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Time change for Council : Today’s City Council Budget Session will begin at 11:30am instead of the originally posted 10am to allow Council Members the opportunity to attend the funeral of Robert T. Chapa Sr., a longtime community activist.

Monday, September 11, 2006 by

Wynn: County's WTP4 deadline extended to Oct. 4

Mayor Will Wynn has reiterated the city’s position that the Austin Water Utility will move forward with construction of Water Treatment Plant 4 on the environmentally sensitive—but fully permitted— Bull Creek site, unless Travis County Commissioners agree to moving the plant to the Cortaña tract.

Apparently Commissioners do have time to affect the location of the site, however, if they take action immediately following their Oct. 4 hearing regarding use of the Cortaña tract for the new plant. Cortaña is part of the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve (BCP) and home to five pairs of Black-Capped Vireos.

Wynn responded in writing to a letter from County Judge Sam Biscoe stating that the county would hold its Chapter 26 hearing on the Cortaña tract on Oct. 4—one week after the city’s original deadline for county action.

Biscoe had written to ask the City Council for a "revised timeline for any action you expect from Travis County for us to make a final decision on the proposed 10-A Permit Amendment."

Wynn did not specifically say the timeline had been revised. But he wrote, "Should the county, following your October 4th hearing, immediately concur with the city’s desire to move the plant to the Cortaña Tract, I believe city management could change plans with little loss of public dollars. However, it would take a Council action to make that happen" The Council has a meeting scheduled for Oct. 5.

Initially, the City Council passed a resolution stating that the city needed a county response by Sept. 27, which commissioners resisted, stating that they wanted to hold the hearing. Due to legal requirements, the hearing must be posted and advertised three weeks in a row.

Biscoe received Wynn’s letter on Friday. He told In Fact Daily, "What I take from this letters is that the Mayor has directed the City Manager to go ahead and move on the (Bull Creek) site. I guess they’re thinking it takes a while to get this site up and going, so if we do vote after our public hearing, they still have time to approve construction on the Cortaña tract," Biscoe said.

The judge added, "I think they have taken a position because we seem to be undecided. If we don’t approve the Cortaña site, they’re going to move forward on Bull Creek, and it’s my understanding that Bull Creek was permitted years ago. From my chats with environmentalists, it seems to me that they would consider Cortaña to be better than Bull Creek, and the city seems inclined that way, too. But if they must go to Bull Creek, they will."

"It just makes the county judge’s job that much harder," Biscoe concluded.

Commissioner Karen Sonleitner, who has opposed use of the Cortaña tract and loss of Black-Capped Vireo habitat, would only say is that the county would wait for the Chapter 26 hearing.

The city has offered to add 102 acres for the BCP at the headwaters of Bull Creek—the site that was previously set aside for WTP4. In addition, the city has identified 928 acres on Little Barton Creek, which the city would add to the preserve in return for Cortaña. Environmentalist have argued strenuously against the use of the Bull Creek site, home to the endangered Golden-Cheeked Warbler and another species.

Fix 290 takes aim at TxDOT 'Super Tollway'

About 50 residents of Oak Hill met at ACC’s Pinnacle campus Thursday night for a crash course in community activism. The forum, organized by the group Fix 290, focused on ways that residents of southwest Travis County could influence the Texas Department of Transportation to alter its plans for US 290 west through Oak Hill.

Members of Fix 290 are opposed to the idea of elevated lanes for US 290, and have been meeting with TxDOT representatives and local elected officials for months to make their point. Engineer Bruce Melton told the crowd that building a 2.7 mile stretch of six elevated lanes plus access lanes would add acres of impervious cover, increase noise in the surrounding neighborhoods, harm a nearby creek, and negatively impact local businesses.

Instead of an elevated "Super Tollway," as Melton called TxDOT’s proposal, Fix 290 is supporting the concept of a parkway. That would involve four lanes at ground level. "We want to limit the amount of concrete they’re putting over our heads," Melton said. "We’ll have to buy out a few more businesses. There will be a few more adjustments that need to be made to the plan because we’re making such a radical change. But the good news is it would be a much, much smaller project…and we could re-use more of what’s out there already." Melton also said an independent transportation consultant had reviewed the parkway concept and found that it would meet the traffic demand predicted for the area.

Members of Fix 290 have presented their ideas to TxDOT but are now focusing their efforts on the state and local officials which set transportation policy. Specifically, they’ve been meeting with members of CAMPO to voice their opposition to any elevated lanes. If CAMPO votes to change the designation of US 290 West in its 2030 Plan, that would provide direction to TxDOT to change its plans for the road.

"It’s an uphill battle," said Nina Butts, who has been volunteering as the group’s representative in meetings with lawmakers. "But I am here to bring you hope. There is no reason for cynicism. There is no reason for apathy. We have gathered significant support on CAMPO. We’re not to a majority yet—I’m about three or four votes short…we are moving full speed ahead."

Butts encouraged audience members to write letters to CAMPO Board members, especially Travis County Commissioner Gerald Daugherty and State Rep Terry Keel, since they represent the area. The group is facing the impending turnover of some CAMPO Board members who will be leaving their elected positions at the end of the year, including Keel and State Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos, so Butts said they would have to carefully consider whether to ask for a vote on the issue before that time or face the prospect of starting over with new board members next year.

To get a vote with the current CAMPO board members, the board would have to announce plans for a public hearing on the issue in October, hold that meeting in November, then take the vote in December before new elected officials take office in January.

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Time change for Council . . . Today’s City Council Budget Session begins at 11:30am instead of the originally posted 10am to allow Council Members the opportunity to attend the funeral of Robert T. Chapa Sr., a longtime community activist. Council members will go through the proposed budget, and consider making a number of strategic adds or deletions. Sessions are also scheduled for tomorrow and Wednesday, if needed . . . New info on city website . . . The city has launched a new Web site to access and search certain public records documents that offers a number of benefits to individuals and businesses served by the City. The site makes public records and information more readily available via the Web. Documents available for retrieval include Council-approved minutes, agendas, ordinances and resolutions; other municipal election documents such as ballot applications, contributions reports and treasurer appointments; and municipal utility district documents. The site can be accessed at http://www.cityofaustin.org/edims/search.cfm or from the city’s home page at http://www.cityofaustin.org . . . Meetings. . . CAMPO will meet at 6pm at the Joe C. Thompson Conference Center . . . The Music Commission meets at 6pm at Opal Devine’s, 700 W. Sixth St. . . . The Urban Transportation Commission meets at 6pm in the Boards and Commission room at City Hall . . . The Design Commission plans a Special Called Meeting at 5:45pm in room 2017 at City Hall . . . The Historic Landmark Commission holds a Special Called Meeting at 7pm in Room 325 at One Texas Center. . . City hires headhunter . . . City staff has hired Slavin Management Consultants, a Georgia headhunting company, to help find a new police chief. The city has signed a contract for $18,490 with Slavin, a firm with experience in finding police chiefs for cities from Dallas to Sacramento. The company will identify candidates and conduct community forums to find a replacement for Stan Knee, who resigned in June. The search is likely to extend into late next year . . . Diez y Seis . . . The Austin Parks and Recreation Department will celebrate Diez y Seis de Septiembre at Republic Square, 422 Guadalupe St, from 11am to 2pm on Friday. Republic Square is a historically significant site to Austin’s Mexican American community because between 1870 and 1927 the Diez y Seis celebrations took place at this site. This year’s free cultural celebration will include music by Mariachi Jalisco, and Los Texas Wranglers. Food and drinks will be available for purchase. . . . San Marcos flood maps . . . The City of San Marcos Department of Engineering will hold the second in a series of public meetings regarding flood risk assessment at 7pm Tuesday in the Multi-Purpose Room of the San Marcos Activity Center, 501 E. Hopkins. City engineers, along with Espey Consultants, Inc., will present proposed floodplain delineation changes based upon new detailed analysis of areas along the Blanco River, Willow Springs Creek, Purgatory Creek, Cottonwood Creek, Bypass Creek, Sessom Creek (tributary of the San Marcos River), and the Schulle Canyon tributary of Sink Creek. Flood mitigation alternatives such as drainage channel improvements, maintenance opportunities, pond layouts and road crossing improvements will be discussed. Interested citizens and area property owners are invited and encouraged to attend. For more information on the project, please call the Department of Environment and Engineering at 512-393-8130 . . . Cap Metro honors 9/11 . . . Capital Metro will commemorate the five year anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks today. At 7:46am, the moment the first plane struck the World Trade Center, Capital Metro buses will pull over and observe a moment of silence in honor of the men and women who lost their lives. "We’re asking our customers and staff to take this opportunity to honor the heroes of America’s most unimaginable tragedy," said Capital Metro President/CEO Fred Gilliam. Throughout the day, Capital Metro buses will display the phrase "United We Stand," in addition to regular route information.

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