Since its formation in 1976 the Ector County Utility District (ECUD) has worked to supply drinking water to West Odessa residents. Originally founded by well-known West Odessa residents in Ocotillo Park like M.O. Boring, ECUD has grown into a system servicing thousands of residents and in 1997 ECUD applied for and became a Municipal Utility District or MUD.
As a Texas MUD, ECUD functions as an independent, limited government entity which sets its own charges, fees and taxes in order to provide facilities and services. ECUD is governed by 5 Board of Directors who are publicly elected. The board establishes policies in the interest of its residents and utility customers. MUDs are regulated under the supervision of the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality (TCEQ).
Current ECUD Board members include Board president Tommy Ervin who has served on the Board since 2002, Margaret Burton who was appointed in 2013, Stephanie Shaw who was appointed in 2019, Will Kappauf who was appointed in 2021, and Troy Walker who was appointed in 2022.
ECUD’s attorney, Bill Fowler, and CPA, Joe Torres, have served ECUD since its formation in 1976 and both are listed on ECUD’s formation documents. This year marks the 46th anniversary of both Fowler’s and Torres’ compensated roles with ECUD.
In 2021, ECUD moved into a new era as it became independent from the City of Odessa and began providing its own field services, billing and collections and customer service to the ECUD District.
With the appointment of Kappauf and Walker, changes in the Board dynamic have begun to occur.
Prior to the end of 2021, Board actions overwhelmingly passed unanimously.
In fact, there appears to be not one single ’no’ vote against an agenda item in recent history prior to December 2021.
Also, prior to 2021, there was no general practice of Directors requesting agenda items for Board meetings, and instead the Board leaned exclusively on Board President Ervin to set the agenda for each meeting.
In December 2021, Kappauf, who had recently assumed his position on the board, was the lone dissenter and objected to the motion to accept a quote for material and to award the work because the bid request had only one bidder.
“This was a several hundred-thousand-dollar bid. With only one quote, how could we know we are getting a fair and reasonable and best price for ECUD and our taxpayers?”, said Director Kappauf. “I was very uncomfortable with spending this amount of ECUD customer and taxpayer money with only one bid.” Kappauf further stated.
Unlike in the past, 2022 Board actions have seen a number of split votes where Board President Ervin has had to cast his vote as tiebreaker.
One heated discussion and vote came as the result of Director Walker’s push to bring ECUD procurement procedures in line with Texas law. Director Shaw motioned to approve the agenda item to accept the bids, which should have been done before the already placed purchase orders were awarded to vendors several weeks earlier. The Board did not have a chance to review pricing before Board President Ervin placed the purchase orders without Board consent.
Director Burton seconded the motion by Shaw. Kappauf and Walker voted nay, while Shaw and Burton voted in favor. President Ervin cast the deciding vote in favor of Shaw’s motion, thereby keeping in place the purchase orders he had placed outside of State procurement law.
A number of other split votes have occurred on a variety of issues with President Ervin siding with Burton and Shaw a large majority of the time.
In the latest ECUD meeting, Ervin voted with Kappauf and Walker to begin publishing ECUD Board meeting minutes on the ECUD website.
“Since I was appointed to the Board, one of my primary concerns has been to increase the transparency of ECUD operations at all levels. I think ECUD customers and taxpayers deserve for there to be full disclosure on exactly what ECUD is doing and where ECUD dollars are being spent.” stated Director Walker. “I would really encourage everyone in West Odessa to stay up with what’s going on with ECUD and to come attend a Board meeting if they can”.
The next ECUD Board meeting will be September 14th. Board meetings are typically held on the 2nd Wednesday of each month, with the Director Workshop starting at 1:30 pm and the Board Meeting starting at 2:30 pm. Both meetings are open to the public and held at the District office at 1039 N Moss Ave in West Odessa.
For more information, including posted public meeting agendas and minutes, please visit their website at: www.ecudwestodessatx.org