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City seeking second day labor site

Friday, May 12, 2006 by

South Austin sites seem most likely

Members of the city staff are in the early stages of searching for a possible site for a second day labor center. Acting Assistant City Manager Michael McDonald told members of the newly-formed Day Labor Community Advisory Committee at their inaugural meeting Wednesday night that the City Manager intends to include funding for another day labor center in her proposed 2006-07 budget. However, he said that did not necessarily mean the city would acquire a site by the October 1 start of the next fiscal year.

"Looking at this city-wide, despite the fact that we have a day labor site and it’s very successful, there are still a lot of people on street corners looking for work," said Health and Human Services Department Director David Lurie, whose department operates the existing "First Workers" day labor center on north IH-35. "It’s pretty clear to us that we need more capacity than we currently have."

A day labor site has unique zoning and traffic flow needs, and the city staff has also set up a list of additional criteria for selecting a site including the proximity to workers and contractors, access to parking and mass transit, the relative cost, and distance from residential neighborhoods.

Those criteria, and a desire to locate the new site away from the existing site in north central Austin, have lead the staff to focus on two broad areas in South Austin: Riverside Drive between IH-35 and Pleasant Valley and Ben White Boulevard near IH-35. "Riverside…that’s an area where we see a lot of informal day laborers already gathering," said Lure, "Ben White really meets the accessibility test in terms of both contractors and laborers."

The new Day Labor Community Advisory Committee will have the opportunity to provide recommendations on how the new site is operated. "Your committee is not about just another site, it’s about how day labor should operate, how many sites there should be in the future, all sorts of things. I don’t want you to feel like you’re boxed in because that’s not our intent," said McDonald. The city could choose to contract with an outside agency to run the site instead of using city employees.

"There’s absolutely no substitute for first-hand face to face discussion with the stakeholders," said Committee Chair Paul Sherr. "We ought to have a meeting at the day labor center to talk to the workers. We ought to have meetings in those two neighborhoods." McDonald said there would be opportunities for community input as the item made its way to Council.

Good news on East Metro Park costs

Potential cost overruns have been such a constant theme in recent discussion of county construction projects – not unlike other jurisdictions dealing with rising material costs and the tight labor market – that the fact that the next phase of East Metro Park would be on-budget was actually worthy of note at this week’s Commissioners Court meeting.

Barecky Construction Company is holding close to its 2004 bid of $1.3 million to complete the remaining items in the first phase of East Metro Park. It will be completed as a change order, a part of the project that was delayed. Those items include the construction of a meeting facility and the north and south signs on the park. The only increase in the bid was an extra $34,758 for increased kitchen costs.

Commissioner Gerald Daugherty, who has been hammered with rising project costs at a number of recent meetings, said the price of the East Metro Park was notable, if only for the fact that the price had stayed stable over the last two years. Other projects have been incredibly more expensive, Daugherty said. This one would come in on budget.

"We’ve got a company that gave us a price of $1.4 million in 2004, and they’ve stuck to that. I’m delighted with that," Daugherty said. "I have no issue with that, but I’d like a little bit of an explanation."

Joe Gieselman, executive manager of Transportation and Natural Resources, said the contract awarded to Barecky was an alternate bid on the original phase that was not completed due to cost issues. When Barecky bid two years ago, the company was the highest bid on the alternate list, giving it more room to maintain that price.

And Richard El Khoury, director of facilities management, suggested that it behooved Barecky, already on the site to complete work, to meet its prior bid. Barecky already knows the project and is on site. It makes sense to complete the work.

The total amount of the first phase contract on East Metro Park, with this new change order, is $2.6 million. The base bid included an entry kiosk, sports fields, restroom facilities and some infrastructure for the swimming pool. The additional work to be completed includes the meeting facility, with restroom and kitchen.

"This is a great deal for us," Daugherty said. "Everything that we’ve had lately has not been anywhere near where we thought it should be. The price today that we are willing to accept is a great deal because I don’t think, if we were to go out again, that we would be able to get this price. It would probably be more expensive."

In recent weeks, county commissioners have heard presentations on price increases on a number of road projects in the bond issue. Contractors bidding on the jail contract also came forward to protest the budget for the jail addition as being too low, and a price they could not meet in a reasonable fashion to do the work. County staff members have explained that the price of labor and materials have both risen in recent months.

©2006 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved.

Party animals . . . We know you count on In Fact Daily to inform you about all the political festivities. So here goes your Saturday night schedule . . . Everybody loves Opal . . . The group which pushed Propositions 1 and 2, Clean Austin, will be watching election results on the top floor of Opal Divine's on 6th street. (They will be across the street from the Mayor’s party) . . . Proposition 1 and 2 opponents, the Committee for Austin’s Future and EDUCATE PAC, will be at Opal Divine’s at Penn Field, 3601 S. Congress, Suite K-100 . . . Place 2 candidates . . . Eliza May’s party will be at Juan in a Million, 2300 E. Cesar Chavez, beginning at 7pm . . . Mike Martinez will be at Azul, 1808 E. Cesar Chavez @ Chicon St. from7pm – 10pm . . . Wes Benedict has no plans for a celebration . . . Place 5 incumbent Brewster McCracken will be at Jo’s Coffee on West 2nd Street, just down from City Hall . . . . . Challenger Kedron Touvell will be at the Plucker's north location from 9pm on. Touvell noted in an email, "This is the site of my greatest triumph: my 3-time record breaking wing-eating performances 🙂 " . . . Colin Kalmbacher and friends will be hanging out at the Bouldin Creek Coffeehouse, 1501 S. 1st Street. The caffeineization will begin about 6:45pm . . . Mark Hopkins could not be reached for comment . . . Healthcare for Austin, the coalition formed to pass Proposition 6, will also meet at Jo’s Coffee on Second Street as the polls close at 7pm . . . Mayor Will Wynn’s party will be at Mother Egan’s on West 6th Street, beginning at 7pm . . . Mayor Pro Tem Danny Thomas and supporters will gather at Tres Amigos, 7535 290 East (at US 183) from 7pm until closing . . . Place 6: Sheryl Cole will be watching returns at Tony's Southern Comfort, 1201 E 6th St, beginning at 7pm . . . The Darrell Pierce election night celebration will be at the law firm of Bickerstaff, Heath, Pollan & Caroom L.L.P, 816 Congress Ave., Suite1700, from 7:30pm – 10:30pm . . . DeWayne Lofton will be at Baby Acapulco, 5610 N. I-35 (at 51st Street) across from Capital Plaza beginning at 7pm . . . Anti-Prop 1&2 rally . . . A coalition of opponents to Propositions 1 & 2 that includes environmental and business leaders, public safety associations and social service groups will rally to inform voters of the negative consequences of Propositions 1 & 2 at 11am today at the Gazebo on the South Shore of Town Lake just west of the S. 1st Street bridge. The coalition includes environmental and business leaders, police, fire and EMS associations and social service groups who are all concerned with the negative consequences of Propositions 1 & 2. Speakers will include Mayor Will Wynn and other coalition members . . . Supporters of Propositions 1 and 2 held a rally and news conference outside City Hall on Thursday to urge people to vote for the Open Government and Clean Water amendments. Several local real estate agents spoke on behalf of the propositions, saying local real estate values would be enhanced by protecting Barton Springs. They also distributed yard signs, DVD’s, and signed up volunteers to work their phone bank. The demonstration also provided a bit of entertainment for some visitors to Austin who were passing by City Hall during the Austin Duck Adventures Tour. Perhaps they’ll visit Barton Springs pool this evening for the free swim and Community Drum Circle to raise awareness of the propositions on the eve of the election . . . Trade Show . . . The Austin Independent Business Alliance (AIBA) will host the CLIC Trade Show on Tuesday at St. Edward’s University. AIBA created the CLIC Trade Show at the request of developers and lenders who are seeking to place local businesses in existing and new developments in Central Texas. CLIC stands for Connecting & Linking Independents with Commercial Developments. To register and to see a full listing of all 16 workshops, lender and exhibitor information, visit http://www.IBuyAustin.com . . . Stewardship Awards . . . Envision Central Texas will host its Inaugural Community Stewardship Awards Luncheon to honor visionary people, projects and processes that are helping to ensure the region’s livability in the future. The event is from 11:30am to 1:30pm Wednesday in the Texas Ballroom of the Hyatt Regency Austin at 208 Barton Springs Road. Six major awards will be presented including the first W. Neal Kocurek Legacy Award. Another highlight is the keynote presentation by Robert D. Yaro, author, urban planner and president of the Regional Plan Association in Manhattan. To register, or if you have questions, call Diane Miller at 916-6037 . . . Waste contract cost rises . . . Travis County Commissioners agreed to a 25 percent increase in Waste Management of Texas’ refuse collection contract, a condition allowed by the landfill operator’s 2003 contract with the county. Waste Management cited increased prices in steel and fuel. The contract increase will amount to $21,935. Pct. 4 Commissioner Ron Davis, the strongest opponent against the two private Northeast Travis County landfill operators – Waste Management and Browning-Ferris Industries – voted against the motion.

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