News Column

A Grilling Over Funds Meant for Hispanic Chamber

Aug 28 2013 9:47AM

Nathaniel Miller

What seemed like a mundane agenda item for the Odessa City Council Tuesday turned into a grilling of a member of the Odessa Development Corporation over the amount of funds budgeted to the Odessa Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Set to $45,000 from the organization, District 5 Councilwoman Sandra Carrasco started to question ODC board member Richard "Buz" Browning about why OHCC didn't receive their requested $106,000.

"They requested $106,000, why are they only getting $45,000?" Carrasco asked. "It's hard to do anything with $45,000."

Browning, who is serving his first year on the board, said during the current fiscal year, the Hispanic Chamber had "brought nothing" to the table that caused ODC members to give the organization additional funds.

OHCC President Manny Puga, who was present at the council meeting, spoke to the council saying it wasn't fair for the Odessa Chamber of Commerce to receive more money than them.

"We're not a competition to them; we're a compliment," Puga said regarding ODC's decision to give $718,853 to the Chamber of Commerce.

Since ODC and OHCC entered into a partnership in 2006, OHCC was reported as bringing in only two contracts from two companies, creating a total of 12 new jobs in 2008, a former Odessa American story stated. ODC then cut the Hispanic Chamber's contract from more than $114,000 to $45,000 during the 2011-2012 fiscal year.

City Manager Richard Morton said during the debate that he felt ODC made a decision based on the number of businesses and jobs each organization has brought in.

"The Hispanic Chamber has been in the game less and, to date, they have not produced one project," Morton said. "That's what the ODC board is making their recommendation on."

Council members approved the budget in a 3-2 vote.

A public hearing regarding red light cameras was opened after council members received a presentation from American Traffic Solutions Senior Business Development Director David Jackson.

During the presentation, Jackson explained the system involved two cameras recording the event and sending the information back to ATS' servers. From there, the video and pictures would be sent to the Odessa Police Department, where an officer would decide if the video showed a traffic violation. If approved, tickets would then be mailed out to the person the vehicle was registered to.

Jackson added if someone else was driving the vehicle, vehicle owners could get a transfer liability to the person who was driving. Any ticket would not go on a person's driving record, he added.

Residents who spoke during the hearing weren't too excited about the idea of the cameras.

"I think its nonsense," resident Ben Upton said. "They're not going to save lives, they're revenue generating devices."

Council members also passed the first reading of a proposed synthetic drug ordinance that would ban items that contained items with salvia divinorum, Datura stamonium, and Dexanabinol.

The ordinance would also make it illegal to own a shop that knowingly sells synthetic materials within 800 feet of a church, an elementary school, a public park, a convention center or coliseum, or a mall.

"I feel really good about this ordinance," Odessa Mayor David Turner said. "Then we can start going after some of these stores."

The final reading will be at the council's scheduled meeting on Sept. 10.


--Approved the minutes from the Aug. 13 meeting.

--Approved allowing the Odessa Police Department to accept a BJA Edward Burne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant.

--Approved allowing the police department to accept a STEP Speed, Intersection Traffic Control, and Seat Belt Grant.

--Approved donating two animal control response trunks and related equipment to Ector County.

--Approved allowing the police department to accept a one year grant from the Texas Attorney General's Office for a crime victim liaison.

--Approved a request of Jack N. Mousa for zoning of special dwelling district on about 125 acres.

--Approved a request of Wyly Brown Construction Co., for site plan approval.

--Approved an industrial district agreement.

--Approved the second and final approval of a video gaming ordinance.

--Approved the fee structure at Ratliff Ranch Golf Links.

--Approved the renewal of contract for the purchase of irrigation.

--Approved the renewal of a contract for the purchase of police uniforms.

--Approved the city's investment policy.

--Approved the monthly financial summary report for July 2013.

--Held a public hearing regarding the prohibition of trailers longer than 19 feet from parking on residential streets.

--Held a public hearing regarding the prohibition of recreational vehicles parking on residential streets..

--Held a public hearing on the proposed tax rate of 51.275 cents per $100 valuation tax rate. The second hearing is scheduled for Sept. 10.

--Approved the second and final approval for solid waste rate change.

--Approved using additional general fund revenues to fund one-time supplement budget requests.

--Contact Nathaniel Miller on twitter at @OAgovernment, on Facebook at OA Nathaniel Miller or call 432-333-7769


(c)2013 the Odessa American (Odessa, Texas)

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Source: Copyright Odessa American (TX) 2013

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