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City Council develops vision at retreat

December 15, 2018 GMT

The Odessa City Council’s Friday retreat was the first in about 10 years where they discussed developing a vision of what they want Odessa to look like in the next 20 years.

Council members met at Dee’s Bistro, 622 N. Lee Ave., with Mike Mowery of Strategic Government Resources to discuss what some of the needs in the community are.

The Council came up with five pillars on which to develop the city they want to see in 2040: update infrastructure, encourage customer service, support staff, build partnerships and promote innovation.

Mayor David Turner gave some ideas of what he would like to see as far as infrastructure, including an update of the roadways, as well as the water and sewer systems. Turner also said he wanted to continue working with the Colorado River Municipal Water District to keep supplying Odessa with water for the next 50 years.

By encouraging customer service, the Council said this could help lead to further developments and developers in Odessa.

“I think we need to continue to be seen as a facilitator rather than as a roadblock,” At-Large Council Member Peggy Dean said.

City Manager Michael Marrero told Council members his staff is looking at what they can do now to make it easier on developers by requiring what is most practical for each development.

By supporting staff, District 5 Council Member Mari Willis said it may restore some trust from the public.

“If they feel respected, all of those processes are going to go a little bit easier, because they trust us,” Willis said.

Turner brought up the potential ethics ordinance as something that could help to restore faith from the public as well.

“There are instances where a council can really damage the city,” Turner said. “I think we need to have a policy in place that says ‘this is acceptable, this is not acceptable.’”

When asked how an ordinance like that could be enforced, Turner said there could be repercussions for violations of the ordinance, such as taking committee appointments away from the violating council member.

The City has dealt with some issues of conflict of interest in the past. District 1 Council Member Malcolm Hamilton came under scrutiny after it was revealed he voted against giving incentives to Weir Oil & Gas without disclosing he worked for Sentry Wellhead Systems, a direct competitor of Weir. Hamilton was the only council member not at the retreat.

By building partnerships, be it with other governing entities or with private companies, council members speculated they could better improve the quality of life in Odessa, and better solve issues if the City worked in conjunction with Ector County, Ector County Hospital District and Ector County Independent School District. And further improvements could be made if the city got commitments from companies coming to the area that they would give back to the community in some way.

District 4 City Council Member Tom Sprawls talked about the current state of many oil companies, who will build huge complexes in Midland but build their man camps in Odessa.

“They’re not community-minded,” Sprawls said. “They need to be building apartment complexes.”

Dean suggested the Council could promote innovation by thinking outside the box more and getting creative, as well as becoming better educated on topics affecting the community.

“We can’t even be creative if we don’t understand how these things work,” Dean said.

When asked by Mowery what kind of reputation they would like Odessa to have, council members responded similarly that they would like to be a respected city where people are proud to live.

“We want to be a place where people want to move here,” Dean said. “Not just a work town where you make money and get out of here.”

All of the council members leaving the retreat said they felt more confident in their vision of the city, and had a better familiarity of the newest council members.

“It gave me so much more direction on where I thought we as a group need to focus,” District 3 Council Member Detra White said.

Marrero said this was this was the first council retreat in about 10 years, and that it was much needed.

“I’ve known all of you, but it’s good to see your inner workings,” Turner said. “I think it’s been very good to refocus, re-center and reload.”