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A decision on expanding the boundaries of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization has been put off again, this time until the February meeting of the group’s Policy Advisory Committee.

Tuesday, December 10, 2002 by

At the last CAMPO meeting, members of the PAC from Hays County expressed concerns that their high-priority roadways would not be included in the long-range CAMPO plan, which would make them ineligible for outside funding. (See In Fact Daily, Nov. 19, 2002.) Hays County Commissioners recently voted to endorse the idea of joining CAMPO, provided that all of the roads in their county’s long-range transportation plan were adopted into its plan.

The Texas Division Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration, C.D. Reagan, told PAC members Monday night that including all of Hays County in CAMPO should not have a detrimental impact on funding for that county. “It shouldn’t be too difficult,” said Reagan. “I don’t see too many projects falling out or coming in, because the funds that are available whether you’re inside the area or outside the area are available one way or the other. That should not be a significant issue in your determination. In my mind, there’s no specific reason why projects already underway or already of high priority should drop out . . . so long as they are needed projects. If the county is doing a good job, it’s going to be an even swap. It’s just going to move from a rural project to an urban project.”

The request for a delay in voting this time came from State Rep. Mike Krusee of Williamson County. Williamson County Commissioner Greg Boatright joined him. “I know there’s a lot we discussed at the last meeting, there’s a lot for us to get our thoughts wrapped around to try to understand what the impact would be with just three or five counties,” Boatright said. “There’s all this discussion out there about the weighted voting system.” Should PAC members vote to expand CAMPO, they will have to decide how many representatives on the PAC those new areas should have. Significant changes in the makeup of the PAC, including expanding the membership, could result in a shift in the concentration of power.

While PAC members decided not to vote on expansion, they did try to convince fellow commissioners of the merits of expanding to either three or five counties. “I really think it would be wise on our part to move forward with the three counties, and set a timeline for the five counties,” said Boatright. Austin Mayor Gus Garcia, however, urged consideration of moving to a five-county group in one step. “Both Bastrop and Caldwell Counties significantly contribute to the traffic that we have around our airport,” Garcia said. “We have included them in every discussion having to do with regional planning, including Envision Central Texas—almost makes it necessary for us to include them now and not later.” State Senator Gonzalo Barrientos urged PAC members to study up on the issues and be ready for a vote in February.

In the meantime, CAMPO will send a letter to the six governmental agencies that signed the original Joint Powers Agreement that helped create CAMPO. The letter will request approval to add one more position to the group’s 21-member board. That board currently includes six State Representatives; but because of redistricting, a seventh district is now contained within the CAMPO service area. Travis County has gained District 50, represented by newly-elected State Rep. Jack Stick, who would then become a member of the PAC.

Upcoming projects for the Water & Wastewater Utility could lead to a rate increase of as much as 10 percent for Austin utility customers in the next fiscal year, according to utility Director Christ Lippe. “It’s putting a lot of pressure on a rate increase for us this year,” said Lippe.

Lippe says while it is too early to be certain—the City Council would have to approve the hike—the utility is likely to need it in order to pay for those projects. The utility has also been trying to certify its extraterritorial service area, which reaches five miles outside of the city to parts of Round Rock, Buda and Manor. If certification were approved, it would keep other utilities from being able to provide service to the area. The utility has already settled with eight parties who opposed the plan.

“We now have four remaining parties that we have not settled with,” said Barton Jennings, wholesale service manager for the Water & Wastewater Utility. “With three we are having active settlement discussions.”

Three of the opposing parties work for utility companies and one represents the city of Mustang Ridge. If the Water & Wastewater Utility is able to settle with all four, it will ask the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to approve the plan. Otherwise the case will move to a hearing in June 2003.

In another project, the South Austin Regional Water and Waste Plant and the Ullrich Water Treatment Plant are undergoing pipe renovations.

The Ullrich treatment renovation—which will cost the city an estimated $75 million—will include a 60 million gallon per day expansion. The price tag for the South Austin plant is an estimated $90 million, and will include a 50 percent expansion. The Govalle treatment plant will be closed after the expansion of the South Austin plant is completed. Both are expected to be completed in 2005.

The utility has also budgeted for the Austin Clean Water Program—designed to help the city comply with 14 water administration requirements by the Environmental Protection Agency. The program, in its second year, has cost the city $150 million so far.

The controversial bed and banks permit issue will also be a priority for the utility in the next year, said Lippe. “We signed a 50-year water agreement with LCRA two years ago but we are continuing to plan for long term water supply.”

The utility obtained the permits to retain the control of effluent, or waste water that has been cleaned. Currently, the reclaimed water flows into the Colorado River, which some say is necessary to keep up the river’s quality.

Lippe said, however, that the state has never included return flows from the utility in projecting the river’s water supply. But under the permit use, he said, the utility plans to return 15 percent of the effluent back to the river. About 25 percent will be used by Austin Energy.

Environmental Board asks to Review some neighborhood plans

Areas with 20 percent or more undeveloped land first target

If the Environmental Board has its way, certain neighborhood plans will come before the panel for review before going to the City Council. Last week, the board agreed on criteria for taking that extra step.

City Environmental Officer Pat Murphy told the board that the staff recommendation was still a bit sketchy, but so far two factors came into play. First, he said, staff suggested that if a neighborhood plan contains an area of undeveloped land exceeding 25 percent of the entire plan area, it should automatically come to the EB for review. The second factor that would trigger board review was not quite so specific. It suggests a neighborhood plan should come before the board if there are other environmental concerns, such as Critical Environmental Features (CEFs) or particular watershed issues.

Board Secretary Karin Bongiorni asked Murphy if any proposed neighborhood plans has an area of undeveloped land greater than 25 percent. He said the Southeast Combined Neighborhood Plan—approved last October—did, but that it may be the only one.

Chair Lee Leffingwell said Neighborhood Planning and Zoning Department Director Alice Glasco had told him there were currently more neighborhood plans in the works that would meet the suggested criteria. He also said that the Southeast Neighborhood Plan was the impetus behind developing criteria for board review. He suggested adding a third criterion, which would call for board review if the city’s resource management director or environmental officer deemed it necessary.

Vice Chair Tim Jones said he wanted to add a fourth criterion, which would be a review if the neighborhood itself requests one.

Leffingwell made a motion to establish a four-point criterion incorporating all of the suggestions. Bongiorni said she thought the 25 percent requirement was too high. Jones agreed. “I could live with 25 percent,” he said, but it’s rare to see that much undeveloped land in neighborhood plans.

After a half-hour of discussion, the board voted 8-0, with Board Member Matt Watson absent, to recommend that the Council require board review of neighborhood plans if one of the following criteria is met:

• If the plan contains an undeveloped land area of more than 20 percent. • If there are CEFs or significant waterway issues in the plan area. • If the City’s resource management director or environmental officer requests Board review. • If the neighborhood requests Board review.

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

Travis County to name RMA members . . . The Travis County Commissioners Court is set to select three of the seven members of the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority. Former Commissioner Margaret Moore was among eight who were interviewed for the positions, but apparently does not have the votes necessary to win a spot. Businessman Lowell Lebermann, a former member of the Austin City Council, is on a lot of lists as a likely pick, as is attorney Henry Gilmore. Could the third seat go to a woman? Williamson County will also pick three members and the Governor gets to choose the seventh . . . Audit and finance committee meets today . . . The City Council committee will hear presentations on the Palmer Events Center Parking Garage, a parks maintenance action plan and a Fire Department performance accountability system . . . Hello and good-bye to CAMPO . . . Last night’s meeting was the first CAMPO meeting for new Travis County Commissioner Gerald Daugherty, and the last for outgoing State Rep. Ann Kitchen . . . Support for localized ozone plan . . . The Policy Advisory Committee voted unanimously to support the Early Action Compact, which is the agreement between local governments and state and federal regulators to allow central Texas to develop its own plan to comply with federal ozone standards. Travis and Hays County commissioners are both set to take up the agreement at their meetings today . . . Liveable city doesn’t like Borders . . . Former City Council member Bill Spelman, chair of the board of directors of the group known as Liveable City, will have a press conference at 11am today at the parking garage across from Amy’s Ice Cream at 6th and Lamar. Spelman, Robin Rather and Dan Houston will present results of a study done by Houston’s company, Civic Economics, showing that Borders’ presence nearby would hurt local retailers BookPeople and Waterloo Records. The City Council will be considering whether to give the project Smart Growth incentives early next year . . . Short ZAP meeting tonight . . . The Zoning and Platting Commission has a light agenda tonight, with no obviously controversial cases. The Planning Commission agenda is not much heavier. That group meets Wednesday night. . . Gonzalo Barrientos celebration . . . Senator Gonzalo Barrientos is having a fundraiser at the Four Seasons Hotel from 5 to 7pm Wednesday to retire his campaign debt. The party invitation notes that state law requires all checks to be dated no later than Dec. 14. Coincidentally, Ben Bentzin sent an email to his supporters yesterday wishing them a happy holiday and promising to work to make Austin a better place to live . . . No raise for CAMPO chief . . . CAMPO Executive Director Michael Aulick won’t be getting a pay raise this year, but he won’t be getting his pay cut either. The PAC voted to keep his salary at its current level. The board split 9-9 over whether the executive director should receive a severance package of 60 days pay in the event he is terminated from the position without cause. Instead, the board approved a motion to give the executive director 30 days notice if he is to be removed without cause. PAC members stressed their discussion over termination procedures did not indicate any dissatisfaction with Aulick, who did not request a raise this year.

©

2002 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved.

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