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County Bond Committee must

Thursday, June 21, 2001 by

Choose from many requests

Right-of-way alone set at $78 million

A 15-member citizen advisory committee continues to pare down a list of projects in its quest for the magic $80 million mark that the Travis County Commissioners want to present to voters in November.

The unadjusted tally on the projects is $346 million, and that doesn’t even include the right-of-way acquisition for various Texas Department of Transportation projects. This week, the committee decided to put that $78 million aside for the commissioners to consider separately. The bulk of the right-of-way acquisition will be the $39 million for State Highway 130 East, of which $24 million is already funded. Another $17.5 million is needed for State Highway 45 North, of which only $2 million has thus far been funded. Travis County is committed to paying a quarter of the right-of-way costs for both major projects.

The citizens advisory committee, headed by Charles Akins, had already heard a variety of requests in a series of public hearings across the county. The committee will allow those comments to shape its list of projects, which will be presented to Travis County Commissioners Court in July.

A number of projects, with preliminary cost estimates, have been presented to the committee in a 15-page spreadsheet. Candidate projects include road projects that add capacity to existing roadways such as Howard Lane, Anderson Mill Road and Wells Branch Parkway. The committee must decide whether to fund projects like the $11 million expansion of Anderson Mill Road from Spicewood Parkway to RM 620, and then decide whether the upcoming bond issue should fund the project completely or only in part.

Some projects are the subject of interlocal agreements. Sun Communities, for instance, has agreed to pay for two lanes of Wells Branch Parkway through its jurisdiction. Cedar Park is helping fund Anderson Mill Road Various cities and developers have also committed donation of right-of-way and construction on Howard Lane, Wells Branch Parkway and Grand Avenue Parkway, among others.

Committee member Jim Osbon proposed that the county consider right-of-way and design on some of the major projects to lock in the price on land, even if construction must be delayed until the next bond issue. A total of 27 road projects, ranked by county staff, are on the list for consideration.

Two candidate road projects were noted as county safety projects. Committee members are likely to put the realigning of both Hudson Bend Road at Doss Road and General Williamson Drive near Hudson Bend Middle School on the final list. The combined projects will cost $650,000.

Trail projects on the list include hike-and-bike trails along McKinney Falls Parkway and FM 973 to Moya Park Trail. Those combined projects would cost at least $773,000.

Major projects on the county parks list include the acquisition of property—at least 200 acres apiece—for parks on the Southwest, Northwest and East ends of the county. Instead of an east-side park, the committee is also considering the expansion of the Expo Center, adding a 100-acre sports facility alongside the center on land at Decker and Loyola. The cost of land, design and construction for the area parks is estimated at $8.4 million to $9.3 million for each of the three parks. The development of recreational facilities at Pace Bend Park—at a cost of $12.2 million—is also on the list for consideration by the committee.

Various drainage projects are also candidates for funding. Drainage projects total $19.2 million in the early budget projections. The most expensive is a buyout of homes in the Onion Creek/Timber Creek area at $4 million. Other areas for improvements, such as detention ponds, regrading channels and low-water crossings are Twin Creeks, Forest Hills/Castle Ridge, Kennedy Ridge, Jet Lane, Perkins/Mozelle, Swiss Alpine and Oliver Drive/Baxter Lane.

A total of 19 bridges are also candidates on the bond list. Most of the bridge projects are intended to replace or widen the bridge decks, with the top priorities being Pflugerville Road, Blue Bluff Road, Gregg Lane and Weiss Lane. The total cost of the bridge projects is approximately $7 million.

The county staff is expected to bring updated figures to the committee in the next week or so.

Environmental Board hears

Native plant promotion plan

Green Gardening Plan easily gains approval

Results of a “Green Gardening Summit,” held recently at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, received a unanimous endorsement from the Environmental Board last night. This complements Council Member Daryl Slusher’ s native landscaping resolution approved by the City Council on May 3

The Board voted 6-0, with three members absent, to “endorse the concept of encouraging the use of native plants to reduce the use of water, fertilizer and pesticides.” Board Member Karin Ascot tacked on a provision recommending the use of a variety of native plants citywide, since diversity further protects the environment by reducing the risk of plant loss from disease.

Nancy McClintock, with the Watershed Protection and Development Review Department, briefed the Board with preliminary recommendations from the summit. She said fifty disparate participants coalesced at the center to create a meeting with broad and diverse representation from the community.

“We had really good, widespread participation,” she said, enumerating various elements of the community that were present, including retailers, like Home Depot and Lowe’s, various nurseries, developers, landscapers, pest management professionals, neighborhood group members and city staff. “We had fabulous participation from city departments,” she added.

The summit was a direct result of Slusher’s landscape initiative that directed the city manager to look at “environmentally-friendly landscaping alternatives,” McClintock said. “A lot of ideas were generated at the summit,” so many, she said, that focus groups grew out of the profuse brainstorming process.

Some of the “overarching principles and recommendations” McClintock presented include:

• Create a lot of positive public attention on the issue • Make available high-visibility examples of beautiful, native landscaping—models people can use • Design, showcase and promote a unique and distinctive “Austin Style” • Institutionalize low-impact landscaping within the City of Austin • Challenge City of Austin departments to “walk the talk” • Provide public information about City of Austin pesticide use • Propose policy banning the use of genetically-modified organisms on city property • Integrate developers and builders into the Green Gardening Initiative • Provide displays at retail stores so customers can see samples of native landscaping Board Member Tim Jones said he was glad the issue of genetically-modified products made it into the recommendation. “We’re concerned about genetic engineering . . . nobody knows the long-term consequences,” he said. Results of the summit are scheduled for presentation to the City Council on July 19. However, McClintock said, the agenda for that meeting is already quite crowded since that’s the only meeting in July, so the issue may get pushed back.

Board Members Joyce Conner, Phil Moncada and Matt Watson were absent. .

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

Another hat in the ring . . . State Representative Kenn George (R-Dallas) wants to be the Republican nominee for Texas Land Commissioner. He announced his candidacy Wednesday. Former State Senator Jerry Patterson (R-Houston) has already tossed his hat into the ring. No Democrats have announced for the race. Political analysts have raised the name of Austin Mayor Kirk Watson as a possible Democratic candidate, but Watson himself has not publicly expressed a desire to run for statewide office . . . Fawal is a father . . . Political consultant Richard Fawal and Karen Krueger, Wednesday morning became the proud parents of a beautiful baby girl with dark wavy hair. Mike Blizzard, Fawal’s partner at Grassroots Solutions, reports that the couple “had a home birth and everyone is doing well.” Congratulations to all! . . . Explanations to come . . . City staff has promised to report to the Planning Commission at its July 10 work session on the creation of the new Zoning and Platting Commission. The new group will take over most of the duties currently being done by the Planning Commission, so the Planning Commission can concentrate on amending and creating new ordinances and dealing with Neighborhood Plans. Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman, who sponsored the ordinance creating the new commission, said she hopes to have the ZAP appointed by end of August. Members of the current Planning Commission will have a chance to apply for positions on either of the new commissions . . . Planning Commissioner Robin Cravey gave fellow commission members a much-needed document this week—a compilation of all the city rules for granting variances. He chairs the committee on codes and ordinances . . . Vacations . . . The City Council is on vacation (from meetings) until July 19. The Planning Commission and most other boards and commissions will take off July 2-6. In Fact Daily will also take a vacation that week. Form a support group now, or better yet, plan your vacation.

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