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Bond review group hears from public

Friday, June 17, 2005 by

Committee must pare request to $100 million

Travis County’s bond review committee has conducted three of four public hearings to get input on its list of candidate projects for an upcoming November bond issue, with a fairly healthy discussion of preferences.

Transportation and Natural Resources Executive Director Joe Gieselman said most people who have attended the hearings so far have realized the final list of projects – which must be pared from $460 million to $100 million – will not be decided by a popularity contest. People will have preferences about which projects they want, but it’s impossible to ignore what are likely to be priorities, such as providing additional jail beds. Even within departments, it’s difficult to prioritize which projects are the most important.

“Staff has provided some evaluation criteria to help the committee sort it out within the group, but it’s difficult to compare a flood plain project to a park project to a jail expansion,” Gieselman said. “There’s no easy way to compare across different types of projects, but that’s what (the bond review committee’s) job will be.”

About 30 county citizens attended a meeting in Pflugerville on Monday night, Gieselman said. The focus of discussion was the improvements to the two-lane rural Pecan Street, which will soon be an arterial on State Highway 130. Northwest Metro Park also is located off Pecan Street and when soccer tournaments or softball games are occurring, traffic is often bottlenecked at the park, creating a traffic headache for local residents. Residents want the road improved, even speaking about the road improvements even more than the proposed upgrade in amenities at the park.

Tuesday night was intended for comments from downtown residents. At this meeting, a strong contingent spoke in favor of the purchase of open space in the region. Other projects that ranked high on the list for the 50 in the audience was the creation of a skate park in the county. Gieselman said the county had a minor grant at Northeast Metro Park – about $50,000 to $60,000 in funding – for a skate park but it falls short of the vision for Austin’s skating community.

Those who support a skate park would like to see the county spend between $500,000 and $1 million for a full-scale competitive facility, Gieselman said. The city currently is spending $300,000 of its bond money for a skate park at Mabel Davis Park.

Reimers Ranch also has strong supporters. The Reimers family has provided access to its land for biking, canoeing and rock climbing. One candidate project proposes buying 500 acres of that land for a permanent county facility. Those who support the project fear the land may end up being developed as a subdivision if the county fails to act on the opportunity to purchase the property for parkland.

Thursday night’s hearing was at Del Valle High School. About 20 people attended, and many of those who spoke also spoke on Tuesday night. Some projects that did not get mentioned – such as the jail expansion and the buy-out of property in Timber Creek, Twin Creeks and Swiss Alpine Village – will directly impact Precinct 4.

The fourth, and final, hearing on the candidate projects will be on Wednesday night at 6:30 p.m. at the T ravis County Precinct One Satellite Service Center, 9301 Johnny Morris Rd., just south of the intersection of Johnny Morris and US Highway 290 East.

County has requests for Perry

Davis hopes for veto of bill changing landfill permit law

Travis County Commissioners will be sending a number of letters to Gov. Rick Perry, asking him to support or veto various measures passed during the recent legislative session.

The biggest priority for County Commissioner Ron Davis was opposition to House Bill 1609, which passed the last day of the session and changed the term “shall” to “may” when it came to scheduling hearings for landfill permits. Davis said it was important to make sure public input and an open process were supported for such permits.

The Travis County Mental Health/Mental Retardation Authority opposes House Bill 470 but supports House Bill 2572. Both dealt with how mental health services would be delivered. Counties opposed House Bill 470 because it would split the provider-authority role, stopping counties from serving in both roles.

Both major county associations in the state – the Conference of Urban Counties and Texas Association of Counties – are urging Perry to veto House Bill 2438. The bill turns back efforts last session to collect property taxes on mobile homes, at a loss of $70 million in tax collections to local government. Under HB 2438, mobile homes would only be subject to collections if ownership transfers were made by a state agency.

Travis and statewide county officials both support Senate Bill 1704, which increases jury pay from $6 to $40 per day after one day of jury service. Such a measure would be self-supporting, at least theoretically, funded by fees that are charged on every conviction.

©2005 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved.

City opposes Longhorn Partners’ request . . . Longhorn Partners Pipeline has requested “an indefinite delay of one of the key safety provisions of (the pipeline company’s mitigation) plan, the internal inspection procedure,” according to a letter of opposition Mayor Will Wynn has written to the US Office of Pipeline Safety. Wynn’s letter, dated yesterday, notes that Longhorn Partners made the request in late April, but it is not clear when the city got the information. Wynn’s letter states that Longhorn’s plan required the company to perform the in-line inspection within three months after startup. “Now within months of startup Longhorn is requesting to delay that inspection and modify the (mitigation plan). Delaying this safety inspection could have major consequences for the safe operation of the pipeline in the Austin area,” the letter states. Longhorn’s request moves pipeline safety back to Topic A or B on the city radar screen, depending on how one rates the most recent police-involved shooting . . . Party notes . . . Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman's farewell party in the toasty Texas heat drew thongs of well-wishers to the Zilker Park clubhouse last night. Jennifer Kim, the Council member-elect who will take Goodman's seat on Monday, shook a lot of hands herself as she accepted congratulations on last weekend's victory over Margot Clarke . . . Kim said that Goodman's aide, Jerry Rusthoven, and assistant Andrew Rivera would be staying through next week to help her manage her first Council meeting . . . Clarke was there too, sporting a smile. She shook hands with her former opponent and congratulated Kim. Mandy Dealey was also in the crowd, but Gregg Knaupe, who said he was pressed into child-sitting duties late Thursday afternoon, couldn't make the party. Knaupe, who ran third in the May election, is considering running for the seat being vacated by Republican State Rep. Terry Keel. Knaupe, who lives in Travis Country, told In Fact Daily, " I'm moving forward right now as if I'm running for District 47.” . . Lee Leffingwell, who will be sworn in along with Kim on Monday, said he is busy getting ready to take over the Place 1 office being vacated by Council Member Daryl Slusher. Nevertheless, he took time out to thank Goodman for her 12 years of service and shake a few hands last night . . . At least three former Mayors made it to the party– Gus Garcia, Frank Cooksey and Roy Butler. Butler arrived early, parking close to the entrance of the clubhouse. When he decided to leave, however, he was unable to extricate his vehicle, which was made more difficult by the barbecue truck blocking what is normally an oval driveway. The former Mayor scraped a rock wall before Baskar Reddy of Austin Energy stepped up and volunteered to turn the car around so Butler could get out of the lot . . . New folks . . . The new Council members, along with returning C ouncil Member Betty Dunkerley, will be inaugurated at 6pm Monday in the City Council chambers at City Hall, with a party to follow . . . Competing priorities . . . Two sets of northwest area neighbors have conflicting desires when it comes to dealing with roadway modifications TxDOT has in the works for RM 2222. Folks in the Lakewood neighborhood are hoping the city will devote about $16 million to expand Far West Boulevard to RM 2222 so that it won’t be necessary to put a ramp on Lakewood Drive. Their neighbors in the Far West area adamantly disagree, having voted against that proposal about 20 years ago, explains Karen Gross, an aide to Council Member Brewster McCracken. The controversy has arisen over plans to raise a bridge—dangerous during high water events—that crosses Bull Creek. McCracken and Gross plan to meet with residents from both the neighborhoods at the site of a proposed ramp on Lakewood at 10am Saturday. After looking at the area, the group will move to Murchison Middle School, 3700 North Hills Drive, for a discussion of the problem . . . Also Saturday . . . Avid Democrats from around the nation will gather in Austin this weekend for the sold out Democracy Fest, for lessons in grassroots organizing, among other things. Tickets are still available for Saturday night’s event at Stubb’s Bar-B-Q, with Democratic luminaries Howard Dean, Molly Ivins, J im Hightower, and Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. Tish Hinojosa and Joe Ely will provide entertainment for the event . For more information, visit . . . Competing for the attention of activists . . . The SOS Alliance is holding its annual Soul of the City Concert and Community Gathering at Scholz Beer Garden. The town hall meeting begins at 6pm, with a benefit concert starting at 8pm featuring Shawn Colvin and Eliza Gilkyson. . . . 6th and Lamar changes . . . Whole Foods has decided the grocery needs more parking spaces at its old location just across 6th Street. That means Schlosser Development is changing its zoning request, according to a spokesperson for Whole Foods. Neighborhood activists, who had opposed a zoning change previously proposed for the tract, are taking a wait-and-see attitude on the new plan, which they have not yet seen. More on this later.

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