Odessa City Council on Tuesday agreed to host numerous upcoming city-sponsored community events despite an alarming increase in local COVID-19 cases in the past month.
The council did not vote on the issue, but verbally instructed city director Michael Marrero not to cancel popular annual community events such as the Oktoberfest, the autumn festival and the parade of lights.
“I think we have to leave it to the citizens,” said Councilor Steve Thompson as the issue was discussed. “These are all outside events. Everyone knows the risks; they know security protocols. “
Mayor Javier Joven said he has contacted numerous surrounding communities and none of them have indicated that they will be canceling events due to COVID.
“I think the community takes this seriously,” said Joven. “We can repeat this anytime if things change.”
Councilor Mari Willis said she could not yet support the decision of the other council members.
“We have to be very careful,” said Willis. “We still have to be vigilant”
Willis suggested setting up vaccination booths at the events, a plan that Joven and other council members agreed to.
The council’s decision not to cancel events came minutes after Russell Tippin, President and CEO of Medical Center Hospital, and Rodd Huber, City’s Chief Fire Rescue Assistant Chief, warned the city was facing the growing tide of COVID cases must continue to fight aggressively across the county.
Tippin told the council that MCH exceeded its previous record of 103 COVID patients admitted to hospital last Saturday. The good news is that the number had dropped to 89 patients by Tuesday night.
“It’s the first time in a month we’ve seen a significant drop,” said Tippin. “We want this number to continue to curve.”
After Tuesday’s council meeting, Tippin said he understood the council’s desire to continue with community events. But he warned the decision could be a mistake.
“We all want to leave that behind,” said Tippin. “But we all have to take it seriously if we are to defeat it.”
A public hearing on the city’s proposed operating budget for 2021-22 was held on Tuesday, at which no citizens asked for an opinion.
The Council will officially vote on the adoption of the proposed budget of $ 239,327,076 during its September 14 session. The budget plans to allow all full-time employees in the city a 4 percent increase in the cost of living for the period 2021-22.
Marrero previously noted that due to COVID-19 and the financial unpredictability of the pandemic, no salary increases were granted in 2020. Typically, employees receive a 3 percent annual pay increase.
The council also voted to approve $ 1,182,078 for the general operation of the Ector County’s emergency communications district.
Ector County Emergency Communications District provides emergency and emergency call services for the cities of Odessa and Goldsmith, and Ector County. Odessa, Goldsmith and the county must approve the proposed budget.
The council approved the Odessa Development Corporation’s proposed budget for 2021-22, which includes projected total revenues of $ 7,904,068 and projected expenses of $ 1,547,729.
The council voted to support a motion to approve the nomination of the Odessa Regional Medical Center as a Texas State Enterprise Zone – a designation that allows the hospital to apply for government funding for its investment project.
The appointment will help ORMC raise government funds to help the hospital continue a $ 10 million capital improvement project to expand its facilities and services.
Proposed improvements over the next five years include spending $ 7.5 million on building extension renovation projects dedicated to women and maternity care.
The council voted to accept an invitation to participate in the formation of a joint task force committee to address remapping issues after the 2020 US census, as set out in the agenda of the council’s working session.
The joint committee will include representatives from the city, Ector County Independent School District, Ector County Hospital District, Odessa Junior College District, and Ector County. City Manager Michael Marrero and City Councilor Denise Swanner act as city representatives.
The council approved a recommendation to bid Cooper Construction $ 2,351,000 for the refurbishment of the city-owned building at 307 N. Lee Street.
The building will house community development, code enforcement and the Fire Marshal’s office. The renovation, which includes a roof renovation and the purchase of office equipment, will be paid for from the funds from the 2019 promissory note.