Added Dollar In Odessa Water Bill Has Residents Concerned

By Wyatt Goolsby
NewsWest 9

ODESSA - Some Odessans say something is wrong with the monthly water bill. They claim they're overpaying by one dollar every month, and it's not for water. It's for a donation, they say, they don't want to pay.

"It said pay immediately, and I was thinking well they are going to shut the water off. The girl told me I didn't have to pay it, so I didn't pay it, but I didn't know it was going to come on my next bill," An Odessa resident, who prefers to remain anonymous, explained.

Some Odessa residents said Friday they're frustrated. They want to opt out of paying a optional parks donation on their utility bill. But one resident told NewsWest 9 she tried calling to opt out, writing notes, and just not paying the extra dollar. However, every month she finds the money still on the bill.

"It's very upsetting, because like I said, so many people are paying the dollar. Only certain people are paying it, not all of Odessa," the resident said.

"Remember this is done under the auspicious of a donation, so if you are being charged a dollar past due, then it is in essence a rate fee, which is disguised by another dollar," Javier Joven, an Odessa resident running for City Council, explained.

Joven told NewsWest 9 the added dollar on the bill is something he's been watching for months. He claims it's not being implemented equally. Some, like himself, have opted out, others still pay even when opting out, and some have never been charged the dollar to begin with.

"People have been critical, saying that I am trying to make a name for myself and create this as a political issue. It's not about that. It's about the principle of the matter," Joven explained. "We have a mechanism here which is the city of Odessa, that is supposed to be serving us. Times are hard and people are trying to get every penny that they can. And I know everybody's saying, well it's just a dollar. No, No, it's another dollar."

Joven said it's great if people want to donate to help local parks, but he said it's the city's system that's the problem. He said people should be opting-in to donate, not having to opt-out. Others are afraid to stop paying for fear their water will get turned off. They hope something changes.

"Because I want to know where that money is going to. Who's getting that money? Who is benefiting from it?," the anonymous Odessa resident said.

NewsWest 9 did speak with city officials this week. The donations go to the local Parks Foundation, which was created in 2007. City officials said if you don't want to pay the dollar, you don't have to. They said they will not turn off your water or anything else if you choose not to pay.