Monday, April 10, 2017 by Austin Monitor

Reporter’s Notebook: Honoring Mary Gay Maxwell

Remembering Mary Gay… A year after her death, the Environmental Commission remembered its former chair, and longtime Austin conservationist, Mary Gay Maxwell. The commission unanimously passed a resolution to rename the Slaughter Creek Management Unit on Wednesday night. The land’s new name will be the Mary Gay Maxwell Management Unit. The unit is composed of the Baker, Hafif and Hielscher tracts, totaling 646 acres in Southwest Austin. Before her passing in March 2016, Maxwell served as the longtime chair on the city’s Environmental board. According to Kevin Thuesen, the Environmental Conservation program manager at Austin Water, Maxwell was a steward and an advocate of the community and the environment. “She did tremendous work for us at the Water Quality Protection Lands,” Thuesen said. He also mentioned that much of the work she fulfilled is still in use today, like the Land Steward Program on the protection lands and the Guided Hikes program on various units. After the resolution passed, Commissioner Mary Ann Neely said, “There’s no more fitting tribute than to name the lands after her.”

Summer’s here, pools are closing… A sure sign of spring came last week: word that one of Austin’s public pools may be closed for the summer due to repairs. An April 7 memo from acting Parks and Recreation Department Director Kimberly McNeeley warns that the department is recommending that East Austin’s Givens Pool be closed this summer in order to make repairs. In that same memo, McNeeley explains that the pool has been leaking in excess of 50,000 gallons of water per day through cracks caused by foundation movement. Last year, the threatened closure of Metz and Mabel Davis pools, which are also on the east side of town, never came to pass after public outcry. This time around, the memo hints at trouble to come as well. “The Parks and Recreation Department acknowledges that these repairs will encumber the majority of what is remaining of the 2012 Bond funding and future bond dollars are unknown,” it states. “These repairs will leave the Department with little funds for any future repairs for the 2018 season.”

Ignored no more… At long last, the city of Austin is moving forward with a demolition by neglect case for the Sebron Sneed House, which is located at 1801 Nelms Drive. The house (which has its own Wikipedia page here) has sat in disrepair for years, apparently. At the most recent meeting of the Historic Landmark Commission, commissioners learned that the city was finally putting its foot down. “We’ve had it on our agenda for at least three years,” remarked Commissioner Terri Myers, who elaborated on her extreme familiarity with the case. “I’ve been on the commission for seven years, and it’s been on the agenda all this time.” Myers said that over the years, commissioners had discussed ways to save the 1850s building with the owners and an architect. “This is an Austin landmark, and it’s just sitting there like a bump on a pickle. The owner is just letting it fall apart in place. And staff is finally going for demolition by neglect.” Moving forward with the demolition by neglect case means that a notice has been sent to the homeowners and repairs must start within 60 days and be completed by a yet-to-be-determined date. It also allows the city to move forward with enforcement, if necessary, to prevent demolition by neglect.

This week’s Reporter’s Notebook comes from the notebooks of Sommer Brugal and Elizabeth Pagano.

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Key Players & Topics In This Article

City of Austin Environmental Commission: An advisory board to members of the Austin City Council. Its purview includes "all projects and programs which affect the quality of life for the citizens of Austin." In many cases, this includes development projects.

City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department: The city department responsible for the city's park system, rec centers, and associated infrastructure.

Historic Landmark Commission: The city’s Historic Landmark Commission promotes historic preservation of buildings and structures. The commission also reviews applications and permits for historic zoning and historic grants.

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