New Ector County Courthouse Meets Opposition

New Ector County Courthouse Meets Opposition

Anum Valliani
NewsWest 9

ECTOR COUNTY - One Odessa group is battling county commissioners about whether they really need a new courthouse.

The newly formed group, Citizens for Responsible Government, is campaigning for taxpayers to reject the bond for Ector County's new courthouse.

"We're not saying, no we don't need to do anything to our courthouse, but we've been presented with one option and one option only and that's $95 million," Jeff Russell, the group's founder, said.

He says they want the county to provide other, cheaper alternatives to the current proposal.

Russell says county commissioners just kind of sprung the information about the courthouse on taxpayers without seeming too informed about their own plan. But County Judge Susan Redford says this has been in the works since 2008.

They say they need a new building because their current one can't be expanded anymore because there are major plumbing issues, a shortage of space (employees are operating out of closets as offices) and security concerns.

"Just imagine that you are coming around a corner and you are face to face with someone who's been convicted of a capital murder. That person has nothing to lose," Redford said.

She also says they need to add another district court to keep the flow of their felony cases moving.

"That's affecting our jail because we can't move those cases through our courts quick enough, so it's causing a backlog in our jail and for our jail to be overcrowded," Redford said.

But Russell's team has been doing some digging into proposals of their own. He said they've found lower cost solutions that would still double the current courthouse's space and cut the cost to about $30 million.

Redford said it would end up requiring alot of money to continue the upkeep.

"You can't conduct court the way you want to. At the end of the day, does it make sense to keep throwing money into that situation or to build from the ground up?" Redford said.

"Once the commissioners voted to put it on the ballot, we're locked in," Russell said. He urged voters to first reject the proposal in November and then they can move on to the next steps of pitching other options.

The $95 million isn't just for the price of the building but includes demolition, construction and improving technology. The bond will go to a vote on November fifth.