuance. While they understood the need, the general consensus was that they would prefer a bond election in November to approve the debt themselves.
Kris Crow told the City Council they had an obligation to educate the voters, to talk with them about the debt and have them vote on the issue themselves.
“I don’t think anybody would argue that a lot of these needs are 100 percent justified,” Crow told the Council. “But what you’re telling the voting public is that you seven individuals know more than the 150,000 people that live in the C of O on how to spend their money.”
Jeff Russell echoed Crow, and said the Council had to be less vague about their needs and how much they would be spending for each project, for items like road improvements and administrative needs.
“I think the voters will support a lot of these projects,” Russell said. “We know we have needs. But it’s really important to get that public buy-in.”
Bob Garcia suggested the Council launch a public information campaign to educate the voters, and possibly conduct a survey so citizens could rank the projects by what they deem most important.
Mayor David Turner explained to those in attendance the need for additional fire stations, and more office space for city employees and the need for park improvements and more parks on the east side of town. He also said the city would be having two public information hearings before the final vote in September.
District 1 Council Member Malcolm Hamilton told those in attendance he understood their frustration, but said the city had a lot of needs and are trying their best to educate the public.
“This is all because we’re in a very beautiful time,” Hamilton said. “Fracking has done a lot for this community, but it’s also put a lot of stress on this community, too, so we’re trying to take that stress off of you.”
District 5 Council Member Mari Willis also said she appreciated the public comments, but echoed Hamilton by talking about the city’s needs.
“We do hear you; we appreciate your participation. It will be considered, but we do have a lot of needs,” Willis said. “It’s not an easy road. It’s not something that everyone will agree with, but it’s something that has to be done for the betterment of our city.”
District 4 Council Member Tom Sprawls said he had heard their comments, but had been debating to himself how much of the taxpayers’ money he is willing to spend on this.
“We see from the conference center, anytime you put any of these projects off, it costs money,” Sprawls said. “How much are we willing to spend next year? We’re under a time constraint here trying to be as frugal as possible.”
Despite this, Sprawls was the lone vote against the project, which passed. At-Large Council Member Peggy Dean was out of town. Sprawls said he voted against the resolution because of what he heard that night from Odessans.
“They want more time, and I felt like I would go with that,” he said.
Sprawls said he wasn’t sure he would advocate for a general bond election, but said that would be the alternative and that he would like more time to discuss the issue with the public.
City Council also approved appropriating an additional $3 million in hotel/motel tax revenue toward the construction of the Marriott Hotel & Convention Center, which they were told was needed due to the rising cost of housing construction workers.
Dawn Tucker and Tim Harry spoke out against this, worrying that it would cost more in taxes for residents, or that it would continue to cost them even more.
“How much are we going to have to continue over the lifespan of this building?” Harry asked Council members. “How much are we gonna continue putting toward this building as taxpayers? People are tapped. The tree’s running out of money.”
Marrero said this would be the final cost to the project, and that it would only cost more should the City Council want to add something additional to the project themselves. Turner also explained that this would be paid for out of the hotel/motel tax fund, which is raised not by residents, but by visitors who are staying in Odessa.
IN OTHER BUSINESS, THE CITY COUNCIL
>> Approved City Council minutes, June 11, 2019.
>> Approved City Council and Ector County Commissioners Joint Meeting minutes, June 11, 2019.
>> Approved the request by Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, owner, for rezoning from Single Family-Three (SF-3) to Planned Development-Neighborhood Services (PD-NS) on Lots 10-14, Block 62, Harrisdale Subdivision (at the northwest corner of University Blvd. and Ventura Ave.) (Ordinance – Second and Final Approval),
>> Approved the request by XTX Associates, LLC, owner, Newton Engineering, agent, for rezoning from Planned Development-Retail (PD-R) to Light Commercial (LC) on Lots 12- 13, Block 41, Harrisdale Addition, 6th Filing (on the northeast corner of Troy Ave. and University Blvd.) (Ordinance – Second and Final Approval).
>> Approved the request by Odessa Housing Finance Corporation, owner, LCA, agent, for rezoning from General Residential (GR) to Special Dwelling District (SPD) on Lots 13-15, Block 2, and Lots 16-17, Block 3, Smith Heights Addition (east of the intersection of Fitch Ave. and Lamesa St.) (Ordinance – Second and Final Approval).
>> Approved a resolution to accept and appropriate funds in the amount of $100,000 donated to the City of Odessa Police Department from Bustin for Badges function. (Resolution).
>> Approved authorizing the City of Odessa Police Department to apply for and accept, $165,192, as additional revenue; amending the fiscal budget to appropriate awarded funds and authorizing the expenditure of awarded grant funds from the Project Safe Neighborhoods Program, FY 2020. (Resolution).
>> Approved necessary signatures in connection with City Funds. (Resolution).
- Approved necessary signatures in connection with Municipal Court Cash Bond Account Funds. (Resolution).
- Approved a renewal of agreement with BBVA Compass for depository services.
- Approved the Guidelines and Criteria Governing Tax Abatement in Reinvestment Zones and Enterprise Zones and amending the Odessa City Code Chapter 11 “Taxation” to become Chapter 11 “Taxation and Finance” by adding a new Article 11-3 “Tax Abatement In Reinvestment Zones And Enterprise Zones” to codify said guidelines and criteria (Ordinance – First Approval).