Council wants county input on game rooms

·5 min read

Jan. 19—The Odessa City Council is still hoping to join forces with Ector County Commissioners to help address the proliferation of game rooms throughout the county and the corresponding problems some of them are causing local law enforcement.

Back in October, the city council made it clear they wanted to amend ordinances governing game rooms because some have prompted police calls due to drug issues, violent crimes and illegal gambling.

In the future, the city would like to restrict such establishments to light industrial or heavy industrial zones, and restrict their hours of operation to 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to midnight Friday through Saturday. They'd also like to make sure they are located at least 1,000 feet away from other gaming establishments, churches, schools, healthcare facilities, public buildings or residential areas.

In addition, the council would like to require future gaming establishments to provide the city with floor plans and there have been discussions about requiring the businesses to be private clubs with restricted access.

If the changes are ever adopted, the council said existing establishments would be grandfathered into the existing ordinance unless the establishment is sold or its license is revoked or expires.

During a council meeting in October, City Attorney Natasha Brooks told the council that under state law, only counties can enforce a 1,000 foot rule, not cities.

Since then, the city's legal team has researched the issue further and provided County Judge Debi Hays with that research. However, Mayor Javier Joven said Tuesday the city has not heard back from the county on the matter. He's also been led to believe the individual commissioners may be completely unaware of the changes the city has been discussing.

On Tuesday, the council instructed Brooks to send a letter to Hays, County Attorney Lee McClendon and all of the county commissioners asking them for their input and giving them a Feb. 15 deadline.

If that deadline passes without the county's input, council members made it clear they would move forward with at least some of the ordinance changes, acknowledging whatever they do will likely prompt lawsuits.

Five new gaming rooms have popped up on 8th Street just since October and more are in the works, Joven said.

Several community members have spoken up about their displeasure, Joven said.

The city is not trying to outlaw the businesses, but "we're being overrun and it needs to stop," he said.

"Somebody has to take the first step," Joven said.

In other matters, Odessa Police Department Deputy Chief Matt Davidson and Corporal Ian Kapets pitched a 10-year $7 million agreement with Axon, a Scottsdale, Arizona-based company that develops technology and weapons for law enforcement agencies and the military.

Under the terms of the contract, the company would provide OPD with the latest technology possible, including Tasers, body-worn cameras, helmet cameras, dash cams and drones. The company would also provide training and records management and evidence management systems. Those systems would also improve the department's ability to share records and evidence with the courts.

The men said the city could save $5 million over 10 years by entering the agreement rather than purchasing the items "a la carte."

Right now, the city has a contract with Axon and four other companies, but under the proposal, the city would be able to combine all of them into one contract and have one yearly expense, Kapets said.

Among the highlights of the contract:

Dispatchers and supervisors would be able to view all cameras live if necessary.

If Tasers are deployed and guns are drawn, an alert would be sent so backup officers could be dispatched immediately.

SWAT officers' cameras would be mounted on their helmets instead of their bodies, preventing blocked views that are a safety hazard and improving transparency.

The department would get enhanced license plate readers. Within a matter of months, the department's current license plate readers have gotten 206 "hits," meaning they've alerted officers to stolen vehicles and those associated with Amber Alerts and missing persons.

Axon's data is kept in the Cloud, therefore decreasing the burden on the city's IT department and allowing supervisors easier access for training purposes.

The contract would increase the department's drone fleet from one to four, which would allow the department to respond to more missing persons calls, fires, events and SWAT calls. In addition, officers could do more fatal crash reconstructions and the city could use them in its marketing efforts.

The contract comes with product warranties, thus cutting down on replacement costs. Right now each body camera costs $1,000 to replace, each Taser $2,000 and each dash camera $6,000.

Davidson and Kapets said some of the contract could be paid for with seized assets, but were hesitant to throw out any figures because it varies from year-to-year. However, they noted the contract would lock in the costs for the next 10 years, costs that are guaranteed to go up every year and the department would be spending money on the equipment and software anyway.

The council was also asked to consider signing a $356,797 contract with ONYX General Contractors to improve drainage, handicap access and sidewalks at 10 intersections, including those at Penbrook Street and Bonham Avenue, Dixie Boulevard and Walnut Avenue and P Bar Ranch Road and King Ranch.

The council was also asked to consider accepting a $20,000 donation to Odessa Fire Rescue from the Occidental Petroleum Company and $10,000 to OFR from Chevron. OFR Chief John Alvarez said the $20,000 would go toward hazard materials training and technical rescue training and the $10,000 would be used as needed.

In addition, the city was asked to give an $82,900 contract to Crafro of Chandler for five-years worth of crack sealing compound. The compound is enough to cover 16 miles of roads.