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Wednesday, February 26, 2014 by Jimmy Maas
City Council meetings to move to Travis County this summer
The City of Austin is moving. The City Council, at least, will be moving up Lavaca Street to the Travis County building this summer while renovations take place in council chambers to accommodate a larger membership.
The Travis County Commissioners Court chambers will serve, at least temporarily, as City Hall in August and September.
Many specifics still need to be worked out, like exactly which rooms will be used for executive sessions, city staff and council aides, as well as media communication to cable TV and websites.
The front of the room might be a bit of a squeeze, so the city might add a temporary front row to the commissioners’ dais for the city manager and additional council members.
“Now, normally, I don’t like people sitting in the County Judge’s seat, but we’ll make an exception this time,” joked County Judge Sam Biscoe.
“The mayor would appreciate it,” responded Lauraine Rizer, real estate officer for the City of Austin.
Among the logistics to be worked out will be parking, a topic that’s come up quite a bit at Commissioners’ Court.
“A lot of the people that come to council meetings are able to use parking that the city owns,” said Pct. 3 Commissioner Gerald Daugherty. “With events starting during the day, this lot will be full most of the time.”
City officials are hoping to have parking reserved in the county lot next door for the mayor, council members and city manager. The staff and citizens attending meetings will be shuttled back and forth in a manner yet to be determined. There are only six blocks between the two locations.
“People wouldn’t need to park here, they’d still be able to park at City Hall,” said Riser.
The city will use the courtroom on six Thursdays in August and September, providing some headaches for city and county media staff, getting all meetings up online, as well as the city’s Channel 6 and the county’s TCTV.
“One thing that does concern me that they’ll be meeting when we’re having budget hearings,” said Al Jackson, Media Operations Manager for the county. “So, these reconfigurations are going to be substantial, because we have a lot of meetings at that time.”
Judge Biscoe brought up the fact the court is already being used by the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization board once a month.
“For the CAMPO meeting, CAMPO and City of Austin brought their own technology to one of the multi-purpose meeting rooms and set it up themselves,” said Biscoe.
“If you were inclined to consider this as an option, we would bring our technical staff over here to work with your technical staff to work out the logistics,” said Riser.
The city will be bringing its own security, including wands to screen attendees.
The county is providing the facility free of charge to the city.
“This is a gesture we ought to make, after all city tax payers pay county taxes, as well as vice versa,” said Daugherty.
“At some point in the future, it may be that the county needs assistance from the city,” said Biscoe. “And, as commissioner Daugherty mentioned, it’s the same tax payers. So, I would just waive the fees.”
“If they damage the property, that’s a different matter,” joked Biscoe. “We’re not waiving that.”
Commissioners passed the motion to host the city meetings and waive fees unanimously.
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Key Players & Topics In This Article
Austin City Council: The Austin City Council is the body with legislative purview over the City of Austin. It offers policy direction, while the office of the City Manager implements administrative actions based on those policies. Until 2012, the body contained seven members, including the city's Mayor, all elected at-large. In 2012, City of Austin residents voted to change that system and now 10 members of the Council are elected based on geographic districts. The Mayor continues to be elected at-large.
Austin City Council November 2014 Elections: The November 2014 Austin City Council elections marked a shift from an all-at-large City Council to one elected based mostly on geographic districts. The city's Mayor remains elected at-large.
CAMPO: The Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization is the regional planning organization for Bastrop, Burnet, Caldwell, Hays, Travis, and Williamson Counties. Its membership is drawn from the elected officials of those municipalities, as well as various cities that fall within the region, including the City of Austin. CAMPO's focus is on regional transportation issues.