ECTOR COUNTY, Texas (KMID/KPEJ)- Concerns from locals in West Odessa about ongoing issues with the Ector County Utility District were the topic Thursday at the Ector County Commissioners’ Court Meeting, specifically issues with the area’s infrastructure that prompted a petition which has, so far, garnered more than 400 signatures. The petition outlines a lack of transparency and trust between residents and the ECUD.

Locals at the meeting said they are concerned about their access to water.

“The citizens there need water. That is the purpose of it. We have so many that do not have it. But because the board has operated lawlessly in so many different ways and levels, the success of that board has been hindered and so we are here today to talk to the Commissioners Court about coming in and helping us do a reset on that so that there can be transparency and accountability and hopefully trust regained with the community regarding the water district,” said concerned citizen, Jennifer Woodall.

These are notices posted on the Ector County Utility District’s website as of Thursday that outline some of those concerns:

“Please be advised that the water service will be temporarily turned off on Thursday, November 16, 2023, in order to install a valve on N. Tripp Avenue and W. Riggs Drive. This will affect any surrounding areas northeast of that intersection. The scheduled work will start at 8:30 a.m. and is tentatively scheduled to end at 3:30 p.m.  Thank you in advance for your patience and understanding. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.”

“ECUD apologizes for any inconvenience that you have experienced during the process of upgrading the water system. There have been several changes in the route in which water is being directed to customers.  A new 34″ waterline that runs approximately 5 miles has been installed from loop 338 to the new ground storage tank on 42nd. This will eventually benefit areas in West Odessa that do not have water. While change can sometimes create issues and be very challenging, in the end it is worth it. Pressure levels are one of many issues that ECUD staff has been dealing with. Our goal is to get the pressure levels to an average level across the ECUD water system. This will result in areas that in the past experienced very high-pressure levels to decrease some, while areas that experienced low pressure will increase, which will create a water pressure average across the system.  ECUD is also monitoring the chlorine levels to ensure that the water is safe to consume.  Water is sometimes being flushed through hydrants to keep the chlorine levels up.  Again, we are sorry for any inconvenience and are working diligently to correct any problem.”

Locals say they’ve had to go without water before and some claim they are still without water completely and hint that the ECUD has been a main contributor to the problem. Ector County Judge Dustin Fawcett says another part of the problem is that the people of West Odessa are not allowed to join the district’s board meetings or ask for an election to bring new people to the board.

“Now I don’t know about you, but I think a utility district who is set up to bring water to households, it’s goal and mission should be to bring water to households. And so, we need a board of directors there whose goal it is to provide water to the 7,500 homes that currently do not have water but are paying property taxes right now. I find that a tremendous problem it is literally the classical example of taxation without representation. Not only do they not have services, they have no elections to change that and not only do they not have elections, they’re not allowed in the board meetings. This is a tremendous issue that is taking place in West Odessa,” Fawcett said. 

Odessa native, John Kelly, created a petition regarding the concerns from those living in West Odessa and asked locals to sign the petition at various locations last week. He said he hoped the petition would prompt the Commissioners Court to look into their struggles and do something to fix the problems.

“We wanted to do something…but they kept pulling shenanigans that we thought were red flags coming up during the meetings. They “weren’t” progressing and adding water meters like we thought they should’ve been. I understand everything is revolved around money, but we’ve been going to board meetings for the last year and a half and it’s like speaking to a brick wall. When you go in there, they don’t take your advice,” Kelly said. 

For now, Commissioners said there is no immediate plan for how to approach the growing concern, however, they will again discuss the issue during the next meeting on November 21.