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Electric substation may find home on the links

Monday, November 30, 2009 by Jacob Cottingham

Austin Energy’s long running struggle to find a location for an electric substation near the Mueller development may be heading toward a peaceful resolution. The zoning item before City Council was postponed during the Council’s last meeting until December 17 while the utility works out a new plan to locate the substation on the Morris Williams golf course.


Sonny Poole, supervisor for AE’s Public Involvement & Real Estate section, told In Fact Daily that during a meeting with the Planning Commission someone had asked why the transmission lines couldn’t be brought across the golf course to Mueller. When he realized that the utility could use the same circuit and provide the needed power to Mueller, he scheduled a meeting with the golf course and Parks and Recreation Department. He recalled, “To my enjoyment, they said ‘we may have a site we’d be willing to consider because we need funds to improve the golf course.’”


Over the last three weeks, Poole said, they have conducted a site visit, some preliminary engineering and rough cost estimates. He said there “has been some very positive feedback from most the stakeholders and council,” and described it as a win for the neighborhoods, AE and the golf course. Morris Williams is in need of a golf pro shop, new golf cart building, new maintenance building and a parking lot.


Poole was planning a meeting between AE and PARD to discuss compensation, though Poole said he was not at liberty to discuss estimates. The meeting of “decision makers” will flesh out the payment terms, and if such an agreement can be made Poole gears up for another round of community and board presentations before he can come back before council. On December 17 he hopes to provide Council with such an agreement to go forward.


The station would be between the fourteenth and fifteenth holes. “Instead of tapping in on 51st street, we’ll tap in at the golf course and come over to the substation and bring our distribution lines to the development,” Poole said. AE will secure an easement, and not buy the land. They would still need a conditional use permit. According to AE’s projections they need to build a substation by 2011 in order to meet expected demand, Poole said the average length of time needed to actually construct one is two years.


Addendum: In Monday’s story regarding putting the orphan electric substation on the Morris Williams Golf Course, In Fact Daily failed to find the man behind the plan, attributing it to someone on the Planning Commission. Actually, Mayor Pro Tem Mike Martinez said he originated the plan to place an Austin Energy substation on the golf course. Martinez said Monday that he came up with the idea after meeting with golfers who play at the east side golf course. He learned from them that they needed a pro shop, a new golf cart building, and a new maintenance building. Martinez said that he also had visits from members of the Islamic community who do not want the substation on land they sold to Austin Energy. Of course, the Mueller residents didn’t want it either. So, Martinez said he talked to staff, members of the Northeast Austin Business Alliance and the other stakeholders. He believes the golf course solution is the best possible outcome for all involved.

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