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Bull Creek regional detention project approved for construction

Tuesday, February 22, 2000 by

Environmental concerns for salamander to be monitored

The City Council reluctantly approved a $1 million last Thursday for construction of the Gardens at Bull Creek Regional Detention Facility. The work will be done by Ranger Excavation Inc. of Austin. The structure will consist of an 700-foot-long, 20-foot-tall, earthen dam pierced by a nine-foot box culvert. The structure will trap peak flows for an estimated six and a half hours during a 100-year storm event. The result of the project will be that storm water discharges are mitigated to 1980 levels or less, flooding problems for 20 homes will be prevented from worsening, and nine low-water crossings on Spicewood Springs Road will be less expensive to eliminate through other construction projects.

George Oswald, director of engineering for the city's Watershed Protection Department, said the detention structure was needed because of the Canyon Creek development, which had contributed funding for the project. He said construction had been approved by both the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Corps of Engineers. The site of the detention facility was originally to have been used for development of 105 townhomes. Two other sites originally being considered for the project were no longer feasible because they had become part of the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve for endangered species.

Environmental Board Members Tim Jones and Joyce Conner said more comprehensive biological information was needed before the project proceeded. Oswald advised against delay, saying that the Canyon Creek development was proceeding and runoff was increasing. Even a delay of two weeks would not be acceptable because the construction project would then have to wait for more that six months, until the endangered Golden-cheek Warblers' nesting season ends. He said the Fish and Wildlife Service requires monitoring the impact of the structure upon aquatic species for five years and for any impacts to be mitigated. The Jollyville Salamander exists in the area but is not listed as endangered, Jones said. Jody Hamilton of the Watershed Protection Department said the project hadn't been brought to the council earlier because staff was waiting for federal approvals.

Jones criticized the Public Works Department for ineffective erosion controls. "The whole idea is to stop erosion and they're not getting it," Jones said. He asked that erosion controls for the project be supervised by the Watershed Protection Department. City Manager Jesus Garza objected to Jones complaining to the council without first talking to him or Assistant City Manager Toby Futrell. Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman said, "No one's questioning the competence of Public Works folks in things they're trained to do but a project like this is kind of out of the box and it's better to err on the side of conservatism and take all protection measures with trained environmental inspectors."

City Council overrides staff in picking architect for Carver project

Local minority firm favored for community based project

Hiring an architectural firm to do the first phase of work for expanding the Carver Museum and Library proved to be an easy proposition for the City Council last week, despite the fact the council threw out the staff recommendation and went with an alternate firm. The funds to be awarded for the first phase of work is $85,000, a relatively small amount. But the firm picked is expected to be utilized for subsequent phases of the work as well, said Peter Rieck, director of the Public Works and Transportation Department. Funds for the library and museum expansions were approved by voters under Proposition 4 in the November 1998 bond election.

Staff had recommended the contract go to Lake/Flato Architects Inc. of San Antonio as the most qualified consultant, despite the fact the firm initially did not satisfy the city's ordinance for meeting the goals for contracting with firms owned by women and ethnic minority members. In a memo, Rieck wrote that Lake/Flato did not meet the African-American subgoal of 1.1 percent participation, did not meet the Native/Asian-American subgoal of 1.7 percent and did not provide documentation of good-faith efforts to meet the subgoals. Lake/Flato subsequently submitted a revised Compliance Plan that met the subgoals.

Rieck recommended Lake/Flato for having greater comparable experience and greater project manager/architect experience, noting that Lake/Flato has gained national recognition for excellence in regional design and had completed the nearby Texas State Cemetery project within the past three years. Chief of Staff Joe Canales and City Manager Jesus Garza concurred in that recommendation.

Carter Design Associates of Austin, a firm that met the goals for minority and women subcontracting, was the alternate recommended in case a contract could not be negotiated with Lake/Flato. In the evaluation matrix for scoring the nine firms competing for the project, Lake/Flato got a total of 109.98 points to Carter Design's 106.48 points.

An African American man who was a member of the evaluation team, Orvis Swain, said he initially did not approve of selecting Lake/Flato, "but in background experience in designing libraries, the passion conveyed, the technical merit of giving this community what it's been waiting for a long time, this was what we wanted."

Donna Carter of Carter Design, an African American, complained that her proposal conformed to the rules and Lake/Flato's had not initially. She noted that February is Black History Month and this is a community based project, and the city was not availing itself of the choices available. "I've been a sole proprietor for 20 years, worked with the Carver for 15, and if they don't want me it hurts, but there are other choices that give the city better grounding and better representation, whether it's my firm or another," she said.

Council Member Willie Lewis moved to award the project to Carter Design. The motion was seconded by Council Member Gus Garcia, who said the City Council has the prerogative of going with the alternate recommendation. "I know the Carter firm and I'm happy they chose to participate and I'm happy to second the motion," Garcia said. Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman noted there was a small point spread between the first- and second-place firms. "Virtually any of these firms could do the job and do it well," she said. Council Member Daryl Slusher said he would vote for the motion "I'm very happy to have a local firm. Carter asked that extra effort be made to include the community in planning the project so it's a community project." Council Member Beverly Griffith said it was also important to hire the subcontractors that Carter had promised to use in the project. "When we realize we're hiring a team, then it becomes clear (this) is the right way to go," she said. The council voted 7-0 to approve the contract for Carter Design.

Power Partner Program set for pilot test to cycle air-conditioners

Austin Energy shoots for 2,000 home installations by June 1

If the City Council approves it, Austin Energy will be launching a pilot Power Partner Program that could save selected residents money on their electric bills, particularly during the coming summer's season for air-conditioning. The utility would benefit from shaving peak electric loads that otherwise put bigger demand on generators and substations.

Steve Saenz, Austin Energy's program coordinator for load control, says the program consists of a programmable thermostat that would be installed free in the homes of volunteers within the initially targeted area served by an electric substation near MoPac Expressway and Steck Avenue. The homes would be mainly west of MoPac, Saenz says. A receiver in the thermostat would pick up radio signals from Mount Larson that would turn off the home's air-conditioner for 10 minutes out of each half hour for four hours per day. The intent is to operate the system so that air-conditioning is cycled only on work days, not on weekends or holidays, and it can be overridden for days at home or when entertaining company.

The utility hopes to install 2,000 home thermostats in time for this summer's air-conditioning season. That would save an estimated 2.7 megawatts of peak electrical demand during the initial pilot phase. If the pilot performs well, then Austin Energy plans to install a minimum of 10,000 programmable thermostats per year for the following four years, with the ultimate goal of installing 50,000 by 2004, deferring an estimated 50 megawatts of peak load during summer months.

A similar pilot program will be made available for up to 500 portable classroom buildings in the Austin Independent School District, to make sure that air-conditioners are not inadvertently left on overnight.

The City Council will be asked on March 2 to approve a 12-month agreement with Converge Technology for $3.5 million, which includes two one-year extensions, Saenz said. The price includes computer hardware, customized software and 22,500 SuperStat programmable thermostats made by Scientific Atlanta and Honeywell. A separate contract will be brought later for the installation work, Saenz said, with installation targeted for completion by June 1.

The utility plans to launch a targeted marketing effort for the Power Partner Program April 1, including direct mail to some 3,000 customers, Saenz said. Some of those will be homes in which an earlier pilot program was conducted in 1986. In that test, customers were charged $3 a month for the program, Saenz said. In the new Power Partner Program, the customer's incentive is the energy savings.

The Resource Management Commission voted 7-0 on Feb. 15 to recommend approval of the contract with Converge Technology.

Statehouse fund-raisers…Republican Jill Warren, candidate for the legislative seat being relinquished by State Representative Sherri Greenberg, D-Austin, will be hosting a fund-raiser tonight from 6 to 8 p.m. at Scholz' Garden, 1607 San Jacinto, For more info, call 652-5568. Democrat Mandy Dealey, who also wants to succeed Greenberg in the Legislature, will be hosting a fund-raiser Thursday at Matt's El Rancho, 2613 S. Lamar Blvd., from 5 to 7 p.m. For more info, call 448-4151… Howe for Place 5…Candidate Paul "Chip" Howe has sent out a press release to note that he has decided to run for Place 5 on the Austin City Council, which is being vacated by Bill Spelman. His political consultant is former Mayor Pro Tem Max Nofziger. "I hope to meet with each neighborhood association in order to explain my platform in more detail and solicit their concerns," he said. Howe is posting information about his campaign events on the web … Thomas being honored…Tonight at 6:30 p.m. Colonel Dudley Thomas, retiring director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, will receive the Joe M. Kilgore Award for outstanding public service from the Greater Austin Crime Commission, The award will be presented by Commission Chair William Cunningham and Vice Chair Roy Butler at the Bauer House, 1909 Hill Oaks Court. For more info, call Cary Roberts at 445-4186… Bradley deal briefing…Hear about the proposed settlement of lawsuits and development issues concerning developer Gary Bradley at the Save Barton Creek Association meeting Monday, Feb. 28. Attorney Casey Dobson will make the briefing at 7 p.m. at The Filling Station, 801 Barton Springs Road. For more info, call George Cofer at 328-2481… Sustainability talk…The League of Women Voters Austin Area is sponsoring a program on Sustainable Development Wednesday March 1 featuring Deputy City Manager Toby Futrell and Capital Metro General Manager Karen Rae. The program starts at 7 p.m. in Schroeder Performance Hall at Concordia University, 3400 N. I-35. For more info, call 451-6710 or 445-6743… No consensus…The Lower Colorado River Authority is still mulling the results of its three stakeholder meetings regarding how to do an Environmental Impact Statement for the Dripping Springs Water Line Project, says Robert Cullick, executive manager of communications and corporate strategy. The preferences stated by participants for the three choices are posted to the LCRA's web site , although Cullick tells In Fact Daily that written comments received afterwards are also being considered. Bottom line: right now, there is no clear consensus on how to proceed.

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