Replacing Ector County’s aging courthouse has been a major topic among county officials in recent years. However, creating a palatable proposal for its replacement has proven to be a challenge. At Monday’s commissioners court meeting, commissioners rejected the first step in issuing $85 million in debt to build a new courthouse by a 3–2 vote.
This comes almost five years after Ector County voters rejected a $95 million bond proposal to rebuild the courthouse. The bond failed by almost 2 to 1, with 65 percent against.
County Judge Ron Eckert and Commissioner Eddy Shelton supported the motion which would have allowed the county to publish a notice of intent to issue $85 million in certificates of obligation – a tool that allows local governments to issue debt quickly without voter approval. Eckert expressed concern over the structural integrity of the existing courthouse, which he says is why the expediency of certificates of obligation are preferred over a bond election.
While the entire court agreed that a new courthouse is needed, Commissioners Greg Simmons, Dale Childers, and Armando Rodriguez rejected Monday’s proposal due to what they say is a need for additional planning. Specifically, concerns were brought up regarding the relatively high cost of the courthouse, the lack of detailed information (especially concerning county revenue), and the issuance of debt without voter approval.
Matthew Stringer, a candidate for Ector County Justice of the Peace, Pct. 2 who attended Monday’s meeting, stated that he feels the community’s concerns mirror those of Simmons, Childers, and Rodriguez:
“During this campaign, I’ve been to thousands of doors and personally visited with countless Odessans about this issue and the response has been overwhelmingly consistent. This community recognizes the need to address our courthouse crisis and largely would support building a new one. However, they first want a fiscally sound and transparent plan put to them so they may be fully informed.”
Given Monday’s voting results and ensuing community feedback, it appears the county’s courthouse committee is headed back to the drawing board.