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Travis County to fund Las Lomitas pipeline

Thursday, May 28, 2020 by Jessi Devenyns

Las Lomitas, a subdivision of 30 homes in southeastern Travis County, has functioned for decades without access to water or wastewater service. Now Travis County, in partnership with Creedmoor-Maha Water Supply Company, a private water utility, is working to change that.

This past Tuesday, the Commissioners Court approved $289,000 to install a waterline for the community.

Due to the closure of most Travis County parks as a result of Covid-19, the county’s Planning and Budget Office discovered $200,000 to use on this project that would have otherwise been directed to park staffing salaries. An additional $30,933 will come from utility cost savings generated throughout the county. The remaining $58,000 will come from the county’s General Fund.

This funding will support the installation of an 8-inch pipeline through the middle of the neighborhood. Residents will be responsible for purchasing connections from the mainline to their homes. Already, four houses in the subdivision have access to running water from the water utility.

Commissioner Margaret Gómez told the Austin Monitor that the funding from Travis County to lay the mainline pipe will be reimbursed by residents when their home values are reassessed and a payment plan is designed. The exact payment details have not yet been finalized.

Commissioners at Tuesday’s meeting noted that this sort of collaborative solution can serve as a model to introduce similar pipeline projects into other water deserts in Travis County. Cynthia McDonald, a county executive with the Transportation and Natural Resources Department told the Commissioners Court that her department is already identifying other communities that are impacted by the closure of the county-owned tap in the area.

The stem pipe tap has provided bulk water for many residents in the area for years. However, the property on which it sits is now designated as parkland and will be redeveloped for the Onion Creek Greenway Trailhead, so residents needed a different solution for water.

Gómez told the Monitor that concerns about water quality and potability also drove the effort to provide a source of running water directly to the households. She said the pandemic has only exacerbated the need for clean, reliable water. “You have to have clean water to drink so you can be healthy to fight off the virus,” she said.

Commissioner Gerald Daugherty said, “There is obviously a great need out in the Las Lomitas area, but I have to say, it’s not just the east side that has issues like this.” He said there are areas in the western reaches of the county where residents also lack access to basic water and wastewater utilities.

Interim County Judge Sam Biscoe asked staff to make a list of areas requiring county assistance to install waterlines. Additionally, he noted that the county should speed up the process between identifying a community in need and locating funding to begin a project. Still, he said, “Based on the amount of money we are talking about, we should do it one at a time.”

Gómez told the Monitor now that the process has been completed, it can serve as a model for how to address the needs of other Travis County residents who live in water deserts.

The commissioners unanimously approved Planning and Budget staff to automatically make the necessary transfers to channel the funding to the correct location and start the Las Lomitas project.

Construction on the waterline is expected to begin as soon as the transfer of funds from the county is complete.

Photo made available through a Creative Commons license.

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