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Council Member Will Wynn led the charge yesterday against a contract extension for Rainbow Materials LP, which has been the city’s contractor of choice for a number of projects, including Austin Energy’s Sandhill plant. He got no argument from other Council members, who voted 7-0 to pay Rainbow the amount currently due the company, refusing to extend the supply agreement sought by city staff.

Friday, January 11, 2002 by

Noting that there had been numerous complaints against Rainbow for alleged environmental violations, Wynn said he knows that staff makes recommendations based on cost. At $240,000, Rainbow’s bid was $15,000 less than the next lowest bid. The second low bid came from Custom Crete, at $255,600.

“I would argue that we have spent probably $15,000 in the last few months going out to that site to determine all of the environmental issues related to their site in Del Valle along the Colorado River. Furthermore, I would surmise that if I was in the concrete business and my disposal process was simply that I just backed my trucks up to the Colorado River and dumped my concrete, I bet I could win some bids too . . . if my overhead simply meant dumping into the Colorado River,” he concluded.

Mike Heitz, director of the Watershed Protection and Development Review Department, said, “Compliance is our number one interest, not cost.” He said Rainbow had “ceased putting additional spill on the site, blocked access to the site and done “some erosion control.”

City purchasing officer Sue Brubaker argued that Rainbow had been dumping on land “adjacent to a piece of leased property. They had been requested by the property owner to dump the clean fill (concrete) on that.” She said the land had been used as a dumping site for perhaps as long as 20 years, but admitted that Rainbow had been dumping its concrete there since 1997.

Council Member Daryl Slusher asked, “They didn’t start those practices but they continued after Rainbow took over?” Brubaker said yes.

Slusher said Rainbow “would have continued to do these things if it were not for complaints from citizens.” He amended Wynn’s motion to include directions to staff to revise guidelines for contracting to take into account bidders’ environmental practices. “It may not be quite as easy as it sounds, because there is some pollution involved in creating concrete,” he concluded.

Speakers asking the Council to reject Rainbow included Mike Blizzard, who has represented Concerned Citizens of Spicewood, who are fighting a concrete batch plant the company wants to build there. He said not only did the company pollute the river and the riverbank, but also the air. He said neighbors of the Del Valle operation had been “regularly dusted” with concrete particles from the company’s operations.

Austin Energy General Manager Juan Garza said the utility might see a slowdown in construction with the loss of Rainbow’s services. He said he would not allow an unsafe situation, but did not know what temporary concrete supplies might be available. City Manager Jesus Garza promised to bring more information back to the Council about options. The manager said he thought it likely the whole contract would have to be re-bid, since the rules on bidding cannot be changed midstream.

For history on Rainbow Materials problems, see In Fact Daily June 15, 2001, June 27, 2001, Jan. 9, 2002.

Computer Sciences Corp. (CSC) is ready to return to the city the property just north of the new City Hall on W. Second Street. The property, bounded by Lavaca on the east and Guadalupe on the west, is the former site of the City Annex parking lot. The City Council will consider the purchase at next week’s Council meeting.

CSC has already completed two of the three buildings originally planned. However, the company, by lease, has until 2015 to build on what is known as Block 21. Several City Council members have expressed an interest in using the land for civic purposes. CSC initially declined to consider city offers but with the downturn in the economy had a change of heart. Although the land has been appraised at between $6 million and $8 million, CSC has offered to sell its property rights to the city for $4 million.

That’s really good news, said Council Member Beverly Griffith, pointing out that the city would have provided more than $6 million in incentives under the agreement with CSC.

Griffith told In Fact Daily, “About a year ago, when there was some question about whether CSC might need all of the downtown office space they had planned, I hoped for the opportunity to get block 21 for public purposes, which I have always thought should be its destiny, along with the block in front of it.

“I requested that staff approach CSC about that possibility. At first they weren’t interested, but several weeks ago, they became more receptive to talking about what basis could work for them and the city . . . It’s a very advantageous arrangement for both parties . . . This is an enormous win-win for us and CSC.”

Now that there has been ample opportunity to peruse the environmental impact study (EIS) concerning the Lower Colorado River Authority’s (LCRA) water line into northern Hays County and southwestern Travis County, independent and governmental entities are offering their opinions of the document.

The Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District (BSEACD) is the most recent group to weigh in with its opinion of the EIS. Members met Thursday in a short meeting to hear an analysis of the document by staff members Veva McCaig and Becky Morris.

The EIS, which the LCRA commissioned from an outside firm, addresses impact of the water line on water quality and the mitigation of these concerns. The EIS was completed with the first phase of the water line project well underway.

Morris pointed out to the board that the EIS assumes the water quality of the main Barton Springs is representative of all the springs in the study (main Barton Springs, Eliza and Old Mill Springs). A table within the study contradicts this assumption by showing that the polluting components within the main Barton Springs are consistently higher than the levels in the other two springs.

Another worrisome aspect of the EIS, according to Morris, is that only certain elements that degrade water quality are mentioned in both the body of the study and the mitigation strategy, while others are not mentioned in the mitigation section. This might make it difficult to evaluate the effectiveness of the different strategies.

Both Morris and McCaig also found instances where the report seems to contradict itself. For example, the executive summary of the EIS states that “Use of the Edwards Aquifer for drinking water purposes is not projected to be affected.” According to Morris and McCaig, this finding is refuted in chapter four.

McCaig pointed out that the study does not clearly define the different phases of the project or if the alternatives offered are for Phases I, II, III individually or collectively. According to McCaig, it is imperative that everyone has the same understanding of the different phases of the project.

The district plans to send its comments to the LCRA by Jan. 15. According to BSEACD Interim General Manager Gail McGlamery, the firm that developed the EIS, Bio-West Inc., a Utah-based consulting firm, will address the staffs' concerns. Board member Jack Goodman opined that it seems unlikely that any suggestions would derail this project. “The LCRA has put in their line anyway and they are going to do what they are going to do.”And anyone interested in getting a copy of the BSEACD’s full-text analysis of the environmental impact study can do so by calling the district at 512-282-8441. The impact study is also available on the Web at http:// www.hayscountywater.com

Though the BSEACD board spent the majority of its time discussing with staff the LCRA environmental impact study, the members managed to tackle a few more issues before President Craig Smith adjourned the meeting.

Sans two members, Bill Welch and Jim Camp, the board voted 2-1 to adopt goals for a new regional planning partnership. Board member Don Turner cast the dissenting vote. Smith drafted the goals and presented them to the board in September, and it has been a recurring agenda item since that time.

“I am tired of rehashing it,” said Goodman who expressed some concern about voting on this item with only three members present.

Turner agreed that he would like the balance of the board to vote on this issue, but he took exception to the board creating the group. He doesn’t feel that the board is mandated to lead discussions on growth and development.

2001 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved.

Villas on Guadalupe approved . . . After a lengthy hearing last night, the City Council gave preliminary approval to a zoning change that would allow the developer to build a large apartment complex between Guadalupe St. and Hemphill Park, just north of the University of Texas. In Fact Daily will provide details on Monday . . . Also late Thursday . . . The billboard ordinance was approved on second reading, with a few staff-recommended changes. In Fact Daily will provide more details on this matter next week . . . Federal judge not pleased with city . . . The City of Austin was verbally rebuked by U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks on Thursday in a hearing over the city’s ability to regulate development related to the Longhorn Pipeline. “He was not happy with the City of Austin’s actions, and he made that clear,” said Deputy City Manager Toby Futrell. Longhorn Partners had asked the judge to issue an injunction to stop the city from issuing more citations against the company for work being done on the pipeline without city permits. While Judge Sparks didn’t officially issue that injunction, he did indicate he believes regulation of the pipeline is a federal matter exempt from local interference. The city will have until January 31st to either issue the required site-plan permits or deny them. The judge indicated a decision on the city’s charges against Longhorn would be better addressed in state or municipal court, but also predicted the city would come up on the losing end. City legal and environmental officials said they needed more time to analyze the decision fully, but weren’t optimistic. Representatives of Longhorn Pipeline issued a statement reading, in part, that “Longhorn is pleased with the ruling from Judge Sparks” . . . Mayor supports school bonds . . . Mayor Gus Garcia revealed during Thursday’s Council meeting that he would be supporting the upcoming AISD bond package. If approved by voters in February, the $49 million dollar proposal would pay for repairs to school buildings. Garcia was responding to a citizen comment that the creation of his “Committee on K-12 Educational Excellence” could be used by opponents of the bond package to fuel criticism of the district. The committee will seek ways to “raise the academic standards for all students.” It is scheduled to report back to the City Council in May and Garcia would like the group to present its recommendations to the AISD Board in June . . . Goodman to talk about urban heat problems . . . Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman will discuss the “ Urban Heat Island” at the Public Affairs Forum of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Austin, 4700 Grover Avenue, Sunday at 11:15am.

© 2002 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved.

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