Patton asks council for sports complex study

Jan. 24—Odessa Parks and Recreation staff pitched the idea of spending $15,000 on a sports complex feasibility project Tuesday to the Odessa City Council.

Director Steve Patton and Deputy Director Matt Christman reminded the council a sports complex was identified as a priority when the city's master plan was unveiled last year.

Synergy Sports Global would not only identify the needs and priorities of the community, but look for opportunities for sports tourism, potential locations and potential costs.

Knowing that raising taxes isn't always feasible, Christman said he envisions a public-private partnership could be established.

When Council member At-Large Denise Swanner stressed she didn't want to still be discussing the study in six months, Christman assured her it would only take four to six weeks.

Although the study hasn't been budgeted, Patton said he was confident his department could find the funds.

Mayor Javier Joven said he's heard several suggestions for possible complex locations from different groups, including north of Home Depot, off of Billy Hext and near Parks Bell. The city also owns property south of Interstate 20 and near Dixie Boulevard and Pool Road.

Christman said Synergy would be able to offer an unbiased opinion and would also be able to look at instrastructure needs, ingress and egress.

Council member Steve Thompson said he opposes placing the complex near Interstate 20, but Council member Chris Hanie said placing one there would help grow the city.

"Then you start building motels out there and you start building everything. We start growing this city, not just on the east side. We start growing the south side, the west side and that becomes a sight for everybody coming in...Let's put something pretty up there," Hanie said.

The item is expected to come up again on the council's next council agenda.

Patton also told the council the parks advisory board is recommending the city council enter into an agreement with Larry Lee of Leeco Properties.

Lee has agreed to develop a 3.85 neighborhood park in the Desert Ridge subdivision and the Odessa Parks Foundation has agreed to fund the playground equipment for the park.

Once the project is completed, Lee would deed the property over to the city and the city would agree to spend approximately $18,000 a year to maintain it, Patton said. No additional personnel would need to be hired, he said.

The park would also include a small dog park and walking trail, he said.

City of Odessa Controller Seth Boles also gave the city council a presentation on the final rules governing American Rescue Plan Act funds.

Boles answered a long-lingering question of some council members, who have wondered if the funds can be used for firefighter raises.

According to the rules, ARPA can be used to provide worker retention incentives, including "reasonable increases in compensation, and paying for ancillary administrative costs related to hiring, support and retention."

They can also be used to provide premium pay for workers who performed essential duties during the pandemic and investments in water and sewer infrastructure in certain circumstances, Boles said.

Boles said the city has just under $9 million left from the first tranche of money it received, including the $3 million repaid to the city by Medical Center Hospital.

There's also $10,161,480 available from a second tranche.

Boles said his figures do not take into consideration the $7 million in raises the council voted 5-2 to approve in December.

The council instructed Boles to reach out to Odessa Regional Medical Center to inquire if they still plan to ask the city for $1 million. The hospital indicated nearly two years ago they needed the funds but never filled out the required paperwork.

In other action, the council directed city staff to create a request for proposals for a forensic audit.

Swanner complained that when she's asked about specific funds she's always been told they're in the general fund and she finds that too broad.

Joven said he has questions about sales tax money being co-mingled between city and Odessa Development Corporation accounts, where game room fees have gone and why Odessa Fire Rescue crews sometimes have to pay for their own training when OFR gets training funds.

He'd also like to make sure that the city is in compliance when it comes to the expenditure of certificates of obligation.

Council member Mark Matta said the city has had the same audit firm "for years and years and years."

"This is kind of a checks and balances on them to make sure they haven't missed anything in the past," Matta said.

It was recently discovered the auditing firm, Weaver, made 26 mistakes with TxDOT and he finds it hard to believe they haven't made mistakes with the city or ODC, Joven said.