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WPDRD report reflects improved efficiency

Thursday, February 19, 2004 by

Fewer staff members doing more work in less time, Pantalion says

Joe Pantalion, acting director of Watershed Protection and Development Review, says customer waiting time in the department’s Development Assistance center has improved by 42 percent while volume increased by more than 100 percent during the first quarter of FY2004. The comparison is with FY 2003, when waiting time was 12 minutes. Wait time is now 7 minutes, according to department information. The first quarter of the Fiscal Year ran from Oct. 1 through Dec. 31, 2003.

Pantalion also says that combined subdivision and site plan review times improved by 17 percent, from 22.4 days to 18.6 days, and that reviews were conducted within “code mandated timelines” 97 percent of the time, up from 80 percent last year.

In addition, the department conducted 135 site visits during the first quarter, 87 of which were done by environmental inspectors alone and 48 of which were done by review and inspection staff together. This is the first year that such visits have been incorporated into the development process for most sites. Todd Gosselink, who is working on the city’s One Stop Shop process reorganization, said that in the past site visits were only done routinely by environmental inspectors. “Their job entailed walking very large sites in the very early stages. This new process gets all the reviewers out to the site before the formal submittal, if possible.”

City staff members decide during the completeness check whether a site “needs to be scheduled for a team site visit. “If not,” Gosselink said, “the environmental inspectors do a sort of drive-by, for lack of a better term, and if they see something askew, they have the authority to get a team visit.”

In a memo to the City Council, Pantalion wrote, “In light of recent budget and staff reductions, these early results reflect a tremendous effort by every member of the development review staff. This is especially true considering that, in the past 3 months, WPDRD has undertaken several new process changes, the acquisition of a new technology system and office relocations. Staff performance has been outstanding . . .”

To see all of the data, visit the city’s web site:

County swimming pool to be delayed

New ownership for Milburn Homes may mean an abbreviated summer of swimming at East Metro Park, but plans for a public-private pool are still moving forward.

The pool’s groundbreaking ceremony next Monday has been cancelled. Travis County Transportation and Natural Resources Executive Director Joe Gieselman told county commissioners yesterday he would not schedule the ceremony until a contract is signed with D.R. Horton, which recently purchased Milburn Homes. Gieselman told commissioners that new ownership meant new management, but a continued commitment to the East Metro Pool.

“We will not move forward until we have a signature on the contracts,” Gieselman said.

Gieselman assured commissioners that he considered the pool to be a reality. D.R. Horton has dealt with the county in “good faith,” he told commissioners. And while local managers are supportive, the final decision on the pool must come from the corporate office. That won’t happen until everyone is satisfied the pool is a “win-win” for everyone.

Everything on the pool deal depends on, the contracts, which developer Dick Rathgeber pushed enthusiastically. One contract, which was redrafted by D.R. Horton, would be an agreement to construct and operate the pool. The second contract, which includes the county, developer, homebuilder and homeowners association, would establish the payment schedule for the pool.

Without Rathgeber’s commitment that Milburn would kick in some of the initial costs of the pool—as well as a $500/per lot capital recovery fee—the numbers on the pool don’t work. The only way the pool can work is for it to be self-sustaining, and that includes not only capital investment but also ongoing maintenance and operations.

Still, Travis County may be subsidizing some of the initial years of operation, until the pool is self-sufficient. Under the agreement, the county would subsidize up to 5 years. The YMCA would operate and maintain the pool under a contract with the county.

The Class B public swimming pool would include a 30’ by 75’ rectangular lap pool with four lanes, as well as a circular children’s play area. The pool would be used for lap swimming, swim lessons and children’s recreation. When fully operational, the pool would operate seven days a week, between May 27 and August 15, and then on weekends from August 15 through Sept. 26.

The pool at East Metro Park would be the first pool operated by the county. Already, the county’s Transportation and Natural Resources Department has designed site improvements and put those improvements out for bid. That contract award, set for Tuesday, is now on hold. The county also used Milburn’s $518,000 commitment to secure a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department grant for other improvements at the southeast park.

TNR has also designed a septic system for the pool, which will be the responsibility of D.R. Horton to construct. The realignment of Blake-Manor Road, which would benefit both pool and park, also has gone out for bid and will be awarded on Feb. 24.

The initial plan was to have the pool open on June 1. Because of delays with the contract, that deadline will be pushed back to late August or early September. D.R. Horton representatives have said it will take at least 120 days to construct the pool. That means the county may have no more than a month of swimming revenues the first year.

Gieselman expected to see the D.R. Horton contract before the Tuesday meeting. He said the contract would not be back on the agenda until he has a signed copy in hand.

Two commissions approve changes to Austin roadway plan

N. Lake Creek Parkway, Escarpment Blvd., Manor Road downgraded

Both the Urban Transportation Commission and the Environmental Board have signed off on three amendments to the Austin Metropolitan Area Transportation Plan (AMATP).

All of the amendments will downgrade current major divided arterials. Principal Planner Teri McManus presented the plans to both commissions this week.

The first amendment, to North Lake Creek Parkway, was the easiest decision for the Environmental Board. The land included environmentally sensitive features. Cedar Park, the Texas Department of Transportation and local homeowners supported the deletion of the roadway segment from the plan, although one local landowner opposed the change.

North Lake Creek Parkway currently dead-ends into the TxDOT’s Cedar Park campus. TxDOT said the property’s environmental features mean the setback on the property would have to be 300 to 900 feet. The opposing landowner argued that none of the news about environmental features was new and that TxDOT had promised to extend the road before the landowner bought his property.

The amendment would delete a portion of North Lake Creek Parkway’s six-lane major divided arterial from the AMATP, from north of Lakeline Boulevard to Avery Ranch Road. Traffic on the road would be shifted to the 4-lane Lyndhurst Drive, which connects to Avery Ranch Boulevard. McManus predicted that the shift would cause minor traffic delays.

The previous plan also did not take into account the construction of US 183A, which is closer to Lyndhurst Drive, McManus told the board. The creation of a major tollway through the area, and the addition of a Capital Metro Park-and-Ride facility, will mean a shift in traffic closer to the new tollway.

The second amendment too was aimed at a roadway on environmentally sensitive land. The city is proposing an amendment to Escarpment Boulevard in Southwest Travis County. The amendment would take the segment of the roadway between William Cannon Drive and Slaughter Lane and make it a consistent 4-lane major arterial with bike lanes. At one point, the plan was a 6-lane roadway past Davis Lane. Beyond Slaughter Lane, down to State Highway 45, Escarpment Boulevard would be maintained as a 2-lane road with bike lanes. The segment from Aden Lane to State Highway 45 is already under construction, McManus said.

The Urban Transportation Commission liked the idea of a consistent bike lane on the roadway. McManus said the city wanted to downgrade the roadside because development in the area had been relieved somewhat. Escarpment Boulevard passes through an area where significant portions of land have been purchased for the protection of the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone. The goal in this area, McManus said, is to push as much traffic as possible to MoPac.

The third amendment downgrades Manor Road near the former Robert Mueller Municipal Airport. McManus said the road, originally proposed to be a 6-lane major divided arterial, had been intended to serve future needs at the Mueller Airport. Manor Road, from I-35 to Airport Boulevard, has already been downgraded to collector status. That was consistent with the Upper Boggy Creek Neighborhood Plan.

This amendment, proposed by the Economic Growth and Redevelopment Services Offices, would extend that collector status from Airport Boulevard down to 51st Street. The plans for a 4-lane major undivided arterial are intended to match the road’s size to the redevelopment plans in the neighborhood.

The downgrade would be consistent with both the Mueller redevelopment plans and the East MLK Neighborhood Plan. The RMMA plan currently envisions a parkland buffer strip along Manor Road between Airport Boulevard and 51st Street.

The Urban Transportation Commission wanted to encourage extension of bike lanes past Airport Boulevard down Manor Road. McManus said bike lanes are part of the long-term plans for Manor Road.Both commissions approved the amendments by a unanimous vote.

Undercover APD attended anti-war meetings . . . The Daily Texan reported yesterday that undercover Austin police officers attended meetings last march where demonstrators learned to practice civil disobedience. The Texas Civil Liberties Union obtained memos from the city detailing information that police gathered as a result of attending the meetings . . . Today’s meetings . . . The City Council does not have a meeting today. The MBE-WBE Advisory Committee will meet at 6pm tonight at the DSMBR Office, 4100 Ed Bluestein. There is only one item on the agenda, consideration of a revision of the rules for the MBE/WBE Procurement Program. The Housing Authority Board of Directors is scheduled to meet at noon at Thurmond Heights Apartments, 8426 Goldfinch Court . . . Firefighters to donate blood today . . . The Austin Association of Professional Firefighters (AAPF) is sponsoring a blood drive for members of the organization to donate to the Blood and Tissue Center of Central Texas. Firefighters will be using their own time to help the community. According to a release from the AAPF, “Austin Firefighters have a particular loyalty to Blood Center who came to the rescue of one of their own, firefighter Captain John Butz, who was critically injured in a “flashover” fire in January 2000. Captain Butz had third degree burns over 53% of his body. Though he wore turnout gear, the heat, which reached as high as 2000 degrees Fahrenheit, had steamed his skin. He lost a thumb and suffered extensive injuries when the flashlight and tool he was holding melted into his left hand. Having an ample amount of blood on hand in his critical time of need made a difference.” The firefighters will be giving blood from 9am to 4pm at the association office . . . More Asian Grass carp to be released . . . The City of Austin plans to release an additional 1,000 sterile Asian grass carp into Lake Austin as part of a program to kill hydrilla, another non-native species. The release will take place at 7am at Quinlan Park and should take only about five minutes . . . New nonstop to Las Vegas . . . America West Airlines will be adding daily non-stop service from Austin to Las Vegas at 8pm on March 1. That will make four daily non-stop flights from here to the gambling mecca, which is the second most popular destination for travelers from Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

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