AP NEWS

Utility district approves expansion purchases

May 9, 2019

The Ector County Utility District has taken next steps to expand operations to accommodate a growing customer base in West Odessa.

Board members approved authorizing multiple purchases during a regularly scheduled meeting for required infrastructure improvements to ensure their system can meet guidelines outlined by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

ECUD has maintained an extended contract with the City of Odessa for more than 30 years to receive water and services for the district, but the utility district has steadily been working toward becoming a self-sufficient operation for the last three years under the leadership of ECUD President Tommy Ervin. He said the continued growth in West Odessa is pushing the utility district to expand in order to keep up.

Bill Fowler, ECUD’s attorney, said the district was looking to secure land before going out for bids on upcoming projects in hopes of obtaining a lower rate from companies by already having a site selected for an estimate.

Board members approved authorizing the purchase of a one-acre tract of land on Knox Avenue for an above ground storage tank at a cost of $25,000 and a second one-acre tract of land for another above ground storage tank on Tripp Avenue for $20,000. The purchase of a 5.37 acre tract of land north of 42nd Street was also approved for a water pump station and one ground storage tank totaling about $40,000.

“We have to do these upgrades in order to keep this system functioning,” ECUD board member Terry Swan said.

The multiple tracts of land are one of the first stages that will help bring the district’s master water plan to life.

The master water plan has been approved by TCEQ to adequately serve Odessa’s current population and projected rate of growth for the next 25 years. The estimated cost to revamp ECUD’s system is $47 million.

Ervin said the system would be funded by a loan from the Texas Water Development Board and ECUD would pay down the loan over 30 years with help from recent water rate hikes for customers.

West Odessa senior citizens reported water rates have more than doubled for residents receiving ECUD services starting in February. Customers under the age of 60 now pay about $75 and senior citizens pay $50 for 2,000 gallons of water.

“The problem with our system is we have areas that have low volume and low pressures and they have to be fixed,” Ervin said. “We have to come up with an infrastructure, which is the pump station and the elevated tanks, to overcome the volume and the pressure problems.”

He said water pressure levels for some areas of West Odessa are close to being in violation of state law.

The utility district is now recognized as a public water system and has 5,300 customers, serving about 22,000 people in West Odessa. City Public Works Director Tom Kerr said the system has reached a size that indicates a need for more separation from the City, but that process would require bolstering ECUD’s number of personnel, equipment and infrastructure before they are ready to handle operations.

Ervin said ECUD is ready to make the jump and start investing in infrastructure projects to secure water for those living in west Odessa for years to come.

ECUD board members announced that a town hall will be held May 16 to clarify any confusion about the district’s master water plan and the increased water rates after numerous residents have continually told the board that the updated price is too much for retirees to afford.

IN OTHER BUSINESS, THE BOARD

>> Authorized the letting of bids to construct Operations & Maintenance building at 1039 N. Moss Ave.

>> Approved a motion to table discussion about modifications to the personnel policy manual.

>> Approved the financial report for May 8, 2019.

>> Approved the minutes from the April 10, 2019 board meeting