1 Dollar Donation on Odessa Utility Bills Raises Questions 4/11/13
CBS 7 News
April 11, 2013
It’s a one-dollar donation that is part of an Odessa’s utility bill to get equipment for park playgrounds, but some citizens don't agree with the program.
One-dollar is taken from utility bills unless the bill recipient calls the city and asks to be removed from the program, but it goes to replacing and renovating playgrounds like Murry Fly Park.
Thursday the Odessa City Council voted to renew the contract, but not without a fight.
“I think it's ridiculous that city Council members are so uninformed about the issue yet continue to vote on issues that they have not investigated themselves,” said Jason Moore, who known as the citizen watchdog. He says there are many flaws in the agreement of the contract between the city and the nonprofit group called The Parks Foundation.
He says there is not enough transparency and decisions with the money to this non-profit is not presented to the council even though the contract requires to do so.
”I would like to see them stop this program,” he said, “The worst thing that could happen if they kill this program today is that all of the money that's in the foundation that's uncommitted would go right back to the city.
The City of Odessa Attorney Larry Long says there is some minor changes they will need to look into, but assures the money is going to the right place.
“I think the obvious from the reaction from the audience there is an issue transparency what we're going to do is address that with the new contract were going to have,” he said.
There was no representation of the foundation at the meeting. The Director of Parks and Recreation, Steve Patton says the non-profit group has done wonders for the city parks.
“The funds are designated strictly for playground equipment and the children of this community,” he said. “That's the mission of this foundation its a volunteer-nonprofit-group and its here to assist.”
Councilwoman Sandra Carrasco voted against the utility bill donation program saying they need to reevaluate it.
“I think we need to step back and really look at this because we are here for the taxpayers,” she said.
Moore also had issues with opting out of paying the donation saying he and a few people he knew were still charged regardless of opting out.
Two other citizens also came forward to speak against this program.
The utility bill donation program was put into effect on July 2007 in the past five years the program has raised about $1.2 million.