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City hurries to spend road

Monday, March 12, 2001 by

Dollars from Capital Metro

Widening Loyola Lane is first priority

The City Council last week acted to use sales tax dollars Capital Metro is returning to the city to complete the long-awaited widening of Loyola Lane from US 183 to Decker Lane.

The Council approved the $3.4 million road project, which will include a new bridge, in late January. An additional $268,000 change order was unanimously approved on Thursday. At the Council meeting, Mayor Kirk Watson took the opportunity to say that Loyola Lane was one of three major road projects he had tagged as priorities for Capital Metro dollars.

“This is a promise the city has made over and over and over again,” Watson said, adding that Capital Metro’s commitment had finally given the city the source of funding to complete the project. The rest of the funding will come from bonds approved by voters in both 1984 and 1998.

Last week’s change order was due to a combination of additional quantities and increased prices for asphalt. Design on the project, which has been broken into two phases, should be completed by December.

Capital Metro made an initial pledge of $91 million for regional road projects and then bumped it up to $200 million over the next 10 years. The first $91 million, according to a memo Watson sent to Austin City Council in January, will be divided into four components:

• $20 million to be paid in a lump sum under an internal agreement known as the Build Greater Austin program.

• $42 million to be paid in increments of $3.5 million a year over 12 years through an interlocal agreement between the city and Capital Metro. The funds would be a revenue stream to leverage the city’s ability to issue revenue bonds.

• $500,000 per year for 10 years, into an incident management program for the city.

• An additional $24 million available to the city because the initial rail line would not be extended north from Howard Lane to McNeil Road.

With Capital Metro’s commitment to return a quarter-cent sales tax to the city, that final $24 million would become $31 million. In his memo, Watson wrote that the $31 million would be “a significant step in fulfilling the challenges of the election and will be made this year.” He added that those dollars beyond Loyola Lane “should go to whatever capacity improvement staff believes we can construct the fastest.”

Watson stated a clear preference for right-of-way and utility relocation along Loop 1 North, a regional project which he wrote has no clear source of local funding. Thus far, the city’s portion of right-of-way acquisition on the project is $27 million, but Watson stated this would likely continue to rise.

Watson also recommended that city staff move forward with the sale of the $150 million bond package approved by voters last November. He suggested selling the first bonds in September and combining the revenue with Capital Metro’s other commitment to the city.

Heitz won't implement board

Plan for erosion controls

Too costly, says Watershed Protection chief

Last week, the Environmental Board recommended requiring developers to post a surety bond for temporary erosion controls. (See In Fact Daily, March 8, 2001) But on Thursday, Mike Heitz, director of the Watershed Protection Department, told the City Council that he couldn't support the recommendation in the current economic climate. The board’s proposal, Heitz said, would create extra costs for developers and require the city to add staff.

Under the proposal, the city would use money put up by developers to pay contractors to fix environmental code violations spotted at construction sites by city inspectors—if the developers failed to remedy the violations on their own.

Instead, Heitz said he would prefer to try other measures designed to control erosion at construction sites before discussing the surety bond issue. Those other measures include directing all city inspectors to make sure that erosion and sedimentation controls are in place prior to conducting any inspection at a site. That would involve additional training for inspectors and working with developers. Heitz said a measure similar to the one proposed by the Environmental Board is on his list of items for future consideration, along with an awards program for contractors and creation of a field manual for erosion and sedimentation controls.

The Environmental Board made several other recommendations last week that will likely meet with more success than the surety bond proposal, recommending that the Planning Commission grant variances to Bury & Partners on three different projects and to PBS&J on another one.

Attorney Richard Suttle of Armbrust Brown & Davis said the “big box retail” store Home Depot is building at 8801 S. IH-35 would be hard to construct without cut and fill. He requested that Bury & Partners be allowed to exceed the four-foot cut and fill limits and build on slopes. Suttle said the site has a two-percent grade and is hilly, making it necessary to exceed the cut and fill provisions in order to have runoff flow into required water quality ponds.

Suttle said his clients are trying to make the project an attractive gateway to the city. A large number of trees are being removed for the project, but developers agreed to a 100 percent replacement—which means twice as many trees would be planted as removed, noted Avery. Since the new young trees will be roughly half the diameter of the trees removed, more will be required.

“Okay, I guess as long as the misery index is high enough, we can vote for this,” Board Member Buzz Avery said in jest, referring to the rigorous task of replacing trees. He also questioned the need for a Home Depot so far south. He noted Home Depot had surely done sufficient market research, but still, the site seemed “out in the boonies.” One of the contractor’s representatives asked if Avery had seen the new Bill Milburn subdivision going in across the road. “It’s 3,000 houses,” he said.

The Board also recommended granting variances for The Mansions at Steiner Ranch, 4500 Steiner Ranch Rd., Austin Estates on North FM 973, and Southpark Commerce Center Phase III, 4801 Friedrich Lane. Board Members Matt Watson and Ramon Alvarez were absent.

©2001 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved.

Award . . . Mayor Kirk Watson honored Assistant City Attorney Connie Odé on Thursday. She's moving to Taos, New Mexico after nine years with the city, the last five as Chief of the Litigation Division of the Law Department. As he presented her with the Distinguished Service Award, the mayor quipped “We were going to declare it her day…but it just felt weird to say Connie Odé Day” . . . Grant deadline coming . . . The city’s Telecommunications Commission has been given $100,000 to be distributed as GTOP Grants (Grants for Technologies Opportunities) to bridge the digital divide. More information about the grant can be found at www.ci.austin.tx.us/telcommission/. The grant deadline is one week from today, March 19 . . . Condolences. . . to Peck Young of Emory & Young, who lost his mother last week. Mary Young was 86. Both former Comptroller John Sharp and current Comptroller Carol Rylander were among the large crowd attending her funeral. Also seen were former Mayors Jeff Friedman and Bruce Todd.

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