by Victor Lopez
ODESSA--Some residents are calling the city out for not following the mandatory water restrictions. City officials say they have their own battles to contend with when it comes to following the rules.
Odessa city officials will be the first to tell you, they're Odessa residents like everyone else. The next round of water restrictions don't go into effect until July 1 but the City of Odessa is already putting them into practice.
"We have been for over two weeks now. At just two waterings, you can tell from the condition of the parks," Steve Patton, Director of Parks and Recreation in Odessa, said.
The Odessa Parks and Recreation Department has been getting a lot of heat from residents lately, most of it stemming from them not following the water restrictions. Patton says it's not that they're not following the rules, they've just been blown off course a little bit.
According to Patton, "We're constantly testing our parks to make sure the sprinkler heads aren't sprinkling on the street or something. I want people to know that we had 14 heads kicked off, vandalism. That's the problem. We've got people driving vehicles all over the parks."
The extremely dry conditions are taking their toll on sprinkler systems. Where the sprinkler used to be a cushion of dirt or grass, in some extreme cases, the head is left completely exposed and at the mercy of park goers.
"We have vehicles on the park, which are not allowed. We're going to take a lot of steps, even to keep our maintenance vehicles off the parks," Patton explained. "There must have been someone in (Central) the park at 2 in the morning because they took a baseball bat and hit 44 heads. When you're talking almost 100 dollars a head, for those particular heads, you're talking over $4,000 in damage."
With a four-man crew to take care of almost 700 acres of irrigated park land, Patton says, aside from the monetary expense, these types of situations affect them in other ways too.
"It takes time from doing things we really need to be doing, which would be checking our irrigation systems, looking at repairs, making sure our spray patterns are where they need to be and that we are in compliance with the regulations that we have in place now," Patton said.
Some residents assume the city is exempt from water restrictions. Patton says that's not the case. Not all of the city parks use city water. Some are on water wells and others, like UTPB Park, are on reuse water.
Patton says, "That's why you'll see water on at that park or at McKinney Park."
Plus, with a 200-team, girls softball tournament coming to town soon, they have to be ready for it.
"That's a economic impact on this community and if there isn't some green out there, this tournament isn't coming back," Patton said.
So, the next time you see sprinklers going off in a city park, Patton wants you to remember, "We have a lot more to battle, as far as issues over somebody's particular front yard or an irrigation system at an apartment complex."