The results of a telephone phone conducted by Odessa Headlines over the weekend are in, with 75.4% of the 378 (or 285) registered Odessa voters polled responding that they would prefer the Odessa City Council prioritize critical water infrastructure spending versus using debt to build a new multi-million-dollar animal shelter. 

The Odessa City Council is set to discuss the allocation of up to $10 million in funds to build a new 20,538 square foot animal shelter that police department officials say is needed to keep up with the volume of animals coming in. 

Funding for the project would come from a part of $93 million in debt the city issued in August of 2019 for a variety of non-emergency spending projects despite objections from residents who decried the issuance saying the move circumvented their right to vote on public spending issues. 

Now, however, city staff is saying the city also faces a critical water infrastructure problem and is in the process of asking the council to approve an additional $100 million in debt to pay for. 

Several city council members, including Odessa Mayor Javier Joven, says he is against using certificates of obligation for non-emergency issues, saying the process is too often abused to circumvent the right of taxpayers to vote on major public spending issues. 

Mayor Joven told Odessa Headlines that he would like to find as many existing cuts as possible to bring down the cost of the water infrastructure project, including exploring the possibility of using surplus funds from the existing debt issuance to free up other funding that could be applied to the water project.  

According to a report on certificates of obligation, state law provides that funds from certificates of obligation must only be spent on the purposes for which they were issued. In this case, the purposes cited in the original ordinance include park improvements, new fire stations, building improvements, drainage, lighting, paving streets, and a new animal shelter. 

The Odessa City Council workshop discussion will be held online today starting at 3 PM. The public may find information on how to tune in by following this link

Matt Stringer is a journalist from Odessa, Texas.