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Council split on new deal for Austin Pets Alive!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014 by Michael Kanin

City Council members Tuesday continued to debate a potential extension of a contract for Austin Pets Alive! to operate a facility at the Town Lake Animal Shelter. The extension would also include additional leeway for the organization to make needed repairs to the facility.

The discussion touched on what Council Member Laura Morrison suggested was a clash between City of Austin promises made to APA and to the West Austin Youth Associate, or WAYA — an organization that runs a collection of nearby athletic fields.

“It sounds like what we have here is a conflict,” she said. “We have a Council commitment about maintaining an adoption site and you (the Parks and Recreation Department) have made a commitment to WAYA … We’re in a pickle here.”

Austin Pets Alive! currently operates what was formerly the Town Lake Animal Shelter. As the Monitor first reported last week, a portion of that facility recently failed a state inspection.

At issue is the pending Lamar Beach Master Plan, Pressler Road — a nearby street, the extension of which would be included in that plan — and possible land infringements that will apparently result from that work. That, coupled with the need for immediate repairs to the former Town Lake facility, is driving current discussion.

Austin Parks and Recreation Department head Sarah Hensley laid it out for Council members. She said that preparing the Lamar Beach Master Plan would take until August 2015. She also noted that the city has made a “made whole” commitment to WAYA that would not add acreage to the organization’s current fields, but would allow it to maintain existing operations.

That, Hensley later detailed, could mean that the construction of Pressler Road — a move that would bring the street “right up to” the WAYA fields — would push the fields into portions of what is currently the Austin Pets Alive! facility.

Still, Council Member Mike Martinez did not necessarily see the issue as a conflict. “I think it was right for Sarah to make that commitment to WAYA because we’re asking a bunch of partners to help us get to a means to an end,” he said. “We’ve committed as a Council to keep an adoption shelter on-site. Sarah has committed to WAYA to try to not disrupt their playing season by maintaining their existing playing fields. I think they can coexist.”

By Martinez’s read, the majority of the work in question would not happen for a while. Indeed, he put the beginning of work on the Pressler Lane extension at January 2016. The facts, he said, made it “abundantly clear that nothing is going to happen out there for quite some time.”

The Martinez proposal would extend the Austin Pets Alive! agreement and allow the organization to make repairs to the aging facility. Austin Pets Alive! head Ellen Jefferson has indicated her preference that the program maintain a facility at the Town Lake site.

Council members are set to consider Martinez’s measure Thursday.

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